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Chinese born parliamentarian in Northern Ireland leaves politics after racial attacks

"I do not feel safe here and I know many people who feel the same."

By Aileen Graef

BELFAST, Ireland, May 30 (UPI) -- Northern Ireland parliamentarian Anna Lo said she plans not to seek re-election as a member of the centrist Alliance party after first minister Peter Robinson endorsed racist comments made towards Islam by a preacher.

She said she was disgusted after Robinson came out in support of Christian Pastor James McConnell, who said Islam was "the spawn of the devil."

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"To support a lunatic who makes remarks like that is adding fuel to the flames in Northern Ireland," she said.

Lo is the only Chinese-born parliamentarian in the UK.

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In addition to the racist comments from her colleagues, Lo was also shaken by an incident when a "Loyalist mob" followed her out of a shopping center in Belfast.

"They started hurling abuse at me and I decided to get out of Connswater shopping center as quickly as possible. About three or four individuals then followed me to the car park but I kept ahead of them walking as quickly as I could. Even when I got inside my car there was a young girl who climbed out of the wound-down window of a parked car and started shouting vile things at me. If I hadn't decided to act quickly and get out of there I don't know what would have happened to me."

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She is not only leaving parliament, but also considering leaving Northern Ireland altogether. Her sons have encouraged her to come and join them in England because they are concerned for her safety.

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"I've had enough of the inability of this society and its political leaders to escape from the past," she told the Irish Times Thursday. "And what's worse is the rising racism in our community. I have been living here for 40 years and this has forced me out of politics, and made me think about getting out of Northern Ireland altogether. So what must immigrants who have come here only recently think about this place?"

Lo stirred controversy when she said in the same interview that she thought a united Ireland would be best.

"Anna Lo's remarks earlier today are an indication of the deep affect on our ethnic minority communities, on an individual and collective level, of the recent comments in support of Pastor James McConnell by some unionists," said Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

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Just this week, a study was released saying that one-third of people in Britain admit to being racially prejudiced, an increase from the fourth of people who reported in 2001.

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