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Racial equality strategy finally agreed

By Allan Preston

Published 11/12/2015

Patrick Corrigan from Amnesty International called the news
Patrick Corrigan from Amnesty International called the news "long overdue".

A long-awaited racial equality strategy for Northern Ireland has been agreed by the Executive.

The plan for 2015-25 has set out a number of proposals for Government departments which include a review of current legislation and work to tackle racist bullying and hate crime.

The number of racist incidents here increased by 374 from 982 between 2013-14 and 2014-15.

Patrick Corrigan from Amnesty International called the news "long overdue".

Mr Corrigan said he believed that there was "a significant increasing problem of racism in Northern Ireland".

He added: "The last strategy expired some five years ago.

"Many groups have been pushing for a replacement ever since.

"There needs to be a very clear plan of action with timetables for changes to the law here.

"At present our laws offer less protection for minorities than elsewhere in the UK."

Mr Corrigan told how the frustration felt by many over the delay was shown last year in an anti-racism march attended by thousands in Belfast city centre.

He added that up until now "for some reason, racial equality just hasn't been a sufficient priority".

First and Deputy First Ministers Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness welcomed the strategy.

Mr Robinson said: "Society in Northern Ireland has become increasingly multicultural and this strategy is our acknowledgement of the positive contribution minority ethnic groups make to our economic, public, political, social and cultural life.

"We will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to ensure ethnic minority people living and working among us will not be subjected to racially motivated acts of violence.

"Such attacks are attacks on us all and tarnish the reputation of Northern Ireland and its people."

Mr McGuinness added: "Soon we will see the arrival of Syrian refugees to the north of Ireland. We cannot begin to imagine the tragic chain of events that have resulted in these families coming here. Their sense of pain, fear and loss is immeasurable.

"Collectively, we can ensure the nightmare for their families ends as we provide a safe and welcoming place for them to live".

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