BELFAST, Northern Ireland - Anna Lo doesn't fit into the straitjacket
of Northern Ireland politics. She's not a Protestant or a Catholic -- and her
Belfast brogue comes with a Cantonese twist.
Alliance MLA Anna Lo celebrates at the Kings Hall in Belfast,
after making history for the first person from an ethnic minority to be
elected to Northern Ireland's Assembly Thursday, March 8, 2007. (AP
Lo, a Hong Kong native who has lived in Northern Ireland for 32 years, on
Friday became the first ethnic minority to be elected to political office in
this almost exclusively white British territory. Chinese media reports also
described her as the first Chinese person to be elected as a lawmaker anywhere
Lo was one of seven people elected to the 108-member Northern Ireland
Assembly from the Alliance Party, which seeks to draw support from all sides of
"I'm a Taoist, not a Christian, and I don't naturally belong to orange or
green," she said, referring to the local color labels for British Protestant and
Irish Catholic. "I'm really in the middle."
The Alliance Party, she said, "offers the alternative to tribal politics and
people came out to vote for it."
Lo, the 56-year-old chief executive of the Chinese Welfare Association in
Belfast, said many of the approximately 10,000 Cantonese-speaking residents of
Northern Ireland have lived here for more than three decades ¡ª and had never
voted before her candidacy.
During her 6-week election campaign, Lo went knocking doors
throughout South Belfast. The area is home for Queen's University students, most
of Belfast's smartest neighborhoods, and rough Protestant districts where
racist attacks against immigrants -- particularly hospital workers from Africa and
the Philippines -- have become common in recent years.
Police advised Lo to carry a panic alarm in case she suffered racial abuse.
The worst she reported were verbal insults, some questioning her right to stand
for office, and a far-right Web site that juxtaposed her picture with
She ended up finishing third in the six-seat South Belfast constituency, much
better than analysts' forecasts.
"I really wouldn't want to be seen as an ethnic minority representative," she
said. "But I do want to challenge the culture of segregation here, to promote
the integration of schools and encourage everyone to respect each