‘We will not allow hate to become acceptable’

SDLP Councillor Martin Reilly .
SDLP Councillor Martin Reilly .
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Derry & Strabane Council have backed a motion calling for reassurance to minorities that they are valued and that hatred will not tolerated.

The motion was tabled by SDLP Councillor Martin Reilly at the Full Council’s July meeting on Thursday.

Mr Reilly called for the Council to officially record its opposition to “racism, xenophobia and hate crimes” which he said “have no place our country”.

The motion, which also avowed that the council will help ensure local bodies and programmes have the support and resources they need to fight and prevent racism, was passed unanimously.

Speaking to his motion, Colr. Reilly said that earlier this week a report brought before the Council’s Good Relations Working Group detailed how the Council had helped deal over £160,000 in funding for Good Relations work in the last year alone, reaching out to over 36 venues across the district as well as young people in schools.

Colr. Reilly said that while the motion was not about the rights or wrongs of Brexit “it is however clear that there is a small minority of people who don’t value difference, who see people from other cultures as targets to abuse and who practice hate in their words and actions.”

“These people are using the referendum result as an opportunity to spout such hate.”

He added: “This motion is an opportunity for everyone in this Chamber to send out a clear message that hate crime is wrong, that when we witness it, wherever that may be- on the public street or in our local communities, we should condemn it and we should encourage everyone to report such hate crimes to the PSNI. By supporting this motion we are also saying to the Black, Minority and Ethnic Citizens living here that we stand with you against such hate crimes.”

Sinn Fein Councillor Karina Breslin said it was indicative of the positivity and progressiveness that exists locally that a member of the public came forward to ask the council to reinforce this message.

She added; “I don;t attach it to the many millions who voted to leave the European Union but some of the leaders within the Brexit campaign did use the race card.”

She said that those same people had used the “spectre of hoards of migrants” coming to take jobs and use up services, when statistics showed that migrants made a great contribution to Irish society north and south.

“The island is known as the island of 100,000 Welcomes and I think there should be a home here for anyone who wants to come here and contribute to our society.”

DUP Councillor David Ramsey said there was a different between mass immigration and controlled immigration. Different races and religions were more than welcome, he said, but said that people had fears over terrorism “and it’s happening through mass immigration”.

Independent Colr. Darren O’Reilly pointed to a recent multi-cultural event held at Rosemount Resource Centre which attracted 700 people, adding that there was a lot of good work going on locally.

Independent Colr. Gary Donnelly said racists didn’t need an issue like Brexit to pedal their hate.