The DUP is to report the Council for Ethnic Minorities chief to the PSNI for an alleged “hate crime” after he claimed loyalist areas of south Belfast may launch a “Holy Cross” style protest against foreign national schoolchildren
Patrick Yu, chief executive of the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities (NICEM), said parents and children attending a school off the Lisburn Road could become the victims of racist attacks if their schooling is moved to a loyalist area.
The children attend Fane Street Primary School off the Lisburn Road, where 64 per cent of pupils are immigrants from 22 countries, one third of whom are Muslim.
The Education Authority is proposing to merge the school with Blythefield Primary School in Sandy Row and Donegall Road Primary school due to empty places.
In its submission on the proposed changes, NICEM said the merger “would present a high security risk of racist attacks against ethnic minority and Muslim families” if parents have to pass the Village area to get to a proposed new school close to or at the Donegall Road or Sandy Row areas.
But South Belfast DUP MLA Jimmy Spratt was “appalled” .
“I think after he what he has said, he should resign,” he said. “I have been speaking to many people in Sandy Row and the main buzz is that they are absolutely appalled at what he said, equating the situation to Holy Cross. It is a potential hate crime and I will speak to police later with regards to this.”
Mr Spratt said that there were significant numbers of children in all three of the primary schools from ethnic minorities, not just Fane Street Primary School.
Mr Yu said south Belfast had the highest number of racist attacks in Northern Ireland.
“The ethnic minority and Muslim families would need to walk to the [new] school ... down the Donegall Road, through the Village to the new school in the future,” he told the BBC.
“This also means they will have a high risk of racist attack and racial harassment on the way to and from (the new proposed) school.”
Mr Yu said: “We do not want to see another ‘Holy Cross’ number two to happen in that area.”
He added: “There is no point for me to resign. I have done nothing wrong. I never demonised any community.”
DUP MLA David McILveen said senior police officers at the Policing Board on Thursday confirmed there was “no evidence to sustain the claim made by Patrick Yu that a future school merger involving Donegall Road Primary School, Blythefield Primary School and Fane Street Primary School would lead to an increase in racist attacks in the area”.
Former Belfast city councillor Bob Stoker told the BBC: “There have been no racist attacks on the foreign pupils who are already attending Blythefield and Donegall Road.”
He said fears were based on “misinformation” and it was “despicable” to “demonise” a whole community.
Declan Boyle of the SDLP said it was important to change perceptions about the Village area; there have been racist attacks, but the blanket condemnation of a whole area was “ugly and hard to remove”.