Loyalist gangs targeting EU citizens

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A loyalist paramilitary group in the Dungannon area has posted an image of a masked gang alongside a caption threatening “foreign nationals” who they said were “from the nationalist end of the town”.

Residents of the County Tyrone town, which is predominately nationalist, have condemned the racist and sectarian threat issued in the name of “Moygashel loyalists”.

One photo (pictured) shows up to 15 men, some carrying weapons, patrolling the town’s public park. The gang’s ‘show of strength’ was accompanied by a statement that it “would never let our community live under the threat of foreign criminals”.

Racist incidents have increased in recent weeks across the North, with Polish, Romanian and other EU citizens all targeted in loyalist violence.

On Thursday, 19 August, a car was set ablaze during a series of race hate attacks on Romanian families. A child aged under two was among a group of people forced to flee their homes in northwest Belfast after they were targeted.

Two families, including other children, fled their homes after the attacks on Thursday evening in an area near Woodvale Avenue.

Windows were smashed in a property and a car was torched at Forth Parade (below, right). Windows in a second car parked on the same street were also smashed.

Minutes later a man entered a house in nearby Woodvale Avenue where a number of windows were broken.

The latest attacks come after two separate properties owned by a Portuguese woman in the same area. Up to nine masked loyalists armed with hammers carried out the attack.

Local nationalists have decried the attacks as ethnic cleansing with a sectarian dimension, as many of those targeted are from predominately Catholic countries.

The PSNI have admitted the attacks are a result of race hate, but have refused to name the group they believe is behind them.

Paul Doherty, the SDLP’s representative for west Belfast, said the attacks were “disturbing”.

“Nobody should fear an attack because of their background,” he said.

Fermanagh South Tyrone Sinn Féin MP Michell Gildernew condemned the paramilitary display in Dungannon, saying it “is nothing short of intimidation and an attempt to mark territory”.

“There can no absolutely no place for racism, xenophobia or any form of discrimination in our society,” she said.

The MP appealed for calm and called on those “in positions of influence in political unionism to demonstrate measured and responsible leadership before someone is killed or seriously injured by loyalist criminal gangs”

She also urged the PSNI to do all its power to ensure “there is no repeat of this intimidation.”

Aontú councillor Denise Mullen also called for action from the PSNI. She said: “The park is a place for all communities, a council owned and maintained facility.”

“Loyalists refer to the ‘nationalist end of the town’,” she said. “Is there a nationalist end of the town? Dungannon is multi-denominational and multi-cultural.”

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