DUP MP will not apologise for Songs of Praise post

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Media caption,

On Monday, Mr Campbell said he was opposed to racism "in all its forms"

A DUP MP has said he will not withdraw or apologise for comments he made about the number of black people who featured in an edition of Songs of Praise.

Gregory Campbell said the programme, featuring the Gospel Singer of the Year competition, was "the BBC at its BLM (Black Lives Matter) worst".

A number of anti-racism and ethnic minority organisations called on him to apologise.

Mr Campbell said the programme was not diverse and "should have been".

Speaking to BBC News NI on Monday, he added: "Can somebody please tell me how that's racist?"

In the post from 31 January, the East Londonderry MP wrote: "There were five singers, all of them black. There were three judges all of them black and one presenter who was incidentally, yes black.

"The singers were all very good but can you imagine an all white line up with an all white jury and presented by a white person? No I can't either."

Apology call

On Sunday, a statement, published by the North West Migrants Forum and co-signed by a number of Northern Ireland-based organisations, called on Mr Campbell to withdraw his comments and issue "a full public apology".

The statement said it was "both astonishing and shocking" that Mr Campbell watched the programme and "saw only skin colour".

Image caption,
Competition judge David Grant said Mr Campbell's view was "uninformed"

On Monday, Mr Campbell said he was opposed to racism "in all its forms" and that his comments were "intended to increase multi-cultural diversity, not single identity approach which is what that edition had".

"There wasn't a single white person involved in any way on screen," he said.

"If there wasn't a single black person, the same principle would apply.

"In most editions there is a diversity. There wasn't on this occasion. Is someone going to try and dispute what the edition had?

"It didn't have diversity."

Responding to Mr Campbell's latest comments, Lilian Seenoi-Barr from the North West Migrant Forum accused him of a "denial of racism", adding "he needs to be accountable".

"He is not challenging racism," she told Evening Extra.

Ms Seenoi-Barr said she wanted to meet the politician and said he "needs to educate himself on what anti-racism is all about".

David Grant, one of the show's judges, described Mr Campbell's view as "uninformed".

"I'd say his opinion's narrow, I'd say his opinion's bigoted, unless he has a history of equally complaining that there weren't any black people on a programme," he told BBC News NI.

'Proper context'

The MP said he hoped people would think about the "proper context" of the comment and "why" he said it.

He said he had made a "repeated assertion that we have to move forward against racism in all its forms".

"But we don't have to adopt the single identity that BLM does and the BBC seem to adhere to in that edition," Mr Campbell added.

"It's a bit much for the BBC who lecture everybody else about diversity and then whenever their attention is drawn to this programme had none, they then get uptight and say 'this is terrible and unacceptable' and I should in some way withdraw or apologise."

Image caption,
Gregory Campbell said he was a regular viewer of Songs of Praise

Mr Campbell said: "You apologise for a statement that you made was wrong, it wasn't.

"You apologise if the statement you made was inadvertent or misquoted or inaccurate, it wasn't any of those things."

Asked about Mr Campbell's post in the assembly, DUP leader Arlene Foster said it was "not a sentiment" she identified with.

Mrs Foster insisted her party was "totally and absolutely committed" to racial equality.

David Grant said the first minister's response to the issue "is not enough".

"Being a leader means that what anybody under you says is representative of who you are," he said.

"It's a sentiment that if you don't condemn it, it suggests that even if you wouldn't have said it you don't actually mind it, it's not a big deal."