UDA blamed after home of loyalist victim Tracey Coulter is firebombed in Belfast's Shankill Road
Published 02/12/2013 | 01:30
A mother of four has told how her children watched in horror as a fire engulfed their home in Belfast's Shankill Road area.
The UDA has been blamed for the malicious fire started at the house in Shankill Terrace.
The Fire Service sent seven appliances and 33 firefighters at 7.15pm last night as flames threatened to spread to nearby roofs.
Residents on either side were evacuated from their homes and eye-witnesses described a hole in the roof where flames were bursting through.
It comes just three days after UDA killer William 'Mo' Courtney (50) was convicted of headbutting Ms Coulter during a confrontation over drugs.
Tracey Coulter said her four children, aged between four and 15, had been left devastated.
"We were round the corner in my mother's in Boundary Way when my eight-year-old daughter Ellie came running in yelling that our house was on fire," said the anti-drugs campaigner.
"She was hysterical. She was crying her eyes out. My kids are wrecked by this. I don't know yet what the damage is to the house and whether we'll be able to move back or not for Christmas.
"It's the children who are suffering. They don't know whether their Christmas presents are destroyed or not."
Ms Coulter denounced those responsible for the attack as "pathetic, animals".
She said she had no doubt it was the work of the UDA: "This is because I gave evidence against Mo Courtney. "It is the UDA's response to his conviction last week – but I don't for one second regret what I did. I'd do it again tomorrow and I'd urge everyone to stand up to them."
She called on First Minister Peter Robinson to immediately end funding for community centres that employed members of the paramilitary group.
Courtney assaulted Ms Coulter after she travelled to the Lower Shankill Community Association offices to speak to one of his associates about the death of a relative.
Her cousin Neil Orr had died from suspected drug abuse a week before the incident.
She said: "The government have to take action. They cannot continue to let law-abiding citizens be tortured by these thugs. The situation on the ground and the level of intimidation of ordinary people like me is getting worse."
Ms Coulter, whose home has been fitted with bulletproof windows and doors, said she would continue to defy UDA threats.
"I will not be driven from my home by these gangsters. I am staying in the Shankill. There is no way the bully boys are forcing to force me to leave.
"This attack is just the latest in a long line of intimidation my family has faced since I stood up to the UDA. My four-year-old son Justin gets upset at the abuse that they hurl at us."
It is understood that the attack was captured on CCTV.
On Friday, Mo Courtney was convicted of assaulting Tracey Coulter at a government-funded community centre in west Belfast in July.
Ms Coulter had gone to the Lower Shankill Community Association offices to speak to one of his associates about the suspected drug-related death of a relative.
Mo Courtney was sentenced to eight years for manslaughter in 2003.