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Northern Ireland ‘should be declared racism-free zone’

Protests were held in Belfast and Londonderry earlier this month following George Floyd’s death.

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Protests were held in Belfast and Londonderry earlier this month following George Floyd’s death (Rebecca Black/PA)

Protests were held in Belfast and Londonderry earlier this month following George Floyd’s death (Rebecca Black/PA)

Protests were held in Belfast and Londonderry earlier this month following George Floyd’s death (Rebecca Black/PA)

Northern Ireland should be declared a racism-free zone following the murder of George Floyd, an expert group which advises Stormont ministers said.

Protests were held in Belfast and Londonderry earlier this month following his death.

A coalition of representative groups for ethnic minority communities said institutional racism within police forces in the UK and US should be unequivocally condemned in the strongest possible way.

The murder of George Floyd and over 50 other black men in recent years represents a callous disregard for human life in general and specifically of black peopleRacial Equality Sub-Group

“There is anger, fear and frustration and a strong sense of urgency that our local government, political parties, community leaders and all sections of our society must coalesce, not only around the principles of racial equality but the actions associated with the elimination of racial prejudice in all of its forms.”

It added: “The murder of George Floyd and over 50 other black men in recent years represents a callous disregard for human life in general and specifically of black people.”

In 12 months from July 2018 to June 2019 more than 1,000 racist incidents were recorded in Northern Ireland, a slight increase on the previous year, police said.

Mr Floyd’s death in Minneapolis has roiled the US with mass protest and in the UK has focused on the commemoration of significant figures from Britain’s history in the slave trade.

An online petition has called for a statue of pro-slavery Irish patriot John Mitchel in Newry, Co Down, to be taken down.

Mitchel championed the Irish peasant during the Famine as part of the Young Ireland movement.

The Racial Equality Sub Group includes a number of ethnic minority organisations and advises Stormont.

It urged the Executive to address the “reality” of inequality and institutional racism.

It said that was shown by adverse outcomes for people from black and ethnic minority backgrounds in the health, justice, education, economy and other sectors.

It urged ministers consult on declaring Northern Ireland a racism-free area and to make the necessary legislative changes to underpin that.

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Stormont has said it is committed to building a society in which racial equality and diversity is supported (Liam McBurney/PA)

Stormont has said it is committed to building a society in which racial equality and diversity is supported (Liam McBurney/PA)

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Stormont has said it is committed to building a society in which racial equality and diversity is supported (Liam McBurney/PA)

The Executive Office has said it is committed to building a society in which racial equality and diversity is supported, understood, valued and respected, where people of minority ethnic backgrounds have a sense of belonging which is acknowledged and valued by people from all backgrounds.

The Minority Ethnic Development Fund (MEDF) provides support for voluntary and community organisations working with minority ethnic people and groups.

It has been terminated due to the unprecedented situation arising from the coronavirus pandemic.

PA