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'The call had a profound effect on me and my family'

Former general election candidate John Uwhumiakpor speaks out after the conviction of man who racially abused him

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John Uwhumiakpor

John Uwhumiakpor

John Uwhumiakpor

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A former General Election candidate who was racially abused in an anonymous phone call has revealed he was left with a 'huge level of fear' and left constantly looking over his shoulder.

John Uwhumiakpor, who ran in last year's General Election in the Dublin Fingal area as a candidate for People Before Profit party, was informed by the anonymous caller 'Don't get involved in Irish politics. Irish politics is for Irish people."

John, who is originally from Nigeria but is now an irish citizen and has been living in the country for the past 15 years, said initially he was 'taken off balance' by the call which he received at 12.26pm on January 29 last year in the run up to the General Election.

Last week, 61-year-old Edward Smith, of Mount Talbot in Co Roscommon pleaded guilty at Balbriggan District Court to sending a message by telephone which is grossly offensive or menacing to Mr Uwhumiakpor at his home address. He claimed he was drunk at the time and 'lost the run of himself'.

The court heard Smith anonymously phoned Mr Uwhumiakpor and asked if he was John. He then racially abused him by telling him: 'Don't get involved in Irish politics. Irish politics is for Irish people.'

Mr Uwhumiakpor reported the racial attack to his local gardai.

After Smith was tracked down by Detective Garda Ross Rowan, he apologised for his actions and apologised to Mr Uwhumiakpor.

He was charged and appeared before the district court in Mr Uwhumiakpor's hometown last week.

Judge Dermot Dempsey said it would be a 'step too far not to convict him', as it was a 'very serious matter with serious effects on the injured party and his family'.

The judge then convicted and fined Smith €200 and ordered he pay €600 in compensation to Mr Uwhumiakpor.

Mr Uwhumiakpor, who has made the seaside town of Balbriggan his home for the past ten years, has now opened up about the fear and profound effect Smith's horror phone call caused him and his family.

He is also encouraging others who suffer racial abuse to report such instances to the gardai.

'I didn't know the caller.

'It was an anonymous call and what he said to me took me off balance at first,' John told The Fingal Independent.

'He called me just before lunchtime on the day and when he said what he said I was like; what?

'I was shocked and I couldn't process the information at first.

'Then it hit me and I realised what he said and implied,' the father of six said.

'I was left fearful as I was in the public eye at that stage running for the general election and because I didn't know who made the call, I was constantly looking over my shoulder while I was out canvassing for the election.

'That was the greatest fear as I didn't know where the call came from.'

'The call had a profound effect on me and my family psychologically and emotionally,' he added.

Mr Uwhumiakpor was also racially attacked in a social media post in the same month when a photograph of his election poster went viral with a caption: 'Another Wifi password looking for votes up in Balbriggan', mocking his name.

At that time he said it was sad to see that some are focusing on people's identity to attack them.

Following the conviction of Smith, Mr Uwhumiakpor told The Fingal Independent he is now relieved the court case is over and justice has been served.

He said: 'It has given me some comfort that the case is now over. He apologised and has been convicted so I think that suffices.

'It's not about the money as I wasn't expecting monetary compensation.

'He understood what he said was wrong and what he did was wrong and he owned up to it so I think that is the way forward.

'Going forward we should continue to see ourselves as one and see the good in everyone.'

'Ireland has accepted multiculturalism and no-one should have to go through this in this day and age,' Mr Uwhumiakpor, who has acted as general secretary of the Balbriggan Integration Forum for seven years, said.

He helped form that group in 2013 to promote integration in the north Fingal community.

He also said he has a deep gratitude to Det Rowan and the gardai who tracked Smith down and unravelled the mystery of the horrific anonymous phone call.

He explained: 'I had to stand up to him and I would encourage others to do the same and we need to create that environment that they can do it', adding that he definitely would run in politics again.

Mr Uwhumiakpor also ran in the 2019 local elections where he received 4% of first preference votes.

'I would run again and again and again because it is about contribution and representing people in the community every voice matters,' he said.


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