Austerity is a tactic frequently employed by governments that are seeking to reverse budget deficits during economic decline. However, it is a tact that is seemingly less favourable among the populace. Indeed the current economic state seems to be overall improving: according to the October edition of the “NI Economic Growth Bulletin,” the employment figures indicate a rise of 21,000, the number of benefit claimants is dipping down to around the 50,000- a decrease of 300 from 2013. In September, 441 procurement contracts were awarded with a value of £111million and a further £10.33million being put towards regeneration of the Ards Borough Council area; Newtownards, Comber and Donaghadee. It seems that once again the economy is coming up for air.
Unfortunately evidence of such an indication is apparently lacking in everyday society. While Demagogues that are parading in Stormont are spending their seemingly squanderable time trying to replicate childhood domestic incidents or trying to introduce an obscene “conscience clause” bill in Stormont (that is worryingly reminiscent of a closet racist party). In light of these recent events the phrase ‘render unto Caesar’ springs to mind. The call for a separation of Church and state is now more important in Northern Ireland than ever lest we return to an age of intolerance and barbarism.
In light of the recent (Irish) language controversy, that appears to be a nationalist response to the Unionist 2013 flag protests in Belfast, there seems to be an underlying form of an ‘Identity Schism.’ Curiously, the ‘identity’ in question is not at the core, a personal one, but one of a collective demographic. Naturally these issues seem like commonplace to any native of the place in question. Upon further examination and thought, this “Neo-Identity Crisis” appears to be amongst the younger generations in both sides of the divide, with few of the older generation voicing the concern with the gusto they showed in earlier manifestations of this core issue within a functioning society. For me (and my musings), an interesting development in the Nationalist/Unionist divide appeared during the summer’s ‘Israel-Palestine conflict.’ What was interesting about this particular event, was the apparent unanimous decision by each collective to affiliate with one particular nation in the Middle-Eastern conflict, with both sides unashamedly transferring the suffering of the Arabs & Jews to somehow to their own ‘struggle.’
Seemingly out of nowhere appeared Palestinian flags in predominantly nationalistic areas and Israeli flags in Unionist areas. I failed to see the analogous correlation between the two. Protests began to emerge in support of the Palestinian struggle against the Israeli oppressors (I state this only to evidence my experience of the Nationalist mentality, as I was not witness to any Unionist demonstrations), but they quickly subsided as the apparent ‘cause’ lost momentum. I feel it is necessary at this point to expose the fallacy of superimposing the sufferings of one nation on to your own sufferings, as if there can ever be any true resemblance between a ‘jihadist militant operation and a Jewish occupancy of an Arab land. Maybe at the longest of stretches you could postulate a connection with the British “occupation’ of Ireland but this too can be quickly dispelled lest you run the risk of creating an enclosed xenophobic country, which is sometimes I feel the aim of both the power sharing elite (What must these people think when they go on holiday?)
To indirectly return to my original premise, I will direct my attention to the worrying state of the health care system. With consistent closures of numerous hospital wings, cuts on funding and improper patient care resulting from hospital staff being overstretched/overworked, it was only inevitable that there would be a serious error to come. With the “serious infection’ out break at the Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital (RVH) at the beginning of November one again can only call into question the effectiveness of those in a position of government.
With the looming demise of cultural staples like the Ulster Orchestra and the education sector being cut by £34.3million when we are more than a 3rd into the financial year. We still concern ourselves with humorous squabbles such as ‘curry my yogurt’(diversion tactics even the US would be proud of). Here in Northern Ireland we still send our children to schools that are not only segregated by faith, but by gender and academic ability. Where children are exposed to a shockingly unbalanced education and are made to feel inadequate if their talents lay outside an academic setting.
As I write these musings I am deeply concerned at our nations attitude to pluralism (both politically and demographically). This again is evident in the Islamic debacle back in May, here again we find our elected officials engaging in what is at the centre a call for the north of the island to remain free from any form of outside interference.
To conclude my musings I will point out that the issues raised in this brief essay are of my own opinion and any comments or claims represent my views alone. All facts and figures are readably retrievable.
Conor O’ Boyle.