Derry man’s comments on Syrian refugees ‘disgusting’

Aisha, 6, and Sara, 4, sit inside a tent in an informal settlement for Syrian refugees in north Bekaa Valley in Lebanon on September 10 2015.
Aisha, 6, and Sara, 4, sit inside a tent in an informal settlement for Syrian refugees in north Bekaa Valley in Lebanon on September 10 2015.

Independent Councillor, Gary Donnelly, has described a local man’s opinion on Syrian refugees as “disgusting.”

Colr. Donnelly was reacting to the story ‘‘Derry Needs Jobs Not Migrants’ - local man’ which appeared in the ‘Journal’ last Friday.

In the article, Mr. Emmett Doherty claimed to have attended a recent Syrian refugee event in the Foyle Arena.

“When I attended the event in the Foyle Arena I didn’t see any local people,” said Mr. Doherty.

“It was people from out of town who were dressed up with turbans on their heads, Chinese people, Indian people and they all had name tags on them - I found it all very intimidating,” he claimed.

“This was disgusting and inaccurate,” said Colr. Donnelly.

“I attended this event and saw political and community representatives, charities, school children and other citizens of this city there.

“Emmett Doherty approached the table I was sitting at with Independent Councillors from Derry City and Strabane District Council and Causeway Coast and Glens Council at the end of the meeting.

“Mr. Doherty made a number of comments and he was invited to sit down and discuss the issues, he refused and left,” added Colr. Donnelly.

Mr. Doherty, a 47 year-old construction worker from the Waterside, said he thought the money due to be spent on re-settling Syrian refugees in Derry next year would better used to take care of local people first.

“There is going to be money spent on Syrian refugees. Why isn’t that money being put towards helping our young people and helping the older generations within their communities?” said Mr. Doherty.

“I am not racist - I realise that what is happening to the refugees must be addressed but it should not come before what is happening in Derry at the moment.”

Mr. Doherty’s opinion resonated with some ‘Journal’ readers but others reacted angrily.

“I was at the Foyle Arena conference (wearing a name tag - ye know, to intimidate Emmett),” said Sara Qadr.

“I would say that the majority of people were local and not one turban in sight, unless he [Mr. Doherty] means “hijab” but we’ll mark that down to ignorance. Only five per cent of people in attendance voted against taking in refugees.”

Another ‘Journal’ reader voiced his disagreement with what Mr. Doherty had to say on Facebook.

“Have you considered, Emmett that some of these migrants are lawyers, doctors, builders and business people?

“They’re not all looking for benefits. And if any of the aforementioned create employment in Derry you’re still going to harbour resentment and insist that they’re still not welcome?.”

However, some readers did agree with what Mr. Doherty had to say.

“Of course he’s right. I don’t completely lack compassion but we are not exactly poverty free in Derry as it is,” said one reader.