Policy

City Councilor Frank Baker made an anti-Protestant remark to Councilwoman Liz Breadon, an immigrant from Northern Ireland, on the floor of the council chamber this week.

Boston City Councilor Frank Baker makes gestures at a City Council meeting last week. Jessica Rinaldi / Global Staff

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Arguments in the Boston City Council hall swirled around a redistribution proposal called the “unity” map.

And the divisions on how exactly 2020 neighborhood boundaries are to be redrawn on Wednesday changed in the blink of an eye from quarrels over streets and neighborhoods to something much bigger, with an emphasis on half-world history.

Thanks to the joke of Dorchester councilor Frank Baker, the councilors were quickly removed from the Center and thrown into centuries-old sectarian disputes between Irish Catholics and Protestants – divisions that broke out in the violent conflicts known collectively as “The Troubles” that once plagued Northern Ireland from decades.

Baker, pinning a Celtic cross pin to his lapel, told the councilman about a conversation he had with a Catholic priest that morning, saying that the local clergy “are all talking about the process right here and seeing (it) as everything – an att*ck on Catholic life in Boston. “.

He then added, “And they don’t get lost in the fact that the person leading the charge is a Protestant from Fermanagh,” a county in Northern Ireland.

Baker’s comments were directed directly to his colleague, Allston-Brighton Councilwoman Liz Breadon, who was born a Protestant in Northern Ireland before emigrating to Boston nearly 30 years ago. Breadon is chairman of the council’s redistribution committee, and the map’s chief sponsor of the map council voted 9-4 for approval this week.

This was not the only tension that caused the Council during this session. The councilors of color openly discussed the disrespect and racism they had encountered since taking office, saying that unfair treatment was sometimes even the result of their white colleagues.

Race was undeniably intertwined throughout the redistrictive process as Breadon and other Unity Map advocates argue that it gives more political agency to communities of color and meets federal legal requirements for diversity between Boston electoral blocs.

But Baker and other councilors said these changes came at the expense of the communities in their neighborhoods.

Still, Baker’s remarks added a new element to the final chapter on the division into the city’s legislature – one into which even the Archdiocese of Boston has now entered.

Here’s what happened:

What Baker said

From the end of the 1960s to the end of the 1990s Northern Ireland has experienced violence through riots, b*mbings and revenge killings.

These acts were the result of a conflict in the face of Catholic discrimination under Protestant-controlled governments and complex issues of Irish identity and secular beliefs, nationalism and rival sentiments about the state’s ties to Britain and the idea of ​​a united, independent Ireland. British rule.

Catholic nationalists have tried to fight off government-sanctioned discrimination by modeling a civil rights movement similar to that led by black Americans in the United States. However, in the years that followed, things grew even more intense, and by the time of peace just before the turn of the last century, some 3,600 people lost their lives and more than 30,000 were injured.

Baker’s comments on Wednesday are apparently a reaction to how the city’s latest political map – if approved by Mayor Michelle Wu – it does not have the same boundaries as parish lines sanctioned by the Archdiocese of Boston.

The major map changes that fueled opposition largely focused on moving parts of Dorchester – near Cedar Grove, Neponset, and Adams Village – from Baker’s District 3 to District 4, and moving South Boston areas from home to council complex from District 2 to District 3.

Supporters of the map argue that District 2, by law, has too many inhabitants in its current state, while the Dorchester section of District 3 would provide District 4 with more racial diversity to help the city avoid possible allegations of “packing” black electoral blocs.

Opponents – which also include Council chairman Ed Flynn and councilors Erin Murphy and Michael Flaherty – have meanwhile said the map divides their neighborhoods and divides their communities.

After Baker’s remarks caused an audible shock to viewers at Wednesday’s council meeting, Baker tried to keep talking, but Flynn struck a hammer and sent the meeting to halftime.

About five minutes later, the councilors returned and Flynn said Baker had broken the council’s rules of conduct.

Baker apologized for the choice of words and asked if possible to be deleted from the record.

“It wasn’t like me,” he said. “Excuse me first the chair (Breadon) and also the body. A good Catholic like me shouldn’t do this or be like that. … I shouldn’t use that language. “

But Baker also admitted why he remained frustrated.

“I’m warmed up because I think neighborhoods in District 3 that are Catholic are under att*ck,” he said.

And on Thursday, Baker apparently doubled his comments, saying in a statement that they reflected what he had heard from his Catholic voters for months, GBH News reports.

“The redesterification process in Boston was illegally carried out to intentionally harm [Catholic voters] for who they are, ”said Baker.

He then pointed to the allegations that the trial violated the State Open Meetings Act and the Federal Voting Rights Act.

“I will not be silent about it,” he said.

How Bredon reacted

Shortly after Baker’s apology, Breadon rose to offer overthrow and condemnation. She called Baker’s comments a “personal att*ck.”

She actually grew up as a Protestant in Northern Ireland, she said. Throughout this period of her life, she watched her government “systematically discriminate against Catholics in housing, employment opportunities, funding education, access to healthcare, and voting.”

“The greatest travesty in Northern Ireland’s history has been the systemic deprivation of Catholics of citizenship,” she said. “There was not one man, one vote. This is what the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Movement was about in the 1960s. They took to the streets in defense of one man, one vote, just like the people here, African Americans in the United States.

She said that when the trouble started in 1969, Breadon was 10 years old.

On the 2019 campaign trail, Breadon recalled these experiences to Boston University Information Service and she remembered often hearing the whirlwind of helicopters overhead as a child.

“We basically had soldiers and armored cars and people with guns and helicopters,” said Breadon at the time. “So although I lived in the countryside where we were protected from most of the intense conflicts that took place in more urban areas, it really permeated my entire growing up.”

On Wednesday, Breadon also admitted that as a lesbian she was unable to live and express herself as she wanted in her native Christian country.

In 1995 she came to Boston – “that light on the hill, (it) city on the hill” – and married “a nice Irish Catholic,” she said.

She called Baker’s comments an “insult.”

“It is an insult to me when a colleague in this City Council insinuates that I discriminate against Catholics. That’s not what’s happening here, ‘said Bredon. “I stand for the rights of our minority communities – Hispanic, Asian and Black – to equal access to voting and equal opportunities to choose a candidate of their choice.

“And if that means upsetting and upsetting Catholics, then I’m very, very sorry,” she added. “And I don’t think it reflects Catholic values. … It’s an insult. It is an absolute disgrace. “

In e-mail newsletter to supporters and voters on Thursday, Breadon reflected on the incident, calling it “offensive on many levels”, including “as an outrageous breach of decency, in its militaristic language and in the poorly veiled homophobic attitudes underlying these comments.”

“For many reasons, not least because of the support my wife Mary and I feel from the Allston-Brighton community we call home, I have been able to bring out the ignorance and prejudices that lay at my feet yesterday,” wrote Breadon.

What the people of the Archdiocese of Boston and Dorchester said

In statement to A reporter from Dorchester On Thursday, Terrence Donilon, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Boston, said the church did not see the unity map as an att*ck on Catholic life, but refrained from acknowledging Baker’s anti-Protestant remark:

The Catholic Church appreciates, and in many cases works with, local officials in solving various complex problems facing the city. Apparently, the debate over the redistribution of the city of Boston is complicated as officials struggle to meet this requirement after the census.

That said, we do not believe this trial is an att*ck on Catholic life. Given the relevant issues raised and the debate that followed, perhaps all sides need more time to debate this important issue so that all city districts are fairly represented.

He asked by a reporter If the church suggested Wu should veto the map, Donilon said, “This decision is entirely in the hands of the government leaders. Our suggestion was mostly cautious due to the complexity of the problem.

At Dorchester, Bill Forry, editor Dorchester Reporter told GBH News that Baker’s remarks were a “terrible mistake” and were widely rejected in the Baker neighborhood.

“We’ve heard outrage from people who think this is a completely wrong representation of how people feel. … People who are concerned about this final redistribution map that the council has enacted have other arguments, ”said Forry. “At no point had anyone objected to Councilor Breadon’s heritage, place of origin, or religion. There is simply no place for it in the political dialogue here in the city. “

“This shows serious ignorance on his part of Irish America and the Irish-American role in solving Ireland’s” troubles “in the north,” he added.

GBH News also received a copy of the letter from Jack Ahern, pastor at St. But when he got to the outlet, Ahern explained his testimony.

“I tried harder to keep the district united under one councilor,” said GBH of his letter. There is no mention of Breadon’s religion in the correspondence. “I was surprised by Baker’s comments. I didn’t even know she was a Protestant.

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