A Catholic woman whose son had recently died was ordered to leave her home by loyalist paramilitaries as she prepared to wake her son.
Two car loads of men claiming to be from the UFF (‘Ulster Freedom Fighters’) came to her door and told her to get out. She was told she had 24 hours to leave the Lower Oldpark area of north Belfast.
The windows of the house were smashed and sectarian graffiti was daubed across the walls.
The woman, who wishes to remain unnamed, was forced to ring the undertaker and arrange for her son’s remains to be brought to the house of a friend instead of her own.
Bizarrely, a DUP councillor later visited the property and as a television news camera panned over a giant graffiti message reading ‘All Taigs Out’ [All Catholics Out], told the reporter that the attack was not sectarian.
The woman said the family had been living happily in the mainly unionist area but had been identified as Catholic as a result of posts on social media.
“My friend tried to tell them my son had just died and could we even just stay until after the funeral, but they said ‘We don’t give a f***, the Fenian b*****d has 24 hours to get out’,” she said.
“I was in that house for a year and a half without any bother, I loved that house, I stayed there over the Twelfth and everything, never had any trouble.
“I can only think that after my son died they’ve seen posts on Facebook and worked out we were Catholics.”
She said her furniture was now being placed in storage and “I’ve no idea what I’m going to do or where I’ll go”.
“Right now I just need to bury my son but I can’t even grieve, I’m just in shock”.
It is understood the woman’s son is now being waked at the home of his father in the nationalist New Lodge area.
The UFF, a cover name for the UDA, has been linked to scores of sectarian murders in the area, often in collusion with British forces.
Family friend Margaret Caldwell said the PSNI escorted the woman back to her home to collect her possessions and clear out.
She added that the victim was in a “in a terrible state”. “It is an absolute disgrace they are getting away with this sort of thing,” she said.
Sinn Fein’s Caral ni Chuilin said that given long waiting lists in north Belfast for social housing, people have taken houses in loyalist areas they previously “wouldn’t have done”.
Sinn Fein representative John Finucane condemned the attack and called on DUP MP Nigel Dodds to “break his silence”.
“It is incumbent that local politicians unite in condemnation of these sickening actions and demonstrate political leadership in opposing the actions of paramilitary groups or their surrogates,” he said.
“This mother has not only tragically lost her son, she has now been driven out and is now unable to wake him from her home.
“This is totally unacceptable and there is an onus on Nigel Dodds and the leadership of political unionism to unequivocally condemn this disgraceful act.”
DUP councillor Dale Pankhurst said he was “deeply concerned by the occurrence” but insisted there was no evidence of paramilitary or sectarian behaviour.
“Speculation about this incident is not helpful. It should be properly and fully investigated by the police,” he said.
Direct violence by loyalists against homes and property has risen, often in combination with the usual flying of sectarian flags.
In Springfield in west Belfast, the Irish Republican Socialist Party reported this week that loyalists smashed the window of a party member and tried to physically ram a ‘Northern Ireland’ flag into the house.
In another area of north Belfast, members of a largely defunct loyalist armed group, the LVF (‘Loyalist Volunteer Force’) have been attacking homes in a turf-staking operation
Around 20 people, among them young children, fled their homes following ten separate attacks on their homes over the past two weeks in a mixed area of Ballysillan Avenue. Vehicles have also been attacked with a van set alight and destroyed on Tuesday night.
Residents were in tears as they gathered their possessions, forced to leave their homes and move in with relatives or find temporary accommodation.
The gang responsible are thought to want control over the relatively new properties and to ensure loyalists live there. Despite the gang mounting attacks in broad daylight and being well known, there have been no arrests.
“People left there are living in fear,” said North Belfast representative Fiona Ferguson of People before Profit. “It is clear there are groups of people who think they have the right to intimidate and terrorise people out of their homes.”