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19 September 2002 Edition

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New York Comptrollers Office interested in KFC case

Antrim Sinn Féin Councillor Martin Meehan has told An Phoblacht that fast food multinational Kentucky Fried Chicken has come under the scrutiny of the New York Comptroller's Office over the loyalist intimidation of Catholic workers.

As reported in An Phoblacht last Thursday, 12 September, Catholic workers in a KFC branch in Antrim Town were transferred to other branches after death threats were made against them.

Christopher Tierney, who worked for a year in the Antrim outlet, alleges KFC transferred him 12 miles away to Glengormley, rather than deal with intimidation he had suffered.

"They used to shout `Tierney, you're dead, you Fenian bastard'. They paint bombed the place," he recalls. "They wrote `Tierney' with a bullet beside it. They made threatening phone calls."

In a statement KFC insisted the employees were transferred "for operational reasons and for nothing else".

KFC's image has not been helped by the fact that its branch on the Shankill Road has a UDA mural painted on it.

Now, according to Martin Meehan, these persistent loyalist threats against Catholic workers have sparked concerns in the financial heart of New York.

Meehan said: "I was contacted by New York's Chief Financial Office during the week about the KFC employees' situation. Indeed the front-runner for the position of state comptroller in New York, Alan Hevesi, has taken up the issue and they intend to get the company to deal with the issue.

"The NYC Comptroller's Office manages pension funds in access of $85 billion. It also makes recommendations on city programmes, operations, fiscal policies and financial transactions. This would include within its portfolio, 1.2 million shares in YUM foods (owners of KFC and other foods outlets), which are worth $36 million," Meehan explained.

"It appears that the dilemma of KFC's Catholic workers has struck a raw nerve with many supporters of the MacBride principles in the United States, who are asking for financial sanctions to be imposed against YUM for its seemingly lax approach to the equality agenda within the North of Ireland.

"The Comptroller's intervention, while highly welcome, might well be too late for the individual Antrim KFC employees," said Meehan. "But the concerns of high powered financiers to what is regarded by many here as normal in Antrim, will undoubtedly place the onus on employers and civic leaders serious about attracting inward investment to ensure that freedom from sectarian harassment in the workplace is on the agenda."

Meehan added that it is incumbent upon all political leaders to go that extra mile when creating and maintaining the peace outside the workplace, not only for employers or potential employers, but all citizens.

An Phoblacht contacted KFC's PR company on Wednesday for a comment but our call was not returned before we went to print.

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