Thursday, September 15, 2005

Loyalist deprivation claim refuted

Ciarán Barnes:

Official statistics have blown a hole in unionist claims that weak community infrastructure and a lack of funding are contributory factors behind recent loyalist rioting.

Nationalist politicians have accused unionists of using the deprivation claims as an excuse for the three days of loyalist violence, which has resulted in 63 arrests.

Ulster Unionist Party leader Reg Empey yesterday said recent loyalist rioting was “much more deep-seated than many are prepared to accept”.

He claimed that loyalist communities were “now suffering more deprivation, more educational underachievement and greater unemployment than ever before”.

Democratic Unionist Party assembly member Diane Dodds accused the British government of neglecting those areas where the violence had been most intense.

Reports commissioned by the Department for Social Development, the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister and other government agencies reveal that Catholic areas suffer greater deprivation than their Protestant neighbours.

The department’s research was carried out last year by Deloitte MCS. It found that Catholics are much more likely than Protestants to live in areas with weak community infrastructure.

Catholics make up 57 per cent of the population of such areas even though they account for just 44 per cent of the North’s population.

Protestants comprise 41 per cent of residents in areas with weak infrastructure but make up 53 per cent of the North’s overall population.

British government statistics have consistently demonstrated that Catholics, particularly Catholic women, are at least twice as likely as Protestants to suffer unemployment.

That statistic remains virtually unchanged despite three decades of various anti-discrimination laws.

According to the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, Catholic children are also more likely to have jobless parents, gain no qualifications, suffer long-term unemployment and earn less.

These findings cast serious doubt on unionist claims that social and economic problems contribute to loyalist violence, especially when the findings are combined with the Noble Index of Deprivation, which confirms that the majority of deprived areas in the North are Catholic.

Alban Maginness of the SDLP questioned the response of unionist political representatives to deprivation in loyalist areas.

“If they are so deprived and unionists are aware of this, what have they done about it and why has it not been raised and tackled before as a matter of urgency?

“This is an issue used as an excuse to cover the very serious violence that has taken place recently.”

Mitchel McLaughlin of Sinn Féin said disadvantage had to be tackled on the basis of need.

“Any other approach, particularly based on religious or sectarian criteria, would be a serious mistake and can only compound inequality,” said the Foyle assembly member.

Despite nationalist doubts, Belfast North Ulster Unionist Party assembly member Fred Cobain maintained that underfunding and weak community infrastructure were contributory factors behind loyalist violence.

He admitted that nationalists faced the same problems as unionists but said nothing was being done to help the people he represented.

“It’s the British government’s fault. They have ignored the issues facing working-class loyalist communities and tried to tackle the symptoms rather than the causes.

“There is not enough funding, no employment and education strategies and, when you combine this with concessions to republicans such as the release of Seán Kelly, Protestants feel disenchanted.

“Of course, nationalists suffer from a lack of funding and resources. What I’m saying is that unionists have the same problems too,” said Mr Cobain.


Census Population Stats - Cath 44 per cent, Protestants 53 per cent

Equality Commission Employment Stats - Cath 41 per cent, Protestants 58 per cent

DSD Weak Community Infrastructure - Cath 57 per cent, Protestants 41 per cent.

Noble Index of Deprivation - Two thirds of those in top 20 deprived wards in North are Catholic.

Source: ‘Indicators of Social Need for NI’, OFMDFM, September 2004

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