Response from The Northern Ireland Executive
The Executive welcomes the publication of the Committee's
report Relocation Following Paramilitary Intimidation.
The Executive is encouraged to note that the Committee
acknowledges that measures to tackle economic deprivation may
be relevant in dealing with general paramilitary problems in that
such conditions provide fertile recruiting grounds for such organisations.
This issue was highlighted when Terms of Reference were developed
for the West Belfast/Shankill Taskforces which were recently announced
under the auspices of the Department for Social Development and
the Department for Enterprise, Trade and Investment.
With regard to the Committee's specific recommendation
(b) it will wish to note that the Northern Ireland Housing Executive
is beginning to gather additional information in this regard with
a view to contributing to a co-ordinated data gathering process
in due course. The Committee will wish to note, in relation to
recommendation (c) that within the new Common Selection Scheme
covering the allocation of all social housing in Northern Ireland,
extended provisions relating to the possible sanctioning of applicants
in a range of circumstances, including previous anti-social behaviour,
are now operative.
With regard to recommendation (d) the Executive is
committed to action in relation to the statutory duty imposed
by section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 whereby any public
authority, in carrying out its functions, shall have regard to
the desirability of promoting good relationships between persons
of different religious beliefs, political opinion or race. That
said, individuals are entitled to choose where they wish to live.
While there are many examples of areas in the private sector where
people of different community backgrounds live side by side in
harmony, the circumstances are such that the majority of applicants
for social housing still choose to live in areas where their particular
community background predominates.
The Committee will also wish to know that the Housing
Executive consultation document "Towards a Community Relations
Strategy", indicated it had commissioned research to
investigate the possibilities for the development of integration.
In the interim the Housing Executive will continue to encourage
the creation of the conditions in which demand for integrated
neighbourhoods would be stimulated.
The Committee will also wish to note that the North
and West Belfast HSS Trust, which established an inter-agency
co-ordinating group a few years ago following an upsurge in intimidation
in this area, has produced agreed operational procedures which
have been refined in the light of subsequent experience. The Trust's
responses now include provision of financial assistance; referral
to the appropriate support services for those traumatised by their
experiences; and arrangements of access to playgroup facilities
for children temporarily accommodated in hotels and B&B's.
The Trust also provides a first line "out of hours"
response for other agencies, including provision of temporary
accommodation on behalf of NI Housing Executive.
Last year, the Trust dealt with about 250 families
affected by such intimidation and paid out approximately £250,000
in financial assistance (under Article 15 of the Health and Personal
Social services Order and Article 18 of the Children Order, to
cover expenses such as meals, laundry and travel.) This is a major
financial and administrative burden for the Trust and is mainly
necessitated by the lack of flexibility in the Social Security
benefits system - particularly the Social Fund regulations.
With this and other issues in mind, together with
the more recent problems in North Belfast, the Executive notes
the Committee's invitation to review the scope and effectiveness
of the co-ordinating arrangements in Northern Ireland. Work is
already underway at official level to identify how this may best
be progressed. It is anticipated that the Executive will shortly
be asked to agree to further investigative work being undertaken,
in conjunction with other relevant departments and agencies, with
a view to specific recommendations being brought forward in due
The Committee may also be interested to note that
an Action Plan is being developed which will outline commitments
to meet the needs of victims. This Plan will include references
to intimidation, particularly in relation to its impact on housing
Finally, the Executive wants to put on record its
acknowledgement of the central role played by the Voluntary Sector
in supporting individuals and families forced to relocate due
24 July 2001