Home of another Romanian family attacked

Michael McHugh,Laura May,Press Association
Wednesday 25 September 2013 05:16

The home of another Romanian family was vandalised last night in Northern Ireland, sparking fears that racist attacks that forced fearful migrants from their homes at the weekend could continue.

A window was smashed at the east Belfast house and officers are treating the incident as a hate crime, a police spokesman said last night.

It is the third Romanian home to be attacked in less than a week. Over the weekend two homes in the south of the city were targeted and windows smashed.

The incidents caused an exodus of about 20 families to seek temporary refuge in a church hall and leisure centre.

Speaking to GMTV, Northern Ireland Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie said: "Very sadly we have seen another attack on a Romanian family in east Belfast last night.

"All of this raises very fundamental questions about the type of society we want to develop and create in Northern Ireland some 15 years after the ceasefire."

She continued: "Northern Ireland is still deeply divided, deeply segregated. People in urban areas here in Belfast live in divided communities.

"There is an urgent need for all government departments across the spectrum to develop a shared future that is an integrated society. The process of reconciliation and healing must start. And we must become a welcoming community."

Eileen Lavery of the Equality Commission, Northern Ireland, told GMTV that the latest attack showed the problem is a continuing one.

"It does seem this morning that this has not gone away. The reason that individuals are fearful of people coming to Northern Ireland are reasons that need to be addressed."

She said that the issue of migrant workers was a relatively new one to the country.

"I think there is an underlying problem but we must put it in context. It is only recently that migrant workers started coming to Northern Ireland, for many years we were avoided.

"Of these individuals who are responsible I would begin by asking, why are they doing it? What are the underlying issues this new government is not addressing? Perhaps it is about jobs and housing, but perhaps we also need to look at how we view others."

She said that it was work that needed to be done but, "it is work that will not have results overnight."

Romania's consul general Dr Mihai Delcea is to hold high-level meetings in Northern Ireland today

Dr Delcea will meet Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie at the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont.

Police have said they do not believe paramilitaries were involved in orchestrating the attacks which have been condemned by Prime Minister Gordon Brown and local politicians.

It is understood accommodation in the south Belfast area is being made available for one week.

Police Supt Chris Noble said: "The information we have at this point in time is that it was a sporadic attack.

"It was a sporadic attack by a number of youths with no affiliation or co-ordination.

"What I can guarantee is a commitment from the police service in terms of visible, responsible policing."

Michael Graham, from the Housing Executive, said: "We have been able to find secure, comfortable and well-appointed temporary accommodation.

"It is important we give these families a few days to settle down and consider their own futures."

Education Minister Caitriona Ruane was given a large card by children expressing their solidarity.

"Ireland is a very peaceable place, Belfast is a great city and there are many people working there to ensure that the children and adults are given the support they need," she said.