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'No peace process here as gangs target us in hate campaign '

A north Belfast family say they are at the end of their tether after a sustained campaign of mob violence on their homes.

Joe Keenan and his wife have lived on the Oldpark Road for 26 years while his son and daughter, in their mid-20s, live a few doors down.

They are the only remaining residents in a row of five homes all since deserted by other Protestant families.

Joe has kept a diary on the litany of abuse he and his loved ones have suffered and says that on Sunday a gang of up to 40 nationalist youths surrounded his home and threw petrol bombs at him when he went out to challenge them.

On Monday morning they returned and tried to kick his door in at 6am, he said.

“It is mainly sectarian attacks but the ones from our side join in as well,” he said. “You see them meeting up and exchanging drink and drugs. Then they fall out and the fighting starts.

“They arrange these fights on phones and the internet, and as we are the last house on the row we are an obvious target.

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“On Sunday up to 40 nationalist youths gathered outside the house while we watched a football match — they had petrol bombs. When me and my son went out to them they threw the petrol bombs at us and told us they were going to burn us out.

“Then they came back this morning at 6am to try and kick the door down. Everyone else in this row of houses has left because they couldn’t take it.

“I was told by police to keep a diary of attacks and I started last November. It soon filled up and now I am on my second diary and there must have been 30 or 40 attacks in the last few months.

“It’s all bricks, bottles, stones, petrol bombs. I’ve had bars on my windows for the last 15 years.

“We live in a prison. There’s no peace process here. Me and my family just want to be left in peace. Why should we be forced out of our homes?

“All the focus seems to be on engaging the young ones and finding out why they are doing this.

“It’s just sheer wanton vandalism and we don’t know or care why they are doing it, we just want it to stop.”

Community worker Gerald Solinas, who has been assisting the family, said that the recent trouble followed a republican parade along Rosapenna Street: “We keep being told that the youths responsible are not from the area, but that is no excuse not to be able to deal with them.”

A PSNI spokeswoman said: “At approximately 7.40pm on Sunday night police received a report that a number of petrol bombs had been thrown in the Oldpark Road area of north Belfast.

“Police responded and the crowd dispersed. There were no reports of any injuries and no damage was caused to property.

“One male was arrested and subsequently released pending a report to the PPS. Police, working closely with local community representatives, maintained a presence in the area for several hours.”

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