Belfast Telegraph

600 forced to seek emergency refuge due to intimidation - majority of cases paramilitary linked

By David Young

Almost 600 people sought emergency housing in the last year because of intimidation, shocking figures have revealed.

The vast majority of cases - three in every four - involved paramilitaries.

Statistics from the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) paint a terrifying picture of the extent of intimidation in Northern Ireland.

In the past 10 years, a total of 6,261 people told the NIHE they were homeless through intimidation, with 3,720 of these accepted as homeless.

Every year the number one reason given by applicants is paramilitary intimidation.

Other reasons included disability, sectarianism, race, sexual orientation and anti-social behaviour.

The details were disclosed after an Assembly Question by Green Party MLA Claire Bailey.

In the 12 months to April this year, NIHE revealed 582 people claimed they were homeless through intimidation.

These included:

  • 433 because of paramilitary activity
  • 77 because of anti-social behaviour
  • 39 because of sectarianism
  • And 23 due to racial abuse.

The organisation said 414 of those claims were accepted as genuine.

More: UDA thugs hounded tragic Belfast teen Nathan Ritchie to his death

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Ms Bailey, the deputy leader of the Green Party, said the figures were “staggering”.

“These figures show that intimidation causing people to present as homeless to the Northern Ireland Housing Executive is still an ongoing issue in Northern Ireland.

“People present as homeless due to intimidation on a range of grounds; anti-social, racial, paramilitary, sexual orientation and disability.

“Paramilitary intimidation still accounts for the majority of cases. Given recent gun attacks, in Belfast in particular, the Assembly needs to act as a matter of urgency on addressing paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland.

The south Belfast MLA said she intended to drill down into the figures to establish whether intimidation was clustered in certain areas of Northern Ireland.

She felt that the issue of intimidation in housing was so serious it should be dealt with under the Assembly’s Fresh Start plans.

“We have a shortage of social housing. We need to look at whether the system is just moving people around. Are we just moving people from area to area? Have any of them had to leave the country? These are huge numbers for a small area, Northern Ireland is not that big.”

“I would encourage anyone experiencing intimidation on any of the grounds, to report it to the police and housing executive and seek relevant support.

“Nobody in our society should have to experience intimidation.”

A NIHE spokesman said: “The Housing Executive has had to directly deal with the consequences of community conflict in Northern Ireland since it was created in 1971.

“As the figures show, the number of people who have presented and been accepted as homeless due to intimidation has remained at a fairly constant level over the last decade. We have a statutory duty to provide housing for people who find themselves in this situation.

“It is obviously very concerning that in 2016 many families are still coming to us for help because they feel insecure in their own homes.”

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