Friday, June 19, 2009

Leaders meet Romanian ambassador

The first and deputy first ministers have met the Romanian ambassador at Stormont to discuss the recent spate of racist attacks.

More than 100 people fled their homes on Tuesday and were given shelter overnight in church hall before being temporarily re-housed on Wednesday.

On Wednesday night, a window was smashed in a house occupied by a Romanian family in east Belfast.

Police said the incident on the Upper Newtownards Road was a hate crime.

After meeting Dr Ion Jinga, First Minister Peter Robinson said: "We are a country that sends out many of its young people around the world and every one of us would hope and expect that when they go into other countries that they are given the best of treatment.

"We want to reciprocate that friendship and treatment to everyone who comes to Northern Ireland."

Meanwhile, the chief constable has defended his force's response to the attacks.

Sir Hugh Orde said they attended incidents in south Belfast within 10 minutes but added that it was a complicated picture.

He said that if people had wanted to stay in their homes his officers "would have protected" them.

"If people want to leave an area our job is to protect them as they go ... I can't stop people moving," he said.

The PSNI response was supported by Northern Ireland's policing board.

Chairman Barry Gilligan said there had been inaccuracies in suggestions that police had not responded quickly to pleas for help.

999 calls

He said: "There is a factual record which shows the response ran from immediate to 10 minutes. There is no question of 999 calls not being responded to after 90 minutes."

But Mr Gilligan said it was not a matter for police alone as racism was a "huge problem" in society.

More than 20 Romanian families, who are members of the Roma ethnic group, have spent the past two nights in temporary accommodation. They have been told they can stay there for at least a week.

Doctor Jinga said the authorities had acted promptly to provide help to the families.

Earlier on Thursday, Romanian Consul General Mihai Delcea met Social Development Minister Margaret Ritchie to discuss the attacks and later met the families in emergency accommodation.

No comments: