Their perception is their reality

So, Secretary of State Peter Hain has delivered his programme for government heavily trailed speech.. and, as the BBC report, it’s a wide ranging one, although the statement released by the NIO directs the focus away from his response to the orchestrated violence. The full text is here[PDF file] He appears, to me, to be calling for higher local taxation and lower public spending, but I’ll focus on his reaction to the violence.. and his decision to give David Hanson another job title.From the text of the speech[PDF] –

Violence is wrong – from wherever it comes: it does not pay and the recent violence has imposed a heavy cost on the communities in which it was carried out. The choice for loyalist paramilitaries is clear: play the political role that you claim as your motivation or face the rigour of the law as the mafia organisations into which you seem to have degenerated. You will not be allowed to terrorise your own communities. I have a message to those former paramilitaries who want to move forward to build a better Northern Ireland: leave violence
and criminality behind and join the rest of us who want to create a new prosperous Northern Ireland.
But I do accept that in many working class unionist and loyalist areas – as well, of course, as republican and nationalist areas – there are very real problems of social disadvantage, poverty and exclusion.[emphasis added]

Unfortunately for Peter Hain, that’s been the government policy for some time now.. and not only does it not seem to be working, it’s undermining the very society he claims to want to build.

And on to the complex problems involved –

I do not pretend that there are easy answers to the complex problems of these areas, many of which experienced the very worst of the Troubles and yet – despite considerable investment – have felt themselves to be the last to benefit from the increasing normality.

But significant progress has been made, not least by elected representatives, community leaders, churchmen and other faith leaders, and heroic individuals, many of whom I have been privileged to meet.

Significant progress.. hmmm.

But despite what has been achieved, I am conscious of the criticism that our own efforts as a government could be better coordinated, and services more closely connected to disadvantaged communities, and I do acknowledge the particular needs of loyalist communities. To tackle this I want to embark upon a process of intensive engagement with elected representatives and civil leaders from the protestant community.[emphasis added]

Particular needs?

I want to ensure that we reach a mature and informed understanding of the complexity of concerns and to formulate appropriate responses on the basis of partnership and within the broader context of a shared future for all in Northern Ireland.

I have asked David Hanson to take the lead in this.
But I want to make one thing absolutely clear. I have asked for this work to be taken forward on two clear principles. First, that the focus of Government support and funding must be guided by and through elected representatives, civic and church leaders, and established and proven community workers, of whom there are many.

David Hanson, Minister for Loyalist Alienation? Worth also noting the inclusion of the reference to established and proven community workers.

I have heard loud and clear the disgust of the good people of these communities who perceive public money being channelled into community projects under the influence of paramilitaries who speak the words of community work while undermining those very areas with racketeering and organised violence. Their perception is their reality: and I can understand that concern.

It’s important to emphasise that line, because in it Peter Hain is actually denying that “public money is being channelled into community projects under the influence of paramilitaries”.. that is only a perception according to the Secretary of State.

No doubt Peter Hain, and the NIO, will be pushing the other aspects of this speech, of which there are many. But the immediate focus will be, rightly, on whether the response to the orchestrated violence of the past two weeks supports, or further undermines, Peter Hain’s claim that violence doesn’t pay and whether the management of The Process is an obstacle to progress.

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