Belfast Telegraph

Village residents unfairly tarred

Editor's Viewpoint

Anti-racism campaigner Patrick Yu is not a novice at his work and he must now realise that he made an incredible blunder with his outrageous comments about people in one area of south Belfast. In effect, he branded the entire population of the Village as potential racists.

Even more astonishingly, he managed to play the two most inflammatory cards possible - sectarianism and racism - when discussing a proposed tri-school merger in the area. He said he feared a repeat of the Holy Cross dispute in Ardoyne, which saw school children having to be escorted to their classrooms by police through ugly loyalist protests.

Those were shaming scenes and to suggest that they could be repeated if the three schools in the Donegall Road, Sandy Row and Fane Street areas were merged was careless talk in the extreme.

Mr Yu's comments incensed local people and their political representatives, but he refused to apologise for them, saying they were based on police figures for racist attacks, which showed that south Belfast has a bad record in that respect. However, it is not the only scene of racism, and attacks there, like elsewhere, are carried out by a totally unrepresentative minority. The majority of people in the Village area are decent, hard-working people, who are as appalled at any racist attacks as any other right-thinking people in Northern Ireland.

It has to be remembered that this general area of south Belfast is a multi-cultural melting pot. Some 64% of children at Fane Street school are from immigrant families, one-third of the pupils being Muslims. There are children from ethnic minority families attending the other two schools.

That paints a picture of communities which welcome ethnic minorities, rather than Mr Yu's doomsday prediction that children's safety could be put at risk. He should apologise immediately.

He says that his comments have been taken out of context. If that is the case then he should go to the Village area and tell the residents exactly what he meant.

We do not doubt his sincerity in wanting to protect ethnic minorities from racism, but his ill-judged comments have the potential to sour relationships in that area rather than promote harmony. Everyone in civic society should choose their words carefully on sensitive and emotive subjects to avoid creating unnecessary tension.

Belfast Telegraph


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