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Call for more patrols after spate of sectarian attacks in north Belfast

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Police in the car park at Grove Playing Fields in north Belfast

Police in the car park at Grove Playing Fields in north Belfast

Liam McBurney/RAZORPIX

Police in the car park at Grove Playing Fields in north Belfast

An Assembly member in North Belfast has called for increased police patrols in the Waterworks area after claims nationalist youths attacked the Westland estate over several evenings last week.

The call by DUP MLA William Humphrey comes after a spate of sectarian incidents in the north of the city with both loyalists and nationalists involved, according to local representatives.

Mr Humphrey visited the small Westland estate yesterday along with DUP councillors Dean McCullough, Fred Cobain and Dale Pankhurst, and spoke with residents who said they had endured sectarian verbal abuse, as well as having property damaged.

He said it was the fourth incident of its kind in the area in the past week. "At around 7pm on Saturday, a nationalist gang of some 30 youths attacked the Westland area.

"Over those four evenings, nationalist youths have made their way through the Waterworks to attack the Westland estate.

"They shouted sectarian abuse at residents, damaged properties and sought to provoke trouble."

Mr Humphrey said he had spoken to police and would be leading a delegation including Westland residents to meet with senior PSNI officers today "to push for increased police patrolling and for determined efforts to catch those carrying out these hate crime attacks".

"I would appeal for calm and ask anyone with any information to pass it on to the police," the MLA added.

Last week, the PSNI said they received a report that a woman who was walking in Grove Playing Fields on Wednesday was subjected to verbal abuse by a group of men at around 4pm.

The incident happened after a banner stating "Anti-British GAA not welcome" was placed at the park's entrance.

Graffiti with the same message was also sprayed on a wall in the grounds.

Local politicians said men had gathered at Grove Playing Fields and told people wearing GAA and football tops to leave.

Following the Grove Playing Fields incident, North Belfast MP John Finucane called for local political and community figures to show leadership over what he described as "attempts to mark out territory, intimidate residents and stoke up sectarian tension".

"Last weekend we had a banner erected at the Grove Playing Fields attempting to intimidate members of the GAA from using a shared council facility," the Sinn Fein MP said.

"This was followed up by the intimidation of Catholic families and soccer players of the facility.

"This is a shared space owned by the council and which everyone should be able to use free from sectarian intimidation and harassment.

"Unfortunately these are not isolated incidents and there seems to be a concerted attempt going on to claim territory in clearly shared spaces, to intimidate residents and stoke up sectarian tensions in other areas of north Belfast."

A council spokesman said: "Our parks are shared spaces for everyone to enjoy and we would encourage anyone who witnesses such incidents to report it immediately to the PSNI. It can also be reported to our anti-social behaviour officers on 9027 0469."

Belfast Telegraph