Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 21 August 2014

DUP sidelines race slur councillor Dineen Walker - as Peter Robinson prepares to revisit Islam centre

Dineen Walker made comments online following Anna Lo's impassioned statement on racism
Dineen Walker made comments online following Anna Lo's impassioned statement on racism
Outburst: Dineen Walker
Outburst: Dineen Walker
Angry: Anna Lo
Angry: Anna Lo

A DUP councillor who called Alliance MLA Anna Lo a racist has paid the price after being uncermoniously dumped by her party as candidate for mayor in the latest twist in the racism row.

Newtownabbey deputy mayor Dineen Walker was a front runner to become mayor but ruined her chances after she said: "Funny because I see Anna Lo as racist!!!!! Towards the people of Northern Ireland" on Twitter.

The DUP immediately distanced itself from her Twitter remarks.

Mrs Walker made her comments during the storm over Pastor James McConnell's statements on Islam which were subsequently defended by party leader Peter Robinson.

The sermon by Mr McConnell, in which he described Islam as "Satanic" and a "doctrine spawned in Hell", was first reported by this newspaper on May 21.

Mrs Lo then revealed she was thinking of quitting Northern Ireland because of the level of racism here and castigated Mr Robinson for his remarks, sparking the riposte from Mrs Walker.

Last night as Newtownabbey Borough Council met to determine who would take on the role, it is understood that the local DUP grouping had been told by the party to find another candidate.

Mrs Walker did not attend the meeting and the DUP then nominated councillor Thomas Hogg instead, and he was elected as mayor.

A spokesman for the DUP said: "Thomas was proposed by the party grouping for the position of mayor.

"He received support from the council and was elected.

"We wish him all the best for his year as mayor." SDLP councillor Noreen McClelland said: "You just have to be so careful in political life with what comments you are making."

Mrs Walker was unavailable for comment last night.

The move could be seen to reflect an attempt by the party to manage the crisis ahead of the First Minister's trade visit to Saudi Arabia later this year. There are growing calls for a public apology from the DUP leader over his statement that he would not trust Muslims for spiritual guidance, or those who followed Sharia law to the letter or who engaged in terrorism, but he would trust them to "go down the shops" for him.

Mr Robinson is due to revisit the Belfast Islamic Centre today in what's being seen as another attempt to defuse the situation.

The leader of the Ulster Unionist party Mike Nesbitt joined in with the calls as he visited the Islamic Centre yesterday.

He said: "I think it would be useful if the First Minister was to make a public apology."

Mrs Lo also hit out at the lack of a racial equality strategy which has been shelved for seven years after the DUP and Sinn Fein were unable to agree on a defintion of "equality". The document is now at last due to be put out for public consultation.

The move comes amid an upsurge in race hate crimes in recent months.

In the latest attack two Pakistani men were targeted in north Belfast and have now moved out of their home in Parkmount Street.

Yesterday Pastor McConnell visited the home of the two men and said he had offered to help pay for the damage.

A Polish family was also attacked in east Belfast recently.

Newly installed Presbyterian moderator the Reverend Michael Barry said it was "behaviour that must stop immediately".

Dr Barry said: "All such attacks are an affront to us as a democratic and civilised country.

"That is behaviour that must stop immediately."

Last night outgoing Lord Mayor Mairtin O' Muilleoir showed his solidarity with the local Muslim community by starting his final council meeting before standing down with a prayer for Belfast adapted for Islam.

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