NI's First Minister offers public apology for anti-Muslim comments
Categories: Latest News
Friday June 06 2014
The Daily Telegraph, The Times, The Guardian, BBC News and the Belfast Telegraph all report on Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson’s public apology for the offence caused to Muslims by his defence of Pastor James McConnell who denounced Islam as ‘heathen’ and ‘satanic’.
Robinson’s apology comes after having told the Irish News he would not trust Muslims adhering to shari’ah for spiritual advice but would trust them to “go down to the shops for me”.
The First Minister’s public apology follows a private apology expressed during a meeting with a Muslim delegation from Belfast earlier this month. The First Minister, after a meeting at the Belfast Islamic Centre said, “I apologise face to face, personally, man to man, the way it should be done.”
“This society does depend on people from ethnic and religious minorities for the day-to-day life of our province.
“I can’t spend the rest of my life apologising, but what I can do is spend the rest of my life building the united community in Northern Ireland.”
The Belfast Telegraph notes that when he was asked about whether he would condemn Pastor McConnell’s comments, Mr Robinson stated:
“It is not the role of any politician to give doctrinal opinions.
“I am not a theologian, I am not in a position to give the view of doctrine.
“People have a right to free speech, but everyone who has that right…they must exercise that right with responsibility, and care.”
While the Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness welcomed the apology as “the right thing to do”, he was more explicit in his condemnation of the Pastor’s comments saying “we stand up to racism wherever and how ever it is manifested. I would now urge Pastor McConnell to take a lead from the first minister on this and publicly withdraw his damaging and insulting comments.”
The Belfast Telegraph further notes the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s annual crime statistics which reveal the number of racist incidents reported to the police in Northern Ireland have soared by almost a third in the past year.
In the 2013-14 year to April, there were 982 racist incidents reported, an increase of 30.9%. In comparison, sectarian incidents decreased by 6.4% to 1,284. In the immediate days after Pastor O’Connell’s anti-Muslim remarks were documented by the press, two Pakistani men were assaulted in their homes.