Irish Republican News · March 5, 2004
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
UDA blamed for threat to housing workers

Home repair workers in north Belfast have walked out after unionist paramilitary threats to staff. The threats were made in an attempt to force the housing authority to allocate properties to certain individuals.

Staff at a district office in the city also halted work and have refused to go into the area.

The alert followed a telephone call on Thursday from a group connected to the paramilitary UDA in the staunchly Protestant Ballysillan district.

The threat said no more vacant properties were to be let out in the area or tenancy repairs carried out.

The warning came a day after the Executive refused demands from a Ballysillan resident to give an empty house next door to her friend.

A contractor and maintenance officer were also confronted by a mob who ordered them out as tensions rose.

Around 40 employees at an Executive office which deals with Ballysillan staged a walk-out as soon as they learned of the threat.

Even though they returned to their desks today, union representatives insisted they were not prepared to return until their safety was assured.

Frank McCoubrey, a spokesman for the Ulster Political Research Group which advises the UDA, offered to broker talks.

"I have acted as a mediator before in areas with housing issues and I'm available again if needed."

Last week, the UDA said it was extending its proclaimed "ceasefire" indefinitely, a statement that met a cynical response from nationalists.

Sinn Féin last night accused the British government of turning a blind eye to loyalist attacks on nationalists.

North Belfast assembly member Gerry Kelly was speaking after the party handed over dossier of sectarian attacks carried out by loyalists in the Lagan Valley area.

On Monday during the review talks we presented this dossier to the two governments and we demanded from them answers on their response or lack of it to ongoing sectarian attacks, he said.

If the two governments and the other parties wish to discuss paramilitarism then they need to discuss it in the round.

It cannot be confined to an anti-Sinn Féin or anti-republican agenda, Mr Kelly added.

Mr Kelly accused the British government of ignoring loyalist attacks on nationalists.

We asked the two governments where the special meetings were to discuss the sectarian campaign being waged by the unionist paramilitaries, he said.

Where were the special meetings to discuss the attacks on a 105-year-old woman in north Belfast?

Where were the meetings to discuss the DUP role in Ulster resistance or the role of British government agents within the various unionist paramilitary gangs?

Sinn Féin is more than happy to discuss paramilitarism, but the process cannot be confined to this issue, Mr Kelly added.

* The UDA has been blamed for a pipebomb found at a building site in east Belfast.

Workmen found the device near a hut at Holland Park off the Sandown Road at eight o'clock this morning

The bomb was defused and removed for further examination.

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© 2004 Irish Republican News