Alliance Party MLA, Sean Neeson, has welcomed the publication this week of a NIO Consultation Paper on Race Crime and Sectarian Crime Legislation in Northern Ireland.
Speaking after attending the consultation launch at the Indian Community Centre in Belfast, Sean Neeson said:
“Alliance has been campaigning for the introduction of Hate Crime Laws into Northern Ireland for several years. When I was party leader, I presented our proposals to the then Secretary of State, Peter Mandelson. We are pleased that the NIO have now responded with this important consultation paper.
“Hate crimes based on sectarianism have been a tragic reality life in Northern Ireland for many years. The brutal crucifixion of Harry McCartan in Dunmurry was only the latest example of this problem. Unfortunately, there has been a steady growth in sectarian attacks in places like Larne, and sadly, racist attacks are also on the increase in this society.
“Indeed, the very first racist murder took place in Carrick a few years ago, when Simon Tang was killed.
“Sectarian and racist crimes do not just affect the direct victims, but spread fear throughout the community, and offend the values of a shared, inclusive society. Legislation could provide for stiffer sentences when a sectarian or racist motive behind a criminal offence can be established in court. These laws would cover attacks against both the person and property.
“Such measures have been employed in Great Britain since 1998. A Home Office sponsored study has recently vindicated these laws. It is time to extend this protection to Northern Ireland. Alliance would call for people to respond enthusiastically to this consultation and for the Government to legislate speedily thereafter.”