MLA Anna Lo feels unsafe living in Northern Ireland

Thursday 29 May 2014 22.56
The Alliance Party's Anna Lo said she does not feel safe living in Northern Ireland
The Alliance Party's Anna Lo said she does not feel safe living in Northern Ireland

A Hong Kong-born Stormont Assembly member has said she does not feel safe living in Northern Ireland in the wake of a recent upsurge in racist hate crimes.

The Alliance Party's Anna Lo, who was a candidate in the recent European election, has announced she will not seek re-election as an MLA in 2016 as she is fed up with "tribal politics" in the region.

The South Belfast representative also heavily criticised First Minister Peter Robinson and other Democratic Unionists for voicing support for a controversial anti-Islamic preacher who said he did not trust Muslims.

"That just made me so, so angry," she said.

The high-profile politician has been subjected to racist abuse, including expletive-laden online slurs, from loyalists angry at her party's decision to support limiting the flying of the Union flag at City Hall in Belfast.

Ms Lo, who lives alone, said she had previously discussed with her two grown-up sons in England the possibility of leaving Northern Ireland, where she has lived for 40 years, over concerns for her safety.

In the most recent episode earlier this month, a group of loyalists shouted foul-mouthed racist abuse at her in a shopping centre car park in east Belfast.

"I do feel vulnerable, I do feel unsafe," she said.

"But we need to address this, we need to sort this out, we have racist incidents (in Northern Ireland) now, two to three a day."

The Assembly member insisted the loyalist abuse was not behind her decision to quit politics.

"I am not seeking re-election but it's not because of the racist abuse," she said.

"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 have decided that for some time already. I am just fed up with tribal politics, that's all."

She accused Stormont's two main parties - the DUP and Sinn Féin - of failing to deliver on tackling racism and sectarianism.

"I am just frustrated by the lack of action, by the lack of support from politicians to address not only racism but sectarianism.

"I am disillusioned with politics in Northern Ireland, the Assembly is not really delivering for people," she said.

Ms Lo said she wanted to stay in Northern Ireland, but added: "I will see how things go.

"I doubt if I would take that decision to go but that would be a very, very major decision for me after I have lived here for 40 years.

"I would want to stay but I have to think about my safety as well."

Elsewhere, Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore and Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers have both condemned the controversial comments by Belfast Pastor James McConnell.

He had described Islam as a heathen and satanic faith "spawned in hell" and said he did not trust Muslims.

Speaking after a meeting in Iveagh House in Dublin, Ms Villiers said the comment will have caused considerable distress to the Muslim community.

Mr Gilmore described Mr McConnell's comments as shocking and disgusting and said that type of language had no place in modern society.