“There can be no greater endorsement of our world class skills and knowledge base…”

I’d welcome Peter Robinson’s call to end state-funding of faith-based schools if I thought he was serious about separating church and state.

But he’s just as unlikely now, as he was then, to intervene whenever a supernaturalist Minister attempts to influence what’s on display in our museums, or at our World Heritage site, or in schools within the Lurgan District Council area.

And what is Sinn Féin’s position on the DUP leader’s de-segregated objective?

The Northern Ireland deputy First Minister, Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness, who’s “all for [integrated education]”, seemed to differ more on the tactics than the apparent objective

“If Peter thinks taking on the Catholic Church, the Catholic bishops and indeed the Protestant churches for that matter and other interest groups is a sensible route to go, I think that is a big mistake,” [Martin McGuinness] said.

“I think what we have to do is try and achieve and continue to build a consensus within our society about the need to develop shared services.

“If you go for a head-on collision with the so-called vested interests, that is a collision course which will lead us into a total and absolute mess.”

His party colleague, John O’Dowd, was more forthright in his views…

The DUP do not seek an Integrated education system they seek the end of the Catholic education sector, there is a difference. The DUP look upon the catholic education sector as conspiracy against the northern state. They seek all our children to be educated in the image of a protestant state for a protestant people.

But then, John O’Dowd also declared that

“Sinn Féin will defend the rights of parents and children to educational choice…”

Unless that choice is for a grammar school education… natch.

As I pointed out at the time, the NI Education Minister’s 2008 “Every School a Good School” policy differed from the UK Labour government’s 2005  “Better Schools for All” White Paper in the latter’s additional emphasis on ensuring “that choice is more widely available to all within an increasingly specialist system, not just to those who can pay for it”.

But as the latest row over education rumbles on, the Northern Ireland First and deputy First Ministers are in Washington, as is the NI Secretary of State – he is the point man here after all…

And while everyone’s doing their best to put a positive spin on things it’s not necessarily the best timing…  As Niall Stanage points out

Northern Ireland has always struggled to make a compelling case to hard-headed business people, being geographically peripheral to the rest of the UK and burdened, for now at least, with a much higher corporate tax rate than the Republic of Ireland.

To try to overcome these disadvantages, its representatives have repeatedly insisted that inward investment might enable a final escape from the legacy of the Troubles.

But the attempt to extract sympathy dollars is made much more difficult by the fact that huge swathes of the US have been hit harder by the Great Recession than has Northern Ireland.

The latest figures released by Northern Ireland’s Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment note that the unemployment rate averaged 7% for the three-month period from June to August.

The US unemployment rate is significantly higher, at 9.6%.

In several huge and politically important states it is higher still: 13.1% in Michigan, 12.4% in California and 11.7% in Florida.

If Northern Ireland were a US state, it would be as well or better off in terms of employment than all but nine of the 50 states in the union.

With the outlook so gloomy at home, American corporations are generally more focused on retrenchment than expansion.

And the US public is in such an unforgiving mood that there is limited space for manoeuvre for even the best-intentioned American politician.

Fine words about peace and prosperity are all very well, but anything that could be seen as an encouragement of large-scale outsourcing would carry serious political risks.

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  • USA

    “there is limited space for manoeuvre for even the best-intentioned American politician.”

    Mr Stanage seems to forget that it’s not politicians who outsource work, its business people. These business people have their eye on the bottom line and shareholders dividends.
    In addition to corporation tax, 40 years of conflict and a public sector driven economy, one of the big problems the North faces in attracting FDI is the fact that it is not part of the Euro zone.

  • “whenever a supernaturalist Minister”

    Aren’t all of the Ministers on the Hill influenced by ‘supernatural’ beliefs? Some of them may even have been Big Bang believers too 😉

  • Alias

    Typical ill-informed europhilia. The UK is the biggest recipient of FDI in Europe, and is the second biggest recipient of FDI in the world. It attracted 1,744 investment projects in 2009 compared to just 37 for Ireland. In fact, Ireland now has negative FDI income since more investment is made outside of Ireland by foreign-owned companies based in Ireland than is invested in Ireland. Being outside of the Eurozone is an immense advantage to the UK just as being inside it is an immense handicap to Ireland.

  • Greenflag

    ‘The US unemployment rate is significantly higher, at 9.6%.’

    Mr Stanage needs to do his research . He could start with

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/leo-hindery-jr/the-real-unemployment-nee_b_420108.html

    Because of the way the USA calculates unemployment that 9.6% is understated . The real Percentage is closer to 16% and in some states like Michigan and elsewhere it’s over 25% . Over 50 million have no health insurance and 48 million are on foodstamps and housing foreclosures are again on the increase -but Wall St is gearing up to hand out over 200 million or is it billion in higher bonuses for the ‘lads’ who helped destroy the US and world economies .

    The unemployed in both NI and ROI probably do better than their counterparts in the USA. In addition the foreclosure process is a lot slower in ROI and the social safety net in both NI and ROI is a lot stronger than that in the USA . The USA uses it’s privatised prison facilities as an ersatz welfare function and locks up about 3 million people to keep them off the streets .Meanwhile a trillion more dollars is consigned to bring ‘democracy ‘ to Afghanistan and Iraq while fully half of the American electorate will hardly bother to vote in the upcoming November election.

    But I’ll give the NI politicians full marks for their chutzpah in looking to the USA to invest in NI . They should however play a low profile . The American middle class is waking up after some 20 years asleep and now have taken notice that what was left of their manufacturing economy has been sent overseas and they are left to be screwed by ever increasing health insurance premiums for health care while most American companies can no longer afford to offer their employees this basic perk .

    Politicians DO not create jobs except for themselves . The private financial sector in the USA and UK pays the largest bonuses to those CEO’s who can get rid of the most people.
    Trickle down capitalism has not worked . What the USA has now is trickle up poverty for increasing numbers of the middle and working classes who haven’t got the spending power ( no real salary increases for over a decade along with disappearing home equity and over half their retirement funds gouged out by the Wall St collapse and of course the financial wipe outs by the ponzi schemers and fraudulent mortgage brokers and CDO snake oil salesmen 🙁

    They’d have been better off going to Berlin . The Germans are short of skilled workers with engineering and IT skills to help grow their new ‘green energy’ industrial base in wind farm, ocean energy and solar panel industries .

  • pippakin

    The NI ministers would have served their electorate better had they saved the money and stayed at home.

    The UK is up to its ears in debt and thousands are set to lose their jobs. Arguably they would be even worse off if they were in the Euro.

    The US is said to have closer to 20% unemployment than the 10% they admit to.

    France is on strike as the reality of the cuts they face sinks in.

    FG have announced that the economic situation in the south is far worse than FF have admitted.

    Germany is hardening it’s attitude and control.

    Oh yes. Banks have set aside millions for bonuses.

  • Greenflag

    Indeed . But to be fair for some of them it was not so much a big bang as a ‘hey presto ‘ moment about 6,000 years ago on October 23rd at 9.30 a.m . They would be of the tribe of Usherites . Those others who believed in the big bangs of more recent decades would be of the tribe of Unreformed Gelignites’

    Meanwhile present day ‘big bangers’ are of the tribe of Real Gobishites 🙁

    And across the globe the tribes of Shiites , Sunnites, Hamites, Israelites, Canaanites, Wahabbites, Hashemites , and Shemites continue the age old custom of not turning the other cheek but smiting those who would smite them with even more smites than those with which they were smitten . As it was in the beginning -is now etc etc

  • Greenflag

    ‘The UK is up to its ears in debt and thousands are set to lose their jobs.’

    Not thousands -hundreds of thousands -about half a million once the cuts bite is a conservative (pun intended) estimate kept hidden from the media.

    Will these cuts make the situation worse in the short term only to lead to a better more productive more enterprising Britain in 4 years time, or will they make the present situation worse than it needs to be and provoke social and civil unrest leading to the downfall of the present Government ?

    Those who have faith in trickle down economics will want to believe the former . I who have scant faith in trickle down economics based on the observable record expect the worst:(

    The UK does not have a lot of room to manoeuvre . The sharks of the Wall St/City global investment community want to see blood and they have to be fed or else the UK becomes the UV (Upper Volta) 🙁

  • pippakin

    No, not much room to manoeuvre at all.

    And yet it should be governments who control the banks, not the other way around.

    I don’t understand how major governments, including ours, let their countries be sold to a bunch of shylocks.

  • Greenflag

    And the latest news from the gospel of the neo cons is that the tribe of americanites have sold unto the tribe of the feudal Saudiites and Wahabbites weapons and arms to the value of some 60 billion dollars in the eh sale of the century at least so far 🙁

    Meanwhile the self same Saudi Arabanites do continue to insult the ‘religion’ of the Americanites by denying them the practice of their religion in the land of the Saudis . And the Presidents and Prime Ministers of all the western powers do scrape and bow and grovel before the Great Oil Dispenser of the Middle East -Allah Akbar and all that 🙁

  • Greenflag

    ‘And yet it should be governments who control the banks, not the other way around.’

    You might think that but of course that would very much depend on what kind of government is in power . Feudal monarchies tended to take it out on the banking/money lending class when they overspent on wars or the spoils of war did not live up to revenue expectations . From King Richard the Lionheart to the Tsars of Russia and other European monarchs there is a long history of bankers , jews , moneylenders, being made to forfeit their lives by pogrom or expulsion or by loosing tyrannical mobs loose on the ‘usurers’ etc who were extracting the lifeblood of the Kingdom from the people /ruling monarch 🙁

    In todays world and more particularly over the past 30 years most of the productivity gains made by technological progress have ended up in the pockets of the richest minorities in ALL of the western democracies with the USA leading the income gap expansion between top and bottom and the UK following close behind . Ireland is there too .

    That accumulated extra capital had to find ‘investment outlets’ and when these could not be found easily in sectors like ‘manufacturing’ or green energy in the main western economies then some of the capital was exported to emerging markets while the rest was turned into worthless tranches of CDO’s and sold around the world to unsuspecting investors as ‘solid ‘ investments . The entire USA property bubble was based on what we now see as ‘fraud’ so in a sense all of the mortgages taken up after say 2003 should be declared ‘illegal’ or ‘invalidated’ and the debt owing on them should be largely written off . Make no mistake about it -it was the international banking fraternity which set up this crisis be it in the USA , UK or Ireland or Iceland or Spain . The big banks have been let off the hook and re financed with the taxpayers money . If there was democratic justice in our democracies the same should now apply to those house owners who were ‘swindled’ into buying a house from 2003 onward . At least for those who bought a property for the purpose of providing a home for themselves and or family .

    ‘I don’t understand how major governments, including ours, let their countries be sold to a bunch of shylocks.’

    Financial ignorance , greed , stupidity , fear , a failure to understand the basics of human nature , and to that you can add a failure to see beyond their economic snouts .
    You can indulge in conspiracy theories if you like but for every one of those there is an equal and opposite one 😉
    The electorate of course cannot be allowed off the hook either but then the average voter is not an investment or hedge fund expert nor is he or she an expert on the complex world of derivatives and the ilk . Nor it seems were the vast majority of USA Congressmen, Senators or UK MP’s or Irish TD’s or NI’s MLA’s .

    What has happened -is happening in the UK and ROI is that the budget deficits caused primarily by the banking , and property development sectors are to be put right /fixed by the British /Irish taxpayers through cutbacks in welfare and public sector services and tax increases .

    The fact that this will lead to mass unemployment which will reduce tax revenues further and probably make no impact on the deficit is neither here nor there 🙁

    For those who would like to believe that it’s a question of the banks just making bad decisions and now that action has been taken whether in Ireland the UK or USA or elsewhere that all will be well and soon all will be back to normal — not so .

    Mr George ‘Hoover’ Osborne may yet win the distinction of taking the UK from a mild recession into the full monty 1930’s style a la Hoover economic depression . I hope not for the sake of both economies UK & Ireland . I think George is taking his lead from that other Oxford man or own Finance Minister -Brian (hairshirt to be ) Lenihan .

  • pippakin

    We have not learned much, or at least not as much as our collective governments and they not as much, apparently, as the bankers!

    My reference to Shylock was probably misplaced. It should have been Gombeens, but somehow the pathos of Shylock seems to fit the scene.

    Half a million public service workers may lose their jobs and beyond that horrific figure is the knock on effect as less money means less everything.

    FF may be playing a canny game trying to get the opposition to agree to terms. I feel that would be a catastrophic mistake before the next election. If nothing else it would confirm for those who already suspicious that they can place FG as partners in ‘crime’ with FF. SF might gain if Labour are also seen to be in cahoots with the perpetrators of this crime.

    I’m wondering if a 1930’s style depression can be avoided. It is as if all governments are heading Lemming like over the same cliff.

  • USA

    Alias, typical of the quality of your contributions. You pull figures out of the air without any sources or links.
    Here is a reality check for you.

    They are on track for attracting FDI because they have an English speaking and highly educated workforce, a lower corporate tax rate than their nearest competior ie Britain, and they are a member of the Eurozone with its approx 360 million consumers. American investors in particular have been attracted by these FACTS.
    The financial issues surrounding real estate speculation, dodgy financial instruements, credit default swops etc are completely seperate issues to FDI, and are by no means unique to Ireland.

  • USA

    Again and again your numbers and posts on Slugger are proved to be without merit. You also hugely overestimated the British FDI figures, inflating them to nearly 3 times their actual number. Here is another link for you. Interestingly, of the 678 projects Britain did get, 263 went to London, that’s 38.8%. I wonder how much the North got from the scraps off Britains table by the time central England, the North of England, Scotland, Wales etc got their piece of the pie?

    Stick to the facts Alias, despite the sterotypical way you and others consistantly address me on these boards, we are not all dumbYanks. It is arrogant of you in the extreme to adopt such a flippant positoin. While you continue to adopt this xenophobic attitude to American posters you will always be at a disadvantage.
    Stick to the facts and never underestimate your adversary.

  • Greenflag

    ‘I’m wondering if a 1930′s style depression can be avoided.’

    Probably not at this stage . Firstly there is the direction that the UK Government have taken and secondly the likelihood that after the Nov elections in the USA the Obama administration will be boxed in from any further stimulation of the economy . Thus ever more increasing unemployment -decreasing tax revenues for governments at the Federal , State levels in the USA and the UK thus dampening down domestic demand which will spur on a further decline in ‘confidence’ etc etc . Once the juggernaut starts to roll downhill it tend to gather pace and nobody knows where and when the economic or political bottom will be reached 🙁

    All governments are not however heading lemming like over the same cliff. They don’t have to . If the biggest economies go over they will drag the rest over with them such is the interdependency and global connections between the worlds economies . The one bright spark has been in the performance of the emerging economies but if the USA goes over they too will by sheer economic gravitational forces be dragged over too .

    Locally FF can play all the canny games they like -ditto FG and Labour . SF may pick up a couple of points but it won’t be until the spring barring any intervening ‘black swan’ events in the interim that we’ll be able to see the ‘writing on the wall’ and whose political destiny it proclaims to be at an end ;)?

  • Alias

    Idiot.

    Here are the official figures for FDI in the UK in 2009 from the British government, exactly as I said they are:

    “Over the last financial year, measured by projects, foreign direct investment has risen by 11% in the UK from what was already a high base. 1,744 investment projects have located and expanded here. That’s an increase of 171 on last year. And includes projects in the hi-tech, high-value sectors critical to our future competitiveness and strength.

    Despite tough economic conditions, the UK has held on to its position as the number one destination for FDI in Europe, and second only to the United States, in the world.” – Rt. Hon. Lord Mandelson, First Secretary of State, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills

  • Alias

    Now why don’t you tell me again why the UK is not “attracting FDI is the fact that it is not part of the Euro zone”?

  • Greenflag

    ‘My reference to Shylock was probably misplaced. It should have been Gombeens, but somehow the pathos of Shylock seems to fit the scene.’

    In the wider Anglophone world the term Shylock is more widely known . The word Gombeen from the Irish gaimbin has a shorter historical pedigree than Shakespeare’s creation. It’s original meaning is now passe and the word has become almost a generalised insult . Heres the original definition from wiki

    ‘A Gombeen Man is a pejorative Hiberno-English term used in Ireland for a shady, small-time “wheeler-dealer” or businessman who is always looking to make a quick profit, often at someone else’s expense or through the acceptance of bribes. Its origin is the Irish word “gaimbín”, meaning monetary interest.[1] The term referred originally to a money-lender and became associated with those shopkeepers and merchants who exploited the starving during the Irish Famine by selling much-needed food and goods on credit at ruinous interest rates.”

    In today’s world /British /Irish/USA economies the small time ‘shylocks ‘ and gombeen men have long since been replaced by their financial ‘descendants ‘ whose interests span the world , control nations and tell elected politicians what they can and cannot do .

    These ‘descendants’ are known by name as the IMF, Wall St, Goldman Sachs , Bank of America, UBS, Citbank, Barclays , DB , Lloyds, AIG , and the credit rating agencies and the usurious Credit card companies , etc etc .

    Of course for any modern economy to run access to credit is essential and finance /working capital are necessary and without such access what we call economic growth would slow down to a crawl . However when any economy becomes ‘financialised’ ( this is what has happened to the UK (City dependence) , the USA ( worthless financial paper expors ) and Ireland ( property developers and bankers ) to the extent, that that sector can by it’s overweening greed and or blind stupidity – brings an economy to its knees- it’s at that point that what we take for granted as ‘democracy’ becomes endangered, corrupted and discredited and the possibility of a dramatic shift to a totalitarian right or left alternative becomes attractive to those who want a ‘simple ‘ solution to a complex problem .

    One way to look at the interface between economic realities and politics (in the widest sense ) is to consider them both as separate streams within a broad river . The economic stream will always be moving faster than the political and the latter is always trying to catch up with the new ‘economic ‘ realities . Given our political structures particularly in democracies by the time our ‘politicians’ have cottoned on to the new ‘economy’ the economy has already moved on to a new paradigm . The analogy is not great I’ll admit but particularly in todays fast changing world economy particularly in the global financial area -our politicians ( Irish/UK/USA etc) have fallen way behind . When they (the ruling political class) fall too far behind then whatever the political structure of governance be it feudal , monarchical , early industrial , imperial , communist or democratic -may be ovethrown or bypassed by political forces more prepared to ‘ride’ the financial tiger . It’s usually at that point historically that ‘wars’ break out as the competition for scarce resources becomes more pressing or is seen as critical for a nations future.

    Apologies for going on a bit ;(

  • pippakin

    Greenflag

    Not at all, reading your explanation I think I was right Gombeen is a more accurate discription than poor old Shylock who a) had few career choices and b) was usually despised and even punished for those he had.

    I would not be surprised to find one or more countries experience the growing pains of revolution. Greece is the first that springs to mind. I can’t really see any kind of actual rebellion here in the UK or the US, there could be problems like those in France, but the establishment would then give the minimum to keep things quiet.

  • Greenflag

    pippakin,

    ‘but the establishment would then give the minimum to keep things quiet.’

    Assuming the ‘establishment’ is in a position to do so . They may not be .Coffers run bare and all that and an international banking system that is not prepared to lend except at interest rates that would merely worsen the situation . Again the rising income gap within nations will exacerbate political differences to the point whereby the numbers of those who have nothing to lose by revolution will exceed the number of those who have everything to lose . In the USA both these groups are likely to be if not armed able to arm very quickly .

    While it’s true that Shylock had few career choices he did not have the eh ‘competition’ that 25 million unemployed americans or the several millions soon to be unemployed in the UK and elsewhere will have in finding alternative ‘careers’.

    As one MP probably Labour wrote a couple of weeks back most of the 500,000 public sector workers in the UK to be let go will go straight to the unemployment lines where they (anybody over 40) will stay for the rest of their lives 🙁

    The eh ‘Big Society’ will do nothing for them nor will it even want or have to .