Smyth addresses White Rule event

South Belfast MP Rev Martin Smyth has appeared as guest speaker at an event organised by a group that supports the re-imposition of white rule in Africa.

The Ulster Unionist MP has defended his decision to address members of the Northern Ireland Springbok Club at a ceremony in London in June.

Rev Smyth gave a talk on the achievements of the British Empire claiming that, in spite of some failings, it was one of the greatest ever forces for good in the world.

The controversial Springbok Club was formed in 1996 following a merger between the White Rhino Club and the Rhodesian Forum. The group flies the old South African apartheid flag at its meetings and refuses to accept the country's new inclusive symbols.

In a speech to party activists in 2000 leading member AD Harvey said it was quite clear where the group's sympathies lie.

"If there is any ambiguity in anyone's mind then the presence of the real South African flag on our logo should leave no one in any doubt," he said.

"In a nutshell our policy can be summed up in one sentence; we want our countries back and believe this can only come about by the re-establishment of civilised European rule throughout the African continent."

The Anti-Racism Network's Davy Carlin said he was deeply disappointed by Martin Smyth's decision to address the Springbok Club.

"Martin Smyth should be standing shoulder to shoulder with those who oppose racism," said the equality campaigner.

"At a time when racist attacks in South Belfast are at an all-time high it is a contradiction for Rev Smyth to, on one hand condemn attacks then attend a dinner hosted by the Springbok Club."

The African Cultural Society's Tura Artura explained how the Rhodesian Forum, which later merged to form the Springbok Club, often attracted white supremacists.

"I grew up in Zimbabwe during colonial times when the country was known as Rhodesia," said Tura. "The outlook of the Rhodesian Forum was to impose white rule on my country. It concerns me that former members of this group are now active within the Springbok Club."

Defending his decision to address the Springbok Club, a spokesman for Rev Martin Smyth said people of all colours and creeds attended his talk.
"As far as Rev Smyth is concerned the Springbok Club has nothing to do with white supremacy," said the spokesman.

"There were people of all colours and religions at his talk. During his 22 years as South Belfast MP Rev Smyth has been an avid opponent of racism."

Journalist:: Staff Reporter

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