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Stormont clashes over economic migrants 'taking jobs'

Published 12/10/2015

Ukip's David McNarry was accused over his views about economic migrants in N Ireland
Ukip's David McNarry was accused over his views about economic migrants in N Ireland

Economic migrants should not be scapegoated for long-standing unemployment and skill shortage problems in Northern Ireland, a Stormont minister has warned.

Employment and Learning minister Stephen Farry defended the role played by those who move to the region for work during angry Assembly exchanges with Ukip MLA David McNarry.

Mr McNarry had asked Mr Farry to comment on the impact non-UK born workers were having on the numbers of young people not in employment, education and training (Neets).

The Strangford MLA said 34,000 16-24 year-olds were now categorised at Neets.

"The minister should tell me what sort of grip, as opposed to speculation, does the minister's own department have on the relationship between these high immigrant figures and the number of jobs available to local young people aged 16 to 24," he said.

Mr Farry responded in forthright terms, accusing Ukip of "scapegoating the other for problems that lie within society".

The Alliance party minister said between 8,000 to 11,000 non-UK nationals resident in Northern Ireland had registered for a social security number in each of the last four years. He said that rate was around half of the numbers registering between 2005 and 2008.

Mr Farry said unemployment and skill shortage problems had long dogged Northern Ireland.

"These are deep structural problems that have existed in our society long before mass migration became an issue for this society," he said.

During his answer, Mr McNarry barracked the minister from his seat, prompting a warning from principal deputy speaker Robin Newton for the Ukip member to stop "badgering" the minister.

Mr Farry continued: "I hope the member will inform the people of Northern Ireland what is really going on - rather than engaging in scaremongering and scapegoating of people coming into our society."

He added: "Let's not scapegoat economic migrants, let's welcome them into Northern Ireland and recognise that they are playing a major role in our society and they are adding more to our society than they are taking out."

After the exchanges, Alliance MLA Stewart Dickson raised a point of order with the speaker, accusing Mr McNarry of branding Mr Farry's comments as "lies".

Mr Newton replied: "The remarks have been noted and no doubt the speaker (Mitchel McLaughlin) will take account of those."

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