Northern Ireland news

Record number of families forced from homes by dissidents

Joanne McGibbon at a candle-light vigil in support of her husband Michael who was murdered by dissident republicans. Picture by Philip Walsh

RECORD numbers of people from nationalist communities are being forced from their homes as a result of threats from dissident groups.

Last week Joanne McGibbon, whose husband Michael was murdered by the group calling itself the 'IRA', revealed that she had applied to be rehoused outside north Belfast where she feels intimidated by his killers.

The 33-year-old died after being shot twice in the leg in Butler Place in Ardoyne last month.

In total, almost 1,300 householders have been forced to leave their homes due to paramilitary threats over the last three years.

While the majority are from areas considered loyalist, there has been a marked increase in people declaring themselves homeless due to threats in north and west Belfast.

Last year 433 households presented themselves to the Housing Executive as having been intimidated from their homes by paramilitaries.

Threats are confirmed by either by the PSNI or a community organisation which can act as an intermediary.

A total of 312 households met the criteria to be rehoused, an increase on the previous year when 293 individuals or families had to be rehomed after being warned they were under threat from terrorist groupings.

Some other families or individuals also had to be rehomed due to anti-social behaviour, racial or sectarian threats and, in a small number of cases, homophobic intimidation.

In total 1,842 people applied to be rehoused due to various types of intimidation over the last three years.

Details of which groups were responsible for issuing threats are not recorded.

However, an intermediary who works with the Housing Executive told the Irish News they are handling an increasing number of threats from dissident groups.

The Housing Executive said it is "concerning" that people are still being forced from their homes.

"We have a statutory duty to provide housing for people who find themselves in this situation and this does provide further pressures on limited resources and social housing," it said.

"The Housing Executive has had to directly deal with the consequences of community conflict in Northern Ireland since it was created in 1971.

"It is obviously very concerning that many families are still coming to us for help because they feel insecure in their own homes."

It said it information about the origin of paramilitary threats is not recorded.

"Confirmation of intimidation and the reasons for intimidation may be sought from the police or from relevant voluntary sector organisations.

"Occasionally the Housing Executive will rely on local knowledge or information supplied by the applicant."

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