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Last Updated: Friday, 21 March, 2003, 07:31 GMT
NI 'needs to tackle racism'
Not enough is being done to tackle racism in Northern Ireland, an assembly member has said.

Women's Coalition leader Monica McWilliams said greater efforts must be made to ensure equality for ethnic and religious minorities.

Her remarks come on International Day Against Racism and during European Anti-racism Week.

More than 100 events have been taking place in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland during the week.

Many have been organised by local community, voluntary and trade union organisations who work with black and minority ethnic and Traveller communities.

Mrs McWilliams, an assembly member for South Belfast, said people were experiencing harassment at work, school, in shops and in their homes.

Research shows that people in Northern Ireland exhibit as much racism as they do sectarianism
Monica McWilliams

"The problem of racism needs to be taken more seriously by the government, the police and the whole community," she said.

"Research shows that people in Northern Ireland exhibit as much racism as they do sectarianism and the police are receiving a growing number of reports of racially motivated assaults."

Some members of minority groups felt people in Northern Ireland were in denial about the problem, she said.

Friday's International Day Against Racism provided an opportunity to consider what action needed to be taken to tackle the problem, said Mrs McWilliams.

'Responsibility'

The Equality Commission said racist attacks in Northern Ireland were running at a higher level than in England and Wales.

Chief Commissioner Joan Harbison said there were worrying signs racial prejudice was on the increase.

We have a diverse society and we need to encourage people to respect and value that diversity
Joan Harbison
Equality Commission

Responsibility for tackling the issue fell on the whole community, she said.

"Everyone in our society has a direct interest in confronting prejudice and promoting good relations.

"We know from research that people in Northern Ireland are actually more likely to be racist than sectarian. Evidence of the urgent need to confront and tackle racism in our society is staring us in the face," she said.

'Diversity'

The commission pointed to attacks on the homes of Filipino nurses in Ballymena, County Antrim, and offensive leaflets over building plans for a mosque in Portadown, County Armagh.

Racist attacks in Northern Ireland are 16.4 per 1,000 of the minority ethnic population compared to 12.6 in England and Wales, said the commission.

Mrs Harbison said those trying to generate racial hatred and violence could have a disproportionate effect if they went unchallenged.

"We have a diverse society and we need to encourage people to respect and value that diversity," she said.

Sinn Fein assembly member Conor Murphy said concerted action was required to make the elimination of racial discrimination a reality.

"Central to the peace process and the Good Friday Agreement is the vindication and protection of the human rights of all," he said.

"This must include the human rights of people who suffer from racial discrimination."

Friday's events are being organised in conjunction with the National Committee on Racism and Interculturalism (NCCRI) and the Know Racism Programme.




WATCH AND LISTEN
Monica McWilliams of the Women's Coalition:
"We ought to act locally and think globally"



SEE ALSO:
Racism discussed at conference
28 Feb 03  |  Northern Ireland
NI 'needs anti-racism forum'
10 Dec 02  |  Northern Ireland
Police appeal after racial attacks
13 Feb 03  |  Northern Ireland


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