08 September 2005

Schoolkids abused by seven-year-old racists


Two pupils from a West Belfast primary school have been left shaken and distraught after the most recent in a series of racial assaults climaxed in a vicious attack outside their home in Short Strand.

The pupils of Holy Trinity Primary School in Turf Lodge, Shade Fairley (8) and her brother Patrick (10), have suffered continual abuse since moving from London four years ago, says their mother, Ann, originally from Ballymurphy, who returned home to Belfast in the hope of providing her children with a stable and loving atmosphere to grow up in.

However, deeply angered and disappointed by the continual attacks being inflicted on her mixed-race son and daughter, by children as young as seven, Ann penned a letter to the Andersonstown News about the events of the most recent attack, just last Thursday.

“Who teaches a seven-year-old to call others niggers?” wrote Ann. “The onslaught began with spittle, stones and sticks, but they used these, along with their fists and their feet with such ferocity to beat my children.

“My children stood tall and my heart sank,” she continued. “I confronted my children’s attackers but the profanities, the stones and the chanting continued, ‘Niggers, Niggers!’ My presence did not make them relent and nothing I said made any difference.

“We were forced to retreat, into our house. My son’s face was pale and my daughter’s face was crimson. They stared at each other, their beautiful, round, pale brown faces reflected in one another; a small comfort: they were not alone – they were two.”

Visibly moved by the memory of the attack, Ann admits that she and her children held each other and cried after the assault, and explains her motivation for writing the letter.

“Nobody in our street said anything about it, it was like nobody saw anything, but then, it was the same story the time before, and the time before that, and the time before that. This has happened more times than I can count and it needs to be highlighted. I don’t want my children to be tolerated, I want them to be accepted.”

Raised in what she describes as a socialist family in Ballymurphy “with beliefs of absolute humanitarianism”, Ann says she has brought her children up with the same beliefs, but in contrast, experienced “a vocabulary of hatred instilled into the children who were involved in the attack.”

“In the workplace we would hope that some provision in employment legislation would at least go some way in attempting to address the racist abuse of adults, but what will protect my children from the torrent of racist abuse they are subjected to by children who are less than four feet tall? These abusers use and understand the language of 40-year-old racists, the only thing they’re missing are white cone-shaped hats,” continued Ann.

Claiming that racial attacks are not confined to the actions of thugs in loyalist areas, Ann adds that a radical approach to the problem is desperately needed before Belfast witnesses “a heart-breaking, vile, deplorable racist murder, like that in Liverpool this summer.”

Commenting on the attacks, which are said to be on the rise in Belfast, a spokesperson for the Anti-Racism Network, Flair Campbell, said, “Racism knows no borders and transcends across all sectors and class lines but it seems to be more pronounced in working class communities. It’s only through community and political leadership that racism can be tackled. WARN [West Against Racism Network] calls for that leadership to be shown and we will be in touch with the family to offer our support.”

Frank Brennan of CRJ in the Short Strand added his condemnation of the incident and said, “We condemn any abuse whether it be of a sectarian or racist nature on any individual or family who may be vulnerable to such anti-social attacks. We will do all we can to ensure that this stops forthwith and I will be contacting Ann and speaking to the parents of any of the children involved who can be identified to stop this abuse.”

Journalist:: Ciara McGuigan

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