Ministers Quizzed by Members of Black and Minority Ethnic Community

Synopsis: The Principal Deputy Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, Mitchel McLaughlin MLA, last night hosted an event which gave Members of the Northern Ireland Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) community from across the province the opportunity to question Ministers on issues important to them.

Session: 2013/2014

Date: 01 May 2014

Reference: SO 07/13/14

The Principal Deputy Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, Mitchel McLaughlin MLA, last night hosted an event which gave Members of the Northern Ireland Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) community from across the province the opportunity to question Ministers on issues important to them.

Minister for Employment and Learning, Dr Stephen Farry MLA and the Minister of Justice, Mr David Ford MLA were quizzed by members of the BME community on issues including the recent racist violence and zero-hours contracts as part of a 'Question Time' style event held in the Senate Chamber Parliament Buildings.

Opening the event, Mitchel McLaughlin, Principal Deputy Speaker, said: "I am delighted to welcome members of the Black and Minority Ethnic Community to Parliament Buildings and to chair this very worthwhile event. This initiative will increase opportunities for ethnic minority voices to be heard and will help connect BME community members to key decision makers in government. This event is an excellent example of democracy in action and I have no doubt that we can all look forward to an interesting and informative debate."

Patrick Yu, Executive Director of NICEM, said: "This initiative is fundamentally about participation, building on NICEM's previous work with local communities throughout Northern Ireland. The workshops held regionally with communities developed the issues and questions.

Mr. Yu continued: "These are key issues facing communities every day, and it is crucial that they get a chance to put their concerns directly to politicians.

"We hope this will be the first of many years Stormont hosts the BME Parliament, and look forward to it being a great success."

Speaking at the event, Employment and Learning Minister Stephen Farry MLA, said: "It is important we welcome and embrace diversity in our society and welcome the invaluable contribution that many people now bring to our economy. In order to build a genuine shared future it is important that we understand and address any barriers that prevent people from fully participating in the economic, cultural and social life of this society."

Justice Minister David Ford MLA, said: "Tackling hate crime and reducing the harm it causes is a key priority for me and my Department. Verbal racist abuse, intimidation, damage to property and physical violence cannot be tolerated. I am fully committed to supporting the police to help in the fight against hate crime."

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