Paramilitary intimidation has driven almost 500 people from their homes

Marie Louise McConville. Irish News. Belfast. Tuesday, November 7, 2017

ALMOST 500 people claimed paramilitaries forced them from their homes over the past year – up 10 percent on the previous 12 months.

Housing intimidation hit the headlines again recently after Catholic families in south Belfast had to flee their homes in the mixed Cantrell Close development following threats attributed to the UVF.

Figures obtained by The Irish News show that from April 2016 until March this year, 477 people presented themselves as homeless to the Housing Executive citing paramilitary intimidation.

The figure was 433 for the previous year. The statistics come after the condemnation of sectarian graffiti in Co Down.

The slogan ‘Taigs Out’, described by Sinn Féin as a “clear attempt of sectarian intimidation”, appeared on a sign on the Dundrum Road area of Clough last week.

Clough is just under four miles from Loughinisland where six men were murdered by loyalist gunmen in 1994.

The police investigation into the massacre has been put back into the spotlight in the past week with the release of the film No Stone Unturned directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Alex Gibney.

Amnesty International’s Patrick Corrigan questioned last night why it remained in place five days after first being reported to police.

The Ulster Unionist Party, meanwhile, condemned damage to poppy wreaths at the site of the Narrow Water bombing in Co Down, where 18 British soldiers were killed by the IRA in 1979.

Green Party assembly member Clare Bailey said the latest figures for housing intimidation showed there had been a “significant increase” which was “probably no surprise given the political vacuum we are in”.

She said it was “further evidence if it were needed, that we have far to go in tackling hate crime in Northern Ireland”.

The Housing Executive said the number of applicants awarded intimidation points was “small in proportion” to the total accepted as statutory homeless.

The Department for Communities – which is responsible for housing – said it “utterly condemns all forms of intimidation”.