Northern Ireland

Rally held in west Belfast following attacks on elderly

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Media captionWest Belfast residents gathered in a show of solidarity and concern on Wednesday night.

Several hundred people have attended a rally in west Belfast to demonstrate their opposition to a spate of violent robberies.

It took place in Albert Street off the Falls Road close to where a pensioner was attacked last Friday.

Maureen Shepherd, 76, suffered a broken jaw in the incident.

Organisers said the rally was intended to reassure older people and inform the community about proposed 'pensioner kits'.

Image caption Maureen Shepherd was attacked as she walked along an alleyway in west Belfast

These could include panic alarms and front door chains.

Organiser Gerard Fitzpatrick said the event was held to send a message to those responsible.

"It just shows that the support is here, that our communities won't be held to ransom," he said.

"I would say there are maybe 400 or 500 people here tonight, which is fantastic.

"There are people here from all over Belfast, there are people here from east Belfast.

"There are some friends here I know from the Shankill. This isn't just a Divis issue. This is an issue for the whole of Belfast and other areas."

Image caption Gerard Fitzpatrick told the rally that communities "won't be held to ransom"

'Living in fear'

One woman attending the rally told the BBC: "People are living in fear in the community.

"That's the way we're living now in this area - scared to go the shop after dark now."

Another pensioner said: "You feel afraid, mainly at night. You've to keep the door closed constantly.

"You're afraid to answer the door at times, especially at night.

"They've no fear of anybody - police, courts, anything - nothing seem to deter them."

Image caption The organisers said people from across Belfast had attended the rally

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