13 October 2005 Edition
Tackling deprivation or cynical political manoeuvring
In May 2005, the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) published its latest study locating deprivation in the North of Ireland According to the findings, no less than 70% of residents living in the 10% most deprived neighbourhoods identified are Catholic. Furthermore, 72 of the 100 most deprived neighbourhoods in the North of Ireland are predominantly or overwhelmingly nationalist. Indeed, 36 of the 50 most deprived neighbourhoods are predominantly or overwhelmingly nationalist.
The import of these findings in the current political climate is to expose the fallacy of the claims being made by unionist politicians that the Protestant, unionist community is predominantly suffering in terms of deprivation.
The figures reveal real deprivation in many unionist areas- particularly North and West Belfast. However, the findings can only be interpreted as once again confirming that nationalist districts pre-dominate the deprivation rankings, a fact that should heavily mitigate against the British Government launching a discriminatory investment programme as suggested by many unionist leaders in recent days.
With this in mind, it is particularly interesting to hear that the British Government have appointed a Minister (David Hanson) with the new brief of exclusively liaising with unionist civic, community and political leaders in anticipation‚ of the arrival of investment packages for loyalist communities. This follows news that the British Government has actively encouraged European Union funding to be directed towards the Orange Order.
Both developments would appear to give credence to the view that the British Government are seeking to meet the DUP demand of skewing public funding criteria away from areas of need and disproportionately towards unionist groups and communities.
Tackling poverty and deprivation requires a genuine, comprehensive and sustained approach by government in partnership with local communities. The type of cynical political manoeuvring we have witnessed in recent weeks will do little to reassure many in the community that this government is serious about tackling deprivation wherever it exists.
I am surely not the only one who has noticed the irony of the Sunday Independent's campaign against the arrival of Associated Newspapers in the form of an Irish edition of the Daily Mail. One accusation against the Daily Mail: "The paper labelled Ireland's national heroes as murderers and accused them of killing unarmed British soldiers," applies equally to Independent Newspapers, which is supposed to be an Irish newspaper.
The Daily Mail is not being attacked because of its Anti-Irishness, considering the Sunday Independent's patronising attitude to all forms of Irish language, culture and nationalist politics it's an amusing idea, but because it is a rival to that newspaper in the search for the right-wing, conservative, anti-republican readership.
The lesson for republicans however, is simply a reminder that while our media is composed of many voices, and with the arrival of the Daily Mail will have one more, the consistent and sustained anti-republican message is much the same regardless of whether it's an English Daily Mail writer or the colonialised mindset of a Sunday Independent scribbler.