Children under attack in north Belfast

Residents at a north Belfast interface say they are being forced to run a gauntlet of sectarian violence every time they leave their homes.

And the Westland Gardens families say they may have to resort to keeping their children indoors amid growing fears that someone will be seriously injured or killed in the sectarian violence.

The last three months has seen a surge in incidents and local resident Martin Reid says it has got to the point where he is afraid to let his children out on their own.

According to the father-of-six, Catholic children from Westland Gardens can’t walk through the local park without being attacked.

The youngsters are being forced to take detours to avoid gangs from the loyalist Westland estate which have been gathering at street corners.

And residents feel the violence is an attempt by loyalists to push them out of their homes.

“It’s only a matter of time before some Catholic kid gets killed and we are desperate now to end this intimidation once and for all,” Mr Reid said.

“It’s as if the loyalists are out to prove a point, like it’s some kind of territorial fight.

“Our kids are being terrorised and we fear for their safety every time they leave the house.

“We can’t start locking them up but if something isn’t done soon that may be the only way of keeping them safe.”

Michael Bennett has had his windows put through and has had stones and rocks hurled at his Westland Gardens home in separate attacks in the last few weeks.

Because he lives beside the ‘peace line’ security fence, he feels he is an easy target.

Only six months ago, he actually thought it would be possible to remove the security fence which lines the bottom of Westland Gardens.

But it seems the fence may now be heightened to lessen the impact of attacks.

“We are constantly attacked by missiles being launched over the security fence from the Waterworks Park.

“We get golf balls, bricks, stones, anything that can cause damage and injury really.”

A north Belfast football team is also being targeted by missiles thrown from the Westland estate during training sessions in the Waterworks Park, and admit they have been lucky so far to have escaped without injury.

According to residents, the problems in Westland Gardens have spiralled since the end of the reign of the Shoukri brothers as UDA leaders in the Westland area.

And they feel it is this “vacuum of power” that has left them living in a virtually lawless society.

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© 2007 Irish Republican News