Why we need to put sharing ahead of separation…

ASIDE from the good social reasons for ending the ‘benign apartheid’ that dictates a large part of the parallel existence of the two main communities in Northern Ireland, the economic rationale is becoming more apparent. David McKitterick has got his hands on a leaked report that puts the cost of segregation and sectarianism at a tentative £1.5 billion – A YEAR! The report concludes: “The divide has led to duplication or even multiplication of service delivery for the communities as they live side-by-side but do not integrate or share easily.” It’s not just the security costs, now dwindling of course, but, for example, the 30,000 jobs that have been lost and duplication of services where nationalists and unionists cannot or refuse to share them. The authors found “significant evidence that issues of segregation and conflict continue to influence policy decisions, public service provision and hence resource allocations”. Dropping enrolement in schools means many will close because they are unsustainable, where a single integrated school would have been viable. Other expenditure that occurs as a result of segregation includes funding the community relations and victims industries, attracting inward investment to an until-recently ‘unstable’ society and difficulties in marketing Northern Ireland as a tourist destination. Unnecessary housing costs and problems accumulate because of overcrowding in some areas and empty homes in others. And the Government’s refusal to abide by the law or admit its role during the Troubles means hundreds of millions have been spent on inquiries. The cost of the Troubles was high, but the price of our sectarian society means it is largely still with us.

  • slug

    An important policy agenda that needs to be pushed.

    Let’s share!!!

  • DC

    Yea, lets share:

    Martina Anderson on a shared future:

    “For example, in parts of Belfast, the notion of the shared future that we are being asked to endorse is being used as a rationale to limit the building of social housing in the name of creating neutral space around all major routes into the city. Apart from this being plainly unacceptable in the context of our shared future obligations, as defined in our legal obligations, it is also utterly incompetent.”

    The DUP’s Storey on his quest to save the Controlled Sector from integration:

    “I would like the Minister to come clean on existing policy and confirm that her Department are pursing a policy of amalgamating Catholic maintained schools to protect their ethos whilst enforcing a policy of closure on Controlled sector schools which do not conform to switching into the integrated sector.”

    Ah the challenges ahead.

  • Fraggle

    How about ending the segregation between the north and the republic?

    I wonder what the cost of “duplication or even multiplication of service delivery” on such a small island is.

  • DC

    “How about ending the segregation between the north and the republic?”

    NSMC! 🙂

  • Fraggle

    DC, very funny. The official links between the 2 communities in the north are much more extensive than the NSMC. For example, Stormont.

  • Oiliféar

    “£1.5 billion – A YEAR!” Wow! It two years we’d have a bridge to Scotland!

  • The Dubliner

    The detail is interesting: the extended school bus runs to avoid certain areas, sectarian segregation of social housing means that a shortage of social housing in one area can co-exist with an oversupply of social housing in the same area, etc. It puts into focus how completely Stormont would have wrecked the north if England didn’t subsidise it, disguising just how dysfunctional its underlying dynamics are.

    Segregation can’t be removed from the equation, unfortunately, since it was born out of it. It is built into the reconstitution of Stormont, and the north’s citizens will continue to vote for political parties that are segregated (Alliance aside). It will remain as a core dynamic. For example, right wing nationalists would be drawn to the economic policies of the DUP as the party of choice (out of the current lot), but would not vote for it because of segregation. Likewise, left wing unionists might feel more at home in PSF, but would never vote for it for the same reason.

    Some level of ‘normality’ will arise in time, but it will always be in single quotes due to the fundamentally abnormal nature of the north.

  • mnob

    all very well – but according to Chris Donnelly and kensei, maintaining the ‘difference’ is a legal and moral duty of the state under the GFA whatever the cost (economic or otherwise).

  • IJP


    Some level of ‘normality’ will arise in time

    The problem is, as the McKittrick articles wisely caution, even this isn’t certain.

    There is a basic fault in the analysis that ‘stuff will just get better’, just as there is in the Nationalist analysis, repeated in comments above, that partition caused sectarianism (other way round, folks).

    As McKittrick points out, sectarian riots were common in Belfast for just as long before partition, World Wars and de-colonization as they were after it. There have indeed been periods of relative peace, but never ‘normality’.

    I’ve put it simply in the past: this part of the world has never been a democracy. Our task is to deliver one. This would be a tough task even if we were all prepared to engage in it without pre-condition. Sadly, we’re not even that far yet.

  • Chris Donnelly


    Bad example, I’m afraid.

    Martina Anderson was correctly pointing out that, in north Belfast, several senior unionist politicians continue to invoke the ‘Shared Future’ document in attempting to veto efforts to address the chronic housing lists problem affecting nationalists in that part of the city.

    Making a factual statement about such a serious issue is hardly contrary to what McKittrick has written; in fact, most commentators would recognise that such a state of affairs merely confirms why separation has developed to the extent that it has- ie the absence of trust and equality.


    Again, a false assertion on your behalf. The acknowledgement on all sides of the equal legitimacy of the Irish nationalist and unionist traditions and cultures in the six counties is a pre-requisite for addressing segregation and promoting an integrated society.

  • willowfield

    I see the Provos have rubbished the report and said it will not be a basis for any policy.

    I guess, as advocates of an apartheid society, they have to say that.

  • DC

    “Martina Anderson was correctly pointing out that, in north Belfast, several senior unionist politicians continue to invoke the ‘Shared Future’ document in attempting to veto efforts to address the chronic housing lists problem affecting nationalists in that part of the city.”

    The Housing Executive is tasked with provision of housing not unionists. If Sinn Fein were genuinely committed to tackling a problem such as you suggest then why not take DSD ministry and resolve it by allocating funds.

    But I am having difficulty understanding why Martina Anderson is advocating her constituents to rubbish the concerns stemming from these findings. Unless she too is just playing the game rather than focusing on getting spending priorities right to maximise the level of public service provision.

    In her statement she states that it is “diluting the equality agenda’ but I don’t see how whenever equality is mainstreamed both in A Shared Future and Government and Public Authorites (Housing Exective) by stringent responsibilites to ensuring Section 75 i.e. promoting equality and good relations across the equality grounds.

    Even more remarkable is Mary Lou McDonald, Dublin MEP, criticising the Minister for Integration for not cultivating a cohesive society based on acceptance of understanding of the many religious faiths and cultures on the island, when in contrast her colleague Martina moves to block such a policy in Northern Ireland.

  • IJP


    SF did rubbish the report though, as an “attempt to dilute the equality agenda”.

    SF therefore believes that equal services for all citizens regardless of background and spending public money on public services dilutes its own cause.

    A strange position for so-called “republicans”.


    You are right. But SF is not the only advocate of an apartheid society, of course.

    Ulster Unionist spokespeople and supporters continue to defy logic by suggesting we shouldn’t bother trying to save the billions on the basis that we can’t save them immediately, while suggesting that “Irish identity” is the most important issue in NI today.

    The DUP continues to condemn integrated education, accusing it of “taking away” from existing (segregated) schools.

    The new leadership of SDLP Youth finds Union Flags appearing on IKEA business plans more important than delivery on ending segregation and duplication.

    And of course, the only people who could really save NI society, our own dear Sluggerettes, find frittering away £1.5 billion of public money which could be used for crucial suicide counselling services, ending student debt and making hospital waiting lists a thing of the past less important than a Derryman playing for an Irish soccer team by a ratio of roughly 12:350 (if posts are anything to go by).

    But I’m an optimist. You’re back posting on here for a start…

  • IJP


    In addition, of course, I’ve heard little from Martina Anderson expressing concern that the Cityside of Derry is the most white, most single-identity urban centre in the whole of western Europe.

    Her party’s solution? Majority rule on the City Council by members of that single identity, if the name change debate is anything to go by.


  • daft brush

    I find the response to the SF criticism of this report interesting.

    Are people backing this report without reading it. If you contact the Community Relations Unit they will e-mail it to you. In the section on education it makes a comparison to Wales – where at primary level it is 17% cheaper here – while at post primary it is only 0.7% more expensive

    Is it possible that the report makes it clear that it is impossible to ‘disentangle’ the cost of division, partition, conflict, disadvantage and discrtimination as martina suggests in her statement.

    People who rush to attack SF over this are more interested in a narrative that suits them – i.e nasty division costs us £1.5 billion a year and if only our mates in the CRC click got hold of some of that money we’d be able to sort all this out.

    Where are the solutions to sectarianism really going to come from – the communities where it is worse or from a bunch of middle class w**ks who would get eaten for breakfast if they spent a week in some of the communties where sectarianism is worse. Not to mention the much more insidious sectarianism that exists in the middle and upper classes who positively go cross eyed if anyone claims to be a republican.

    Would it be better to take money away from those most in need so that we promote the good relations agenda of people in the Alliance Party or the NIO.

    Is it OK that the most vulnerable in our society are abandoned because middle class people think that they have all the answers OR should we making eradicting poverty the number one priortity – make tackling housing poverty, educational poverty more important than anything else because it might be that if we tackle poverty (on the basis of need of course) then we will go some way down the road in battling sectarianism which will in turn really help us battle division.

    PS Could it not be argued that running two back to back systems for the delivery of all public systems (health, eduaction . . . everything) is a huge waste of money – let’s end division – let’s end partition.

  • mnob

    Ok daft brush – lets just say I agree with what you are saying (apart from the last paragraph) –

    What are SFs policies for eradicating poverty ?

  • DC

    Catch yourself on daft brush, have you ever read A Shared Future policy?

    Essentially it’s about giving people a better life, where people can live together and still actually be British and Irish and pursue these political interests under the true concept of human rights and equality, not the guff Matina talks about.

    How can Sinn Fein rally round equality measures for the workplace where people of all nationalities mix and converse to turn round and spurn planning that tries to move away from the old divisions to meet the new patterns forming in society. It just doesn’t make sense unless they are playing games.

  • DC

    What are SFs policies for eradicating poverty?

    1.5 billion wouldn’t help sure it wouldn’t.

  • daft brush

    Not sure but I would hope that it focuses on early intervention – the commitment of de Brun to the Sure Start for example should be built on – it needs resources not just for young children looking at the educational environment/health but also their parents.

    Housing must be a part of it. I’m always struck by the density and crap quality of housing in areas with high levels of deprivation – Also need to see better management and increased development of social/play areas.

    Jobs obviously – with possigbly the use of public contracts to bring people off the dole on meaningful long term training (I think that there is some element of this in the Westlink contract). There seem to be some long term problems with apprenticeships with not enough places for young people in the final years – probably need better planning (also there might be an issue around insurance).

    I am concerned that it appears that there is a huge reliance on the ‘New Deal’ type approach on the draft anti-poverty strategy that has not been any sort of suscess.

    But they are just a few thoughts.

    I would hope that SF – and all the parties are listening to people in poor areas to discover what works there – to build community empowerment, build on what is working – and also talking to businesses and schools/trainers.

    There are also huge issues around health and big inequalities that need to be addressed in a targeted way.

  • mnob

    daft – i think another reason SF are getting a bit of a kicking here is that they seem to be actively promoting a seperate but equal agenda which will cause nothing but trouble in the future.

    For example – though I am unaware of SFs official policy on the matter I am very aware of nationalists responses on this site – take the issue of football.

    Instead of campaigning for and actively promoting a shared NI football team – (and I admit there might be some way to go to achieve this – maybe neutral flags, different anthem etc etc), it seems that the republican agenda is best served by campaigning for players born and living in the north to play for the ROI. Some have stated that it wouldnt matter how the NI football system changed, they would *never* want to be part of it.

    Quite rightly unionists see this as actually trying to undermine a shared future.

    … and while several posters have commented on the number of posts in the football thread, it is a touchstone issue.

  • oldruss

    I posted a link to a CAIN article on discrimination and segregation in housing on another thread, which addresses the issue housing segregation. I suggest it to anyone wanting to get some unbiased background. http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/issues/discrimination/gibson3.htm

    Segregated housing patterns may have had their origins in the benign seperation between Catholics and Protestants, giving the British/Stormont government the benefit of the doubt, but certainly today the existance of “peace lines” running through Belfast is stark evidence of the discord and violence such sectarian segregation has produced.

    One of the more interesting points in the CAIN article is that more Protestants ask to be placed in Protestant only estates rather than in a Catholic or in an integrated estate than Catholics request the reverse. This expression of tribal preference by the dominant culture seems to be adverse to the historical dominance enjoyed by Protestants in the north.

    I’m no sociologist or psychologist, but I’m sure someone here may be able to explain that oddity.

  • DC

    Oldruss the ‘key readings’ section is extremely outdated as outdated as the concept of armed struggle.

    This is the situation of today:

    “NI Life and Times Survey 2005 revealed that 79% of respondents, if they had the choice, would prefer to live in a mixed religion neighbourhood; 87% would prefer to work in a mixed religion workplace; and 61% would prefer a mixed religion school.”

  • barnshee

    ““NI Life and Times Survey 2005 revealed that 79% of respondents, if they had the choice, would prefer to live in a mixed religion neighbourhood; 87% would prefer to work in a mixed religion workplace; and 61% would prefer a mixed religion school.”

    aye sure –Give the PC answer -what do you expect– the truth ?? That they will say what the think ?? i.e.

    Those Fenian/prod bastards caused all the trouble they deserved all they got and of course we want to live amongst our own .

    I think not

  • Chris Donnelly

    Quite rightly unionists see this as actually trying to undermine a shared future.


    Therein lay your problem; a Shared Future you want, BUT only on your terms….

    SF therefore believes that equal services for all citizens regardless of background and spending public money on public services dilutes its own cause.

    Sinn Fein never said that- a ‘straw man’ if ever I saw one!

    And please spare us the ‘holier than thou’ Alliance pitch, particularly when we know how quickly Alliance will play the Orange card when matters necessitate (‘Vote Ford to keep Sinn Fein out’ ring a bell in South Antrim???)

  • slug

    Can we lose the party political broadcasts?

  • oldruss

    The data cited in the CAIN article is a bit older, but I wasn’t trying to be deceptive. The CAIN article is fully annotated, if that’s the correct terminology.

    If the numbers are radically different today, that is, Protestants no longer desire by such a large majority to be housed among themselves, and are now inclined to accept mixed estates, is the NIHE actively working to integrate its housing estates? Does anyone have any hard numbers for placements by the NIHE over the last 5 years or so? Such statistical data should be easily obtainable, should it not?

    I can only look at the situation in the six counties from my perspective here. The States has suffered racial segregation for centuries; but with affirmative action programs, the residual effects of that segration is slowly being addressed. Dejure segregation (such as was practiced by the NIHE per the CAIN article, as recently as only 10 years ago or so) has been prohibited by law here in the States since the mid-sixties.

    The courts, with some limited success, tried to address the effects of defacto segration on our schools with forced busing. But those experiments failed, largely because middle class whites and blacks who could leave the innercity schools for “better” suburban districts packed up and left, leaving innercity school districts overwhelming poor and African-American.

    Integrated communities seem the only real solution to the struggle for equality.

    Hopefully, in the six counties, even the Glenbyrn Estate in north Belfast, for example, might one day be integrated, and little Holy Cross school girls will be safe when walking past that estate enroute to school.