government's recent announcement of a £30
million investment package to tackle deprivation
in loyalist areas will no doubt give rise to a flurry
Is this merely a thinly-disguised bribe to buy off
the DUP and loyalist paramilitaries; what happened
to previous "peace" monies directed to
these areas; what safeguards are to be put in place
to ensure the money is properly used; and might
such a lopsided financial intervention fall on the
wrong side of equality legislation?
can rest assured, that these and related points
of contention will keep our politicians occupied
for months on end as each argues the toss from his
or her own self-serving angle.
even surer bet, though, is that the same politicians
will avoid like the plague any public debate on
the wider and infinitely more important subject
of the current diabolical state of the Northern
particular, the part such extraordinary government
subventions and other "peace monies" have
played in bringing us to this juncture and, critically,
what is likely to happen when the handouts come
to an end. It is well nigh impossible to ascertain
exactly how much, over and above normal central
government subventions, has been pumped into Northern
Ireland from a variety of well-meaning sources since
the ceasefires of 1994.
European Union, alone, has given something in the
region of £1.5 billion.
together, the British and Irish governments and
the US administrations of Clinton and Bush have
easily outmatched that with their own massive financial
Australian and Canadian administrations are amongst
other governments to have contributed. An untold
number of US corporations and wealthy philanthropic
individuals - such as Chuck Feeney and the late
Tom Tracey - have also pumped large amounts of money
into Northern Ireland.
estimates range between £4 and £6 billion
having been donated to a region with a population
of less than 2 million people.
there is little or no tangible evidence of that
money ever having been here.
has been dispersed with little or no regard for
monitoring where it has actually gone; no real concern
shown for how the bulk of it has been used; or any
attempt made to measure what, if any, has been the
have been created, certainly.
virtually all are connected in some way or another
to community-related organisations that have been
created by, and are completely dependent upon, EU
and other funding.
estimate has it that 30,000 people derive an income
from some 4,500 such groups in Northern Ireland.
community groups generate no wealth of their own
and can never hope to be self-sustaining, so the
attendant jobs will disappear like snow off a ditch
whenever, as is inevitable, the inflow of peace
public sector employment currently sits at a massive
30 per cent of total employment here, gives some
indication of how minimal the current level of wealth
creation is in Northern Ireland.
the prospects for attracting inward investment are
greatly reduced, if not completely stymied, by far
better rates of tax available in the neighbouring
Republic of Ireland, with whom we are in direct
it is into that depressed market that an extra 30,000
newly unemployed people are going to be tossed at
some time in the not too distant future.
largely unforeseen, by-product of years of peace
funding is that entrepreneurialism has been all
but stifled in Northern Ireland.
has been little incentive to gamble on an idea or
a product when such easy money is at hand, and even
less when personal outlay or profit does not form
part of the equation for many of those with whom
you will have to compete.
is not as though, either, any of this money has
been used to the benefit of vital services and infrastructure
in Northern Ireland.
varying degrees, water, sewerage, roads, rail, education
and health-care all remain in need of massive investment
to bring them up to scratch (a fact not unrelated,
I feel, to the unwillingness of our politicians
to reinstate the Stormont executive).
countless millions of pounds have been, and still
are, readily available for pumping into a multitude
of dubious schemes, the much-needed overhaul of
essential services has been ignored.
the greatest long-term damage done to Northern Ireland
by all of this largesse has been to the internal
psyche of the place.
dependency culture of the worst kind has developed,
where even the tiniest of life's irritations demands
massive government funding to resolve.
are like nothing so much as a self-obsessed, overindulged,
spoilt child, accustomed to every whim and demand
the river of peace money stops flowing, we will
have an awful lot of painful growing up to do -