One of Northern Ireland’s best-known journalists has been given a savage beating just yards from the front door of Belfast City Hall.
Jim McDowell, northern editor of Dublin-based Sunday World, suffered severe cuts and bruising to his head and body after being punched and kicked to the ground by four men yesterday evening.
The 60-year-old ex-rugby player and boxer believes drug dealers were behind the brutal attack which happened during a visit to the Continental Market.
“They came at me from behind — they didn’t even take me face on. I was trying to get up and they beat me back three times. There is a mark from the heel of a boot on the back of my head.
“I was 15 metres from the front steps of Belfast City Hall when I heard a guy say ‘you got my brother killed’ or ‘you are trying to get my brother killed’.
“Then he came from behind and smashed up my right ear. There were people all over the place, the market was full. I was hit from behind on the right hand side of the face and before I could turn around someone came in from the left. I tried to get round but there were four of them and they all started on me.
“They were hitting me hard. The sorest part of me now is my elbow, because I had to put my hand over my head to protect it,” he told the Belfast Telegraph.
Mr McDowell did not require hospital treatment.
During the Troubles Mr McDowell received numerous threats to his life from loyalist and republican paramilitaries and in 1999 his city centre offices were firebombed.
The attack comes less than a fortnight after his car was vandalised as he attended a hearing at Craigavon Courthouse involving men charged in connection with the murder of Martin O'Hagan, a Sunday World reporter shot dead by the LVF in Lurgan, Co Armagh, in September 2001.
Branding the gang who assaulted him last night as “cowards”, Mr McDowell insisted he would not be intimidated.
He said: “The audacity of these thugs, to think they they can just do that to anybody 15 metres from the door of Belfast City Hall.
“These people who are poisoning our society and young people with drugs think they can get away with anything, but they won't. I’ll pursue this until I can see them behind bars.”
Anyone with information is asked to contact police on Lisburn Road on 0845 600 8000. Information can also be passed anonymously via the Crimestoppers charity on 0800 555111.
Source: The Belfast Telegraph