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Finance Minister Sammy Wilson clashes with group over racism

A Stormont minister has clashed with a leading ethnic minorities group after accusing campaigners of overstating the problem of racism to attract public money.

DUP Finance Minister Sammy Wilson is at loggerheads with the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities (Nicem).

It comes after racist attacks in Belfast hit the headlines earlier this year when around 100 Romanians were forced from their homes in the south of the city.

The high-profile Nicem group had already criticised Mr Wilson for earlier remarks when he said jobs should go to people born in Northern Ireland before going to economic migrants.

Mr Wilson defended his latest controversial comments last night and said: "What I had said was that, first of all, when there was any attempt to have an honest debate on the issue of immigration, immediately the people who were involved in that were accused of being racist.

"Secondly, these charges of racism then were always coincided with the holding out of the hand for more money for the organisations which were dealing with the issue.

"From that point of view, organisations like Nicem needed to keep raising this issue because that was one way of perpetuating their own existence."

Mr Wilson claimed there was an "anti-racism industry".

"Of course, they have to justify their existence and now and again I think they take an unfair shot at politicians and when they do they can't expect people to remain silent," he told the BBC.

Nicem spokesman Patrick Yu accused Mr Wilson of a political rant which effectively played down racism.

In a statement, Nicem said its role involves protecting the most vulnerable communities in society.

The organisation said its data on racist attacks was based on police figures.

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