Ethnic cleansing in the UK: Some of the 600 Ulster homes emptied by the mobs in 10 days

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The Independent Online
Nadine McCauley loves her house. She has only just finished decorating it with venetian blinds and a real pine bathroom. But she will not live there. Not until her three-year-old daughter stops dreaming of men in masks who are threatening to burn mummy alive.

Nadine, 23, is a Protestant single mother who moved into her home in Londonderry 18 months ago. Across a small dividing wall is the Catholic district of the estate. Occasionally, when they were drunk, the Catholic boys would throw stones over the wall, but it was nothing serious. It was a nice area; people got on and those who didn't kept themselves to themselves.

Last Thursday night, that changed. Nadine and her daughter were still up at midnight, waiting for the bonfires to start, when out of the window she saw a group of around 15 young men coming down the road.

"I didn't think it was anything serious at first," she says. "I'm used to them throwing stuff." But then the crowd grew and she realised that most of them were wearing masks - and then the first petrol bombs came and Sadie started screaming and she knew that it was serious after all.

"I've got shutters, but they were trying to put the petrol through the windows," she said. "I was panicking, and my child was just screaming."

There is no back entrance to Nadine's house, so she scooped up Sadie, and she and her neighbours were forced to run the gauntlet of their attackers until they reached the approaching police.

"I was absolutely petrified. We ran in a group past them and they were shouting, throwing petrol bombs at us. Then the police went in with their batons and protected us."

Nadine is now living with her mother on a different part of the estate. She has been back once, to pick up some clothes. But she says the police have advised her that she should not return, and in any case she is too frightened to contemplate it.

She believes that she and her neighbours were targeted by Catholics angry about the march in Garvaghy Road. She is, she says, a peaceful loyalist who doesn't believe in marches and is bitter that she's been forced out of a mainly Protestant area. But her first concern is Sadie, who has difficulty in getting to sleep and then wakes, hysterical, with bad dreams.

Bernie's children don't have bad dreams. That, she says, is because they're used to the hatred that has been directed at them since they were small.

"If you're a Catholic round here you get used to it," she says of her home in Portadown. "I've lost count of the number of times our windows have been done in."

Bernie, her unemployed husband and their four children have lived in a mixed street for more than 20 years. Most of their Protestant neighbours were good people and it was only when the marches took place that there was trouble. Bernie, she says, does not frighten easily. "Back in the Seventies it would have taken more than a few broken windows to make you shift," she says.

But last week was different. It started with slogans daubed on their two cars and the windows - again. Then the phone wires were cut one night. But when her 12-year-old daughter got a phone call saying she, her husband and children would all burn, she says something in her gave way. In the space of two hours, with her Protestant neighbours' help, they packed their belongings into a van and moved to stay with her husband's family in Catholic west Belfast. They will not go back.

"I'm heartbroken. Three of our children grew up here. I had to leave most of my ornaments and some of our photograph albums got left behind. But it's different this time around - they'll kill you. Next time it could be a man with a gun. And it doesn't matter how good your neighbours are - when the mobs come in they're not going to be able to help you, are they?"

The RUC estimates that more than 600 Protestant and Catholic families have moved within the last week, as both sides attempt "ethnic cleansing" in their areas. Most are staying with family, or in hotels or community centres. Community leaders believe the true figure may be much higher, as many families do not consult them.

Nadine accepts that her plight is not isolated to the Protestants. She says she feels sympathy for Catholic families in the same position.

But yesterday morning she went to her local housing office to see about emergency rehousing. "I got the feeling they weren't taking me seriously," she says, adding: "if I was a Catholic, I would have got a move straight away."

The names of the families have been changed

Anger and no peace, page 2 Politics of fear, letters, page 15