We must unite to denounce racism
The latest attack on an immigrant family in Rathcoole shows the level of racial hatred that exists in some parts of Northern Ireland. The family fled after a gang broke windows in their home and petrol bombed their car. It was, like all such crimes, a despicable, cowardly act which has been roundly condemned by all right-thinking people in the area. But condemnation is not enough.
The rise in hate crimes in Northern Ireland, particularly the greater Belfast area, in recent times has been shocking. Some 42% of all racially motivated crimes happen in the city; so do 32% of homophobic offences and 40% of sectarian crimes. The number of racist incidents between April and November last year rose by 86% to 215.
These are attacks on people who have come here to make a new life for themselves. They have heard of the new Northern Ireland and want to be part of its future.
Instead they find themselves the targets of blinkered bigots.
Those people who were driven out of their home in Rathcoole were more likely to make a positive contribution to Northern Ireland than the thugs who attacked them.
Just as people from all parts of Ireland made their mark in countries around the world, so too can those immigrants who come here, mostly from Eastern Europe. They bring with them skill sets and a willingness to work, both in white collar and blue collar occupations, that puts many of their indigenous critics to shame.
They need to be assured that the vast majority of people here abhor racism in all its forms. The best way to demonstrate this is to give the police information that can lead to the arrest and conviction of those who carry out racially or hate motivated attacks.
That takes courage, but the people of Northern Ireland have stood up to evil terrorists in the past and defeated them.
They can, and must, do the same with those who peddle hate in all its forms.