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8 September 2005 Edition

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Housing Executive report reveals extent of loyalist intimidation

Up to 1,000 families throughout the Six Counties, mostly nationalists, have been forced from their homes as a result of intimidation, according to Housing Executive information.

The information, covering the period between April 2004 to April 2005, has only come to light in the past week and reveals that 959 householders have sought to be re-housed by the Housing Executive. Almost half the incidents, 471, occurred in the Belfast area.

Unionist paramilitary intimidation has been cited by the Housing Executive as the main cause of the families fleeing their homes and with the increase in unionist violence over the summer the likelihood is that the numbers of nationalists seeking to be re-housed will increase in the coming weeks and months.

The details, highlighting the extent of sectarian intimidation in the last year, were disclosed as the nightmare of unionist violence against the nationalist community continues.

In the past week, houses in North Belfast had their windows broken while the home of a family in Kilkeel, County Down was targeted in a paint-bomb attack.

Since Sunday 4 September it has emerged that an Integrated Primary School, a County Derry farm and Tyrone GAA fans leaving for Croke Park were targeted in a weekend spate of sectarian violence.

Belfast

At 10.30pm on Monday 29 August a brick was thrown through the hall window of a Catholic woman's house on the Deerpark Road in North Belfast.

The mother of four said she now intends to move out as this was the second sectarian attack on her home.

Sinn Féin Councillor Danny Lavery called on unionist politicians to control unionist paramilitaries and put an end to the ongoing attacks on nationalist families:

"The silence from unionist political parties is deafening, it is about time they took responsibility and used their influence to put a stop to these sectarian attacks."

In a second attack in North Belfast, a Catholic family, living on the Whitewell Road, had their front window smashed by a loyalist gang on Tuesday night 30 August.

The sectarian attack follows a sharp increase in sectarian attacks orchestrated by unionist paramilitaries in North Belfast in recent months.

Earlier in the week, the home of a nationalist family at Old Throne Park was attacked with paint bombs by unionist thugs.

Sinn Féin's spokesperson on policing, Gerry Kelly, is seeking an urgent meeting with Dublin Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern to discuss the response of the PSNI to the sectarian attacks.

"Instead of confronting those organisations responsible, too often the PSNI has publicly failed to even acknowledge that the motivation behind this campaign is sectarian and by doing this they are providing cover for those behind the nightly attacks and sending out a message that this violence is being tolerated," he said.

South Belfast

Trouble erupted in South Belfast after loyalists ripped down club flags erected along part of the lower Ormeau Road by local GAA club St Malachy's to celebrate reaching the final of the Junior Football Championship, which they went on to win.

The chairman of the club had earlier spoken to community workers from the nearby loyalist Donegall Pass about accommodating the erection of the flags but the message was not passed on.

It is understood rioting erupted along a portion of Cromac Street and the Lower Ormeau Road when the GAA flags were torn down and replaced by union flags.

Sinn Féin Assembly member Alex Maskey had to leave a Belfast City Council meeting to calm tensions in the area.

County Down

On Thursday 1 September the home of a Catholic family in Kilkeel in County Down had a bottle containing paint thrown through the front living room window, damaging the room. The family's car was also covered in paint during the sectarian attack.

County Derry

A shed on the farm of a County Derry couple was destroyed in a blaze in the early hours of Sunday morning 4 September. The attack (the fourth on the Kilrea couple) comes just four weeks after the last attack which saw another outbuilding torched.

Blaming unionists for the attack, Sinn Féin's Billy Leonard said the family is living in fear that after four separate attacks on farm buildings their home may be attacked the next time.

Unionist thugs are also being accused of setting fire to an integrated primary school in Limavady in County Derry.

The Assembly Hall in Roe Valley Primary School was badly damaged in the attack, which was carried out over the weekend.

County Tyrone

A minibus carrying a Tyrone family group to Sunday's All-Ireland Football semi-final was among a number of vehicles attacked by unionist stone throwers at the Drumquin Road near Castlederg.

No one was badly injured in the incidents although, according to Sinn Féin's Charlie McHugh, the vehicles were badly damaged the occupants including a large number of children were lucky to escape injury.

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