An RUC spokesman said police in Antrim received a message on Wednesday, claiming to come from the Ulster Volunteer Force, saying it intended to expel the families from the Stiles housing estate. The families - one of which is understood to occupy five houses on the estate - were visited by the police who informed them of the call and offered advice.
The expulsions are the latest in a series that have been highlighted in recent days by human rights campaigners.The UVF claimed that the Antrim families had been involved in anti-social behaviour.
Last night Vincent McKenna, a spokesman for the Northern Ireland Human Rights Bureau, said he believed that a number of people had been driven from their homes on the Stiles estate over the past 12 months. Mr McKenna, a former member of the IRA who turned his back on the organisation after 12 years, said: "This is something that happens on a daily basis, in republican and loyalist areas. More than 800 men, women and children have been expelled by terrorists since the Good Friday Agreement was signed. Sometimes their `offence' amounted to no more than refusing to put money in the box for prisoners. In some cases it's about clearing housing for terrorists released from prison under the Good Friday Agreement."
Democratic Unionist Party deputy leader, Peter Robinson, condemned those responsible for making the threats to the families. He also blamed Mo Mowlam, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, for failing to declare that the paramilitary organisations were in breach of their ceasefires.
Repeating the argument of many that Ms Mowlam's decision gave terrorists the green light to continue intimidating their own communities, he said: "Mo Mowlam has said it isn't a breach of their ceasefire, and she is now reaping what she has sown." He added: "It seems ironic at the time when [Chris] Patten is trying his level best to destroy the RUC - who have a record of service to this community - we hear every thug setting themselves up as a law enforcement agency."
A Sinn Fein spokesman also condemned the UVF's threats. He said: "We are opposed to beatings, shootings and expulsions. [But] we also have to be realistic that in the absence of an acceptable police service [the attacks] will happen."
Whilst the paramilitaries have not denied carrying out the expulsions, Ken Wilkinson, an Antrim member of the Progressive Unionist Party, which has close links with the UVF, yesterday denied the UVF was behind any threat to the families. He said: "There is no substance whatsoever to these allegations against the UVF."Reuse content