The North Antrim MLA made the comments to a Sinn Féin motion in the Assembly on the implementation of the Racial Equality Strategy in the aftermath of a report that over 500 race hate attacks took place in the last six months.
“Whether it takes the form of physical attack, attacks on property, graffiti, verbal abuse, abuse on social media racism is wrong.
“The report that 500 race hate incidents have taken place in the last 6 months denotes the importance that action is required. That’s between 2 and 3 race hate incidents a day. One racist attack in any time period is one too many.
“When I think of the millions of Irish citizens who have left this island out of necessity at the time of the famine, or the early and late 20th century and the varying forms of treatment they received on landing in America, Australia, England or elsewhere around the world then I think we have an extra special duty here to welcome, embrace and support all who come to these shores.
“Whilst the No Blacks, No Dogs and No Irish signs may be iconic as a snapshot of a previous time let’s just hope that those sentiments remain were they should in history and only serve as a reminder to remain vigilant to hatred.
“The 2011 Census figures demonstrate the diverse nature of the minority ethnic community here. Over 32,000 people gave their ethnicity as something other than white.
“People who come to Ireland add to our society. They add economically through work and spend but they also had culturally to our society. The world is now a much smaller place than it used to be and our neighbours may not have an O or Mc in their surname any longer.
“So whilst society is changing it is important that our policies and practises change and adapt to the new situation. We must ensure that equality means equality for all.
The Racial equality strategy is a vital cog in that wheel and is key to identifying the real and varied needs of our ethnic minority population. It identifies barriers that exist and how to overcome them.
And whilst I recognise that strategies and government alone cannot eliminate racism I think that politicians have a very important role.Whether discussing the subject of racism, migration, refugees conflicts across the world, even the subject of Brexit we need to be careful with our language. Sometimes what we say and how we say it produces consequences. Let’s hope the words and consequence are positive”