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Protestant council staff ‘intimidated'

Two Protestant council workers at a city cleansing depot in West Belfast have been ordered to leave their posts in a suspected threat from a paramilitary organisation.

The threat was made in the last couple of days.

It is unclear whether the two workers have left their posts.

But last night council staff and trade unions were united in their condemnation of the threat.

Trade unions co-ordinator Tim Smith said workers had been sickened by the incident.

“Our workers should be allowed to go ahead and do their work without being threatened — that has always been the trade unions’ policy,” he said.

“We are trying to determine if the threats are legitimate threats or just pranks, but you have to take things like this seriously.

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“Every employee has the right to go about their business and provide services to Belfast ratepayers and visitors, free from intimidation.

“Council employees are working hard to earn a living and deliver services which are vital to local communities and which are in greater demand in a period of recession.”

SDLP councillor Pat McCarthy, who is chair of the environment committee at Belfast City Council, said intimidation was a long-term problem.

“Whenever we attempt to integrate workers to various areas it seems these threats are made,” he said. “There is no place for this type of activity.

“We are trying to move things on but this is what we are faced with.”

The council’s chief executive, Peter McNaney said there was no place for sectarianism.

He said: “The safety and well-being of all our workers is of the utmost priority to council and, along with the trade unions, we reject the scourge of sectarianism and reaffirm our opposition to any intimidation of staff, regardless of its nature.

“While we do not comment on matters relating to individual employees, measures have been put in place and with the agreement of staff and, if necessary police, we will continue to work to ensure the safety of all the council’s employees.”

A PSNI spokesman said: “We do not discuss the security of individuals.

“Where we believe that anyone needs to review their security we take appropriate steps to inform them.

“We never ignore anything which may put an individual’s life at risk.”

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