Northern Ireland news

Housing Executive contractors withdrawn from parts of Derry

Scene of a security alert in the Creggan area of Derry city on Monday. Picture Margaret McLaughlin 21-1-2018.
Rebecca Black, Press Association

Housing Executive contractors have been withdrawn from a number of areas in Derry following a series of attempted attacks by dissident republicans.

There were three significant security alerts in the city yesterday following a car bomb attack on the court in Bishop Street on Saturday evening.

Amid the disturbances, a van belonging to a contractor working with the Housing Executive was hijacked.

Following the incident the contractor withdrew services in the Bishop Street, Brandywell, Creggan, Rosemount and Rossville areas of the city.

DUP Foyle MLA Gary Middleton condemned the ongoing disruption in the city after meeting with PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton.

He told media: "There has been significant disruption from Saturday night from the bomb attack - the effect it has had on the hotels and businesses.

"But also today we know that, for example, the Housing Executive has had to withdraw their contractors as of yesterday afternoon."

"Disruption to basic services that people in those communities would expect, continues to be disrupted and the message to those people who carry out those attacks is that you are hurting your very own people."

In a statement this morning, the Housing Executive said: "Following the hijacking of a van belonging to one of our contractors yesterday and a number of similar incidents last night, our maintenance and heating contractors withdrew their services on the City side.

CCTV footage showing a car bomb moments after it exploded outside the court house on Bishop Street in Derry.

"The Housing Executive takes these matters very seriously, the protection and safety of people who work for us is paramount.

"We apologise to our tenants for this suspension of service, however, given the circumstances, this decision is unavoidable.

"We hope that there is a resolution to enable services to resume as soon as possible.

"We ask that tenants and other customers contact us with repair or other housing issues as normal."

Sinn Féin Foyle MP Elisha McCallion said in addition to Housing Executive contractors, other services including transport and postal have been suspended in some areas of Derry.

"I have asked the Unity of Purpose group to urgently convene a meeting with the key statutory agencies that have had services affected as a result of this mindless spate of alerts," she said in a statement this morning.

"It's important that we do that in order to demonstrate that the political and civil leadership of this city is absolutely united in its opposition to what we have witnessed over the past number of days.

"We also want to show our support to the local communities who are suffering as a result. They have faced huge disruption and upset over recent days, and they are continuing to face hardship due to the withdrawal of vital services.

"We fully understand the difficult position that many statutory agencies and service providers find themselves in and this meeting will be an opportunity to show our support and solidarity to them.

"However, it's also vital that these services are restored as soon as possible and this meeting will hopefully enable us to take whatever steps are required in order for that to happen."

DUP Policing Board members Keith Buchanan and Mervyn Storey were also in the delegation that met with the PSNI chief constable this morning.

Speaking afterwards, Mr Storey voiced confidence in police to deal with the security situation.

"There never was any justification for these type of incidents in the past and there is no justification for them now, and we trust that the police, the community and civic society will continue to ensure that those people who want to carry out these particular activities are minimised and are not given any oxygen to continue this type of activity," he said.

"We are confident of what the chief constable was able to tell us in regards to their capability as an organisation and how they intend to deal with this as they move forward.

"Let's remember, police and the security services have been able to thwart other incidents in the past and I think that is something as a community in Northern Ireland we ought to be very thankful for."

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