Had the mob thought about it, they might have noticed the parallels between themselves and the images and footage of others attired with white robes and hoods as they on occasion amassed outside the homes of black families in the southerly states of the USA. Then they are probably not the type given to thinking and maybe if they were they would regard it as something to be proud of, seeing themselves as the Continuity KKK or something.
The PSNI are treating it as a hate crime, something Brannigan is adamant about, stating that his home was attacked by "thugs and racists". What else is it other than a hate crime? What else are the attackers other than thugs and racists?
The attack went on for three hours which has to raise questions about the deficiency in service of policing that is being delivered to the area. It also seems incredible that given the concentration of former republican prisoners in West Belfast, regardless of where their allegiances now lie or what groups they are aligned to - or none - they appear to have been unable to band together and defend the Brannigan home from racist attack.
It is galling to think that anybody is subject to that type of prejudice and hate, made more stinging for former republican prisoners to rue that one of their own number from the days of the H Blocks is not safe from racist attack in the heart of West Belfast. It resonates jarringly of Nazi gangs attacking Jewish people in Israel.
It is facile to explain away violence against people dismissed as ‘foreigners” as something only loyalist communities have a penchant for. Nationalist areas are not, as Brannigan observed, without their own virulence.
My own nationalist and republican community has a healthier attitude. More progressive and open-minded, I would suggest, but by no means is it unblemished.
In the same piece, five years ago, written for the Guardian, Brannigan gave an indication that West Belfast is not some racism-free paradise.
I was born in Belfast and I am black. I endured a barrage of racist abuse over decades from British soldiers and the police. With a Falls Road upbringing in a republican family and a seven-year jail term spent in the H-Blocks during the 1990s, I'd have thought my bona fides as an Irishman were pretty impeccable. To this day, though, the question I hear most is: "Where are you from?" When I tell people I'm from Belfast, they invariably throw in the supplementary: "Where are you really from?" There's no way an Irish person could possibly be black is the unspoken subtext.
What happened at the weekend is a despicable act of racist violence against a black guy in West Belfast. There is no other way to see it. As Tim Brannigan rightly points out he is a card carrying member of the West Belfast community, he is “not here to be tolerated.”
Tim Brannigan is author of Where Are You Really From?