Anti-racism campaigners last night condemned British National Party leader Nick Griffin for claiming there was “no such thing as a black Welshman”.
The newly elected far-right MEP sparked anger after saying: “There is no such thing as a black Welshman. You can have a black Briton; you can’t have a black Welshman. Welsh is about people who live in Wales since the end of the last ice age.”
Vaughan Gething, the first black President of Wales TUC, hit back last night and said: “This exposes the lies behind the new suited image of the BNP. Nick Griffin is wrong, plain and simple. I am proud to be Welsh. Proud to be British. Proud to be black. There are tens of thousands of people like me across Wales. We have been here for centuries. This is our country.”
Mr Gething, 34, a partner at Thompson’s Solicitors in Cardiff, said he warned of the BNP’s growth during his address to the Wales TUC last year. He said: “This is not a group of fringe activists to be ignored. This is a group to be taken on and beaten. I know that I exist. I know that I’m proud of who and what I am. I know this is my country – our country.”
He told the Western Mail last night: “As someone who is black and Welsh, I find Nick Griffin’s comments not just offensive but pretty amazing. He’s still peddling the same lies and, as a matter of fact, he’s wrong. It’s ridiculous.”
Mr Gething added: “I get offended every time I hear Nick Griffin speak. His view of the world is deliberately divisive and unpleasant. I wouldn’t share a platform with him, but we’ve got to challenge the BNP. Lots and lots of what he’s saying simply isn’t true.”
Black Welshman Wayne Lee, of the Valleys Race Equality Council, dubbed Mr Griffin’s Tuesday night remarks “bizarre” and “offensive”. Mr Lee said: “I think being Welsh is something that’s self-defining. You decide for yourself and nobody can tell you what you are or you’re not. How do you define any ethnicity? Imagine your parents are Welsh, you were conceived and born in another country and then came back to Wales. Would you still be Welsh?”
Mr Lee, whose parents are from Jamaica, said when he goes to the Caribbean local people realise straight away he is British. But he added: “I would describe myself as being a black Welsh person. I was born in Wales, received my education in Wales, work in Wales, pay my taxes in Wales, I have voting rights – I am a Welsh person. I support Cardiff City, I’ve got a broad Cardiff accent and I’ve got Welsh friends who speak the language fluently. I think what Nick Griffin said is an odd thing to say. I find it comical but offensive at the same time. It’s bizarre.”
Cardiff South and Penarth AM Lorraine Barrett said: “I think Nick Griffin’s comments are absolutely disgusting. This is just more hate-filled rhetoric from the BNP. This kind of talk will only create or exacerbate racial tensions. It’s an absurd statement and has no place in Welsh society. I am lucky enough to represent a very multicultural constituency in Cardiff and I know this will cause offence there. I think he should apologise immediately.”
South Wales East Plaid Cymru AM Mohammad Asghar, the Assembly’s only ethnic minority member, said: “Wales has a proud record of welcoming people from many different countries over the years. There are many black and Asian Welsh people, some of whom come from families who have lived here for several generations. I come originally from Pakistan. I have lived in Newport for nearly 40 years and I am a proud Welshman and a proud member of Plaid Cymru.”
As reported yesterday, Mr Griffin, who lives in a village outside Welshpool, Powys, sparked outrage while speaking on Channel 4 about the threat of a legal injunction against the BNP which could lead to fines or even imprisonment over a potential breach of race discrimination law relating to its membership policies. The Equality and Human Rights Commission has given the BNP until July 20 to amend its constitution to make sure it did not discriminate against members on grounds of race.
Mr Griffin said: “Our legal counsel says that it is very clear that we are a Section 25/ Section 26 exempted organisation because we are here for specific ethnic groups. It is nothing to do with ‘white’. We are really talking here about the English, the Scots, the Irish and the Welsh, collectively the people who are ethnically British.”
It was when the interviewer asked Mr Griffin if that meant a black Welshman would be welcome in the party that he made his remarks.