Northern Ireland is undergoing its worst crisis since devolution and political deadlock threatens its government with bankruptcy, Alliance Party politician Anna Lo has claimed. Speaking to students about “Contemporary Problems in Northern Ireland” at an event held by the Society for International Affairs (SoFIA) on September 11th, Ms Lo said that the “institutionalised sectarianism” of Northern Ireland’s political system means the Alliance Party effectively does not count.
Ms Lo, who was born in Hong Kong, became the first politician from an ethnic-minority to be elected at a regional level in Northern Ireland when she was elected in Belfast South in the 2007 Assembly elections.
She told students about the racist threats she has received, including bullets in the post. To protect her the police are on rapid response, arriving in three minutes if she calls them, while a police car continuously circles the area around her house. In May she announced that she would not stand for re-election to the Assembly in 2016 owing to racist abuse from loyalists.
She described Peter Robinson as “not friendly to many people” and criticised his “U-turn” on the agreement to build a peace and reconciliation centre on the site of the former Maze Prison.
She recalled her recent encounter with DUP health minister Jim Wells who on seeing her approaching said “here comes Anna Lo my staunch political enemy”, to which Ms Lo responded “hear hear”.
She held Sinn Fein responsible for a “big crisis in welfare reform”. She said the plan to “help people off benefits”, which has been implemented in the rest of the UK has been vetoed by Sinn Féin so that party policy is consistent with the opposition of party leader Gerry Adams to austerity in the Republic.
Ms Lo reiterated her recent comments in support of a united Ireland. She said it would be “good for Ireland economically and socially” although she emphasised that it would have to be brought about by “persuasion”.
Afterwards Ms Lo was presented with the Maguire Coin of Peace in honour of Mairead Corrigan Maguire, a Northern Irish peace activist and graduate of Trinity College Dublin. In 1999 she was awarded an MBE for services to ethnic minorities.