Racist knife attack ‘has echoes of Stephen Lawrence’

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The latest racist attack in Belfast has echoes of the horrific Stephen Lawrence incident according to one political candidate, who added she is fearful someone will soon lose their life if such violence continues.

NI21’s Jayne Olorunda, daughter of a Nigerian immigrant killed by the IRA, was speaking after news emerged that a man - understood to be of African background - had been stabbed in broad daylight in south Belfast.

It happened between 10.30am and 11am on Thursday in the Fare Street area, close to the loyalist heartland of The Village, when two young men approached the victim and shouted racial abuse before one of them stabbed him in the leg.

South Belfast-based Miss Olorunda (who is standing in the east of the city in the May 22 council election), said: “That’s getting into Stephen Lawrence territory almost, when people are taking weapons to convey their hatred. It’s very bad – very, very bad.

“My reaction is obviously to condemn it first and foremost. I really, really feel that we need more action from a government level on this. We’re at the stage where there isn’t really a day when you can wake up without a race hate attack.”

Stephen Lawrence was a young black Londoner who was stabbed to death by racists in the capital in 1993, sparking a long-running fight for justice.

Echoing comments made by the UUP’s Danny Kinahan on Friday, Miss Olorunda also said that Northern Ireland’s old sectarian clash of “green and orange” now seems to be turning into an “immigrant versus us” culture.

She acknowledged there are big problems in society with unemployment, educational underachievement, and more - but noted that these were in existence long before the latest wave of foreign nationals arrived.

“If people are now taking weapons to people that they perceive are different, we will have a fatality,” she said.

“I would urge everybody to condemn these actions and really, really try and stamp them out.”

Asked why she believes such attacks occur so frequently in working-class loyalist areas, she said: “That whole community is feeling let down and it’s feeling isolated... There is a perception in those communities that they are being left behind almost in Northern Ireland.

“Sometimes when this happens you do get a blame culture, and the blame culture - unfortunately for anyone of a different heritage - is being taken out on them.”

She also suggested there were far-right extremists from outside the Province who were “stirring up tensions” in these areas.

In recent months, graffiti had been seen in The Village making it clear that the far right National Front are not welcome.

The victim of the Fane Street incident is aged 23, and police said that he received hospital treatment for his wound.

One of the males who approached him is described as being approximately 20 years old, wearing a grey Adidas tracksuit with blue lines.

The second male is described as being about the same age, wearing a blue raincoat, and charcoal-coloured tracksuit bottoms with blue lines.

The weapons used is described as “a small knife”.

It comes days after a trio of east Europeans were beaten with golf clubs off My Lady’s Road in east Belfast, and follows a continued stream of racist incidents in the Belfast area in recent months.

Police asked anyone with information to call them at Musgrave station on 101, or to ring Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.