Conference 2005: Motion 3: Costs of Segregation

Conference 2005

Motion 3: Costs of Segregation

· Conference notes that the deep divisions and segregation in Northern Ireland carries huge human and financial costs for society.

· Conference notes the costs of policing and clearing up after civil strife, or providing goods, facilities and services on a segregated basis, and the lost opportunities for investment and tourism.

· Conference reiterates its call for the creation of a shared future where people can live and learn, work and play together in safety.

· Conference calls upon the Government to meet the growing demand for mixed and integrated schools, workplaces, housing and leisure centres.

Proposer, Eileen Bell MLA, will say:

“As a result of the policy failures of the past, people across whole swathes of Northern Ireland live in fear of violence in their own communities, but don’t yet feel able to live in mixed areas, let alone areas dominated by the so-called ‘other-side’.

“Yet community groups, resident’s associations, schools and many others are all working on shared projects of mutual understanding.

“If government would look seriously at some of this community effort, they would see that there is a way forward that does not involve the paramilitaries, that does not involve segregation, but can actually involve overcoming division and building a shared future.

“Some people complain about the resources that are allegedly poured into community relations work.

“Let me tell you, they are tiny. And they are dwarfed by comparison to the costs of segregation. Indeed, it is worth noting that a lot of community development resources are misdirected into the hands of those reinforcing divisions in society. There was great anger that the UDA were looking for a £70 million pay off from the British.

“Community relations work is value for money, and deserves to be expanded.

“Alliance estimates that over £1 billion of taxpayer’s money is eaten up every year in dealing with the consequences of a divided and segregated society.

“We must make it clear to all that it is rank stupidity to pour scarce public resources into the provision of facilities on a sectarian basis.

“Often services are duplicated almost side by side.

“Wouldn’t it better to provide much better quality public services that could be easily accessible by all?

“No sensible government should be facilitating formal, structured divisions within any society.

“Alliance calls upon the Government to meet the growing demand for mixed housing, integrated education, mixed workplaces, and shared leisure facilities.

“Not only would such provision be desirable, it would be right, it would more practical, and it would cost much, much less.

“Our vision is of a shared future where people can live and learn, work and play together in safety.

“Several generations ago in the United States, people finally realised that separate-but-equal was not an option, and the civil rights movement was launched.

“I believe that Northern Ireland today needs its own campaign to tackle segregation, and to build a united community.

Seconder, Stephen Farry, will say:

“Segregation – Who Pays? We do. We all do.

“Alliance knows that the costs of segregation to Northern Ireland each year are at least £1 billion. If anything, this is likely to be a conservative estimate.

“These costs include:

Ø The direct costs of policing and clearing up after civil strife;

Ø The indirect costs, to both the public and the private sectors, of providing separate facilities to different sections of the community;

Ø The opportunity cost of lost inward investment and tourism.

“There will be some ‘nay-sayers’ who will point to the growth in the Northern Ireland economy over the past decade. Yes, it has been significant. But it could be a whole lot better, and Northern Ireland is still overly dependent on competing on the basis of low wages, and attracting a weaker form of inward investment than, for example, our neighbours in the Republic of Ireland.

“In tourist terms, relative to our size, we still have a much smaller industry than either Scotland or the South.

“Recently, the Orange Order spoke of the supposed gains to the local economy from the Twelfth celebrations. They forget to deduct the costs of dealing with the riots, cleaning up, the almost empty hotels and restaurants, and the closed businesses.

“But we must also be conscious of those who are missing out on this even limited boom. While unemployment figures may be at a low, they mask the hidden figure of the economically inactive.

“There is a major piece of work to be carried out to properly quantify the precise individuals costs of the various elements, and to properly inform the public.

“Thanks to pressure from Alliance, this is to be one of the action points within the forthcoming Government document on good relations – A Shared Future. But it is something that should be independently verified by the business community and the community relations sector.

“It will not be enough if Government merely quantifies these costs to society. There must be a major challenge laid down to all those who are delivering services to do so on a shared and integrated basis.

“There is no society in the world has enough resources to go around. In all cases, difficult choices between competing demands have to be made.

“Sometimes, in Northern Ireland, with the huge dependency on subventions from the Treasury it maybe seemed different. But, it was all an illusion. An illusion that is being increasingly shattered as more and more punitive taxes are being placed on the Northern Ireland ratepayer through big hikes in the regional rate, and the imposition of punitive water charges.

“At the moment, there is a lot of chest-beating coming from the other parties over water charges.

“None of them voted, like Alliance, against the Programme for Government that laid the foundations for their introduction.

“And what’s more – with or without devolution, none of them have the ability to find the savings within the Northern Ireland economy to avoid their introduction.

“The quality of public services in Northern Ireland is poor. For example, we have the longest waiting lists for operations in the UK. Our infrastructure is run down.

“The message from this Conference should be – that in so many ways, sectarianism costs.

“Alliance is the only party that is prepared to acknowledge the problem, and to start finding solutions.”

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