Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 25 October 2014

Forced out by racists: Rathcoole family terrorised by petrol bombs and smashed windows

Fraser Agnew inspects damage caused to a house at Ballyronan Park  in Newtonabbey
Fraser Agnew inspects damage caused to a house at Ballyronan Park in Newtonabbey
The home of the family boarded up after racist attack

A young family have fled their home after a racist mob launched a terrifying attack on the property in the latest in a surge of hate crimes.

The gang of men smashed windows at a house in Rathcoole and threw a petrol bomb which gutted the victims' car.

More than two racist incidents and one such hate crime are reported to police every day, giving rise to fears Northern Ireland is becoming the race hate capital of Europe.

And equality campaigners say they believe 80% of attacks go unreported to police due to fear of reprisals.

Speaking at the scene of the Rathcoole attack, Ulster Unionist mayor of Newtownabbey Fraser Agnew said those responsible were deplored by the majority in society.

Neighbours said the family, believed to be from eastern Europe, moved out within hours of their ordeal.

"Where will this end?" said Mr Agnew. "In this area there is a range of nationalities and there are never any problems like elsewhere. People are afraid and they won't speak out.

"The only thing we can be sure of is that this type of thing will happen again. We're trying to get away from this sort of thing, from attacks which do nothing."

Mr Agnew said he did not believe loyalist paramilitaries were involved in the incident at Ballyronan Park at around 9.30pm on Sunday.

The windows of the house were boarded up yesterday and foam used to douse the burning vehicle was visible at the front of the property.

Alliance councillor Billy Webb said he was disgusted by the attack.

"There is no place in our society for any such hate crime. No one deserves to be the victim of such a racially motivated attack," he said.

"The vast majority of the public have been welcoming to people from all backgrounds."

Belfast City Council recently launched a billboard and online campaign aimed at combating the abuse.

Maire Hendron, who chairs the council's Good Relations Partnership, said the increasing number of reports of racist hate crime were hugely damaging to the image of Northern Ireland.

"These are attacks on people who have come here to start a new life, and society and communities cannot tolerate this," she said.

"I'm concerned there would be a spike in these incidents for some reason, whatever that reason would be.

"We are trying to attract investment, we are trying to attract things like the Giro d'Italia to Belfast to improve our economy and to make ourselves better known throughout the world for all the right reasons."

Earlier this year the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities called for an offence of racially aggravated crime to be introduced here.

Many incidents are being prosecuted as assaults or murders without hate motivation being included, making it difficult to gauge trends, a report by the body said.

It said only 12 out of 14,000 hate-motivated incidents in the last five years were prosecuted under hate crime legislation designed to protect the vulnerable.

Justice Minister David Ford said his department was determined to tackle racist attacks and urged the public to report any information that would be helpful to the PSNI in tracking down and prosecuting perpetrators of hate crime.

Further reading

Day after racist thugs attacked her home in east Belfast resilient Polish woman is back at work

Seven attacks in 10 days as racist gang targets Polish community in east Belfast 

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