The Blanket

Opportunity Knocks, or Not?

Davy Carlin

While attending my recent trade union conference, a yearly hotly competitive quiz was held on a particular evening. Representation of various Scientific, Technical, Administration, Economic and Accountancy grades amongst others made up the hundred and fifty contestants of the public office and civil service groups. Yet what drew my attention was the representation of the winners of the quiz who held aloft their shields. One was reared in the Rathcoole estate, another lives in a working class Protestant estate in East Belfast, two others from working class republican estates in West Belfast and the fifth from a similar estate outside Belfast. In effect all lived in some of the most economically deprived and socially disadvantaged areas of the north.

As the questions ranging from economics, science, general knowledge and current affairs were put I heard some one say whether in hidden jest or sincerely, 'we haven't a hope, sure most of us failed our 11 plus.' This statement coming from a young man in his early twenties is a reflection of the emotional and social impact of that exam, even putting aside its long term practical implications. Such working class people from similar estates are born into a society with both inadequate and unfair economic support and funding, leading to a social perception which develops through in many cases to continual alienation. This lasts into and through adulthood, thus very possibly then inherited by their children, So the vicious circle continues. From the onset working class people’s opportunities fall far behind those in differing areas, with health, education, careers and life expectations all with constant obstacles put against them because of social background.

Therefore expectations or lack of are not only enhanced but concretized both socially and economically due to the material conditions and confined-defined parameter of their social upbringing. Yet just a glimpse around a working class estate like the one in which I live will find a wealth of talent through art, music, sport, academic achievement, cultural etc, against all the odds of the established obstacles put against them. The potential though still lies far behind the possibilities due to the still discriminatory agenda of economic and social exclusiveness. The initiatives in this community like others through local support and community organizations is to be commended. Such resourcefulness in action and commitment of ideas have continually battled against the lack of funding and wider perceived mindsets held by some of such working class areas. It is both a disgrace and an indictment on those who hold the purse strings to continue with their obstacles. Such areas are not (as once stated) for just the 'mucker outers' or the ‘Miss mops'. Such estates have so much to offer but are and have been held back by a political and economic agenda.

Recently I have read the moralistic and patronizing attitude of the major unionist parties in relation to the 11plus that, for example, 'it gives some working class kids a lift up' as one stated. To be frank we do not need a lift up. All that we need and are in various ways struggling for is fundamental and basic equality for all. Working class people if afforded the opportunity can develop and service their communities and people, with much more efficiency and fairness than is being offered. Lessons are learnt in the process of struggles yet as we held our shields above our heads, it was the working together collectively, pooling both our ideas and talents for a set goal that enhanced our strength of position. Which ultimately brought us that small step forward within but more importantly as part of wider society.




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Satire is tragedy plus time. You give it enough time, the public, the reviewers will allow you to satirize it. Which is rather ridiculous, when you think about it.
- Lenny Bruce

Index: Current Articles

22 July 2002


Other Articles From This Issue:


Systemic Breakdown

Anthony McIntyre


Opportunity Knocks, or Not?

Davy Carlin


Nothing Left
Eoghan O'Suilleabhain


On Behalf of the Republican Peace Movement...
Brian Mór


Once Upon A Time

Brian Mór

Sorry, Shergar
Brian Mór


So Sorry It Hurts



19 July 2002


The Sorry Truth

Anthony McIntyre


Neutral Environment?

Billy Mitchell


Sectarianism and How It Can Be Fought
Hazel Croft


Support Irish Glass Bottle Workers




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