BBC Radio Ulster
27 July 2017
William Crawley has independent Unionist Councillor Jolene Bunting in studio. Councillor Bunting is the co-organiser of a rally which is to be held in Belfast next week and which features speakers from Britain First.
William: The far-right party, Britain First, is to take part in a rally outside Belfast City Hall in early August. It’s an event organised by the independent Unionist Councillor, Jolene Bunting, who’s in the studio with me. Welcome! Good Afternoon to you.
Jolene: How you doing?
William: What’s this event about?
Jolene: William, I mean I am not solely organising this myself. There is a group of people who are completely against terrorism and we have decided to organise this to highlight the fact that terrorism is going on in the UK and sometimes I think the mainstream media don’t seem to highlight how much it actually is going on.
William: So you’re one of the organisers.
Jolene: I am.
William: Who are the other organisers?
Jolene: There’s a number of different people they, they…
William: ….Are they groups? Or are they all individuals?
Jolene: Yeah, they’re all individuals. They wouldn’t be known widely but they are a group of like-minded people.
William: Many of those taking part seem to be from the Britain First group. You’ve got two of their leaders taking part in this event – speaking. Are they part of the organisation of it – as an organisation?
Jolene: No, they’ve been invited to speak.
William: You’ve invited them. Why did you invite Britain First to take part?
Jolene: Britain First have been holding a number of demonstrations in England, Scotland and, I believe, Wales also. I have seen their demonstrations. I’ve heard them speak and I think they’re extremely articulate when it comes to international terrorism and I do want their views heard.
William: What do you know about the organisation itself?
Jolene: I have followed their organization quite a bit for when…
William: …You’re not part of it – you’re not a member?
Jolene: Not at all. No, no, no. And as I say, I invited them along with other patriotic groups to come and speak.
William: Well the poster, the poster advertising this has a picture of you, described as an independent Unionist, two of their leaders who are described – one’s described as Britain First, the other’s described as a British patriot and a couple of others who are described as…
Jolene: …No, it’s two Britain First and then two British patriots who aren’t aligned with any group.
William: Aren’t aligned with any group. One of them’s called ‘Banksy’.
William: It’s not the artist.
William: But what do you know about Britain First?
Jolene: I know quite a lot. As I said…
William: …You said they’re articulate. What do they stand for?
Jolene: They are anti-Islamification in the UK. They don’t want to see the UK in the way that it has been put across. There has been terrorist attacks. There has been – there are ‘no-go’ zones in England which have been highlighted by Britain First, also other online media groups, and they stand up against that which I commend them for.
William: One of their leaders, Paul Golding, has been convicted and has served time and I understand from the press in England last night was again arrested and is in custody to do with alleged incitement of religious hatred. He’s been on bail. Are you comfortable doing events with Paul Golding?
Jolene: Paul is, as I say, he’s the leader of Britain First who are doing great work in the UK. He is a great speaker. Unfortunately, as I say, I’m not a member of Britain First and I can’t speak for them and I…(crosstalk)
William: …So a great speaker’s enough for you? The fact that he’s done time in the past year – and this year – for eight weeks.
Jolene: He believes in the right things. Whether he goes about that in the right way it may be questionable but he believes in the right things and I believe that he is only doing this for the good of the people in the UK.
William: Well Joe Mulhall is listening to us speaking. He’s a Senior Researcher with the organisation Hope Not Hate. Joe, welcome! Good Afternoon to you.
Joe: Good Afternoon to you.
William: You’ve done a lot of work, I understand, on not just Britain First but other groups on the far-right. What can you tell us about Britain First?
Yeah, I mean Britain – well put simply, Britain First is a dangerous, far-right organisation. I mean, the party’s, or the movement’s been around since about 2011. It was created, as I said, by Paul Golding and another guy called Jim Dowson, both of which were former British National Party (BNP) – both of which have a long history of extreme racism, open racism, I’d say a number of convictions etc for things like, as you say, inciting racial violence, etc so they’re a deeply worrying group. I mean they’ve come to real prominence in England with really controversial acts – we’re talking about invading mosques across the UK, we’re talking about very controversial demonstrations – often in Muslim areas – and it’s very simple: I mean, Britain First itself is an explicitly far-right, an explicitly anti-Muslim organisation. And it’s not just them if you look actually at the other speakers that have been invited here – if you look at this ‘Banksy’, I mean that’s actually a guy call John Banks. He’s a former English Defence League (EDL), involved in those – I mean he’s had a long history, again, of explicit anti-Muslim activism. And Paul Rimmer was also part of a far-right party called the English Democrats. So all in all…
William: …And he’s also speaking at the Belfast rally oragnised here by Jolene Bunting and others.
Joe: Absolutely, yeah. Paul Rimmer – he’s noted here as a ‘British patriot’ – but he’s been involved with a far-right party called the English Democrats and Banksy, as I say, is a guy called John Banks who’s been involved with anti-Muslim street protest movements in the UK for a long time.
William: How do you characterise a group like that? In terms of the political spectrum that we have in Britain and across Europe these days – how do you characterise them?
Joe: Yeah I mean, Britain First are very extreme. Let’s be kind of absolutely clear about that. Extreme and dangerous. I mean their ideology is well within the classes of the far-right. But even within the UK far-right they’re quite extreme. As I say, things like these – this is a movement that some times wear uniforms and has done controversial acts like having armoured cars etc engaging in actions that mark them out as more extreme than larger sections of the British far-right. Their ideas, as I say, are also extreme often rooted in a kind of religious identity which again marks them out from other elements of the UK far right. So we’re very clear about this: Britain First is a movement that is very extreme and dangerous.
William: Do you put the in the category of ‘white Nationalists’?
Joe: It depends. I mean their – most of their talk is generally about culture although clearly people within the movement are – maybe not clearly but most of them you would class as openly racist and in terms of white Nationalists there’s certain members within the movement that would be very happy to be called white Nationalists. But as I say, it’s a broad spectrum. I mean this is a group that has over one point nine million ‘likes’ on Facebook – now, of course, a huge amount of that isn’t either real people or it’s from all over the world so it’s difficult to say ‘all of them’ but yeah – would we comfortably say that there’s white Nationalists involved? Absolutely!
William: Jolene, as you hear that kind of pan-sketch of this organisation you are partnering with at this rally does that give you pause for thought?
Jolene: Well what I don’t understand is how they can be classed as a dangerous group. What I think is dangerous is people holding in their thoughts and being told that they can’t speak out against something that they find dangerous. And you know – what I don’t – they are seeing first-hand and have experienced first-hand Islamic extremists and they are speaking out against that. They are angry. And they may – as I have already said – they may not have went about that, in the past, in the right way. I can’t speak for them for what they done in the past but..
William: …Some of the individuals in this organisation have their roots, I think, Joe, in the National Front – don’t they?
Joe: Yes, I mean oh, yeah. I mean many of these activists – if you kind of look through their activists and the sort of people that they can get on the streets it’s a litany of numerous kind of prominent far-right movements. And on the violence thing: I’d add, actually, I mean this Britain First has been exposed, has involved, in things like knife training and martial arts training camps etc – so it’s not just us kind of picking this out of the air when we say they’re dangerous. I mean pictures have emerged of Paul, even including Paul Golding, engaged in knife training so they’re not to be taken lightly.
William: Knife training, Jolene!
Jolene: That’s the first I’ve heard of it. (crosstalk)
William: Do you know enough about the group to, as a public representative, to invite them to Belfast, to stand outside Belfast City Hall, giving them a platform and sharing that platform with them because, as Joe speaks, it sounds like you’re getting an education here today.
Jolene: I mean I have researched these people. I have researched the group. I have followed them for quite a while. I have never came up against knife training or anything else like that…
William: …So you didn’t know about that.
Jolene: …so that’s the first time I’ve heard about that.
William: Did you know about the convictions?
Jolene: Yes, I did. I did know and I’ve…
William: …religious violence and religious hatred.
Jolene: And I have also watched what he was arrested for and, to be honest with you…
William: …that’s for the courts to decide.
William: And did you also know that Paul Golding was in custody as we speak?
Jolene: He’s not. He’s been released.
William: He’s been released. This morning?
Jolene: No, yesterday.
William: Right. You knew about that?
William: You’re still comfortable having him speaking with you in Belfast?
William: Still very comfortable?
William: Joe, you wanted to say something.
No, I was just going to say on the knife training thing: I mean it’s not hard to find this out. This has been covered in numerous national newspapers with pictures so this is you know a kind of a cursory google would have kind of shown that sort of thing up.
William: Joe, thank you very much. Much appreciated. Joe Mulhall from the organisation Hope Not Hate. Danny in Birmingham is one of our listeners in Birmingham, says he can’t call in today but he is listening and he would like Jolene to explain to him where are these ‘no go’ zones are in England? He’d be interested to know because he’s not aware of any.
Jolene: I have spoke to a number of different people from parts of London who have said that they are terrified that they will be the subject of racist abuse when they cross the road to different areas within London – and I’m being told this by a number of different people- whether they may be exaggerating? I don’t know. I haven’t – it’s been a long time since I’ve been in London but why would anyone phone me and speak to me about this if it wasn’t true? And…
William: Do you believe, as a public representative – you’re elected – you’re an independent Unionist, you used to be a member of the TUV (Traditional Unionist Voice).
You’re no longer a member of the TUV. But you’re a public representative in Belfast City Hall. Do you believe it’s appropriate for an organisation so characterised, Britain First, to be given a platform outside Belfast City Hall with you standing with them? Do you think that’s responsible?
Jolene: I think they’re- I think they’re, you know, they can speak for themselves. Unfortunately, the BBC didn’t want them on today…
William: …Everyone can speak for themselves…
Jolene: …and I think if, you know, if people come along to the rally…
William: …Given what you know about the organisation. Is that responsible?
Jolene: …if people come along to the rally next Sunday they will, they will…
William: Aren’t you stoking far-right sentiments in Belfast by doing that?
Jolene: Not at all. No. And as I say, the rally will hold a code of conduct for speakers and for the people coming along…
William: Presumably you could have gotten all kinds of other people to speak on that rally. Why these people?
Jolene: People, well other people, were invited to speak.
William: But these people accepted.
Jolene: These people accepted and I’m pleased to say that they accepted.
William: And the SDLP’s (Social Democratic and Labour Party) Tim Attwood is listening as well. Hi, Tim. Good Afternoon to you.
Tim: Good Afternoon.
William: What do you make of this?
Tim: Well in the past we’ve seen some Unionists being prepared to share platforms with Loyalist paramilitaries. I think now the fact that we have a Unionist Councillor prepared to stand on a platform with spokespersons for organisations that clearly spout hatred and racism I think is shameful. And I think Jolene’s learning a little bit about Britain First today. I think she should research it a little bit more but it’s quite clear that they are a far right-wing organisation who do not support multiculturalism. They want to target Muslims and challenge the Muslim community in a very offensive way. And the question is: Do we want that in Belfast? We have many particular problems in Belfast and some of these people who may be on the platform were involved in the flag protest – remember – do we really want them speaking in Belfast promoting a policy against multiculturalism? Belfast has changed rapidly in the last ten years and we embrace the different and various cultures that have moved in in a positive way. We do not want people coming here, creating difficulties, creating hatred and spouting racism.
Jolene: Tim, this isn’t a rally against multiculturalism. It’s against terrorism. And I believe that any form of terrorism should be opposed. And I think that if the mainstream media were not to demonise everyone who speaks out against terrorists then maybe these people wouldn’t be so angry and wouldn’t be being called racist and the things that I have heard them called.
Tim: Jolene, just read what some of the spokespersons have said – there’s radio evidence, there’s Facebook evidence of them spouting racism and hatred – so whatever the rally’s intent may be that’s what will happen. And it will incite hatred in Belfast. The way that we’ve seen people in London and Manchester rally against terrorist acts is the way forward – where the communities come together – Muslim, Christian, no faith – coming together,rallying around in solidarity with each other – that was the generous way to deal with the situation – how to oppose terrorism – it’s not to try to create further extremism and further difficulties in Belfast or in any other city – that’s the danger of what you’ve organised.
William: Let’s go to the phone lines on this. (William solicits listener calls and recaps the facts and opinions expressed on the segment so far. ) Dee’s there first. Welcome, Dee.
Dee: How’s it going, William?
William: Go ahead, Dee.
Dee: Well my name’s Dee Fennell. I’m the Chairperson of the Anti-Internment League and this will be the fifth year we organised a national march against the continuing use of internment-by-remand, miscarriage of justice and revocation of licence in the case of people like Tony Taylor. And each year we…(crosstalk)
William: …Alright, we’re going to keep the focus on this, Dee…
Dee: …Yep, yep, yep – but the focus, the focus…
William: …but just on this issue and it’s got to be brief, sorry.
Dee: It’s something I think maybe, if you’d care to notice, William, is the fact that this year’s march will take place at the exactly the same time, and the application has been made for the same time….
William: …On the 6th of August?
Dee: On the 6th of August, leaving Ardoyne at 11 AM, passing through Royal Avenue…(crosstalk)
William: Alright Dee, thank you. I’ll put that to Jolene. Thank you very much. Is that part of the reason why you chose that date?
Jolene: …No. That certainly has nothing to do with that.
William: Why did you chose that date?
Jolene: It was actually the only day that I could get a number of people together so that was the reason the day was chosen. It was a group decision from the people that I have to work with.
William: Alright. Damien’s in Doire. Hello, Damien.
Damien: Hey, how are you, William? William, I just wanted to ask Jolene if she would condemn Thomas Mair, the man who stabbed and shot MP Jo Cox shouting: ‘Britain first. You must put Britain first!’. Would you condemn him as a terrorist?
Jolene: I would one hundred percent condemn anyone who takes any innocent person’s life and Jo Cox was innocent.
William: Damien, thank you very much. Do you condemn people who try to invade mosques?
Jolene: I have just seen no evidence that they actually invaded a mosque. I know that they do protests outside a mosque and asked mosque…
William: …Are you actually briefed? Are you actually briefed on what happened to Paul Golding? Why he went to prison?
Jolene: They tried to find out the truth from mosque leaders and I have seen evidence that they have asked mosque leaders to speak about the terrorism and to speak about the things that – certain preachers within mosques have… (crosstalk)
William: …Do you condemn intimidating behaviour?
Jolene: Yes. Certainly.
William: Yeah. And you acknowledge that Paul Golding went to prison for eight weeks around those issues?
Jolene: Yes, I have knowledge of the event…
William: …Do you regard that as a kind of terror? To engage in that kind of behaviour?
Jolene: It’s not…
William: …to intimidate a community?
Jolene: I don’t believe that it’s – I don’t believe that it is something that Paul intended to do – whether that is the case that he…
William: …We can’t re-try him. That’s what the courts are for.
William: He was found guilty.
Jolene: Yes, but his intentions were not that and I have spoken to Paul about this and about not demonising a whole community.
William: What do you make of that, Tim?
Tim: Well you know, again, this is the problem: Some politicians equivocate over violence and illegal activity. There should be no equivocation. Terrorism is wrong.
Racism is wrong. Intimidation is wrong. And what we’re bringing to the streets of Belfast on the 6th of August, and there’s other activities that day as well, is dangerous. We know in the past number of years there’s been attacks on ethic communities across Belfast and across The North. All this will serve to do is will put fear in many communities, in many cultures, that some people who attend this may rally against creating a more multicultural society. What we should be doing is trying to work together to create an equal society where we embrace all cultures and the rich traditions that come with them. This…
William: …Jolene, do you agree with that? We should work together to create an equate society where we respect diversity?
Jolene: One hundred percent. Yes.
William: You agree with that?
William: Would you be concerned that members of the Muslim community, for example, would feel nervous, at the very least – to put it mildly- about the presence of Britain First on a platform outside the City Hall?
Jolene: If Muslims would feel nervous about this you know, I question why they would feel nervous about a group of people coming together to speak out against terrorism.
William: A group who has an anti-Muslim record who’s party leader has gone to prison…
Jolene: …We are speaking out against terrorism…
William: …around those issues and you wonder why they might feel nervous?
Jolene: But we’re speaking out about terrorism we’re not speaking out against the Muslim faith and I would not have the Muslim faith – yes, Sharia Law I do believe is wrong but I would not have anyone putting down any faith. People fought and died so that we have freedom of religion in this country. We also have freedom of speech. And people should be allowed to come together to discuss this and to speak about it and not be demonised for speaking out against terrorism.
Audio: William takes listener calls.
William: Jolene, you’ve been trying to get in. Go ahead.
Jolene: William, the only hate crime that will be – the only hate speech which you will hear at that rally is hatred against terrorism. And if you’re not allowed to express hatred against people killing innocent people then how is there freedom of speech in this country?
Audio: William takes listener calls.
William: So you condemn racism. You condemn racist attacks. But you’re going to stand on a platform with someone convicted of engaging in the incitement of racist hatred (crosstalk)…
Jolene: …What I don’t understand, William, and this is something…
William: …I’m just asking about the consistency.
Jolene: …that I feel that the courts have got wrong because Islam is not a race – it’s a culture. And it’s a culture that is harming the world. All over the world we see Islam and its ideology destroying countries, destroying people and killing innocent people.
William: Are you anti-Islam?
Jolene: I would be anti-Islam, yes.
William: You’re anti the religion?
Jolene: I’m not anti-Muslim and I believe everyone has…
William: …you’re anti the religion of Islam.
Jolene: …I believe that the ideology of Islam is wrong…
William: …the teachings, the teaching are wrong?
Jolene: …is wrong. Yes.
William: Well, you’re entitled to believe that the teachings of any religion are wrong but why do you..
Jolene: …these people – and I can’t say that I have read far enough…
William: …but why do you focus on Islam? If you are oppose to…are you a Christian incidentally?
Jolene: I am, yes.
William: Do you think that all religions, apart from Christianity, are wrong?
Jolene: I don’t believe that they are wrong and I believe people have the right to their own faith…
William: …Of course they do. But what’s your particular beef with Islam?
Jolene: My particular beef with Islam is the things that we have seen. Their teachings, the Koran, the hatred that is built in the Koran where you know the prophet Muhammad was, you know, he was extremely brutal at times and I personally think that that’s where…
William: …We had a Muslim theologian on this week saying it’s not in the Koran…
Jolene: …I believe that – I believe that these terrorists who have killed innocent people around the UK, these people who have raped young girls – they are following the word of the Koran which you know it is there are passages…
William: …Which is deeply offensive to decent Muslim people…
Jolene: …There are passages within the Koran which tell them to do that…
William: …It’s deeply offensive. It’s deeply offensive to Muslim people to say that rapists are simply following the teachings of the Koran when they rape. That’s an outrageous thing to say.
Jolene: That’s what the Koran says. There are passages within the Koran.
William: What’s the passage?
Jolene: I don’t have the passage with me here but I can get it up.
William: Have you read the Koran? Have you read the Koran?
Jolene: I haven’t myself. No.
William: No, you haven’t read the Koran…
Jolene: No, but I have seen the…
William: And yet you come onto a radio programme…
Jolene: I have seen it in the book…
William: …and say that!…
Jolene: …I have seen it in the book…
William: …and you say that the Koran recommends raping!
Jolene: I have seen it, I have seen it in the book…
William: Shouldn’t you inform yourself?
Jolene: I have seen it, I have seen it in the book. I haven’t read the Koran.
William: Do you know any Muslims? Do you know any Muslims, personally?
Jolene: Personally, no, no.
William: Never met a Muslim personally?
William: Listen to yourself, Jolene.
Jolene: I’m listening to myself.
William: You’ve got, you’ve got to back up arguments with evidence and experience.
Jolene: I understand that. I understand that. But what I’m saying to you, William, is that there are passages within the Koran which do ask….
William: …encourage people to go and rape people and rob them?
Jolene: To look at unbelievers as – I apologise, William…
William: …No, it’s alright.
Jolene: I should have had the, I should have had that if I am gonna say that…
William: …(crosstalk) I brought the question. It’s fair that you don’t have everything at your fingertips. Tim, sorry, you were trying to jump in.
Tim: Yet, again – I think this is the problem when you – the mask slips after a period of time. Jolene has said this is all about a rally against terrorism and very quickly you get into offensive comments about Islam. And that is the primary purpose of Britain First. It is to – they see Islam in the UK as the problem and that’s just offensive to many, many, many people of various religions. And what we should be doing, instead of making offensive comments, is we should be uniting together all creeds, all faiths against terrorism. And the danger is what will happen on the 6th of August will be a hate-fest and they may talk a bit about terrorism but very soon they’ll come in and vilify and make offensive comments against Muslims and Islam and I think that’s unfortunate.
Jolene: Tim, I hope that you do listen to the speeches and you see a different side of the story. I’m not saying that all Muslims take what is in the Koran literally but there are many out there who we call extremists who take what is in the Koran and act it out in real life which is – it has been seen in the streets of Manchester and …
William: …Well I take – I take that clarification. So you’re not saying you’re making comments about all of Islam – it’s just the extremists because there are Christian extremists…
Jolene: No, one hundred percent…
William: …there are Christian extremists who kill in the name of the Bible and they don’t represent the mainstream of Christianity any moreso.
Jolene: Definitely not.
Audio: William takes listener calls.
William: We’re nearly out of time on this but we have been contacted by the Belfast Islamic Centre to make an offer – to make an offer to you because they heard you saying that you haven’t read the Koran and you haven’t met a Muslim – you don’t have any personal experience of meeting Muslims. They’re making an offer: Would you like to meet the Belfast Muslim community in the Belfast Islamic Centre? Come in. You’re welcome. Talk with them. Find out a little bit about Islam from actual Muslims. Would you take up the offer?
Jolene: Yeah, I think I will. Yes.
William: You would?
Jolene: Yes. I would appreciate an open and frank conversation…
William: …Oh, really?…
Jolene: …and I would like to have a chat with them. That would be…
William: …And I think what will be helpful – we’ll let you do that, we’ll put you in touch with them if you’re open to doing that because it’s a genuine offer on their part and they said it’s a genuine offer and they’re not just trying to be difficult or anything. If you do that would it be possible to bring you and a representative from the Islamic Centre back together again in the studio to talk about what you discover – of the conversations you’ve had, the progress you’ve made in the conversations?
Jolene: Certainly. Yes.
William: That would be very interesting, wouldn’t it?
Jolene: But, William, I want to make this very clear…
William: Please, yeah.
Jolene: This rally is not about demonising anyone other than terrorists and anyone who wants to take an innocent person’s life, who thinks that it is okay to run cars over people and to slaughter people in the street, who thinks it’s okay to plant a bomb or to use themselves as a bomb. No one has the right to take innocent peoples’ lives whether that’s at a pop concert or whether that’s at a remembrance service in Northern Ireland. You know, this is against terrorism and any hate that is spoken at this rally will be against terrorists. And I would like to think that the country would unite against terrorism. I know that we have a very – not humane structure at times and where we do have terrorists within our government but we need to unite against terrorism.
William: And others will object to that kind of language I know – but we’re into all the language debates around where we’ve been – what we’ve been through in the last few decades and everything. Jolene, thank you very much. You didn’t have to come in. You came in and sat in the studio and took some calls and talked about it. We’re grateful to you for doing that. Jolene Bunting. Thanks also to Tim Attwood from the SDLP. (ends)