Mathews responds to vicious attacks in Larne

Alliance Councillor John Mathews has said he fears there will be a Stephen Lawrence-style murder in Larne if sectarian attacks in the town do not stop.

Mr Mathews was speaking in the wake of a number of vicious attacks on members of the Catholic community in Larne.

Mr Mathews said he had met the local PSNI Superintendent the day before the attack to discuss sectarian attacks, and he encouraged the Government to urgently introduce Hate Crime legislation to allow longer sentencing for sectarian attacks.

Mr Mathews said: “These ongoing attacks are must be condemned, and I welcome the fact that this has been across the board in Larne — there must be no equivocation.

“But condemnation will not help those members of the community, particularly Catholics, who have been subject to a horrific campaign of sectarian intimidation and violence in Larne.

“My greatest fear is that one of these gangs wandering the streets of Larne will eventually wind up killing an innocent Catholic, as almost happened a few days ago. Sectarianism and racism are two sides of the same coin, so I do not think I am exaggerating when I say that Larne will have to deal with a murder like that of Stephen Lawrence in 1993.”

East Antrim Assembly member Sean Neeson said: “It is essential that we get as many police onto the streets as possible, but that requires the Government listening. The PSNI is well under resourced and under strength – well below the number of officers Patten recommended.

“There is also a big responsibility on the shoulders of the decent people of Larne, and that involves reporting suspicious activity as soon as it comes to light. That will take courage, as these gangs rule through fear, but unless the community unites against these criminals, they have already won.

“But the kind of hatred infesting our streets is bringing Larne’s good name into the gutter, and all sections of the community are sick, sore and tired of this raw hatred.

“I would urge the Government to urgently look at implementing Hate Crime legislation. This would allow magistrates and judges to hand out longer sentences to those convicted of sectarian attacks.

“Alliance will be sending its own Hate Crime proposals to the PSNI in Larne. This is a very important matter. I believe new Hate Crime laws could play a significant part in discouraging sectarian and racist attacks throughout Northern Ireland.”

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