Belfast Telegraph

Anna Lo: Outpouring of support for Alliance politician quitting over ongoing racist abuse

By John Mulgrew

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has led an outpouring of support for Alliance MLA Anna Lo who today announced she was to quit politics due to ongoing racist abuse.

In an emotional interview at Stormont earlier today, Ms Lo noticeably teared up while discussing recent instances of race attacks and abuse across Northern Ireland.

Speaking to the Guardian newspaper later on Thursday, she said would not run again in the next Assembly elections in 2016.

Ms Lo - who has lived in Northern Ireland for almost 40 years - had said she was considering leaving Northern Ireland following comments made by First Minister Peter Robinson in support of a controversial pastor who denounced Islam.

The politician - who represents South Belfast and just last week ran as a candidate in the European elections - said she was "angry" at the backing given to Pastor James McConnell.

But this afternoon she announced she would not run for office again - sending shockwaves throughout social media.

Ms Lo's departure from front line politics led to a frenzy of support on Twitter - with the hashtag #istandwithanna trending across the network in Northern Ireland.

 

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It was first used back in February this year, when the MLA was subjected to a barrage of online abuse over comments she made.

She had suggested the removal of flags and sectarian murals during the Giro d'Italia - a call which sparked a backlash.

At the time Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg expressed his support for Ms Lo, whose targeting by online bigots ended up the subject of a police probe.

Among her widespread support online today, Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness took to Twitter to offer his "support and solidarity".

Party colleague, East Belfast MP Naomi Long, described said her friend was "courageous and inspiring".

She tweeted: "NI needs Anna today more than Anna needs NI. Not just my colleague, she's my friend. She is courageous and inspiring."

Speaking earlier on Thursday morning, Anna Lo said had said did not feel safe living in Northern Ireland.

The MLA said she would consider leaving the country "because of what might happen after what he said" - following comments made by Peter Robinson in support of Pastor James McConnell.

In an attempt to to defuse the row, this morning he said he did not "want to insult or cause distress to local Muslims" when he defended the firebrand evangelical preacher.

But Mr Robinson did not distance himself from the pastor's remarks.

Speaking on the Nolan Show this morning, Anna Lo said:

"I do not feel safe here and I know many people who feel the same.

"I love this country and I chose to live here.

"I am just appalled our political leaders are coming out and making such comments."

Further reading

Muslims want apology from Robinson

Anna Lo 'to quit politics' due to ongoing racist abuse by loyalists 

Peter Robinson: 'I wouldn't trust Muslims devoted to Sharia Law, but I would trust them to go down to the shops for me'

'Satanic Islam' sermon cleric 'surprised and touched' by Peter Robinson's support

Robinson pastor support criticised

Islam row pastor: Best thing Peter Robinson can do for the community now is eat his words 

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