Thursday 14 November 2019

'I feel very low': elderly victim of racist tirade on plane

Widow (77) tells of her shock at treatment on Ryanair flight

Delsie Gayle
Delsie Gayle

Anne-Marie Walsh

The woman who was subjected to a racist tirade on board a Ryanair flight said that she feels "very low" after the incident.

British police have launched an investigation after mobile phone footage emerged of a man calling 77-year-old Delsie Gayle an "ugly black b******" and a "stupid ugly cow" during the shocking encounter.

The story has gone viral, with US media networks including CNN and ABC News reporting on the incident, heaping pressure on the airline to explain why he was not booted off.

Instead, Ms Gayle of Leyton, East London, was forced to move from her seat after the man threatened to push her, on the plane from Barcelona to London.

The man had demanded that she get out of his way and became angry when she did not move quickly enough for him. He warned her not to speak in a foreign language although the Jamaican-born woman was speaking English.

The torrent of abuse continued despite the efforts of a crew member and a passenger sitting behind.

It later emerged that Ms Gayle had travelled to Barcelona to commemorate the one-year anniversary of her husband's death. She told ITV News yesterday that she felt "very low" since the incident.

"I was shocked, nobody ever said those words to me," she said. "I feel very low. He paid a fare to go on holiday, I've paid mine, so why does he abuse me for that due to the colour of my skin?"

"He does it with me and he gets away, he'll do it to somebody else," she added.

A Ryanair spokesman last night told the Irish Independent that its customer care team had contacted the Gayle family on Sunday. It has also reported the incident to police in Essex.

"As this is now a police matter, we cannot comment further," he added.

Essex Police said it had launched an investigation and was working closely with Ryanair and the Spanish authorities.

British Labour MP David Lammy backed a boycott of the airline, and recalled Rosa Parks's famous stand against discrimination and said "we ain't going back".

The party's transport spokesperson, Karl Turner, claimed Ryanair "failed spectacularly" and he suspected pressure to take off meant the alleged offender stayed on board.

He said the man may "get away with it" because the incident happened in Spain, and he probably could not be prosecuted in Britain.

The Irish Labour Party's transport spokesperson Kevin Humphries said he would not back a boycott until he knew the full facts.

However, he described the incident as horrendous and said the captain should have put the man off the plane.

"I want to see a full investigation," he said. "This is an Irish-based company and we can't tolerate things like that happening on a plane. The captain is in charge at the time of the incident, but the airline needs to set down clear guidelines."

Fianna Fáil's transport spokesperson, Robert Troy, said it was beyond question that Ryanair should have handled the situation better. He said there were questions over whether aviation laws were fit for purpose to deal with such incidents. "I will be seeking assurances from Ryanair management that proper protocols and training are now in place to ensure there is no repeat of this incident and that racism is appropriately dealt with any time it raises its ugly head," he said.

Irish Independent

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