Northern Ireland news

Catholic woman was preparing for son's funeral when loyalists gave her 24 hours to get out

A Catholic woman whose son died on Friday said she was ordered to leave her home by men claiming to be from the UFF

A Catholic mother has told how she was waiting for the body of her son to be brought home to be waked when she was told she had 24 hours to leave the mainly loyalist Lower Oldpark area of north Belfast.

The woman said she was forced to ring the undertaker and arrange for her son's remains to be brought to the house of a friend instead after two car loads of men knocked on her door and told her to get out.

The windows of the house were later smashed and sectarian graffiti daubed on the walls.

Speaking to The Irish News, the victim said the men - who said they were from the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF) paramilitary group - arrived at her Summer Street home at around 3pm on Sunday.

The woman's 25-year-old son had died suddenly on Friday.

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"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'.

"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".

Sinn Féin 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."

The DUP said Mr Dodds was on holiday with his family, with local councillor Dale Pankhurst issuing a statement on the party's behalf.

Mr Pankhurst said he was "deeply concerned by the occurrence".

"Speculation about this incident is not helpful. It should be properly and fully investigated by the police," he added.

"We are opposed to any acts of intimidation which have a very damaging and harmful impact on the victims and on local communities. Lower Oldpark is a community that is growing in positivity and capacity, and we do not wish to see this sort of activity dragging the area backwards."

Mr Pankhurt also posted on Twitter that police had told him "no group was responsible" and said Sinn Féin was wrong to speculate otherwise.

"Such speculation could lead to further incidents and I call on SF to withdraw their comments," he said.

The PSNI said detectives continue to investigate a report of criminal damage and threats at a house in Summer Street.

Chief Inspector Kelly Moore said: "Our enquiries into this incident are ongoing. Police investigating this incident are following all lines of enquiry, so any speculation is unhelpful.

"I would again appeal to anyone who has information in relation to this incident or who may be able to assist our investigation to contact us on 101."

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