'UVF scum say they protect locals but they're forcing me out of my own home'

Loyalist intimidation in Belfast PACEMAKER
Loyalist intimidation in Belfast PACEMAKER

Nicole is too frightened to return to the home she shares with her six-year-old-son, terrified the UVF will burn them in their beds.

This slightly built 23-year-old single mum is the latest target in the sights of the UVF who have waged an 18-month campaign of intimidation and threats.

Her tormentors used the cover of darkness to attack her home on Sunday night, daubing cross hairs on her door and living room window. 

She awoke to find the sinister threat defacing the front of her Olympia Street home close to the Village in south Belfast.

It was the last straw in a sickening cowardly campaign that has forced Nicole to live the life of a recluse – too frightened to go out, terrified to answer a knock at the door in case it is the UVF coming calling.

On the rare occasion she ventures to the shops she is shadowed by the UVF, men shout at her in the street.

Speaking to the Sunday World at a secret location on Sandy Row she revealed her life under the UVF jackboot.

“It’s a terrible way to live,” she said, “in fact, I have no life, I can’t answer the door, I can’t go out, and now I’m terrified they will attack my home.

“We can’t go back while this is going on.”

The men behind the intimidation are members of the Village UVF under the control of local commander Colin ‘Meerkat’ Fulton, who came to public prominence during the flag protests.

Fulton, who proclaims himself a community worker, is a member of the UVF’s political wing the PUP. When the Sunday World attempted to contact the party no-one was available for comment.

Nicole is innocent of any wrongdoing. The terror group which boasts of protecting loyalist communities has chosen as its enemy a vulnerable young woman struggling to get by and build a life for her child.

She has been singled out because of a threat on her boyfriend.

Nicole's house has been targeted by thugs 

“This has nothing to do with me, Shane doesn’t even live in that house, he never has, but because they haven’t been able to get him they are picking on me.”

Shane 28, prides himself on being a loyalist, he was an active participant in the flag protests of 2012 and 2013. Arrested for his part in an ugly riot in August 2013 in Belfast city centre he was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

He had attended a number of protests which he said had been arranged via social media, and while he admits the UVF jumped on the protest bandwagon he has never had any dealings with the terror group.

“I did my bird, kept my head down, I didn’t bother with them while I was inside, anyway I was in Magilligan, there’s none of them there.”

Having used his time in jail to gain some qualifications he managed to find a job when he got out in April last year. 

Determined to put his experiences behind him , the Sandy Row man set about rebuilding his life while in a relationship with Nicole.

The UVF had other ideas.

“They started calling to the house and asking to see him,” said Nicole.

“I kept saying ‘he’s not here’ but they kept coming, ordering him to go to meetings, then they started saying he owed them (UVF) money in (membership) dues.”

Shane insists he has never joined a paramilitary organisation.

“I’m a loyalist, I supported the flag protests, but I’ve never had anything to do with the UVF.”

The couple appealed to then DUP councillor Ruth Patterson and the harassment diminished, only for it to start up again a year ago. 

This time Nicole was being followed and shouted at in the street and then came the first threat.

“The police came to Nicole’s door and told her I was under threat.”

And still the calls kept coming, Shane moved away from his home and is currently living away from Sandy Row.

“I’m terrified for her and the child, they can do what they want with me, I’m not giving them any money, but this has nothing to do with her.”

He was forced to quit his job as police had warned he could be attacked at his place of work.

And then a few weeks ago came the second death threat again delivered to Nicole’s home.

“They’re scum, they say they are here to protect local people, “ she said, “there was graffiti at the bottom of my street which said `locals only’ and yet here they are threatening me and forcing me out of my home.

“Attacking women, single mothers, some paramilitaries. They are torturing people and nobody seems to be able to do anything, they are a law unto themselves.”
Forced to rely on the support of family and friends Nicole cannot summon the strength to take her son home.

“It’s coming up to Christmas, we put up the tree last weekend, I was determined to make it special. His (son) presents are in the house, I’m just terrified I’m going to lose it all. And for what?”