Newry Mourne and Down District Council have supported a motion presented by Councillor Willie Clarke opposing racism, xenophobia and hate crimes.
Councillor Clarke said: “We are proud to live in a diverse and tolerant society. Racism, xenophobia and hate crimes have no place in our country. Newry Mourne and Down condemn racism, xenophobia and hate crimes unequivocally. We will not allow hate to become acceptable.
“Newry Mourne and Down District Council will work to ensure local bodies and programmes have support and resources needed to fight and prevent racism and xenophobia, and we will reassure all people living in our district that they are valued members of our community.”
Cllr Clarke added: “SinnFéin are supporting the Amnesty International campaign against hate crimes and have submitted this motion for consideration by Council. We are hoping for all-Party Support and that this will become the policy of the Council.
“Amnesty International’s campaign has a clear objective… supporters who were concerned about the reported rise of racist and xenophobic incidents and hate crimes since the EU referendum were to ask their local councillors to table this motion at their next appropriate council meeting. The rise in hate crime was primarily in England, but levels have slightly reduced in the North of Ireland compared to last year.”
“This motion sends out a very positive message if the statement is made that Newry Mourne and Down is a tolerant, place to live for all citizens, We have a lot of people who are immigrants working here, a lot of citizens from many different ethnic backgrounds working in our hospitals, schools, agri-food and fishing industries, and also in further education.
“Therefore, this is an opportunity for council to stand up and show their rejection of racism in all its forms. It is also about showing support and solidarity for our ethnic minority communities who have contributed so much to the cultural diversity of our society.
“Nobody should have to live in fear. So it is vital that the PSNI, Council, local businesses, statutory stakeholders and the wider community all work together and take a zero tolerance approach to hate crimes, wherever and whenever they occur. Our Council area is a great place to live because it is a vibrant and a diverse community.”
Councillors Back The Motion
Alliance Councillor Patrick Brown seconded Cllr Clarke’s motion saying: “There have been a few racist outbursts since the Brexit debate and even homophobic attacks are up by 75% in the UK.
“The Alliance Party is lobbying for a single equality bill to help tackle hate crime.”
Councillor Billy Walker said: “We must condemn all the hate crimes in the Province. The PSNI figures are not showing a rise in hate crime in our district, however, we do need to support this motion and reject hate crimes etc.”
Councillor Cadogan Enright (Independent) said: “I am reliving the experience I had in England in the 1960’s when I can remember the signs in the windows saying ‘No Irish, No Blacks and No Dogs.’
“As a governor of an Irish speaking school I can say that children in that school have been assaulted on buses going to school.
“Some people in this chamber still manifest this thinking of the past.”
Councillor David Taylor (UUP) said: “It is important that we show tolerance across society. Nobody who lives in the Protestant and Loyalist community would expect anyone to be deprived the way this community has experienced by ramming views down the throats of people… it is hypocritical.”
Councillor Pete Byrne (SDLP) said: “We are happy to support this motion. Councillor Walker said there was no rise in hate crimes but many of these are not reported. Th message from this chamber must be to promote equality and fairness for everybody.”
Councillor Barra O Múiri added: “The people in Newry and Mourne were traded with the utmost respect. Nothing was rammed down their throats. Where is the evidence that they [the Protestant/Loyalist community] were more attacked. It is so unbelievable stupid.”