Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 September 2014

Peter Robinson under fire over absence at racist debate at Assembly

SDLP's Alban Maginness

Peter Robinson has come in for sharp rebuke for being absent from an Assembly debate on the recent surge in hate crime and racist attacks.

Just three hours before his visit to the Islamic Centre last night, MLAs pointed to the First Minister's empty seat as they joined forces to condemn racism.

The DUP leader was meeting the Parades Commission to discuss Saturday's planned Orange march in Belfast.

At Stormont, the harshest criticism came from the SDLP's Alban Maginness who said: "It is deeply regrettable that he is not here. There is an empty chair where the FM should be. If we do not show leadership we are letting down the whole community."

The debate came as MLAs combined to demand publication of the revised Racial Equality Strategy – first announced almost seven years ago – after hearing that Mr Robinson has yet to finally sign off on the consultation document.

Stormont to launch new strategy on racial equality in Northern Ireland 

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