Community relations chief tells of unease at 87% rise in Northern Ireland hate crime
Public representatives have a duty to highlight how ethic minorities and migrant workers benefit society in Northern Ireland, according to the chairman of the Community Relations Council (CRC).
Peter Osborne was speaking after it emerged there had been an 87% rise in hate crime here in the last four years and he described the development as "deeply troubling to this society".
His comments come as thousands of people across the province are poised to take part in Community Relations and Cultural Awareness Week, which will feature over 160 events, starting today.
Co-ordinated by the CRC, the week, which is the biggest in the community relations calendar, comprises events by a wide range of organisations, including schools, libraries, local councils, community and voluntary groups.
Issues covered by events in the programme include cultural diversity, racism, sectarianism, paramilitarism, language, sport and dealing with the past.
CRC chairman Peter Osborne said he believed the vast majority of people in Northern Ireland "don't agree with the racists".
"An 87% rise in crime with hate motivation in the last four years should be deeply troubling to this society," he said.
"The Brexit vote has further sharpened concerns and fears. It is not that most people are racist - but those who are racist may now think more people agree with them than actually do.
"Public representatives should shout out very loud and publicly what huge benefit Northern Ireland derives from black and minority ethnic communities and newcomers."
One of the major events of the week is the Amazing the Space youth-led event happening at the Eikon Centre in Balmoral Park on Wednesday, which plans to bring 3,500 young people together to celebrate diversity.