North Belfast residents dispute racism motive after home and men attacked

A bottle was thrown through the living room window in Parkmount Street, north Belfast on Sunday.
A bottle was thrown through the living room window in Parkmount Street, north Belfast on Sunday.

In the north Belfast neighbourhood where a hate crime attack occurred on Sunday, a raft of residents wanted to have their say.

The message heard repeatedly yesterday was that they do not believe the attack to have been motivated by race.

When the News Letter went down to the terraced house in Parkmount Street – a working-class loyalist neighbourhood standing just off the Shore Road – a piece of plywood was boarding up the smashed-in window at the front of it.

This reporter knocked on the door yesterday evening, but there was no answer, and neighbours said the occupants had left.

Many of them made claims about the men who lived there.

Since they were not in the house, the News Letter was unable to put the claims to them.

One woman living the area, Audrey Doherty, 42, said that the neighbourhood was “like the UN”, while others said that Poles and Slovaks were among those living on and around the very same street without any problems.

Asked why the attack might have occurred, she said: “I honestly don’t know.”

Rhonda Johnston, 28, said: “For the past 10 years there’s been foreign people in the area,” adding: “Nobody else has been targeted.”

The landlord said he used to live in the property himself, and said that for much of that time his neighbours had been Polish.

An Elim pastor who lives nearby, Brian Madden, himself said: “I’m not convinced that the spark that lit the flame was racism.”

He added: “It’s convenient to jump on the racist bandwagon at the minute, because it is big news.”

Regarding the various claims being made about those occupants of the house, the PSNI said last night: “Police are aware of and are working with the community in relation to concerns and speculation within the Parkmount area.

“PSNI will continue to investigate the incidents at Park mount Street as racist hate crimes as any offence/incident which is perceived to be racist by the victim or any other person is a racial hate crime.”