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Catholic charity comes to the aid of Shankill refugees.

Byline: LINDSAY FERGUS

A CATHOLIC charity has been helping Protestants who were forced to flee their homes in the Shankill because of the bloody loyalist feud.

The heart-warming cross community story of a charity in the heart of republican west Belfast throwing open its doors to neighbours in a loyalist stronghold, is in stark contrast to a community turning on its residents.

St Vincent de Paul has assisted a number of Protestant families who have either turned up on their doorstep as a last desperate measure or been put in touch through local community and social workers.

But the major charity, which helps people with financial grants and gifts of household goods, has played down its important role.

Pat McKee, west Belfast area president, said: "If anyone comes to us for help our policy is that you give help regardless of religion or creed.

"We are only the messengers, someone else has made the donation."

In recent weeks St Vincent de Paul has given household goods including beds, cookers, bedclothes and cutlery to those who had to leave their homes without their possessions because of the bitter UVF/UFF war.

Mr McKee, who has been with the charity for 25 years said: "People in Catholic areas would be aware of St Vincent de Paul through the church as we collect at the church doors on a Sunday but what we have found recently through community workers on the Shankill is that there's as big a need there as on the Falls Road.

"Because of the so called peace wall there has been alienation in the past and people might not have thought of St Vincent de Paul.

"But we are saying to them: 'By all means come to us'."

And that is exactly what Protestants who were left destitute did.

Mr McKee said: "The situation came to a head during the loyalist feud when families suddenly found themselves out on the street and they did not know where to turn.

"Community and social workers have been referring cases to us for electrical goods, household items and cash as the people on the Shankill did not know where to go.

"I have gone into some homes where the people had to leave with nothing but what they were wearing at the time."

The families on the Shankill have been overwhelmed by the generosity of St Vincent de Paul.

Mr McKee said: "We have had very favourable feedback from these people and we will continue to help the people of the Shankill Road as long as they need."

One woman, who had been put out of her home, contacted the Sunday People about St Vincent de Paul.

She said: "Without the help and kindness of St Vincent de Paul, I do not know what we would have done.

"We left our house because of the feud and couldn't take anything.

"St Vincent de Paul gave without asking any questions and we are truly grateful to them.

"We were forced out of our home by people from the same background, yet a charity from a different community showed us the humanity that some of those in our own community did not."

CAPTION(S):

WAR FOOTING: The UVF-UFF feud has forced Protestants to seek aid from a Catholic charity; DESTITUTE: Some Shankill residents fled leaving everything behind
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Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Nov 19, 2000
Words:553
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