Cllr Milne condemns hate speech in Belfast City Council

Thursday January 4 2018

Green Party councillor Georgina Milne today said there is no excuse for hate speech in Belfast City Council.

The East Belfast councillor said: “Last night, a debate came to Council on whether specifically limiting members from making offensive comments based on criteria such as race, age, religion and gender was an infringement on free speech.

“I was therefore astounded that during this debate, Independent Cllr Bunting announced her feelings on “problematic” people in society with special reference to those who follow the Muslim faith.  She added that “Do we have to wait until people are dying on our streets until people actually speak about Islam…before we speak about the Koran, and what it says in it?”

“Cllr Bunting could have made any number of thoughtful points on freedom of speech and freedom of expression but instead, she chose to attack an entire religion.

“Ironically, she highlighted why, exactly, the protections she argued against are required.  From my perspective, free speech is a critical component of democracy, but hate speech is not.

“I could have some sympathy if these comments were made in ignorance, but they are not.  Cllr Bunting is reported to have previously visited the Islamic centre in Belfast, and to have spoken to religious leaders from the Muslim faith.  She should know better.  There is no excuse for these comments.

 “I believe comments like this further divide society when instead, we should be working to ensure Belfast is an inclusive and tolerant City.  If Cllr. Bunting is concerned with “problematic” people in society, she should focus her efforts on reducing poverty, poor education and social exclusion which present huge problems in society.”