Sectarianism in Ballynahinch
Nationalist residents in the predominently loyalist town of Ballynahinch feel their safety has been further compromised by a fence erected between Hillcrest Drive and the surrounding estates.
The fence blocks a shortcut used by many local people walking between the town centre and residential areas housing mostly Catholics. The only alternative route puts about 20 minutes onto the journey. But this isn't just about inconvenience.
Catholics are routinely targeted for sectarian abuse and attack by loyalists in the town centre and the Hillcrest shortcut provided a quick escape route into nationalist areas within the townland. Now that escape route has been blocked and many local people feel they have been placed in greater danger.
``This fence is going to leave young Catholics with no form of escape against loyalist attack,'' said one man ``Before, if there was any sectarian trouble the young people could run back through the estate but now with this fence being locked there is no hope.''
Meanwhile, young Catholic football teams in Ballynahinch have been driven from using local playing fields for either training or match fixtures following a sustained campaign of sectarian harassment by loyalists against players and their supporters.
Ousted from the local Langley Road playing fields, the youth league has been forced to use the facilities in Killyleagh and Crossgar rather than brave the physical and verbal abuse of loyalists in Ballynahinch.
``Up to three years ago the Ballynahinch Youth league used the Langley Road playing fields on a regular basis,'' said one resident. ``Then loyalist thugs started hurling abuse at the young ones on the pitch. At one stage the football players were even pelted with stones. Parents no longer believed their children were safe playing in Langley Road.''