Paramilitaries leaving families ‘scared’ for their safety – priest

Paramilitaries leaving families ‘scared’ for their safety – priest

Families are “scared” of being intimidated and forced out of their homes by paramilitary groups, a well-known priest and peace campaigner has said.

Fr Gary Donegan, who is best known for his peacebuilding work in North Belfast’s Ardoyne area, said that paramilitaries who “are involved in activities that are very questionable” are policing their own communities and causing fear among residents.

The comments come in the wake of new figures released by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive (NIHE) which reveal that almost 1,500 households presented themselves as homeless due to intimidation from paramilitaries between April 2015 and October 2018.

Fr Donegan said that intimidation occurs in both republican and loyalist areas and is usually carried out against residents engaging in antisocial behaviour as a means for the paramilitary groups to create “credence in their own community”.


“In other cases, it’s raw sectarianism or racism. It isn’t actually a surprise. What’s surprising is actually the amount of time it’s taken to expose it for what it actually is,” he told The Irish Catholic.

The Passionist priest added that this type of policing differs from its past forms, as there is no longer a chain of command in these paramilitary groups, leaving people “scared” for their safety.

The figures emerged after a Freedom of Information request by the Belfast Telegraph to the NIHE and show that 2,017 households presented themselves as homeless due to intimidation, with 1,488 cases citing paramilitary intimidation as the cause. A further 271 cases related to anti-social behaviour, in 80 other cases it was due to racial intimidation and another 135 cases were linked to sectarianism.


Fr Donegan stressed that paramilitaries coercing people out of their homes is happening “across the board”, in an attempt to obtain territorial power and “control”.