When ‘post conflict’ Northern Ireland was dubbed by the BBC the ‘race hate capital of Europe’ in 2004, Robbie McVeigh’s analysis made the point that it was wrong to say, as many journalists did, that racism escalated simply because Protestants and Catholics had stopped fighting each other. Rather, McVeigh insisted, racism was not a new phenomenon in Northern Ireland, but was rather part of a legacy of intolerance built into Loyalist areas and into Unionism itself.
The racist violent attacks against a group of Romanian Roma in Belfast confirms McVeigh’s analysis that racism, rather than being the consequence of neo-Nazi BNP sympathisers – a claim made all too easily by Northern politicians including MLP Anna Lo (who by the way, as the only minority ethnic representative, received death threats because of her support for the Roma) – is built into northern Loyalism. It’s true that the attacks happened only a few weeks after the victory of the BNP in Britain’s European and local elections. It’s also true that both the UVF and the UDA denied their involvement with both the BNP and the attacks against the Roma families. Yet according to journalist Peter Geoghegan, the ‘Village’ area of Belfast, a run-down area of Loyalist terraces which became popular with eastern European migrants has seen many racist attacks of which the attacks on the Roma last week were only the most recent. Read more