25 March 2006

Unemployment higher in nationalist areas

Daily Ireland

Ciarán Barnes

The number of long-term unemployed in parliamentary constituencies with nationalist MPs is almost double that of areas with unionist MPs, Daily Ireland can reveal.
On average, there are 425 people who have been unemployed for at least 18 months or more in nationalist constituencies, compared to 256 in those controlled by unionists.
The areas suffering most from long-term unemployment are West Belfast and Foyle, with rates of 840 and 700 respectively. Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams represents West Belfast, while SDLP leader Mark Durkan represents Foyle.
The constituencies with the lowest long-term unemployment averages both have Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) MPs.
Jeffrey Donaldson’s Lagan Valley has a rate of 150, while Peter Robinson’s East Belfast registers 165.
Sinn Féin MLA Kathy Stanton said recent claims that unionist communities are disproportionally disadvantaged are exposed as untrue by these figures. After serious loyalist rioting in Belfast last September loyalist leaders claimed lack of investment and disadvantage was a catalyst for the violence.
Ms Stanton accepts there is poverty in unionist areas, but not on the same scale as in nationalist districts.
She said: “Yes, there is poverty in unionist areas, but when will the day come when unionists accept that poverty and disadvantage is greater in nationalist areas and start to try and understand why?”
Former Ulster Unionist mayor of Belfast, Jim Rodgers, disputed the long-term unemployment figures. He said: “As far as I’m concerned, unemployment is too high in all areas. I’m not interested in one area claiming to suffer more than another.”

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