Published Monday, 28 April 2014
The number of racist attacks in NI is on the rise. (© UTV)
Last Monday, two young Polish men and a Polish woman were attacked in Lawnmount Street in east Belfast by a fifteen strong gang.
They were kicked and beaten with golf clubs. One victim lost two teeth, the others suffered severe cuts and bruising.
Racist attacks are increasing at a dramatic rate, up 43 per cent in Northern Ireland and 70 per cent in Belfast since last year.
Deeply concerned, the Polish Consul is going to meet police chiefs, and community and political leaders in Belfast next week to try and bring an end to the attacks - many of which the police are blaming on the UVF.
Jerome Mullen, Honorary Polish Consul for NI, told UTV: "When you consider the contribution that the Polish community and the Polish society has made, particularly in relation to the 2nd World War when they fought side by side with British forces in that 2nd World War and made a huge contribution.
"It is very, very hard to understand why the Polish people are being selected out in this way."
While racist attacks are increasing in the region so too are efforts to change attitudes and educate young people that cultural differences should be celebrated, not confronted.
Football matches are being organised in Belfast involving young people from different cultures in an attempt to change attitudes in the region.
The group Alternatives, which mediates between those who carry out racist attacks and their victims is organising a football tournament on the 16th May involving young people from all over the world who have made Northern Ireland their home.
Brian Armstrong, of Alternatives, said: "We want to show young people within our four sites of south, north, east and west Belfast that we can use sport as a tool of engagement, to let them see that young people can integrate from different backgrounds and from all different countries throughout the world."
There's a large Polish population in the Co Armagh town of Lurgan.
The Parish Priest of St Peter's Church told UTV that a lot of work has been done to help them feel welcome in the community.
Monsignor Aidan Hamill said: "Well, the Polish community is very much part of our parish life. For example they have mass in Polish every week and they have other Polish occasions as well, sometimes in the hall.
"Yesterday it was a big day for the Poles, with the canonisation of John Paul the 2nd in Rome."
© UTV News