Families being ‘intimidated’ out of homes in loyalist Belfast area

PSNI working to establish link between attacks on houses, vehicles on Ballysillan Avenue

A general view of the Ballysillian Avenue area in north Belfast. Image: Google Streetview.

A general view of the Ballysillian Avenue area in north Belfast. Image: Google Streetview.

 

The PSNI is exploring a number of lines of inquiry after five families were allegedly intimidated from their homes in a loyalist area of Belfast.

A number of families have been left Ballysillan Avenue in recent weeks after fives homes were attacked and a vehicle was set on fire.

The families impacted were said to be too scared to speaking publicly for fear of reprisals, but a local source said: “It is fair to say residents think that the motive is based on the people behind the intimidation wanting the houses for themselves.

“It seems clear as day to me this is what the thugs want. People could confirm it but they aren’t saying it outright.”

It has been reported that a criminal drug gang, which previously had links to Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) paramilitaries, is responsible for the attacks.

People Before Profit north Belfast spokeswoman Fiona Ferguson said babies and vulnerable children were among those forced to leave their homes.

“People have invested in making family homes and raising their children and now they are victims of nasty people who want to intimidate people out of their houses for their own gain,” she said. “The families are Protestant families, mixed families, it’s not ethnic cleansing or sectarian.”

‘Living in fear’

Ms Ferguson said “people left there are living in fear” and following a number of similar incidents in other parts of north Belfast “it is clear there are groups of people who think they have the right to intimidate and terrorise people out of their homes”.

It is understood that those impacted are in the process of being rehoused by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive.

PSNI Inspector Laura Kelly said officers are investigating if the five attacks are linked and are following a number of lines of inquiry.

She said the damaging of properties was incredibly dangerous and also creating fear in the local community.

“This is unacceptable,” she said. “We have increased patrolling in the area and are liaising with the local community, partner agencies and local representatives.”

Anyone with information about the issue is asked to contact the PSNI.

A spokeswoman for DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds, who represents North Belfast at Westminster, said he was not aware of the motivation for the attacks but that “no one should feel threatened in their own home”.