Martin: “Economic and social situation in Northern Ireland should cause real concern”.

So the news from Ballymena, again, is not good. Another vestige of the work put in under O’Neill (and more directly, Brian Faulkner) in trying to modernise the economic base of Northern Ireland goes.

The truth is that Northern Ireland is in an uneviable position as a periphery region both within the UK (water imposes major costs for manufacturing industry) and across the border.

The ‘all shall have prizes’ governance model of peacebuilding at Stormont means there is little or none of the cross departmental co-operation needed to rebuild an economic model.

Whilst the Republic argues over the loss of the Web Summit to Lisbon, our big employers are slowly finding better fish to fry.

It’s unfair to single one party or one Minister out over another since the whole thing is a confection no one really wants to own. But take the DETI minister’s singular focus on China?

This is in line with HMG’s thinking and the focus of its trade mission effort, so fair enough. But what effect is that likely to have on Bombardier who’ve just been bailed to out to the tune of £1 Billion?

The Chinese are a huge rival to the Canadians in the aerospace industry, but they are unlikely to pick up the pieces if the Canadians decide they’d prefer their public subsidy to go further at home.

Now, to shift a little, the Dail yesterday had a session on Northern Ireland. Only Micheal Martin focused on the real problem hitting Northern Ireland:

By every available measure the governments and parties have by their neglect and behaviour allowed core public trust to be undermined. This is not a political assertion – it is a fact established repeatedly in surveys, elections and events. It is there to see for anyone willing to open their eyes.

Too often the challenge in these negotiations has been how do we get through the crisis and get the parties to start working together. Yet the people of Northern Ireland are increasingly asking when will the parties get around to working on their behalf?

Northern Ireland has gone from having one of the highest levels of participation in elections to one of the lowest on these islands. Much of this fall is found in marginal communities and amongst the supporters of parties who see themselves excluded from all policy discussions.

The economic and social situation in Northern Ireland has deteriorated in a manner which should cause real concern.

The austerity agenda being implemented is already causing disproportionate harm to vital public services such as education without which progress is impossible.

Rates of poverty and child poverty in particular, in Northern Ireland have continued to worsen, and the gap with the UK is expanding. Nearly half (46%) of children in West Belfast are today living in poverty. Pensioner poverty in Northern Ireland is one third higher than in the UK.

As we have seen, many of those who participated in the illegitimate paramilitary campaigns continue to operate as a caste apart and pose an ongoing threat.

And yet the institutions established with unprecedented hope and popular legitimacy are constantly diverted to dealing with breakdowns in trust and general party political manoeuvring.

Two parties which rode to power by overcoming those who risked everything to secure and sustain a peace settlement have been unwilling to show the bravery needed to challenge their own or to accept the logic of peace in everything they do.

Their willingness to attack inconvenient actions by independent institutions and to show loyalty to their movement before the public interest has been corrosive.

After nearly two decades the demand of the Irish people both North and South is to move on – to end the cycle of crises and to focus on the real agenda of challenging division and delivering growth which benefits all communities.

Quite. In the meantime, in Northern Ireland, the litany continues:

Michelin, 860 jobs, Tech Mahindra, 200 jobs at risk, 3M, 34 jobs, Portaferry Hotel, 20 jobs, Public Sector, 20,000 jobs, Queen’s University, 236 jobs, Ulster University, 210 jobs, Caterpillar, 20 jobs with more in JTI – (in the coming year), Sirocco, Clarke Quarrying, BelTel and Andor to come.

As one friend noted yesterday, this is all accompanied by

– surge in minimum-wage yet government-supported employment (call centres mostly)
– national broadband that is now recognisably behind everywhere else (yeah, Kelvin was “great” five years ago)
– cuts in FE and HE funding when really we needed to over invest in skills to beat the recession
– an actual energy crisis that threatens consumers as well as industry

That none of this is a matter of any political controversy outside civil society (and, ahem, Dail Eireann) tells you a lot about where we are right now.

  • Croiteir

    The state is failing – this is the cost of union

  • chrisjones2

    This is the cost of republicanism.

    Now …do you feel better?

  • murdockp

    Union, it is the paraxox of union we are experiencing. Westminster has washed its hands as has Dublin.
    If Michael Martin keeps speaking such sense, I shall have to vote for him

  • Croiteir

    No – should I?

  • Croiteir

    No – this is exactly what unionists want – ruled from London with rules designed to suit the service sector of the City and South East England

  • mickfealty

    Your criticisms would make more sense if any of this was a matter of political debate between Nat and Unionists. It isn’t, so I struggle to see how Nats are not complicit in the slide. You cannot divorce economic development and public investment in infrastructure from education policy and ring fencing of welfare and the impasse in Stormont.

    Unless of course you insist on both having your cake and eating it… But that’s sloganeering, not politics..

  • chrisjones2

    They are all complicit and I doubt that many of our MLAs know (nor care) about these issues as there are no votes in them

  • barnshee

    Without the “union” NI would look and be like Donegal,
    The “cause” of the problem is the British Welfare state which supports a population level far beyond that allowable by local resources.

    The poverty problems of the 1950s 60s remain— exacerbated by population increase.

  • mickfealty

    That’s it is it?

  • murdockp

    If we had the rules of london and the south east applied here we stand a chance as these would be the rules of the free market and liberalism.

    Instead we have an odd form of socialism / communism. I use the word odd deliberately because at least in a true communist state people worked for a living.

    This lot and their hard core supporters from both sides expect Westminster to pay their bills as they such off the british teat.

  • mickfealty

    Cash transfers within a fiscal union is part of the deal. How else do people think California stays solvent? You have to accept that devolution imposes limitations, but I think what we are hearing a lot of in this particular regard is a failure to come at the problem with fresh ideas.

    It’s not enough to run one successful round of inward investment, have a thirty year war and then hope it will all work out on its own. We need to find that sort of enterprise (in the broadest sense of the word) that Faulkner used to shape a renewal project for the 21C…

  • Roy Reilly-Robertson

    This is actually a very good piece by Martin making very important comments on the history and the future for NI. There is a debate here that this should actually give legs to.

  • CackleDaily

    Comment deleted

  • 23×7

    So nothing to do with Tory austerity and their lack of an industrial policy?

  • 23×7

    Is the situation in Sunderland, Hull and Newcastle any better? We are now feeling the impact of the Tory austerity fettish with worse to come.

  • AndyB

    This of course was the problem with the Voluntary Exit Scheme – the assumption that the private sector would fill the gap, which was only ever at best extraordinarily optimistic. The private sector will only create jobs that it needs to be able to meet demand for goods and services, and if demand is suppressed, supply will also be suppressed.

    It is of course true that the public sector should not create jobs for the sake of having jobs, but the appearance of thousands of former public service staff in the job market (allowing for over 60s holding out for redundancy) was always going to be well ahead of jobs appearing that they could fill. Voluntary exit lump sums can only last so long.

    The contraction in the public sector has also had a serious impact on the private sector – for example, Roads Service contractors laying off staff because maintenance has been cut back, and cuts elsewhere in the construction industry due to cuts in capital budgets.

    Ultimately, though, the idea seems to have been cut the staff and spending without a forward plan. If I were DETI, I would be pushing and promoting indigenous businesses, actual and potential, to help them come into existence, to access markets, to create GDP and jobs from the bottom up (including, crucially, helping people with a lot of workable profitable good ideas but little cash to get going) – something a lot more reliable than hoping for multinationals to set up regional offices here.

    There are other issues here – Glyn Roberts was talking about corporation tax cuts again today in light of a West Belfast Dunnes Stores food hall losing 50 jobs (despite corporation tax having little impact on small businesses too close to breakeven for comfort and having the danger of multinationals setting up registered offices for tax purposes without creating jobs, even supposing that they could be persuaded away from places where it’s far easier to pay much less than the headline rate of tax, like Dublin, for example), but business rates affect businessmen a lot more.

    However, the biggest issue remains that every job lost is less money cycling back into retailers’ pockets, leading to more job losses, including further up the supply chain. Helping SMEs selling products with a market that can grow to open and expand can help counter this.

  • Greenflag 2

    ” because at least in a true communist state people worked for a living.”

    Which one – I’ve been to three of them . The USSR may have put cosmonauts in space etc but they could’nt supply basic needs for the population . CP members were a priviliged elite not quite like modern North Korea but they were more equal than non party members . Just to keep things tied up -ordinary Russians could’nt just join the party -they had to be ‘invited ‘ . So they kept it in the family and among regional cliques like any oligarchy .

    East Germany worked a little better but it’s police made the old RUC or Gestapo look like sheep .But they and the Poles were forced to export butter and food products by the thousands of tons to keep the Russians from starving . The Russians sent them in barter exchange all kinds of products which they could’nt give away in the West at the time

    In Hungary during the transition to capitalism and free markets I saw a company which employed 2,000 people which in Ireland at the same time -same business employed 300 . The Irish company’s sales were iirc treble those of the Hungarians .

    As one Hungarian put it to me -We pretended to work and the government pretended to pay us .

    Until the place collapsed under the weight of its own internal contradictions . NI has a similar problem . It’s just lucky it has the UK and the Republic as neighbours .

  • Gingray

    Naw Chris, it’s the fault of being a small part of an island politically connected to a bigger island with a different focus.

    Economically we are too small to count as part of the UK, part we do produce one cheap export the London government loves – white, English speaking, well educated, skilled workers. Who leave in higher numbers than other UK regions.

    If they made sure Northern Ireland was truly competitive it might hurt the economy in the south of England.

  • Gingray

    Skills and jobs and infrastructure need investment – not talking the high end skills, we produce enough, but the technician level is massively lacking here

  • RS86

    I’m sorry, but could you explain how?

    Tory austerity is charged with driving the cost of labour down, whilst global energy and raw materials are at all time lows. I suspect Michelin’s motive is that it can produce the same materials for less elsewhere. Labour’s policies would have also failed the Tory workers.

  • Gingray

    No it would look more like cork or Dublin – we had a strong manufacturing sector, which with the right focus could grow again.

    We have a population level similar to the south which did not have a welfare model.

    Northern Ireland saw as many emigrate but for convenience we don’t count those who go to gb.

  • Greenflag 2

    “. we had the rules of london and the south east applied here we stand a chance as these would be the rules of the free market and liberalism.’

    Don’t kid yourself . London is a global financial centre and cares little for what happens in the rest of the UK . Yes a few crumbs will be despatched to the west and north and Wales and Scotland but the focus remains on the financial sector and hedge funds and international currency transactions . Just look at the Cameron Gov kowtowing to HSBC . Northern Ireland is not even on the radar in that respect .

    Without longer term political stability it will remain very difficult for NI to escape from its economic straitjacket of dependency on Westminster and the public sector .

  • barnshee

    Sadly yes

  • barnshee

    You can’t emigrate to your own country

  • Gingray

    But people do leave Northern Ireland to live and work in the UK at the same rate as the rest of Ireland. And they fail to come back to Ireland in similar rates.

    The main difference being that the south has a much stronger ability to determine it’s own economic focus, we still take the lead from London, and the primary concern of the UK economy is feeding the south of England with cheap skilled labour from the outer regions.

  • Gopher

    There are plenty of jobs its just the Assembly keeps on blocking them because apparently getting elected in sixth place gets you £43,000 and your family employed so for gods sake dont be annoying 123 idiots (sorry voters) who might transfer on the 15th count. The waste incinerator, Wind farms, A5 road, John Lewis, City Runway and Fracking would all merrily be providing jobs. Then there is the gross incompetence like Casement or Desertcreat for instance.

    We also have have my favourite, passenger duty providing a huge drag to tourism, you to those foriegn chaps with money to spend. This is devolved to us and we dont have the courage to get rid of it because it might mean having to integrate education or something else as practical to cover the cost. Meanwhile motorists from the North pay for a motorway to Dublin with their tolls. Why is there not a reciprocal toll booth at Newry creating employment and improving our roads?

    We lost all the goodwill of the agreement and squandered all the money on “community” projects which generate no wealth.

  • Greenflag 2

    These situations don’t arrive overnight . In the case of NI it’s been a downhill slide since the late 1960’s and 1970’s . The loss of the old textile , shipbuilding and engineering industries as these succumbed to cheaper Asian and other competitors . Nothing replaced them or was too small to make any significant dent in the downward spiral . Political instability and violence did’nt help . Even worse was the uncertainty re a local political fix from 1974 to 1998 . During those years of Molyneux UUP led isolation foreign investment stayed away . And at the same time what is called globalisation took off

  • scepticacademic

    Have an ^ for a largely agreeable post. Re your 1st para, you’re right in principle but you did overlook the concept of an export base (i.e. external demand vs. local demand as a stimulus to private sector job creation). NI continues to lack sufficient number of competitive exporting firms. 4th paragraph: yes, but in fairness to InvestNI (it’s they, not DETI that do the interventions) they’ve had various indigenous industry support programmes and start-up campaigns over the last decade+ (though arguably under-resourced). Sadly, the underlying and long-run structural weaknesses in the NI economy are easier to identify than to remedy. Just not enough good businesses out there to lift the economy. The dismal and unimaginative ‘(regional) economic policies’ under direct rule and devolution haven’t helped either. Current cuts to FE/HE budgets are lunacy of course. Likewise the civil service exit scheme.

  • Greenflag 2

    Can’t be . During the same period the Republic’s economy did a lot better over a wide range of economic growth factors .

  • Greenflag 2

    Not sure they all want it – but that’s all they’ll get . Anyway there are a lot of British regions in need of investment too . Its just that the international financial sector in London can find loads more better investments outside the UK . If the UK leaves the EU they can switch off the lights everywhere in the UK apart from the City and the South East

  • scepticacademic

    If the population/resources ratio had any relevance to economic development, how would we explain the rise of Singapore, which supports over 5 million people at a far higher GDP/capita on 718 sq km (compared to 1.8m in NI’s 13,800 sq km)? Arguably NI’s economic problems are partly a conequence of its small population, ergo small and uncompetitive market and lack of critical mass.

  • scepticacademic

    This is the nub of it. And in that respect, NI is not so different to other ‘old industrial regions’ in the UK and Western Europe. English cities and regions like Sheffield, Bradford, Liverpool, the North East have faced similar challenges and also (largely) failed to solve the problem – at least in terms of the private sector. One difference in these English cities is the buoyant university sector and associated multiplier effect – e.g. 60,000 full-time students in a city of 500,000 people (Sheffield). The facade of economic recovery in the industrial north (of England) during the ‘Brown Boom’ (post 1997) was built on: (a) public spending/investment; (b) private consumption based on unsustainable levels of personal debt. Now the austerity agenda is destroying many northern (English) communities, like the 1980s all over again.

  • 23×7

    Simple. Austerity sucks demand out of the economy. Lower demand therefore lower employment. Austerity is also leading to reduced infrastructure investment and investment in strategically important industries e.g. the recently reduced investment in the renewables industry.

  • Greenflag 2

    And cheaper unskilled labour from Poland , Romania etc and from outside the EU .
    Sean Lemass’s economic growth adage that a rising tide lifts all boats -no longer applies in this economy -or certainly a lot less than it did in the past . The downward pressure on wages and salaries for much of the population has resulted in a loss of local spending and those who are highly paid can buy their gadgets on line from an Amazon warehouse in China .

  • murdockp

    I don’t agree and I work in both locations. London is all about progress. NI is all about preservation.

    problem is all our progressive talent emirates as ambitious people do.

    we nee to work out how to get them back.

  • murdockp

    there is no austerity in NI. read the statistics. the place is a basket case but not due to austerity. search for newton Emersons video re the same

  • murdockp

    lack of talent and supression of talent.

    we need to curb emigration.

  • murdockp

    go to Gb to work and you will find that you just have emigrated.

    protest you may but in their eyes you are irish. same for Welsh and Scots too

  • murdockp

    the inability of the state to function drives demand out of the economy. NI is not functioning.

  • Greenflag 2

    Yes thats how it appears to me . I recall in the mid 1980’s working with English employees from the Staffordshire area some of whom relocated their families to a town south of Dublin . There were about a half dozen including a Welshman and iirc a couple of Prods from NI -Belfast and Bessbrook .

    People forget that the Thatcherite destruction of then British manufacturing , engineering etc was not replaced with alternative private sector investment . The closing of coal mines and textile mills also reduced the base which served service type industries .

    Sadly part b) private consumption based on levels of unsustainable personal debt is not just a British phenomenon . Its endemic to the USA and Ireland as well although in the latter a correction has been forced via ‘austerity ‘ .

    In the USA the situation worsens with the total student debt now exceeding 1 trillion dollars -i.e a larger figure than total credit card debt . Many of these debtors will be essentially indentured servants for their lives as more than half will not earn enough to pay back their loans . The knock on effect of this will be that many will not form families -buy houses etc etc and thus the spiral downward continues .

    At some point in the downward spiral what is called the community of the realm (UK ) and civil society (USA ) will descend into major political upheaval or worse .

  • Croiteir

    Correct it started from the institution of partition

  • Croiteir

    Unionists have opposed the welfare state from its initiation as it stymied the policy pursued by unionism of starving the nationalists out of the north

  • Croiteir

    Actually with the union the north has achieved parity with Connaught/Ulster in the south and Leinster and Munster has achieved parity with Mittel Europe in prosperity. So in reality with the union NI (sic) has fallen to the same economic status as the poorest region of Ireland from its position as the richest region of Ireland.

  • Croiteir

    But it is a political debate – the politics of unionism has landed us in the economic mess we are in.

  • Croiteir

    Hardly complicit – unionists will not let nationalists near any economic policy as we may turn rogue, spend money, or team up with the electric supply in the south and get the prices down. Perhaps nationalists would build roads into Derry which may create more economic activity in the entire north west area, which might mean Donegal gets something, and they might not emigrate from Omagh, Strabane and Derry, link up our tourism, electrics, health and education to the south in order to create economies of scale, cutting back on duplication, waste and creating better services. Who knows, if the taigs had been able to get the south to use Coleraine for vehicle licencing they may have stopped those jobs going to Bristol, but the rascals would have undermined British sovereignty. They may even get deals like the one Cowen did for financial service companies expanding into Belfast.

  • James7e

    Given that 1. the sole Sinn Fein economic policy is, in essence, to guarantee that NI cannot function economically, and 2. The prospects of NI being forcibly melded into one national unit with ROI looks impossible for at least the next 30 years…..might it not be time for nationalist voters to consider their children’s future and stop electing a party whose only promise is a perpetually stagnant status quo. Just a thought.

  • Greenflag 2

    Don’t know what you mean by that . Partition came about in 1920 . Until the mid 1970’s NI was doing better economically than the Republic . Had Partition ended in 1975 -globalisation and deindustrialisation would have continued anyway and NI like other regions in the UK especially the north and Scotland would have suffered economically . Thatcher’s war on the unions and the coal miners just accelerated the industrial manufacturing decline .

    The point now is the NI economy is in a public sector cul de sac with no easy way out even if ALL the local politicians were agreed on an economic policy .
    Thats the problem with mandatory power sharing . Parties which have completely different policies as regards economic growth cannot implement a firm policy as they can’t agree on the fundamentals .

  • Croiteir

    I am not sure what measure you are using to enable you to say the above but it is an immaterial point anyway. If you are saying the north and south reached an economic parity somewhere in the ’70’s fine, but it only reinforces my claim the northern economy has been decaying for a long time. I say it started immediately upon partition. When do you say it began?

  • Greenflag 2

    Yes and No . Yes in the sense that Unionist politics 1965 -1974 failed to resolve the crisis of confidence in the ability of the NI State to govern itself internally without sectarian conflict. The lack of a local NI Stormont 1974 to 1998 did’nt help either as the signal it sent out to the rest of the world at the time was that NI was not a safe place to invest in from a number of viewpoints not just the security aspect.

    But there is more to the problem than just the politics of unionism 1965- 1998 . NI just like other parts of Britain came up against competition from newly emerging trading and manufacturing countries . Competition for foreign investment was tough in the 1970’s everywhere in Europe . Today you can multiply that competition by 10 or 20 . It took the Republic decades to build up it’s FDI and eventually the compound effect took off and downstream businesses emerged .

    The current difficulty for NI is that on top of the very real and difficult economic challenges , they are held back by the political straight jacket in which they have to share what little power they have or lose all of it by collapsing the Assembly .

  • Gingray

    Plus Northern Ireland is small. As part of the UK we are a disconnected remote voice, that costs too much, produces too little, and lacks any ability to influence major UK decisions.

    This part of Ireland has went from being the economic powerhouse on the island at the time of partition to being the poor relation.

  • mickfealty

    In case you are having trouble accessing the comment policy, here’s the relevant page:

    Please try to “connect with the subject in hand, and avoid making the person you disagree with the object of your argument.

    On the west Belfast thing, I see where you are coming from, but Martin also touches upon that in his speech:

    Their empty attacks have claimed that we are challenging them only because of the coming election and that we would not say anything if Sinn Féin were lower in the polls. This is the type of empty nonsense which is being used to avoid answering substantive points. It is also the same tactic Sinn Féin has used unfailingly for 17 years.

    Anyone who looks back through the records will see Sinn Féin claiming that the only reason decommissioning was being demanded was a coming election; the only reason the Northern Bank robbery was being talked about was a coming election; and the only reason the brutal murder of Robert McCartney was being highlighted was a coming election.

    For Sinn Féin there is never an issue too serious that it cannot be dismissed by attacking others for just being interested in elections. No matter how comprehensive the evidence of financial irregularities, child abuse, murder or criminality by those involved in the Provisional movement Sinn Féin never responds with anything but blanket denials and abuse of the accuser.

    Welcome to competitive politics… I’d invite you to compare this attempt to address broad substantive issues with the more subject appeal to self interest (even to the undermining of NI institutions) that followed from Mr A:

  • Sir Rantsalot

    Why are you pretending that NI is not within the UK and the island of Ireland is a single country outside the UK? Don’t you realise how stupid that makes you look?

  • Gingray

    Ooh babee
    That’s a useful contribution to the thread. Ireland is a country, politically split across two sovereign nation states. Both parts of which support Ireland in the rugby.

    But that’s immaterial to this thread.

    In terms of the topic, our economy in Northern Ireland, many valid points have been raised by Martin during the regular Dáil sessions on the North.

    Leaving the semantics aside, the behaviour of many young educated people is to leave this island and never return. That’s a chunk of our intellectual investment not contributing locally, and it’s not an issue the other nations in the UK face.

    This brain drain is only acceptable if you unswervingly loyal to the idea that a strong UK means a strong England, with a Northern Ireland bereft of a portion of the people needed to make us truly competitive.

    The south has taken steps to address this. We have not.

    At some point we need to replicate good practice, even if it means looking at what the rest of Ireland do.

  • mickfealty

    You misremember the last dHondt shuffle then. DETI was left open for SF to take and they chose education instead.

  • 23×7

    So the hospital waiting lists are simply increasing by magic? University fees were increased just for the craic? And at a local level the grass isn’t being cut round our towns and cities because it’s just growing faster than usual.

  • murdockp

    the money is in the system. You are right, it is not making it down to the coal face being syphoned by beaurcrats along the way. But the money is there. How we spend it needs a complete overhaul.

    Fore example does NI really need three stadia and three airports?

  • Croiteir

    You forget who is in charge of Finance and Personnel

  • RS86

    Would that be the UK’s austerity agenda? As I thought 70% plus of Michelin’s products were exported (mostly to North America) and therefore less impacted by UK policy. Coincidently, as part of winding down the Ballymena plant, over 100 jobs will be created at other Michelin plants on the mainland, so doesn’t support your argument much, does it? Like I said, lower costs elsewhere are the main driver behind the move.

    As for your comments on renewables, are you referring to the removal of subsidies on intermittent forms of electricity generation and the move towards more sustainable, reliable forms (although not without major risks) such as nuclear? what is your proposal for energy mix?

  • 23×7

    Maybe you didn’t read that far however the post mentioned job losses across the board not just at Michelin.
    I understand that the Michelin problems have been exacerbated by energy costs. The Tories appear to have a back of a fag packet approach to energy policy as shown by their cosying up to the Chinese and the removal of green subsidies.

  • Greenflag 2

    First paragraph above I agree ,

    As to the current poor relation ? It was a different world in the early 20th century . The Empire provided a captive market for British products -the workshop of the then world – Two world wars changed all that and the worldwide anti colonial independence movements .

    And now it’s globalisation . NI missed the boat by 30 years mainly by being pre occupied with their internal dysfunctional political divisions or more properly not being able to resolve them and move on .

    Direct Rule might resolve the political issues but there is no evidence to suggest that it will do anything for the NI economy . In fact the opposite would seem to be the case as the previous 25 year DR period (1974-1998 ) shows .

  • Greenflag 2

    Its Northern Ireland not North Korea (yet anyway )

  • Greenflag 2

    London and it’s environs are not England . Almost half of London residents were born outside the UK . Yes it’s about progress but that progress is based on it’s status as a global financial centre and on its universities -research facilities etc .

    ‘NI is all about preservation.’
    And even that is dependent on London’s largess.
    No easy answers .

  • Greenflag 2

    -‘exacerbated by population increase.’

    If only the rich could pay the poor to die for them (they do indirectly in war anyway ) then the poor could make a very good living .

    So I take it that another famine or mass sterilisation for anyone not making 100,000 Pounds /dollars /euros a year would solve all the problems and a complete dismantling of the British Welfare State is the way to go .

    If you look out carefully from the windows of the buildings surrounding the Place de la Concorde in Paris and cast your mind back a couple of centuries you can imagine a guillotine . The rest I’ll leave to your obvious imagination .

  • Greenflag 2

    how would we explain the rise of Singapore,

    Easy says the DA ( devil’s advocate )

    Its their own fault the Singaporeans . Now if they could only be catholics and protestants like usuns here in Northern Ireland they would’nt have to work in laundries and Chinese takeaways for a pittance ; )

  • Greenflag 2

    ‘The south has taken steps to address this. ‘

    So has Scotland .

    Gravity came into existence less than a millionth millionth of a second after the big bang say the astro physicists .
    Economic centres of gravity have a powerful pulling force as any history of London will tell you.

    Oops -meant to add on -if there’s another financial big bang the London centre of gravity may be unable to do much for the outlying regions of North and Northwest Britain and the rest.

  • scepticacademic

    not yet – it’s coming

  • scepticacademic

    Curious to know why you think industrial decline in NI was caused by different forces to the industrial decline in similar industries in S Wales, NE England, West of Scotland, Lancashire, W&S Yorkshire, etc.

  • Croiteir

    Yes. I would argue that partition exacerbated the inevitable decline. The break of the industrial north from the mainly agricultural south destroyed synergies between the two. North South trade diminished hurting both areas, sources of supply adjusted, economic planning accommodated to partition creating inefficiencies and duplications.
    The south was unable at the start to break from the webs of dependency, (it was not even attempted in any serious form until 1932 with the abandonment of laissez faire under the first Fianna Fail govt, showing the development of a more European outlook than British), that action of Fianna Fail’s started a process that continued until the late sixties when it finally break free from Sterling.
    Belfast simply was not allowed economic freedom. The terms of the 1920 Govt of Ireland Act under which Stormont functioned meant it could not deviate in any significant way. It was stuck with an inappropriate economic cycle which created a dysfunctional economy. Its staple industry entered into continual decline, with a brief interlude of growth during and after the Emergency.
    It was clear that both regions needed to develop economic policy by the ’60s. It was equally clear that only the south had the ability to do so due, not only due to its economic freedom, but also due to its political ethos. It was focused on survival by growth and progress, the north was hampered by fear and suspicion, what we have we hold and the union with Britain, (which was an economic albatross), was seen as the best way to ensure this.
    The web of dependency for the south only weakened after the move to FDI and export led growth which Lemass pushed for in the late 50’s and early ’60’s, which, although many see as revolutionary, were really only the next step in Dev’s push for economic independence. By now the years of protectionism had allowed indigenous industry to grow in the South and had outlived its usefulness. The Control of Manufacturers Act was abolished and FDI welcomed with a zero corporation tax on manufactured exports. This was fundamental for the next 3 or 4 decades.
    Now the north always functioned in a free trade area. However in spite of full access to a larger market, Britain and the Commonwealth, a regional employment premium, wage subsidies, and a plethora of other grant and subsidies its industry was in decline without the sufficient FDI to offset the job losses. Corpo Tax and linked to Britain prevented this due to lack of economic freedom.
    So we see the decline in the norths industry was nothing to do with the troubles, although they did not help. It is seated in the union.
    Now those who say that there is no difference between Belfast’s decline and the northern cities of England may well be correct. And if you track the decline of the British and the north’s manufacturing you will see the parallels. Except that the rise of the growth of a strong private sector services industry to absorb the job losses. But that is not the point. The point is what are you able to do about it.
    The simple fact is so long as we are wedded to London and its restrictions we are economical doomed. As long as we have unionism having a London centric view we are doomed.
    Now I would like to ask you has unionism changed in its outlook. The narrow mindedness of the health minister in ruling out the involvement of European experts in the health review that was announced yesterday does not fill me with hope.
    Arlene Fosters statement last night about being in the large UK market was better than the small Irish one was also a cause for concern. It has not helped before and will not help now. And the stupidity of the statement, flying in the face of experience, shows that the unionism rely on British subsidies as they have since partition, not, as the south did, having to stand on its two hind legs, go into the world and secure FDI by creating an attractive place for investing, in not realising that it is a global market in which they have to compete their economic myopia condemns them to ever increasing decline, like junkies they will have to keep going to the dealer for ever bigger fix.

  • The cost of failed devolution. Most of these companies who are closing their doors were attracted to Northern Ireland in the 1960’s or are long term indigenous businesses who have been purchased by multinational companies. The union has little or nothing to do with it. The bottom line is that economic mismanagement because of political crisis has led to Northern Ireland becoming completely noncompetitive. We need some policies that can sustain business for the long term rather than arguing about how we are going to redistribute the last 50p of welfare handouts. Once the economic base is gone, there will be no money to redistribute.

  • scepticacademic

    Ok, thanks for that extended answer. I bow to your knowledge of the finer points of post-1920 Irish industrial policy. What’s clear from your answer is that you feel partition (and the union in the north) has stymied the North’s ability to address its industrial decline, which I partly accept. The south certainly enjoyed great advantages in its ability to set its own macro-economic, fiscal and industrial policies (although some of the former were surrendered when Ireland joined euroland). My initial reading of your earlier comment had been that partition was the major ’cause’ of industrial decline in the North, of which I am much less convinced (hence my comparison with northern English cities and regions). A interesting question concerns whether being a devolved region of the UK necessarily results in bad economic outcomes. If we look at Scotland and NI since the devolution settlements of the 90s, it is clear to me that post-1998 NI governments and civil servants made some poor policy choices and showed a lack of vision and leadership, whereas Scotland’s situation is more mixed. The events leading up to the financial crisis and property crash in the south, however, show that independence does not automatically lead to better economic decision-making or outcomes. And the levels of regional and social inequality in the Republic are further evidence that independence (or Irish unity) are not necessarily be a bed of roses.

  • mickfealty

    Only two parties are shaping the current outlook, thanks to the St Andrews Agreement. That’s the DUP and Sinn Fein. Reference to one way blame attaching to generic unionism is difficult to stand up with any actual evidence. If that were the case, would we not be seeing that side getting caned in the #IrelandsCall poll rather than the proponents of a UI?

  • Croiteir

    Not at all Mick – that fact that nationalism was only represented by two people who had any clue, and that one of them did not get a chance to talk due to constant interruption was the issue there. As per my earlier post – it is the union that is shackling development here, it always has and always will.

  • Greenflag 2

    Yes very true . People don’t recognise the cost of failed devolution . Brian Faulkner may have been the last NI PM who had more than an inkling of how an economy works . He knew power sharing was absolutely the first step on that road . Unfortunately others thought it was a backward step at the time . Some think it still is 🙁

  • hovetwo

    “the levels of regional and social inequality in the Republic”

    The bottom 20% in the Republic are substantially better off than in Northern Ireland after transfers – free health care (thanks to medical cards), higher unemployment benefits and much higher pensions for OAPs, even allowing for differences in the cost of living.

    They also benefit from a centralised educational system that invests heavily in poorer areas, with relatively low cost access to third level education.

    It’s the squeezed middle who hit the highest marginal rates of tax much earlier than in the UK, and without the benefit of medical cards; however higher real incomes compensate for the tax hit.

    The taxpayer in the Republic pays more per capita for a health service that is a bit of a curate’s egg, with poor primary care structures putting too much pressure on A&E, but some excellent medical care elsewhere in the system and a high life expectancy.

  • Croiteir

    Mr Crawford of Michelin June 2013 – “We produce roughly 1 million Michelin truck and bus tyres that go around the world per year. We send about 40% of our products to North America; 10% to China; 5% to India; some to South America; and the balance, 42% or 43%, goes to Europe. Just to make you aware of it, only 10% of the tyres that we produce in Ballymena are sold in the UK and the Republic of Ireland, so over 90% is sold worldwide.” from Hansard

  • Croiteir

    Mr martin is making a fundamental mistake – he thinks that Stormont is a govt. It is not. It is a pie slicing council that has competing identities, agenda and ideologies grasping for its slices. It is never going to function as he thinks it should.

  • barnshee

    All aided by excessive pressure on limited resources from raising demand from unproductive members of society who depend on taxpayer funds

  • barnshee

    Greater efficiency low public sector employment absence of a welfare state work or starve

  • barnshee

    Exacerbated by pop increase without parallel increase in GDP

  • scepticacademic

    Doesn’t explain the rapid industrialisation and subsequent shift to a post-industrial knowledge-based economy. Ever heard of the 4 Asian Tigers and the ‘developmental state’ model?

  • barnshee

    See above low public sector no welfare state

  • barnshee

    Welfare applies to all

  • Greenflag 2

    Is the increase due to new immigrants or are the Papists still rabbiting ? NI’s overall reproduction rate is I believe less than the Republic’s but not by much . If they decrease it further then you will just incur even more dependency costs through fewer young people having to support an increasing elderly population .

    Ironically in the free market of red in claw capitalism that is the USA a new solution has presented itself so that the new immigrant children from Mexico and other places will not be forced to overpay for the old white farts who live to be too old .

    As a result of the economic downturn , recession and multiple other reasons the white American population between the ages of 45 and 55 decreased by some half a million in the period 1999 to 2014 . Had this population maintained it’s mortality rate as it was in 1999 this population would number half a million more in 2014 than it actually does .

    Closer analysis on the causes of this early death phenomenon reveal no surprises – drugs -debt -suicide – poor health -lack of health insurance – post traumatic stress from war – housing foreclosures -unemployment etc etc . Ironically non white populations in the same age cohort have not had their lives shortened in the same period .

    So after all the neo con hype since Thatchers /Reagan time it seems that the policy of early death for a large cohort of the population will help pay for the banksters bailouts .

  • Croiteir


  • scepticacademic

    Ok, income inequality (after taxes and transfers) for Ireland – measured by Gini coefficient – has varied up and down between 0.29 and 0.34 since the 1980s. That’s marginally lower inequality than the UK, Aus & NZ; higher than much of Western Europe; and notably higher than small Nordic countries (source: OECD). Is this a success or failure of independence?

    You didn’t comment on regional inequality. At EU NUTS III region level, Ireland’s regional GDP inequality is marginally higher than the UK and Portugal, notably higher than France and Spain; and massively higher than Netherlands and the Nordic countries (source: It has also failed to narrow over the last few decades. Northern Ireland’s position relative the the UK average and place in the regional pecking order (GDP or GVA per capita) is also largely unchanged over the same period. Is this a success or failure of independence/direct rule/devolution?

  • scepticacademic

    What do you understand by public sector? “Temasek, a holding company for SOEs in Singapore was created in 1974, when it inherited 35 companies from the finance ministry… In the four decades since, Temasek’s portfolio has both multiplied (it is now worth S$215 billion, or $172 billion) and gone forth: only 30% of its holdings remain in Singapore itself. Its domestic holdings are concentrated in what Singapore calls “government-linked companies” (GLCs), such as Singapore Airlines (of which it owns 56%) and SingTel, a telecoms company (52%)” (The Economist, 23 Nov 2013). Not exactly libertarian capitalism.

  • 23×7

    “..unproductive members of society”
    A nasty comment that says a lot about you and how you view others less fortunate than yourself.

  • barnshee

    “A nasty comment that says a lot about you and how you view others less fortunate than yourself.”

    So taxpayer funds can be expanded indefinately to provide for an ever expanding number of non contributors?

    We have had free education -of your choice– provided since 1947. Free access for all to health and social security systems . “Fortunate” then already–how much additional “Fortune” has been self generated?

  • barnshee

    Falls about laughing

    “Temasek, a holding company for SOEs in Singapore was created in 1974, when it inherited 35 companies from the finance ministry”

    Transferred out of the public sector and succeeded

    “government-linked companies” (GLCs), such as Singapore Airlines (of which it owns 56%) and SingTel, a telecoms company (52%)” (The Economist, 23 Nov 2013). Not exactly libertarian capitalist”

    So the Government owns shares in successful private companies?

  • 23×7

    The issues are that we spend our tax money on things we don’t need (trident), tax the wrong things, turn a blind eye to corporate tax evasion and expect to have Scandinavian levels of public services while we at the same time expect to pay U.S. levels of taxation. Yet you and others meanwhile choose to blame the less fortunate and weakest in society for our difficulties when in fact the money spent in benefits is only a small fraction of the national insurance bill.
    “Ever expanding number of non-contributors”? Evidence please. As far as I’m aware we have record numbers of people in work.

  • hovetwo

    You mentioned inequality in the Republic when you suggested independence was not a bed of roses. You now acknowledge that Ireland has lower levels of relative income inequality than other Anglophone countries, including the UK, precisely because of tax and transfer decisions made locally.

    Personally I don’t aspire to Nordic levels of relative equality – the biggest step towards the Nordic model would be to bring the lowest paid workers fully into the tax net – but I do care about absolute levels of poverty and social mobility.

    We all have plenty of work to do. The evidence from independent Ireland is that politicians value social cohesion enough to support the most vulnerable, and our education system has led to a massive increase in participation up to third level for many people from working class backgrounds.

    We still have a way to go to resolve regional inequality, although the most obvious fix is migration towards Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway, rather than trying to push industry into areas where the catchment of skilled workers is too small.

  • scepticacademic

    The point was about state involvement in the economy and the developmental state. If you think GLCs in emerging economies behave in the same way as private MNEs in developed market economies, and if you think Singapore’s emergence had nothing to do with the state and was attributable to laisez faire capitalism and the absence of a welfare system, then I give up.

  • Lovely Kaur
  • Lovely Kaur
  • barnshee

    “The issues are that we spend our tax money on things we don’t need (trident), tax the wrong things, turn a blind eye to corporate tax evasion and expect to have Scandinavian levels of public services while we at the same time expect to pay U.S. levels of taxation”

    The government gets– elected -governs ( or in the case of NI refuses to govern) Its a messy compromise called democracy- what you mean is

    “The issues are that we spend our tax money on things I don’t agree with””

    “Ever expanding number of non-contributors”? Evidence please. As far as I’m aware we have record numbers of people in work.”

    Record % in work record —NUMBER of claimants