Umbrella body denounces death threats

NICVA, the umbrella body for the voluntary and community sector in Northern Ireland, has condemned death threats issued by the Continuity IRA to community workers in Belfast.

In a statement, the Continuity IRA, a splinter group from the Provisional IRA, said any Catholics engaged in community work that involved the police were legitimate targets.

"This completely flies in the face of the opinions of the community in north Belfast and beyond," said Seamus McAleavey, chief executive of NICVA. "They have no support and we call for these dangerous and totally unacceptable threats to be withdrawn immediately.

"The people and organisations affected by these threats are dedicated community activists who are working tirelessly to rebuild communities in north Belfast that have suffered through the worst of the conflict."

The Continuity IRA statement specifically named two community groups - the Ashton Centre and the Wolfhill Community Centre, both in north Belfast. They are thought to have been singled out because police have visited them as part of outreach work.

Paul Roberts, chief executive of the Ashton Centre, which runs nursery groups, training courses and carries out community development work, said a survey of local people had revealed that 80 per cent wanted them to work with the police.

"They weren't happy with the police, but they wanted us to be working with them because we're accountable," he said.

"We want the threat withdrawn because it is a dispute between other parties. It's not fair to drag us in. We're the local community and we're providing an essential service," he added.

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