The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

Spoiled Rotten

David Adams • Fortnight, April 2006

The government's recent announcement of a £30 million investment package to tackle deprivation in loyalist areas will no doubt give rise to a flurry of questions.

Is this merely a thinly-disguised bribe to buy off the DUP and loyalist paramilitaries; what happened to previous "peace" monies directed to these areas; what safeguards are to be put in place to ensure the money is properly used; and might such a lopsided financial intervention fall on the wrong side of equality legislation?

We can rest assured, that these and related points of contention will keep our politicians occupied for months on end as each argues the toss from his or her own self-serving angle.

An even surer bet, though, is that the same politicians will avoid like the plague any public debate on the wider and infinitely more important subject of the current diabolical state of the Northern Ireland economy.

In particular, the part such extraordinary government subventions and other "peace monies" have played in bringing us to this juncture and, critically, what is likely to happen when the handouts come to an end. It is well nigh impossible to ascertain exactly how much, over and above normal central government subventions, has been pumped into Northern Ireland from a variety of well-meaning sources since the ceasefires of 1994.

The European Union, alone, has given something in the region of £1.5 billion.

Taken together, the British and Irish governments and the US administrations of Clinton and Bush have easily outmatched that with their own massive financial input.

The Australian and Canadian administrations are amongst other governments to have contributed. An untold number of US corporations and wealthy philanthropic individuals - such as Chuck Feeney and the late Tom Tracey - have also pumped large amounts of money into Northern Ireland.

Total estimates range between £4 and £6 billion having been donated to a region with a population of less than 2 million people.

Yet, there is little or no tangible evidence of that money ever having been here.

It has been dispersed with little or no regard for monitoring where it has actually gone; no real concern shown for how the bulk of it has been used; or any attempt made to measure what, if any, has been the actual benefit.

Jobs have been created, certainly.

But virtually all are connected in some way or another to community-related organisations that have been created by, and are completely dependent upon, EU and other funding.

One estimate has it that 30,000 people derive an income from some 4,500 such groups in Northern Ireland.

These community groups generate no wealth of their own and can never hope to be self-sustaining, so the attendant jobs will disappear like snow off a ditch whenever, as is inevitable, the inflow of peace money stops.

That public sector employment currently sits at a massive 30 per cent of total employment here, gives some indication of how minimal the current level of wealth creation is in Northern Ireland.

Also, the prospects for attracting inward investment are greatly reduced, if not completely stymied, by far better rates of tax available in the neighbouring Republic of Ireland, with whom we are in direct competition.

So, it is into that depressed market that an extra 30,000 newly unemployed people are going to be tossed at some time in the not too distant future.

Another, largely unforeseen, by-product of years of peace funding is that entrepreneurialism has been all but stifled in Northern Ireland.

There has been little incentive to gamble on an idea or a product when such easy money is at hand, and even less when personal outlay or profit does not form part of the equation for many of those with whom you will have to compete.

It is not as though, either, any of this money has been used to the benefit of vital services and infrastructure in Northern Ireland.

To varying degrees, water, sewerage, roads, rail, education and health-care all remain in need of massive investment to bring them up to scratch (a fact not unrelated, I feel, to the unwillingness of our politicians to reinstate the Stormont executive).

While countless millions of pounds have been, and still are, readily available for pumping into a multitude of dubious schemes, the much-needed overhaul of essential services has been ignored.

Perhaps the greatest long-term damage done to Northern Ireland by all of this largesse has been to the internal psyche of the place.

A dependency culture of the worst kind has developed, where even the tiniest of life's irritations demands massive government funding to resolve.

We are like nothing so much as a self-obsessed, overindulged, spoilt child, accustomed to every whim and demand being met.

When the river of peace money stops flowing, we will have an awful lot of painful growing up to do - and fast.







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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



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Index: Current Articles

18 April 2006

Other Articles From This Issue:

Grave Secrets
Anthony McIntyre

Spoiled Rotten
David Adams

Let Bygones be Bygones
Mick Hall

Urgent Memo — Judas Was One of the Bad Guys!
Dr John Coulter

Cluedo in Donegal
Anthony McIntyre

Easter Message
John Kennedy

Óglaigh na hÉireann Easter Statement
The Sovereign Nation

IFC Easter Statement, 2006
Joe Dillon

Lincoln's Despair
John Kennedy

Fred A. Wilcox

Hamas Being Forced to Collapse
Sam Bahour

Profile: Philippe Val
Anthony McIntyre

Freedom of Speech index

11 April 2006

Shed No Tears for the Donaldson Family
Geraldine Adams

Buried in Secret
Anthony McIntyre

The Donaldson Dilemna
Bill Ashe

Motive for Murder
Mick Hall

Victim or Pawn?
Dr John Coulter

Agent of the Peace Process
Anthony McIntyre

Happy Easter
John Kennedy

Where, O Where, Is Our James Connolly?
Paul Maguire

Nice One, Tony
John Kennedy

Putting on the Poor Mouth
Seaghan O Murchu

Spare Us the Cures from Quacks
Dr Seamus Kilby

Profile: Antoine Sfeir
Anthony McIntyre

The Letters page has been updated:

Standing Up to the Enemies of Free Speech


Irish Republicanism and Islam


Real human rights - without any religious blackmail


Resisting Censorship


and more...

Freedom of Speech index



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