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'Deliberate' fire at Belfast multicultural centre investigated as hate crime

Fire crews were called to a blaze in south Belfast on Thursday night.

Image: PA

POLICE BELIEVE A fire in Belfast that damaged a multicultural centre on Thursday was a hate crime.

The Police Service Northern Ireland (PSNI) have said that the fire, which it is treating as a hate crime, was likely started deliberately.

PSNI Chief Inspector Gavin Kirkpatrick said it is “believed this fire, which resulted in significant damage to the property, was started deliberately”.

“We have begun an investigation and are working alongside our Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service colleagues,” Kirkpatrick said.

Police received a report of the fire at a building used by the Belfast Multicultural Association in the Donegall Pass area of south Belfast around 9pm on Thursday evening.

The Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service said that fire crews were dealing with a “significant building fire”, with 50 team members working to tackle the blaze.

None of the centre’s volunteers were injured, the association said.

“We are immensely grateful to the fire services who were there promptly and we look forward to hearing from the investigations that will follow,” the association said in a statement.

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“We are heartbroken and shocked by these events but it will not deter us from any of our work: our volunteers despite shaken are determined not to let down the communities we support.”

Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said that the attack on the centre was “an attack on our entire community”.

“We must all stand united with one voice against hate,” O’Neill said.

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