Multicultural blaze: ‘Just because it’s seen as a UVF area doesn’t mean they did it’ says Billy Hutchinson

The leader of the PUP has strongly condemned the latest torching of Belfast Multicultural Association’s offices, saying people should not jump to any conclusions about possible loyalist involvement.

By Adam Kula
Friday, 8th April 2022, 7:24 pm
Updated Friday, 8th April 2022, 7:24 pm
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 8th April 222

Picture by Matt Mackey  / PressEye

Police are appealing for information following a suspicious fire at the Belfast Multi-Cultural Association building on Donegall Pass, south Belfast, in the early hours of Friday 8th April.

Police were made aware of a fire at the building at around 1.20am this morning.  Officers attended along with colleagues from Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service, who extinguished the blaze.
Press Eye - Belfast - Northern Ireland - 8th April 222 Picture by Matt Mackey / PressEye Police are appealing for information following a suspicious fire at the Belfast Multi-Cultural Association building on Donegall Pass, south Belfast, in the early hours of Friday 8th April. Police were made aware of a fire at the building at around 1.20am this morning. Officers attended along with colleagues from Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service, who extinguished the blaze.

It is the second time that the property on Donegall Pass has been targeted; it was extensively damaged in an arson attack last January.

Donegall Pass runs between Ormeau Road and the Botanic district on the southern edge of the city centre.

It is both a mini-Chinatown, with a string of Asian businesses along the road, and a loyalist district, with the centre itself standing close to a big UVF mural.

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The fire at the building took hold sometime around 1.10am today.

The PSNI launched “a major investigation” and are treating it as a hate crime.

Much of the roof of the building was destroyed in the 2021 attack, which police also treated as a hate crime.

No-one was ever charged over that attack.

Councillor Billy Hutchinson said that the centre is on the edge of Donegall Pass, and there’s nothing to say someone could not have come from another area to attack it.

“As far as the PUP is concerned we do not believe people should be burning anybody’s place where they’re working from – we don’t believe in that,” he told the News Letter.

“Just because it’s perceived to be a UVF area, doesn’t mean to say the UVF did it.

“I don’t know who did it, but what I’m saying is whoever did, should desist. That’s twice in a year.

“They’re not doing any good... what they’re doing is bringing grief to the unionist community and they shouldn’t be doing that.

“They should desist from attacking that centre. Let the police deal with this. That’s what we pay them for.”

Asked if there might be any loyalist involvement, the PSNI said “the investigation is at a very early stage”.

The association posted this message on Twitter: “The roof reparation was completed on Wednesday, but last night we had a SECOND attack on the building. Our hopes and dreams went in flames yet again.”

It ended with the hashtag: “#Islamophobia”.

It took six fire engines and about 30 firefighters to extinguish the blaze.

The incident was dealt with by 3.40am, and the fire brigade stated definitively that “the cause of the fire was deliberate”.

Two men were arrested as part of the investigation into the 2021 fire, but one was freed unconditionally, and the PPS declined to charge the other man. Police said that they had “exhausted all active lines of enquiry” into that blaze.

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