Wednesday, August 24, 2005

The resistible rise of racism in NI

More than five racist or homophobic attacks take place in Belfast every week, according to recent figures.

Attacks for example in north Belfast doubled between April and September this year Over the 183-day period there were 129 so-called hate crimes recorded throughout the city. In the previous year, some 226 racial incidents were recorded across Northern Ireland, resulting to date in five known prosecutions. In May, the Northern Ireland Affairs committee said police figures were underestimating "hate crime" levels by a "considerable margin" because victims were failing to report attacks.

These attacks will continue until we send a loud and clear message to those orchestrating and carrying out these attacks that we will not tolerate this behaviour. The ARN (Anti Racism Network) have been to the fore in opposing any racist attacks or behaviour
recently over 2,000 people attended a rally in Belfast's city centre, Saturday 30 October, calling for an end to racism. Marchers gathered outside the City Hall on Saturday to make a stand against race hate. The event was organised by the Anti-Racism Network and the Chinese Welfare Association under the slogan 'No Excuses'.

Speakers from the Chinese, Muslim and gay communities called for the government to do more to stop attacks against them. The organisers of the march said it was an opportunity for people to stand together to show their utter rejection of race hate. They also wanted to reassure members of ethnic minorities that they had support and solidarity. The main rally began at the University of Ulster's Art College and proceeded to City Hall. Feeder parades began in west Belfast at Roden Street, and in the south of the city at Equality House, Shaftesbury Square.
The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission strongly endorsed the rally. The commission's head of legal services, policy and research, Ciaran O Maolain, said: "Racism in Northern Ireland is not a new phenomenon, but the commission is especially concerned at the increase in racist attacks and other manifestations of intolerance in Belfast, Armagh, Dungannon, Ballymena and elsewhere. The recent attacks on gay people in Derry are equally abhorrent." He said he wanted to see policing resources directed at protecting minorities and bringing to justice those behind the recent attacks. "It is worrying that there have been only a handful of prosecutions for hate crimes which are happening at the rate of at least 300 per year," Mr O Maolain said.
Stephen Alexander of the ARN said it was encouraging so many people had come out to support the rally "Racist attacks have appalled people right across Northern Ireland, and their support for this rally clearly demonstrated that racism is something we don’t want here. The theme for the rally was `No Excuses`, he said, because people were fed up hearing lame justifications for racist behaviour. Myths about `immigrants taking our jobs` or being `a threat to local culture` are exactly that - stories with no basis in reality," he said.

There was a racist crime reported almost every day in Belfast and new police figures made "very worrying reading", he added. "Sadly, it’s not uncommon for some people to unfairly blame ethnic minorities for deprivation in their area. It is wrong to scapegoat ethnic minorities for the failures in our society that existed long before their arrival,"
Sadly after the rally there were further racist attacks in the West and the North of our city. Hospital workers from the Filipino community were targeted in the latest racist attacks in north Belfast.

Maria Maglano, who is a nurse at the Mater hospital in Belfast, said she could not understand why the families had been targeted.
"I've been here for more than three years and I never experienced this (before)," she said.
The ARN organised community responses in the areas where the racist attacks occurred, hundreds of people attended the vigils that were called within a day of each of the attacks. Politicians from across the political spectrum roundly condemned the attacks.

North Belfast DUP MP Nigel Dodds said there was no excuse for such behaviour.
"The people behind this kind of activity need to realise that they will achieve absolutely nothing except the contempt of decent law-abiding people," he said.
Belfast Lord Mayor Tom Ekin said it was the latest in a long line of attacks against the Filipino community.
"Those behind this attack are a tiny minority who represent no-one," he said.
"They certainly do not represent the vast majority of the people of the area who are outraged that this has happened."

SDLP assembly member Alban Maginness said it was a "disturbing and deplorable act which only served to intimidate the Filipino and Chinese families".
"The families who were subjected to this appalling racial abuse have lived peacefully in the area for some time. It is horrifying to think that their peace of mind has been disturbed in this way."

Sinn Fein assembly member Gerry Kelly claimed loyalist paramilitaries were trying to "export" racism from the Donegall Road area to north Belfast.
"I am calling on those with influence in the loyalist community to do whatever is in their power to stop these attacks," he said.

"To stand by and say nothing is as the equivalent to condoning racism."
Chairman of the ARN Davy Carlin told Street Seen: "Sadly the attacks we hear about through the media are just the tip of the iceberg. The ARN is concerned at how racist attacks are becoming more violent and spreading to places with no history of racist violence." ‘’Therefore we need to stand shoulder to shoulder within communities against these attacks and more especially to show solidarity with the victims of them’.’

An attack on one is an attack on all so we at Street Seen encourage people to contact the ARN and show that Racism will not be tolerated in any way in our society.

To Contact the ARN in your local area email: antiracism_ni@homail.com

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