Threats to a number of West Belfast men by Óglaigh na hÉireann (ONH) are “personality-driven”. That’s the claim made by the Upper Springfield Community Safety Forum (USCSF) this week after threats were issued to at least a dozen local men by ONH.

Two men called to the Turf Lodge homes of the youths last Wednesday telling them they had 48 hours to leave the country – for at least a year – or they would be shot. In two instances, the entire family, including mothers and daughters, was ordered to leave.  It’s believed that while a number of threats have been rescinded, the majority still stand and most of the young men in question have fled.

Six of the families have been working with Community Restorative Justice (CRJ) and the USCSF for the past week to try and get the threats lifted.

Séamus Finucane of the USCSF said the claims made against some of the young men have been downgraded, yet the threats remain in place.

“There were allegations made against these young people which were strongly denied,” he said. “The families asked for evidence to be produced and none has been forthcoming. It started out that some of these young men were allegedly involved in a burglary, then it was reduced to them knowing the whereabouts of the stolen goods, then it was reduced again to anti-social behaviour. Whatever the allegations, this is not the proper mechanism for dealing with this, these men need to be allowed back home to be with family, especially as some are suffering from mental health issues. There is no context to these threats and no support for the group issuing them, these threats are personality-driven.”

CRJ’s Jim McCarthy echoed Séamus Finucane’s concerns about the threats. “We call on whoever made these threats on some very vulnerable people to lift them,” he said. “Dialogue can resolve these issues and our door is always open, no issues are insurmountable.”