A victim of a homophobic attack who was stabbed multiple times says "I'm lucky I wasn't killed", adding he couldn't walk for two weeks following the incident.
Anthony Nolan (28) was stabbed five times, lost two pints of blood and had to get dozens of stitches to wounds on his lacerated body after he and his boyfriend were attacked at Newbridge train station in Co Kildare nearly three weeks ago.
Speaking for the first time about the attack, Anthony hopes it accelerates new hate crime legislation in this country.
“There should be hate crime legislation brought in here, to stop stuff like this happening,” stresses Anthony, from Athy, Co Kildare.
“There should be something done in law to stop people making hateful comments about gay people and also even attacking them for being gay. There should be more education in schools, teaching young people to treat gay people and minorities with respect. Love is love.
“We have a Taoiseach for the past couple of years who’s gay, he could have done more to bring it in. It’s getting worse. I got stabbed and that’s bad enough but I was lucky I wasn’t killed — but someone else may not be as fortunate.”
Anthony and Tipperary man Gerard Lawless had been in touch for a month before the attack and met a couple of times before their first proper date on Friday, January 30.
They met in Newbridge and socialised in a pub in the town before trying to catch a train to Athy at around 6.30pm.
The couple flirted with each other on the platform while waiting for the train. But three young men on the far side of the railway line started hurling abuse at them.
“I think they knew we were gay just by the way we were going on,” recalls Anthony.
“I think we kissed the once, just a peck. That’s when the abuse started. They then started shouting stuff across at us like ‘gay bastards’ and ‘f**gots’ and all of that.”
The vitriol was so bad that Anthony and Gerard could not ignore it.
“I shouted back ‘it’s 2020, come out of your cave’,” he said.
“Then I called them bullies as well. Gerard said something too, standing up for himself, but I can’t remember exactly what he said.
“That’s when they got really angry. One of them shouted over ‘we’re sick of your kind’.”
The couple then noticed the three thugs walking over the bridge to confront them.
“One of them got in front of me and one of them stood in front of Gerard,” he explains. “I can’t remember what they were shouting. Then one of the lads punched me in the face. Then I put my hand out and said ‘stop’. There were a few people on the platform at the time, but didn’t get involved.
“The second time he hit me, I defended myself,” he continues. “The other fellow kicked Gerard in the face.
After the second punch on me — that’s when the stabbing happened. I didn’t even see the knife. I didn’t know I was stabbed until it was over, I was still standing up and a girl on the platform said something about my leg.
“Then I looked down at my leg and my jeans were cut open and my leg was clearly injured. I tried to push it together, then when I let go of it it opened up and then I fainted.
“I got a shock, because I could see right into it. I’m nearly sure I could see my bone. I’m not really great with anything like open cuts and blood, especially when they’re on me.
“So when I saw it, it was lights out, I passed out on my back.”
Anthony was slashed in two separate parts of his left leg, the most serious damage being to his knee. His belly was sliced open, while he was also cut on his right arm and right leg.
One of the thugs filmed the attack on his phone before the gang fled the scene when Anthony collapsed on the platform.
Gerard tried to stem the bleeding to Anthony’s stomach by placing cloth on it, while a Good Samaritan tended to the injury on his knee.
Gardai arrived quickly on the scene but it took nearly an hour for an ambulance to arrive. He was then rushed to Tallaght hospital, with Gerard staying in the back of the ambulance to comfort him.
One juvenile has since been arrested in connection with the attack but has not been charged with any offence. He is the second person to be questioned by gardai.
“It was a huge shock for my family,” sighs Gerard. “My mum has trouble with her breathing and was in such a state when she heard of what happened me that she went through two inhalers.
“My cousins and friends were up the walls as well, as no one knew if I was going to live or die at that time. They were brought to the family room in Tallaght hospital when they got there. I was put on morphine when I got there to help me deal with the injuries.
“The doctor was stitching me for two and a half hours and I needed two pints of blood as I lost so much. Altogether I got 47 stitches on the outside of my body. But they had to stitch on the inside as well, across my knee and inside on my belly, so there could be nearly 100 stitches.”
Anthony had just completed a course in Social Studies at the time of the attack. He hails from an area near Athy and speaks with a slight English accent, as his Kildare-born parents moved to London and he lived there until he was 11, but has since been raised in the Lilywhite county.
“I’ve never suffered from homophobia before, not even on nights out,” he reflects.
“Everyone in Athy would know I’m gay and there’s never been a problem. The area is lovely, it’s nice and quiet. All my family are all around me, so I’m surrounded by all my cousins and aunties.”
He is still coming to terms with the attack and when we meet in a hotel in Athy it’s his first time in public since the attack.
“I couldn’t walk for two weeks,” he explains. “I had to get around on crutches, because where the cut is on my knee it’s hard to bend my leg. So my mum had to kind of mind me ... I couldn’t really move with the pain. I’m not allowed to run or do any heavy lifting for six weeks, and I’m not allowed to drive.”
He and Gerard still keep in touch and he has been supportive, but the duo are not dating.
“After everything that happened I didn’t want to be seeing anyone romantically,” he says. “I’m a bit scared, I haven’t been out much. This is my first time out since it happened.”
He has been encouraged by the amount of well-wishers since the attack.
“It went viral when it happened," he said.
“It was nice to see the support I got online after it happened. That kind of helped a lot with my mentality as well, because it just showed that not everyone out there is as small minded as those lads.
“My message is ‘let people live their lives — if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all,” he stresses. “The people who attacked me wanted to do serious damage, primarily because of who I am and the way I lead my life.”
He adds: “I thought there was hate crime legislation in Ireland like there is in the UK, but I was shocked there isn’t. I hope telling my story helps to get hate crime legislation in for that extra bit of protection for gay people.”