Intimidation rising, figures show


Hundreds of people are being forced from their homes every year by loyalist paramilitaries, according to figures released this week.

They show that a total of 477 people presented as homeless to the Housing Executive because of paramilitary intimidation, and increase of ten per cent over last year.

The most high profile of these cases took place recently when the east Belfast UVF forced out Catholic families living in the ‘shared space’ of Cantrell Close, and the separate burning out of Catholics living in Derry’s Waterside.

Racist attacks have been reported by loyalists against Bangladeshi, Syrian and Belgian families, with bricks thrown at their homes in north and east Belfast, as well as arson attacks against their cars.

Examples of hate crimes and the day-to-day level of harassment and intimidation of Catholics were again visible this week, with a new `Taigs Out’ sign in the County Down village of Clough.

Clough is just a few miles from Loughinisland which has been in the headlines due to the release of a documentary about state collusion in a loyalist atrocity in 1994.

The PSNI said they were treating the graffiti as a hate crime. However, locals noted there had been no action to remove it for almost a week.

“It’s disappointing that five days after the sign was notified to the police, it is still there intact, continuing to intimidate a section of the community as it was designed to do,” said Amnesty International’s Patrick Corrigan. “If the authorities can’t take action to remove a sign, then how are people meant to feel safe?”

Sinn Fein assembly member Sinead Ennis also said she had contacted police about the sign.

“The erection of this sign was a clear attempt of sectarian intimidation,” she said. “I reported it as a hate crime to the PSNI on Friday night and asked for it to be removed. The sign caused great upset to people in the area and those passing by it.”

Separately, a sectarian sticker which included the slogan ‘Kick a fenian in the head’, was discovered at a recycling centre in Banbridge, County Down.

Sinn Fein councillor Kevin Savage reported it to the PSNI He said the sticker was a “veiled reference to the brutal sectarian murder of Robert Hamill in Portadown in 1997”.

Mr Hamill, a Catholic, was beaten to death by loyalists as PSNI members watched in April 1997.

‘Fenians Out’ messages have also appeared in Derry’s Waterside recently. Sinn Fein Councillor Christopher Jackson, believes the graffiti was designed to intimidate Catholic users of the council-run sports complex and nearby St Columb’s Park.

He said: “It is disappointing to see this but it is not surprising. The message we need to get out is that all council facilities are open to everybody and there is no place for sectarianism anywhere.

“We must ensure people feel safe and comfortable using Foyle Arena and St Columbs Park, and that there are no ‘no go’ areas in the city, despite what some people might want to create.”

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