Housing Executive reveals figures as loyalist thugs force family out of east Belfast
The Housing Executive has had to rehome 256 individuals or families forced to flee their home in the last 12 months because of intimidation.
Of those, almost all (230) were threatened by paramilitary organisations.
Despite lockdown the number of paramilitary threats increased from the previous 12 months, up slightly on the 212 threats accepted as genuine by the Housing Executive in 2019/2020.
The figures do not confirm what faction was responsible for the threat or intimidation.
In the last five years 2,321 people presented to the Housing Executive as homeless due to intimidation. The numbers have been steadily dropping but still represent a significant number of families under paramilitary threat.
It comes as an academic has warned that paramilitary threats within communities have become “normalised” in some parts of Northern Ireland.
At the weekend police confirmed they are investigating an incident in which a Catholic family were forced to flee from their home in east Belfast after a paramilitary threat.
The mother-of-three is believed to have asked to be housed in the area after a lengthy period on a waiting list for a ‘high demand’ part of Belfast.
She had not been previously intimidated from west Belfast by republicans, as was alleged by some loyalists.
Sources said the family believed they were safe in the mainly loyalist Cregagh estate due to having friends who lived there.
However, she was forced to leave her home after being approached by loyalists who told her to get out. Politicians have blamed the threat against the woman on local paramilitaries.
PSNI Chief Inspector Wendy Pollock said: “The family have been left traumatised, and no longer feel safe in their own home and have been forced to relocate.
“Our inquiries are ongoing, and I am appealing to anyone with information to contact us.”
Police are treating the incident as a sectarian hate crime.
The Housing Executive said: “We are aware of this case and we are assisting the family involved.
“In recent weeks we have offered temporary accommodation to the family but this has been declined and they have chosen to make their own arrangements.
“They have requested single let, temporary accommodation in an area of very high demand and we will continue to provide them with advice and guidance on housing options in the days ahead.”
Dr Jonny Byrne, a senior lecturer in criminology at Ulster University, said : “Considering we still have the Tackling Paramilitarism programme from 2015, considering that we still have all the architecture of the conflict here in 2021, it is not a surprise.
“The fact that there is a mother and child involved has increased the attention, but unfortunately it is nothing unusual.
“If you look at the housing statistics going back 20 years you can see the number of families who have been intimidated from their homes because of paramilitary intimidation.
“It is easy for people to see that things are getting better.
“But on the other level we still have paramilitaries in communities where people are being intimidated.”
“There is an acceptance that individuals in organisations can do these things that are not part of the rule of law and it is taken as normal, that is where the problem is in 2021.
“This is an issue, but it is something which has become normalised across these areas where paramilitaries exist.”
Alliance councillor Michael Long condemned the latest threat saying it was “absolutely disgusting”.
SDLP councillor Seamas de Faoite said: “I am sickened that a young mother and her children have been forced to leave their home following a campaign of intimidation.”