Memorandum submitted by the Royal Ulster
1. The problem of housing relocation in
Northern Ireland following intimidation or threat is a complex
one. It involves a range of different types of victims who are
singled out for attack or intimidation for different reasons and
must also be considered in the context of the overall pattern
of paramilitary intimidation.
2. The main categories of people affected
in this way are:
(i) Victims of sectarian intimidation
who are attacked because of their
perceived religious or political beliefs.
(ii) Victims of paramilitary feuds
who are attacked by members of
their own community because they are seen as being associated
with or supporting a different paramilitary faction.
(iii) Members of security forces/prison officers/public
intimidated or targeted because
of their profession or role in the criminal justice system.
those whom the paramilitaries
alleged are guilty of petty crime, drug dealing, or "anti-social"
(v) Disputes with paramilitaries
people who have stood up to paramilitary
threats or spoken out against their activities.
(vi) Victims of racial intimidation
selected for attack for purely
3. Each of these areas is explored in greater
depth later in this paper. Where possible, we will present what
reliable information we have to quantify these problems, but there
are very significant problems with the information available in
4. The statistical information in this area
is spread across a number of different Government agencies. These
include, for example, police, the Northern Ireland Housing Executive,
other social landlords, Social Services, Victim Support Groups.
5. There may be overlaps between the information
held by the various agencies. At the same time we know that many
victims do not report incidents to police and do not wish them
to be reported to police for a variety of motives. Even where
police do become aware of incidents, victims often refuse to co-operate
in or assist any Police investigation, very often because they
fear that this will result in further attacks on them.
6. In working class areas in the main urban
conurbations, public sector housing is often segregated along
political/religious lines. This situation has developed since
the serious inter-communal rioting of the late 1960s/early 1970s,
when thousands of people were forced to move home as paramilitaries
on both sides sought to claim territory and exclude all opposition
from "their" area.
7. In some cases these boundaries have a
clear physical formthe "peace line" barriers
in Belfast are an example. In other areas a major road can act
as a recognised dividing line with different communities living
on either side of the road.
8. In rural areas the boundaries are often
less well defined but there are some country towns where different
parts of the town or different estates are seen as Protestant
or Catholic, Nationalist or Unionist. There is also a perception
in some areas of concerted long-term campaigns to force members
of one religion or another out of rural areas.
9. It should be stressed that most areas
of Northern Ireland are peaceful, most of the time, and that in
many areas communities live a peaceful co-existence. However,
there are also serious problems of sectarian attacks or intimidation,
very often focused into a relatively few areas.
10. Sectarian attacks tend to happen sporadically
throughout the year but rise to a peak in the weeks before the
Twelfth of July, when the risks of inter-communal conflict are
highest. The attacks can take the form of:
(ii) other criminal damage to cars/property;
(iii) anonymous threats/bullets sent through
(v) petrol bomb/arson attacks;
11. The most difficult problems often arise:
(i) along the community interfaces, where
tension is highest and local residents are most vulnerable; and
(ii) where there are isolated individuals
or groups living within a larger, different community.
12. Within the last two months, for example,
we have seen a series of sectarian attacks in different areas
of Northern Ireland, including:
These have included assaults, petrol bombings,
arsons and pipe bombs.
13. Police attempt to counter these incidents
(i) liaison with community leaders on both
sides to try to defuse tensions, prevent problems escalating,
or return them to normality as quickly as possible after the incident;
(ii) promoting cross-community initiatives
to reduce tension;
(iii) maximum use of whatever intelligence
may be available and close liaison with the communities to focus
patrols on key areas at the most difficult times;
(iv) effective investigations;
(v) along interfaces, long-term options to
design out areas of conflict;
(vi) where necessary, saturation patrolling
by police, with Army support, to prevent inter-community violence.
14. Obviously these preventative measures
often work best along interface areas and it is much more difficult
to protect isolated individuals living in an area. The reality
is that police cannot provide 24 hour, seven day protection to
everyone and often individuals will feel forced to move home after
an attack or threat.
15. This has predominantly been an issue
within the Loyalist community. Until 1998 there were relatively
few problems but various "Loyalist" areas in Belfast
have long been associated with one or another of the main Loyalist
paramilitary groups. The boundaries of these were not as rigid
as the religious boundaries in housing.
16. From about 1998 there have been a series
of feuds among the main Loyalist paramilitary groups. These have
(i) a feud between the Loyalist Volunteer
Force (LVF) and Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) in Portadown; and
(ii) a wider feud between members of the
Ulster Defence Association (UDA) and Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)
in other areas across Northern Ireland.
17. There are a series of motivations for
(i) personal disputes between senior figures
in the various organisations;
(ii) control of rackets (including drugs,
counterfeiting and extortion);
(iii) attempts to recruit and extend the
power base of the organisations.
18. Over the last three years tensions among
the Loyalist groups increased significantly. This was marked by
a major increase in the painting of slogans and wall murals in
Loyalist areas and flying flags to denote the territories of the
19. In 1998-99, for example, in North Antrim
the dispute between the UVF and UDA led to threats, attacks on
homes and street fights. Each organisation sought to take control
of housing estates in some towns by excluding all those associated
with or seen as supporting the other group.
20. This year, the violence centred on Belfast
where a feud broke out between the UVF and UDA in the Shankill
area and spread to other areas. A total of seven people were shot
dead. In the Shankill Road area alone, 277 families asked to be
rehoused because of threats of violence. A further 71 in North
Belfast/Newtownabbey were similarly affected. It should be noted
that these figures only refer to public sector housing moves,
not those by owner occupiers.
21. From a police viewpoint, this is one
of the most difficult types of violence to deal with. It is often
random, unpredictable and involves neighbours attacking neighbours
within a community.
22. Again, the general police response is:
(i) to work closely with community leaders
to try to prevent attacks taking place and encourage mediation
between the groups;
(ii) effective use of intelligence to target
key areas at key times;
(iii) pre-emptive operations to prevent attacks
and arrest those involved; and
(iv) where necessary, saturation patrolling
by police, with Army support, to deter attacks and reassure the
23. These incidents illustrate the difficulties
of obtaining reliable information on this problem. In view of
the nature of these incidents, many of those forced to move home
were unwilling to co-operate with police. The RUC was also aware
of attacks on homes and incidents that were never "formally"
reported to them or other public agencies.
24. Public officials, especially those associated
with the criminal justice system, have long been the target of
targeting, intimidation and threats in Northern Ireland. These
problems have ranged from:
(i) specific intelligence that individuals
were being targeted for attack by paramilitaries; to
(ii) relatively minor attacks on homes and
25. The Northern Ireland Housing Executive
operates a Special Purchase of Evacuated Dwelling (SPED) scheme
which will purchase the home of those owner occupiers who are
forced to move because of such threats. It should be noted that
the SPED scheme is open to all owner occupiers but, because of
the pattern of threats in the past, historically around 40 per
cent of all applications have been from police officers. Recently,
however, this has dropped to around 12 per cent.
26. It should be noted that these figures
only reflect the cases where owner occupiers elected to move home.
In the majority of cases, owner occupiers do not move, and these
figures only give a flavour of the more extreme end of the spectrum
of intimidation of this nature.
27. In both communities, paramilitary groups
regularly attack those they allege are criminals or involved in
anti-social behaviour. Such attacks may include:
(i) beatingsoften with baseball bats,
iron bars, clubs or breeze blocks;
(ii) shootingsin the legs, knees or
(iii) expulsionswhere the victim is
warned that if they do not leave Northern Ireland within say 24
hours they, or their families, will be murdered or seriously assaulted.
28. In reality, the primary objectives of
the terrorist groups are:
(i) to intimidate and keep control of certain
(ii) to protect their own organised crime
(iii) to deter public co-operation with the
29. Often there is little or no evidence
that the victims have committed the alleged offences. They have
no trial and no appeal. The definition of "anti-social behaviour"
can also be interpreted liberally.
30. The attached graphs show the scale of
31. Again we must point out that these are
the attacks known to police. Others go unreported. There are no
reliable figures for those who are forced to leave their homes
as a result of such attacks or intimidation.
32. Police investigating these types of
attacks face serious difficulties in that:
(i) the victims often refuse totally to co-operate
with police. In one recent incident in Belfast, for example, a
young man was beaten by a number of men carrying hammers and iron
bars. He sustained two broken hands, a broken nose, broken ankle
and severe bruising. He was interviewed by police but refused
to make any statement or complaint. In another, a group of men
carrying weapons broke into a house and tried to break into a
room where a youth who was visiting the house had taken refuge.
They could not get in and left after issuing threats. The youth
in question has now fled the country. We do not know where he
has gone. He has never reported this.
(ii) the victims often co-operate with the
attackers. Arrangements are sometimes made for the victim to present
themselves at a particular time and place to be beaten or shot,
on condition that an ambulance will be called immediately. The
victims often view this option as being preferable to being excluded
or expelled from Northern Ireland;
(iii) witnesses simply will not co-operate
with the police, making criminal prosecutions almost impossible.
33. This is probably a numerically smaller
group than the last but is significant.
34. In both communities in Northern Ireland
the paramilitaries seek to maintain control and stifle dissent.
Incidents do occur where local people confront or publicly disagree
with the paramilitaries. This can result in intimidation and,
in extreme cases, violence.
35. The reality is that, more often, the
threat of possible attack or expulsion from the area is sufficient
to stifle most criticism, although some very forthright and courageous
community leaders do speak out very publicly.
36. Finally, there is the issue of racial
intimidation in Northern Ireland. This is often not thought of
as a major problem but this is mainly because of the relatively
small number of members of ethnic communities living in Northern
37. There are significant numbers of methods
of racially motivated intimidation of people. Recently, for example,
there has been a spate of attacks on members of the Chinese community.
Although often directly connected with property crime, for example
robbery or burglary, such offences are perceived by the victims
as being racially motivated and therefore fall within the ACPO
definition of Rate/Hate crime. There are also regular cases of
attacks on members of the Travelling community, although few of
these seem to be reported to the police.
RACIAL INCIDENTS FROM 1 APRIL 2000 TO DATE
|Attack on Home
||Attack on Property||Graffiti
||Verbal Abuse||Written Material
38. This paper has been prepared in response to the area
that the Committee is currently examining. We have, therefore,
sought to illustrate the key elements of this complex problem
and put the issue of housing intimidation in context.
39. There is no doubt that intimidation in general, and
especially those cases where individuals are forced to flee their
homes, is a significant problem and one we treat very seriously.
It is also a difficult problem to detect and prevent unless there
is real support from the wider community in the areas in question.