Racist and homophobic attacks increasing in Derry

The couple have been speaking about what happened

There has been a rise in racist attacks in the Foyle area over the last year.

Police said there were 17 more incidents compared to the previous 12-month period. Homophobic attacks increased from eight to 10.The figures came to light after two men were assaulted in Londonderry at the weekend. They said they were targeted because they are gay.

The couple, aged 22 and 38, were beaten by three men in the city centre at about 0200 BST on Saturday morning.

The police are treating it as a homophobic attack.

"I believe there are low-level hate incidents that happen on a day and daily basis," said Inspector Tony Callaghan.

"Whether it's race based, religion based, sectarian, homophobic or relating to disabilities. People out there are suffering in silence."

The men attacked on Saturday morning suffered cuts and bruising to their faces.

One of the men, who did not want to be identified, said it had affected both of them badly.

"I'm terrified of going to bed, I'm terrified walking down the street," he said.

"I've got to walk my fella to his work because he's terrified.

"It's just absolutely soul destroying and it's not on."

'Sinister'

David McCartney from gay support group Rainbow Project said the impact of a hate attack was "quite extraordinary".

"It's not that random, violent assault," he said.

"There is something more sinister and more hateful and hurtful to it and you're left feeling you don't belong.

"You're left feeling you're not a part of this community, you're singled out, set apart and picked upon."

Foyle MP Mark Durkan said the attack was "sickening".

"Regardless of whether it expresses itself in the sort of wanton attack on this gay couple or in the subtle prejudice we see all too often, homophobia is inexcusable.

"As a community we need to show our solidarity with those who suffer this awful prejudice. And we need to show those who attack them that it is they who are in the tiny minority in this society."

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