An example of the worst of Belfast and the best of Belfast…

On Monday night a group of males decided it would be a good idea to burn down Asta’s Glam Factory on Castlereagh Street in East Belfast. It is not clear if they felt false nails and tanning was a threat to Ulster or as the police suspect, it was a ‘racist hate crime’.

The salon (which only opened last week) was owned by a Lithuanian woman, Asta Samaliute, who as you can imagine was not too happy about finding the business she worked so hard to build burned to the ground. Not only was Asta out of a job but so were the local people she employed.

According to the BBC:

Police in Belfast have recorded a 43% increase in racist hate crimes in the space of eight months.

In the period to the end of January 2015, 383 racially motivated offences were recorded across the city; in the same period the previous year, 268 offences were recorded.

A third of offences recorded last year in the city were in east Belfast.

  • In the east of the city, racially motivated offences rose from 74 between 1 May 2013 and 30 January 2014 to 128 in the same eight months in the following year, a 73% increase

  • In west Belfast, recorded offences rose from 17 to 29, a 70% increase

  • North Belfast saw an increase from 72 to 101, a 40% rise

  • In south Belfast, recorded offences rose from 105 to 125, a 19% increase

So far so depressing. BUT what happened next shows a ray of light in an otherwise very depressing story. A fund has been set-up to support Asta. In less than 24 hours over $6,000 has been donated. It is good to see the community rallying round in support. But what of the other hundreds of victims? The African families who had to go emergency accommodation? The Polish families who can’t sleep at night because they are waiting on a petrol bomb coming through the window. It is a bleak situation that is only getting worse and worse…

Also these attacks are killing economic activity in these areas. Already there is rows of boarded up shops or ‘fake shops‘. Why would any business person invest in an area where they are likely to get burned out or preyed on for protection money?

asta

 

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  • Am Ghobsmacht

    No doubt there are many angles to this but I feel that extra special mentions should be made regarding all the D-heads over the years who have specialised in the fine art of demarcation and segregation:

    In the wee six we see differences between a McGuinness and a Magennis, a McCormick and a McCormack and a McDonnell and a McDonald.

    When you spend generations honing such useless and vile differences then any wonder the neither-so-great-nor-good see uitlanders as something to be feared, my word they could be either planters or papists!

    Anyone who propagates the idiotic notions of differences between ‘planter and gael’ or seeks to rank ‘Irishness’ by nationalistic conduct or seeks comfort in distinguishing groups of green triangle DNA from sunset yellow circle DNA has a hand in these events.

    Put your hands in the air and man-up, this is partly your doing, at least have the courage to own up to your hand in the awfulness.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Brian – how many local people did this lady employ?

  • Brian O’Neill

    So you are saying if she employed no locals then it is fair game to burn her out?

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Your report advises that the lady in question employed local people, my question is how many? This type of information can then be used against the perpetrators to the tune that not only are they damaging their own communities but also the livelihoods of the people from the area.

  • Dan

    What a ridiculous assumption to make.
    Idiotic.

  • Robin Keogh

    It really is terrifying the lengths Loyalists and to a lesser extent dissident Republicans will go to ‘clear’ their areas of ‘foreigners’. Is it a hangover from a political society that was innately sectarian for decades or is it a reflection of genuine fears around the notion of being ‘pushed out’? It is far too easy and convenient for politicians and commentators to simply accuse these people as being racists, bigots or downright ugly souls. We need to get down in the mud with them and figure out what the hell is going on in the minds of these people and what can be done to change it.

  • Robin Keogh

    Not at all, Joe’s question could easily have been interpreted that way given the lack of context.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Does the report state that locals were employed by the said company Robin?

  • Robin Keogh

    Thats my point joe, ur question could mistakenly be seen as offensive in the absence of a qualifying context

  • Dan

    ‘Twisted’ would be a better word

  • Richmond clements

    I’d guess she lives in the area – that’s make her local, yes?

  • Turgon

    Brian I think you owe Joe Hoggs an apology. That was a particularly perverse spin to put on his question (to the pint of utter dishonesty), especially when Joe has never shown any hint of racism. From many another commentator your comment might have received censure.

    No it is not the end of the world but I think having made the inappropriate comment you should simply apologise and I suspect Joe (not that I know him) would accept it and all could move on.

    We all get it wrong from time to time.

  • Brian O’Neill

    A radio report said she employed several local staff. If your query was innocent then yes I do apologise.

    But very often please try to excuse these attacks by claiming ‘They do not employ locals’, they ‘take money out of the area’, ‘they compete unfairly with businesses owned by locals’ etc etc.

  • Dec

    ‘his type of information can then be used against the perpetrators to the tune that not only are they damaging their own communities but also the livelihoods of the people from the area.’

    I get the sense you don’t really grasp the mindset of racists and extortionists.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    If said individuals are boasting about such attacks to their friends who’s mother happened to be employed at this venue and is not out of a job – this may have a negative effect on the perpetrators? I take your point though, but education, education and education is very much the way forward.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    Thanks Brian.

    My point is this, a business setup local in an area that needs businesses and employs several locals thus contributing to the tax returns of the company, surely this can only be a good thing? Only last week we had outrage at the number of DLA claims, however here is someone representing entrepreneurial skills thus benefiting the local community, the local population and the local employees – this must be a fundamental aspect of Britishness.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    I’m tempted to look at a more sinister reason for your apparent “misinterpretation,” however I will let it go.

  • Dec

    Joe

    Running a small business isn’t a purely British trait. That said, the issue here is people’s unwillingness to accept, let alone respect, difference. It’s not going to be resolved by somewhat objectionable notions of assimilation.

  • Chingford Man

    Another “have you stopped beating your wife?” question.

  • james

    Quite agree. But the same holds true for Republicans.

  • Robin Keogh

    The same holds true for anybody engaged in racist attacks. The vast majority of attacks come from loyalists, its beyond a crises at this point

  • Alan N/Ards

    How do you know that they are loyalists? I know that it’s hard to believe (for you) but not all loyalists are racist. The same way not all republicans were supporters of the provos etc. I would describe the perpetrators as brain dead morons.

  • james

    I think if you want to use the issue to score points then you rather miss the issue. The point, it seems to me is to welcome those of other ethnicities, traditions and cultures for what they are and what they bring as much as for how they can open our minds and expose our sectarian nonsense for what it is. Pretending there aren’t similar problems in Republican areas is to ignore and exacerbate the problem. Plus, of course, if you want to spin the wheel the grotesque xenophobia of Republicans towards those they deem to be ‘foreign’ far, far outweighs the problems in loyalist areas. Not something I want to explore on this topic, but if you wish to pretend that it is all the fault of Loyalists and dissident Republicans, as opposed to ‘good’ Republicans who remain supportive of sectarian terrorism (so long as it isn’t current) then that will not stand.

  • james

    One wonders, for instance, just how long it would take for a concerned residents collective to spring, mushroom-like, fully formed and bristling with indignance, from the ground if the Lithuanians wished to celebrate Užgavėnės anywhere near a ‘Republican area’, should they have the misfortune to make it onto what seems to be an unofficial list of proscribed cultural events in the Republican mind. Just a thought.

  • Korhomme

    I wasn’t aware of this until you posted, Brian.

    What a sad story. And what does it say about our tolerance, our appreciation, our understanding for the ‘other’, the outsider in our society? Is this what so many are pleased to call ‘Christian’ values? If so, count me out.

  • Robin Keogh

    James u are being over sensitive on the issue of accusation. I never said the problem doesnt exist in republican areas i simply pointed out a statistical fact, which is the majority of race hate crimes occur in PREDOMINANTLY Unionist/Loyalist areas. I didnt create the problem nor do i collect the stats on the issue, i am simply commenting on it. If u want to go off on a fantasy tangent about xenophobia then be my guest. But refusing to accept reality certainly wont serve to address the issue.

  • Robin Keogh

    Well the chinese and nigerians living in west belfast dont seem to have a problem

  • chrisjones2

    SFs associates did a pretty good job of pogroms too Robin

    Its all wrong and ita s part of politics that thrives in division

  • chrisjones2

    Well they have done in some areas but not on the same scale. Some Africans were forced out of West Belfast last year after threats and attacks on their homes

  • chrisjones2

    …and in pointing that out your point is what?

    THis is akin to saying that in London 80% of street robberies are carried out b black men …nudge nudge …but not saying that many of the victims are also black men

  • chrisjones2

    They were Prods but were they Loyalist Prods or just local driuk prods?

  • Catcher in the Rye

    I don’t think this was a racist attack. I will explain why.

    This serious arson attack was a deliberate and successful attempt to completely destroy a business in a part of East Belfast which is firmly in the grip of a UVF faction under the command of the “beast from the East”.

    It is not the first time a business has been attacked in Belfast in this way, and it probably won’t be the last. This is typical of the punishment meted out to business owners who fail to pay protection to the local controlling gang; or to business which have rubbed up said gang the wrong way. This can happen if there are members of the gang who are friends with, or related to, people who operate competing businesses in the vicinity. This gang are said to have threatened local shop owners with consequences if they allow people from the Short Strand on their premises; or if they carry certain newspapers.

    It’s fairly well known, and has been reported in some of the local papers, that the PSNI are strangely finding it very difficult to bring the gang, who have now been at large for some time and are implicated in a number of shootings and punishment attacks, to justice. Inevitably, the conclusion can be drawn that the police are running agents within the gang. If this is the case, it suits the police to characterize the attack as some sort of racist attack, rather than a precision assault on a business carried out by an organized crime gang. Sure enough, the police moved quickly to call it a racist hate crime. It takes heat away from their failure to deal with organized crime, and keeps the pressure off any agents they may be running.

    Correspondingly, it also suits the PUP (whose local office is steps away from the scene of the attack) to paint themselves as some sort of champion of hardworking immigrants against mindless thugs. This serves to take the focus away from the UVF who they maintain links with. If the PUP were serious about confronting this kind of crime they would call upon all loyalists to go to the police with everything they know about the UVF, and would call upon the police to clamp down hard on the racketeers and the gangsters. But of course they won’t. And I certainly don’t recall any PUP vigils being held at the Alliance offices that were subject to several arson attacks and hoax bombs. Because standing up for the people who took the flag down would be a step too far.

    We absolutely have a serious problem with racist crime. Almost unmissed were racist attacks in the Tiger’s Bay area, several nights in a row. Those attacks were probably not orchestrated and were more likely carried out by local thugs motivated by nothing other than race hate.

    All of these attacks are taking place because, even now, Belfast very much remains in thrall to local paramilitary gangs who rule the roost, intimidate and attack who they want, decide who may or may not do business in the area, and collect off the backs of ordinary people. That is the root cause of the problem that needs to be solved, and I think we’re in sad times if people use the incidence of racially aggravated crime to try to hide our woeful response to organized gangs.

  • james
  • james

    http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-northern-ireland-29141406 Indeed, they seem not to……or else.

  • The Spelegraph

    I ran a business in this shop, 128 Castlereagh St. from 1990 until 2000.
    I had no contact with the UVF, but made a, in the grand scheme of things, small donation twice a year to the UDA Loyalist prisoners.
    I even had a visit from the RUC wanting to know if I had written a company cheque for £30 under duress. Yes, that’s right, I paid by company cheque, and claimed it against tax.

  • Deke Thornton

    Do you mean racist/ sectarian slogans like “Brits out”?

  • Robin Keogh

    far better than being burnt out

  • Robin Keogh

    James u need to put on your spectacles dear

  • Robin Keogh

    Maybe it is a good analogy and in those circumstances the aithorities need to look closely at the offending cohort to figure out why it is that that particular group behave as they do

  • Catcher in the Rye

    So the taxpayer made a contribution to the UDA coffers.

    How did the police managed to get hold of a cheque written to the UDA ? Wait, don’t answer.

  • james

    I think you need to remove your green ones. Did you read the last section entitled ‘Republican areas’?

  • Robin Keogh

    James i have already stated that i know there are incidents in Republican areas, or did u miss that in your rush to defend loyalists? Once more, lets hope this actually sinks in this time, the majority of racist attacks occur in Unionist/ loyalist areas…not my stats…not invented facts…simply the truth. Deal with it.

  • Robin Keogh

    more likely around the Shankhill area

  • The Spelegraph

    I don’t know, but I assume they had cooperation from the banks. The detective who came to the shop had the cheque I had written.
    Before writing cheques, they would come into the shop every Friday and I would put £1 in a wooden box with a LPA logo. We had quite a few customers from the other community, in fact, almost 50/50. So this situation was not ideal and we visited HQ in Gawn St and it was agreed they would only call twice a year.
    In July and December we donated £30 to the LPA, for which we received a receipt.

  • james

    I haven’t “rushed to defend loyalists”, all I’ve done is take exception to saying that it’s all down to them (and dissident Republicans), while the saintly common or garden Republicans are given a pass for their own blatant intolerance and involvement in well publicized pogroms against what they perceive as other. And we both know there is nothing whatever invented about it. Unless you now feel the IRA campaign of murdering Protestant civilians somehow doesn’t count and/or was not done with the tacit support of and im the name of Republicanism. I’m not sure how I can make that clearer for you.

  • Robin Keogh

    You are deliberately being mischievous, we are talking about racist events of today, 2015

  • LordSummerisle

    How is the view from your Ivory tower ? I trust you can see the moral horsemen perambulating along the North Side ?

  • Robin Keogh

    Grand view thanks

  • Catcher in the Rye

    A cheque which will have had the fingerprints of the people who handled it all over it, and a paper trail tying the funds to an account and allowing police to obtain information on when withdrawals were made and by whom, etc.

    Loyalists aren’t very bright.

  • The Spelegraph

    I this is this case they were very bright. They were able to collect money for Loyalist Prisoners Association and they couldn’t be touched. The police needed me or someone to say they gave the money under duress.
    I couldn’t honestly say the LPA would be too far up my list of worthy causes, but I thing I got good value for money.

  • LordSummerisle

    O jolly good. Then keep your somewhat smug comments to yourself. The problem of racism is universal and not peculiar to one political community on this island.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    “bright” would be dealing in cash and using a front organization rather than one with ties to the UDA to manage your money (I am sure you would have sent cash had you been instructed to do so).

    “not bright” is having people with UDA links getting their fingerprints all over a cheque, which could later be used to prove in court that the LPA was a UDA fundraising organization.

  • Robin Keogh

    And maybe u should make at least a small attempt to read what i actually wrote rather than attemp to make unjustifiable parralels where they dont exist

  • LordSummerisle

    I am not making a parallel at all. Judging by your overall comments I glean that those of the Republican community are somehow above racism, history, however, teaches that it is universal. (be it a joke uttered in private or an action in public) If Loyalists or Unionists see the problem (as is evident on social media of recent days) why can Republican/Nationalists not see it ? Perhaps we could unite against it ? Yet the first step to rehabilitation is admitting you have a problem.

  • Deke Thornton

    You mean like the ‘Brits’ at La Mon House? I suppose the Irish Collie Club were part of the Saxon hordes, etc. In what way is the SF slogan ‘Brits out’ different to ‘Pakis out’? Keep paddling.

  • Robin Keogh

    Yes and i suggest you urgently heed your own advice. the sporadic acts of racist violence in republican areas should be dealt with just as harshly as the culturally engrained racist behaviour within many unionist/loyalist areas where the majority of such attacks take place.

  • Robin Keogh

    I am not actually in a boat at the moment, rather i am firmly planted on dry land trying to find evidence that SF created the slogan Brits Out, maybe you might oblige me on that front. I never suggested there was any difference between to the two slogans nor did nor do i approach events of the past to prove the realities of the now. Which as it happens is a discussion on racist violence today.

  • LordSummerisle

    “Culturally engrained racist behaviour”, do enlighten me further please.

  • Robin Keogh

    The first step to rehabilitation is admitting you have a problem ..
    http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2004/jan/10/northernireland.race

  • LordSummerisle

    I asked your learned self my good man. I would care for your view not that of a newspaper.

  • Practically_Family

    Hmm. I recognised a few faces and, shall we say, they won’t be winning any awards from the UN for promoting racial harmony.

  • The Spelegraph

    Seems perfect to me, collect money legitimately for the poor girls with their breadwinners in jail. Perhaps the same girls then give some or all back to cause. Zero cost, tax efficient and it would appear legal.

  • james

    I’m sure the effects of such stays with the victims longer than a calendar year, Robin.

  • Robin Keogh

    Indeed so lets not exploit their suffering when dealing with matters of today

  • james

    Oh, I see. Are we saying that the hunger strikers, bloody Sunday etc should be quietly assigned to hostory and never mentioned again? Do you feel that it is time for SF to stop exploiting them? Bravo! I’m with you on that.

  • Robin Keogh

    NIce try, commemorating is not exploiting

  • chrisjones2

    Nationalism of any type is inherently racist

  • chrisjones2

    the culturally engrained racist behaviour within many unionist/loyalist areas where the majority of such attacks take place.

    Stereotype? Moi?