Page last updated at 11:37 GMT, Friday, 17 April 2009 12:37 UK

Man held after city 'hate crime'

House on the Donegall Road, Belfast
A man has been arrested following the incident on the Donegall Road

A 21-year-old man has been arrested after a gang forced their way into the home of four Hungarian women in south Belfast.

The incident took place at a house on the Donegall Road, in the Village area, at about 2000 GMT on Thursday.

The women ran into the kitchen and hid under tables until the police arrived.

None of the women were hurt in the incident, but they were left extremely shaken. Police have said they are treating the attack as a hate crime.

Seanin Brennan, who is friends with one of the women, said the attack was disgusting.

"They have come to Northern Ireland because they wanted to find better jobs than in their native country," she said.

"They have come here thinking we are European and part of the European Union.

"It is despicable and disgusting that anyone in Northern Ireland would treat another human being like this."

John Sharrett, who went to the house to help the women after the attack, said a large crowd of men aged between 19 and 35 had gathered outside the house to intimidate them.

"There were 30 fellas staring threateningly just to make sure these poor people left. Thirty fellas baying for blood," he said.

Christopher Stalford, a DUP councillor for south Belfast, also criticised the attack.

He said: "There are an awful lot of people who have come to Northern Ireland for a new life and to make a contribution to our society.

"For anyone to be treated this way is very sad."

SDLP assembly member Carmel Hanna said the attack was reprehensible.

"I have often said that race crime is the other side of the coin of sectarianism, with which this community has been far too familiar for centuries," the south Belfast representative said.

Alex Maskey of Sinn Fein said people must unite against racists.

"Political and community representatives have a duty to make it clear that racism has no place in community. I would call upon all community and political representatives to unite in support of foreign nationals who live in our community," he said.

Racial tension

Several families from Poland and other countries were attacked or intimidated in the Village area after the World Cup qualifying match between Northern Ireland and Poland at Windsor Park last month.

The Housing Executive has confirmed that 11 households have presented themselves as homeless since the trouble.

On Thursday, the Polish Community Forum of Northern Ireland said about 40 people were forced to leave the area because of the intimidation.

However, spokesman Maciek Bator also criticised the "intolerable behaviour" of some of the Polish fans.

"We felt we had to tell communities in Northern Ireland that we were ashamed by this violence and want to rebuild relations," he said.

The forum, whose groups also come from towns such as Newry, Londonderry and Portadown where large numbers of Poles are living, represents about 27,000 Polish people living in Northern Ireland.



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