Belfast Telegraph

Far-Right party offers only return to a hate-filled past

Northern Ireland must reject the BNP's politics of division, says Matthew Collins

The British National Party (BNP) has announced that it is going to put forward candidates in the May 5 elections in Northern Ireland. As a registered political party, it is entitled to take part in the democratic process like any other party.

After 10 days of stark reminders for the people of Northern Ireland of the return of dark histories, the BNP is itself another unwelcome throwback to conflict and hatred.

From the very top of the party right down to the shallow bowels of its diminishing membership, the BNP represents ideals of hatred, division and conflict.

Sadly, for Northern Ireland, the hate party has taken it upon itself to offer its own brand of poison to the electorate at a time when it is being driven out of its home in England by mounting debts, internal division and allegations of corruption.

The BNP ran its fundraising in Belfast for three years, while making an element of political headway in England. Now the party is on the brink of extinction in England, decimated by infighting and financial scandal, while its Belfast operation has ended in acrimony.

The BNP wants to put itself forward to voters in spite of owing people here thousands of pounds in unpaid bills and salaries, having taken advantage of local people's goodwill and Northern Ireland's low-wage economy.

When the BNP did a vanishing act from its premises in Dundonald just before Christmas, it left behind its local workforce facing the festive season without money.

One exasperated printer from Belfast, owed money by the BNP, is reported to have travelled to Wales last month in the desperate hope that they could receive payment for the work carried out in good faith for the BNP.

In spite of this, the BNP now wants to cash in again on the local economic climate. This time the party is hoping it can gain from the misdemeanours of the global banking industry and lay the blame for cuts in services and jobs on the heads of Northern Ireland's migrant community.

The BNP is likely to try to position itself in the unionist community and play on difficulties and competition over the allocation of services, like housing and schools, while further dividing and splitting the unionist vote.

Can we really trust a party that does not even pay the local printer who produced its previous divisive and hateful promises?

We've seen the likes of the BNP before in Northern Ireland. When its leader, Nick Griffin, was the leader of the National Front in the 1980s, his Ulster organiser was imprisoned for his part in firebombing the homes of RUC officers and was lauded as a 'prisoner of war' by Griffin's party.

Later, Griffin turned up in Libya and was photographed posing under a portrait of his then political hero, Colonel Gaddafi, again in a search for money.

He and his party were shown the revulsion they deserved by the community here which they believed held their electoral hopes.

Of course, that was all a long time ago. Yet two months ago, the BNP's civil rights group, Civil Liberty, praised the views of Gerard Mc Geough, the former IRA man who had just been convicted for the attempted murder of an off-duty UDR man in 1981.

It seems that, wherever there is hatred and wherever there is darkness, people like the BNP will try and make gains from it.

On May 5, they'll be trying to do it at the expense of people who have come to Northern Ireland for new lives to work in hospitals, drive taxis, work the land and live as our friends and neighbours.

They come in search of a new start and - like the overwhelming majority of people in Northern Ireland - they want to live in peace.

No amount of flag-waving, expediency and IOUs from the BNP can disguise the fact that they are a step back into the darkness and have only come here to hate.

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