#Belfast2020: Future will have to be more integrated than its troubled past…

On Nuzhound this morning there are two stories one above the other, which demonstrate the problem of trying to manage Northern Ireland’s (and Belfast in particular) problems from the sidelines. John Simpson makes the blindingly obvious statement that integration is the key to Belfast’s woes.

In many older parts of Belfast the population is too crowded. Victorian (or even post-1945) housing sits uneasily alongside the demands of improved living standards for space, amenities and services.

In too many parts of Belfast the performance of primary and secondary education leaves too many young people ill-equipped for the changing employment opportunities (and unemployment and educational attainment are inversely correlated). Third level education is often beyond the ambitions of too many.

In too many parts of Belfast the urban infrastructure of roads, transport, and commercial development is constrained by existing inherited patterns and there is little overall vision of the efforts and planning needed to secure change.

In too many urban wards in Belfast the indices of social and economic deprivation are worryingly low and, consequently, there is a critical impact linked to the (now changing) social welfare system.[Emphasis added]

In the Irish Times Pol O’Muiri picks up on the idea that integration in edcuation is the answer, but asks who will and how is it going to be implemented without serious impairment of parental choice. More to the point, he notes that there are powerful tides in history at play here which will not be easily reversed:

…the people on one side or the other are not “bad” because they live in one place and not another. They are simply people who have been put in their place due to historical forces – and I use the words “place” and “force” very deliberately in this context. It will take more than schooling children together to overcome and explain those forces.

The answers are not likely to be simple, and not all political. Our much postponed #DigitalLunch on #Belfast2020 finally takes place this Friday after more than two months of turmoil. Some of these issues are just some of the things I’d like to tease out in a series of posts this week in the run into Friday.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty