Northern Ireland

Bangor: Hammer attack on community worker 'paramilitary revenge'

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Media captionAaron McMahon said he believes he was targeted for leading a campaign against the loyalist paramilitary UDA in the Clandeboye area of Bangor.

About 200 people attended a rally in Bangor on Thursday night to show support for a community worker who was beaten with a hammer by masked men in his home.

Aaron McMahon was attacked by a gang in front of his family.

He believes he was targeted for leading a campaign against UDA activity in the Clandeboye area of of the town.

Mr McMahon criticised police and politicians for not doing enough to combat paramilitaries.

The police said individuals who try to "terrorise people" must "be isolated".

At the rally on Thursday night, Green party councillor John Barry said the council had a responsibility to do more.

"We have a responsibility to serve our community, part of which is protecting it, and we've fallen down on this occasion," he said.

"That's why we need to have a root and branch reform, a good look inside at how council operates and how we relate with community groups, particularly community groups that are paramilitary-linked."

'Masked men set upon me'

Earlier, Mr McMahon, who sits on the board of the North Down Community Network, described what happened: "I walked into the workshop and then I felt the door being forced open.

"When I turned around, two masked men set upon me.

"It probably only lasted a minute at most, but I could hear the kids screaming and (my wife) Michelle screaming. Then they left."

Image caption Mr McMahon says he believes that if his wife had not been able to scream for help, he may not have survived the attack

Mr McMahon's wife said her instinct, when she realised what was happening, was to protect the children in the house.

"I saw the door being pushed open and two masked men coming in, so I screamed to get the kids upstairs.

"They were screaming as well, so my main concern was to keep them away. I opened the front door and screamed for help out on the street."

Mr McMahon was treated in hospital for severe bruising, but has since been discharged.

He spoke out about Ulster Defence Association (UDA) flags erected around a local play park earlier this year and sought political help to have them removed.

"I spoke to a local MLA and, within days, the ones around the park were moved to alternative sites," he said.

Image caption A rally is being held in support of Mr McMahon on Thursday night

He explained that there were also concerns about intimidation around the community's Eleventh Night bonfire.

Fearful

Mr McMahon said he was asked if his community association would meet the UDA.

"My committee agreed that this wasn't an issue for the community association. The community felt they were left high and dry," he said.

"They said they believe the issue is up to the police, the council and our politicians to resolve. But no action was taken. Young people were left to fend for themselves."

Mr McMahon said he believes that if his wife had not been able to scream for help, he may not have survived the attack.

He says he was left with "no choice" but to stand up to the paramilitaries and the attack has made him more determined to continue his community work.

In a statement, the PSNI said: "Officers in Bangor strive to provide a first class policing service to all in the town and it is clear that the vast majority of people within the local area have chosen to support the police and support law and order.

"Those small groups of individuals who continue to try and terrorise people and commit criminal acts must be isolated from communities.

"Police in Bangor will continue their efforts to bring those responsible for criminality before the courts, but we need the help of the local community."

A 32-year-old man was arrested "on suspicion of aggravated burglary". He was later released on police bail pending further inquiries.