Over 4,000 attend anti-racism march in Belfast
Northern Ireland must ‘stand up against sectarianism and racism’ Anna Lo tells march
The people of Northern Ireland must “stand up against sectarianism and racism”, Stormont Assembly member Anna Lo told an anti racism march in Belfast yesterday.
Her comments came just days after the Hong Kong-born Alliance MLA said she did not feel safe living in Northern Ireland following a recent surge in racist hate crimes. She also said she would not seek re-election in 2016 as she was fed up with “tribal politics”.
Addressing yesterday’s march Ms Lo called on all of the people of Northern Ireland to “stand up against sectarianism and racism” adding that a racial equality strategy was required for Stormont to take the lead in tackling racism and to ensure that ethnic minorities “feel safe living in their homes ... feel safe walking down the street.”
She said she would not leave Northern Ireland following the thousands of messages of goodwill and support she had received after she made her remarks and joking that her home and office were “like a florist”.
The march, which attracted a crowd of 4,000 people according to PSNI estimates, follows a number of racist attacks in Northern Ireland in recent months.
It also comes in the wake of comments made by fundamentalist Protestant preacher, Pastor James McConnell who described Islam as heathen and satanic.
Northern Ireland’s first minister Peter Robinson, later sparked controversy when, in an interview published in the Irish News he said he would not trust Muslims involved in violence or who fully subscribed to Sharia law but would “trust them to go to the shops” for him.
He later said his remarks had been “given a meaning that was never intended” and insisted he would never wish to insult or distress Muslims. He also apologised in private to members of Belfast’s Islamic Centre.
However, addressing the march yesterday, Mohammed Samaana, an NHS nurse working in Northern Ireland, called on Mr Robinson to issue a public apology.
A further march, organised by Amnesty International, the Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions and the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities is due to take place in Belfast next Saturday.
Organisers said the march had been called to reassure ethnic and religious minorities in Northern Ireland that they are a welcome and integral part of the community and to call for effective and united political leadership against racism.