A leading member of the traditionally pro-union Alliance Party has astonished everyone by declaring her support for a United Ireland.
In an extraordinary move, Anna Lo said the partition of ireland was “artificial.” Interviewed by the Belfast-based Irish News, the party’s European election candidate said a 32-county state would be “better placed economically, socially and politically”.
“I think it is such a small place,” she said. “To divide it up and the corner of ire-land to be part of the United Kingdom... it’s very artificial.”
Her statement comes just nine weeks before the May 22 elections. But despite now positioning itself as “cross-community”, her party still has most support in unionist constituencies.
Ms Lo’s statement poured fuel on the flames of hate for the DUP and UUP, who already despise the Alliance Party for helping introduce a policy of flying the British Union Jack at Belfast city Hall on designated days only.
The 63-year-old politician said she was “anti-colonial” but Ireland could only be unified with the consent of the majority in the north. She said this was unlikely to happen in her lifetime and that if it did, a unified Ireland should maintain strong links with Britain.
Ms Lo, who is Hong Kong-born, has experienced racism in the north of Ireland for years, and is increasingly experiencing a more threatening form of abuse from loyalists. Incidents of racist violence have multiplied in the North recently, and this year has seen a spate of families forced to leave loyalist areas. One Polish family were forced out of Rathcoole north of Belfast after their home home was petrol bombed.
Loyalist ‘protesters’ shouted at Lo to “go home” at a recent event at Belfast City Hall. Ms Lo said she was “annoyed rather than threatened” by the verbal abuse at close quarters, and believes the PSNI should have intervened. She spoke of disappointment at the actions of the small minority of “bullies” who she says “want to jump on somebody different”.
“I thought I had been accepted,” she says.
“I thought people would have seen that I work hard for my constituents and that I’m passionate about issues.”
An Alliance spokesperson said the party had always drawn a diverse membership and was made up of people who regard themselves “British, as Irish or as both”.