Targeted Romanians leave Belfast
In a sad end to a shameful episode in Northern Irish history, 100 of the 114 Romanians who were harassed into leaving their Belfast homes have elected to return to Romania: Twenty-five Romanians who were the victims of racist intimidation in Belfast left Northern Ireland today, with 75 others due to leave later this week. ...
Twenty-five Romanians who were the victims of racist intimidation in Belfast left Northern Ireland today, with 75 others due to leave later this week.
The Stormont social development minister, Margaret Ritchie, confirmed earlier today that 100 of a group of 114 who had been targeted in racist attacks wanted to return to Romania.
Ritchie said only 14 of the Romanians subjected to the attacks – a family of seven and seven single men – had opted to remain in Belfast.
“I deeply regret that, but it is a matter of personal choice,” the SDLP minister said.
Ritchie added that the Romanians’ decision to leave “runs against our aims to build a shared future within Northern Ireland”.
She said funds from the Northern Ireland housing executive had been found to cover the cost of flying the 100 Romanians home. Last week, the Romanian consul said his country had no plans to pay for the flights.
Meanwhile, the Belfast church in which the Romanians took shelter after the attacks has been vandalised.
Seven windows in the Belfast City church were smashed and the front door damaged in the attack, which happened overnight.
Much has been made of the cross-cultural unity after the shooting of two British soldiers and a policeman (and, in fairness, British and Northern Irish leaders were quick to condemn the attacks and offer protection), but if this xenophobia is the new anti-Catholicism/Protestantism, Northern Ireland still has much work to do.
PETER MUHLY/AFP/Getty Images
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