A group of up to 12 men and women carried out a sustained attack on two men in County Londonderry that has been described as homophobic.

The mob struck early on Sunday morning as the men walked near the village of Maghera.

The gang verbally abused the men, chased them, assaulted them, then went to the home of one of the victims and attacked his mother.

There are less than 4,000 people in the village, but no arrests have been made and the police are appealing for witnesses.

The chair of the local policing partnership, Seán McPeake, told the Mid Ulster Mail:

“The message must go out loud and clear that such sickening homophobic attacks have no place in our society.

“Everyone regardless of class, creed, colour, nationality or sexuality have the right to live their lives with full dignity and in peace.”

A previous homophobic attack in the province caused a major political storm when the DUP’s Iris Robinson was asked to comment.

During a BBC Radio Ulster interview in June the MP for Strangford offered to introduce gay men to a “Christian psychiatrist” who could make them heterosexual.

She has refused to modify her position that homosexuality is vile, wicked and an abomination, based on her Biblical beliefs.

Northern Ireland’s only health project for gay and bisexual men, Rainbow Project, said in July:

“The thugs that perpetrate hate will readily lap up whatever encouragement that they can find.

“It does not take much to inspire the misguided to violence; and the hatred spouted by some will add more fuel to the fires of prejudice and bigotry.

“Mrs Robinson is playing with people’s lives; we hope and pray that the end result is not more prejudice, blighted lives or even bloodshed.”