Home is where the heart is
Yes, home is where the heart is.
But it’s also where the soul of a city resides.
For without homes, you can’t have strong families. And without strong families you can’t have a vibrant community. And, of course, that vibrant community is the life-blood of our thriving city.
That’s why the threat by loyalist paramilitaries against four Catholic families in a shared housing development in my constituency of South Belfast last week goes to the very heart of our battle for Belfast.
And make no mistake about it. Belfast is poised in a tipping point moment between giving in to gangsterism — in this case led by the East Belfast UVF — and pushing ever-forward into a peaceful and just future.
Tragically, over recent times, the actions (some would say, inaction) of the police, sworn to uphold law and order, in dealing with loyalist paramilitaries has only served to enable their nefarious activities. Likewise, some unionist politicians in creating a modus vivendi with the paramilitaries have only emboldened groups who hold an iron grip on vulnerable working class loyalist neighbourhoods.
The upshot: the PSNI last week went to the homes of four Catholic families in Cantrell Close — heralded as a street where Catholic and Protestant would live in harmony together — to tel the householders that their lives were in peril if they didn’t obey a paramilitary order to quit the area.
Thus on Saturday morning, we saw the heart-wrenching sight of a hard-working young couple, with one child in tow and a second on the way, aided by family and friends, load their worldly possessions onto two removal vans and leave the home of their dreams.
If anyone knows the importance of home, it’s the people of Belfast.
We also know, more than most, the pain of losing homes in pogrom and persecution. And it’s that experience which obliges us to call halt, to take a stand now and forever against the cancer of paramilitarism which threatens all we believe in.
We ask, simply, that all our friends stand with us too. Perhaps, particularly, in this week of the Homecoming, it’s time to declare again that we have come too far to be turned back.