Camera fears at Belfast flashpoint

FE staff at a Belfast college campus fear sectarian attacks after it was reported that security cameras on the site could have been used to spy on Republican homes.

A newspaper story published in Northern Ireland claimed spy cameras were able to monitor a Catholic neighbourhood alongside Springvale campus along the west Belfast peaceline.

The campus aims to bridge the divided communities.

Paul Mackney, general secretary of the lecturers' union NATFHE, said: "If it were thought that the site was being used as some sort of station to spy on the local community then people in that community might be tempted to take it out on staff."

Belfast Institute of Further and Higher Education and Ulster University - which jointly run Springvale - tried to defuse fears.

A spokesman said: "A document outlining issues relating to the cameras was circulated within the institute, the university, and others outside both organisations who assist in the running of Springvale. This document was not confidential and its widespread circulation was in keeping with the transparent management of Springvale.

"Both organisations take the safety of their staff very seriously. The initial deployment of the cameras meant that originally they could have been used for monitoring activities beyond the campus perimeter. There is no evidence that they were and they certainly cannot be used for that purpose now."

Community representatives who have visited the campus since the story came out include Margaret Walsh, a local Social Democratic and Labour party councillor.

She said some people at the campus contacted her after the story appeared. Staff were still in danger, she said. The ceasefire had been in place for a number of years but people were still being murdered. "The situation is still very volatile," she added.

Michael Browne, Sinn Fein councillor for Upper Falls, denied that lives were at risk. He said: "There were strong suspicions held by the local community. I don't believe (the staff) are in danger. I think the political influences in the community will stop that."

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