THE LEADER of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) has launched an Early Day Motion (EDM) in parliament calling for stronger legal protections for Irish people living in Britain.
Colum Eastwood, the MP for Foyle, tabled the motion on March 2, shortly after news of the Pontins blacklist, barring people with 40 Irish surnames from using its holiday parks, broke.
“The growing anti-Irish sentiment that has come to light over the last number of weeks and months in Britain is chilling and deeply worrying for the Irish community living here,” Mr Eastwood said.
“The Equality and Human Rights Commission Investigation into the operation of a blacklist of common Irish names and accents at holiday firm Pontins is just one example of the blatant discrimination that people face.
“We’re actually in the incredible situation where that company was actively lobbying MPs whose bookings it would have refused on the basis of their name,” he added.
The MP went on to refer to other recent, high profile examples of anti-Irish racism in Britain – including the lengthy period of abuse experienced by Irish footballer James McClean and also the campaign to have a court ruling refusing a Gaelic inscription on the gravestone of Coventry based Irishwoman Margaret Keane overturned.
“Whether it’s the blacklist, the unacceptable abuse of footballer James McClean or the refusal to allow Irish language inscriptions on the headstones, there is an unsettling pattern of discrimination and abuse that needs to be addressed,” Mr Eastwood said.
“I have launched an Early Day Motion at Westminster calling on the British Government to get tougher on anti-Irish and anti-Traveller abuse and discrimination,” he added.
“Our communities have made immense contributions to Britain, it’s time they took these matters seriously.”
The EDM states “That this House condemns anti-Irish racism in all its forms; notes that recent reports of anti-Irish and anti-Irish Traveller sentiments are disturbing; further notes the immeasurable contribution to public life of Irish people and recognises the important role Irish culture through language, dance, music and the arts plays in the lives of many people across the UK; recognises that Irish people have made an immensely positive contribution to society on the island of Britain; and urges the Government to do more to protect Irish people from discrimination and to consider bringing forward legislation to enshrine in law those protections.”
Cross party politicians have pledged their support for the motion, including former Labour party leader, now independent MP, Jeremy Corbyn, Scottish National Party MP Marian Fellows, the SDLP’s Claire Hanna and Labour MPs Navendu Mishra and Mick Whitley.