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Last Updated: Monday, 26 June 2006, 16:23 GMT 17:23 UK
Spate of 'race attacks' condemned
The window of the attacked house
An oil tank at the rear of this house was set alight
Politicians and community leaders have condemned a series of apparently racist attacks on people from Eastern Europe.

In the latest incidents on Sunday, two homes belonging to Lithuanians were targeted in Dunmurry near Belfast.

Over the weekend there were attacks in Lisburn, Carrickfergus, Castledawson and Cloughey on the Ards Peninsula.

Social Development Minister David Hanson, who visited the scene of one the attacks in Dunmurry, said police were taking them "very seriously".

"I am very concerned that over the weekend we have had a spate of apparently racist attacks on a number of properties," he said.

"From my perspective these are not acceptable, the government wants to send a strong message that this type of incident is not acceptable."

Attacks

The attacks came as the NI Council for Ethnic Minorities published a report critical of the criminal justice system's response to such attacks.

Report author Dr Robbie McVeigh said the criminal justice system needed to change.

"The PPS (Public Prosecution Service) still can't tell you if anyone has been prosecuted by them for racially motivated crime," he said.

"That's just an appalling admission that's really ridiculous in a situation where Northern Ireland has been identified as the race hate capital of Europe and we have a criminal justice system that cannot even begin to tell us if anyone has been prosecuted for that kind of racist crime."

Anti-racist campaigner Doreen Lawrence - mother of murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence - was at the launch of the report and said more needed to be done to tackle the problem.

"I'm trying to get my head round or understand what is happening here," she said.

"Why there is so much, why the increase is happening and what the government is trying to do about it."

Dr Robbie McVeigh
Dr Robbie McVeigh said more must to done to tackle race crime

In the incidents on Sunday night three windows were smashed at a house in Seymour Hill Mews and paint thrown at another in Rowan Drive.

In Cloughey, County Down, five masked men, armed with baseball bats, forced their way into the home of three women at about 2330 BST on Saturday.

The women suffered cuts, bruises and minor head injuries.

On Monday, Pastor Stanley McMahon from the Ards Intra Cultural Forum said incidents like this were making migrant workers feel "very unwelcome".

Working group

"These attacks do highlight a problem while they are very wrong, and callous and cowardly they are sending out a message of fear to the immigrant people saying 'we don't want you here'," he said.

"While we must always condemn all of these attacks we must go beyond that and assure the people that we don't want to sent this message out to them."

The attacks have been condemned by politicians who agreed on Friday to set up an all party working group to come with ideas to stop racist incidents.

The weekend attacks included one in Carrickfergus.

The back of the house at Burleigh Drive, where some Polish people live, was extensively damaged after an oil tank caught fire at 0800 BST on Sunday. No-one was injured.

There were 936 racist incidents last year.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
See more about the attacks



SEE ALSO
'Racism' suspected in six attacks
26 Jun 06 |  Northern Ireland
Racism suspected in arson attacks
25 Jun 06 |  Northern Ireland
Baseball bat gang assault women
25 Jun 06 |  Northern Ireland

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