A WHEELCHAIR-BOUND Poleglass man who campaigns to help raise awareness of disability issues has been attacked for the third time in three years. Michael Bailey (56), who suffers from multiple sclerosis, was making his way back to his Laurelbank home after a visit to the local shops on Thursday night when he was set upon from behind by four teenage males.
The gang demanded money from the grandfather and then tried to push him off his wheelchair when he said he had no cash. The former chef, who was diagnosed with MS six years ago, managed to scare off his assailants when he activated a panic alarm on his mobile phone. However, he was left badly shaken from his ordeal.
Last year the Andersonstown News reported how Michael’s mobility scooter was destroyed after a storage hut to the rear of his home was set alight on Halloween night by a firework set off nearby.
In 2009 he was also targeted when thieves broke into the same hut and stole the scooter, which was later found abandoned and destroyed in a nearby wooded area. Thursday’s incident comes just three weeks after Michael attended the gala opening of the Titanic visitors’ centre in East Belfast as a representative of the local disabled community.
Speaking about his ordeal, the father-of-three said he has “had enough” of being targeted.
“They set upon me out of the blue, there was no-one else about,” said Michael. “When I said I had no money they tried to push me off the wheelchair and hurt my neck. Their speech was slurred and when I heard the zip of a bag opening I knew something was going to happen, that my life was in danger, so I started to say an Act of Contrition as I thought that was it.”
After setting off his panic alarm and escaping his attackers, Michael made his way home and contacted the police. “They drove around the area but couldn’t see anyone,” he said.
“I just want to say to those boys, you have grandparents, you have parents. Just think how they would feel if they knew you did that to me. In years to come they will be of an age that they will need help like me. Surely I should be able to be free and safe in my own area where I live.”
Michael said he is speaking out about this latest assault to “take a stand for not only myself but other disabled and vulnerable people in the area who are targeted and abused like this”.
“It’s not right that this should be happening to people like us,” he said.
“They don’t care. Something needs to be done about this before it’s too late. I just feel that I cannot seem to move forward, but I will. You have to forgive and forget. You have to.”
Liz Gracey, Programme Manager of the Upper Springfield Development Trust’s Action On Disability Project,
“They don’t care. Something needs to be done about this before it’s too late. I just feel that I cannot seem to move forward, but I will. But you have to forgive and forget. ”
which Michael is involved in, said the incident showed a lack of awareness of the needs of the disabled.
“Michael is such a kind friendly human being who is very proactive in raising awareness of disability issues, but unfortunately this sort of treatment of the disabled is prevalent in all walks of life,” she said.
“People see a wheelchair as a toy and do not realise it’s a lifeline for the disabled, he would have been left lying there had they taken it from him. It’s bad enough he was attacked only for it to happen again. There needs to be greater awareness of the issues around disability to stamp out this type of crime.”
Local Sinn Féin Councillor Stephen Magennis condemned the attack.
“Unfortunately there are a number of people engaged in anti-social behaviour in this area but we are working with young people and parents, and through our Safer Neighbourhood patrols, to make this area safer,” he said.
Police have appealed for anyone with information on this incident to contact Dunmurry Neighbourhood Police on 0845 600 8000.