Friday, 25 March 2011

All screwed either way

THERE are many regions around the world that have sectarianism, but few do it as well, with such fervour as here in Norn Iron. If it was an Olympic sport in 2012, we’d clean up.

It has been long known that there is an underclass of underachievers on both sides of the sectarian divide, peering across the peace wall in preparation for summer time riots.

Whether you bear the label of 'Prod' or 'Fenian' cast disparagingly along with other terms of abuse such as 'orange bastard', 'taig' or whatever, you can be sure that if you live in an interface area your life chances are worse than those in the ‘burbs.

The extent of Protestant underachievement was highlighted this week with a report into educational underachievement in Protestant working class areas.

Congratulations to East Belfast MLA Dawn Purvis and those around her for producing an analysis that brought into sharp focus what so many knew by anecdote for so long.

Here’s what we make of it. For a long time, unemployment rates in Catholic areas have been too high. In the interim unemployment rates in Protestant areas have been slowly creeping up. Now there is an aspiration deficit that affects those without an ambition beyond the dole queue or the becoming the next drug dealer.

Now that affect is being felt sharpest along interface and inner city areas, with those on the Protestant side showing a real malaise.

There have been a raft of Government pilot schemes, and the quotation of the week goes to Ms Purvis in calling for real action: “We’ve had more pilots than Ryanair!”

But only here in Norn Iron could the problem be so succinctly put in a sectarian way as when outgoing Education Minister Caitríona Ruane claimed that the problem was the fault of unionist politicians because they were retaining selection at aged 11.

Sure end that and the world would be a brighter place, with full employment for all!

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