'Racist' banners removed from house

Published Wednesday, 18 June 2014
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Police have removed banners which have been described as "racist" from outside a house in east Belfast a Nigerian man was due to move into.

Michael Abiona, who is 34, was met by around five people with banners reading 'local houses for local people' as he arrived at the property in Glenluce Drive on Tuesday.

He said they asked how the Housing Executive home was allocated to him and if he was disabled.

Mr Abiona, who has lived in Belfast for four years and is active in race relations, told UTV he is no longer planning to move into the area due to concerns about the safety of his son.

He described the incident as "shameful".

"I was met by about five people, three or four ladies and one man, sitting in front of the premises," Michael explained.

"One of them told me have I not heard about it, that they were protesting concerning the premises that they only want locals to live in the place, that there are lots of local people who have been on the waiting list for more than nine years - how did I get it, what's my grounds?

I'm local as well, I've been in Belfast four years now. It's shameful, really awful. It's discrimination.

Michael Abiona

"I applied for it as every normal person applied for it with the Housing Executive. One asked am I disabled and I said yes I am disabled. At the end of it all I left there. Then I called my son's mum who told me that it's not good at all and she's not going to allow our son to live in such a place."

One of the women behind the protest said she believes the bungalows should be reserved for disabled or elderly people and not given to young families.

Speaking to UTV off-camera, she said: "We are protesting because these bungalows are for disabled people and pensioners, they're not built for families.

"We have disabled people and old people up here that have been waiting for years to try and get one of these and they're giving them to young families which is not acceptable.

"I did not know who was moving in, all I heard was it's a young family."

She told UTV protestors were "horrified that this has come across as racial".

"We're actually sickened by it."

The incident has been reported to the PSNI and officers are conducting inquires. The banners were removed on Wednesday morning.

A spokesperson for the PSNI said: "Police in east Belfast received a report of an incident in the Glenluce Drive area on Tuesday 17 June. Enquiries into the incident are ongoing."

Meanwhile the incident has been condemned by politicians.

There are issues relating to housing allocation and perhaps the Housing Executive will look at the level of points being given to people in local communities

Peter Robinson

DUP First Minister Peter Robinson added: "We want to build a respectful and tolerant society in Northern Ireland where everyone can live, work and play in complete freedom in the knowledge that they are welcome here."

Sinn Féin deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness tweeted: "The racist intimidation of Michael Abiona at the house allocated to him in E.Belfast is shameful & must be opposed & condemned by everyone."

Alliance MP Naomi Long said: "Any right-thinking person will condemn this blatantly racist behaviour and I have no doubt the vast majority of residents in the area will be sickened by it. Rather than Mr Abiona and his family, it is this kind of vile behaviour that should be unwelcome in our society."

SDLP leader Dr Alasdair McDonnell said: "The people who intimidated Mr Abiona from his home are not defenders of human rights as their banners attempt to portray.

"Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. Race hate crime has soared over the past year. We must not allow ourselves to become sanitized to the despicableness of racism, there should never be a culture here that dilutes racism or attempts to qualify it."

UUP MLA Danny Kinahan said: "It is completely unacceptable that anyone should be targeted because of their race, religion or nationality.

"The Ulster Unionist Party has been absolutely consistent in its stance that no-one should be subjected to physical or verbal abuse or have their home attacked, or live in fear of such attacks which are all to be condemned utterly and without reservation."

© UTV News
Comments Comments
Gerard Williams in Scotland wrote (222 days ago):
It's like an episode from the league of gentlemen... remember Royston Vasey??? A local shop for local people... and from the man(?) who trusts certain people to go to the shop for him? Another 'statement' offering succour to racists... It's 21st century Peter 'Raspberry Beret' Robinson... not the 17th...
Seamus in west belfast wrote (222 days ago):
This is a pure and utter disgrace racist to the highest degree this man deserves this place out and right nobody should have the right to do what they did. Regarding the housing ex housing assoc etc the points and rehousing, there should be a big massive change as people are ripping the system off and is being used in certain areas as discrimintory ie North belfast, were catholics in higher need exceptionally high need are overlooked and have been on waiting list many of year either in hostels, living in highly occupied houses or in houses/flats unfit for children or even all humans, i.e really bad dampness.
Paul Campbell in wnabbeyr wrote (222 days ago):
Racist Full Stop nothing more nothing less
pr in co down wrote (223 days ago):
can't print the TRUTH utv.sad.
Ammers in belfast wrote (223 days ago):
This is a total disgrace - firstly what does local mean - that is just nonsense just another excuse to try and justify blatant racism - if the housing executive seen fit for this man to gain this property then he deserved it - do they have jobs, sitting there in their chairs with not a care in the world - very very shameful
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