18/03/2003

Paramedics boycott riot situations after assaults

The ambulance service in north Belfast have said that they will not be attending public disorder situations in certain areas after crews were assaulted on two occasions over the weekend.

Ardoyne paramedics made the decision after an ambulance driver was injured on Sunday night when the appliance he was driving was attacked by stone throwers in the Longlands estate. A brick passed through a window and the man received an injury to the eye from flying glass.

A paramedic was then assaulted on Monday night as he helped a youth who had been beaten.

The SDLP's North Belfast MLA, Alban Maginnis, called for laws to be strengthened and penalties increased to deter riotous behaviour. Measures such as weekend custodial sentences and curfews, he said, should be introduced for repeat offenders.

"I am horrified that these ambulance staff have come under attack in this way," he said.

"I completely condemn the actions of those who attacked the ambulance staff who were attending those in need of help. This is a matter of deep concern for the community."

The UUP's North Belfast representative Fred Cobain also condemned the attacks as "mindless" and "beyond comprehension".

Mr Cobain said: “What kind of society do we live in when members of the ambulance service are attacked as they attempt to save lives?

“I fully understand why paramedics are loathe to go into certain areas when they meet this type of hostility."

He added: “Attacking ambulances achieves absolutely nothing except to ensure the community at large suffers.”

Mr Cobain then paid tribute to the "heroes" in the ambulances service who currently serve what he described as a "pathetic society".

(GMcG)

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