There has been widespread condemnation of a racist attack in Rathcoole at the weekend which forced a young family to flee their home.
Shortly after 9.30pm on Sunday (March 16), police received a report that a car parked outside a house at Ballyronan Park had been set on fire.
The windows of the vehicle had been smashed and a petrol bomb thrown inside.
The family’s car was completely destroyed. The front door of their house and a downstairs window were also damaged in the incident.
It is believed that several males were involved in the attack, which police are treating as “a racially motivated hate crime.”
The family, thought to be from Eastern Europe, had only recently moved into the privately rented property. It’s understood they moved out shortly after the attack.
One local man, who didn’t want to be named, described the victims as “a quiet wee family who pretty much kept themselves to themselves.”
Condemning the attack, Mayor Fraser Agnew said: “There are people from all walks of life living in Rathcoole now and there’s never a problem and never an issue, so I can’t understand why someone would have done this.
“There may be some people who see people from other countries or other backgrounds as a threat to our heritage, our culture and our way of life, but that’s just not the case.
“We should be welcoming people from other countries and other cultures into our communities.”
North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds added: “There is no place for racial attacks or intimidation in our society. Such crimes totally undermine law and order and destabilise local communities. Those responsible for this act of racist thuggery do not represent the decent people of Rathcoole. They must be exposed and brought before the courts to face justice.”
The attack was also condemned by Macedon councillors John Scott and Billy Webb.
“This attack was absolutely disgraceful. People should be allowed to get on with their lives in peace,” Cllr Scott commented.
“The thugs who did this put people’s lives at risk. Not only the lives of those who were in the house they attacked, but also those in neighbouring properties.”
Cllr Webb added: “There is no place in our society for any such hate crime. No one deserves to be the victim of such a racially motivated attack.
“The vast majority of the public have been welcoming to people from all backgrounds. I am disgusted that these people have been targeted in this manner.”
Ken Wilkinson, the PUP’s candidate for the area in the upcoming local government election, described the incident as “attempted murder” and said there could be “no excuse for such attacks.”
SDLP Councillor Noreen McClelland stressed that “no family should have to live in fear of attack, regardless of colour or creed.” And she said that those responsible “will rightly be rejected by the community.”
Investigating officers have appealed for anyone with information about the incident to contact them at Newtownabbey Station on 0845 600 8000, or to call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.