Northern Ireland news

DUP councillor Dale Pankhurst posted Protestant areas cannot be 'dumping grounds for all sorts'

DUP councillor Dale Pankhurst, and right, a house in the Ballysillan area of north Belfast targeted in a sectarian attack

A DUP councillor has faced further criticism after social media posts emerged in which he said a Protestant area cannot be used as "dumping grounds for all sorts".

Dale Pankhurst is already facing questions about his contact with a housing association after sectarian intimidation prevented a young Catholic mother from moving into a new home.

The north Belfast councillor yesterday locked all his social media channels.

Three houses have been targeted in sectarian attacks against Catholics due to move into a new social development in north Belfast.

Windows were smashed and a flag hung from a drainpipe at a property in Tyndale Gardens in the mainly unionist Ballysillan area this week.

It emerged after The Irish News revealed two other homes in the development were targeted similarly last week.

All three 'hate' incidents are being investigated by the PSNI who have appealed for information.

Dale Pankhurst locked down his Twitter and Facebook pages

In one, a young Catholic mother told how she was abandoning plans to move into a house after its windows were smashed and 'KAT' (kill all taigs) was scrawled on a wall.

The case prompted questions about Mr Pankhurst's contact with Choice Housing after it emerged he had earlier told the body a "concern" had been raised.

An assessment was sought from police who confirmed they were unaware of any threats against the 24-year-old mother-of-four.

There is no suggestion Mr Pankhurst had advance knowledge of the intimidation.

He said he wanted to raise the matter "in confidence" and, as a public representative, had a "duty of care to all residents when I receive any form of information that may indicate danger to life or property".

Mr Pankhurst made his Twitter and Facebook accounts private shortly after posting that he had since been receiving anonymous calls and threats.

Ian Knox cartoon 6/12/19 

Yesterday, other social media users shared screengrabs of posts made last month on Facebook by Mr Pankhurst, in which he welcomed new housing for the Glenbryn area of north Belfast.

He said it was welcome news for a community that had been "suffering deprivation and dereliction for years, much of it due to years of suffering from sectarian violence emanating from Ardoyne".

"We have made it clear that locals should be served first. Our areas cannot become dumping grounds for all sorts," he added.

Those comments attracted criticism online.

Speaking about the Tynedale attacks, SDLP councillor Paul McCusker said they could have been prevented.

"The information that was passed to Dale, why was it not given to police?" he asked.

"If it was me, as a local councillor, I would have contacted the police first because the police are the people that are meant to protect and ensure that there is nobody put at risk."

Sinn Féin assembly member Gerry Kelly condemned the attack on the house allocated to the mother of four.

"There can be no place for sectarianism like this in our society and it needs to be condemned by all public representatives," he said.

"This attack comes after reports that a public representative had raised ‘concerns’ about the allocation of this house. There should be a thorough police investigation into this attack and the origin of these threats, and those behind them."

PSNI Chief Inspector Kelly Moore said paramilitary involvement was one line of inquiry.

She said police had stepped up patrolling around the area and officers were working with representatives to try to resolve issues

Asked by BBC's Talkback programme if she had spoken to Mr Pankhurst, she said: "We are in regular contact with all community and elected representatives who are working on behalf of the community in that area. That will come under part of our investigation."

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