An attempt by the British National Party (BNP) to canvass the support of local councillors has been slammed as "provocative and intimidating."
Every elected representative on Newtownabbey Council recently received a copy of the party's 'Racism Cuts Both Ways' document and an accompanying letter appealing for support. The report claims that "racism is wrong", adding that the "vast majority" of people affected by racism are "white victims from the indigenous community."
The right-wing group is targeting first time voters and politicians in a bid to build support ahead of next year's European elections. The accompanying letter from BNP Chairman Nick Griffin claims that local political parties have "let down white working class voters and middle class taxpayers" and urges councillors to use their power to "address the dangerous injustice of anti-majority racism."
"If you are not prepared to do your duty by the long-suffering silent majority who elect you and who pay your salaries, don't be surprised when they look elsewhere for someone to voice their very real concerns," the letter concludes.
The UUP's John Scott claimed that he had found the correspondence "threatening."
"Racism is wrong no matter who is behind it or who the victims are, wherever they're from or whatever colour their skin. But this sort of thing from the BNP doesn't help, it just makes things worse," he said.
SDLP councillor Noreen McClelland echoed that sentiment, describing the letter as "provocative and intimidating."
"I found the publication and accompanying letter both distressing and threatening. I believe it is aimed at stirring up racial hatred and tension. As a politician I have been the victim of sectarianism and discrimination and am familiar with these subtle attempts to create fear and division. The BNP have been rejected by the electorate. I am confident that the vast majority of the decent, law abiding people in our community will see this publication for what it is and continue to reject the people who promote such views."
Alliance councillor Billy Webb slammed the BNP's report and letter as "offensive."
"As someone who has been subjected to sectarianism I can empathise with those who are subjected to racism as I see no difference between the two - the victim suffers the same hurt. I sincerely hope the BNP does not find support within Newtownabbey."
His party colleague Lynn Frazer added: "I didn't even read it. I just saw the BNP logo and tore it up. I've no interest in what they have to say."
The leader of the DUP grouping on Newtownabbey Council, alderman Paul Girvan, said that he too had binned the letter.
"They seem to be trying to canvass elected representatives. I think we all got correspondence from them. As soon as I realised what it was I just ripped it up," he said.
Alderman Nigel Hamilton described the BNP's publication as "a diatribe of hatred based on fear and ignorance," claiming that such material only creates division and prejudice.
"I am rather disappointed that having read the literature it did little to disguise the contempt and prejudice from which it was spawned. Clearly the BNP may attempt to masquerade as a legitimate political party, but their philosophy is as dated as that of Hilter's Brownshirts of the 1930s and their intolerance as blatant. I don't think having read this that any right minded person could take it seriously unless they have led a very sheltered existence."
[Searchlight has produced an excellent rebuttal of the lies in the BNP document here. There is further information here.]