Anti-racism groups have called on the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MP Gregory Campbell to apologise over his ‘race-baiting’ and ‘irresponsible’ remarks on the BBC’s Gospel Singer of the Year competition.
The programme, which was filmed at Gorton Monastery in Manchester, featured five semi-finalists, three judges and a presenter who were all of a black ethnicity.
In his Facebook post, which was shared on January 31, the East Londonderry MP wrote: ‘Just watched BBC TV Songs of Praise which this week was Gospel Singer of the year semi final. This I’m afraid was BBC at its BLM worst.
Gregory Campbell has been criticised over his ‘race-baiting’ and ‘irresponsible’ remarks on the BBC’s Gospel Singer of the Year competition
The Northern Ireland MP took to Facebook to share his comments on the BBC programme
The semi-final featured five contestants, three judges and a presenter who were all of a black ethnicity
‘There were 5 singers, all of them black. There were three judges all of them black and one presenter who incidentally was, 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.’
Responding to the comments, the North West Migrants Forum, who were supported by a number of Northern Ireland-based organisations, called on Mr Campbell to ‘withdraw his ignorant and insulting post’ and ‘make a full public apology’.
The statement read: ‘It is both astonishing and shocking that Mr Campbell watched this deeply moving edition of Songs of Praise, full of love and praise for God, and saw only skin colour.
‘Is he uncomfortable watching a programme where Black British people and culture are celebrated centre-stage? Did he think the BBC was racist when other programmes – night after night, decade after decade – only featured white people?
‘We call upon Mr Campbell to provide any evidence that the five singers were there on the basis of anything other than their obvious skills, or that the three judges were selected for their skin colour rather than their expertise.
‘Mr Campbell’s statement is not a trivial matter; it is deeply irresponsible. It is deeply worrying that Mr Campbell can confidently display such clear bias, apparently without fear of challenge or accountability.
‘Given his role as an elected representative and public servant, Mr Campbell’s statement cannot go unchallenged; the potential costs are too high.
‘Just weeks since the horrific attack on the Belfast Multicultural Association, it is alarming that a political leader thinks it appropriate to use this kind of race-baiting to secure some sort of perceived political advantage, regardless of the consequences.
‘Black and ethnic minority people are not ”other”; they are equal citizens in an increasingly diverse country, including in Mr Campbell’s constituency.
‘He needs to withdraw his ignorant and insulting post and make a full public apology to the Black and minority ethnic community of his constituency and beyond.’
The judges on the BBC show are the X-Factor star Alexandra Burke, singer and leading gospel vocal coach David Grant and singer Heather Small
The BBC show, which saw the five talented singers take to the stage at Gorton Monastery in Manchester, is hosted by the musician Mark De-Lisser
The forum urged DUP leader Arlene Foster to ensure Mr Campbell was ‘held accountable for his words’.
The statement continued: ‘As First Minister, Arlene Foster is responsible for advancing this vision. As Mr Campbell’s party leader, we expect her to ensure that he is held accountable for his words.
‘Failure to do so will mean the words of that Executive vision will ring hollow. Meanwhile, we commit ourselves to challenging racism and building a society that fully respects and celebrates diversity.’
Following the comments Sinn Féin MLA Caoimhe Archibald said she would be reporting the comments to the House of Commons.
She wrote: ‘Gregory Campbell’s disgraceful comments don’t reflect the views of vast majority of the constituents he’d purport to represent.
‘Racism, systemic&explicit, needs challenged every opportunity. I’ll be reporting this to standards commissioner in HoC. @dupoline need to take action.’
The BBC show, hosted by the musician Mark De-Lisser, saw the five talented singers take to the stage at Gorton Monastery in Manchester.
Deciding who went through to the final was the X-Factor star Alexandra Burke, singer and leading gospel vocal coach David Grant and singer Heather Small.