Despite austerity, standards of living are evidenced as higher in Northern Ireland. Factor in cost of living, income tax rates and consumer prices and Northern Ireland, within the UK is a reason why disposable income does not go on private health, higher mortgages and rent and so forth.
Since before and after 1998 Northern Ireland has gone through massive reforms. These at times have been emotional and painful but ask yourself this – When was the last time someone speak of religious discrimination? Through fair employment legislation we have witnessed equality of opportunity without either group being displaced. The growth in a Catholic middle class has been staggering but it has not displaced their Protestant equivalent. As for housing. The social house building programme in Northern Ireland, since the 1970s, is recognised globally as staggering. Funded and paid for by British taxpayers.
Add in power-sharing and then ask is Northern Ireland not a better place? Indeed it is, despite structural issues, but somewhat staggeringly many of the beneficiaries of that success, such a fair employment and social mobility, want the place to be abandoned in favour of a leap into the dark of a united Ireland.
Many who are pro-unity, wish to represent Northern Ireland as conflicted and failing which is somewhat ironic as their leadership has helped frame a more agreed place in which to live. What was the point of all that reform and social mobility over 50 years if we simply say no to making Northern Ireland work better?
So, as we go through this paper let us consider some facts. In terms of security there has been a very significant and continuing de-militarisation and policing reform impacts.
- In 1997 the membership of locally recruited security forces was 20458 today it is 7820 and since 1990 Catholic membership of the police has grown from a mere 7.7% to 32.1%
- In 1972 nearly 5000 sustained conflict related injuries this fell last year to less than 100.
- In 1972 1313 firearms were seized compared to 36 last year
- Between 1972 and 2019 the capture of explosive dropped from 18819kgs to 1.1kgs, shooting incidents fell from 10631 to 41 in 2019 and deaths from 480 to 3
- Since 2009 Catholic and Protestant confidence in the PSNI has grown from 55 to 73% and 57 to 76% respectively
We are told Northern Ireland is an economic backwater. Is that correct?
- In 1999 the median weekly wage was £310 today it is £534 which is a growth of 72%.
- In 1997 585,458 people of working age were in employment compared to 839,000 today.
- That 43% increase in employment has seen the rate of unemployment fall from 8% in 1998 to 2.5% in 2020.
- While London has the highest start-up rate in the country, it is entrepreneurs in Northern Ireland who are the most likely to reach £1m turnover within three years
- Belfast is in the top 10 tech cities of the future ahead of Madrid, Frankfurt, Zurich, Milan and Cambridge
- Belfast is ranked fifth best mid-sized ‘European cities of the future'; and third for economic potential, behind only Zurich and Edinburgh
- Northern Ireland has the highest-achieving primary school pupils in Europe in major international tests in maths. It is also the sixth best at maths in the world
In the world of cynicism we are told:
- Power-sharing is not popular – wrong! Of those who express an opinion 83% support power-sharing
- One community is more supportive of marriage equality - wrong! In fact over 60% of Protestants and Catholics, who state an opinion, support marriage equality
- The communities always disagree- wrong. The majority of both Catholics and Protestants aged under 40, some 72%, would not mind if a close relative was to marry someone from a different religion
- All the communities think about are constitutional issues- wrong! People are 20 times more likely to think about jobs, education, health and welfare than they are about constitutional issues.
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