BNP leader lambasted on Ulster race claims
Portadown town centre
OUTSPOKEN British National Party leader Nick Griffin has been criticised after claiming that parts of Portadown look like “Africa or China”.
Referring to the growing ethnic minority in the Co Armagh town and other parts of Northern Ireland during a radio phone-in yesterday, the MEP claimed there was no “democratic mandate” for the influx of foreign nationals into the Province.
Mr Griffin, who has been previously convicted of distributing material likely to incite racial hatred, made a fundraising visit to Northern Ireland at the weekend.
Part of the itinerary included a stop in Antrim where organisers of a flute band parade reportedly ordered the BNP leader to move on.
Speaking on BBC Radio Ulster’s Stephen Nolan Show yesterday, Mr Griffin claimed he received a “great response” during his flying visit.
Reacting to one caller’s claim that areas of Portadown were now “virtually white-free”, the North West of England representative said the town had changed “drastically” since a previous visit in the mid-1980s.
Mr Griffin said: “When you see a town changing from something which is, in fact, divided among Protestants and Catholics, and when you go there 25 years later and whole areas of it look like Africa or China, you know there is a problem.”
However, Craigavon mayor Alan Carson expressed his “dismay” at the BNP leader’s remarks.
The DUP man slammed the politics of the extremist party, accusing it of trying to “stir up racial tensions”.
“We have enough problems in the borough without the BNP coming in and adding to it,” he said.
Mr Carson, himself an employee at local pharmaceutical firm Almac, insisted all of the major companies in the locality employed people from ethnic minorities.
He said their expertise has served to enhance community relations.
He added: “These people are living within our borough and are contributing to borough life.
“They are getting salaries and spending their money in our town centres and are a vital part of the economy in Craigavon.”
Ahead of remarking on the ethnic changes in Portadown, Mr Griffin also gave a personal observation on Belfast.
Reflecting on his visit to the south of the city at the weekend, the BNP leader said: “I could not believe my eyes the extent to which south Belfast has changed.
“Huge parts of it are no longer recognisable as part of Europe, never mind the UK.”
UUP councillor Adrian Watson claimed the visit of the far-right party to Antrim was not helpful for race relations in the area.
He said the party espoused the “politics of hatred and politics of intolerance”.
The BNP stood unsuccessfully in last year’s local government elections and has no elected representatives in the Province.
Writing on Twitter following his radio appearance, Mr Griffin said: “Solid half-hour on BBC Northern Ireland Nolan Show. Lively debate and got in some good points.”
From The Belfast Newsletter . 19.04.12