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Executive must implement race relations plan

The SDLP totally and unequivocally condemns the racist intimidation of Michael Abiona in east Belfast. Let us not be ambiguous – this was racist intimidation.

We must not allow ourselves to become sanitised to the despicableness of racism; there should never be a culture here that dilutes racism or attempts to qualify it.

Those who intimidated Mr Abiona from his home are not defenders of human rights as their banners attempt to portray.

OFMDFM has been sitting on a race relations strategy and has failed victims of racism. Recently, there were indications that a strategy would soon be progressed.

OFMDFM seems to be at disagreement over Mr Abiona, never mind in progressing and implementing a race relations strategy.

While the Deputy First Minister rightly condemned Mr Abiona's treatment and correctly called it racist intimidation, the First Minister said he did not think the incident could be called racially motivated and that a similar scenario could have happened to a new resident from "up country".

Peter Robinson's view is at odds with the PSNI, Housing Executive and the majority of the public.

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The race relations strategy must be progressed and implemented immediately.

Mr Abiona's dignity and courage in bringing his story to the attention of the wider public must not be in vain. Indeed, it highlights how he and many others are being let down by the current malaise in race relations from the Executive.

Dr Alasdair McDonnell MP

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