The South East Antrim UDA are believed to be behind a threat to contractors working in the Rathcoole estate.
It is the second time workers in Newtownabbey have been threated by the breakaway unit of the UDA this year.
Earlier this year workmen were temporarily pulled from a site close to the Church Road in Newtownabbey after the company refused to pay extortion money to the loyalist paramilitary organisation.
Workmen had only started work on a large scale project in Rathcoole that involves the demolition of flats in the area earlier this month.
As well as contractors working on the building site, all Housing Executive maintenance staff have also been pulled out of the housing estate over fears for their safety.
It is not thought any staff will return until assurances for their safety can be given.
Contractors showed up for work on Wednesday morning only to find graffiti stating ‘All workers will be shot’ with a crosshair painted on protective boards placed around the building site.
‘Republican scum keep out’ along with the names of two people and an address were also painted on the wooden boards.
The contractors had just started work on the demolition of a block of flats.
Monkscoole House and Abbotscoole House in Rathcoole are both being demolished as part of a housing improvement plan for the Newtownabbey housing estate.
The executive plans to build 50 new homes on the site of the two tower blocks.
The contract to demolish the blocks was put out to tender earlier this year.
Demolishing the 1960s tower blocks is part of plan to give local people much needed improved housing, however it has now been stalled as a result of the paramilitary threats.
Sources say the SEA UDA, who have a large presence in the estate, had objected to housing executive plans for the area.
Work on the flats was due to begin in the summer but was delayed with contractors only starting work on the demolition at the start of November.
While the majority of residents had welcomed the demolition, a petition was started to try and stop the Housing Executive demolishing the two towers, despite dozens of flats lying empty within the blocks for a number of years.
The petition which called the tower block an ‘iconic building’ only attracted 1,200 signatures failing to reach its target of 1,500.
Local sources say that a number of senior loyalist figures were behind the campaign to retain the tower blocks, much to the bemusement of local residents who had welcomed the plans to build new family homes with outdoor space.
“They are not suitable for older people, they’re not suitable for families, the waiting list is for family homes, not flats that are now so run down you wouldn’t house your worst enemy in them,” said one local resident.
It is not known when the contractors will be able to return to the site, negotiations are ongoing to try and ensure the safety of Housing Executive staff, who were carrying out repair work in the area.
A spokesperson for the Housing Executive said: “We can confirm that contractors have had to withdraw tenant’s services, including health and safety work, from a number of sites in Rathcoole following threats to staff and graffiti targeting contractors in the area.
“The safety of our staff and contractors is paramount, and we utterly condemn this behaviour.
“We will continue to monitor situation.”
North Belfast John Finucane condemned the threats saying: “The workers had been carrying out preparatory work for much-needed social housing in the area.
“These threats are unacceptable and have no place in our society. Sinn Féin sends its solidarity to the workers who should be able to work free from harassment and intimidation.
“The people of north Belfast are crying out for more social and affordable homes. The people behind this threat have nothing to offer and have no regard for the needs of the local community.
“I appeal to anyone with any information on those responsible for these threats to bring that forward to the police.
“And I urge community and political representatives to work together to ensure the workers can get back on site safely and as quickly as possible.”
A police spokesperson said: “We received a report on Tuesday morning that graffiti had been daubed on the site hoarding at some stage overnight.
“Enquiries are ongoing, and I am appealing to anyone with information to contact us on 101 quoting reference 266 of 23/11/21.”