Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 26 July 2014

Mayor sorry for 'best' riot comment

The police shooting of Mark Duggan in north London sparked a wave of rioting that spread across parts of the UK

A politician has apologised after she said 2011's riots were "the best thing that's happened" in her community for a while.

Mayor of Haringey Sheila Peacock's comments about Tottenham - dubbed the "epicentre" of the riots two years ago by its MP David Lammy - have been described as "stupid and offensive" after residents were forced to flee as homes and businesses burned.

She was speaking in What's Wrong With Tottenham?, a short film by Anthony Tim Ogunmuyiwa, who defended the politician's "good intentions" in trying to highlight the plight of the area to Government.

In the interview for the eight-minute documentary, the mayor of Haringey - which includes Tottenham - said: "The second riots that we've just had was the best thing that's happened in Tottenham for a while. My reason for saying that is all of a sudden the Government is now starting to pump money into Tottenham. Because Haringey is an out-of-London borough, so we don't get as much money as Islington or Hackney, we've been struggling for years."

Richard Wilson, leader of the Liberal Democrat group at Haringey council, said the mayor's comments have not been well received by those affected by the riots, which were sparked when police shot Mark Duggan in north London.

He said: "I was in shock and disbelief that she could say something so stupid and offensive to the people who lost their homes and businesses. I'm pretty sure if the mayor's house had been burnt down, she wouldn't have said those things. I'm pleased she has apologised."

Patrick Regan, founder and chief executive of urban youth charity XLP, also condemned the mayor's comments., saying "It was devastating for us to see young people, including some we know, effectively destroying their own communities. People lost everything in those riots so I think to say they are the best thing to happen to an area is insensitive.

"Complex issues led to the riots, and I think the money is a short-term solution. It needs to be spent in the right places, on proper prevention ideas and education. We have to work harder on the intervention side of things - spending money on short-term ideas will just be like sticking plasters over the real problems."

Film-maker Mr Ogunmuyiwa, 34, said he knew Ms Peacock's comments would be thought-provoking, but said the mayor had no need to apologise, adding: "It is important Sheila's comments aren't taken out of context. She did not mean any harm by what she said, she had good intentions and is a truly lovely lady. She has tried to speak up for the people of Tottenham, to create a change. I can understand why some people may have been upset by her comments but I believe she was only trying to do her best. She had good intentions."

A council spokesman said Ms Peacock was out of the country, but issued a statement from the mayor, saying: "As many people know, I have lived all of my life in Tottenham and am very proud to be an ambassador for the area I love. It was certainly not my intention for my comments to cause any offence, and I'm very sorry if they did."

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