MAYOR of Craigavon Alan Carson has slammed the comments of British National Party (BNP) leader Nick Griffin who this week described parts of Portadown as “looking like China or Africa”.
The controversial politician made the remarks on Wednesday’s Stephen Nolan Show, having made a fundraising visit to Northern Ireland at the weekend.
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.”
Expressing his dismay at the remarks, Councillor Carson accused the BNP of trying to stir up racial tensions. He said, “We have enough problems in the borough without the BNP coming in and adding to it.”
Mr Carson, who works at Almac, said all the major companies in the local area employed people from ethnic minorities and that their expertise had served to enhance community relations.
He said, “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.”
During the phone-in, Mr Griffin claimed there was no “democratic mandate” for the influx of foreign nationals into the province.
He also outlined his impressions of Belfast, saying, “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.”
During the weekend visit, Mr Griffin, who has previously been convicted of distributing material likely to incite racial hatred, stopped off in Antrim where organisers of a flute band parade reportedly told him to move on.
UUP councillor for the area Adrian Watson claimed the visit of the far-right party to Antrim was not helpful for race relations, saying that 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.
Speaking on the BBC Radio Ulster show, Mr Griffin claimed he had received a “great response” during his flying visit, and writing on Twitter following his radio appearance, he said, “Solid half-hour on BBC Northern Ireland Nolan Show. Lively debate and got in some good points”.