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.