Leading politician denies economic downturn is a threat to Northern peace
McDowell dismisses theory that dissidents will prosper
One of Ireland’s top politicians has claimed the Ulster Peace Process will survive the economic downturn on both sides of the border.
Former deputy Prime Minister and Attorney-General Michael McDowell is adamant the recession won’t aid dissident terrorists on either side of the political divide.
Some politicians fear the economic woes currently being experienced in the North could raise support for those opposed to reconciliation.
Speaking at a Dublin conference, the one time Green Party leader refuted the suggestion.
“I don’t believe there is a fundamental risk that we could slip back into conflict,” said McDowell.
“Economic deprivation offers opportunities for radical change but it is easier to maintain consensus in a society when plenty of resources are available.
“In the North, this funding had served as a lubricant to transform things for the better in the peace process.
“The question now is whether the downturn poses a threat to the new arrangements in Northern Ireland. I’m optimistic. It shouldn’t and I don’t think it will.
“The fact that the Republic has entered into a profound economic crisis has halted the gallop of people who thought North-South relations were a one-way street with an inevitable outcome.”
The Co-operation Ireland student journalism conference in Dublin, sponsored by The Irish Times, also heard from Jim Fitzpatrick, business and economics editor of BBC Northern Ireland.
“The North is suffering a democratic overload and needs a reworking of government that prioritises the economy over the peace process,” he said.
“Whereas the Republic, despite its current problems, has created a vibrant export economy, the belief that the North is a failed economy is not confined to republicans.
“Northern Ireland is a taker, not a giver in terms of its fiscal dependence on the rest of the UK with an annual deficit $14billion a year, equivalent to $7,000 a person.
“We are in constant bailout mode, with a handout culture from top to bottom.”
He said the biggest beneficiaries were at the top, including lawyers earning more than $1.5 million million a year in fees from the public purse and police officers who retired on generous redundancy packages but were re-employed by the PSNI as consultants.
He claimed one in 10 people in the North was on disability living allowance, 30 percent of the population was economically inactive and median pay was 42 percent higher than in the rest of the UK.
“Yet the political class is so enamoured of their peace process they only really pay lip service to prioritising the economy,” he said
“People are not incentivised to work, they’re incentivised to maintain the status quo.”
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