AS THE rest of us look forward to the New Year with the usual mix of hope and expectation, one North Belfast family are left wondering when next they are to be visited by thugs and cowards. And not just any family – the family of the hugely respected and tireless community worker and politician Gerry O’Reilly.

There are many in this part of our city who have given – and continue to give – so much towards the cause of making life better for our families, friends and neighbours. But in the pantheon of community heroes without whom life would be that much darker and more difficult, Gerry’s name looms large. That much was clear from the amount of support the O’Reilly family received this week at the Star Neighbourhood Centre.

It is all the more disturbing and galling that a man who has given so much down through the years in the service of others can be left exposed to the vicious and potentially deadly attentions of those who prey on this community.

The motives of those who have attacked the O’Reilly family home 20 times in recent years are unclear, and to be honest they need not detain us too long because that level of callousness and hate often defies rationality or reason. It is enough for us to know that here is a family who are caught up in a maelstrom from which they must be safely delivered by this community working closely with those whose job it is to protect and defend.

The attacks on the O’Reilly home and property are brutal and sickening, but they are also crude and obvious, and that is a factor that the police can and must exploit. The O’Reilly home is in the sights of these criminals and given the nature and extent of the attacks it is incumbent upon the local police to pay particular attention to this property and this street. With attacks taking place on such a regular basis, if police devote the effort and resources required to protect this family in their home, then it can only be a matter of time before some or all of the culprits are behind bars where they belong.

For our part, and as a community with a proud history of remaining upright in the face of constant pounding, we must do all we can to help the police bring this family’s nightmare to an end. Anyone with any information on who is behind this hate campaign must come forward, before this family’s hurt and distress become something altogether more serious.