Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 December 2014

Race-hate thugs is reprehensible

On the day when Belfast was in celebratory bank holiday mood, a more disturbing image of the city was also on show. In the east of the city three Polish families were trying to come to terms with hate-filled attacks on their homes. It was clear from the graffiti daubed on the walls and boarded up doors and windows of the properties, that the motivation for the attacks was racial.

Sadly, this type of crime is not uncommon, especially in east Belfast, where the UVF has been blamed for orchestrating the attacks.

But although the PSNI appear to have intelligence about the crimes, the force seems unable to either stem them or bring the perpetrators to justice. We already know that the UVF in that area is engaged in various forms of criminality, from drug dealing to attempted murder and organising the recent flag protests. Many people are concerned that the illegal organisation continues to act with seeming impunity. Representatives of the Polish community make the valid point that these hate crimes are very damaging to the reputation of Northern Ireland, and Belfast in particular.

Just a few days before the much-anticipated Giro d'Italia cycle road race begins through the streets of east Belfast, bringing a blaze of positive publicity to the city, these reprehensible attacks in the very same streets brand the capital as a centre of hate.

While we accept that many people may be afraid to give information openly on those behind the hate crimes given the paramilitary connections, they should still pass on any information possible through confidential means such as Crimestoppers.

Not only are these thugs instilling fear and potentially endangering the lives of people who are making a positive contribution to our society, they are also blackening the reputation of the districts where the intimidation occurs.

It is the paramilitary godfathers and their hangers-on who should feel under threat, not people trying to build better lives for themselves and their wider family circle.

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