Leading article

Disgust at sectarian intimidation in shared housing development

What does it say about this society that almost twenty years since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, Catholic families are being forced from their homes in a development supposed to be a shining example of our shared future.

The threats to four families in Cantrell Close off the Ravenhill Road in south Belfast are reminiscent of the dark days of the Troubles when residents were driven out and people existed in polarised communities.

Bringing people together to live side by side in social housing schemes is a laudable ideal which has proved an uphill task.

Challenging the mindset of residents with entrenched opinions is one thing but there is also the malign role played by paramilitaries who are quick to mark out territory in a bid to deter the sort of mixed communities that threaten their stranglehold.

This is what has happened at Cantrell Close and Global Crescent where the paramilitary bully boys have set out to exert control.

These homes are part of the Stormont executive's `Together Building United Communities' programme.

This strategy `reflects the commitment to improving community relations and continuing the journey towards a more united and shared society.'

Unfortunately, some people do not share that commitment and it was an ominous sign when UVF and other loyalist flags appeared in the neighbourhood in June this year.

What was needed from those in positions of influence was a firm rejection of this attempt to send a sinister message to people living in this shared space.

It is regrettable that the response at the time of local DUP MP Emma Little Pengelly was wholly inadequate.

Three months on and the sectarian bullies have taken the next logical step - the direct intimidation of Catholics who just want to get on with their lives alongside their Protestant neighbours.

Four families are now presenting as homeless which is an absolute outrage.

Unionists need to call this for what it is - naked sectarianism and bigotry.

If we are to build a truly shared society then those living in mixed developments need to be properly supported and protected.

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