Unionist MP supports anti-Catholic threats

LOYALISTS launched a "witch-hunt" against Catholics living in the Village area of south Belfast at the end of June. Posters were pasted up in streets throughout the mainly Protestant district warning Catholics to leave their homes within a week.

The poster warned: "In the light of current events, as from 12 noon on the 1st of July 1997 the loyalist people of the Village/Donegall Road will no longer be able to guarantee the safety of any nationalist who chooses to remain within the area, nor can they guarantee the safety of any property where nationalists are dwelling."

The chilling Nazi-like warnings said the current political climate meant it was "unwise to have a nationalist as a neighbour and even worse to befriend one", adding: "Do you know who lives next door to you?"

Former Orange Order Grand Master and current Official Unionist MP for the area, Rev Martin Smyth, said the posters were "understandable" given recent events both within and outside the area and blamed republican activity for the threat.

He refused to condemn the threat to Catholics in the area. The poster said residents in the Village had tolerated "the nationalist scum that have flooded the area in recent years" for long enough.

"This alarming increase of nationalists is largely due to the unscrupulous behaviour of greedy landlords who have taken advantage of the loyalist ceasefire," said the poster. "In their greed they have accepted every nationalist without considering the detrimental effect that it has had on the loyalist community."

Most nationalists living in the area are students and nurses who live there because of the comparatively cheap rents close to Queen's University and the two main hospitals.