Fresh concerns raised over tower block keys

Frank Dempsey and Solicitor Paul Pierce at a meeting of New Lodge residents yesterday. Picture by Mal McCann.
Connla Young

Residents have raised fresh concerns after it emerged that police were given master keys to access hundreds of homes in north Belfast by housing chiefs.

Residents reacted angrily last week after it emerged that master keys for hundreds of flats in the nationalist New Lodge district had been provided to the PSNI without their knowledge.

Housing Executive bosses have also admitted that a set of master keys allowing entry to dozens of flats in Mount Vernon in north Belfast cannot be found.

Housing officials have offered to put new locks in the seven New Lodge towers as well as homes in the two Mount Vernon towers - more than 500 flats in total at an estimated cost of tens of thousands of pounds.

At a public meeting in New Lodge yesterday, chaired by Frank Dempsey from Carrick Hill Residents Association, some residents voiced their concerns.

“What I would be worried about is not the police themselves coming in but these keys falling into the hands of other other organisations,” one worried local said.

North Belfast MLA Nichola Mallon attended the meeting and confirmed said she has written to authorities.

The PSNI said the keys were provided in June "strictly for use in emergency situations" and have since been returned.

Solicitor Paul Pierce said he has also raised residents concerns directly with the Housing Executive and PSNI Chief Constable.

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