Sinn Fein councillor 'assaulted trying to stop racist attack' on Belfast bus
Police are questioning a 57-year-old woman after an alleged racist attack on an elderly Polish couple on a bus in Belfast city centre.
The couple were physically attacked and verbally abused as they travelled on the Metro 1B bus from the Antrim Road into the city centre yesterday afternoon just after midday.
Sinn Fein councillor Mary Ellen Campbell was on the bus and said she was also attacked by the woman.
The bus driver has also reported to police that he was assaulted by the same woman.
Ms Campbell said: "I was travelling by bus to City Hall when I became aware of racist abuse being directed towards an older couple from Poland on the bus by a woman. She was hurling racist abuse at them and using racist language and then assaulted them.
"I, along with another passenger, intervened and alerted the driver at which point the woman became abusive to us and actually started attacking the driver as well."
The Belfast city councillor claimed she was hit three times by the woman when she intervened to try and calm the situation.
She described the attacker's language as threatening.
The Sinn Fein representative said another woman who intervened suffered scratches to her neck in the incident.
Ms Campbell said: "There were other people on the bus - it was mainly elderly people - and some of them were quite visibly upset, some of them were actually crying.
"I think everybody was quite embarrassed that this happened on a bus in Belfast to these people who were obviously just visiting.
"The two Polish people, they looked very, very shocked that this had occurred."
Ulster Unionist councillor David Browne said: "We have had enough problems with sectarian violence in north Belfast so we don't need this happening.
"I would utterly condemn this and hope other people on board the bus come forward to help police with their inquiries."
A PSNI spokesman last night said a 57-year-old woman had been arrested on suspicion of disorderly behaviour, assault on police and three counts of common assault in connection with the incident on the bus.
Inspector Roy Watton said: "The woman has been arrested on suspicion of disorderly behaviour, assault on police and three counts of common assault. She is currently assisting police with their inquiries."
The Metro 1B service runs from the city centre to Newtownabbey, mainly along the arterial Antrim Road.
A number of popular tourist attractions are also found along the route, including Belfast Castle and park, Cave Hill and Belfast Zoo.
Racially motivated crimes in Northern Ireland rose by more than 50% last year alone.
Most of the increase is concentrated within Belfast, where on average a racially-motivated offence takes place at least once a day.
The PSNI is so concerned it introduced a dedicated phone line for reporting racist hate crime in May last year.
Despite the rise in attacks, the number in the immigrant population appears to be relatively static, with statistics showing that approximately the same number of people are leaving Northern Ireland as arriving.