Back in 2000 I came over to Northern Ireland with a colleague from River Path. He’d done his homework well. The most striking fact he came up with regarding NI’s economic health, at a time when money was arguably flowing far too freely, was that the inward investment of private capital in NI was 25% of the UK average. That, in anyone’s language, was/is bad news. It’s one reason why Lyndsey Allen’s fingering of the real problem of Northern Ireland is worth quoting at length.
Republicans are still living in a world where they can’t get a job in the shipyard because they are Catholics! Loyalists are still living in a world where the IRA are blowing up town centres on a daily basis! But in fact those worlds only exist today as part of our shameful history, all part of the long nightmare we have shared together.
The reality is that unless we wake up soon, we’ll all be living in an Ulster where any of us, Prod or Catholic, will be lucky to have a job at all! An Ulster where the our town centres will have become again deserted, taken over this time by drunken louts and teenage gangs.
Peter Hain issued a wake up call recently reminding us that the massive flow of cash coming from Westminster to shore up our plethora of governmental agencies and non-jobs is about to run out and we will soon find ourselves in the position of having to earn our keep! nd whether we are ruled directly from London or locally from Stormont that isn’t going to change.
The massive flow of cash coming from Westminster…is about to run out
That’s going to come as a huge culture shock to a province which has been accustomed to drinking deep at the waterspout of grants, handouts and goodwill! Because, though we have no shortage of talented people we don’t seem to have grasped the knack of being able to provide sustainable real jobs.
Not only is the shipyard, that legendary symbol of Protestant domination, long gone, swept away by competition from the Far East, but modern high-tech companies seem to come and go here faster than a Royal visit! West Belfast lost another one last week.
Nor is our traditional agricultural industry safe either. If this Asian bird flu makes it over from the continent, the poultry business here is a dead duck! If this Asian bird flu makes it over from the continent, the poultry business here is a dead duck!
We need to waken out of the nightmare of the past and realise that it’s not Ulster’s continued political existence which is at risk, as much as its economic survival and that we are in serious danger of becoming the sink housing estate of western Europe!
The unpalatable truth is that we have run out of good will. The world has found more needy and rewarding causes than our inability to live together! We are the place that nobody wants and if we don’t make ourselves more attractive soon, we’re going to be left sitting on the shelf.