A SMALL community continues to be ‘held hostage’ by a tiny number of individuals in Weavers Grange, it has been claimed.

Local councillor Steven Irvine said families with children are living in the grip of fear and intimidation who regularly find fresh, menacing graffiti daubed on the walls of the empty houses. 

The latest incident, in which ‘not for rent’ slogans were emblazoned over two adjoining semi-detached houses this week, marks another unsavoury episode which, at its height last year, spiralled to petrol bombs and arson attacks.

Just before Christmas, three innocent families with children living in the small estate, run by Clanmill Housing Association, received death threats. Mr Irvine himself, also received a menacing message to ‘get out’ while distributing food parcels to residents. 

It was last April that the estate was the scene of a siege involving around 60 men as part of a feud between rival factions of the Ulster Defence Association. 

Trouble began in March, when gangs engaged in tit-for-tat incidents, including pipe bomb attacks, petrol bombings and arsons throughout the town 

Mr Irvine has said the recent incidents are highly regrettable in light of the fact that the empty Weavers Grange properties could help ease overstretched housing lists, but said people offered them are too frightened to accept them. 

Mr Irvine said he has been on the phone ‘daily’ with police chiefs in Ards and North Down and has also written to the Chief Constable.

“This regrettable incident marks yet another in a disturbing trend of weekly occurrences, signalling a clear escalation in the disregard for our community’s wellbeing,” he said.

He said the continued episodes of menacing behaviour only serve to ‘create an atmosphere of fear and intimidation for those seeking residency in this otherwise vibrant community’.

“Last week, I took the initiative to communicate our concerns directly to the Chief Constable, highlighting the untenable situation in which our community finds itself.

“It is disheartening to acknowledge that the perpetrators behind these acts seem to operate with impunity, as if holding our community hostage to their whims. It is a poorly kept secret that many within our community are aware of the identities of those responsible for these acts of intimidation,” he continued.

“The impact of these incidents extends far beyond mere property damage. The psychological toll on both the young and adult residents of Weavers Grange cannot be overstated. 

“No one should have to live under constant surveillance or fear of reprisal for expressing themselves, whether it be through social media or any other means.”

Mr Irvine conceded the difficult position local police were in, without evidence to prove who the culprits are. 

He also paid tribute to Clanmill, which manages the houses, stating ‘they are doing the very best’ in difficult circumstances. 

In a statement, Clanmill said its priority is the safety and wellbeing of the people living in our homes at Weavers Grange.

“Wwe have been working with the PSNI, NI Housing Executive and Ards and North Down Council, as well as local community and political representatives, to develop a safe and secure neighbourhood. In addition, our team are doing all they can to support our customers,” said the statement.