Loyalists who covered the east Belfast home of a Nigerian man in ‘locals only’ banners have been defended by DUP leader Peter Robinson, who said he did not think the act was racist.
Michael Abiona arrived at his new east Belfast bungalow on Tuesday to find protesters outside and the property covered in banners saying ‘local houses for local people’.
They asked how he had managed to get the house and whether he was disabled. Mr Abiona, who has lived in Belfast for four years and has osteoarthritis, said he had now been stopped from moving into the property. He said the mother of his son is frightened of attack and will not allow their child to visit the house.
The PSNI said they were treating the incident as a hate crime while the Housing Executive, which allocated the house, said it was being regarded as “racial intimidation”.
However, DUP leader Peter Robinson said he did not believe the incident was racist or intimidatory.
“I’m not sure if this could be described as racism in terms of what the intention of the local people was,” he said. “You might have had exactly the same reaction if it was somebody from ‘up country’.”
Mr Robinson’s comments come just weeks after the row over his divisive remarks about Muslims. The DUP leader was heavily criticised for defending a Belfast evangelical preacher who described Islam as “satanic” and said he did not trust Muslims.
The Stormont First Minister told a journalist he would not trust Muslims involved in violence or those devoted to Sharia law, but would “trust them to go to the shops” for him.
Mr Abiona said he was surprised at Mr Robinson’s response.
“I was surprised that he said it is not racist,” he said. “I am just surprised that he said it that way because he didn’t see it the way everybody sees it.”
“No white person would have gone there and they tell the person ‘local houses for local people’.
“It’s racism and discrimination and intimidation, and if he doesn’t see it that way, I’m surprised.”