A shocking attempt by loyalist thugs to force out a Catholic family in Lurgan, County Armagh has raised tensions ahead of local elections in the north of Ireland.
A young mother of one was forced to flee her home with her infant child after police effectively backed the loyalists by encouraging her to leave the Ashleigh Crescent area of the town.
Video emerged which captured the terrifying incident as two men attempted to break down the 21-year-old’s door amid a torrent of sectarian abuse.
Speaking later to the Belfast Live website, she said “she won’t be back to the area” and is having to “sofa surf” until a suitable property is found for her.
In a doorbell video posted on Facebook, a group of men are shown approaching the woman’s house with one man stating: “There’s Fenians in here”.
One attempts to remove the doorbell, but fails, before launching into more verbal abuse and demanding that the young woman come outside.
Two loyalists then try to to kick in the woman’s front door while shouting around the street that ‘rebels’ were in the area and calling the girl a ‘fenian bastard’ among other obscenities.
The young mother said she was putting her 18-month-old son to bed when she heard the banging on her front door and windows.
“I had been lying watching films with my son and had just put him to bed when it all started.
“I had heard the group outside in the street prior but didn’t think anything of it until I heard the banging on my doors and windows.
“It was a terrifying thing for us to go through and I have never had anything like this happen to me before.
“After the police came they advised that it could be safer to leave the area and I definitely won’t be back to that area ever again.
“The Housing Executive have told me there are no suitable properties for me to go to at the minute so I am having to sofa surf for a while until one becomes available but they have told me that I am a priority.
“It is just horrendous that people would put us through something as terrible as this. My son and I have been just trying to live our lives and mind our own business and shouldn’t have to face intimidation like this.”
One man was arrested by the PSNI on suspicion of attempted criminal damage and released – before they urged the young mother to abandon her home.
There has been widespread condemnation of the incident and the PSNI’s response.
Lurgan SDLP councillor Ciaran Toman said people across Lurgan and further afield were “disgusted”.
“If we are ever to stamp out this kind of behaviour then we need politicians and community representatives to show leadership and let people know this kind of act will simply not be tolerated,” he said.
Recent weeks have seen an increase in sectarian intimidation with the raising of unionist and loyalist flags in mixed areas across the North.
A British flag was erected on a pole in a largely nationalist area of Tyrone close to where three IRA Volunteers were killed almost 50 years ago.
The flag was taken down last week by passing Gaelic sports fans, but ironically, the removal of the flag, rather than its hoisting, was described as a “hate crime” by the police.
The 32 County Sovereignty Movement hit out at the PSNI’s actions.
“In what kind of society does the removal of a flag warrant more of a response than the violent threats and intimidation of a young mother and child simply because of their religion?” they said.
“25 years after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement and this is but another incident showing that the agreement has done nothing to change sectarian divisions.”