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Campaign of intimidation must be condemned

There can be absolutely no justification for the terrifying campaign of intimidation which has been conducted against a west Belfast family in recent weeks.

Dissident republicans are thought to be behind the vicious targeting of the Richmond family, which adds a particularly sinister dimension to recent gun attacks.

On December 20, a man dressed in a Santa suit and holding two guns, fired twelve shots into the Dermott Hill home of George Richmond and his wife Geraldine.

This was the second gun attack on their home of 30 years, the first taking place in September.

As a result, the couple left their house and spent Christmas with relatives.

However, even after they had fled their property, the intimidation continued, with every downstairs window in the house damaged and a CCTV camera smashed with a sledgehammer by a gang earlier this week.

In a further disturbing development, five shots were fired through the window of an apartment on the Upper Springfield Road belonging to the couple's daughter Georgina.

She is also now leaving her home.

In a despicable attempt to hurt her livelihood, the mother-of-one, a former contestant on RTE's The Voice of Ireland, has been threatened with harm while she performs on stage.

It seems this violence and harassment is linked to an altercation between Mr Richmond's son and a gang which included a number of republicans.

Regardless of the reason that may be put forward by the attackers, there can be no excuse for firing shots into two properties, an act of appalling recklessness that could have resulted in serious injury or loss of life.

It is equally alarming that people are being intimidated out of their homes by thugs who set themselves up as the arbiters of law and order in this part of west Belfast.

What they represent is lawlessness and criminality, conduct that is not supported by the vast majority of residents.

It is essential the PSNI makes progress in stopping the gun gangs and bully boys who are trying to exert control through violence.

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