Sectarian attacks didn’t do it and neither even did the murder of two soldiers and a policeman. It took a phenomenon they more readily identify with as not exceptional to Northern Ireland, the racist attacks on 100 Romanians in Belfast’s university area to attract top level media passion. “What I want to hear you say is, there were five days of racist attacks in Belfast, we failed to deal with it and I’m very sorry” That was Jon Snow on Channel 4 News last night. He gave ACC Alistair Finlay the PSNI’S biggest savaging I think I have ever heard in an interview. Smashing through the young Scotsman’s media trained response, Snow went through the timetable the PSNI’s “dilatory” response remorselessly. He kept repeating the point:
They( the Roma) were under persistent racist attack and you did absolutely nothing about it. We had a situation where we have five days of race attacks and no persistent policing. It sounds as if you learned nothing from the Stephen Lawrence inquiry.. or the MacPherson rules.. It sounds as if you are more tolerant of racist attacks than anywhere in mainland Britain..
In the nationals, The Times headline is the glass half empty version. “Culture of intolerance.”
According to a 2007 University of Ulster report, Northern Ireland has the highest proportion of bigoted people in the Western world.The statistics show that more than 90 per cent of racist attacks occur in loyalist areas. This is more complex, however, than their avowed identification with a British identity. Housing allocation is also a factor.
Whereas on the same facts and similar analysis the Independent’s glass is half full. “Northern Ireland has united to combat racism.”
.. though the law, and society in general, have combined to combat racist attacks and may well have reduced them the bottom line is that gangs of lawless youths can still seriously blight the lives of migrant families.
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London