Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland's political leaders issue joint statement calling for Cantrell Close threats to be lifted

Four Catholic families have left their homes

By Claire Williamson

Northern Ireland's political leaders have issued a joint statement calling for threats to be lifted from families in the shared housing scheme in Cantrell Close in Belfast.

It comes after police said paramilitary involvement is now a "strong line of enquiry" after four Catholic families left their homes after receiving sectarian threats.

Cantrell Close, off the Ravenhill Road in south Belfast was supposed to be a flagship cross-community development as part of the Stormont Executive's Together Building United Communities programme.

In a joint statement the DUP, Sinn Fein, SDLP, UUP, Alliance Party and Green Party called for the threats to be lifted and condemned sectarianism.

The statement said: "We as political leaders condemn all forms of sectarianism, intolerance and threats of violence

"Four families have been forced to leave their homes in South Belfast. This is wrong.  Any threat to these families should be lifted immediately.

"There is also an onus on the PSNI and the statutory agencies to provide immediate and appropriate support to the affected families, including re-housing those affected if they feel unable to remain in their homes.

"This situation runs absolutely contrary to the ethos under which the Cantrell Close development was created.

"Everyone has the right to live in a society without fear of intimidation and free from sectarianism.

"Those behind this threat offer nothing but hatred and division and should be condemned by all political, community and statutory leaders.”

It follows a Sinn Fein party delegation meeting with senior officers on Monday.

Sinn Fein South Belfast MLA Mairtin O Muilleoir has repeatedly stated that the UVF was behind the threats.

Following the meeting the PSNI said they confirmed to Sinn Fein an "active investigation is ongoing and while paramilitary involvement is a strong line of enquiry, we remain focused on gathering information and evidence to put those responsible for this abhorrent and unacceptable behaviour before the courts".

Mr O Muilleoir called for those families targeted to get additional support they need.

“It remains our view that the organisation responsible is the East Belfast UVF," he said.

"Clearly that raises serious questions about the level of support offered to the affected families, particularly in terms of providing additional security and today the police provided reassurance that they would be stepping up security in the area.

"Some of those threatened are still in their homes, five days after police officers visited them in the middle of the night to warn of the threat against them and there has been a lack of information regarding what is being done to assist them.

"These families need to know that every possible step is being taken to protect them and there is an onus on all political, community and statutory leaders to stand firmly by the families affected.

"That includes providing immediate assistance to those families forced to leave in order to ensure they are rehomed in suitable properties without any further delay."

Chief Superintendent Chris Noble said: “Police met with local elected representatives this afternoon in relation to the threats made to some residents of Cantrell Close in East Belfast. We confirmed an active investigation is ongoing and while paramilitary involvement is a strong line of enquiry, we remain focused on gathering information and evidence to put those responsible for this abhorrent and unacceptable behaviour before the courts.

“We will continue to work with partners in the Northern Ireland Housing Executive and Housing Association to support those families affected by this cowardly act of intimidation.

“Again, our appeal is to anyone with information about this incident or any information about suspected criminality, to please speak to detectives in Musgrave station by calling 101. Alternatively, information can be given anonymously to the independent charity Crimestoppers by calling 0800 555 111.”

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