Councillor claims Boston's new voting map is seen as 'assault on Catholic life' in the city

Councillor claims Boston's new voting map is seen as 'assault on Catholic life' in the city

A BOSTON City Councillor has claimed that a new voting map is being viewed by some as 'an all-out assault on Catholic life' in the city.

Councillor Frank Baker made the comments in the Boston City Council chamber on Wednesday during a debate on the new voting districts.

Mr Baker, councillor for District 3, then referred to redistricting chair and fellow councillor Liz Breadon, who was championing the proposals, as 'a Protestant from Fermanagh'.

He later apologised for his remarks and asked for them to be stricken from the record, however he has since said that he 'won’t remain silent' on the issue.

The Catholic Church in Boston has distanced itself from the remarks while Ms Breadon described Mr Baker's comments as 'an insult'.

'Under attack'

Under the Voting Rights Act, Boston's districts are reviewed every 10 years following the release of Census data to reflect changes in population and diversity.

However, Mr Baker — who believes any new map should respect Catholic parish lines — said some saw the redistricting as 'an assault'.

Addressing the chamber, he said he had received a call that morning from a long-time friend who was a Catholic priest.

"He said that the clergy in Boston, they're all talking about this process right here and they're viewing this exercise as an all-out assault on Catholic life in Boston," said Mr Baker.

"And it's not lost on them that the person that's leading the charge is a Protestant from Fermanagh."

A recess was immediately called, after which Mr Baker apologised and asked for his remarks to be stricken from the record.

"I shouldn't use language like that [but] I'm heated because I think that neighbourhoods that are in District 3 that happen to be Catholic are under attack," he said.

'An insult'

In response, Ms Breadon dismissed Mr Baker's claims, saying she had witnessed the 'systematic discrimination of Catholics' while growing up as a Protestant in Northern Ireland during the Troubles.

"The greatest travesty in Northern Ireland's history was the systematic disenfranchisement of Catholic people," said an emotional Ms Breadon.

She added that as a lesbian, it was the attitudes she faced growing up in Northern Ireland that took her to Boston in 1995, where she was able to express herself and ultimately married 'a nice Irish Catholic girl'.

"This is my home and it is an insult to me to have a colleague in the city council insinuate that I am discriminating against Catholics," she added.

"That is not what's happening here.

"I'm standing up for the rights of our minority communities — Hispanic, Asian and Black — to have equal access to voting and to have an equal opportunity to elect a candidate of their choice."

'Fair representation'

In a statement to the Dorchester Reporter, Terrence Donilon, a spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Boston, said 'we do not believe the [redistricting] process is an assault on Catholic life'.

"Given the significant issues raised and the debate that has ensued, perhaps more time is required for all parties to deliberate on this important matter so that all districts within the city have fair representation," added the statement.

Despite his apology, Mr Baker said on Thursday that his Catholic constituents have told him the redistricting is harming them.

"Yesterday in remarks on the Council floor I channelled exactly what I have been hearing from Catholic constituents for months: the redistricting process in Boston has been conducted unlawfully to intentionally harm them for who they are," said Mr Baker, according to CommonWealth.

"I won't be silent on it."

The new map was approved on a 9-4 vote but the proposal has still to be signed off by Mayor Michelle Wu.