Police have confirmed they believe an attack on a man in Kilkeel that has left him in hospital had a sectarian motive.
The man in his 40s, who has been named as local building contractor Paschal Morgan, was beaten on the Greencastle Road on Sunday just before 11.30pm.
It is understood he had been at a bar in the town shortly before the attack.
Mr Morgan underwent surgery on Tuesday after sustaining head and facial injuries. Images of the extent of his injuries have led to widespread shock and condemnation.
Police arrested a 34-year-old man on suspicion of a number of offences, including grievous bodily harm with intent who has since been bailed pending further enquiries.
Detective Sergeant James Johnston said: "I want to appeal to anyone who was in the area prior to, or around the time the report was made to us, to get in touch with detectives at Ardmore on 101, quoting reference 2103 14/07/19."
The man’s daughter posted on Facebook about the attack, saying: “No one will realise the pain and suffering this has brought on my family and my dad.”
SDLP South Down MLA Sinead Bradley condemned those responsible for what she described as a barbaric sectarian attack.
“This kind of vicious and sickening sectarianism has no support in our community and those responsible for it need to be flushed out. I would appeal to anyone with information to come forward as a matter of urgency,” she said.
“My thoughts are with Paschal, his wife and children at this very difficult time. I wish him a full and speedy recovery and hope we can deliver justice for him and his family.”
Sinn Féin MP Chris Hazzard has called on the PSNI to ensure those responsible are brought to justice as swiftly as possible.
He commented: “The attack on Paschal Morgan has shocked the local community where the Morgan family is very well-known and well-liked.
“He was brutally beaten in a sectarian attack which left him for dead and requiring extensive surgery.
“Our thoughts today are obviously with Paschal and his family and we wish him a full and speedy recovery.
“This was a savage attack and those responsible need to be taken off the streets. I have been in contact with the PSNI and urged them to ensure that is the case.
“I would also urge political leaders to do more to face down the scourge of sectarianism in our society. It is when leaders fail to confront and condemn sectarianism, that attacks like this occur.”