Page last updated at 13:06 GMT, Thursday, 25 March 2010

Sammy Wilson cleared over 'jobs for locals' complaint

Sammy Wilson
Mr Wilson said preference should be given to people from Northern Ireland

The NI Assembly's Standards committee has dismissed a complaint against the DUP Finance Minister Sammy Wilson over a "jobs for locals" remark.

In January 2009 Mr Wilson told the BBC's Politics Show that preference should be given to people from Northern Ireland when jobs become vacant.

A Sinn Fein member had complained that the remarks could encourage employers to discriminate against EU migrants.

But the committee ruled he was not instructing anyone to act unlawfully.

It said that having considered an unedited transcript of Mr Wilson's interview he was simply expressing his views and opinions.

Mr Wilson, who was then Environment Minister, had said firms should give jobs to locals ahead of foreign nationals in the current economic downturn.

He said it made sense to give preference to people "with roots here".


"I think if jobs are becoming vacant and you've got people with equal skills, and can do the job, etc., then I think preference should be given to people from Northern Ireland," he continued.

That provoked a complaint from Sinn Fein's Jennifer McCann, on behalf of the All Party Assembly Group on Ethnic Minority Communities.

She also suggested that Mr Wilson's comments might lead to incitement of racial hatred.

The Standards Committee said that Mr Wilson's views and comments "may appear to some to conflict with the European Commission's position on the employment rights of EU citizens and with employers' legal duties in respect of discrimination."

However, it added that whether or not that was the case was "immaterial in respect of the Committee's consideration of this complaint."

It added that elected representatives should be free, within the law, to express any political opinion that they may hold and that the Assembly should not seek to prevent or limit any political opinion being expressed legally.

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