Politicians in Northern Ireland have revealed a “worrying lack of understanding” about racism in a row over Black Lives Matter, it’s been claimed.
Patrick Corrigan, NI programme director for Amnesty International, said the meeting of Lisburn and Castlereagh councillors, where the movement was branded violent and Marxist, would be “comical if it wasn’t so tragic”.
This week councillors voted to drop any reference to Black Lives Matter (BLM) from a motion to stand in solidarity and condemn “racism, discrimination and inequality”.
Mr Corrigan said the debate, in which multiple councillors used the counterargument “all lives matter”, was a “depressing deflection” from racism.
He added: “The council debate revealed a worrying lack of understanding among some councillors of the realities of racism faced by local members of the black and minority ethnic community.
“Black Lives Matter protests are happening around the world, including in Northern Ireland, because of deep-seated prejudice and discrimination experienced by people of colour.
“We need real leadership from elected representatives to tackle racial injustice, not depressing debates and deflection from the real issues of racism.”
In the meeting, former mayor Alan Givan and BLM was “anti-family” and “founded on Marxist principles”.
He added: “It doesn’t matter whether they’re black, white or yellow or red or whatever.
“The quantity of melanin in our bodies has no significance whatsoever in how precious any individual is.”
His DUP colleagues also said the movement was associated with – or had been “tarnished by” – violence.
Residents took to social media and said they were “ashamed” by the comments, while others said they indicated a “serious underlying racism issue” in Northern Ireland.
The motion was brought by Alliance Cllr David Honeyford, who said it was “beyond belief” anyone could argue against the original wording, which proposed the council “stands in solidarity with the BLM movement in condemning racism, discrimination and inequality in all its forms”.
An amended motion, which removed BLM, was later passed.