The Business Committee has agreed to allow up to one hour and 30 minutes for the debate. The proposer of the motion will have 10 minutes to propose and 10 minutes to make a winding-up speech. One amendment has been selected and published on the Marshalled List. The proposer of the amendment will have 10 minutes to propose and five minutes to make a winding-up speech. All other Members will have five minutes.
I beg to move
That this Assembly recognises the positive contribution that ethnic minorities make to our society; notes with concern an increase of 87% in hate-related crime in the last four years; and calls on all Ministers to continue to give priority to implementing the racial equality strategy and the Together: Building a United Community strategy, and to providing the financial support to ensure that both of these strategies are supported and implemented.
First, it is important to outline the positive contribution that ethnic minorities make to our society. They provide substantial economic and social benefits to the North of Ireland. A recent report written by two academics from Queen's University said that about 4% of the workforce is made up of migrant workers. It is reported that they contribute more in tax than they use in services. The report highlights contributions in taxes, labour and cultural diversity and how they are enriching our society rather than threatening it. We frequently hear claims that migrants take our jobs and use up our limited services. The truth is that they are vital to this economy. We, as political leaders and elected representatives, need to stand up for a vision of an open, tolerant and outward-looking society. Mind you, the tone of the rhetoric and comments on immigration and foreign workers emerging from last week's Conservative conference could be described as toxic, sending out the wrong message and making people feel fearful and vulnerable. As a society, we need to challenge prejudice and prejudicial attitudes at every level.
Figures quoted in the recent Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) report state that 14% of nine- to 10-year-olds and 8% of 12- to 13-year-olds were bullied because of their colour. Those are the ones who came forward. Those are the ones who we know about. There are silent voices out there of those who keep quiet until it is too late. Minority ethnic students experience lower levels of belonging and higher levels of exclusion. Schools tend to lack the knowledge and awareness needed to deal with issues of ethnic minorities and how they find themselves in certain situations. We had the incident of a woman who was at the airport to pick up her mother and, while waiting in the cafe, was asked to produce her identity. When she showed her passport, her son asked, "Mummy, do we have to carry our passports at all times?". It is wrong that, simply because of her colour, this woman had to show her passport to prove that she belonged here.
In recent weeks, we have had a number of calls about more needing to be done to tackle racial discrimination. A recent report from the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance:
"calls upon all political parties to take a firm stand against intolerant discourse and instruct their representatives to refrain from making derogatory comments targeting a group of persons on grounds of their 'race', religion, citizenship, language, ethnic origin, sexual orientation or gender identity."
The report makes a total of 23 different recommendations to the UK Government. One of those recommendations includes the implementation of an equality strategy. In the UN report, concluding observations on the elimination of discrimination set out a plan to achieve a vision of where we live in a society free from fear and intimidation. While the report welcomes the positive action taken by the Assembly in the publication of the racial equality strategy 2015-2025, it expresses concerns that the North of Ireland does not have an equality Act. The UN Committee calls for the adoption of a bill of rights for the North of Ireland. The UN Committee report also notes with concern the reduction in resources for the Human Rights Commission and that measures that are adopted must be meaningful and relevant and aid an increase in the reporting of racist hate crime.
The Human Rights Commission, in its submission to the UN Committee, raised concerns about the fact that there is no single equality Act here in the North. It is also important to note that the Equality Commission has called for an equality Act and that the commission has a paper on its website listing the disparities.
The Equality Commission has also highlighted the point that black and minority ethnic individuals in the North of Ireland have less protection against racial discrimination, harassment and victimisation than people in other parts of the UK. It has produced a paper called 'Race Equality Law Reform: Strengthening legal protection'.
The rise in hate crime here is disturbing, and I appeal for political leaders to highlight the positive impact of inward migration. It is sad that people living in the North of Ireland today, particularly the foreign national population, have never felt more insecure about their vulnerability to crime. Sinn Féin believes that everyone has the right to freedom from fear, and that is a challenge for the policing and judicial system to meet. It is a challenge that must be met without prejudice and with respect for human rights. Racism is prevalent, and we need political leadership.
Sinn Féin welcomes the announcement by the Human Rights Commission that it is investigating the issue of Travellers' accommodation. The chief commissioner commented that the commission completed a scoping exercise in June 2016 that identified significant human rights concerns on a potentially systemic level. Its findings concluded that a human rights examination of the issue is necessary. The commission will publish its findings in autumn 2017. One has to ask this: in the 21st century, where is the equality of justice, opportunity and dignity without discrimination for every man, woman and child from the Travelling community?
Eleanor Roosevelt said:
"Where, after all, do universal human rights begin? In small places, close to home — so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he"
— or she —
"lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm, or office where he works."
Everyone living in the North of Ireland has the right to equality before the law and the right to the equal protection and benefit of the law without discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, ethnic origin, nationality, gender or gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, age, social or economic status, marital or family status, residence, language, religion or belief, or politics or other opinions. That is the goal that we should all work towards.
Leave out all after "four years;" and insert "further notes the concerns of bodies representing ethnic minorities that gaps exist in our racial discrimination laws; and calls on the Executive to fulfil their responsibility to implement the racial equality strategy effectively by putting in place an action plan, timetable and key priorities, and to ensure that the Programme for Government reflects this obligation.".
We all look to our experiences while dealing with black and ethnic minority communities, be that when they come to a constituency office and you talk about issues that they have, when we see it on the streets or on the news or when you notice on holiday how things are slightly different in a cultural sense. I spent seven months living with Hazara people in a village, and, as the guy who was the ethnic minority living there, I saw what it must be like for them living here. I spoke to the wakils, the imams and the village elder and tried to understand the culture. I went out of my way to try to eat their food continuously, to wake when they woke, to go to bed when they went to bed and to understand them culturally. I tried to learn about their religion and tried to offer them my religion and my culture, but I found it extremely difficult. I felt like an outsider. I felt alienated. I felt isolated. That must be what it is like for those from minority communities who come here to live and who try to integrate but find it incredibly difficult, no matter what they do. That difference is the real problem.
I welcome the motion from Mr Lynch and welcome the fact that he brings it to the House for debate, but his words do not match the motion. The motion is weak. It is a soft ball being bounced around the Executive. It is not pushing the issue forward. It is the same argument that we had two and a half years ago.
The Ulster Unionist Party amendment —
I thank the Member for giving way. Does he agree with me that our BME communities could be forgiven for thinking that they are not a priority? They had to wait for five years in the absence of a strategy; every year, groups do not get a decision on their funding in time; and there has been no review of the Race Relations Order, despite that being agreed by the Assembly close to 10 years ago.
I absolutely agree; we need to drive this issue forward. We had the debate two and half years ago, so we need to take it and move things forward. That is what our amendment is all about: setting an action plan; setting a timetable, which is important; and setting key priorities. It is absolutely no good sitting in the corner doe-eyed like a puppy, looking up and saying that we have an issue without driving that issue forward.
Our amendment gives BME communities strength, and it gives an intent to the motion. I ask people to think before they decide to vote against it.
Of course, we have laws here that deal with our two-tier equality strategy: the Race Relations Order 1997 and the Fair Employment and Treatment Order 1998. The European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance believes that Northern Ireland should consolidate its equality legislation:
"taking inspiration from the Equality Act 2010".
We do not have that, and we all know why. That is an argument for a different day, but it is something that we really need to drive towards.
When we think about the BME community, I guess that we all think about the Romanian migrant workers who come here, set up home, put down roots and live amongst us. I guess that we think about the Portuguese, Polish and Lithuanian communities who now live among us. I think that that is what we all think about. If you go out into the community, you will have people complaining that these communities are filling our NHS and our A&Es. Yes, they are filling our NHS and our A&Es. They are filling them with doctors, nurses, skilled labour and non-skilled labour. They are absolutely a part of the community — a valued part of the community. On that, I absolutely agree with Mr Lynch.
There are other groups that we have to look at as well, such as the Roma gypsies or the Irish Travellers. They are no different and are all in need of help as well. With all those groups, we really have to look at how we can address measures to support them, including education, employment, healthcare and accommodation. In the case of Irish Travellers, we have to make sure that we have caravan sites for them.
Yesterday, we had a very heartfelt debate on Syria. We know that refugees are coming out of Syria, but we need an integration programme for those who come to live here. We cannot have the same debate in two and half years' time and say that we will have such a programme. We need to do it now, and that is what is what our amendment is all about.
The European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance calls on:
"all political parties to take a firm stand against intolerant discourse and instruct their representatives to refrain from making derogatory comments targeting a group of persons on grounds of their 'race' [or ethnic origins]"
It goes on to talk about sexuality, but I will not get into that.
We have something that we really need to do as political representatives. We need to watch our words and give a firm commitment to people in the BME community that we will support them. If you remember, a while back, Peter Robinson said that he would be happy to send members of the Muslim community to the shop. Fair enough, he apologised, and I absolutely believe that it was a slip of the tongue —
I stand and I answer. You have asked me something that is absolutely obvious. Of course, I accept that. If you had allowed me, I would have gone on to say that Peter Robinson apologised for what he said — absolutely. I was going to say that there was no inference that he meant what he said. It was a slip of the tongue, but we all need to be concerned by that slip.
Look at the Sinn Féin motion in Derry City and Strabane District Council calling for a ban on Israeli goods. I understand what Sinn Féin is trying to do, although I do not agree; but that raises the stakes for the Jewish community here. We have to be careful of our words. There is no point in saying, "We need to support our BME communities", when you allow your councillors to table a motion that alienates some of the very people we are here to protect.
I thank Mr Lynch again for tabling the motion. I am glad that we have the opportunity to debate it on the Floor. I hope that people listen to the debate and then make up their minds, rather than walk through a Lobby because it is the easy thing to do. I hope that they think about it. What we are proposing, as well as an action plan, timetable, and key priorities, is that all our Departments and Ministers be held to account. This does not sit just with the First and deputy First Ministers: it sits with the Ministers of Finance, of Education and of Health. They need to come together to come up with a strategy and set the targets.
I believe that in Northern Ireland we pride ourselves on being friendly and welcoming; indeed, that has been acknowledged in survey after survey and review after review by those in the travel industry and many media outlets across the world. However, we are also well aware that, on occasion, unsavoury elements in society raise their head. That can be in the most sickening of ways. Attacks on any individual or, indeed, race are absolutely wrong and can never be reasoned away as anything other than a criminal act deserving of the most stringent punishment.
In Tandragee, in my constituency, only a few days ago, a young eastern European family was targeted in an attack that left them terrified and feeling that they could no longer stay in the area. Indeed, they have since moved away. The gang targeted the house, breaking the glass in the rear door of the property. That is a concerning incident, but, thankfully, the family, including their baby, were unharmed in the attack. However, such attacks leave a very real feeling of vulnerability amongst the victims, and that is the unseen impact of many of these attacks.
Sinister footage also surfaced last week of schoolboys abusing a Romanian woman in a shocking incident. Indeed, it was all the more worrying given that young schoolchildren were the ones hurling the abuse and using very distasteful terminology. It is clear from the type of hurtful and racist comments used that there is work to be done to change attitudes and perceptions across all age groups, including amongst schoolchildren.
The view of the majority in Northern Ireland is, of course, one of tolerance and respect. In my constituency, a number of large businesses heavily rely on staff from ethnic minority backgrounds. In many cases, workers from ethnic minority backgrounds make up the bulk of the workforce and make a very valuable and vital contribution to those companies. Indeed, that is repeated in companies and organisations across Northern Ireland. However, there are, of course, very worrying incidents of people being trafficked to Northern Ireland by criminal elements and made to work in unacceptable conditions. This again came to light in recent days, when a Romanian gangmaster appeared in court for keeping 15 people in a three-bedroom house against their will, taking their wages and telling them, when they rightly complained about the conditions and of hunger, that they could eat stones. That was a shocking state of affairs, and it is all the more shocking given that the gangmaster had a string of convictions in other countries.
In my constituency, operating a full-time constituency —
I appreciate the Member's giving way. At the end of the last mandate, this House, I think by 90 votes to 9, passed the human trafficking legislation.
The instruments now exist in statute for judges to issue severe penalties to those who traffic and exploit people in the way that the Member describes in his constituency. Does he agree with me that that is what needs to happen in cases like that?
I thank the Member for his intervention. I believe that the full rigours of the law should be brought to bear on those responsible.
In my constituency, operating a full-time constituency advice service, I assist many people, including those from ethnic-minority backgrounds. Many within that category who contact me are in full-time work, with very good employment conditions, and are keen to remain in employment in Northern Ireland. I know that the Executive have a responsibility with regard to the matters that are outlined in the motion. They are matters that Ministers in my party take very seriously and will continue to tackle head-on to help to change attitudes and confront racism in any form.
As the SDLP spokesperson on the Executive Office, I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate on an issue that, considering the increase in race-related crimes, has, at least prima facie, got much worse in recent years. Issues of race and immigration have raised their ugly head across the UK and Northern Ireland in recent months, and it is concerning that the North of Ireland is often labelled as a racist state. It must be said that, especially in Great Britain, racist attacks have been exacerbated by the decision of England and Wales to leave the European Union, which has brought with it a sad state of affairs.
(Madam Principal Deputy Speaker [Ms Ruane] in the Chair)
Racism and xenophobia take many forms in society and actively disadvantage people based on their race, ethnic background or religion. The debate is timely, as there is a lack of clarity on future British Government policy regarding immigration and there is yet to be a very clear reassurance to the immigrants and migrants who have chosen to make their home here in the North.
As we discuss the motion, it is of utmost importance that the Assembly acknowledges that migrants make a huge contribution to society, from local economies to providing key roles in the health service and tourism sector. Without this contribution and the cultural variation that exists, the North would be a much more depressing place to live, and our public services would most likely collapse. Despite this, and perhaps most worryingly, the most recent PSNI figures from June 2016 show that racist attacks continue to be a scourge on society. In the 12 months to June, 1,113 incidents were recorded where there was racist motivation, of which 700 contained one or more crimes. This means that, each day in Northern Ireland, there are a worrying three hate crimes reported to the PSNI. Only yesterday, the 'Irish News' reported that, during the period from 1 April to 1 October 2016, there were 600 hate crimes. That underscores the big issue that it is across the North, and immediate action must be taken.
Such crimes are intolerable. It is my opinion that the vast majority of people in the North of this island are repulsed and disgusted by racist attacks, but we must acknowledge that certain sections of society have certain prejudices, and the Executive have failed to address them due to inaction. They have failed to permeate the deeply held views in some of the most deprived communities. Tackling this must be a main priority during this mandate as we move closer to a Programme for Government.
Since the last racial equality strategy expired, it has taken almost 10 years to produce another. This is mostly due to mounting pressures from the Equality Commission and other organisations, which have clearly identified gaps in provision here and have called on the Executive to drive forward and implement a racial equality strategy. Despite the publication of the new strategy and all its commitments — for example, in attempting to tackle bullying in schools, calling for a review of fair employment legislation and a promise to tackle racial crime — the only progress that has been made to date has been the appointment of a subgroup and racial equality champions.
These are welcome developments and have an important role, but there has been a fundamental failure to include an action plan, there are no specific time frames, nor has there been the correct level of resources for implementation. We have no responsibility or accountability.
If this Chamber and the Executive want to take racism seriously, they must properly develop and invest in a coherent action plan. Otherwise, any advancements will be only tokenistic and will not end the plight of racism that many suffer on a daily basis. It is for this reason that I, and my party, will support the Ulster Unionist amendment. We need to get serious on racism, and we hope that the First Minister and the deputy First Minister fully acknowledge the concerns raised today and take meaningful action to rectify them.
We need the strategy to do what it says on the tin: provide ultimate protection for ethnic minorities —
I welcome the opportunity to speak on this important issue. As others Members have already noted and highlighted, racism is a profound problem in this community and society. Indeed, we are often dubbed in the regional and national media as a race hate capital in Europe.
There have recently been some decreases in reported racism, and that is to be welcomed. However, emphasis has to be placed on the word "reported"; sadly and all too often it is the unreported crimes that should give us the greatest concern.
I will begin by thanking our colleague Mr Lynch for bringing a motion on such an important issue, and we will support it. However, the Government are not really doing their job. Racism in Northern Ireland has, perhaps, become more disturbing over the last number of years, and we have already heard of the types of incidents and issues that arise in our constituencies when it comes to race hate and crimes. I had expected to spend most of my time discussing the complexities of dealing with racism in Northern Ireland, and, indeed, the racial equality strategy. Unfortunately, and rather ridiculously, my argument will have to focus on another issue: the failure of the Executive and Executive delay.
I am standing with my party and Opposition colleagues somewhat bemused as Sinn Féin brings forward a motion calling on their own deputy First Minister and his Executive colleague Arlene Foster to implement the strategy. One wonders why Sinn Féin and the DUP criticise opposition when they seem themselves, as the Opposition, to criticise their own Ministers. It is not even the first time this week that the inability of the Executive to function has resulted in their own parties having to come to the Chamber with motions to try to motivate them to do their jobs.
And here we see the consequences of the lack of action — a barely implemented strategy for dealing with a problem that, if not dealt with, will have a continuing and ongoing damaging impact on the whole of Northern Ireland and our communities for decades to come. Racism in Northern Ireland — the strategy addresses this — impacts housing, schools, jobs and healthcare, yet somehow there has been failure to implement the strategy. My colleague Chris Lyttle recently received a response to a question on the racial equality strategy, with an update on how it was progressing. The answer outlined three points proposed in the strategy that had been acted upon. That is three out of 11. I do not think in anybody's book that can be seen as a success.
Where is the Minister of Education today to update us on how he has identified ways to tackle racist bullying in schools? Where is the Minister of Justice to tell us about her plans to develop an approach to tackling race hate crime — indeed, if any of that is happening at all?
Does the Member agree that one of the deficiencies in the racial equality strategy was the absence of any indicators or ways of assessing how Ministers were increasing or decreasing racism through their actions and words?
Thank you, Madam Principal Deputy Speaker. I totally agree with the Member. Has the fair employment legislation been reviewed? Has the delivery model for the minority ethnic development fund been reviewed? On paper, dealing with racism is considered an important issue by the Executive.
It is intrinsically linked to dealing with sectarianism. Yet, in practice, public policy is shaped more in dealing with the things that divide unionists and nationalists, nationalists and unionists. The isolation that the ethnic minority groups feel in Northern Ireland is a result of being considered last. Is it that we are working so hard to heal our sectarian divisions that we ignore the divisions and problems of minority and ethnic communities in Northern Ireland?
We need to embrace the proposals of the strategy, and we need to implement it in full — not small steps. We need to develop it in full. We need to introduce a single equality Bill, harmonise and update existing equality and anti-discrimination measures and strengthen equality provisions. We need a Bill that revises fair employment monitoring to ensure that monitoring better reflects the diversity of mixed and multiple identities in Northern Ireland.
I extend my support to the amendment because the issue of racism in Northern Ireland needs to be dealt with at every level of government. As Mr Carroll said, without an action plan, a timetable and key priorities, the task is just the greater. A Programme for Government reflecting this obligation is required. Today, my plea on behalf of the Alliance Party is to implore the First Minister and deputy First Minister to prioritise the strategy. We, in the Chamber, know what happens when irrational prejudices are allowed to fester in this society and community. It is important that we strive to overcome those prejudices and redirect our resources towards the most vulnerable and isolated groups in Northern Ireland. The Alliance Party will support the motion and the amendment.
I welcome the opportunity to speak on the motion today. From the 1600s, Northern Ireland has had a long history of immigration. From the influx of Scots during the plantation of Ulster to the 19th-century arrival of a large number of Italians. The past influences of immigrants can be seen everywhere in Northern Ireland from the growth of the linen industry, which led to vast prosperity across the Province, to the beautiful marble and terrazzo in the Great Hall of this Building, and who has not been to the north coast for an ice cream?
Between 2000 and 2014, we in Northern Ireland moved from a position of net migration loss to one of an annual population gain. During that period, it is estimated, around 175,000 people settled here, which is a completely unprecedented position for us to be in. Immigrants are an intrinsic part of our culture, probably on a greater level than we even appreciate daily. Yet, it seems that, in recent times, we have developed an attitude that immigration is something to be feared rather than celebrated. Whilst racially driven hate crimes have decreased in the last year, they are still at an unacceptable level. There are incidents such as the recent attack on Jewish graves in the Belfast City Cemetery, and, only last week in my constituency, three young men filmed and posted to social media footage of themselves racially abusing and throwing stones at a Romanian woman. That highlights that there is still a massive amount of work to be done on how we view people of differing races and ethnic origins. It is, however, comforting for me to see the outrage that was demonstrated on social media by the people of my home town, Antrim, to that revolting incident.
I realise that much of the anxiety around immigration is caused by the misconception that people coming to live here are a drain on our public services. Of course, the increase in our population means that we must look at the number of available school places, the way in which we manage our healthcare system and accessibility to social housing, all in the context of financial constraints. The economic and social contribution that immigration provides cannot be ignored. For example, due to nursing shortages, our Department of Health has recently undertaken a programme of recruitment for nurses from the Philippines, Italy and Romania. Those nurses will deliver much-needed assistance in our health trusts. Frankly, we would be at an absolute loss without the care that they provide in our hospitals. It is estimated that around 30% of doctors and 40% of nurses working in the NHS in the UK were born abroad. I cannot stress enough how much that assistance is to be applauded and welcomed. We are all aware of the pressures on our health service, and I, for one, am grateful that we have such skilled individuals willing to take up the mantle, come to our country and work in our hospitals, surgeries and clinics, and look after us all as patients.
The racial equality strategy seeks to tackle racial disparities and eliminate racism and aims to encourage good race relations. It is only the start, but I hope that it is given the recognition that it requires across all Departments. It is vital that we recognise the contribution that immigration can bring to our society culturally, socially and economically. I am pleased that each Department has appointed a racial equality champion and hope that they will work proactively to implement, monitor and review how the strategy works in practice. The workings of the subgroup, alongside the Executive Office and other Departments, will give a clear picture of areas that could be improved and of areas that are working well, and that will consequently bring a positive change in the delivery of the strategy.
While we currently have the lowest rate of immigration in the UK, I hope that, in moving forward, we continue to educate and inform people that immigration is not something to be afraid of and we should embrace the cultural diversity that it affords. Attacking people simply because they are of a different skin colour or speak another native language cannot be tolerated in our society, and I trust that all Departments will bring forward the racial equality strategy, bringing about the societal change that will inevitably follow. I support the motion.
Like everybody else, I welcome the opportunity to speak to today's motion. Muhammad Ali once said,
"Hating people because of their color is wrong. And it doesn't matter which color does the hating. It's just plain wrong."
Muhammad Ali was correct, of course, but it is an unfortunate reality that racism exists in our society today. Whether it takes the form of physical attack, attacks on property, graffiti, verbal abuse, bullying on social media or the not-so-visible unequal access to jobs and services that others take for granted, racism is destructive to individuals and communities and needs to be tackled. Just yesterday, as Mr McPhillips said, it was reported that, in the past six months, over 500 race hate incidents took place in the North. That is between two and three race hate incidents a day. One race hate attack in any time period is one too many.
When I think of the millions of Irish citizens who left this island out of necessity at the time of the famine or in the early and late 20th century and the various forms of treatment that they received, both good and bad, when landing in America, Australia, England or elsewhere around the world, I believe that we have an extra special duty to welcome, embrace and support all those who come to these shores. Whilst the "No blacks. No dogs. No Irish" signs may be an iconic snapshot of a previous time, let us just hope that those sentiments remain where they belong: in history. They should, however, serve as a reminder for us to remain vigilant to hatred.
The 2011 census figures demonstrate the diverse nature of the minority ethnic community here. Over 32,000 people gave their ethnicity as something other than white. That figure will continue to grow, and I welcome that. It has already been said by my colleagues Seán Lynch and Doug Beattie that people who come to Ireland add to our society. They add to it economically through their work and spend, but they also add to it culturally. The world is now a smaller place. It is a much smaller place than it used to be, and our neighbours may not have an "O" or a "Mc" in their surname any longer. While society is changing, it is important that our policies and practices change and adapt to the new situation.
We must ensure that equality means equality for all. The racial equality strategy is a vital cog in that wheel, and the motion calls for the strategy to be given the priority and financial support to see that it is implemented. The strategy demonstrates a commitment to eliminate discrimination, promote equal opportunities and develop good relations. It is key to identifying the real and varied needs of our ethnic minority population. It identifies barriers and how to overcome them, and it raises awareness and helps focus responsibilities.
I welcome the words of Martin McGuinness on the publication of the strategy:
"We must not just aspire to create a place where people can live, learn, socialise and work together regardless of race or ethnicity, we must all step forward and make it happen. Government alone cannot and will not eradicate racism and racial inequalities. There are already many people and organisations who are doing powerful work in their neighbourhoods, places of worship and workplaces to tackle racism. The Strategy provides a platform for action to build on these efforts and generate further momentum."
As well as welcoming those sentiments, I praise the people in our community who do great work to make the lives of those who come to our shores easier and to tackle racism. In particular, I thank the Ballymena Ethnic Minority Forum for the work that it does in my constituency. While I agree with Martin that government cannot do this alone, politicians, as others have said, have an important role to play in trying to eliminate racism. Whether it be discussing this subject, migration, refugees, conflicts across the world or even Brexit, we need to be careful with our language.
Sometimes what we say and how we say it produces consequences. I take exception to Doug trying to compare imposing economic sanctions, as used against apartheid South Africa, with derogatory comments denigrating people because of their ethnicity.
I am glad that the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination report welcomed the racial equality strategy as a positive step and a road map to tackle racial discrimination. I am less happy that the UN report had to point out that, in the absence of an equality Act here in the North, we still face challenges to combat racism.
The Belfast Jewish community continues to make an important and valued contribution to the life blood of Belfast. At sunset tonight, Jews across the globe will celebrate Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Across Europe, synagogues will have armed guards because of the risk of attack on those places of worship. In the past few years, deadly attacks on kosher shops in Paris, a synagogue in Copenhagen and a Jewish museum in Brussels have occurred. In the United Kingdom, Jewish schools have guards and bombproof windows.
The Community Safety Trust, members of which I met some months ago, has produced the following statistics: in 2014, there were 1,179 anti-Semitic attacks in the United Kingdom; last year, there were 924 similar attacks. There have been anti-Semitic attacks on Jewish Members of Parliament Ruth Smeeth and Luciana Berger. Anti-Semitic racism is the oldest type of racism that exists. Sadly, it is not just on the European continent, and is not just on the mainland of our United Kingdom. The synagogue is in my constituency, and Members will be aware of Rabbi David Singer speaking very recently of the evil anti-Semitic phone calls and emails that he, as the pastoral leader of the old and established Belfast Jewish community, has been receiving.
The graffiti recently daubed on the synagogue and in Belfast city centre was absolutely sickening and harked back to the 1930s and Nazi Germany. Sadly, these attacks followed the removal of the Chaim Herzog plaque from a building on Cliftonpark Avenue. The plaque was removed for its protection. There was an attack on a mural in Northumberland Street that praised an Ulsterman who worked with the Israeli defence forces. Also, in August of this year, in an awful and evil attack on the Jewish sector of Belfast City Cemetery, 13 headstones were damaged by a mob carrying bricks, rocks and hammers. Having spoken to the rabbi on two occasions, having met, along with the Belfast Lord Mayor, the Belfast Jewish Council in the City Hall, and visited the synagogue recently, I have to say that the Jewish community in this city is very fearful of attack.
The debate that took place in the Guildhall, Londonderry last week was mentioned. Without question, parties who voted for that motion have to take responsibility for raising anti-Jewish tensions in Northern Ireland. I have spoken to members of the Jewish community who have told me that that is exactly the case. They are friends of mine, and I know it to be true.
In making good the damage at Belfast City Cemetery, I have met the director of parks for Belfast City Council and the local police in north Belfast. I have invited the Chief Constable to visit the synagogue. I have invited the First Minister of Northern Ireland to join me —
Does the Member agree that the disgusting attack in the City Cemetery was merely the culmination of a campaign directed against the Jewish community in Belfast that goes back a long way? We have not only kids from Israel working on the Dead Sea products stall in Castle Court being attacked but products being torn off supermarket shelves because they come from Israel.
The Member is quite right: people take part in so-called pro-Palestinian rallies, but they turn out to be anti-Israel rallies. I am not here to speak about the whats, wherefores and "whataboutery" of Israel; I am talking about the indigenous Jewish community in this city.
I do not have time. Sorry.
As I mentioned, tonight is Yom Kippur: the Day of Atonement. The evil people who took part in the attack in the City Cemetery, daubed graffiti on the synagogue and sent threatening emails to members of the Jewish community, including the rabbi, need to atone for their evil actions across not just Europe but this United Kingdom. We must stamp out anti-Semitism. I and my party will continue to stand firm in support of Belfast's small but growing Jewish community. They have provided so much to this city's cultural, political and, most importantly, commercial life, and they continue to do so. The Jewish community is valued in this city. I am greatly privileged to represent the Jewish community in North Belfast, where the synagogue is placed, and I regularly visit there. The attack is a sad reflection on the city. This city, nationally and internationally, was damaged reputationally by that vile and evil attack in the City Cemetery.
I support the amendment. The First Ministers made a short statement on 27 June, after the EU referendum result, in the context of increased attacks on migrants in Great Britain. They reassured local migrant communities that they were welcome and valued in Northern Ireland. That statement needs to be echoed and amplified once again. I call on the Executive Office to reiterate that statement today with greater volume and more repetition.
A few days after the referendum, I was invited to one of the larger and more successful agri-food businesses in my constituency to speak with the company's management team. From memory, about 18 people were part of the management team, the vast majority of whom were from other countries; they were not originally from the UK or Ireland. They came from a wide variety of EU states, such as Slovakia, Poland, the Baltic states and Portugal, to name but a few. All those people had long service with the company; I think that, on average, it was nine years. Most had been promoted during their service in tribute to their skills, motivation and contribution. Many had married while living in Northern Ireland, some to locals and some to other migrants not necessarily from their own country. They are all bringing up their children in Northern Ireland, putting down roots and making a valuable contribution to our economy and society. During the next hour or so of the meeting, the managers detailed to me their fears and concerns, which were amplified by the Brexit decision. Some asked about what would happen to their children, as their children had UK passports and they did not. Some asked whether they should proceed with their house purchase. Some asked whether they should start to look for work outside Northern Ireland. They were all very concerned for their future, and they were not alone. The business owners were equally concerned for the future of their company and about access to labour, skills and markets.
Our migrant labour community needs to hear from the House. A loud, unified voice needs to come from here to say that that community is welcome and valued and will continue to be so, no matter the outworkings of Brexit. I understand that some people are concerned by migration. Indeed, it was said to be one of the main drivers for the Brexit vote. I say to the people who are genuinely concerned that Northern Ireland is the UK region least affected by migration. The latest figures show that Northern Ireland has a net 1·2 migrants per 1,000 population, compared with 4·5 in England, 1·9 in Wales and 1·5 in Scotland.
Yet all studies show that our migrant worker community makes a significant positive contribution to our economy and society.
The cause of racial equality and the development of a diverse and vibrant society has taken a knock post-referendum. I call on the Executive Office to include in an action plan tasks that will help instil confidence in the migrant worker community. A good start would be to send out a clear message today to migrant workers, their families, their employers and the wider Northern Ireland community.
I am glad to speak in this debate. You will know that I am very proud to be from Belfast, as are other people in this room. I am very proud that Belfast enjoys a well-deserved reputation of being in the forefront of being a welcoming and kind city with welcoming and kind people. We can take pride in the fact that the people of Belfast elected a Jew from Hamburg to be the Lord Mayor of their city at a time when Jews across Europe and, indeed, on this island were being subjected to pogroms and persecution.
We can be proud of the fact that civil and religious liberty is afforded to all our citizens, whether they be Jew, Muslim or Christian. I believe very much in the words of Shimon Peres, who said that we are all Abraham's children, and those rights that I ask of others, I would give to them.
I do not believe that any child is born hating people. Attitudinally, children see no difference between each other. I have seen this in the case of my own children. My daughter is in P2 and my son is in P1, and they both have classmates whose parents came from beyond our shores, and they see no difference between the children in their class who are Polish or Lithuanian and themselves.
All around Belfast, we see the positive contribution that has been made by people born beyond our shores. In south Belfast, the most well-established ethnic minority community is, of course, the Chinese. The Chinese people came to Belfast and invested in our city at a time when nobody wanted to and when the heart was literally being ripped out of the city. So we recognise in government the valuable and positive contribution that people make. It is important that it is put on record that that is the case. Through the racial equality strategy, the minority ethnic development fund, the crisis fund, the racial equality subgroup and all the other programmes that the Government are responsible for, we give a lead on tackling racism and working to create a place in which every person feels safe and secure.
Northern Ireland is a compassionate place and a compassionate society. Over 200 people have been settled here under the vulnerable persons relocation scheme. These people are here because they are fleeing a hellish war zone. We talked yesterday in the House about the circumstances that have forced people to flee Syria, and I would like to believe that, were I ever confronted with circumstances similar to those that those people are facing, friendly neighbours would let me in.
Coordinated action across government is evidenced even this week. Hate Crime Awareness Week, involving the Executive Office, the Police Service of Northern Ireland, Victim Support, the Probation Board, the Northern Ireland Housing Executive and the Department of Justice, shows that the Government take our responsibility seriously in these areas, and we are determined to act to protect all our communities from fear or persecution.
Once again, I thank Members for the contributions that they have made. I think that there is broad agreement in this debate about the direction in which we want to travel, and that there is a recognition of the need to travel it.
We must all recognise that those of us in positions of responsibility have a role to play, and I believe that that is the case for every Member of this House: that we are committed to delivering a society in which everyone feels safe, secure, valued —
This is with respect to your intervention when the last Member from your party was up. He rightfully mentioned the disgusting attacks on the Jewish plot in the city cemetery. However, he did not go on to mention that the local community rallied behind the Jewish community to show their abhorrence at those attacks. When we mention those attacks, we should also mention the actions taken by the local community.
Secondly, when people come out onto the streets in support of Palestinians, it is not anti-Jewish sentiment; it is against Israeli attacks on Gaza and the West Bank. That is what they are doing.
Thank you. I am absolutely happy to acknowledge that that is the case with the local community. In the communities that I represent, I have seen occasions when a dreadful attack takes place, and an entire community can be branded like that as a racist ghetto, usually on the front page of certain newspapers, an allegation that is completely removed from the reality of the situation on the ground.
That is a good reason not to take interventions.
I welcome the debate on the motion. It is right and timely for the Assembly to send out a clear and unambiguous message to people of ethnic minorities and those who have come here to live and work that their contribution is valued and needed and that denigration of them will not be tolerated any more.
I hope that the Executive deliver on this, and, as such, we support the constructive Ulster Unionist Party amendment. The racial equality strategy has taken too long; it cannot just be about photo opportunities or a talking shop. It has to have meaningful actions, targets and accountability.
We welcome the publication, a number of months ago now, of the racial equality strategy, but we share the deep frustration at the years that it took to bring it forward and the lack of demonstrable progress on it. We regret the failure to address a number of gaps and imbalances that have led to this region trailing behind in legal protection for black and minority ethnic people. The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has, for almost a decade, repeatedly highlighted the faults in the race relations orders and amendments to that legislation. I want to ask the Government when they will make those legislative fixes. If ever anything deserved a quick royal prerogative change, it is that.
As Mr Dickson said, we need to differentiate between sectarianism and racism. Certainly, they are related cancers for this society, but there is a danger that sectarianism, which I accept is our biggest challenge, will crowd out the growing issue of racism, in terms of resources, funding and police time. The same black and minority ethnic funding has to be shared out from projects as diverse as great projects like the Mela festival in Belfast and those tackling the destitution of refugees and asylum seekers. In no other funding stream would those two needs sit side by side, but we justify it because both address the needs of minority ethnic communities.
We also need to be very aware of the language of politicians. A casual "N" word in a tweet or a "not trusting people to go down to the shop" remark sends the message that such language is acceptable and legitimises the demonising of new arrivals and people who are different.
Failure to tackle myths was a feature of the Brexit debate. It laid the blame for many societal problems at the feet of new arrivals, and that was very stark. I took part in a debate recently in which a senior politician was asked about net migration figures and did not know the statistics. When he was advised of the very small figure — we are almost a net exporter of people — he said that the quantum did not matter and that it was the perception that there were too many migrants. When did it stop being the responsibility of politicians to base our policy on fact and to challenge myths?
It is all too easy to pin racism on specific communities. I think that that is an issue; we are labelling communities where race hate attacks take place as "racist communities".
I will be very clear: anybody who attacks, does graffiti or intimidates on the basis of racial difference needs to be very forcefully targeted by the police, but we cannot let off the hook higher-level and institutional xenophobia that feeds exactly that information.
A Business in the Community report published yesterday collected the experience of 25,000 workers around the UK from ethnic minority backgrounds, including those in Northern Ireland, and showed that black and minority ethnic backgrounds are under-represented at every management level. One in eight workers is from an ethnic minority background, but only one in 16 occupies a management position. Thirty per cent of those surveyed had experienced racial harassment or bullying in the workplace. There are a number of recommendations that I will not have time to go into on using public procurement to incentivise racial diversity and for businesses to demonstrate real leadership.
Related to that is the need for better regulation of precarious and low-paid work. That is obviously not just a minority ethnic issue, but the horrific stories in the media last week of a gangmaster keeping workers almost as slaves highlight the need for increased protections and vigilance across society.
The context of the debate is, of course, Brexit and the fact that tens of thousands of people, who are contributing here, are propping up our public services and are making a net benefit, have a cloud hanging over their head and have had all year. They do not know whether they can sign that lease or whether, if their kids started school, they will be here in a couple of years. To say that those people are "bargaining chips" —
I want, first of all, to thank everyone who participated in this morning's debate. I think that the tone highlighted the fact that, as Mr Stalford said, everyone in the Chamber is committed to welcoming minority ethnic communities and those working in our society here in Northern Ireland. I mentioned last week during Question Time how we need to have a greater aspiration than simply building a tolerant society. We need to have one that recognises and celebrates the diversity and cultural richness that modern Northern Ireland is all about. As Members said during this debate, we must recognise that migrant workers and ethnic minorities contribute not only to the economic life here but to our social, political and cultural life, and that contribution is incalculable.
The skills, talents, fresh perspective and energy that migrants and minority ethnic people bring benefit all of us. Since being appointed as junior Minister, I have had the privilege of attending many events with our ethnic communities and seeing first-hand the important role they play in making Northern Ireland a better place for all of us. Of course, I have long recognised the important role that migration plays in many important sectors here in Northern Ireland, not least the agri-food sector, as some Members referred to.
I want to emphasise that, whilst we often use terms like "minority ethnic communities" or "migrants", we are, of course, talking about families, individuals and colleagues, and I think that it is important to put that on the record as well.
Mrs Cameron, in her contribution, spoke about migration to Northern Ireland over a long time. Over the last decade, of course, we have had people from a diverse number of nationalities, cultures and ethnic backgrounds come to Northern Ireland to make a new life, joining existing community and minority ethnic families, including the Chinese community, the Indian community and the Jewish community, who have lived here for many generations, and, of course, Irish Travellers, who have been here for many centuries.
Mr McGuigan, in his contribution, talked about that diversity being reflected in the 2011 census, which reported that there are now over 90 languages spoken in Northern Ireland. So, our society is changing. The old ways of seeing things and the old prejudices are falling slowly away, and, hopefully, they are being replaced by a much more cosmopolitan and complex take on life and society.
Mr Lynch, in opening the debate and proposing the motion, talked about the importance of the racial equality strategy, and many Members touched on that as well. That strategy was, of course, launched last December, and it is full of ambition and high expectation. It establishes a framework for Departments and others to tackle racial inequalities, to eradicate racism and hate crime and, along with the Together: Building a United Community strategy, to promote good relations and social cohesion. We must be clear that it will take the work of society as a whole to achieve racial equality, and to ensure that we work towards that common goal, it is important that the opinions of everyone are taken on board. By sharing experience and knowledge, we can collectively address the issues of racial inequality and work towards a fully inclusive society, and that is exactly how it should be.
Mention was also made of the subgroup. I was pleased to join my junior Minister colleague and the First Minister and deputy First Minister recently at the inaugural meeting of the equality subgroup.
It is important that the subgroup has a voice that will be heard at the very highest level of government. I am pleased with the feedback that we have already had from participants, and I know that it is meeting again next month.
A number of Members talked about hate crime. Of course, the motion is explicit on reports of an 87% increase in hate-related crimes over the past four years. Mr Lynch also talked about "silent voices", and that is something that we should recognise. Historically, racism and racist incidents have been under-reported. We can look at statistics in different ways, but, in one sense, an increased number of reported incidents shows that people from ethnic backgrounds are now more confident in coming forward when they have been the victim of such racist attacks or abuse. It also shows that there is more confidence in the police. However, irrespective of what is behind the statistics, it remains a source of shame and causes damage to our society's reputation and to our economy, and it must be challenged.
Although hate crime is, first and foremost, a matter for the criminal justice system, the Police Service, the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) and the courts, we must all play our role in challenging it at every turn. I am aware that, behind statistics, there are real individuals who have been abused and insulted, who are frightened and intimidated and who increasingly can be isolated in society. A number of Members raised specific issues in their constituency, and it is important that they did that.
Mr McPhillips mentioned the European referendum. Again, it is important to put on record that the post-Brexit spike in race hate crime in England and Wales is not reflected in Northern Ireland. That received considerable media coverage, but the evidence that we have has suggested that racist attacks in Northern Ireland are falling, and that should be welcomed. It is also important to say that the referendum did not create racism. The calling of the referendum did not cause it, and the result is not going to bring about more racism or get rid of racism. I caution against drawing that link, because in all societies there are always those who resent, fear and hate those who are different from them based on race, gender or religion. Those people are wrong, and they are misguided and misinformed, and, as I said, we have to challenge that.
It is encouraging that the 2015 life and times survey, which was mentioned earlier, showed that 61% of people living in Northern Ireland think that the culture and traditions of minority ethnic people add to the richness and diversity of Northern Ireland society. It also found that 68% of people here said that it is important to them that public bodies such as local councils, hospital trusts and Departments take into account the needs of ethnic minorities. That has also been my experience from attending some of the events that took place around Community Relations and Cultural Awareness Week, where many people participated to learn more about what is going on there.
Mr Beattie proposed the amendment. Of course, he was critical of the Executive, which has been a running theme since we returned following the Assembly election. He talked about his experience of living abroad and the challenges that there are for ethnic minorities or newcomers to Northern Ireland in living here. That is absolutely right, for it is quite a courageous thing to move to a new country and a new culture. However, I am continually encouraged by talking to people who have started a new life in Northern Ireland, particularly those who have been part of the refugee resettlement programme, and by how welcoming they have found people in Northern Ireland. Undoubtedly it is challenging for them, but they have emphasised how welcome they have been made to feel.
He mentioned the review of legislation. I know that there have been media reports about that in the past few weeks, and a number of other Members mentioned that as well. The Executive are aware of the suggestion of gaps in the legislation. The racial equality strategy commits to a review of the current legislation, including a review of the current Race Relations Order and fair employment legislation, and Mr Agnew, Ms Hanna and others commented on that.
That is an important point to make. The statute book is an incredibly messy thing. There could be piecemeal approaches taken to different pieces of legislation that could be encompassed in a consolidation Bill of some sort. That is something that the Executive Office will look at. We are going to examine the statute book to see what legislation is there. If a consolidation Bill is required, that can be something that we will give consideration to.
Talking specifically about refugees, I mentioned the courage that it takes to come here. The Department has assisted the humanitarian crisis through the vulnerable persons relocation scheme (VPRS), which is currently the only formal scheme through which we receive refugees.
It has been successful: over 200 people from Syria have resettled here under the scheme and, as I said, been made to feel welcome. The feedback has been very encouraging, and we expect to consult on the refugee integration strategy later this year.
The draft Programme for Government (PFG) sets out, in outcome terms, the improvements in well-being to which the Executive aspire for everyone living in Northern Ireland, and we remain committed to the implementation of the racial equality strategy. Over the coming weeks, we will work to explore how the strategy's implementation can support the achievement of the PFG outcomes, with particular reference to addressing the issues raised by minority ethnic communities.
I will not give way, because I have only five minutes left, and there are a lot of contributions I want to get through. I hope that the Member forgives me for that, because I generally do give way.
The racial equality strategy subgroup has a significant role to play in making sure that action plans, timetables and priorities are moved forward at a quick pace. The subgroup will advise the Executive Office and other Departments on the implementation of the strategy, and it will be tasked with working with Departments, and vice versa, to develop an implementation plan, and with monitoring and reviewing progress on implementation. That is an important role.
I will touch on some of the other comments made by Members. Mr Irwin mentioned that Northern Ireland is a welcoming place, and that is borne out by conversations that I have had with people who have resettled here. He talked about a particular incident in his constituency — an incident that, of course, should be condemned — and the importance of working with the police to ensure that those responsible are held accountable for their actions and dealt with appropriately when brought in front of the courts. This is Hate Crime Awareness Week, and junior Minister Fearon and I will join the Justice Minister later this week to highlight some of the issues around race crime and look at how we can tackle those attitudes in society.
Mr McPhillips talked about the failure to tackle the issue. We all have a responsibility for this. Members have said before that political parties have a responsibility for what their members put on social media, and councillors have a responsibility for the motions that they support and the impression that that gives society. He talked about investment, and there is £60 million going to the T:BUC strategy over the next five years, which is hugely important. He and Mrs Hanna talked about financial support for minority ethnic groups.
The minority ethnic development fund is as successful as it has always been; in fact, it is more successful than it has ever been. Since the fund was established in 2001, it has supported hundreds of different projects and helped thousands of people. Over £1 million is being distributed through the minority ethnic development fund to assist minority ethnic and community organisations to promote good relations between people of different ethnic backgrounds.
Over 30 projects are being supported in this financial year. It is important to highlight that the number of applications is increasing year-on-year. For 2013-15, 85 applications were received. That increased to 92 applications for the 2015-16 fund and to 99 for the 2016-17 fund. That is indicative of the growing confidence among minority ethnic groups, which means that they are coming forward and not only highlighting issues of concern to them but promoting and celebrating the role that they play in Northern Ireland. There is also the crisis fund, which has a £100,000 budget and was established to assist vulnerable migrants, destitute refugees and asylum seekers, those who have been subjected to trafficking — my colleague mentioned the Bill that was passed here and the additional powers that that has created — and other identifiable vulnerable groups, including the Roma. That issue has been raised.
Mr Dickson talked about the need to tackle racism, and he was exactly right. That is why we have the strategy and the subgroup up and running. I am encouraged by the feedback, as I have said many times before. He talked about the isolation felt by many ethnic groups. That is not what we are hearing from the subgroup, which feels that they are being listened to at the highest level of government, which is very encouraging.
Mrs Cameron talked about the incident in Antrim. I think that all of us were horrified when we viewed the video footage, and people across the country were rightly disgusted. She also talked about the importance of migrant community workers in our health service, which, again, everybody would agree with.
Mr Humphrey talked about the impact on the Jewish community in Northern Ireland. It is worrying that, particularly in Great Britain, there seems to be a rise in anti-Semitism in one of the main parties. He talked specifically about the harassment of the Jewish community in Northern Ireland. It is important that the House condemns all types of racism and intolerance, whether it is based on ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or anything else. We should not tolerate it.
Mr Smith talked about the referendum, and I have cautioned Members about linking the referendum to the scourge of racism in our society. He said that we need to echo the statement by the First Minister and deputy First Minister about the importance and value of migrant workers in Northern Ireland.
It is not just the words but the actions. I know that Executive Office officials have been in contact with minority communities and migrant workers in Northern Ireland to reassure them that they are very much part of Northern Ireland's fabric of society, advise them on their rights and continue the long-standing relationship that we have with them. He said that it is important that we state how valuable they are. I have not heard a single person say that we do not support the migrant community in Northern Ireland, nor have I heard a single person say that they should not remain here post Brexit. Mr Stalford talked about their positive contribution and the fact that many children are in much more diverse schools than would have been the case before.
Today's contributions have clearly demonstrated the breadth and depth of the support here for the Executive's work towards achieving racial equality and good race relations. We recognise that racial equality and good race relations are essential if we are to flourish, but I would counsel that there is no quick fix to this. There will be a sustained effort on the part of Departments, public and private sector organisations and businesses and individuals. I am proud of the work that this Department and the Executive have done to try to achieve those goals. I do not think that anybody underestimates the challenge, but —
— through the racial equality strategy, the minority ethnic development fund, the crisis fund, the racial equality subgroup and other programmes, we will continue to make sure that we make progress on the issue.
We have a motion, and we have an amendment. It is a motion that is not much more than warm words, if it is more than that. They are woolly words and confused words about budgets and how they relate to strategies. However, in the amendment from my colleague Mr Beattie, there is something concrete, something that says, "Let's have action plans, timetables and priorities, so that we know where we are going". Is that not consistent with the new Executive commitment to outcome-based accountability in government, the very thing being talked about in this city in a two-day conference that will come to Parliament Buildings later in the day?
If we are looking for a real clue about the Executive's commitment in this area, where better could we look than the important letter penned by the First Minister and deputy First Minister, acting jointly, to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom on 10 August, which highlighted five concerns about the implications for Northern Ireland when we leave the European Union? It was a letter stating the blindingly obvious. One of the concerns was about migrant workers, and there was a plea to the Prime Minister to recognise that we need to be allowed access to unskilled as well as highly skilled labour in the public and private sectors. However, there was no recognition that we value those people as more than the mere commodity that they were defined as in that letter. Do we really value them? Do the Executive really value them? We saw today the fault line, with one half quite rightly talking about the valuable contribution made by the Jewish community in Belfast over the years and the other half supporting attacks on the state of Israel. I know that we can conflate ethnicity with nationality, but there is the fault line.
The Member for South Belfast brought in the contribution of the Chinese community down the years and during some very difficult years. I notice that he failed to mention the Indian community and Diljit Rana, for example, who came here in difficult times and decided to build a business empire. He found it rather difficult, because, every time he opened a business, republicans blew it up. I may exaggerate by saying "every time" because he obviously got there eventually.
Madam Principal Deputy Speaker, do I have five or 10 minutes?
Mr Lynch says that ethnics have never felt more insecure as if his party has not been in government and in charge for the last nine and a half years, as if there has not been a long hiatus between the racial equality strategies, and as if stakeholders like the Council for Ethnic Minorities do not think that the new strategy is a retrograde step. The minority ethnic development fund saw another hiatus. Why did we tell groups that we would fund the gap last year and then change our mind? We are sitting on this estate dealing in billions of pounds and saying to those small groups, "You will have to go to the bank or wherever you go to and find some sort of bridging loan to see yourselves through". I do not think that it is fair, and I do not think it reflects a proper commitment to our ethnic minorities.
I am a little disappointed with the quality of some of the debate. Mr Irwin seems to think that we are a welcoming country because travel journalists think we are a welcoming country. I do not know what that has to do with this. Mrs Cameron said that, since the 1600s, Northern Ireland has had a long tradition. She is as confused as the First Minister. Northern Ireland is not even 100 years old. There is a big tradition in the north-east of this island but not in Northern Ireland. Mrs Hanna talks about the failure to tackle myths. We are in danger of moving into a post-factual society, and the new realities and the new normals —
I want to read a few words into the record and then pick up on some of the contributions. I have to commend the Minister. He must have been reading my notes.
I want to take the opportunity to commend the Executive on their vision for the T:BUC strategy, which outlines a vision of a united community based on equality of opportunity and the desirability of good relations and reconciliation and strengthened by its diversity where cultural expression is celebrated and embraced and where everyone can live, learn, work and socialise together free from prejudice, hate and intolerance. The strategy seeks to address the deep-rooted issues that have perpetuated segregation and resulted in some people living separate lives. It is important to note that the T:BUC strategy is a journey towards a more united and shared society. There is clearly a long and difficult process of change and development for our society in the North of Ireland. Strategies such as T:BUC and the racial equality strategy demonstrate that the Assembly is trying to challenge sectarianism, racism and prejudice. It is important that we have a joined-up approach in government to tackle all those problems. Notwithstanding the comments made in the EU and UN reports that my party colleagues mentioned, the T:BUC strategy recognises the serious problems that we face in the North in tackling sectarianism, prejudice and hate.
One of the shared aims of the strategy is to continue to improve attitudes amongst our young people and to build a community where they can play a full and active role in building good relations. I want to highlight one example: the shared education campus of St John's Primary School and Moy Regional Primary School, which has been selected by the Department of Education as one of our new shared campuses that will be created over the next number of years. As well as three shared education campuses, other initiatives include getting 10,000 young people who are not in education, employment or training a place on a new United Youth volunteering programme; establishing 10 new shared housing schemes; developing four urban village schemes; developing a significant programme of cross-community sporting events; removing interface barriers by 2023; and piloting 100 shared summer schools. If we are to measure the success of T:BUC, look at what outcomes have been achieved.
In addressing all the issues that we face in the North, we must not forget the Good Friday Agreement, where the declaration of support commits —
I mean this with the greatest respect to the Member, but he spent minutes talking about targets that were set about three years ago and washed over the outcomes that have been achieved without referencing any.
It is a work in progress —
It is a wee bit rich of the Member: he has come into the Chamber at the end of the debate and has not really been listening in. I was good enough to give him the intervention. I know that it is a work in progress and that junior Minister Fearon, like junior Minister Ross, has been doing a lot of work on it. If the Member does not mind, I will continue with my speech.
The declaration of support commits all participants to the protection and vindication of the human rights of all in sections on rights, safeguards and equality of opportunity. The signatories affirmed their commitment to the mutual respect, civil rights and the religious liberties of everyone in the community, and we need to continue to see that implemented. That is according to the Good Friday Agreement. That is why it is important that the departmental equality schemes are robustly implemented.
I want to go back to where I started off. I have written down exactly what the junior Minister wrote down about the debate — they are the same notes — but I will not go through all of what was said. I will say this: my colleague said it at the very start. People should read the motion. I have heard words like "woolly" and Doug Beattie talked about it being "weak", but Mr Lynch said that the Executive are committed to those two strategies. The main point that he highlighted — I think that we would have agreement on it in the Chamber — is the need for a single equality Act. A number of Members, including Steven Agnew and others, mentioned that on the Floor of the House. That is what we are talking about. We all know what the Equality Commission and the UN reports have stated. As I said, I have recorded everything that Members said and will pick out a few brief points.
Let us start with Mr Beattie, because I have touched on him. The only other point that I want to make about my colleague Mr Lynch — he mentioned it and the junior Minister picked up on it — is the issue of silent voices. That is a concern for us and something that we certainly need to look at. I want to talk about Mr Beattie's contribution; he certainly shared some of his experiences. He is right: he finished his remarks by saying that it sits with Ministers. I agree, but we all have to take collective responsibility. There is another issue. He spoke for seven and a half minutes. It is not for me to say what his contribution should be about, but I will say this: his last three lines were only about those three words. He talked about an action plan, timetable and key priorities, and I would have thought that this was the forum and an opportunity for people to bring forward suggestions for those. I would have liked to hear that in his contribution.
Mr Nesbitt made the winding-up speech on the amendment, and he also had an opportunity to raise those points. It is OK putting the motion to the vote. At the end of the day, part of your contribution was that it sits with Ministers, but if you read the motion you will see that it refers to the Ministers and responsibility. I do not know how you can bring in those two points without making any reference to how we will achieve that or what your ideas are. I sit on the ethnic minorities group as the ethnic minorities spokesperson. We have a meeting next week, and we will go through this debate and see exactly what was said. I think that there was an opportunity for the debate to be expanded into that.
No, I want to finish some of the other comments. To be fair to the Member, I normally do give way, but I want to pick up on some of the other points.
Richie McPhillips picked up on a good point. He is right about Brexit because there are concerns that, after Brexit and the vote on Europe, those issues have raised their heads. There is no doubt about it: the number of attacks has grown and there are concerns about that.
Mr Dickson always makes a good contribution, but I thought that it was a wee bit rich picking on the Justice Minister. His party had the Justice Ministry for five years and the Justice Minister was not here. To be fair to him, he has always supported the idea of a single equality Bill. He mentions that all the time, along with us. I just wanted to pick up on that point.
Mr McGuigan highlighted some of the issues. It is shocking to think that there have been 500 race hate incidents in the last six months. <BR/>It is certainly very worrying and something that we need to look at.
I will just pick up a few other points. Claire Hanna is not here, but she said something about looking at the legal framework. The Minister, in his contribution, said that he would examine the statute book. That is a positive comment.
I will finish there. I support the motion and am against the amendment.
Question put, That the amendment be made. The Assembly divided:
Mr Agnew, Mr Aiken, Mr Allen, Ms Armstrong, Mr Attwood, Mrs Barton, Mr Beattie, Mr Beggs, Ms Bradshaw, Mr Butler, Mr Carroll, Mr Chambers, Mr Dickson, Mrs Dobson, Mr Durkan, Ms Hanna, Mr Kennedy, Mr Lyttle, Mr E McCann, Mr McGlone, Mr McGrath, Mr McKee, Mr McNulty, Mr McPhillips, Ms Mallon, Mr Mullan, Mr Nesbitt, Mrs Overend, Mr Smith, Mr Swann
Tellers for the Ayes: Mr Beattie, Mr Nesbitt
Mr Anderson, Ms Archibald, Mr Boylan, Ms P Bradley, Mr K Buchanan, Ms Bunting, Mrs Cameron, Mr Clarke, Ms Dillon, Mr Douglas, Mr Dunne, Ms Fearon, Mr Frew, Ms Gildernew, Mr Givan, Mrs Hale, Mr Irwin, Mr Kearney, Mr Kelly, Mrs Little Pengelly, Ms Lockhart, Mr Lynch, Mr Lyons, Mr McAleer, Mr F McCann, Ms J McCann, Mr McCartney, Mr McCausland, Mr McElduff, Mr McGuigan, Mr McMullan, Mr Milne, Mr Murphy, Ms Ní Chuilín, Mr Ó Muilleoir, Mr O'Dowd, Mrs O'Neill, Mr Robinson, Mr Ross, Mr Sheehan, Mr Stalford, Mr Weir
Tellers for the Noes: Mr Boylan, Mr McGuigan
Question accordingly negatived.
Main Question put and agreed to. Resolved:
That this Assembly recognises the positive contribution that ethnic minorities make to our society; notes with concern an increase of 87% in hate-related crime in the last four years; and calls on all Ministers to continue to give priority to implementing the racial equality strategy and the Together: Building a United Community strategy, and to providing the financial support to ensure that both of these strategies are supported and implemented.