While Ireland celebrates the launch of a new call center in Belfast, controversial swirls about the site since it trails closely behind the closing of a similar call center elsewhere in the country.
First, the good news.
The American company Stream Global Services has established a new call center in Belfast that will bring almost 1,000 jobs to the area.
The majority of the jobs will be customer service agents, according to news site U TV, with more than half of the positions already filled at the new site.
When completed, the project will bring £14m annually in additional salaries.
"This expansion by Stream is positive news ahead of our forthcoming Investment Conference where we expect to welcome over 100 potential investors to Northern Ireland,” noted first minister Peter Robinson.
“The jobs at this center will benefit the whole economy,” added deputy first minister, Martin McGuinness. “Once recruitment has completed, Stream expects to employ more than 1,700 people here.”
But not all is rosy.
Some have questioned whether the move to Belfast is just a way to grab enticement money from the government since the company downsized its operation in Ireland’s Londonderry area in 2011. Only 15 people remain of a workforce in Londonderry that once numbered more than 1,000.
With the new call center employing 993 jobs, it looks suspiciously like one site was swapped for another—for the tune of £3.3m in support from the government to induce Stream to set up its new shop in Belfast.
"Why could these jobs not have been located in Derry to compensate for the recent redundancies,” asked Sinn Fein Foyle MLA (Member of the Legislative Assembly) Maeve McLaughlin. “The number of jobs announced by Stream for Belfast today is almost equivalent to those lost in Derry."
She added: "Are we to see in another ten years when the claw-back period for the present grants run out that Stream will run down its operation in Belfast, move somewhere else in the North, employ a similar number of employees and be grant-aided once again?"
But for now, overall the government is pleased to have the jobs.
McGuinness said that the operation in Belfast is a separate one to Derry involving the takeover of another company. But, he added, hopefully the city would factor into any future growth.
Edited by Rory J. Thompson