Solidarity expressed with Orlando massacre victims

(Photo - Tom Heaney, nwpresspics)
(Photo - Tom Heaney, nwpresspics)

The Mayor, Hilary McClintock, has opened a book of condolence for the victims of the Orlando massacre whilst local MLAs have expressed solidarity with the victims.

At least 50 people were killed when gunman Omar Mateen opened fire in a gay night club in Florida in the early hours of Sunday, June 12.

“It’s simply unimaginable that people out to enjoy a night out could be targeted in this way, and I want to express my sadness and sympathy for the many families affected,” she said.

“It goes without saying that I condemn this outrageous attack, which is not only an attack on the victims, but also on western society as a whole. The fact that the majority of those targeted were members of the LGBT community has also sent shockwaves through this community across the world, and I want to offer my sympathy and support to local people affected.

“I will be meeting with members of the local LGBT support group the Rainbow Project this afternoon and I will convey to them personally my concern that the LGBT community has been so callously targeted in this way.

“I know that many people across the district will want to show their solidarity and sympathy with the victims, so I will be opening an official Book of Condolence today at the Guildhall. I would encourage local people to come along and record their thoughts and condolences for all those who have lost their lives in this latest shocking attack on our society.”

Meanwhile, at the Stormont Assembly, SDLP MLA Colum Eastwood said: “It is extremely important that we stand with people all across the world in revulsion at what has happened in Orlando.

“It is shocking that so many people could be gunned down in such a way, and even more shocking that so much hatred can reside within one person. We have seen this type of hatred acted out against our gay community right across the world.

“I think of places like Uganda, and other parts of the world, where gay people are not treated the way they should be. It is not for me, or for us, to talk about the internal laws of the United States, but it is important that our friends in the US hear that we cannot understand how anybody can get their hands on automatic weapons and use them in this way. I think it is important to make this point.

“It is also important that we not meet hate with hate: that we meet it with love and we do not give succour to the base instinct that has been so prevalent within US politics in recent times.

“All of us need to show minorities in our community that they play a full and equal part in our everyday lives. We here, and right cross the world, need to ensure that the gay community feel equal and full citizens. We have to do everything we can, and change whatever law we have to change, to make sure that happens.”

People Before Profit MLA Eamonn McCann said: “I, of course, associate myself with the remarks that have been made so far regarding the horror and distress that we all will have felt at the news from Florida last night.

“That terrible atrocity is a reminder that, despite all the social advances and changes in the legislative framework over recent years in this part of the world, although we have not completed the journey yet, and all around the world, LGBT people still face hatred and violence. Uganda has been mentioned, and anyone who looks at the background to the treatment of LGBT people in Uganda and the killings there will be aware of the extent of the problem not just in the United States but elsewhere.

“I welcome the statement that was made last night by LGBT Against Islamophobia, an international organisation, in which it appealed to people not to allow the atrocity to be used to whip up hatred against any section of the community and, in particular, not to allow it to be used to intensify the Islamophobia that is being spread in the United States, including by very powerful people.

“I regard it as ominous that one of the presumptive presidential candidates in the United States last night issued a statement announcing that he will be expressing his forthright views in a major speech on Orlando tonight.

“We wait to hear what he has to say, but it would be foolish of any of us to imagine that the atrocity will not be used for nefarious purposes by people who are peddlers of hate to exactly the same extent as the Islamic fundamentalist ideologues who are behind the thinking of those who perpetrated the atrocity are.

“It is also relevant to mention the fact, given that reference has been made to people from other cultures coming here, that the presumed perpetrator of the Orlando atrocity was American born. He did not come from anywhere but the local neighbourhood.

“We should keep in mind that Western forces do not simply come among people of Muslim lands but have actually come above them in drones or in aeroplanes and have been massacring — massacring — thousands of Muslims over recent years.

“That is not in any way, not by one iota or a sliver of 1 per cent, a justification for what happened in Orlando but it is part of the context in which we could understand it. We should be against all hatred and killing, no matter where it comes from.”