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Immigrants (Attacks)

Volume 495: debated on Wednesday 8 July 2009

5. What recent reports he has received of attacks on immigrants in Northern Ireland; and if he will make a statement. (283758)

These attacks in Northern Ireland are wholly to be condemned. Fortunately, it now seems that they were a relatively isolated set of incidents, and the House will wish to know that three people have now been charged with serious offences.

Why were the police not more aware of the simmering tensions with the Romanians in the local community? Does that not underline the importance of getting effective community policing up and running in Northern Ireland?

With respect, I think that the Police Service of Northern Ireland does an extraordinarily good job in protecting the community in Northern Ireland, and I caution the hon. Gentleman against using the incident to draw a general point. That being said, we should acknowledge that the police said that they did not know enough about the Romanian community at the time. Of course, they are looking at the matter, however, and I am again pleased to report that it looks as though it was an isolated set of incidents.

Margaret Ritchie, the Northern Ireland Minister with responsibility for housing, was saddened by the attacks, but not surprised. In light of that, does the right hon. Gentleman anticipate any more attacks, and what provisions have been made against that eventuality?

All of us were extremely disappointed that the attacks took place. I draw the hon. Gentleman’s attention to the fact that every political leader, led again by the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, condemned the attacks. Regrettably, there can be intimidation in any community, but let us be clear: race attacks should be condemned, wherever they take place.

Does not what happened show that parts of Northern Ireland are still deeply divided and segregated, including the divided communities in Belfast? What is the Secretary of State doing to encourage all Departments across the spectrum to develop the framework of “A Shared Future” and an integrated society in Northern Ireland, so that the process of reconciliation and healing can begin and the community can become genuinely welcoming to people from outside its borders?

As the investment made from the United States indicates, Northern Ireland today is a genuinely welcoming community. My hon. Friend referred to the need to continue to build on “A Shared Future”; the First Minister is here today, and I know that he very much believes in that. But let us be clear. The best way in which we can build a shared future is to complete stage 2 devolution of policing and justice—[Interruption.]

Order. A lot of private conversations are taking place, and frankly the decibel level is too high. That is unfair to the Member asking the question and to the Minister answering it.

Does the Secretary of State agree that, whether a person is an immigrant or from the indigenous population in Northern Ireland, all threats, intimidation and murder, whether emanating from a person within the Northern Ireland community or from dissident republicans in Northern Ireland, must be condemned and stopped?

I welcome the hon. Gentleman’s comments. Of course such things must be condemned and stopped, and we all have a duty to make that happen. The best example that we can now give the people of Northern Ireland is to ensure that stage 1 devolution continues to work and delivers for people and that we show, sooner rather than later, that the politicians of Northern Ireland can share the responsibility for policing and justice as well.