The Blanket

Unidentified Mob Rule

Aine Fox • 8/8/2002

20 year old Eamon Scanlon had returned to his native streets of West Belfast after spending the last few months earning his living in the notoriously dangerous city of Philadelphia, USA.

The young man set out that evening to meet with friends, share his stories of travel and work. Instead of returning home, maybe drunk and happy or just ready for the next day of his holiday, Eamon subsequently received treatment at the Royal Victoria Hospital, for a head wound (8 staples in his head to be exact); inflicted by a snooker cue in the hands of an unidentified individual, who was one of many that set upon a group of young men as they stood near the location of the remnants of a mini bonfire, built and lit by younger children, in the Poleglass estate.

When speaking to Eamon about the incident, he described what happened previous to the attack. It was 11.30pm - 12.00 am in the Glenbawn area; a group of young men had been standing outside the home of two friends, they had been listening to music from a set of decks that one friend had sat in front of his house. A group of around twenty young men maximum at any one time,

“We had been standing having a drink and listening to some music, we were actually standing outside the houses of two of our mates who live next door to each other…”

These young men were in engaged in nothing illegal, and no residents in the street had complained or asked the young men to move. Then, as Eamon disclosed:

“Out of the blue these grown men, about 20 or more of them arrived, started kicking and smashing what beer was left and also kicked the decks, which ended up destroyed. They were swinging what I think were snooker cues, baseball bats, what looked like big sticks - they had scarves around their faces and hats covering them as well.”

I inquired as to whether the group of attackers indentified themselves. Eamon stated that if they did, he did not hear them. The attackers demanded the young people move whilst beating them and swinging their weapons all around them.

“Nobody even said anything, no one provoked anyone, it was just totally out of the blue…”

The group of masked, armed men moved on once they had destroyed the remainder of the alcohol, the decks playing music, and beaten some of the young men present. The young men did indeed decide to move as requested. They had walked a few streets away and the same thing began all over again. It was then that Eamon found himself being hit with a snooker cue to the head; he was not the only young person injured, several needed hospital attention including an apparent attack allegedly by the same group of masked men later that night which left one young man with fractured limbs.

Is it now a consequence that young people live in these areas, if they are out after 10pm, they are immediately stereotyped as ‘hoods’? This is surely not the case; any reasonable individual can see that the majority of our young people are not engaged in consistent illegal or what is deemed 'anti social' behaviour. The treatment of our youth has to change - we cannot allow these draconian style tactics to become the norm.

On questioning Eamon in regards to whether he reported his assault to police, he responded:

“Why, what would they do? They would do absolutely nothing.”

Never a truer statement, since a young girl who had recently been attacked at the interface of Blacks Road and went to the local Police Station to receive help and was turned away.

Was there any reasoning behind this apparent anonymous attack?

“The kids were told no bonfires - there hasn’t been a real bonfire around here in years … ”

When encouraged to explain in his own words the reason why the attack took place Eamon stated:

“Honestly, they must have nothing better to do.”

This, unfortunately is not an isolated incident; similar descriptions can be disclosed by young people all over our city. The ultimate concern is how did we get to the position whereby these actions are tolerated? As a community it is necessary to challenge not only anti social behaviour of our youth, but there are also implications of armed anonymous mob rule.

There are many serious issues to contend with when we look at the scenario that took place. No group overtly has claimed they carried out the attack; the lack of responsibility-taking is a story we, in the North of Ireland, are all used to hearing. The more sinister element with this event is that it is those who deem themselves ‘community protectors’ who seemingly are carrying out these attacks on our young people.

Would local community watch volunteers carry out such a needless attack? Why, of course not, they are watching our communities to decresase the level of 'anti social' behaviour. If the idea that a group patrolling around an area, fifty plus strong, armed with crow-bars and snooker cues is not 'anti social', then I must be mistaken as to what that term refers to.

I myself witnessed on that same night a large group of armed individuals all walking past the Church of Nativity in Poleglass and congregating just a little further at the junction of Glenbaw. To my advantage, I was in a taxi returning home from a night at a friends; had I been walking on foot finishing my beer would this group have confronted me or am I past the 'beating for nothing' age group at 25? Maybe they might have offered me one of their clubs or crowbars to accompany them on their search for the ‘evil youngsters.’

Did someone change the rules while we all weren’t looking or is this normal practice for adults in a community to attack young people with no provocation and for no apparent sensible reason?

Understandable is the need for some control of our communities, there are brighter tales of successes to tell, I am sure, but the notion that 'too many cooks can spoil the broth' can be mirrored on the streets of Poleglass and elsewhere throughout nationalist Belfast: 'too many oppressors can spoil our youth'.

The young people in our communities have suffered from the legacy of conflict just as the adults within our communties have.

The law of the land controls the young people. It is in the hands of what is generally accepted to be - not to mention widely documented - a prejudiced British Court system, and also the newly reformed RUC, which has yet to demonstrate any element of reforming their tactics against nationalist communities. The Republican Movement have for a long time controlled what happens, to an extent, on the streets of nationalist communities with their infamous ‘community policing’ approach. We all are aware of the implications of this this tactic; punishment shootings and beatings have quickly become part of normality in these times.

With the political movement apparently progressing, which is a subjective viewpoint held by some, the emergence of community watch organisations was began, funded and sustained by local concerned citizens. The number of injuries that these organisations have bestowed on young people actively engaged in NO 'anti - social' behaviour is becoming a more common feature. As well as these structures present, there is also the concept and workings of Community Restorative Justice (CRJ) organisations. This structure also requires the young person to listen and be dictated to as to what they are going to do to meet reparation for any damage/violence their actions may have caused. Will this same structure ensure that the adults attacking young people will also be required to make amends for their anti social actions?

Who do our youth answer to? Their parents/family, local republican movement, community watch volunteers, armed unknown vigilante groups, the police force, CRJ groups and finally their peers. As a youth worker who participates in structured group work programs focusing on personal and social responsibility, which part of our community do the young people adhere to?

It is as a consequence of all these elements combined of course with others, that we have seen more and more of our young people disaffected and isolated from the wider communities in which they live. Whilst carrying out research recently into the attitudes of young people I was struck by one remark

“They taught us to be this way, all the adults around us all our lives have told us we should not answer or pay heed to those who oppress us instead we should fight back, and we do ………”

It is not however a British oppressor they fight against - the tables have turned and the current situation is that many are fighting their own communties. The fault cannot lay solely at the feet of our youth.







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Those who begin coercive elimination of dissent soon find themselves exterminating dissenters. Compulsory unification of opinion achieves only a unanimity of the graveyard.
- Robert Jackso

Index: Current Articles

18 August 2002


Other Articles From This Issue:


Unidentified Mob Rule
Aine Fox


The West Belfast Feile
Newton Emerson


The Most Useless, Most Spineless, Most Pointless of Them All
Ciarán Irvine


North Belfast: A Resident's View
Joan Totten


A Tawny Sinew
Anthony McIntyre


Deepest Sympathy


Ahmed Al Kouraini
Sam Bahour


A Personal Voyage of Taboo

Davy Carlin


Reading Connolly
Liam O Ruairc


15 August 2002


Put Spotlight On Republican Aims
Eamonn McCann


No Hierarchies Here!
Anthony McIntyre


Freedom to Dissent

Dorothy Robinson


Freedom of Whose Speech?
Paul A. Fitzsimmons


Political Intimidation
Anthony McIntyre


Class War is Over!
Billy Mitchell




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