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14 March 2002 Edition

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The chill or kill factor

The reality of violence and the threat of violence continue to distort the labour market and reinforce inequality and disadvantage in West Belfast. That's the finding of a new study by the West Belfast Economic Forum titled 'Chill factor or kill factor'.

Launching the study at a West Belfast press conference, Sinn Féin Assembly member Dara O'Hagan said the state had played a key role in creating and normalising institutionalised discrimination in the Six Counties.

"The onus therefore, is on the state to dismantle sectarianism and redress the injustice of a situation where Catholics are disproportionately likely to be unemployed, unskilled, low paid and in marginal sectors of the workplace," she said.

"To date, there has been a failure to address the problem and there is a resistance to affirmative action or positive discrimination measures and now we are facing a situation where attempts are being made to weaken anti-discrimination legislation in the interests of a global market."

According to the authors, Robbie McVeigh and Charlie Fisher, despite the specific commitment in the Good Friday Agreement to the right to freedom from sectarian harassment, the 'chill factor' is still very prevalent and has a serious impact on people from the West Belfast area.

"The recent murder of Daniel McColgan, a Catholic postal worker working in Rathcoole, was a terrible reminder of the currency of sectarian violence against ordinary workers just 'doing their job' in the north of Ireland," write McVeigh and Fisher.

"After his murder by the UDA, the Red Hand Defenders announced that all Catholic postal workers and teachers were 'legitimate targets'. In this context, the notion of a 'chill factor' seems to trivialise the reality of sectarian violence against Catholic workers."

The report is available from West Belfast Economic Forum, 148-158 Springfield Road, Belfast BT12 7DR, priced £5


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