Northern Ireland news

More than £70,000 in donations after race hate fire at multi-cultural centre `demonstrates real spirit of Belfast'

Police at the Belfast Multi-Cultural Association (BMCA) centre on Donegall Pass after the fire. Picture by Hugh Russell.

VOLUNTEERS who watched their work go up in flames after a racially aggravatated arson attack on the a multi-cultural centre will today receive more than £70,000 donated by thousands of well-wishers.

The historic listed building which housed the Belfast Multi-Cultural Association's (BMCA) food bank was gutted in the fire a month ago today.

The former church on Donegall Pass in the south of the city was the centre of a massive charity endeavour, with volunteers distributing packages to vulnerable people during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Their efforts are continuing from their own homes while trustees search for suitable alternative premises, with conservative estimates for rebuilding standing at two years.

An online appeal initially aimed to raise £10,000, but widespread revulsion saw donations flood in from across Northern Ireland and £71,733 was collected by the time the funding drive ended.

Muhammad Atif of the BMCA, said the attack "left us heartbroken, seeing our volunteers' work go up in flames".

"But the response to this appeal showed us that we have the support of the community in Belfast and far beyond. We will be forever grateful for this outpouring of love."

Patrick Corrigan of Amnesty International, who organised the fundraiser, said it has "demonstrated the real spirit of Belfast and the wider community.".

"It represents an act of love and solidarity towards those who have suffered the hatred of racist thugs. I want to thank every single donor to this appeal."

He called on the PSNI "to do their job".

"Police figures show that the vast majority of racist hate crimes in Northern Ireland go unpunished. That is simply unacceptable. This must be a safe and welcoming place for all. Right now, it’s not."

No-one has yet been charged with carrying out the attack, with two men, aged 42 and 49, arrested and released on bail.

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