'Racism row' over east Belfast posters

Published Tuesday, 08 April 2014
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Posters regarding employment for "local people" have sparked concerns over racism and counter-claims of unfairness in terms of job opportunities, after they appeared in east Belfast.

'Racism row' over east Belfast posters
The posters appeared in east Belfast, but it is not clear who produced them. (© Pacemaker)

The posters ask a series of questions, including why "outside labour" is being used instead of local skilled workers and why "hundreds of overseas workers" are being employed on higher wages.

They are headed with the message: "What happened to the agreement on local jobs for local people?"

Alliance MLA Anna Lo has branded the posters as racist and demanded that they be taken down.

It is deeply worrying that these posters have appeared in parts of Belfast ... I would like to tell whoever is responsible that their messages of hatred are not wanted.

Anna Lo, Alliance

"I am appalled by these posters. They are giving out misinformation at a time when ethnic minorities' concerns are already heightened following recent racist attacks," Ms Lo said.

"Racism has no place in our society."

According to UKIP's leader in Northern Ireland, the posters are due to east Belfast residents being "deeply distressed that 500 foreign workers are being employed building oil rigs in Belfast harbour".

David McNarry added that there were also concerns that 24 local workers had lost their jobs to foreign workers who were allegedly being paid at a higher rate than their predecessors.

"I have been contacted by exasperated and annoyed local residents who say that Alliance slurs of racism are falsehoods," he said.

All local people want is fairness in employment opportunities. Are foreign workers being employed at the expense of locals?

David McNarry, UKIP

UUP MLA Danny Kinahan has said that "scapegoating" foreign workers is not the answer to concerns about employment and the economy.

"We have to be very careful when bandying about words like racism, but I am in no doubt that those behind the poster campaign are not doing so with good intentions," he said.

"At a time when we are trying to come to grips with the major challenge of educational failure in working class areas, these sort of rows do no one any good whatsoever."

Workers Party representative Kevin McNally said there was "absolutely no justification" for the posters, which he called "racist and dangerous".

He has called for Mr McNarry to withdraw his remarks on the subject, adding: "It is important that they (the posters), and the people who produced them, are condemned without reservation and that anyone who does seek to justify them is confronted and denounced."

Mr McNarry asked Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster about this issue at Stormont on Tuesday.

The DUP minister replied: "Of course, we are very aware that when companies come to Northern Ireland - I am talking now from a foreign-direct-investment point of view - they will, on occasion, bring people with them to embed the new company in Northern Ireland.

"It is wrong for us to say that we want jobs in Northern Ireland only for Northern Ireland people.

"We want people to come to Northern Ireland and share their skills and experiences with us here in order to build up our workforce so that we can be competitive and global.

"It is wrong to say that we are interested only in jobs here for people from Northern Ireland."

© UTV News
Comments Comments
36 Comments
ULSTERFRY in The pan wrote (227 days ago):
Bats in Bangor, totally agree about your skills comments. If the locals dont have the skills why dont they get up off there behinds and set about getting the skills. Local people who have the skills should be looked after first if they are qualified to do the job.
Darren in Belfast wrote (228 days ago):
Vote UKIP and we can change that in 2017.
Dee in Newtownabbey wrote (228 days ago):
Great article about this by the unionist commentator Alex Kane in today's Irish News. This is the kind of leadership that the unionist community should be following, supporting and encouraging and not the entrenched, inward-looking policies of political unionism which have led to the PUL community, and especially the working class, into the sectarian logjam that they currently find themselves in.
Michael in Templepatrick wrote (229 days ago):
The reason foreigners are being employed is because (a) they're probably not useless and perhaps even qualified for the job and (b) they're probably not lazy either, i.e hard working. If those in east belfast who want to spend their time sitting about on benefits complaining about their heritage being eroded or obsessing over a flag then they should really wind their own neck in! No one likes a racist or a xenophobe.
Boru in Ireland wrote (229 days ago):
If the posters aren't denigrating Africans, Asians, Europeans, Poles, Irish people('Catholics') then I fail to see how the posters can be labelled 'racist' -- anyway, you can't expect a job to be automatically given to you (like in the 'good ol' days') just because all your uncles and your Da, and your Da's Da and his Da worked in the shipyard.
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