Race hate attacks in north Belfast not linked to any burglary: police
Police have dismissed claims that an alleged attempted burglary sparked a spate of attacks on eastern Europeans in north Belfast.
Investigations are continuing following attacks that happened in the Hesketh Park area on Friday and Saturday afternoons, which are being treated as linked race hate crimes by police.
The eastern Europeans are now believed to have fled their home.
Local residents voiced their concerns at their community being branded as "racist", as there were a number of foreign nationals who live in the area. A resident, who did not wish to be named, said: "The people in this area don't want to be perceived as bigots or racists."
There were claims that an alleged attempted burglary had occurred around the same time as the attacks. But in a statement a spokesman for the PSNI said: "There is no record of any reports of burglary or attempted burglary in the Glenbryn/Hesketh area on the evening of Friday, September 19.
"Burglary remains a concern for police in north Belfast." Inspector Gavin Kirkpatrick said: "I would ask anyone who has any information about burglaries in the north Belfast area, which may be of assistance to police, to please contact officers on the 101 non-emergency number."
One resident said he heard a bin being dragged up the road on Friday and the sound of smashing glass. He said: "I'm not put off living in the area but I'm annoyed that people think they can get away with this."
Jolena Frett from the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities said there was always concern no matter the nature of the attack. She said: "Obviously it's the victims who are the primary sufferers and it concerns everyone else who is a potential victim, and it's also very difficult for communities as well because this gets picked up by the media and their communities can be portrayed in a very negative light.
"It's always very concerning because it's damaging to everybody and no matter what shape or form, whether it's a spate of attacks or just one attack, we need to be concerned about this happening."
Dr Michael Wardlow, the chief commissioner of the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, said: "We are becoming a more diverse society and we have never handled diversity well.
"This hasn't just crept up on us today, there has been a growing trend of racism in this place."
He added: "Right across government there needs to be a real concerted effort to stop this.
"It's no use just dealing within the edges of it and the incidents that happen – although we should be condemning that – it's getting to the root cause."
Story so far
On Friday night two eastern European men walking in the Glenbryn Road area were assaulted and threatened by a group of men. It's believed two were armed with a hatchet and a knife. The group threw a wheelie bin at a window of a house in Hesketh Park, where residents were eastern European. On Saturday police received reports of the group outside another house with eastern European occupants.