Why does the reality of greater catholic socio-economic deprivation not generate dire warnings of social upheaval?

One very obvious issue that was largely ignored in both the summary conclusions of Paul Nolan’s 3rd Annual Peace Monitoring Report and the subsequent media headlines relating to its publication was the confirmation yet again that catholic communities predominate the lists of the most socio -economic deprived communities in the north. On all measures-from unemployment to income, health and life expectancy- catholic communities are hit hardest. That’s an important and disturbing headline conclusion, not least for once again exposing the myth of the loyalist grievance narrative.


Nolan’s report contained a section on ‘Child Poverty’ which included this:

The End Child Poverty campaign maps poverty in the UK each

year, based on an analysis by researchers from Loughborough

University. This draws upon tax data and the most recent report,

issued in February 2013, placed West Belfast as the parliamentary

constituency with the second highest child poverty, at 46 per cent

(Manchester Central had the highest). At local-authority level,

Derry was ranked fourth (35 per cent), Belfast fifth (34 per cent)

and Strabane 14th (32 per cent), giving Northern Ireland three

entries in a dubious top 20.


On every single one of the deprivation indicators outlined in the Family Resources Survey (2011/12) relating to how incomes impact on key aspects of family expenditure, and included in Nolan’s document, the percentage of catholics without financial resources to deal with day to day issues arising was significantly greater than that of protestants.


Nolan’s Report also included a NICVA-commissioned analysis of the impact of the British Government’s welfare reform package on NI, and the results decisively show that the areas worst impacted will be those predominantly catholic communities which are already the most deprived socio-economic areas:


The effects of the changes are geographically uneven, with three

local-government districts hit hardest: Derry, Strabane and Belfast.

In these three areas the loss averaged across the working-age

population is over £800 a year, with Derry reaching the £900 mark.


Indeed, the report shows that the eight local government councils that will be most adversely impacted by the proposals are all majority catholic (barring Belfast, which is more catholic than protestant), whilst all seven of the councils least impacted are majority protestant.


Whilst these may reflect the existing pattern of higher socio-economic deprivation amongst catholics, it also indicates that the proposed impact of the welfare reform agenda will be clearly to exacerbate the income divisions and make catholics even more deprived vis a vis the rest of society in Northern Ireland.


In both the research pertaining to child poverty and the impact of welfare reform, the evidence is clear that Derry and Strabane remain the hardest hit outside of the majority catholic inner-city urban communities of Belfast that predominate those most socio-economically deprived.


Yet there remains little by way of evidence to suggest that there is anything resembling a plan to use the objective criteria widely available to devise government strategies to impact upon the patterns of deprivation in a positive manner for the poorest communities.

Which brings me back to the question posed in the title of this thread. Why are there no warnings- nor successive days of media stories and editorials- focusing on the need to tackle greater levels of deprivation to improve the prospect of developing and building a better, more stable society?

The only possible conclusion that can be made is that there is no direct link between levels of deprivation and the levels of communal unrest and political instability being played out over the past couple of years as, were that so, then the unrest would be occurring predominantly in catholic, nationalist areas.
Political leadership within nationalism has ensured that continuing levels of greater catholic socio-economic deprivation has not translated itself into the lethal cocktail of communal alienation, distrust for authority and a reversion to fundamentalist outlooks which has defined the descent into the rudderless state of many loyalist communities today.


Nolan’s focus on the Derry City of Culture campaign was instructive in this regard as it highlighted political nationalism’s capacity and willingness to lead from the front, tackling difficult issues in pursuit of an objective which had positive repercussions politically, economically and socially.

But he was wrong to attribute this merely to the fact that the comfortably nationalist majority are not demographically threatened in Derry.

The demographics of Carrickfergus, Ballyclare, Portadown, Larne & Lisburn remain comfortably majority unionist yet the level of communal ‘generosity’ in Derry towards expressions of the minority community in these unionist heartlands would be unheard of.

Yet the very same nationalist political leadership (and others) has also failed to deliver the type of comprehensive policy programme aimed at tackling the long term deprivation borne out through these statistics that would be required to address the causes and consequences of socio-economic deprivation that leave the majority of the poorest communities (ie catholics) perpetually poorer, whilst also improving the lot of those smaller in number (but equally affected) working class protestant communities who feature in the deprivation stats alongside their catholic neighbours.


Addressing inequalities may not actually be pivotal to securing the peace nor stabilising political institutions now, but demanding and developing a political culture in which objective criteria, as opposed to sectarian bartering, forms the basis of government policy and decision making at the highest political level most certainly will be in the years to come.

N.B. The story that did dominate the headlines in the aftermath of the Nolan Report related to an issue close to my heart, educational underachievement, and that will be addressed in a forthcoming piece.

  • Mick Fealty

    Anti poverty strategy anyone? Can it really take seven years to organise something?

  • notimetoshine

    I wonder how effective an all encompassing strategy would be. I worry about the ability of relevant ministers and parties to co operate with each other in the executive because their record isn’t great to begin with. I worry about consistency and inter ministerial co operation, there would have to be some mechanism to ‘lock in’ a poverty strategy to avoid tampering for political reasons.

    I would imagine that Catholic deprivation hasn’t had those dire warnings because there has been a focus on the massive improvement in terms of Catholic educational achievements, economic success etc. This may be overshadowing real issues of poverty that still exist.

    Off the top of my head I would personally focus on education with enhanced offerings at primary and secondary level at schools with a deprived catchment area; after school clubs, free school trips (educational), imbeded youth workers in the schools, enhanced extra curricular opportunities, technology grants for pupils from deprived backgrounds.

    A rigorous academic program in schools, I have found personally that too many schools with poor/deprived catchment area tend not to think much of their students academically. I know of many examples were students were put off more traditional subjects because it was considered ‘easier’ for them to do a vocational course such as a HND or HNC. While these are fine for those students who wish to follow those paths, identifying academically gifted students and subjecting them to a challenging and rigorous program would benefit them immensely.

    Guarantee of an apprenticeship for those who don’t want higher education, and a more generous system of grants to facilitate adult education and mature students with a chequered academic past.

    I also think that those claiming benefits who go back into education should receive a comprehensive financial package including job seekers, an additional maintenance grant and tuition, along with specialist further/higher education officers who not only facilitate their entry to education but support them academically, socially and in terms of job seeking and finances. Make them a one stop shop.

    In terms of alleviating the effects of poverty and deprivation, it may be a case of money money money. Multi disciplinary teams to target families in difficulty before they would normally come to the attention of authorities, focusing on health (both physical and mental), parenting, training/skills, quality of housing and job readiness. Almost an extension of the sure start model.

    I also think there are too many people who made silly mistakes (petty vandalism, getting into scraps, drinking etc) who could and have turned their lives around but are saddled with a criminal conviction therefore dooming them to a life of poor job prospects.

    I think (especially those 18-25) who have completed training/education, have not committed a serious offence, who can show the parole board/police/social workers etc that they have changed or made a stupid mistake should be allowed to have those convictions hidden so that they could have a better chance at employment.

    This of course is not a get out of jail free card and they should still be punished, but I have met many people who have really changed who have been saddled with a stupid mistake in their past. The police could still know of these previous convictions and if they were to re offend all bets are off, but give them a chance.

    I personally think any anti poverty strategy needs to have a short medium and long term view with a heavy focus on economic participation and skills.

    * Sorry rant just something close to my heart.

  • Reader

    It may be difficult to target anything in Belfast – like thousands of others, I live in Bangor and commute to Belfast. If jobs are created in Belfast, it benefits the whole commuter belt – including some of the *least* deprived areas in Northern Ireland.

  • Red Lion

    Indeed Mick.

    Sinn Fein have been in power in the assembly for years now and yet the deprivation in West Belfast, Ardoyne etc remains. Why do the local population not hold their local representatives to account when they claim they are delivering for their area?? Clearly the elected reps are not.

    I felt furious the other day about the report which said something along the lines that working class protestant boys in NI along with Irish traveller kids have the worst education outcomes out of any groupings in the UK!!

    Another example of how the DUP etc and unionism have failed. As well as the assembley frankly not being fit for purpose

  • fitzy

    Amazing to think West Belfast could be in this position after having the President of Sinn Fein as it’s MP for so many years. Makes me think of a Squinter article from a 5 or 6 years back….

  • Old Mortality

    ‘Political leadership within nationalism has ensured that continuing levels of greater catholic socio-economic deprivation has not translated itself into the lethal cocktail of communal alienation, distrust for authority and a reversion to fundamentalist outlooks….’

    Well they’ve already tried that and it doesn’t seem to have worked.
    Maybe they should look at whether Catholics in Ballyclare, for example, are more or less ‘deprived’ than they are.

  • Neil

    Yep, the 7 years of unbroken representation by SF is what’s to blame. As I understand it everyone had jobs under direct rule and the Unionist Parliament for Unionist people, the word unemployment didn’t exist in West Belfast until the shinners got their hands on it.

    Oh, actually that’s total bullshit. It’s funny though that given for the past, say 50 years, the Shinners have been in charge for 11 (15 years of Stormont with two two year suspensions), the UK government for 26 and Unionists for the remaining 13, that you choose to draw attention to the shinners alone, when we know that it was utterly impoverished under British and Unionist governance.

    Can you prove that things are worse now than they were pre 98? I can’t find any evidence to support that, but then it’s not me making that argument, so over to you…

  • WindsorRocker

    Maybe West Belfast being the cockpit of a private army’s campaign for 30 years, a no go area for police might not have helped this figures….?

  • fitzy

    I don’t think I see anyone on this chain claiming things have gotten worse. The point is, as it pertains to the state of West Belfast, Derry and Strabane relative to the rest of the ‘UK’ measured in this report, that things aren’t any better…

  • Neil

    West Belfast may not have magically shot from one of the most deprived areas in NI to Malone Road style opulence in 7 years, granted, but the report doesn’t actually stipulate whether things are better or worse now than they were under direct rule. They may be better and still, having been in such a piss poor position to start with, not been enough to shift the ward into overall prosperity. That’s why I’m suggesting you substantiate the claim that “things aren’t any better”. They may be better, or worse, but this report doesn’t answer that question. However if it’s just a tool to attack SF and the stupidity of the Shinner drones (a.k.a. West Belfast voters) then that’s fair enough.

  • Mc Slaggart

    ” Derry and Strabane ”

    Are considerable better than they used to be.

    They both require the new A5.

  • fitzy

    The basis of my comment was West Belfast’s position in the report RELATIVE to the rest of the UK. Meaning that with all of the ebb and flow of economy and such, WB is still at the bottom of the barrel… that and the fact it has been run by Sinn Fein as elected members of all levels of government. Quantitative substantiation is in the findings of the report and WBs rank.
    Personally, I have spent a fair amount of time in WB over the last 25 years or so. Certainly the stress and mood driven by the conflict have eased enormously, but thing are still run down, plenty of hoods and scumbags on the streets, there is no shortage of unemployment, police services are less than stellar and the general condition of housing estates is often a shambles.
    … And to your last point, I was alluding to the lack of political accountability for the Shinners (just like the Squinter article points to). The Shinners have cultivated a mass of blind allegiance through conflict politics and authoritarian control. Surely a football team or business or constituency in a healthy democracy would hold their manager or CEO or political leaders to task if they remained at the bottom of the table for this long. In this case, the blame is building on the side of the local electorate.

  • Zig70

    I’m a bit disgusted at the sectarian divide being applied here. You might find excuses in our social structure but you won’t find solutions. I’ve read lots on job creation in higher level jobs and only gloomy reports for less skilled. The added issues of generations out of work and an attitude that makes some folk unemployable. It will take some big thinking. The schools report just highlights known issues, faith schools perform better, girls perform better and selection fails the most in need. Our unique social structure might help crack open the answers to better schooling.

  • Morpheus

    “The Shinners have cultivated a mass of blind allegiance through conflict politics and authoritarian control.”

    It never ceases to amaze the levels of disdain regularly displayed on Slugger for SF voters.

    What authoritarian control do you think SF have over the electorate??? Do you honestly think the Shinners go door to door telling people to vote for them? The most I get is an occasional flyer – hardly authoritarian.

    When it comes to holding politicians in socially deprived areas accountable then the same principle applies as after the Haass proposals were blocked: “we tried but look what we are up against.”

    The scuttling of the A5 is a perfect example. Those who need this road (note I use the word ‘need’ and not ‘want’) will know that this project is absolutely essential but it was doomed the minute it was coined ‘The Famine Road’ and the UUP got their mitts on the ministry in charge of the project. They had no intention of letting the project continue as demonstrated in the manifesto ffs! This project was scuttled for party political reasons, bollix to the people who need it.

    When nationalist parties have sufficient power to redress the obvious imbalance in Northern Ireland and these areas still suffer from these levels of social deprivation then there is an issue.

  • cynic2

    The A5 was scuttled because

    1 the Department buggered up the planning (and SF didnt notice)

    2 the Irish couldn’t fund their end

    3 the whole thing was misconceived and would save 20 minutes off a trip from Derry to Dublin when the same investment in Derry to Belfast would have achieved far more

    It was a vanity project.

    PS if you look West and North Belfast are far worse off economically and socially than Derry and Strabane. Why then do SF advocate all this investment in the NW and not Belfast where it is more needed???

  • Mc Slaggart


    The “Irish” have built up to the border.

    The planning was messed up because Unionists spent their time protesting about the new road. This is the reason “a trip from Derry to Dublin when the same investment in Derry to Belfast would have achieved far more”. which is a load of rubbish.

  • Morpheus

    Vanity project? 🙂

    The DRD’s own figures showed that the roads from Derry to Ballygawley have more than DOUBLE the daily vehicle usage requirements for a duel-carriage way. Double. The road is an absolute requirement so a ‘vanity project’ it most definitely is not.

    True the DRD fecked up under SF’s watch but the UUP took over the ministry in May 2011, a full 2 years before the judge made his ruling regarding the habitat’s directive – which was not even appealed might I add. Are we to believe that not one single employee in the DRD, who have been making roads in NI for decades, even mentioned the habitat’s directive? Incompetence doesn’t even come close.

    I am not sure why you are talking about the Irish funding. That decision was taken in November 2011 but the decision to continue with the project from Derry to Ballygawley was announced in February 2012.

    I am also not sure why you are talking about a trip from Derry to Dublin, that is the same tired, ignorant ‘Famine Road’ BS the UUP came out with. The road is for the thousands of NI taxpayers who use the A5 on a daily basis, feck all to do with Dublin.

    A ring road from Belfast-Derry across the top of NI and Derry-Belfast across the bottom of NI, with duel carriageways to large towns like Enniskillen is not rocket science. This is 2014 ffs.

  • cynic2

    Sorry but it was originally touted as benefiting Derry and Donegal by opening up a high speed corridor to Dublin – that was part of the rationale for theIrish side link to it

  • cynic2

    “A ring road from Belfast-Derry across the top of NI and Derry-Belfast across the bottom of NI, with duel carriageways to large towns like Enniskillen is not rocket science. ”

    Absolutely not. Now which hospitals do you want to close to pay for it?

  • Morpheus

    Why does it need to result in hospital closures? There was £330m already in place for the A5, complete with 800 much-needed jobs in the construction industry.

  • Mc Slaggart


    “originally touted as benefiting Derry and Donegal”

    Was that a TUV representative?

  • Greenflag

    The question which nobody answers is what exactly can politicians do in government re job creation ?

    There has always been deprivation and poverty in Belfast / Northern Ireland /the Republic and everywhere else as well too. Government and in particular a government like the NI Assembly has very few powers and none at all that could change the economic climate for investment in Northern Ireland.

    Even in developed countries like Germany and France and the UK there is increasing poverty as these societies and their governments have relinquished large parts of their economies to corporate interests whose only motive is the return of dividends to their shareholders and the maximisation of bonuses /share options salaries etc to their CEO’s.

    For the working and middle classes in the USA and in the EU the share of GDP that is paid out in wages and salaries is decreasing at the same time as the share of corporate profits has been increasing ,

    There is NO government that I’m aware in the developed world which has any policy on reversing the current trend to the rich getting ever richer and the poor getting it in the neck while the working and middle classes facing being squeezed ever more by corporate interests so the latter can continue to reward their CEO’s and shareholders .

    Obama has passed a minimum wage increase in the USA but by the time it’s enforced any benefits will have been whittled away via inflation. In the meantime millions of Americans have opted out of the economy and the number of ‘workers ‘ as percentage of the population is at it’s lowest since the 1930’s .

    Greed eventually consumes itself and when it does the political impact can be revolutionary in it’s final outcome .

  • Barnshee

    “A ring road from Belfast-Derry across the top of NI and Derry-Belfast across the bottom of NI, with duel carriageways to large towns like Enniskillen is not rocket science. This is 2014 ffs.”

    A brief glimpse into history will show

    That that was part of the originally planning process

  • Barnshee

    The wicked unionists have not been in charge for now nearly 50 years

    The ” deprived areas” have had the same access to society’s benefits and functions as anyone else -health education social services etc We have the most
    detailed/draconian equality legislation in Europe if not the world.


    http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/issues/discrimination/melaugh.htmmost for hints at underlying causes

    People should consider you know “it might be my fault”

  • Morpheus

    What does that even mean BS? Jumbled sentences and a link that does work is not exactly convincing.

    Are you trying to say that these areas are socially deprived by their own hand?

  • Barnshee

    Apologies for link



    Repeats –The wicked unionists have not been in charge for now nearly 50 years

    If you have difficulty with particular words I will try for a simpler synonym

  • notimetoshine

    Rather than fall back on trite us and them politics, why not identify the reasons the executive has failed to deliver on poverty, on improving peoples lives?

    The us and them situation that is inbuilt within stormont is hardly conducive to a positive governmental and legislative programme.

  • zep

    “Political leadership within nationalism has ensured that continuing levels of greater catholic socio-economic deprivation has not translated itself into the lethal cocktail of communal alienation, distrust for authority and a reversion to fundamentalist outlooks which has defined the descent into the rudderless state of many loyalist communities today.”

    Swap loyalist and nationalist about and you could be a Unionist sitting in your big house 50 years ago pre-Troubles, revelling in the dischord amongst ‘the other’, safe in your bubble. There is something rather disturbing there.

    Sinn Fein are the (joint) captains of the good ship Social Deprivation, shouting dire warnings while they help Peter the Punt manoeuvre towards another iceberg. HMG pays too well to risk rocking the boat, regardless of the passengers’ religion.

    Perhaps a good way to tackle social deprivation in Derry/Londonderry would be to try to change the name again? I know it’s a big deal up there.

  • Reader

    Q: “Why does the reality of greater catholic socio-economic deprivation not generate dire warnings of social upheaval?”
    A: Because the people at the bottom of the heap are isolated from any potential allies and any possible leadership. Not like last time.

  • Mc Slaggart

    “Because the people at the bottom of the heap are isolated from any potential allies and any possible leadership.”

    I cannot say about west Belfast but in places like Tyrone their is still a very strong sense of community. Leadership can be funny such as the taking the youth of Strabane away for a day trip for the 12th. Strange in the popularity of girls football with its range of bored parents sitting in cars from wrecks to Mercedes.

  • Morpheus

    You from Strabane McS?

  • Mc Slaggart

    @ Morpheus

    I am not from Strabane