Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Hain was simply stating the truth

Daily Ireland:

The hapless Peter Hain finds himself under fire again from the DUP for restating the old Charlie Haughey dictum that Northern Ireland is a failed entity.

Ian Paisley now demands the Secretary of State’s head on a platter for his unguarded comments to the Irish Echo in New York — despite the fact that Mr Hain has behaved in an insufferably unctuous manner to the DUP boss since his arrival here.

Peter Hain doesn’t do “tough” very well but in recent weeks he has been posing as as the heavy sent in by Tony Blair to knock some heads together. Thus, he warns, water rates are on the way, quangos will be quashed, schools shuttered and Assembly wages stopped unless the parties in the North can make common cause in a new Executive.

Unfortunately, his jellyfish approach to the DUP and a series of botched decisions — the imprisonment of Seán Kelly being the most notable — mean that it’s hard to take him seriously.

A prisoner of his civil service, Mr Hain parrots lines fed to him by NIO “lifers” who pine for the good old days when their writ ran without interference from the natives.

When, occasionally, he gets it right — as he did in New York — he immediately beats a retreat. Not a word in his defence has he uttered since that Irish Echo interview was printed. That’s unfortunate because when Secretary of State Hain says that the economy of the six counties is “not sustainable in the long term”, he’s using the kindest terms possible to describe a basket case economic model.

The solution to the economic woes of the North are to be found — as Mr Hain states — in greater harmonisation with the Republic.

“In future decades, it is going to be increasingly difficult to look at the economy of north and south except as a sort of island economy,” he says.

At senior levels of the civil service and within the ranks of the DUP that hard truth may be unpalatable but the failure of the economic agencies in the North to attract foreign direct investment projects underlines the need for the six counties to piggyback on the phenomenal economic success south of the Border.

Third World roads, high corporate taxes compared with the rest of the island, and the use of sterling rather than the euro, all combine to make the North an unattractive option for investors. More co-operation between the faltering Invest NI and its powerhouse peers in the Republic is now a necessity if the six counties is not to slip even further behind the rest of the country in the economic stakes.

Of course, the other barrier to investment is the failure of the British government to guarantee equality of opportunity to all the citizens of the North. Angry accusations of “geo-sectarian discrimination” by the SDLP over the refusal of the British government to site job projects west of the Bann will give potential investors pause for thought.

And the fact that much of Mr Hain’s interview with the Irish Echo was taken up with his limp defence of the ban on government job ads from Daily Ireland suggests that not all Irish-Americans, who more than any other group secured stiff anti-bias workplace laws in the North, believe the discriminating leopard has changed its spots!

Hain stated the obvious


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