Sectarianism forces family to leave home


A COUPLE in a mixed marriage and their 13 year old daughter have been forced to vacate their home in Killinchy, Co Down, because of sectarian intimidation. The family said that, as well as suffering regular attacks on their home, the daughter had been ostracised by some local children.

Mr David Boyce, a Protestant from Co Down, his wife Ann, a Catholic from Kenmare, Co Kerry, and their daughter, Jacqueline, finally left their home in Killinchy on Friday, having endured regular sectarian attacks over the past four years.

"Our lives have been made a living hell," Mr Boyce told The Irish Times. His daughter was so terrified by intimidation from some Protestant children that she stopped travelling to school in Newtownards on the school bus.

"Jacqueline has suffered terribly," said Mr Boyce. "She's been called a Fenian bastard, and some of the children refused to sit beside her on the bus to school. We've stuck this for a long time, but we are all now at a low ebb. We have to get out.

"Even at the bus stop and as she walked home from school Jacqueline was abused," said Mr Boyce (38), who is disabled and has suffered two heart attacks in the past two years. Because of the abuse, he had to drive his daughter to school each day, which entailed two round trips of 40 miles to Newtownards.

"It has made Jacqueline feel rejected and out of place. She can't play when she comes home because she can't go out. We could put her in another school but she has friends at the school in Newtownards, and doesn't want to lose them," he added.

Mr Boyce and his wife Ann, whom he met in Belfast where she worked as a nurse in the City Hospital, have been married for 14 years. Their problems only arose when they moved into Ardview Estate in the predominantly Protestant town of Killinchy four years ago.

The sectarianism directed against them was because he was married to a Catholic, Mr Boyce said. "Why should that bother anyone? We are middle of the road people. Our attitude is that we are Christians."

Attacks on their home, according to Mr Boyce, have included windows smashed, their car vandalised a number of times, their gate kicked in and damaged. Their pet dog was also beaten and required treatment by a vet. Earlier this week a three inch nail was driven into the family car.

It was the relentlessness of the abuse and ostracisation that was now impossible to endure, said Mr Boyce, a native of an area just outside Killinchy. "I never thought I would see the day that I could not live in a town where there are a lot of people that I have known for years. It is very hurtful."

The Housing Executive has provided temporary accommodation for the family in a hotel in Downpatrick, Co Down. This will create an extra headache for the family as Downpatrick is 20 miles from Jacqueline's school in Newtownards.

The Housing Executive, on the advice of the RUC, has given the family A1 priority status for new accommodation, as near as possible to Newtownards. But the fact that Mr Boyce requires a wheelchair has added to the accommodation difficulties as housing adapted to suit his disability is needed.

Mr Alan McDowell, a local Alliance Party councillor who has acted on the family's behalf, said what was happening to the Boyces was symptomatic of what was happening throughout Northern Ireland. "Generally there are good community relations in Killinchy and it is very sad to see this happening," he added.