Over the centuries the world has welcomed emigrants from this part of Ireland. They have enriched the countries where they sought new lives, most notably in the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
In all those places they were given the opportunity to make their mark and their contributions to the development of those societies has been celebrated ever since. What a pity that a minority of hate-filled people living here today cannot show the same generosity of spirit to immigrants seeking to start afresh in the province.
The latest slur on the name of Northern Ireland came with the arson attack on the cars of four immigrant families in north Belfast. Only a couple of weeks ago several members of an extended Polish family in east Belfast were singled out for attack. These are cowardly and heinous crimes, aimed at creating fear among people who will inevitably feel vulnerable and isolated.
That they occur – and hundreds of hate crimes are reported annually in Northern Ireland – should not really be a surprise. In a society bedevilled by sectarianism and prejudice, this is just another manifestation of tribal hatred. It demands a reaction from the community at large and from politicians in particular. We were heartened how decent people in east Belfast rallied around the Polish families who were attacked.
And it is encouraging that those whose vehicles were burned in north Belfast were also aided by local people. But we need to do more to create a climate where hatred cannot flourish.
When we talk about a shared future for Northern Ireland, that does not simply mean greater equality for the two traditional orange and green tribal blocs; it must mean equal esteem and treatment for every citizen of Northern Ireland no matter where their origins, whatever their faith or their political allegiance. We can make a start in creating such a society by ensuring that the thugs who carry out hate crimes are turned over to the police and given exemplary sentences by the courts. They simply give us all a bad name.