Lo 'to quit politics' amid race attacks

Published Thursday, 29 May 2014
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Anna Lo of the Alliance Party has said she is planning to quit Northern Ireland politics but that it is because she is “fed up with tribal politics”.

The party has confirmed the South Belfast MLA does not intend to stand for re-election in 2016.

Earlier Ms Lo, who has lived in Northern Ireland for 40 years and stood as the Alliance candidate in the recent European elections, said she was thinking about leaving the region as she doesn't feel safe amid a recent upsurge of hate attacks - including attacks on her personally.

She voiced her anger about First Minister Peter Robinson's backing of a controversial Belfast pastor whose comments about Islam are being investigated by police, and called for him to apologise.

Speaking to UTV, a tearful Ms Lo said: "What sort of place are we living in?

"I feel vulnerable walking in the street because I know ethnic minorities here are attacked and I feel that when I'm walking I might be attacked. I've received lots of threats in the past two years.

"I have had racist abuse for some time, I can't say I am used to it, but it's not what makes me want to step down. I am just fed up with tribal politics, that's all."

Anna Lo was born in Hong Kong and came to live in NI in 1974.

She was first elected to the Assembly in 2007, becoming the first ethnic Chinese person to be elected to a legislative parliament in Europe.

The politician said she does not want to leave Northern Ireland but has discussed it with family.

She continued: "I live here, I have put down my roots here, but my two sons are in England and when they heard about the abuse and the threats they have talked to me about whether I want to leave, but I said no - I love it here, I have a career here and plenty of friends.

"I want to stay but who is to know?"

Pastor James McConnell sparked controversy when he likened "cells" of Muslims in Britain to the IRA and described Islam as a "heathen" doctrine which had been "spawned in hell".

He made the remarks during a sermon at Whitewell Metropolitan Tabernacle in Belfast on 18 May and police are investigating a "hate crime motive" in relation to the incident.

Pastor McConnell told UTV that he stands by his comments and has rebuffed calls for an apology.

Peter Robinson on Wednesday appeared to defend the pastor's remarks and added that he would not trust Muslims on spiritual matters but would trust them "to go to the shops" for him.

The DUP leader issued a statement on Thursday saying he had been misinterpreted, explaining that he never intended to offend anyone and offering to meet members of the Muslim community.

Ms Lo continued: "I'm very angry about it and I think he should apologise and retract his words.

"That is not the words of a First Minister of a country, you cannot say such condescending things about a whole community, that they are only fit to shop for him - that is ridiculous.

"I'm angry because in the last few months I have seen such a dramatic increase in racist attacks against ethnic minority communities. It is two or three incidents a day."

When Peter Robinson was asked about Ms Lo, he said he wanted to "keep party politics out of it", but added that he was happy to meet with Ms Lo at any time, that he had a good relationship with her and said she had his support.

"People should take a look at exactly what was said by me, and judge me on what I said and not an interpretation of it by some other politician," he said.

He stood by what he originally said and refused to apologise for any "inaccurate interpretation".

Mr Robinson added: "I certainly want to make it very clear, no one in my name will be cold-shouldering, verbally abusing, or worse - physically abusing anyone from any of the minority communities in Northern Ireland."

Sinn Féin deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said he has spoken to Anna Lo to say that she and the Muslim community are "much-valued members of our society".

He went on: "Anna Lo's remarks earlier today are an indication of the deep effect on our ethnic minority communities, on an individual and collective level, of the recent comments in support of Pastor James McConnell by some unionists.

"The Executive and political leaders need to stand shoulder to shoulder with all those who have been victims of racist intimidation and attacks."

© UTV News
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69 Comments
Patrick in Belfast wrote (146 days ago):
In reply to David in easy Belfast. Your absolutely right about freedom of speech David. However Martin McGuiness would never make such a statement. It was irresponsible as first minister and to be honest idiotic, I really don't know what he was thinking to defend such bigotry its just plain wrong. This type of bigotry and racism will not be tolerate by the public in this day and age. Its not the 1970's anymore. I had vital keyhole surgery last year in the City Hospital one surgeon was from Pakistan and the other from the middle east. If all the foreigners left our health service tomorrow, we wouldn't have a health service think about that if a member of your family needs treatment. I you are gay, not white, not christian in Northern Ireland DUP, UUP, and TUV will not stand up for your rights as an equally human being. Don't vote for them in 2016. As I said earlier Martin McGuiness would not be so stupid to say this in public and I don't think in private either because the policy of Sinn Fein is equality for all. We are all human David your no better than anyone else and there no better than you thats democracy and human rights. The time of domination is ending.
Nikki in holywood wrote (147 days ago):
We need to stop this now Anna is one of the few genuine political figures in this country our future is becoming so bleak......life is a gift imagine how you might even begin to feel if you were made to feel this defeated by other human beings :(
Dominic Berry in Ikebukuro, Tokyo, Japan. wrote (147 days ago):
It's particularly chilling when a politician is physically afraid to walk the streets. Mr. Robinson defends his right to free speech? Well good for him. What about other people's right to go outside the house and walk around in dignity and safety? What a stupid man.
harry morgan in Belfast wrote (147 days ago):
Yea thats right David you dont have to be responsible for actions if you can shift blame unto a negative or sight another party to blame. Anna lo is the person victimized here a valued member of the community along with many foreign nationals working hard and creating a vibrant community culture. What sort of place are we living in Ms Lo states whilst we are seeing positive actions from Giro de Italia it only takes one small minded individual who are in the minority to place fear in good descent people sad really Anna you must not let these individuals beat you. Stay Strong
Peter in Belfast wrote (148 days ago):
Whilst it is sad if Anna Lo feels she must leave NI, it should be noted that as Islam denies the basic tenets of Christianity and does not accept Jesus' teaching, especially about himself, then it is an anti-Christian religion as it takes people away from Jesus and points them in a different direction. But clearly they should be shown respect, ie 'love your neighbour as yourself' - you cannot do that whilst at the same time spouting hatred.
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