THERE has been a rise in the recorded number of racist, homophobic and sectarian crimes in the Fermanagh and Omagh Policing District from 2017/18 to 2018/19.

This reflects a Northern Ireland wide pattern with these three types of hate crimes on the up throughout the whole country.

Northern Ireland saw a 15.3 per cent increase in the number of racist crimes from 2017/18 to 2018/19 while there was a 60 per cent jump in the recorded number of such crimes in Fermanagh and Omagh.

However, with just six racist crimes recorded in this policing district in 2017/18 and 10 in 2018/19, the numbers are still low here.

Overall, Fermanagh and Omagh accounted for only 1.4 per cent of the 702 racist crimes recorded in Northern Ireland in 2018/19.

Meanwhile there were eight homophobic crimes recorded in Fermanagh and Omagh’s policing district in 2018/19 while there were none in 2017/18. Throughout Northern Ireland there was a 22.6 per cent jump in such crimes – from 163 in 2017/18 to 201 in 2018/19.

Fermanagh and Omagh also saw a small increase in the number of sectarian crimes from 18 in 2017/18 to 22 in 2018/19, making up 3.5% of the number recorded, Northern Ireland wide, this year.

The PSNI’s Inspector Hoy said: “The number of hate crimes recorded in the Fermanagh area remains low.

“Officers engage with a wide range of key stakeholders and partner agencies to address issues of concern across the local community.

“Despite this, any hate crime is wrong. We take this type of offence very seriously.

“We will actively investigate any reports and seek to bring those responsible before the courts.

“It is wrong on all levels and we will do everything to keep members of the local community free from prejudice, fear and discrimination.

“Officers continue to provide a visible policing presence across Fermanagh and are always keen to engage and reassure with anyone within the local community.” This follows the news in The Impartial Reporter that Nazi and UVF graffiti was daubed on the walls of the historic Portora Castle.

Police initially stated they couldn’t find a report of the graffiti but have since confirmed a report was made sometime between Wednesday, May 29 and Friday, June 5 at around 1.15pm.

This branch of DfC has jurisdiction over sites and monuments in Northern Ireland representing all periods of human settlement from around 7,000 BC to the 20th century.

Escapade, a local theatre company, put on a performance of the play Antigone from Wednesday, June 12 – Saturday, June 15 in the historic castle while the offensive graffiti remained on its walls.

Regarding the graffiti, Inspector Hoy confirmed enquiries are continuing and the incident is being treated as a hate crime.

“We would appeal to anyone with any information regarding this incident to contact police on 101, quoting reference number 1152 5/6/19,” he added.

“Alternatively, information can also be provided to the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 which is 100 per cent anonymous and gives people the power to speak up and stop crime.” Commenting on the Nazi graffiti on Protora Castle, Rosa Santiago-McCrystal Kelly – who is originally from the Philippines but runs the Goodwill charity gift shop in Omagh – told the Impartial Reporter: “Life is too short to hate each other.

“All people have the right to live where they believe that they can enhance their quality of life.

“I, as a member of a minority ethnic community, have chosen to live here in Northern Ireland, and have made sacrifices to be so far away from my loved ones.

“It is a big decision to make and it is the bravest move that I have ever done in my life.

“I hope, and I do believe, most people are not racist. To them I say thank you for welcoming us.

“However, many of us have made here our home and when hate messages are spread, it is very difficult for us to convince ourselves that we can stay and continue to enhance the local community.”

In a direct message to those who painted the graffiti on the walls of the historic castle, Rosa said: “Can you please imagine yourself in our shoes. How would you feel?”

Rosa is currently in the middle of writing a book about her life experiences which she hopes to have published in the next few months.

“I just want to leave a legacy that some people of Northern Ireland, especially people from the Philippines, can use to remember me when I am gone,” she said.