Peace brings no dividend to the poorest in the North
Opinion: When it comes to community morale, Catholics doing better than Protestants
Adam Tinson of the NPI pointed out at the launch on Tuesday that the shift in relative incomes is not just a matter of measuring movements of the median. Incomes across the range have declined in the North, and at a faster rate than in the UK as a whole.
The incomes of the bottom fifth in the North were, somewhat surprisingly, higher than those in the equivalent band in the UK as a whole in 2006/2007. Now they are lower.
The stark reality behind this flurry of statistics – and there are more – is that the promises of “a better life for all” consequent on a “peace dividend” have not materialised – despite globe-trotting ministerial missions to, last year alone, the US, Canada, Australia, China and other lands of advertised investment potential.
The fact that the relatively poor have done less well from the settlement than the relatively rich has to be seen in the context of poor areas having borne the brunt of the Troubles and on that ground alone might be said to have earned the major share of the promised bonanza. The opposite has happened.
What benefits the agreement has brought have had to do with the morale of communities rather than money in family coffers. And on this score – the loyalists are right – the Catholics have done better than the Protestants. It is even reported that Larne Catholics are holding their heads up these days.
Naught for your comfort
But irrespective of religion, if you are a school-leaver, particularly if you have left school without star grades, you will find naught for your comfort in the prospect ahead.
If you are a teenager or in your 20s on the Falls or the Shankill, the Brandywell or the village of Newbuildings outside Derry, you might react with something approaching rage when you are told again to settle down, don’t cause trouble, don’t undermine the peace.
If you do behave disruptively, expect to be denounced as a dissident or a thug by the element who appear to have done very well from the Belfast Agreement and who are presented on television every time you turn it on as the heroes of the hour who by hard work and moving on have set the world to rights for you.