West Belfast, social depravation and that fouled-up-in-the-works poverty strategy…

It’s just over three years ago since Squinter wrote that infamous column attacking Gerry Adams for sitting not sitting in Westminster and effectively ignoring the social problems of his own constituency. If you missed it, it is worth a reread before going to read Joe O’Neill wade through the latest official statistics which pretty much confirm that Squinter was not making it up…

Spreadsheets, Graphs, and a ‘statistical hors d’oeuvre’, usually have the effect of making my eyes glaze over and send most of us into a stupefying state. With this report however it is relatively easy to draw some simple assumptions. The first one is, that in the top 100 regions of the most deprived communities in Northern Ireland, the first four are in the constituency of the Member of Parliament for West Belfast. They would be: Whiterock 2; Whiterock 3; Falls 2; Falls 3; with Shankill rating number 6.

Joe then goes on to make the comparison with the Malone area of Belfast, a the quantitative differences are startling… On pretty much all socio economic measures we are talking top and bottom of the league tables… Including the pre-occupation of Squinter’s column, law and order:

Rank of Income Domain scores (where 1 is most deprived)

Malone 1 would score a whopping 883.
Whiterock 2 A grand total of 44
Whiterock 3 A grand total of 1

Employment Deprivation
Malone 861
Whiterock 2 & 3
11 and 1

Health Deprivation & Disability
Malone 880
Whiterock 2 & 3
1 and 4

Education, Skills and Training
Malone 866
Whiterock 2 & 3
78 & 9

Living Environment
Malone 589
Whiterock 2 & 3
26 & 141

Crime and Disorder
Malone 386
Whiterock 2 & 3
140 & 197

Children & Older People
Malone 838 & 888
Whiterock 2 & 3
90 & 1
50 & 13

To be fair to Mr Adams there is a limit to what any one MP can do. But after nearly three years of agitating around the policing and justice issue means that OFMdFM has been unable (or unwilling) to work up a draft poverty strategy. As Joe notes in Sammy Wilson’s statement of summer last year, it is not as though their partners in Stormont Castle are against targeting poverty.

A good strong policy debate on the subject is long overdue, never mind the development of a coherent strategy to at least begin tackling the problems which beset Mr Adams’ constituents, and those of his four party colleagues at Stormont. It represents at least one count in which communal politics and the jealous guarding of land and other public resources has served the Northern Irish public particularly poorly…