A legal warning was sounded yesterday after a DUP minister’s call for local people to be given jobs ahead of foreign nationals.
Environment Minister Sammy Wilson claims it made sense to give preference to people “with roots here”.
However, the Equality Commission’s chief commissioner Bob Collins said: “You can’t discriminate against somebody in terms of employment on grounds of race. Race includes national identity or national or ethnic origin. That’s absolutely clear.”
Mr Collins said citizens of the EU are entitled to be fairly considered in employment decisions.
Discrimination in favour of local people is barred under race relations law here, underpinned by legislation in Europe.
Mr Collins added: “It’s perfectly valid for people to hope that economic activity will have real and rooted and longstanding benefits in the community. But you can’t translate that into giving preference to people from Northern Ireland irrespective of the standard of applications from other people.”