Belfast Telegraph

Racists 'ruining east Belfast's image' as three vehicles torched in latest attacks

By Ed Carty

East Belfast's reputation is being hit by ongoing hate attacks, a councillor has said after the latest wave of destruction targeting foreign nationals.

Three vehicles were set on fire in what police described as racially motivated hate crimes.

The PSNI said the arson attacks took place on three streets in the area in the early hours of yesterday.

In the first incident, police were alerted to a vehicle having been set on fire on Florida Street off the Ravenhill Road shortly before 4.15am.

Officers said it was extensively damaged and a number of other cars parked nearby were also damaged as a result.

In the second attack, at around the same time, a police patrol at Wayland Street off the Castlereagh Road discovered a small fire on the bonnet of a parked car.

The fire was put out but the front of the vehicle and the windscreen were damaged.

And in the third incident, which occurred a short time later, a car parked on Carlingford Street near the Woodstock Road was extensively damaged after being torched.

The PSNI said it was investigating a link between the arsons and that they were being treated as hate crimes. Officers appealed for witnesses to come forward.

UUP Deputy Lord Mayor Sonia Copeland condemned the attacks.

She said: "It is vile that anyone would be targeted in an attempt to make them feel unwelcome in an area. Hate crime cannot be tolerated in any shape or form. I would appeal to anyone who has information that could help the PSNI catch those responsible to come forward.

"Those who are acting in this vile way need to consider the effect it has, not just on the victims who are now left without vehicles, but also on the entire area.

"Just last week I had a series of meetings to discuss potential investment in these areas - those responsible for these attacks need to think about what they are doing to east Belfast's reputation."

Sinn Fein councillor Mairead O'Donnell said: "These racist attacks come on the back of UVF intimidation which saw four Catholic families forced to leave their homes in Cantrell Close, just a few streets away from this morning's arson attacks.

"Those responsible for these attacks have shown blatant disregard for the community.

"The racists need to hear loud and clear that their cowardly actions are unacceptable."

East Belfast has been a hotspot for racist attacks in recent months.

Just over a week ago a van belonging to a charity that helps families and children in the Philippines was set alight.

In September a pig's head was left outside Inverary Community Centre and racist graffiti daubed on the walls.

In July cars belonging to Romanians were smashed up and windows were broken.

And in May a pregnant refugee mother and her family were forced from their home after a catalogue of attacks.

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