Despite a recession affecting greater numbers of people than officially admitted, the Stormont parties collude to conceal their own ineptitude and the full extent of that crisis from the population.
The most recent employment figures for the North put the ‘official’ unemployment rate at 7% or 59,000.
Buried among those official statistics was a shocking acceptance by the Six-County Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment that among those classed as “economically inactive” are at least another 42,000 people who are seeking work. Add these 42,000 ‘lost’ people to the official unemployed figure and one discovers at least 101,000 men, women and young people seeking work in the Six Counties. At least 6,000 of those are from the Newry and Mourne area. In real terms, unemployment is actually over 12% – a rate not seen since the early 1990s – putting the North’s unemployment levels just behind that of the Twenty-Six Counties (13.2% ) and above that of the European Union (9.7%) for June 2010.
However, no political party at Stormont is prepared to break ranks to challenge this cover-up. To admit that unemployment is at such high levels would run counter to the ‘good news’ stories and artificially manufactured political deadlocks which Stormont prefers. Stormont’s economic agenda is designed in Britain and implemented without question or dissent by local politicians.
As the British Tory government prepares to introduce widespread cuts to public sector services, Stormont will dutifully follow suit through ‘modernisation agendas’, ‘health service streamlining’ and ‘investment incentives’.
The reality for people in the Six Counties will be a massive, negative impact on housing, employment, health and social services, continued community disintegration and housing shortages, and reduced services for the ill and vulnerable. Stormont won’t be able to provide any alternative.
The increasingly obvious message is that a new political, economic and social order is required right across Ireland to bring radical, meaningful and effective improvement to the lives of working class people. Stormont cannot deliver on that and therein lies its most fundamental flaw.