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SDLP accused of supporting racist attitudes

19 August, 2004

Sinn Fein West Belfast MLA Michael Ferguson has accused SDLP MLA Alasdair McDonnell of supporting racist attitudes after receiving a number of complaints after the SDLP deputy leader complained that Eastern European workers were stealing jobs from 'people here'.

Mr Ferguson said:

"Alasdair McDonnell is guilty of spouting the same sort of racist gibberish used by bigots and thugs to justify attacks on ethnic minorities. It is unfortunate that these comments have come so soon after the racist remarks made by his colleague Tommy McTeague at a Newtownards Council meeting.

"The reality of the situation is that people from Eastern Europe, the Philippines or wherever play a vital role in our economy. Nurses from abroad fill a huge gap in our health services, and other workers from places like Portugal take on jobs, that are often very low paid and difficult, that employers are unable to fill. Many people from ethnic minorities also bring vital skills and their enthusiasm and hard work to this island that add real value to our economy.

"Tackling the rise in racism demands real political leadership and it requires all of us to challenge head on intolerant and ignorant racist attitudes. This is a particular problem in Alasdair McDonnell's own South Belfast constituency.

"While there are very serious concerns about the impact of globalisation not just on our own economy but also the rights and conditions of workers elsewhere in the world it is simply not good enough for the SDLP deputy leader to be appearing to give political cover to racist attitudes that can lead to attacks on ethnic minorities." ENDS

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