For several days afterward, those who fled were forced to stay in a different friendâs house each night, said the cook, who asked that he and his fiancÃ©e not be named because he felt their lives were still in danger.
This kind of intimidation is neither new in Northern Ireland, nor does it appear to be on the rise. Around 30 people have declared themselves homeless for similar reasons each year for the past half-decade, according to statistics provided by the Northern Irish government, and this yearâs figure of 33 is no departure from that trend.
But the recent incidents at Cantrell Close have made headlines in Northern Ireland because they occurred in a place that was intended to be a foundation stone for a post-sectarian society. It has also raised concerns about certain politiciansâ commitment to the process of integration, and about the ability of the Northern Irish police to curb the influence of sectarian paramilitary groups.
âThis is a very good illustration of a much deeper problem,â said Stephen Farry, a lawmaker from the Alliance Party, which tries to bridge the divides between the provinceâs Unionists and nationalist communities. âNorthern Ireland is not yet a peaceful society. We have ongoing coercive control by paramilitary structures at a local level across many communities.â
A recent stroll down Cantrell Close, a tiny T-shaped cul-de-sac, did not make this instantly obvious. At first sight, it was a picture of prim, docile suburbia; 41 two-storey homes, each with a tidy lawn and garden fence, lined a quiet road with a shiny bike-rack at one end and a speed-bump at the other. The tensions only became apparent when you looked toward the sky.
Flying from some of the lampposts were the flags of the Ulster Volunteer Force or U.V.F., a banned terrorist group that killed more than 400 people during the Northern Irish âTroubles,â mostly targeting Catholics and Irish nationalists, or those opposed to…