‘Dozens forced from homes by loyalists’

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A claim by Sinn Féin councillor Christopher Jackson that loyalist paramilitaries have intimidated over a dozen families from their Waterside homes this year has provoked an angry response from his constituency colleague, DUP Alderman Drew Thompson.

Colr. Jackson, speaking during a debate on sectarianism at Derry City and Strabane District Council’s monthly meeting in the Guildhall, said: “I would just want to remind members of the DUP that in 2017 over a dozen families have been intimidated out of their homes in the Waterside because of their religion.

“It’s wrong. There are armed groups that are acting in loyalist communities. There’s increased activity from them and they seem to be acting with impunity.

“The elected representatives, the community leaders within those communities , need to stand up and say they are wrong. To try to justify actions, any sort of actions at all, is only holding us back.

But Ald. Thompson said Colr. Jackson’s claims were totally false and that he could prove it.

“We have Christopher Jackson, who has labelled, over the past number of months, [incidents as] ‘sectarian’, because they were attacks in the Waterside, because, he claimed, they came from unionist, loyalist, gangs, as he said. There is evidence there to prove that that is wrong.

“That is totally and absolutely wrong. So Christopher Jackson has brought sectarianism out during the marching season. During July and August he was very vocal in some of the comments he came out with. He needs to retract what he has said.”

He added: “It’s a disgrace he has come out with those comments today.”

Both councillors eventually backed a motion tabled by Sinn Féin councillor Karina Carlin that affirmed the principle of the Good Friday Agreement which promises citizens “the right to choose one’s place of residence” and the ‘right to freedom from sectarian harassment.”