A spate of sectarian attacks have taken place against Catholics due to move into a new social housing development in north Belfast. Windows were smashed and a flag was hung from a drainpipe at a property in the loyalist Ballysillan area, one of three recent attacks.
The latest property targeted had been allocated to a Catholic mother from Ardoyne who was in the process of moving in with her daughter. The frightened family now plans to return the keys.
It comes after another young Catholic mother said she was abandoning plans to move into one of the houses after its windows were smashed and ‘KAT’, short for ‘Kill All Taigs’ (Kill All Catholics), was scrawled on a wall last week.
Windows were smashed and sectarian graffiti was sprayed on the property in the area late last month.
One of the women has four young children, two of whom have been diagnosed with autism. The woman said she “started crying” when she learned of the attack on the property.
“I thought fresh start, new house, me and my four babies could move in, have a garden to play in - and then all this stuff happens,” she said. “The house was beautiful. The garden was huge - my boys would have loved the garden. I just can’t take that house now.”
She said two of her children have special learning needs and her newborn son is just recently out of hospital due to breathing difficulties.
After being allocated the house last month, she said a housing official told her that DUP Councillor Dale Pankhurst had “phoned in with a concern about me moving into the area”.
She and her ex-partner tried to contact Mr Pankhurst but “he wouldn’t give him or me the concern that was raised”.
“He said you will have to go to police. I went to police. They said, ‘we can’t tell you what it was’. Still to this day the police, [the housing agency] and Dale Pankhurst can’t tell me what this ‘concern’ was against me.”
She said that PSNI later confirmed they were unaware of any threats against her or any “concerns” over her moving into the house.
Questions remain over how the women were identified as Catholic. Local nationalists believe the DUP know much more about the attacks than they have so far revealed.
One canvasser for the DUP’s Nigel Dodds described one of those targeted as a “rat” in a Facebook comment, after a photo of the young mother-of-four was circulated online.
SDLP Councillor Paul McCusker said Nigel Dodds, the local DUP Westminster candidate, had “a duty to let people know exactly what is happening” and urged him to “show leadership to prevent an increase in sectarian attacks.”
He also called on Pankhurst to “work with police to share any information he has to find those responsible”.
Sinn Féin’s Gerry Kelly called for a “full investigation” into the threats and attacks.
“This is a clear case of sectarian intimidation,” he said. “This was a mother of four children who was allocated a house in the mouth of Christmas and was looking forward to moving in and celebrating Christmas with her family.”