In her first interview since the Manchester attack, which killed 22 people including seven children, the Prime Minister spoke movingly about her “harrowing” visit to the hospital where victims of the suicide bombing were being treated for horrific injuries.
She said the visit had brought into “sharp focus” the need to tackle the cancer of extremism, saying: “Enough is enough. We need to be stronger and more resolute in standing up to these people.”
In a rare display of emotion, Mrs May, who received the devastating news of the atrocity on Monday night after she had retired to the Downing Street flat, said she found it particularly “sickening” the attack had targeted children.
“You think of those young lives that have been cut short in this terrible way,” she said.
Theresa May told yesterday of her sorrow after meeting young victims of the Manchester terror attack
Enough is enough. We need to be stronger and more resolute in standing up to these people
“But you also think of those who have been injured and those who weren’t injured but will still carry the memory of that night for the rest of their lives.”
After visiting casualties of the bombing at Manchester Children’s Hospital on Tuesday, Mrs May spoke about one young girl she met.
“The young girl was being incredibly brave about what must have been an absolutely traumatic experience for her,” she said.
Who are the Manchester bombing victims? Thu, May 25, 2017
At least 22 people have died, with more than 60 injured
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Sorrell Leczkowski, a 14-year-old schoolgirl from Leeds
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“I also saw her parents who rushed to the scene as soon as they heard there had been this terrible attack with their daughter caught up in it.
“What was clear to me was the intense trauma of this.
“There are the physical injuries that people go through and that have to be treated in hospital. But there is also the impact of the memories of what you have seen and what you have been through.
“It must have been horrific for parents to receive that phone call.
“That’s what has really struck home when talking to world leaders and receiving condolences from across the globe. Every terror attack is terrible. People lose their lives, are injured and are affected for ever. But this has been particularly sickening.
“Across the world people have seen that, because children have been caught up in it.”
The Prime Minister added: “Sadly the attack brings into sharp focus the need to act strongly on these issues, both at an international level and on a domestic level, in terms of dealing with hateful propaganda on the internet and through social media.”
May said the visit had brought into 'sharp focus' the need to tackle the cancer of extremism
Mrs May will today unveil plans for a new Government agency – a Commission for Countering Extremism – which will identify extremists, counter their messages of hate and promote British values.
It will also advise the Government on what policies and laws, including new criminal offences, might be needed.
New offences could be aimed at extremists who skirt current laws by endorsing radical views while stopping short of directly advocating violence.
Sources said this would make it easier for the police to prosecute the likes of hate preacher Anjem Choudary and his followers.
“When I was home secretary I excluded more hate preachers than any home secretary before me,” the Prime Minister said.
“One of the things that the Commission will do is advise Government on whether there are further offences that need to be introduced.
“We always work with the police regarding what they feel they need in terms of extra powers. But I think it is important we stamp out this extremism which effectively encourages a hate of our society and our way of life.”
The new statutory body will be modelled on the Commission for Racial Equality, which was set up in the 1970s and tasked with rooting out racism from society.
Mrs May meets a victim at Manchester Children’s Hospital
Mrs May said: “There was a time of real concern about racism. There was a commission set up to work with the public sector and society at large, to help stamp out racism.
“That’s what we want to do with extremism and that’s what this commission will work to do.”
She added: “Britain is one of the world’s most successful multi-racial, multi- religious, multi-cultural societies. But our enjoyment of Britain’s diversity must not prevent us from confronting the menace of extremism, even if that is sometimes embarrassing or difficult to do.
“Extremism, especially Islamist extremism, strips some people of the freedoms they should enjoy.
“It undermines the cohesion of our society and can fuel violence. And it can be especially bad for women.
“There is clearly a role for Government in tackling extremism where it involves behaviour that is or ought to be criminal.
Manchester bombing: Investigation so far Wed, May 24, 2017
The investigation so far into the Manchester bomb attack that killed at least 22 people, with more than 60 injured after Salman Abedi detonated a bomb in the Manchester Arena, at 10:30pm Monday, 22 May 2017
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Handout photo courtesy of Alex Finnie, of men wearing body armour during a raid of a block of flats in Blackley, north Manchester, following the attack on Manchester Arena
“But there is also a role for Government to help people and to build up organisations in society to promote and defend Britain’s pluralistic values.
“And it must stand up to extremists who want to undermine our values and impose their twisted beliefs on to the rest of us.
“When I was home secretary I published a counter-extremism strategy which brought in certain requirements for people working in the public sector, training them on how to identify signs of radicalisation and a duty in relation to reporting. But I think we need to go further.
“Creating this new Commission is about ensuring that we are supporting not just the public but also society, community groups and the private sector, to be able to identify and deal with extremism.”