Northern Ireland leader in row over slavery apology





Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain has been caught up in a political storm today over an apology he made in the United States about the slave trade.

He appeared to apologise in a BBC Wales television interview for Northern Ireland and Wales's role in the slave trade.

Mr Hain, who addressed an event on slavery, said: "I'm here on behalf of both Northern Ireland and Wales to say we have had a part to play in the slave trade.

"We acknowledge that. We take responsibility for it and we now are going to try and at least say that historical legacy must be recognised and we are sorry for it," Mr Hain said.

The Northern Ireland Secretary's comments puzzled historians in the North, who insisted that there was no sympathy for slavery in Belfast.

Democratic Unionist MP Sammy Wilson said: "I think a lot of people would love Peter Hain to apologise for the things he has done while he has been in charge of the Northern Ireland Office rather than for him to delve into the past and apologise for things we had no responsibility nor sympathy for," he said.

"If you look at slavery, Belfast and the people of Belfast were at the cutting edge of enlightened attitudes, and there was no association between Northern Ireland and the slave trade."

The Northern Ireland Office insisted Mr Hain had praised Belfast's stance against slavery in the speech he made in New York to the event organised by the Welsh Office.

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