Racism in Belfast June 17, 2009Posted by Garibaldy in Northern Ireland, racism.
I have this post up at my own blog, but seeing the amount of publicity the situation has been getting, and the importance of the issue, I thought I’d stick it up here too.
Shocking news that over 100 Romanians have fled their homes after a series of racist attacks in the Lisburn Road area over the past week. There have been a lot of racist attacks in Belfast over the last number of years, leading to it being labelled as Europe’s capital for racist attacks. Most of these attacks have taken place in south Belfast, where most of the immigrants live. This area is near Queen’s University, and most of the previous attacks were in the loyalist village area. The recent attacks were not in the Village, but the attackers seem to have come from there.
While there has been some Combat 18 graffiti in the past, the recent attacks seem to have gone beyond previous ones in the extent to which they were openly Neo-Nazi. The BBC reported that the attackers shouted Combat 18 slogans, and pushed a letter containing text from Mein Kampf through the letterbox. There was also an attack made on a protest rally on the Lisburn Road, although this may or may not have been the same gang. The BBC report linked immediately above suggests that the attackers were heckled by the demonstrators before the attack.
It’s good to see the community stand against the attacks. What is less pleasing is the police response, and the response of unionist politicians, who have been largely silent. The police have said there is no evidence that the attacks were orchestrated. Now, the police may may right; or they may be downplaying the situation to try and keep tensions down. But the idea these attacks were unconnected does seem to stretch credibility a little too much.
Given the fact that the BNP’s call centre is based in Belfast, and that there have been repeated attempts to organise here, it is possible that the recent European elections emboldened the people behind these attacks, although I suspect it is nothing that sophisticated. Whatever the situation, the politicians, police, and community must act to isolate and convict the people responsible. And gaol them for this hate crime.
UPDATE: Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and junior Minister Jeffrey Donaldson have visited the familes, a welcome development. There has also been condemnation from unionist politicians and others. Details here and here.
UPDATE 2: The ICTU has released a statement calling for a structured response from politicians, community leaders and statuatory bodies, as well as the allocation to police of resources to deal with the problem.
UPDATE 3: Splintered Sunrise has some thoughts picking up important points I missed, and an issue raised the comments here, namely geography.