Northern Ireland

From riches to rags: One Belfast man's journey to find work

Northern Ireland's unemployment figures are usually above the UK average and it is not just young people who are struggling to find work.

Ken Morrow, 56, from east Belfast is unemployed. He lost his job in property several years ago and has been doing temporary jobs since.

On Wednesday, Mr Morrow took his search for work onto the main road to Northern Ireland's parliament buildings, in the hope of being noticed by potential employers.

MLAs were told on Wednesday that there had been a slight rise in unemployment figures in Northern Ireland.

Mr Morrow took up position on the Upper Newtonards Road, one many MLAs use to travel to the assembly at Stormont.

'I have nothing'

He claims MLAs are out of touch with what is happening in the economy.

Mr Morrow stood at traffic lights, holding a placard advertising his services to potential employers.

"I was in the forklift business for a number of years and I was a very successful seller of forklifts and other equipment. Following that I was in the security business for seven years as the sales and marketing manager of one of the big security companies here," he said.

"Following that I went to Spain for a few years and I sold about 32m euros of houses in that time.

Mr Morrow said he moved back to Northern Ireland after the property market collapsed in Spain.

"I came back to Belfast and I worked seven days a week for about three years, I had three houses in this area and a house in Spain and now I don't have anything.

"I had everything, now I have nothing.

"There's no hope for me, there's no light at the end of the tunnel."

Mr Morrow tried to set up his own businesses when he returned.

'Incredibly difficult'

Ken Morrow
Ken Morrow took his search for work onto the streets.

"When the backside fell out of the market in Spain, all of my income streams dried up.

"I had a courier business from Monday to Friday, the parcel freight dried up and it left me going from £70,000 a year to just doing menial jobs and temporary driving work," he said.

In the last year, Mr Morrow says he has completed around 150 application forms and had three interviews.

He has had 12 days temporary work in the last six months.

"Employers don't write back anymore or give feedback. You send your CV into a deep hole in the ground and you never see it again." he said.

Mr Morrow said he now finds it difficult to cope without a job.

"It's very difficult to cope with. If people think a life on benefits is a ball it's definitely not.

"I get £142 per fortnight job seekers and it is very, very difficult to make ends meet. If I go to Tesco, I always buy something that is out of date. If it's £2.49 normally, if I can buy it for 16 pence that's the kind of shopping I do.

"It's incredibly difficult to go from having everything to having nothing.

Mr Morrow said he just wanted to get off benefits and get a job.

"I want a job, i don't want to be on any sort of benefits. I want to be able to have some of a half decent life. I may not be able to get back to where I was but I want to be able to fend for myself."

Shortly after Mr Morrow began to hand out his flyers to motorists he was moved on by the police.

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