Northern Ireland

Catholics ordered out of Belfast shared housing in sectarian threat

Flags erected earlier this year around Global Crestent and Canterell Close in Belfast. Picture by Mal McCann
Flags erected earlier this year around Global Crestent and Canterell Close in Belfast. Picture by Mal McCann

CATHOLIC families in a cross-community housing development in Belfast have been ordered to leave their homes in a sectarian threat thought to be from loyalist paramilitaries.

The residents live off Ravenhill Road in Cantrell Close – a housing development that was part of a Stormont 'shared communities' strategy.

They have presented themselves to the Housing Executive as homeless.

Police visited them on Tuesday around midnight about a warning issued stating they were not welcome in the area because of their religion.

The threat also said that if the residents did not leave the area they faced violence, according to Belfast Live.

One resident told the news website they were worried about the safety of their children.

In June, the area made headlines after UVF and other loyalist flags were put up in the Cantrell Close and Global Crescent neighbourhoods.

The developments, managed by Radius Housing, are located close to Ravenhill Avenue and the loyalist Woodstock Road areas.

They are part of the Stormont executive's 'Together Building United Communities' programme.

A Housing Executive spokesman said: "A number of families in the south Belfast area have presented to us as homeless claiming sectarian intimidation. We have no further information at this time."

Radius Housing said it had been informed "that the PSNI are currently investigating threats and acts of intimidation against a number of Radius tenants at Cantrell Close".

"Our priority is the safety and wellbeing of all of our tenants and we are engaged with the PSNI, NIHE as well as our tenants, community and political representatives as we address this ongoing issue.

"It is our goal that the residents of Cantrell Close, and all of our developments, live free from any type of intimidation or threat to their safety. We believe that aim is shared by the vast majority of people who live here."

The PSNI said: "We do not discuss the security of individuals. However, if we receive information that a person's life may be at risk we will inform them accordingly.

"We never ignore anything which may put an individual at risk. No inference should be drawn from this."

In a joint statement, DUP South Belfast MP Emma Little Pengelly and MLA Christopher Stalford condemned the threats.

“It is absolutely disgraceful that anyone should be threatened from their home. This area has traditionally been welcoming to all and those responsible do not represent the area. It must be condemned by everyone," they said.

"Those behind this intimidation must be identified and face the courts. Anyone with information should contact the police and ensure those responsible face the full weight of the law."

Sinn Féin MLA Máirtín Ó Muilleoir hit out at the UVF following the intimidation.

“This blatant sectarianism has no place in our society and should be condemned outright," he said.

“This is meant to be a shared neighbourhood and it is completely unacceptable that people are being intimidated by the UVF in this day and age."

He added: “We need voices from within unionism to speak out and show leadership. We also need the authorities to take a stand against sectarianism in order to tackle this issue adequately."

Alliance MLA Paula Bradshaw said she understood four families had been threatened and had left their homes, but not all of them had presented themselves as homeless.

"It is incredibly disappointing that such a great scheme that was set up as a shared neighbourhood to bring families together to work, play and socialise together, is brought into this controversy again - paramilitary thugs trying to stamp their control over an area," she told the BBC.

SDLP MLA Claire Hanna said: "Shared housing is vital for progress in this society and it must be protected. We cannot live in a society where families are being threatened out of their homes.

Meanwhile, social housing tenants intimidated out of their homes will no longer receive special priority points for rehousing, under proposals to reform the allocation system.

A draft review of the current points-based system for determining housing need has removed the 200 points allocated to intimidation victims.