RUC Chief Inspector David Green, who is leading the investigation into the beating, said: "Three of the culprits ran off but the fourth remained for a while afterwards and continued to beat the 13-year-old child while he lay on the ground."
The boy, one of the youngest people to fall victim to such an attack, suffered a broken arm, several broken fingers, cuts and multiple bruising in the attack in Newtownards, Co Down. Last night the boy was reported to be in a "stable but shocked" condition in hospital. An RUC spokesman condemned what he called a "horrific attack"
As this latest attack was added to the toll of those maimed in Northern Ireland, politicians on both sides said they were determined to find a way to make progress before the first anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.
But there were more signs of the sheer enormity of the task. With the position of David Trimble, first minister-designate in the new assembly, weakened by vociferous opposition from Ulster Unionist hardliners at a party meeting on Saturday, Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein leader, once more reiterated that he could not force the IRA to hand over its weapons.
He said yesterday: "If anyone thinks I, or anybody else, can deliver for them what the British army could not do and what the British government could not do in 30 years, then I am afraid all of us are heading for a continuation of what we have seen so far, tactical manoeuvring by the Unionists and a veto being asserted."
Mr Trimble, who is demanding the IRA start the decommissioning process before Sinn Fein can take its place in a ruling executive, found his room for manoeuvre pared down still further when he was heckled by anti-agreement members at the end of his speech at the Unionists' annual general meeting on Saturday.
His attempt to oust four anti-agreement members from key posts in the party and replace them with pro-agreement members also failed, and it is clear that there may be a move to overthrow Mr Trimble's leadership if he softens his stance any further.Reuse content