Republican News · Thursday 27 January 2000

[An Phoblacht]

Family evicted by bailiffs and RUC

By Pádraig MacDabhaid

Sinn Féin Councillor Bobby Lavery is manhandled by RUC officers as he protests the eviction of a North Belfast family

The sight of a family forced out of their home by hired thugs backed up by members of the crown forces would, to many, evoke thoughts of the famine era. However, forced evictions are a modern reality and could become an increasingly frequent scourge.

In Newington Avenue, North Belfast, on Thursday 20 January, more than a dozen bailiffs, hired by the Halifax Building Society and backed up by around a dozen RUC officers, acting in what Sinn Féin North Belfast Assembly member Gerry Kelly described as ``a bully-boy manner'', raided the home of grandmother Marie Quigley and ordered her, her daughters and granddaughters out onto the street.

The Quigleys' landlord had run up 7,000 of arrears with the Halifax, but despite a promise by the new landlord that she would pay off the arrears, the bailiffs went ahead with the eviction. The Quigleys had also made other offers of payment. Despite these offers, Halifax's hired thugs, backed up by the RUC, took the family's possessions.

Kelly told An Phoblacht: ``A number of party workers, including councillors Bobby Lavery and Gerard Brophy, arrived on the scene and attempted to reason with the bailiffs.'' Their appeals fell on deaf ears, however, and the Sinn Féin members were assaulted by the RUC, who protected the bailiffs as they forcibly entered the house. When the raiders had finished, the family were left with nothing but the clothes they were wearing.

According to Kelly, ``there was absolutely no need for what took place. ``Scenes such as these must surely have no place in the modern world,'' he said. ``It is not beyond the bounds of reason to suggest that an arrangement could have been arrived at which would have accommodated the parties involved and spared this family the embarrassment and distress of a forced eviction. Sinn Féin constituency workers have raised this matter with the Halifax Building Society and I intend to enquire of the Enforcement of Judgments office whether this action was authorised by them.''

A Halifax source, who asked not to be named, said: ``Evictions are part of life in Britain and down South so there's no reason why they shouldn't become commonplace here, given the improved security situation.''

So far, Marie Quigley and her family have not been re-housed by the Housing Executive, forcing her to move into her sister's one bedroom flat.

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