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This racist tag is unfair to Belfast's Village area

It was reported in the media that a community relations strategy to tackle racism in the Village area was launched by the Lord Mayor of Belfast last Friday.

It was claimed that the project was initially set up in response to racist attacks on Roma and Polish people living in the area last year and forced to flee their homes.

It was also claimed in Press reports that the strategy was developed by extensive consultation with key stakeholders.

The issue of dealing with racism in the Village area is seen as a huge challenge by the Greater Village Regeneration Trust.

If so, why is it that GVRT never consulted Blackstaff Community Development Association or invited the association, which is the oldest community organisation in the area, to the launch of the strategy?

The answer we believe is in our press statement issued on Friday, April 17, 2009. In it we mentioned an attack on a house occupied by Hungarian nationals on Thursday, April 16 and that it was reported constantly as having happened in the Village area.

We pointed out that the incident happened well outside the Village. The same applied to many other incidents outside the area and were linked to the Village. We urged the Press and everyone else to stop using the Village name when referring to any incident in the greater Donegall Road area.

Our association will not support any strategy that implies that the Village has a greater problem with racism than anywhere else and, at the same time, would fully support a strategy for all Belfast.

BILLY DICKSON

Chairman, Blackstaff Community Development Association