British woman whose Nigerian father was killed by an IRA bomb has been driven from her Northern Ireland home by racists, she says, as she finally finds ‘sanctuary’ in England
Jayne Olorunda, the daughter of a man killed by the IRA, has told how she was forced out of Northern Ireland by racism
The daughter of a man killed in an IRA bombing has told how she was later forced from Northern Ireland by racism.
Jayne Olorunda is the daughter of Nigerian-born Max Olorunda, who was killed by an IRA incendiary bomb which detonated aboard a train in Dunmurry in 1980.
She grew up in Belfast but recently moved to England due to racism in Northern Ireland.
As well as coping with the death of her father, Ms Olorunda and her family have been subject to racism, with ‘stares and taunts’ commonplace while she was growing up.
The 39-year-old, who was just two when her father was killed, has now told how she was confronted by a group of men.
After launching a new book about her experiences in Northern Ireland, she said: ‘Racism has been a huge factor in my life and even occurred towards my parents before I was born.
‘My mum Gabrielle told me about an incident which happened when she was carrying my sister and was told ‘how dare you bring another black b*****d into the world’.
‘As I grew up I got sick of being told “go back home” and being asked “where were you from before here” – people just wouldn’t believe I was born in Northern Ireland.
‘Racism has always been an issue in my life, after all we are a mixed race family and don’t always blend in. Growing up we became used to stares and taunts, but that was all we had.’
Ms Olorunda with her Northern Irish mother Gabrielle and Nigerian father Max in a photo from when she was a baby
She has written a book about her family’s struggles in coping with her father’s death
She added: ‘Naively I thought that Northern Ireland seemed to be changing, more and more people of colour were coming in and we no longer stood out as much.
‘I even hoped that my work in the public eye would help to raise awareness of the difficulties faced here by people of colour and those new to our shores trying to integrate.
‘In early 2016, I had been invited to dinner by an African family, I was so excited because believe it or not at the time I didn’t know many Africans and even more importantly I had never had African food.
‘It was a beautiful welcoming atmosphere in the house, people laughing and talking and children playing.
‘I had to leave early so I said my goodbyes and thought nothing of walking out the front door onto the street and walking the short distance to my car.
‘But within seconds of being out the door I unwittingly encountered a group of right wing thugs, who surrounded me, blocked me in with an SS banner they were carrying and proceeded to terrify me.
She said growing up mixed-race in Belfast meant she was repeatedly subjected to racism
Ms Olorunda, pictured with her sister Alison, said they would get taunts and stares growing up
‘There was about eight of them shouting racist slurs, telling me to ‘go home’ and using threatening gestures and behaviour.
‘I didn’t know what to do. They had me cornered, I feared for my life, I couldn’t call for help. I couldn’t knock the door of the house – people inside were having a good time, singing and were joyful.
‘I didn’t want to expose them to what was happening, especially because there were children in the house and the front door opened directly into the living room. I couldn’t have exposed any child to that.
‘I repeatedly told the mob that I was from Belfast but they were having none of it, they approached me from across the street, I didn’t have my phone but I reached into my bag anyway just in case the thought that I might call for help would deter them.
‘It made things worse. I was told to ‘go ahead and call your n*****-loving PSNI’.’
Mr Olorunda was one of three people, including the bomber, killed in the IRA train bombing in January 1980. The IRA said the explosive went off prematurely
Miss Olorunda’s mother, Gabrielle, is from Northern Ireland and fell in love with Mr Olorunda when he was working in Belfast. They married despite her Protestant parents’ objections
She managed to get away after one of the men recognised her and let her go.
Miss Olorunda said: ‘It’s hard to leave your home at any time, but when you leave your home due to intolerance it’s overwhelming.
‘As a family the decision wasn’t easy but having lived through the outcome of intolerance before with dad we knew how dangerous any type of hatred can be. Like sectarianism, racism cannot be undermined.
Miss Olorunda as a child in Belfast
‘The rise of racism in Northern Ireland and the escalation of some very right wing views meant we no longer felt safe. It had got to a ridiculous stage. The underlying racism was rife.
‘All my life I have lived in the shadow of sectarianism, as an IRA victim we weren’t welcome in Catholic areas, and as Catholics we weren’t welcome in Protestant areas.
‘England has been very welcoming to us. It feels the atmosphere here is different. I know we have made the right decision. I spent my last two years in Belfast afraid to go out alone as a result of my attack.’
‘Here no one looks twice at me, except when I speak but my accent is a bit of an ice breaker. There are so many mixed race people and black British people about, that I am nothing new. I at last fit in.’
Miss Olorunda has writtenLegacy,the story of her family and how they have coped with her father’s tragic death and the aftermath of it.
The book covers Miss Olorunda’s mother’s deteriorating health and how the pair eventually met the man involved in the bombing which killed her father as well as her own struggles growing up.