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22 October 1998 Edition

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Appointment of Gudgin threatens equality

By Ned Kelly

David Trimble's appointment of Graham Gudgin as his personal economic advisor could pose a serious threat to the ability of the Assembly to deliver on the equality agenda, according to Sinn Fein economic spokesperson Dara O'Hagan.

O'Hagan said, ``it is of concern that Trimble will be listening to the analysis of Gudgin who has cited low emigration and high birth rates as the reason for Catholic unemployment remaining significantly higher than Protestant unemployment.''

In a book to be published later in the year Gudgin claims that the high levels of discrimination in the NIO were due to Catholics preferring second-class citizenship to working for the British government and that the demands of the civil rights movement in the 1960s and 1970s were ``greatly exaggerated''.

Gudgin also claims that allegations of housing discrimination were bogus and used ``as a stick to beat unionism''.

In a chapter on housing and job discrimination Gudgin argues that, as the position of Catholics has not changed between the early 1970s and 1990s the claims of discrimination are unjustified. He writes, ``much of the current nationalist politics is built around an equality agenda and it is clear that the past must be revisited as a guide to the present.''

Gudgin is no stranger to controversy. As director of the Northern Ireland Economic Research Council (NIERC) he has implicitly challenged the need for the Good Friday Agreement and alleged that the need for power-sharing arrangements are based on mistaken beliefs that the old Stormont regime was unjust and that Protestants couldn't be trusted.

The NIERC has itself been shrouded in controversy. Set up in the mid 1980s with British government funds, the NIERC then lost its funding after 8 years because of its failure to produce high quality research. Queen's University then rescued the organisation with an £80,000 per year grant .

Speaking to An Phoblacht in 1993 after the release of a report authored by Gudgin on unemployment differentials claiming that the entire net increase in jobs between 1971-91 in the north had gone to Catholics, one Queen's insider said, ``NIERC's questionable academic standing and the politically divisive nature of its work mean Queen's can only suffer a net loss both financially and academically.''

The then Chancellor of Queen's University, Sir Gordon Beveridge was a member of the NIREC management committee.

The report was branded as ``racist'' at the time and highlights the attitude running through unionism; that the injustice, discrimination and brutality inflicted on the nationalist population by the unionist state is nothing more than a fiction.

Gudgin, a member of the hard-line unionist Cadogan group has also found funds from numerous NIO departments via a string of substantial assessment and research contracts, whose details have often remained unpublished.

A 3-year deal worth 360,000 between the Department of Economic Development and the NIERC highlighted in the `Growing Faster Through Research' document was intended to put NIERC in a position ``by the year 2001'' to make an effective contribution to developing economic policy in the Six Counties.

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