Just another beating, just another day in Ulster...

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The Independent Online
One of the republican gang stood on Sean McNally's head in the narrow Belfast entry. Another masked man stood on his arms. The fear radiating from the 24-year-old man last Thursday night must have filled the air.

Once he had been pinned helplessly to the ground the man with the shotgun stepped forward, braced himself and pulled the trigger, consigning his victim to weeks of pain and a life of mutilation.

The latest example of republican "justice" had just taken its course, unfettered by preliminary hearings, depositions and applications for legal aid. Instead, it was the foot on the head, the blast to the knee; and of course no appeal is possible.

Sean "Noodles" McNally, who says he has stolen car radios, underwent an emergency operation at Belfast's Royal Victoria hospital but doctors could not save his right leg. He said later: "I thought I was going to get a kicking. I didn't think they were going to shoot me."

Shootings and beatings, known as "punishment" attacks, have been an established fact of ghetto life in both republican and loyalists districts for more than two decades. They are so frequent that they are barely noticed, a sort of background static to terrorist killings and bombings.

So far this year the RUC has recorded 40 beatings and 30 shootings by loyalists and 48 beatings and four shootings by republicans. People in McNally's local area, the Markets, assume the IRA were responsible, since they carry out for most such attacks on the republican side. Security sources, however, say the RUC does not yet know who was responsible.

The attack only stands out as different from the rest because, as the figures suggest, republicans tend to use not guns but a variety of other fearsome implements: hammers, baseball bats, clubs with nails and iron bars have all been wielded.

The victim said: "People who have done ten times worse than me have got off with a slap on the wrist ... They've ruined my life and I don't know why."