West Belfast MLAs sign WARN’s Anti Racism Pledge of Office

NEWLY elected MLAs for West Belfast signed an Anti Racism Pledge of Office in one of their first acts of office.

Sinn Fein MLAs and Junior Minister Martina Anderson, joined forces with the SDLP’s Alex Attwood MLA today, Monday 23 May, at Stormont to send a united message that as elected representatives they represent the interests of all their constituents, regardless of race, ethnicity, colour, religion or language, and will work actively to challenge racism in all its forms.

The Anti Racism Pledge, developed by the West Against Racism Network (WARN), has been adapted from the Charter of European Political Parties for a Non-Racist Society tailored to the context of West Belfast.  It is designed to enable politicians to send out a strong message upon taking up political office that they recognise the special responsibility they bear to actively challenge racism wherever it occurs and to promote an anti racist culture in West Belfast.

Flair Campbell from WARN highlights the significance of such a move by West Belfast’s elected representatives:

“While West Belfast has a proud history of challenging discrimination and of international solidarity the reality is that racism is also an ugly reality within our community; the daily experience of Travellers in West Belfast is a reminder, if one were needed, of this.

“We are also concerned that the current economic climate of job losses and cutbacks in essential public services could be exploited by some to encourage anti migrant sentiment.

“This Anti Racism Pledge of Office enables our politicians to give strong leadership from the start of the new Assembly on this important issue,” he said.

Sinn Fein Assembly member, Paul Maskey said

” I commend the work that WARN has done over the years.  They have made west Belfast a safer environment for all who live, work and visit it. They have done many positive initiatives over the years for this part of the city. They have produced mock passports,  a pub and club anti racism beermats, anti racism posters and leaflets as well as Welcome packs for people who have recently made west Belfast their home. I do believe that this Pledge along with their recent project the Anti Racism Charter is the most important piece of work yet, if implemented fully it will allow individuals to go to work and about their daily business free from fear intimidation.

As part of this important work in tackling racism I would urge as many people as possible to sign the charter and for them to display it in their place of work to show respect for everyone who lives and visits west Belfast.”

Alex Attwood of the SDLP said: “It is fantastic to see organisations like WARN active in West Belfast promoting anti-racism within our community. Unfortunately, the incidents involving Polish families recently have given us a stark reminder that racism is still alive and well in our city.

“I urge people to support WARN so the message is sent out clear and loud that racism is not only wrong but unacceptable and will not be tolerated in West Belfast.

“I welcome the many people and businesses who have registered to support the campaign. The SDLP has always fought for civil rights and liberties for everybody, without discrimination on grounds of colour, creed or religion and we will continue to fight for those rights at council, assembly and Westminster level. For too long the voice of the many has been shouted down by that of the mindless racists. This is an opportunity to regain that voice for those who need it.”

The Pledge signing takes places against a backdrop of recent racist attacks in South Belfast and Antrim.  WARN calls on elected representatives in other constituencies to follow the leadership shown on this issue by politicians in West Belfast by making similar public commitments to tackle racism.

 

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