1 May, 1995
Originally produced for the Washington
Conference on Trade and Investment in Ireland
Foreward: An End To Discrimination
Building the Economy - Building the Peace
Building the Economy - Building the Peace: A Summary
From its inception the unionist Six-County state implemented a system of economic apartheid of which working class nationalists were the principal victims. Apart from the denial of basic civil rights nationalists were for over 50 years systematically excluded by the unionist administration in the areas of employment, housing and electoral rights.
In 1969 the then British Prime Minister Harold Wilson promised that ``Every citizen of Northern Ireland is entitled to the same equality of treatment and freedom from discrimination.'' However the 23 years since the imposition of direct rule by the British Government has seen a series of ill planned, and inadequate attempts to implement legislation aimed at redressing employment discrimination. All these attempts have ended in failure and Catholics in the Six Counties are still 2.2 times more likely to be unemployed than Protestants after over 20 years of so-called ``fair employment'' legislation.
Today in the 1990s the level of economic discrimination remains at unacceptably high levels.
In September 1992, a leaked document from the British Department of Economic Development stated that ``On all major social and economic indicators Catholics are worse off than Protestants.''
A 1994 Family Expenditure Survey showed that average gross weekly income for Protestants was 17% higher than the average income for Catholic households. 29% of Catholic households derived their total income from social welfare payments compared with 17% of Protestant households.
In 1994 fair employment cases by Catholics were vindicated against state health boards, local councils and Queen's University. In December 1994, Bob Cooper, chairperson of the British Fair Employment Commission admitted that 60% of the Six Counties long-term unemployed are Catholics.
Sinn Fein proposes:
Sinn Fein does not believe that the complete eradication of discrimination can be achieved within the confines of the Six County state or under the auspices of the British government. Nevertheless, the responsibility to tackle this historic and structural problem lies with the British Government as creator of the Six County state.
Sinn Fein believes that the ultimate criterion of any legislation is the actual effect of its implementation, it must lead to an end of sectarian discrimination in employment within tangible time scales.
This executive summary presents the key points from Sinn Fein's more extensive and detailed accompanying document produced for President Clinton's Washington conference on trade and investment in Ireland.
The promotion of economic and social development in Ireland is a key and integral part of the peace process. In this context, Sinn Fein welcomes the new opportunities for the US government and private industry to make a real contribution to the regeneration of the Irish economy, particularly the Six Counties in the North of Ireland and the border counties. It is clear that economic development underpins the peace process and can help to consolidate agreement on political structures in Ireland. By furthering development and tackling the deep-rooted economic problems of these areas, the US government and industry can help in a significant way to cement a just and lasting peace in Ireland.
Sinn Fein's overall objectives for economic policy in Ireland are:
These objectives can be achieved by the development of indigenous Irish Industry; the promotion of inward investment that links in a positive way with the indigenous economy; a commitment to education and training; investment in research and technological development; mutually reinforcing private and public sector activity; extensive workplace participation and democracy; the creation of genuine equality of opportunity for all; and the development of environmentally friendly economic activity.
Sinn Fein believes that these objectives can be achieved by:
It is widely recognized that the Irish economy, particularly in the northern six counties and the border region, suffers from a range of economic and social problems. The range and depth of these problems can be seen by a number of indicators:
The specific problems facing local areas differ significantly and require quite different solutions and approaches. This fits with Sinn Fein's belief in a bottom-up approach to economic and social development, rather than the undemocratic top-down approaches pursued to date. The areas highlighted here are the inner-city areas of Belfast and Derry; rural areas; and the border region.
Inner-city areas share similar problems in terms of economic and social underdevelopment and disadvantage. Unemployment rates are generally 30% if not higher, household incomes are very low (over a third in West Belfast, for example, have an annual income less than £4,000 ($6,400), long-term illness is rife, housing is overcrowded and only a small proportion of households have access to a car.
Sinn Fein has put together a range of proposals for these areas that would start to regenerated the local economies and provide much-needed jobs with priority status being given to areas of greatest need. These include innovative projects such as a jobs task force, Irish language economic development, job creation in the social economy, community-led economic development and enterprise, and the preparation of areas and communities for inward investment.
The overall incidence of urban deprivation is greatest in nationalist areas. However, there are a number of unionist inner-city areas in the Six Counties that suffer many of the same economic and social problems as nationalist communities-- endemic unemployment, a severe lack of employment opportunities and deep levels of deprivation and poverty. Urgent attention and substantial resources needs to be directed towards these areas and communities if their problems are to be alleviated. The promotion and development of cross-community projects would be particularly beneficial in this respect where they are geographically appropriate.
Rural areas throughout Ireland have a long history of political and economic marginalisation, reflected in unemployment, underemployment, low incomes, high emigration (both to urban areas within Ireland and places outside), seasonal work and poor access to health and social services. In nationalist areas there is a high dependence on small-scale agriculture on poor land, low farm incomes and an exodus from the land.
Sinn Fein believes that a number of policies should be pursued including: An integrated strategy for rural development; agricultural diversification; improved transport infrastructure; sustainable tourism; and the development of a rural investment bank.
As a result of partition, the border region in Ireland is stuck between two jurisdictions and all the economic, political and social distortions that this creates. Importantly, communities along the border have to live with the crippling impact of militarisation on economic life--the high incidence of British army military fortifications and numerous border road closures.
Sinn Fein has proposed a number of initiatives to resolve the specific problems of the border areas including the development of industry in food processing, tourism and information technology and the creation of a Border Development Commission. The latter body would help to reverse the peripheralisation of the region and build on and give strategic direction to the range of cross-border economic and social initiatives that are already taking place.
Fundamental and sweeping institutional change is required to the way in which economic policy is implemented in Ireland. If this does not occur then the kind of economic and social development that we aspire to will simply not take place.
The economic, political, social, environmental and cultural aspects of economic development in Ireland are inextricably linked and must be viewed as mutually reinforcing if genuine benefits for all the people of Ireland are to be realised.
Sinn Fein's ultimate objective is to build a new, prosperous and dynamic 32-County Ireland that takes us away from partition, division, domination, discrimination, disadvantage, economic failure and injustice. These are the failed ways of the past. This new Ireland will be based on:
Sinn Fein views the promotion of economic and social development in Ireland as a key and integral part of the peace process. In this context, Sinn Fein welcomes the initiative by President Clinton to hold a conference on trade and investment in Ireland and the opportunities it raises for the US government and private industry to make a real contribution to the regeneration of the Irish economy, particularly the six counties in the north of Ireland and the border region. It is clear that economic development underpins the peace process and can help to consolidate agreement on political structures in Ireland. By furthering development and tackling the deep-rooted economic problems of these areas, the US government and industry can help in a significant way to cement a just and lasting peace in Ireland.
Sinn Fein's overall objectives for economic policy in Ireland are:
In essence, Sinn Fein's vision is of a society that grants economic justice to all its people. Everyone, irrespective of their background, should be able to gain meaningful, well-paid, long-term employment in jobs that provide genuine security and fair conditions. Everyone should have a meaningful role to play in the economy, particularly at the local level.
These objectives will only be achieved by eliminating unemployment and poverty, developing more fully the industrial base and generating higher levels of income and wealth for the benefit of all the people in Ireland. In this context, Sinn Fein attaches particular importance to the generation of sustainable growth; the need for mutually reinforcing private and public sector activity in the economy; the provision of education and training for all the workforce; the need for extensive workplace participation and democracy; the creation of genuine equality of opportunity for all; and the development of environmentally friendly economic activity.
Sinn Fein's overall strategic approach to the economy encompasses:
It is widely recognised that the Irish economy, particularly in the northern six counties and the border region, suffers from a range of economic and social problems. The range and depth of these problems can be seen by a number of indicators:
The reasons for such poor economic performance over a sustained period of time are, of course, complex. From Sinn Fein's point of view, it is necessary to look at the political and economic history of Ireland and, in particular, the colonial and oppressive nature of British rule, to explain such deep economic underdevelopment. While it was in the interests of Britain to develop the industrial base in the north of Ireland (centred in the main quite narrowly around Belfast) in the nineteenth century with shipbuilding, textiles and heavy engineering, and at the expense of the rest of Ireland, this did not continue after partition in 1921. The economic history of the six counties has never been anything but one of failure and underdevelopment.
Partition itself was an important debilitating factor in the way it artificially divided the Irish economy, compounding a state of underdevelopment in what was already an economy lacking coherence and integration. This effect was, of course, felt particularly badly in the border counties--a situation that continues to this day. On top of this was added the openly sectarian nature of the six county state itself that systematically discriminated against and disadvantaged the nationalist population. More recently in the last twenty-five years, political and military resistance to British rule and oppression has debilitated the economy to a significant effect. In this historical context. It is difficult to imagine an economic situation less conducive to economic and social development. The political and economic legacy of colonialism, partition, systematic discrimination and political and military conflict has still to be overcome. Yet, if economic and social development is to occur then it will only be achieved if that legacy is tackled.
In order to get a full understanding of the depth of the economic and social problems in the six counties and the border region, it is necessary to focus in on specific nationalist areas. This is because the nature of the problems facing these areas differ significantly and therefore require quite different solutions and approaches.
The specific problems of nationalist areas can be usefully grouped together into the inner city areas of Belfast and Derry rural areas, particularly those west of the river Bann; and the border region stretching from Derry and Donegal to Newry and Dundalk. It is Sinn Fein's view that it is community groups and activists working on the ground in these areas that best know the problems and our ideas for regeneration draw on some of their proposals. In this report Sinn Fein believes in a bottom-up approach to economic and social development, rather than the undemocratic top-down approaches pursued by the British and Dublin governments.
Inner city areas in the six counties share similar problems in terms of economic and special underdevelopment and disadvantage. In west Belfast, for example, an area comprising around 100,000 people, there is an unemployment rate of 30 per cent with less than 40 percent of the population aged 16 and over actually in employment (in some electoral wards the proportion with jobs is as low as 25 percent). The area needs almost 4,000 jobs just to bring its jobless rate down to the city average which itself is high by any standards. In some electoral wards over a third of the households have an annual income of less than £4,000 ($6,400), while only one in twenty households have an income of £15,000 ($24,000) or more. In terms of social and other indicators, west Belfast has the highest infant mortality rate in the six counties (11.9 per thousand), one in seven of the population suffer from long-term illness, almost 60 percent live in rented housing (mainly publicly owned) and two-thirds of households do not own a car.
The extent of economic underdevelopment and deprivation in the area is to a large extent the consequence of government policy that has systematically discriminated against nationalist communities. This can be seen from the relative absence of new investment from outside and abroad; political vetting by government to prevent job creation projects, such as in the Conway Mill educational and industrial complex; and the occupation by the British army of the 13 acre Whiterock industrial estate. The British government has continually refused to deal directly with elected Sinn Fein representatives on these matters. Derry city suffers from similar economic and social problems both in terms of level and intensity, with unemployment rates of over 40 percent in the nationalist areas of Brandywell, Creggan, St. Peter's and Shantallow. Other indicators of material deprivation are also experienced in these local areas in Derry seen in overcrowded housing, lack of access to cars and low levels of owner occupation. These factors are mutually reinforcing leading to low levels of incomes, little access to savings or credit, poor quality housing and a high incidence of illness.
In consultation with community groups in these inner city areas, Sinn Fein has put together a range of proposals that would start to regenerate the local economies and provide much needed jobs. In the period since the declaration of the IRA ceasefire, there has been a huge upsurge in creativity, imagination and energy in nationalist communities showing that they are equal to the mammoth economic and social task that confronts them.
In west Belfast, covering areas such as Divis, the Falls, Twinbrook, Ballymurphy, Andersonstown and Poleglass, north Belfast, including Ardoyne and New Lodge, and in Derry city, in particular Shantallow, Brandywell and Creggan, a host of proposals have been put forward that could form the basis of effective local economic strategies.
Sinn Fein recognises that while the overall incidence of deprivation is greatest in nationalist areas, there are a number of unionist inner city areas in the six counties that suffer many of the same economic and social problems as nationalist communities. Unionist working class communities have long endured endemic unemployment, a severe lack of employment opportunities and deep levels of deprivation and poverty. Urgent attention and substantial resources need to be directed towards these areas and communities if their problems are to be alleviated. The promotion and development of cross-community projects would be particularly beneficial in this respect where they are geographically appropriate.
Rural areas throughout Ireland have a long history of political and economic marginalisation with rural nationalist communities in the six counties disenfranchised from the state. In contrast to inner city economies, rural areas have suffered quite different, though just as debilitating, types of problems. While unemployment is rife, there is also substantial underemployment, low incomes, high emigration (both to urban areas within Ireland and places outside), seasonal work and poor access to health and social services. In nationalist rural areas, such as Counties Tyrone, Fermanagh and Derry, there has been a high dependence on small scale agriculture on poor land. This has been a direct consequence of unionist domination and has led to rural underdevelopment, especially in the area west of the river Bann. Much agricultural policy administered by the European Union has been to the benefit of large unionist farmers on good land who can exploit economies of scale and earn high incomes. This has been at the expense of small agricultural holdings that tend to predominate in nationalist rural areas, with the result being low farm incomes and a mass exodus from the land and from the area through emigration. Much of the decline and economic marginalisation of rural areas in the six counties has been mirrored in the southern and western border counties.
As in the inner city, Sinn Fein has consulted with nationalist rural communities and has brought forward a number of policy ideas as to how these issues can start to be resolved. In general, the objective for rural areas should be a healthy and diverse economic and social environment where quality of life is enhanced by quality of opportunity. Sinn Fein believes:
The border region in Ireland experiences many of the same problems as rural areas, but has the added disadvantage of being between two jurisdictions and all the economic, political and social distortions that this creates. The border region is of course a direct result of partition and has therefore long suffered deep economic and social problems. It lacks good access to markets and large centres of population; it has few large towns that could act as a focus for development; it suffers from low income levels; high emigration is rife; and it has poor land and infrastructure. Importantly, communities along the border have to live with the crippling impact of militarisation on economic life--the high incidence of British army military fortifications and numerous border road closures.
The border region is a diverse area encompassing relatively populated towns such as Derry, Newry and Dundalk together with lowly populated areas such as Donegal, Leitrim, Fermanagh and Cavan. However, a number of characteristics have been identified for the region. These include a combination of population increase and employment decrease; a relatively high proportion of dependents (those aged under 15 and over 64); relatively high levels of overall and long-term unemployment and comparatively high numbers of people employed in agriculture and low numbers in services.
A specific problem associated with developing effective strategies for the border region is that while Sinn Fein wholly supports moves for increased economic integration in Ireland, there is the problem that the border region could be bypassed and therefore not benefit from all-Ireland economic activity. This problem is compounded by the highly centralised nature of the state in the six and twenty-six counties and the concomitant weakness of local government. In this context, it makes it very difficult for local communities to propose and implement effective programmes of a cross-border nature. This is seen, in particular, by the operation of the European Union's INTERREG initiative to promote cross-border economic initiatives and combat the negative consequences of borders. This initiative has been implemented almost wholly through a top-down approach by the British and Dublin governments, rather than through the wide range of groups working on the ground.
Sinn Fein, together with voluntary and community organisations, has put forward a number of proposals to regenerate the border area. In the Monaghan, Tyrone and Armagh area, for example, a number of initiatives have got off the ground looking at the real potential that exists for industrial development, in particular food processing, tourism and tourism related activity and the development and application if information technology.
One important proposal that has been put forward to attempt to get over some of these problems in the border region is the creation of a Border Development Commission. This would help to emphasise the distinctive characteristics of the region; reverse its peripheralisation; create democratic participation in the development of the region; and build on and give strategic direction to the range of cross-border economic and social initiatives that are already taking place. While Sinn Fein's objective remains, of course, the elimination of the border and the creation of a thirty-two county Ireland, it is clear that in the transitional period, and even for some time after, that such a body could play a significant role in developing the economy of the region.
A major component of Sinn Fein's approach to economic regeneration is the need for fundamental and sweeping institutional change to the way in which economic policy is implemented in the six counties and across the island. If this does not occur then the kind of economic and social development that we aspire to will simply not take place. A number of important issues can be highlighted.
If this strategy is to be effective, then it needs to be set in the context of a series of underlying principles involving:
A term that has been given particular importance and prominence in discussions around the peace process has been the `peace dividend.' Sinn Fein welcomes this and urges that the discussion is translated into actual policy and increased economic activity and employment. In this context, it is important to separate each of the component parts of the dividend that could arise. These are:
Wherever possible, the `peace dividend' will need to be utilised according to the types of principles set out above. These include: the necessity for the benefits to be targeted at the geographical areas and social groups of most economic and social need; the requirement for genuine democratic accountability, participation and control by those most affected in the past; and the need to build a truly integrated island economy. Above all is the need for parity of esteem and equality of treatment for nationalists to be an intrinsic part of the `peace dividend.'
It is Sinn Fein's firm belief that the economic, political, social, environmental and cultural aspects of economic development in Ireland are inextricably linked and must be viewed as mutually reinforcing if genuine benefits for all the people of Ireland are to be realised.
Sinn Fein's ultimate objective is to build a new, prosperous and dynamic thirty-two county Ireland that takes us away from partition, division, domination, discrimination, disadvantage, economic failure and injustice. These are the failed ways of the past. This new Ireland will be based on sustainable social and economic development; genuine democracy, participation and equality at all levels of the economy and society; justice for all irrespective of religion, political opinion, gender, sexuality, disability, age or ethnic origin; lasting and meaningful peace; and unity of purpose and action.
Within Sinn Fein's vision of a new Ireland, the US has a key role to play and contribution to make in the political, economic and social development of the country. Ireland's close relationship with the US can build on the historical affinities of the past. This can help to ensure that US investment and other forms of US economic aid meet the agreed needs of Irish economic and social development and are of benefit to all the people of Ireland, in particular those nationalist communities most seriously discriminated against and disadvantage by British rule.
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