Belfast unites against hate crime at City Hall
6 October 2010
Exploring how sport, drama and even play can help in the fight against hate crime was just one of the topics up for discussion at a special event at Belfast City Hall.
Belfast Lord Mayor Councillor Pat Convery hosted the third annual hate crime convention which will see community, voluntary and statutory organisations come together to focus on how they can bring about tangible results in tackling hate crime in Belfast and beyond.
The event, organised by Belfast City Council under its `Safer Belfast` plan, provides an opportunity to share best practice and develop new ideas to tackle all aspects of hate crime including sectarianism, racism, homophobia and transphobia.
Councillor Convery said: As Lord Mayor of Belfast I feel it`s important to acknowledge all the hard work that is going on to tackle hate crime in our city. Belfast is a growing, vibrant city and not only is it attracting tourists, it`s also attracting people from different ethnic backgrounds who want to make this great city their home.
Through working together with our partners and various agencies we`ve learnt that to tackle hate crime, we must get to the root of the problem. Belfast has seen many changes over the last few years and we are still in a period of transition. Change can make people uneasy and fearful, which can so often be a catalyst in hate crime-related incidents. I believe it is our responsibility to help manage that change, and promote understanding and acceptance among communities.
Guest speakers were Brendan McGuigan from Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland, Paul Iganski, senior lecturer in Social Justice at Lancaster University, and Neil Denton from Newcastle City Council.
During the last year a number of initiatives have been developed by Belfast City Council to help tackle hate crime including a tension monitoring programme.
Belfast City Council Community Safety Co-ordinator Richard McLernon said: This initiative was borne out of last year`s annual convention and it encourages our partners to share information on tensions that may exist within communities so that we can intervene early on to hopefully stop the situation escalating.
We`ve found this model has been very successful in helping to reduce tensions around the Roma community in south Belfast, as well as helping to address issues with the Travelling community in the west of the city.
Through working with its partners, Belfast City Council has developed a draft strategy, to be discussed at today`s event. It has highlighted four key priorities for tackling hate crime:
increase reporting/recording of hate crime-related incidents
prevention by way of early intervention
improve support for victims of hate crime
improve the multi-agency response to hate crime
The council, through the Belfast Community Safety Partnership, is also helping to fund a number of initiatives to tackle hate crime. These include:
working with The Rainbow Project on how to report crime and find support
promoting tolerance through sport at Midland Tigers Bay Boxing Club improving relationships inside and outside the ring
Fortwilliam and Mount Vernon youth meeting Polish youths to promote understanding and good relations following a spate of attacks on ethnic minority homes in the area
engaging schoolchildren from the Iveagh area of Belfast to proactively address the change in demographics of their area as a growing number of people from ethnic minorities come to live there
development of a series of hate crime-related plays to be delivered by Tinderbox Theatre Company
For more information on hate crime visit www.belfastcity.gov.uk/hatecrime
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