Belfast Telegraph

Sinister racist graffiti could have been sparked by tension over social housing allocation

BY JACK BRENNAN

A politician has blamed a lack of social housing for racist attacks in east Belfast after another home was targeted – this time before the family even had a chance to move in.

Racist graffiti was daubed on the house in the Bloomfield Drive area early on Saturday morning.

It is believed a family from Africa had been due to move in.

The attack comes as Justice Minister David Ford prepares to launch a report by Northern Ireland's Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) investigating racist hate crime here.

Neighbours have told the Belfast Telegraph that they thought the attack was "an utter disgrace".

East Belfast MLA Michael Copeland said local people were horrified by the attack.

"I have spoken with people in the area and they are both horrified and disgusted at this incident," said the UUP Assemblyman.

"This incident gives the impression that within east Belfast there is a lack of tolerance and it is a place that is not a welcoming environment for people, which are not views held by the population of the area."

However, Mr Copeland said that one reason for this attack could be demands on social housing.

He said: "There is an expectation among members of the community that they will be given housing close to where they were brought up and where their kids go to school, but these factors don't figure at all when it comes to the distribution of housing."

Winston Irvine of the Progressive Unionist Party, which provide political advice to the UVF, condemned the attack.

"This cannot be condoned in any shape or form and must be condemned unreservedly. We have been to the forefront of standing up against all forms of racist and sectarian attacks and this racist graffiti on a house in Bloomfield Drive cannot be tolerated," he said.

"People should bring any information they have on this or similar incidents to the police."

Tomorrow, the NIHRC publishes its investigation Racist Hate Crime: Human Rights and the Criminal Justice System in Northern Ireland. It makes key recommendations aimed at reducing the crime and improving the experience of victims.

Chief Commissioner Professor Michael O'Flaherty said: "This is not just a matter of decency and the upholding of important values, it is also a legally binding human rights requirement. We have a responsibility to ensure that prohibitions are in place, that they work, and that they work in a way that is respectful of the people that they are meant to serve – the victims of racist hate crime."

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"This issue comes down to the availability of social housing. There is a great deal of competition for social housing and people who have lived here all their lives feel they're not being given priority."

UUP Assembly member Michael Copeland (right)

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