'Racism row' over east Belfast posters

'Racism row' over east Belfast posters

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.

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, UKIPUUP 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."

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