Racism epidemic shows Northern Ireland has not learned from its past

Racist attacks are now more widespread in Northern Ireland than sectarian violence, and many bear the hallmarks of times gone by. Tommy O’Callaghan and Margherita Santus report

Sunday 31 October 2021 21:30 GMT
A sectarian legacy leaves Northern Ireland’s minorities in jeopardy
A sectarian legacy leaves Northern Ireland’s minorities in jeopardy (Carl Klink)

Northern Ireland is becoming more diverse but newcomers still stand out more than they would like to. For Muneera, a mother of three from Sudan, to blend in and become part of one of Belfast’s neighbourhoods was the ultimate dream. Five years ago, she escaped the turmoil of the Bashir regime and left everything behind as her family made for Belfast.

Arriving at the UK is known as “the big victory” back home. After two anxious years of being processed through various hostels, Muneera thought that victory had finally come. In 2016, her asylum application was approved, and in 2018 she was offered social housing at a new development on East Belfast’s Beersbridge Road.

Three nights later, the night before Muneera and her family moved in, 15 of the house’s windows were smashed and the words LOCAL ONLY were sprayed across its walls. Police told Muneera the attack was probably carried out by rogue teenagers, but found no suspects. Muneera doubts that narrative, recalling how she felt watched every time she went to view her house during its construction.

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