Nazi symbols outside ability cafe 'shocking' for staff

David Edmont
David Edmont says he had to reassure staff that the grafitti was "nothing to do with them" [BBC]

The director of a training organisation for people with learning disabilities has said that finding Nazi symbols outside his shop was "shocking and disturbing".

David Edmont is a managing director of the Bridge Association, a not-for-profit training organisation, who run Hug a Mug ability cafe in Castle Mall in Antrim.

Swastikas were sprayed on the main entrance of the shopping centre and the external wall at the back of their shop, was sprayed with Nazi symbols overnight on Sunday.

He said it was particularly hard for those trainees who "don't fully understand the situation".

After asking what the symbols meant, staff with learning disabilities had to be reassured that the graffiti was "nothing to do with them".

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) said they are investigating five reports of racist graffiti and are treating them as racially motivated hate crimes.

On Tuesday, a 30-year-old man was arrested and later released on bail by police investigating the incidents.

Speaking on the BBC's The Nolan Show earlier, Mr Edmont explained the "horror" of having to explain the symbols to staff.

"Our adults have learning disabilities and they do not understand the tension that goes on," he added.

Mr Edmont called for the newly-elected MP for South Antrim, Ulster Unionist Robin Swann, to take action.

Speaking at Stormont on Monday, Mr Swann said he had asked to meet police to discuss the racist graffiti.

Northern Ireland Policing Board chairman Mukesh Sharma said the spate of "particularly sinister" racist graffiti is "condemned" by the board.

"Those who perpetrate hate crime are intent on creating a climate of fear where people don’t feel safe and are afraid," he said.

"If hate crime is to be eradicated from our society then it needs a collective societal response, in parallel with a policing one."

Mr Sharma added how the PSNI responds to hate crime is an area that the board "does keep under close review" and that it has asked the chief constable for "renewed focus to be brought to securing better criminal justice outcomes for hate crimes perpetrated".

In a statement, the PSNI said it received reports of racist graffiti daubed on properties in five areas of the town between Sunday and Monday morning.

The areas affected were Parkhall Road, Fountainhill, Craigmore Park, Market Street area and the Castle Mall.

"Local police will work with partners to have the graffiti removed, and a noticeable policing presence will continue this week in and around the Antrim and wider area," the statement added.

'Forced displacement'

Patrick Corrigan, Northern Ireland director of human rights charity Amnesty International, said that the graffiti was part of a "sustained campaign of sectarian and racist intimidation across Antrim going back to May".

"This isn’t just a bit of graffiti, this is forced displacement of people from their homes by an organised violent campaign of intimidation", he told the Nolan Show.

He called on the police and lawful authorities to "bring those responsible to account" and "send a clear signal that this is not acceptable in Northern Ireland in 2024".

He said that those responsible were "organised", "armed probably" and "certainly dangerous paramilitary gangs".

"The sad fact is through campaign of intimidation the racists are winning because people have been forced out of the community".