Anti-racism campaigner Patrick Yu urged to quit over Belfast's 'racist Village' storm
An anti-racism campaigner is facing calls to resign after claiming that children could face a Holy Cross-style onslaught of racist hate in south Belfast.
Police are investigating after Patrick Yu said minority families would be at high risk of being attacked if they had to pass through the Village area.
The comments were made in a submission from the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities (NICEM) over proposals to merge three schools.
Mr Yu, a director at the group, warned of the potential of a "Holy Cross number two" in the area.
But the remarks drew an angry response from residents and community leaders, who have called for him to quit.
South Belfast MLA Jimmy Spratt described the comments as "disgraceful" and said he had reported them to the PSNI.
"I think he should resign - had a politician made those comments, Patrick Yu would have been outraged," he added.
Mr Yu's statements came about over plans to amalgamate Fane Street Primary School with Blythefield in Sandy Row and Donegall Road primary. Some 64% of Fane Street pupils are from immigrant families and a third are Muslims.
The Educational Authority (EA) says a merger is necessary because there are 800 empty places between the three schools. But in a submission on the proposals, NICEM said any merger could be dangerous. Mr Yu added he was concerned the EA had not carried out a risk assessment before proposing the move.
"The ethnic minority and Muslim families would need to walk to the school," he told the BBC. "This also means they will have a high risk of racist attack and racial harassment on the way to and from school. We do not want to see Holy Cross number two happen in that area."
However, appearing at a Policing Board meeting yesterday, Assistant Chief Constable Stephen Martin said there was no evidence that a merger would see an increase in racist attacks.
"People need to own their words and need to be very measured in what they say," he added.
Angry residents also rounded on Mr Yu, accusing him of stigmatising the whole community.
Jennie Andrews, who lives in the Village, called for an apology. "It is absolutely ludicrous that he would make such a statement, branding us all racist," she said.
Another woman who has lived in the Village all her life said Mr Yu's remarks did not reflect her experience of the area. "The Village is more integrated and mixed than most," she added.
Billy Dickson, who chairs the Blackstaff Community Development Association in south Belfast, said Mr Yu's comments could create problems. "I don't think the reference to Holy Cross Primary School is helpful and in my view, will only add to tensions," he added.
Sandy Row Community Forum expressed "great disappointment" at the comments, and called for Mr Yu to retract his statement. "We acknowledge that there have been tensions in the past but that does not reflect the majority of the people's feelings in this community," it said.
Mr Yu declined to apologise when contacted by the Belfast Telegraph. He said his remarks had been taken out of context and urged people to read NICEM's full submission.
"I never have any intention to demonise any community," he added. "I am drawing attention to the Education Authority and to their lack of due regard."
The Education Authority said it was "sensitive to the diverse needs and issues faced by newcomer children".
"Every reasonable step will be made to be responsive to the needs of newcomer children and their families so that they have the opportunity to maximise their potential and enjoy their educational experience," a spokesperson added.