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.
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 peoples 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
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.
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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