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Northern Ireland’s economy is stuck between two successful models which it cannot emulate. It is stuck between a hub and a large place.

To the South, is the Republic of Ireland, long a base for multinationals with its low corporation tax. To the north, and the East, is the British mainland.

Sharing the geographical island of Ireland, it is politically not a part of the larger Republic. It cannot therefore reap the benefits of the Republic’s lucrative setup. Politically part of the UK, yet detached from it geographically, it is disconnected from the UK’s economic mainstays of services and finance. Northern Ireland therefore finds itself sandwiched between these two successful economies.

Considered by many then, an economic laggard, the region runs a fiscal deficit with Westminster of £9.6 Billion - equivalent to a third of the region’s output and has the highest public spending per person in the UK. Northern Ireland has among the lowest regional GDP per capita in the UK. By most indicators, it also has among the lowest Regional Gross Value Added. (This is in part a productivity indicator - the increase in the value of the economy due to the production of goods and services) at 3 geographical levels (region, sub-region and local area). Notoriously relaxed, the civil service remains large and bloated; roughly one in three jobs are in the public sector. Although the province has largely moved on from its bleak past, it could still do better. A re-design is in order.

Frequently, the Stormont administration comes under fire from Westminster for its dependence, specifically its overly large welfare bills. As stated by Esmond Birnie, ‘If a friend or family is always on hand to bail you out, will you ever learn to make responsible decisions?’ Although the province is frequently deemed politically immature, its small size, and inability to take advantage of the dynamism and independence of its two neighbouring systems leaves it with few other options: Its propping up is a matter of necessity rather than solely incompetence. Its underperformance is a lot to do with its geography and politics. That countless Northern Irish professionals reside elsewhere evidence these realities. The London to Belfast flight route on Friday evenings fills planes of white collar workers coming home for the weekend. Such high demand often pushes ticket prices as high as £300 return.

This was not always the case. Some state that ‘the province’ has previously enjoyed glory days of economic activity – the Victorian period. That Belfast was the linen capital of the world by the late 19th century, together with the success of the shipyard and shipbuilding industries around the same period, positioned Belfast as a one of the great industrial cities of the British Empire. The 1950s saw a decline of the shipbuilding industry and Belfast has lost its heavy industrial bases. Decades of intense civil conflict stifled progress of any kind, only ending formally in 1998.

That said, the peace process seems largely to be holding. Record numbers of people have close relations on either side of the divide. Increasingly at ease with itself - the province boasts a unique blend of British and Irish culture. Spend the morning watching a Gaelic football match in West Belfast. Spend the afternoon in the gardens of the splendid 19th century Mount Stewart, built for the Marquess of Londonderry, on the edges of Strangford Lough. Its neo-classical columns and fine gardens typify the stunning houses of Ulster’s Landed classes.

There are genuine prospects for the province. How it is beginning to re-engineer its economy will be looked at in the next article.

 

Sean McLaughlin

sm2182@live.com

https://st-andrews.academia.edu/seanmclaughlin

 

The UK’s North West needs a new edge

Northern Ireland’s economy is stuck between two successful models which it cannot emulate. It is stuck between a hub and a large place.

Anna McAleavy, Chair of the Labour Party in Northern Ireland Constituency Labour Party, has announced that at a packed general members’ meeting in the Wellington Park yesterday morning (Saturday 13 August) the CLP voted overwhelmingly in favour of nominating Jeremy Corbyn MP as leader in the forthcoming leadership election.

Ms McAleavy said ‘The debate yesterday morning was both frank and friendly.  When it came to a vote the figures speak for themselves. 121 of those eligible to vote backed Jeremy Corbyn as leader, 33 thought that the CLP should remain neutral, and only 14 voted in favour of Owen Smith MP.

‘We will be in touch with the UK Labour Party to inform them of this vote.’

Ms McAleavy added ‘Although the overwhelming majority of members present voted in favour of supporting Jeremy, it is important to note that each of the over 3,000 members of the NI CLP party have an individual vote, which of course they are free to cast as they wish.

‘Yesterday’s meeting marked a milestone in the development of LPNI, and I am proud that the debate was conducted in such a collegiate atmosphere.’

Press Release from Labour Party in Northern Ireland CLP 14.08.2016

Anna McAleavy, Chair of the Labour Party in Northern Ireland Constituency Labour Party, has announced that at a packed general members’ meeting in the Wellington Park yesterday morning (Saturday 13...

The Hands Off Our Libraries campaign, which the Labour Party participated in, is celebrating victory today after Minister for Communities Paul Givan announced that extra funds have been found to prevent cuts to opening hours at fourteen branches, including Lisburn.

The campaign organised a day of action on Saturday 25th June, supported by Unite the Union, which saw protests and campaigning at all the libraries under threat. The campaign also picketed Minister Givan's constituency office in Lisburn and delivered thousands of petitions against the cuts to the Department of Communities.

Executive member of the Labour Party NI Peter Dynes said:

"This is a significant U-turn on the part of the Minister, under pressure from community activism. We have halted the 'death by a thousand cuts' to which our libraries have been subjected by successive administrations, both at Stormont and Westminster. We can't be complacent going forward, but this is an important victory for the communities which would have been effected by further cuts to these vital services."

"Like the recent reversal of plans to close day centres for people with mental health problems and learning difficulties in Belfast, this is an excellent example of what can be achieved when people organise to resist cuts, alongside the trade union movement. This victory should give confidence to communities and to working people that it is possible to resist austerity and demand that people's needs are put before the profits of the bankers and big business."

END

For further comment, contact Peter on 07512342838

 

Pictures:

Library_Protest_Outside_Belfast_1.jpg

Day of Action, 25th June 2016 in Belfast

 

LisburnLibraryProtest_1.jpg

Picket of Minister Givan's constituency office in Lisburn

 

Libraries Campaign Welcomes Minister's 'U-Turn' on Cuts

The Hands Off Our Libraries campaign, which the Labour Party participated in, is celebrating victory today after Minister for Communities Paul Givan announced that extra funds have been found to...

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