Councillor Harkin referred to the recent racist statement made by Gregory Campbell. He felt that Members should be collectively outraged that Mr Campbell had reiterated that he had nothing to apologise for. He asked that Council join with the North West Migrants Forum in calling for an apology from Mr Campbell and for the DUP and the House of Commons to hold him accountable for his comments. He noted that Council recently unanimously passed a motion regarding standing up against racism and discrimination. Therefore, he felt that Council was expected to respond, particularly due to the increased number of reported hate-crimes. He referred to the statement issued by the North West Migrants Forum which stated that it was deeply worrying that Mr Campbell could confidently display such clear bias without fear or accountability. He referred to the Black Lives Matter protests held in Derry and Belfast in June 2020, where demonstrators had been assaulted. He stated that very few people spoke out to express condemnation and believed that those who now condemned Mr Campbell had been silent at the time of those demonstrations. He believed that, in his opinion, Sinn Féin and the SDLP had been particularly silent but had been loud in its condemnation of Mr Campbell.
Continuing, he felt that Mr Campbell assumed he could make such remarks due to the events that took place at the BLM demonstrations and the subsequent support from the Executive to what happened to people of colour. He called on the Executive Parties to reflect and demand that the fines and prosecutions of the Black Lives Matter protestors to be immediately dropped. He also urged Council to schedule the agreed meeting with the North West Migrants Forum and other anti-racist campaign groups as quickly as possible.
Councillor Duffy stated that she supported the proposal by Councillor Harkin. However, she felt that a number of his comments was an attempt to rewrite history. She stated that Sinn Féin had spoken out regarding the Black Lives Matter protests and had also raised the matter at meetings with the PCSP, PSNI and publicly. She advised that her Party had also voted in favour of the motion brought before Council by Councillor Harkin. She stated that in terms of the issue at hand, she fully supported the proposal. She stated that the comments made by MP Gregory Campbell were disgusting, racist to the core and had screamed racism. She advised that she and numerous Party colleagues had signed the letter of support by the North West Migrants Forum.
Councillor Reilly stated that he concurred with the sentiments expressed by the previous speaker. He stated that when Councillor Harkin started speaking regarding comments made by Mr Campbell, SDLP were in full agreement with those remarks in that regard. He stated that the SDLP had made calls for Mr Campbell to apologise for his comments. However, but when he did not apologise and in fact doubled down on those comments, the Party had called for the wider DUP to consider his offensive remarks. He advised that the matter had been reported to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner. However, he believed that Councillor Harkin proceeded to use language that he felt was wrong. He described it as strange that he had talked about the importance of Mr Campbell reflecting on his comments, however, he then attempted to rewrite events that took place in June 2020. He advised that at the time of the BLM protests, the SDLP had supported Councillor Harkin’s motion. Therefore, to say that the Party had been silent on it was patently untrue.
Continuing, he advised that SDLP Party Leader, Colum Eastwood MLA had been interviewed on local radio the next day in relation to the issues that had been raised. He further advised that the Party had also raised them with the PSNI at a senior level and indeed locally with the PCSP. He believed that for Councillor Harkin to project that every other Party was silent on the issues raised was totally inaccurate. However, on the issue raised in relation to Mr Campbell, the SDLP endorsed the comments made on the matter.
Alderman Devenney stated that the DUP was not a racist Political Party. He stated that people were calling for this issue to be brought to the fore, however, he felt that the Party Leader had been very much to the fore. He noted that the actual wording by the First Minister, Mrs Arlene Foster, was that they were sentiments that she would not identify with and she enjoyed watching Songs of Praise. He concurred with some of the comments made by the previous speakers in relation to Councillor Harkin’s comments being an attempt to rewrite history regarding the Black Lives Matters protests. He stated that the DUP supported equality and fairness for everyone and condemned the violence carried out at those protests in June of last year.
Councillor Ferguson supported the comments made by Councillor Harkin in relation to Mr Campbell. She stated that words did matter and the context in which they were used did have an impact on members of society. She concurred that the words used by Mr Campbell were racist and that she had also signed the letter by the North West Migrants Forum. She believed that, in her opinion education was also an issue and that the Alliance Party had interacted online with a number of BAME activists. She advised that an internal diversity poll had been carried out in an attempt to improve on all aspects of racial diversity. She stated that she hoped Mr Campbell would apologies for his remarks and for the DUP to acknowledge that the comments were of a racist nature.
Councillor Harkin encouraged everyone to sign the petition from the North West Migrants Forum and urged that a Council meeting would take place with representatives from the Forum and other groups. He welcomed that Members had agreed to the call for accountability.
The Chair concurred that the remarks made by Mr Campbell were totally inappropriate and would distance himself from that type of language at any time.