Belfast Telegraph

Friday 29 August 2014

Racist attacks shame our society

Over the centuries people from all parts of Ireland have gone abroad in search of a better life. By and large they were welcomed to foreign shores and many of the new immigrants went on to carve out careers whose legacy is still felt today. Think of the effect of the Ulster-Scots in America for instance and the number of US presidents who claim descent from this part of the world

Here in the province most of us pride ourselves on our tolerance towards visitors and ensure that they are given a warm welcome. But there are others in our society who have nothing but hatred in their hearts.

In past times this manifested itself in sectarianism. Now it is racism. Startlingly, race attacks in Northern Ireland are running at the rate of two a day.

The hate crimes, mostly directed at eastern European immigrants, took a new twist yesterday when shots were fired into a house in west Belfast where a family of Travellers had just taken up residence. Local people say they are appalled at the incident, which could so easily have had tragic results, but it is probable that those who carried it out lived not far distant from the scene of the shooting.

The wider, law-abiding community needs to make it clear to the hate mongers that they abhor their racism and hate crimes.

Politicians of all hues must unequivocally denounce every instance of hate crime and it is the duty of the public to give the PSNI every assistance in tracking down and convicting those responsible for terrorising innocent people.

It should be remembered that many of those who come to these shores play an important role in the local economy.

They are hard-working and keen to succeed, virtues that their assailants will never display. Let us demonstrate that Northern Ireland values them and will offer them a home.

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