POLICE say they will take action if they consider social media comments to be ‘potentially racist or criminal’ amid ongoing tensions in Ballymena regarding immigration into the town.
The message was outlined as part of a multi-agency statement in Ballymena as the authorities seek to reduce tensions around the issue of migrants.
Meetings, which have included the local council and police, have been held at ‘The Braid Ballymena Town Hall’ in recent days regarding the issue.
Thousands of comments regarding the migrant issue have been made by members of the public on social media in recent weeks and very strong language has been used in several cases.
The multi-agency groups have put together what they have described as a factsheet in a bid to reduce tensions.
And the sheet shows that police are monitoring social media.
The factsheet said: ‘Social media provides a forum for people to express their views, whether positive or negative.
‘The misuse of social media can cause significant reputational damage, negative impact and increased tensions. If the PSNI consider a message or post to be potentially criminal/racist they will take appropriate action.
‘As people from diverse nationalities, cultures and ethnic backgrounds make their home here and integrate with the existing community, community leaders need to have the facts around any issues real or perceived so these can be identified and addressed and that tensions can be resolved.’
The factsheet also covers areas like industry recruitment, housing, education and environmental issues.
The factsheet says: ‘Following on from a multi-agency meeting with political representatives regarding local community concerns, this first factsheet has been developed in partnership with statutory agencies.
‘It provides various information and reminds every one of the mechanisms through which any future concerns from the community or politicians can be reported and investigated.’
Meanwhile, the factsheet says the public can expect to see an increased visibility of police in Ballymena as a result of the heightened tensions.
The factsheet said: ‘Making sure that everyone feels safe is a priority for police and we are keen to work with our partners to reduce tensions and maintain a safe and peaceful community for all.
‘The public can expect to see increased visibility in the town centre and in our public spaces to provide reassurance to all who live, work and visit Ballymena and the wider Mid and East Antrim area.
‘We will continue to engage with all members of the community to address concerns, tackle criminality and provide reassurance. All this will be done in partnership with others to ensure social and other issues and concerns are addressed by the appropriate agency.’
The migration issue has dominated the news agenda in Ballymena in recent weeks.
Much attention from some quarters was directed at a legitimate weekly bus service coming from eastern Europe to Ballymena on Saturday nights.
On social media there had been calls for protests to be held at the drop-off points and issues and claims surrounding the Roma community in Ballymena were specifically raised by members of the public.
Police have been present when the bus arrived in recent weeks and it had to move its drop-off point because of the tensions.
An online page called ‘Concerned Residents of Ballymena’ said people in around 40 cars turned up at the drop-off point in the town on Saturday September 29 to ‘protest’ and the bus was diverted.
The group has organised a public meeting, due to be held in a community centre in the next few weeks, to discuss the migration issue.
In another development, ‘Britain First’ has been to Ballymena and its leader Paul Golding said they were going to hold a ‘Day Of Action’ regarding the migrant issue.