Northern Ireland news

Assembly members challenged to pledge to enact mothballed racial equality strategy

Lilian Seenoi-Barr at the racial equality event in the Long Gallery Stormont. Picture by Mal MCann.

ASSEMBLY members were challenged to sign a `non-partisan' pledge committing to enacting Stormont's mothballed racial equality strategy, after a multicultural collective took their campaign to Parliament Buildings.

The Northwest Migrant Forum led the initiative with cooperation from Belfast Multicultural association, Horn of Africa People's Aid NI, East Africa Youth NI, Multi-Ethnic Sports & Cultures NI, BME Women Network, Ethnic Minority Sport NI and Belfast Islamic association.

The pledge is to fulfil existing obligations and commit to setting a timetable for action on the strategy assembly members debated and renewed their commitment to a year ago.

Supported by the Committee on the Administration of Justice, Equality coalition and Amnesty International, they were invited by junior minister Gary Middleton whose office holds the portfolio for the strategy.

Organiser Lilian Seenoi-Barr said attendees had been galvanised by hearing each other's experiences and were channelling their frustration into concrete action.

"In this society we have to take responsibility. Equality is never given, we have to go out and earn it and that is what we are doing.

"We are not asking for any favours, we're not asking for any preferential treatment. We're asking to be equal, to be recognised as part of this society. That is a human right, not a favour.

"We are no longer a minority, we are standing in solidarity as part of a majority now and we need to ensure that our presence is felt in every part of the community.

"It's up to us to get involved and contribute to a better society."

She said many in attendance were not on the Electoral Register but signed up yesterday.

"These politicians will be coming to our doors within the next year and they will have to answer what they will do for us.

"We hold the balance of power. Our votes matter."

Ms Seenoi-Barr said they had been "very encouraged" by the attendance of politicians from all parties, who were "prepared to listen".

"We will see how many sign the pledge."

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