[Sinn Fein]

8th April 2002

The Battle Against Racism

Sinn Fein Chief Whip, Alex Maskey MLA has said that everyone has a part to play in the battle against racism.

Mr Maskey said:

``Racism does not grow by accident or in isolation. Everywhere it has taken hold it is because people in politics and other spheres of society have nurtured it for their own cynical interests.

``We want an Ireland based on tolerance, respect and understanding. There is a huge richness to be gained from multiculturalism and, with information and education, much of the fear that genuinely exists among some Irish people can be replaced by understanding and appreciation. It is the responsibility of all of us to give leadership on this issue and to make a public, united stand against racism.

``Not only has the Government failed to address the needs and rights of refugees and asylum seekers, it has also ignored the needs and rights of urban and rural communities. Communities have a right to be consulted.  Communities have a right to expect adequate resources and support. But communities also have obligations and responsibilities as human beings.

``I have persistently raised with David Trimble and now Mark Durkan the failure of the Executive to produce an anti-racism strategy despite the commitment in the Programme for Government to do so. Given the startling statistics, not least in South Belfast, there is the need for urgency and leadership.

``We are in the midst of a period of change when racism needs to be confronted and when the related issues of asylum and immigration need to be dealt with in a rational and progressive manner. Racism must be challenged wherever it takes hold, everyone has a part to play.''

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