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Wednesday, 10 July, 2002, 11:39 GMT 12:39 UK
Violence 'threatens interface jobs'
Sectarian violence has been rife in the area
The North Belfast MP is seeking an urgent meeting with the enterprise minister over fears that continuing sectarian violence is jeopardising the future of one of the area's largest employers.

The TeleTech call centre in Duncairn Gardens has been forced to close twice in the past two years as trouble flared in the interface area.

It was set up in August 2000 with more than 11m in government aid and currently employs more than 300 people.

North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds wants to meet Enterprise Minister Sir Reg Empey to discuss the concerns.

Nigel Dodds: Seeking meeting over concerns
Nigel Dodds: Seeking meeting over concerns

Mr Dodds added: "It's very worrying that there should be any threat over the future of the Teletech centre at Duncairn Gardens.

"There's been a lot of work done by local communities and local politicians to secure that investment."

Ulster Unionist assembly member Fred Cobain said he was concerned that ongoing tension in the area could lead to the American-owned centre's closure.

The company's European president has now written to the enterprise minister, Sir Reg Empey, expressing his concern after an employee was hit with a brick as he left work three weeks ago.

He required hospital treatment and stitches.

Two days later, the company was forced to close for several hours because of violence surrounding an Orange Order parade.


I am not saying they should fall in love with each other but they certainly need to tolerate each together if we are going to move forward

Fred Cobain Assembly member

A meeting is planned with local political representatives to work a way through the problems.

"This is an area of high unemployment and high levels of social deprivation," said Mr Cobain.

"There was a lot of competition for the factory and Sir Reg took an enormous risk bringing it to north Belfast.

"Irrespective of the sectarian problems here this particular venture has to be a success and working together is the only way to achieve that. There is no short cut to this."

Implications

Teletech have sought assurances from the minister that their staff will be safe before the company seeks to recruit in larger numbers.

When it opened, the company planned to create up to 900 jobs at the state-of-the-art centre for telephone and e-commerce based customer-care operations.

"We cannot afford this factory to shut down and move somewhere else. The implications would be enormous," added the UUP member.

"We need to stop problems on the interfaces and we need to speak to the two paramilitary groupings in there.

"Loyalist paramilitaries have a role to play in this and so has the republican movement.

"If this factory goes down it sends all the wrong signals out.

"We will never get a large employer in here and the only way we are going to improve living standards of people in this area is to get them into work.

"Paramilitaries and communities need to work together.

"I am not saying they should fall in love with each other but they certainly need to tolerate each together if we are going to move forward."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
UUP assemblyman Fred Cobain:
"People need to grasp the enormity of this"
See also:

24 Jun 02 | N Ireland
02 Jun 02 | N Ireland
24 Aug 00 | N Ireland
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