A survey carried out by the Observer newspaper has found that 90% of racist incidents reported in Northern Ireland since the beginning of 2005 have occurred in Loyalist areas.
The Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities said the figures confirmed all their anecdotal evidence that most racist attacks were taking place in unionist areas but Patrick Yu, the organisation’s director, revealed that racist attacks in Catholic areas have also been on the rise recently.
“NICEM heard recently of a case in Larne where the two sides, Catholics and Protestants, united together against migrant workers in the town,” he said. Dr. John Coulter also discusses this issue of anti-migrant racism uniting previous foes.
A survey earlier this year reported that racism seems to have replaced sectarianism as the most prevalent prejudice in Northern Ireland.
Twice as many of the 1,250 people questioned said they would be unwilling to accept or mix with members of ethnic minorities as they would with members of the other main religious tradition to their own.
Meanwhile, the anti-fascist magazine Searchlight has Northern Ireland’s racist issue on its cover, calling it the “Silent War”.
The Belfast Telegraph reports on that story, saying racist incidents in Northern Ireland have increased by 15% in the past year while PSNI figures say a total of 746 crimes with a racial motivation were committed in the province between April 1, 2005 and March 31, 2006.
The figures include 25 threat or conspiracy to murder crimes, 238 woundings or assaults, 69 cases of intimidation or harassment and 351 incidents of criminal damage.
The worst racist hot spots in Northern Ireland are Belfast, Dungannon, Craigavon and Ballymena.
“Racism is rising fast in Northern Ireland. Racist incidents have increased by 15pc in the past year. But it is the growing ferocity and systematic nature of these hate crimes that is shocking,” said reporter Matthew Collins.
It should be interesting to see the response of Northern Ireland’s poltical parties to this ongoing and apparently deteriorating situation.