Leading article

No return to dark days of 1969

In his On This Day column on the opposite page, the distinguished historian, Dr Éamon Phoenix details the blatant sectarian intimidation in one part of north Belfast which was recorded by The Irish News on December 6 1969.

Dr Phoenix sets out how Catholic residents who had already left the Oldpark district were warned not to return, with one house wrecked and the slogan `Taigs Out’ written on an inside wall.

The incidents reflected a period of wider upheaval across many areas of the city at the start of the Troubles which will be unfamiliar to almost an entire generation.

Sadly, our front page today, as it has done for most of the week, focuses on disturbingly similar events taking place in another north Belfast district exactly fifty years later.

As our series of exclusive reports have set out, three Catholic families were prevented from moving into properties at Tyndale Gardens in Ballysillan after windows were smashed, loyalist flags attached to fences and the letters KAT, meaning Kill All Taigs, sprayed on a wall.

The victims are believed to include a single mother with four young children, two of whom have been diagnosed with autism.

It needs to be stressed no section of society has a monopoly on sectarian attitudes, and episodes of this kind remain relatively rare in the modern era.

However, there will be concern about the approach made to a housing association by a DUP councillor before the attacks on the homes to raise what he said was a concern about the safety of the Catholic woman.

The young mother, who is now seeking alternative accommodation, said the councillor had declined to explain the background to his intervention and police later told her they were unaware of any threats against her.

There will be a firm expectation that full cooperation is extended from across the community to detectives, who are treating the case as a hate crime.

A strong message needs to be sent out that people should be free to live wherever they choose, and the deliberate targeting of individuals on the grounds of their perceived religion will be not tolerated by the authorities.

The distressing circumstances from 1969 described by Dr Phoenix must consigned to the history books once and for all.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Leading article