03 September 2005

1,000 forced from their homes

Daily Ireland

by Ciarán Barnes

Almost 1,000 people living in the North have been forced to flee their homes in the past year as a result of intimidation.
During the period from April 2004 to April this year, 959 householders contacted the Housing Executive seeking alternative accommodation because of threats, the vast majority from loyalist paramilitary gangs.
Families living in Belfast were on the receiving end of 471 threats — half the total. The Housing Executive has recorded cases throughout the North.
Cases of intimidation last year accounted for five per cent of the North’s 17,500 homeless cases. This statistic is likely to increase this year following the increase in sectarian attacks during the summer.
Homes occupied by Catholics have been targeted on north Belfast’s interfaces and in loyalist towns in north Antrim. Catholics have flooded the Housing Executive with requests to be rehoused because of paramilitary intimidation.
In recent weeks, 12 Protestant families from Belfast have also approached the Housing Executive after being intimidated out of their homes by feuding loyalist paramilitaries.
One Catholic family forced to flee their home are the McCalls from the Whitewell area of north Belfast.
At the beginning of the summer, their home on Old Throne Gardens was attacked by loyalist arsonists. Since then they have been homeless. However, the PSNI’s refusal to confirm they have been intimidated from their home means the Housing Executive is under no obligation to buy it from them.
Under a scheme known as Special Purchase of Evicted Dwellings (SPED), the Housing Executive has a responsibility to buy homes from owners who have been the victim of paramilitary intimidation.
Speaking to Daily Ireland yesterday, Peter McCall said it was disgraceful how his family has been treated,
The grandfather was asleep in the house with his wife, four children and grandchild when loyalists attempted to burn his home.
He said: “My house was under regular attack for three years. I had the windows broken and my daughter was stoned while she played in the garden.
“You could not go outside without running the risk of being hit with a brick.
“The house is a mess now; it was completely gutted by the fire.
“If it wasn’t for our insurance company paying the rent in our new house, I don’t know what we would do.”
Mr McCall had harsh words for the PSNI and Housing Executive which he believes are turning a blind eye to his situation.
“The house next door to mine was also burned by loyalists yet the Housing Executive bought that on a SPED after the PSNI confirmed the family staying there were being intimidated. What is so different about my case?
“The Housing Executive did try and find me alternative accommodation but that was in an empty house in south Belfast whose previous owner had been forced out by loyalist paramilitaries. I couldn’t possibly have moved there.
“It doesn’t surprise me that so many people have been forced from their homes by paramilitaries. I know there are hundreds of people in my situation around the country.”
The Old Throne area was again targeted by loyalists at the beginning of this week.
A spokeswoman for the Housing Executive claimed it was making every attempt to rehouse the McCalls.
She said that because the PSNI had not confirmed the family were the victim of paramilitary intimidation the Housing Executive had no obligation to buy their home from them.
A spokesperson for the PSNI said it did not comment on individual cases.

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