Page last updated at 12:11 GMT, Thursday, 6 August 2009 13:11 UK

Wilson 'in denial' over NI racism

Sammy Wilson
Sammy Wilson has criticised some anti-racism groups

A leading figure in the NI anti-racism movement has accused the finance minister of being in denial about the scale of the problem.

Sammy Wilson had claimed some organisations use charges of racism to get public funding.

He also criticised some groups for what he says is their failure to have an open debate about immigration.

Patrick Yu of the NI Council for Ethnic Minorities accused Mr Wilson of playing into the hands of racists.

"We were very disappointed with the remarks made by the minister," he said.

"Firstly, his remarks are political ranting, it gives ammunition to those perpetrators. Basically he denied any racism or racist attack.

"It is a matter of fact if you look at the figures from the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the racist attacks are increasing year by year."

Earlier, Mr Wilson had said when there was "any attempt to have an honest debate" on the issue of immigration "the people involved in that were accused of being racist".

He said racism charges coincided with appeals for money from some groups.

Mr Wilson said his remarks were made "in the context" that Mr Yu had "raised the issue of racism".

"He had raised the issue of my remarks, the fact that local people should have precedence for jobs and had raised that in the context of wanting more money for his organisation to deal with racism in Northern Ireland," he 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 said the "anti-racism industry" brought in millions of pounds and employed "scores of people".

"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 added.

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