30 September 2005

358 – that’s the number of attacks on Nationalists living in interface areas since the start of the year


Since the start of the year, community workers in North Belfast have recorded 358 sectarian attacks on Nationalists living in interface areas.
Nationalists have suffered 72 petrol bomb attacks, 45 incidents of intimidation, 20 assaults, 42 paint bombs, six death threats and 50 attacks on vehicles according to the Interface Mentoring Network (IMN) who collected details on incidents from January to September.
As a result Sinn Féin MLA Kathy Stanton has made an urgent appeal to the British and Irish governments to deal with the social impact of such intense sectarianism.
“The time has now come for a genuine and open dialogue with all political and community stakeholders to implement a long-term strategy aimed at addressing the underlying causes of conflict and division at interfaces ranging from sectarianism, employment, education, housing and poverty related issues,” the MLA said.
The MLA spoke at a conference called to address the impact of interfaces in Stormont this week alongside interface workers Gerry O'Reilly and Rab McCallum.
North Belfast has over 25 interfaces and approximately 75 voluntary workers who are involved at the coal face.
According to the IMN, an umbrella organisation which deals with interface violence and incidents, Nationalists have suffered 358 sectarian attacks since the start of the year.
Gerry O'Reilly of the interface group said the onus was upon the government to bring forward a viable policy to address the impact of these attacks.
"Current approaches towards the resolution of conflict at interface areas in North Belfast and throughout the North of Ireland are not working or have been stalled by those within the Unionist community who fail to engage on this issue," Gerry O'Reilly said.
"This is further compounded by the shortsightedness of the British and Irish governments’ unwillingness to grasp the bull by the horns once and for all and seek a long-term viable solution."
The PSNI were able to comment only on sectarian attacks recorded on their books in North Belfast since April of this year.
According to their figures since April 1 until the end of August, 170 sectarian incidents were recorded.
Co-ordinator of North Belfast Interface Network Rab McCallum said voluntary workers in this field of work needed a lot of support.
“These voluntary workers are involved in critical interventions in times of civil strife and crisis,” he said.
“These interventions are generally fraught with tensions and confrontation. This work has become increasingly demanding and is often thankless. The faint hearted rarely throw themselves into this type of work. Yet with virtually every interface incident comes a call from all quarters for the community to do more.”
Sinn Féin MLA for North Belfast Kathy Stanton said the conference should put pressure on the British and Irish governments to begin a wide-ranging process of consultation.
"This consultation process must produce a much needed strategy and funding for this must follow for those who are working day and daily on the ground to make improvements to the lives of those living in interface communities."

Journalist:: Staff Reporter

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