2 June 2005 Edition

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Catholics still twice as likely to be unemployed

In the Six Counties, Catholic women are three-and-a-half times more likely to be unemployed than their Protestant counterparts, while Catholics in general, remain twice as likely to be unemployed. These shocking statistics have been drawn from the British Government's latest Labour Force Survey report. The report was released this week by the government's own Statistics and Research agency and was prepared by Oxford University professor Michael Noble.

The facts expose the failure of decades of fair employment legislation and promises by the British Government to tackle inequality and deprivation in the Six Counties. Despite the introduction of successive fair employment laws, introduced in 1976, 1989, 1991 and 1998, the unemployment differential between Catholics and Protestants has remained virtually the same.

For over three decades, the unemployment differential has been viewed as a measure of inequality in the Six Counties by exposing the operation of sectarian discrimination in employment. Commenting on the report Sinn Féin's Caitríona Ruane said the new figures show the failure of the British Government to eradicate deprivation and inequality.

"This report shows that, despite statutory commitments contained in the Good Friday Agreement to tackle social, economic and cultural deprivation and poverty, little has changed in terms of where the concentrations of multiple disadvantage remain in the North," said Ruane.

According to Noble, West Belfast has the highest proportion of people living in deprivation of any parliamentary constituency in the North. Other areas suffering from the high levels of deprivation are also predominantly nationalist and include North Belfast, Foyle and West Tyrone.

In sharp contrast, prosperous areas are predominantly unionist and include North Down, Strangford, Lagan Valley and South Antrim. These areas have the lowest proportion of people living in deprivation.

The most deprived electoral wards are all within West Belfast and include, Whiterock, Shankill and Falls. In Derry, Creggan Central and Brandywell are also highlighted as suffering high levels of deprivation.

Noble uses a range of separate indicators within seven categories, including income, employment, health and disability, education and training, services, environment and crime.

"West and North Belfast, Derry city, Craigavon and west of the Bann continue to be the most deprived parts of the Six Counties," said Ruane. "It is no surprise that these areas are by and large nationalist areas.

"These figures clearly show the serious divergence that exists between policy and achieving equality. In the negotiations prior to Christmas, Sinn Féin sought to reach agreement on a new peace dividend to specifically support such action," said Ruane.

"Sinn Féin will be challenging direct rule ministers and calling on them to address the failure to effectively implement policy to target and eradicate disadvantage, discrimination and poverty."

The figures were released ahead of a major conference on equality that took place in Belfast this week. The conference was addressed by Alan Hevesi, the financial controller for New York state. Hevesi is well known as a campaigner for fair employment in the north of Ireland and a longtime supporter of the MacBride Principles.

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