Belfast Telegraph

Video: Fury over sickening blackface skit performed at Belfast freemasons' hall

By David O'Dornan

An investigation has been launched into a shocking 'blackface' stunt filmed in a masonic hall in Belfast.

The video has been met with outrage and widely condemned by local politicians.

The footage shows a man dressed in a controversial costume historically used as a caricature of a black person and now widely considered highly racist and offensive.

The video shows a man wearing a black face mask with white lips and eyes and a dark curly wig while dancing to the Al Jolson song I'm Sitting On Top Of The World.

Men can be seen watching the skit, with bottles and cans of beer on tables, and at one point one can be heard speaking in a Belfast accent.

American singer, comedian and actor Jolson was dubbed 'the king of blackface' performers in the early 20th century.

A source told the Belfast Telegraph that the video was recorded at The Glen Freemasons Hall in the Ligoniel area of the city two weeks ago.

The hall in the video matches a photograph of the interior of the same hall that can be found online.

After being sent a copy of the footage, Philip Daley, Grand Secretary of The Grand Lodge of Freemasons of Ireland, said it would be launching an inquiry. "Now that the matter has been brought to our attention we will investigate the incident," he added.

"We deplore racism and we have members of all races, colours and religions. We strongly oppose racism and from our earliest history have been an anti-racist organisation."

A still from the video footage
A still from the video footage
A still from the video footage

SDLP deputy leader Nichola Mallon, a former Belfast mayor and an MLA for the North Belfast constituency, which includes Ligoniel, said: "This video is shocking and appalling. It is sickening to see such blatant and deliberate racism and for it to be viewed as entertainment.

"It is a despicable display of prejudice and intolerance, and has no place in our society.

"This investigation needs to be robust, with decisive action taken against those involved."

Condemning the video, Alliance MLA Kellie Armstrong called the footage "disturbing".

"Questions need answered, such as do the Masons regularly engage in racist acts such as this, and why are people filming instead of reporting it?" she said.

"The police should investigate this incident urgently.

"This follows on from last year's incident in Newtownards, which saw a group of people dressed in KKK costumes, and showcases Northern Ireland in the worst possible light.

"Alliance called for a racial equality strategy during the recent talks because it is vital we have a society which is open and welcoming to all, regardless of their skin colour, background or anything else."

Patrick Corrigan of Amnesty International condemned the incident. He said: "This sort of obnoxious behaviour will rightly be considered deeply offensive by many people. The individual responsible should apologise.

"The Freemasons should use this incident as a learning opportunity and invite the local black and minority ethnic community to help with suitable cultural awareness training."

In a booklet called An Initial Guide to Freemasonry in Ireland, published by the Grand Lodge of Ireland in 2012, the organisation says "membership comprises men of all ages, races, colours, religions, political beliefs and financial or social standing".

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph