Don’t talk to us about the national question….

Fran Yeoman of the Times reckons that now the constitutional question has been parked voters turnout is more likely to be motivated by issues of tax than of cultural and national identity.

There is a new spate of grafitti in Belfast. The slogan makes no mention of Bloody Sunday or saving the Union, but espouses instead one of the few causes that loyalist and nationalist areas have in common. It says: “No water tax.”

If Tony Blair secures his legacy in Northern Ireland, with a successful power-sharing assembly resulting from the election due on March 27, it might just be because its people have agreed on one thing: paying for water in a land that has so much rain is an unappealing prospect.

The revaluation of property, a dummy run for the rest of Britain, has led in the past year to a sharp rise in domestic rates, the equivalent of council tax. Stringent new planning laws have provoked anger in rural areas, and educational reform has started and then been paralysed by the peace process, leaving many children uncertain about school places. All of these policies were recently introduced by ministers who have governed from London since the assembly was suspended in 2002. The Northern Ireland Office, say politicians of assorted hues, is determined to annoy people in the Province into working together.


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