Conference Speech from Stephen Farry MLA on Cost of Segregation motion

Stephen Farry MLA said: “We have been clear on the financial costs of division. Due to the implicit and explicit diversion of resources to provide goods, facilities and services for different sections of the community, Northern Ireland is losing out and falling behind.

“Alliance has estimated these costs at around £1billion per annum. A report commissioned by OFMDFM from Deloitte went further and suggested a figure of £1.5m. This report only came to light on the basis of a Freedom on Information request from Alliance.

“This waste of resources brings serious consequences. Northern Ireland is already suffering from a very tight budget. We are faced with efficiency savings that have become cuts.

“Our health service is around £200m short of keeping up with the pace of investment in the rest of the UK. This is after making the required efficiency savings. Our mental health budget is chronically low – just to give one example.

“Water charges loom on the horizon. The Executive cannot defer them any longer without a massive cut in services.

“At the same time, we are unable to redirect resources into fresh investment to meet new challenges, and to take advantages of new opportunities.

“Our infrastructure still lags behind badly, not least in the field of public transport.

“Alliance will prioritise quality public services for the whole community. But it also important that we now consider the cost of division in its much wider sense.

“Economically, divisions carry major consequences. They deter investment, both internal and external. It impedes labour mobility. There is a real danger of a two-speed Belfast and a two-speed Northern Ireland, with a highly mobile population benefiting from new economic opportunities while others lose out.

“In another sense, there is growing evidence that those societies that are able to attract and sustain a mixed population tend to be more successful in that talented people are nourished. This truism illustrates the folly of the homophobia from the Iris Robinson’s of this world.

“Our Executive cannot credibly prioritise growing the economy without at the same addressing a shared future. You cannot have one without the other.

“At the human level, segregation creates barriers to natural contact and the full development of individual talents. This reinforces our continued support for integrated education. It remains the most sustainable form of education in Northern Ireland.

“Socially, divisions contribute to deprivation and social exclusion. There is a strong correlation between areas of poverty and communal segregation.

“Even at the environmental level, as the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors have argued, divided societies tend to have larger carbon footprints.

“With our environment minister struggling to come terms with the reality of man-made climate change, I despair that this reality will be well above his head.

“While the overall objective of policy-makers should be to turn Northern Ireland into a normal society, it is not credible to govern on the pretence that it is.

“Only Alliance recognises the real costs arising out of divisions.

“Only Alliance offers the rounded solutions to tackle our problems, to build a shared future, and in the process to transform Northern Ireland into a modern liberal democracy.”


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