New Department of Health research that shows Catholics and tenants living in flats are more likely to die earlier than Protestants or those living in houses is proof that families should not be living in the New Lodge tower blocks, a local campaigner said this week.

Kate Ward from the Participation and the Practice of Rights (PPR) Project was speaking after new research was released from the department  last month on mortality rates between 2003 and 2007. The Analysis of Mortality patterns in Northern Ireland report showed that Catholic males died at the average age of 76.3 compared to Protestant men at the age 77.2, while Catholic females died at the age of 80.8 compared to their Protestant counterparts who died on average at the age of 81.7.

The highest death rates were also found in those living in flats or apartments compared to terraced houses. Females living in detached homes had a 44 per cent lower death rate than those living in flats.

Campaigner Kate Ward said the latest report showed that the ongoing campaign to move families out of the New Lodge tower blocks is entirely justified.

“The residents of the Seven Towers’ most recent survey results show the health effects of poor housing; 71 per cent of residents feel their health has been affected by the poor heating, 83 per cent by the dampness and over 76 per cent of the residents visit their GP far in excess of the UK average of five times per year,” she said.

“Despite this however, when the residents, together with health and housing experts Professors Green and Ormandy, last year worked to construct a cost alternative proposal to the NIHE’s cladding proposal which would actually improve the health of the residents, they were told by Minister McCausland that they should accept the substandard scheme since ‘half a loaf is better than none at all’.

“Government has a duty to proactively engage with residents to improve their health regardless of where they live or what religious background they belong to. It is a duty which the government has thus far, failed to live up to for Towers’ residents.”