Death threat for anti-racism campaigner

A Belfast-based anti-racism campaigner has received a death threat for trying to help the Romanian families targeted in the recent wave of violent attacks in south Belfast.meehan_104963tPaddy Meehan, who came to the aid of his Romanian neighbours in the aftermath of last week’s racist attacks against immigrant families, said he had been issued with a warning from police that his home could be firebombed.Mr Meehan had helped organise an anti-racism protest earlier this week which was disrupted by youths throwing bottles.Mr Meehan said he was given a warning from police last night which stated that they had received “anonymous information which states that persons unknown intend to firebomb the home of Patrick Meehan”.The warning added that this was “believed to be connected to your recent involvement in protests about Romanian nationals”.Mr Meehan was forced to spend the night elsewhere, but said that he would not be deterred from helping those being targeted by racists.“I’m very upset that they would target my home and this is a very cowardly way of doing it,” he said.“I’m not intending on leaving the area, I want to make that very plain.“My message to these people is that they are isolated, they have nothing to offer the people of the area. They have just shown their cowardly actions by targeting a very vulnerable section of people and now they have tried to go after the people who have tried to defend them.“It is important that local communities are mobilised to defeat these groups now while they are small and that is exactly what I and other local residents are now determined to do.”A PSNI spokeswoman said last night: “We do not discuss the security of individuals. However, if we receive information that a person’s life may be at risk we will inform them accordingly. We never ignore anything which may put an individual at risk.”Meanwhile, the Policing Board has defended the PSNI following criticism for the way police handled the attacks on Romanian families in south Belfast. Chairman of the Policing Board Barry Gilligan said following |a meeting with Chief Constable Sir Hugh Orde on the situation |yesterday members are satisfied that police reacted in a |professional manner.He said: “Board members questioned the Chief Constable in some detail around the police response and in particular response times. A chronology of incidents and response times was provided to board members. Members are satisfied that the police responded promptly to all of the incidents in question.”However Mr Meehan rejected claims that the police response to the situation was appropriate and timely.“I don’t think the Policing Board have been given all the facts about what happened,” he said.“You only had to look at Jon Snow’s interview with Assistant Chief Constable Alistair Finlay on Channel Four to see that there have been serious failings.“I have spoken to the families since they moved to their new accommodation to make sure they are all right and reiterate that we will do anything to help them. They are relieved they are now in a safe place and they can get a decent rest, but they are still determined that they are going to |return to Romania.”The attacks on the families, including another attack on a family living in east Belfast on Wednesday night, continue to attract condemnation, with the National Children’s Bureau Northern Ireland claiming the violence demonstrates that a significant level of racism is prevalent in Northern Ireland.Celine McStravick, director of the charity, said she was deeply concerned by the latest attacks which displaced further members of the Romanian community.She said: “It is critical that this treatment of vulnerable members of our society is seen as a symptom of underlying ignorance and mistrust. We must continue to invest in our children and young people, building understanding of the strengths of diversity.”

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