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Northern Ireland to take 2,000 Syrian refugees

Martin McGuinness speaking at a refugee crisis event in Parliament Buildings in Belfast  
David Young

NORTHERN Ireland will accommodate up to 2,000 Syrian refugees, deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has said.

The Sinn Féin MLA said the five main parties in the assembly felt they needed to do everything they could to welcome those fleeing the war-torn country.

Mr McGuinness said the quota of refugees allocated to the north from the 20,000 set to be accommodated across the UK over the next five years may be less than 2,000. But he said that was the number that could reasonably be placed in Northern Ireland.

Addressing a Sinn Féin event in at Parliament Buildings in Belfast, he said despite the current political crisis Stormont officials continued to work on preparatory arrangements for the potential arrival of Syrian refugees.

"We certainly can make a huge contribution, relatively speaking, within our own sphere of influence here in the north," he said.

He added: "I have no doubt (DUP leader) Peter Robinson feels as strongly about this as I do, I have no doubt (Alliance Party leader) David Ford feels as strongly, I have no doubt (SDLP and UUP leaders) Alasdair McDonnell and Mike Nesbitt feel as strongly on this issue as I do.

"So I think while people in other places do it because they are forced to do it, I think we collectively will do these things because we really want to do it, because we think it is the decent thing to do."

Mr McGuinness said he hoped a resolution to Stormont's budgetary problems could enable more social housing to be provided - homes which could be used to accommodate both the refugees and local people in need.

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