Top 3 issues…

What are the top 3 issues in ni right now? Unemployment…and…? — Keith Anderson (@keithbelfast) September 14, 2012 @keithbelfast Equality, Opportunity and Vision. As in the lack of these things. — Matt Johnston (@cimota) September 14, 2012 @keithbelfast Okay? Segregation, unemployment and cronyism — Matt Johnston (@cimota) September 15, 2012 My first answers; Equality, Opportunity … Continue reading “Top 3 issues…”

My first answers; Equality, Opportunity and Vision
My second answers; Segregation, unemployment and cronyism

The second answers are, essentially, watered down versions of the first answers.


At an RSA-inspired “Civic Innovation” workshop organised by @denisstewart, I heard an impassioned speech by Dr John Barry about the need for equality in our society, about how we are divided between the haves and the have nots. And how equity in society would solve many of our ills. While I agree it would solve many problems, it would create more problems because we have not yet overcome greed. There is also the aspect of human endeavour and the need for reward. For someone to work 70 hours a week in a manual job and be paid well for it and for someone else to spend that time developing a blister on their thumb from their state-subsidised XBox is not an equitable situation. While there are many deserving cases of equality, I can point at many who need to take their future in their own hands.

The sub-issue of segregation is much more easy to resolve. I drove up to the new e3 Campus of Belfast Metropolitan College and my satnav (I always use my satnav) took me up past the peace wall, a road I had never driven before.

If ever you needed evidence that the peace process in Northern Ireland was a sham, this is it. We still have communities divided by fear, we still have riots in deprived areas of our society (over funding for ‘community groups’). The truth being that the terrorists never went away, the government just started paying them to stop killing people.

We are a society that, if it was an individual, would be given treatment for post-traumatic stress. Our emotionally damaged hive-psyche seems to limp from one victim mentality to the next. You only have to look at this rubbish.

Our politicians are, almost without exception, partitionist. They thrive on dividing the people among primitive tribal lines. They can be denominational (catholic, protestant), nationalistic (republican, nationalist, unionist, loyalist), urbanist (urban, rural), geographic (east of the Bann, west of the Bann, NorthWest, Belfast) and ridiculous (Israel, Palestine). While we let these small-minded bigots rule us, is it any wonder our society does not progress.


I have never had trouble getting a job. My opportunity was always limited by my desire to do things. Like Rory McIlroy I was mostly shielded from the Troubles. It was a self-imposed exile. I socialised with friends from every segregation in society. It didn’t matter which religion or region you were from.

I see opportunity everywhere.

I can understand that this vision of opportunity is not held by all. And when there is no opportunity in sight, corrupt elements are able to take the hopes of the young (and impressionable) and turn them to work. Look at the average rioter in the recent North Belfast disturbances. These are children of the era of Peace.

Unemployment isn’t the only issue here. Dissatisfaction is an issue. A feeling of discomfort exercised into rage by community leaders and partitionist politicians. And those who excel, become community leaders and politicians. How many of these young people have the opportunity to escape this tiny circle of unrepentant hate?


I was born in 1972 and, as such, I’m a child of my time. My nightmares were of the Cold War turning into a Hot War (this did not happen). Of being beaten as I walked home from school on account of my school uniform colour which identified my parents religion (this did happen). The present, depressing and apocalyptic, was never good enough.

Given three score and tend years and an expectation that I will die around 2050 is sobering. I haven’t much time left to “make a dent in the universe”. To enact some real changes. With modern medical science, however, I might expect to live to 100 years old. Or even more. That means that my legacy doesn’t begin in 2050 but it might stretch to 2100. My legacy becomes that of a 22nd Century Society.

My vision aligns with what I want “Our Wee Country” to be in the year 2101. I can afford this length of vision because I’m not an elected official worried about whether my constituency will vote me back in in three years. I can afford this because I am convinced that I might see 2101.

0 thoughts on “Top 3 issues…”

  1. I’m just a few years older than you and so can appreciate many of the sentiments that you express here. Your reference to the cold war caught my eye. It was formative to my own political outlook. And so post-cold war and post-conflict Northern Ireland, I’m at an age were I look around me and think ‘is this is good as it gets?’

    You identify the problems facing Northern Ireland as equality, opportunity and vision?. Also, segregation, unemployment and cronyism, which you say are watered down versions of the first problems. Actually, I think these are different problems but deeply related.

    The only solution that I can see is a realignment of our politics in a way that seeks to address the lack of equality, the lack opportunity, the lack of vision and the cronyism, rather than to thrive upon them, as politics here does at the moment,

    Alas a realignment of politics would require nothing short of a revolution in this part of the world. That’s how big the task ahead of us is. Does anyone have the stomach for it?

    Despite the sectarianism and inequality the electorate return the Mafia of the Mediocre to power at each election. There is no effective opposition.

    And so we seem condemned to endless peace processing as if our differences over national allegiance amounted to a hill of beans in the face of an economic crisis the like of which has not been seen for generations and encroaching environmental catastrophe.

    The media, the fourth estate, who we might reasonably expect to hold the powerful to account, while enliven public debate these critical issues, is shrunken and pusillanimous. There is an underinvestment in news and current affairs – the very life blood of democracy – and the broader public culture is enthralled to flows of global capital and so presents itself as politically and socially disinterested. For example, we have a Titanic centre in Belfast, in which a maritime disaster is transformed into heritage spectacle and a delightful business opportunity, while sanitising Northern Ireland’s past.

    We are post-industrial; the arse is being ripped out of the public sector and Northern Ireland farming, as far as I know, is heavily subsidised. Interestingly, I believe, there are now more people working in the creative industries (variously defined) in Northern Ireland than agriculture. But as for those creative industries? Well, I’d rather defer to you on that issue, Matt, but I get the feeling from your obvious chargin in this post that you feel whatever their potential, they are shackled and/or misunderstood. I have my own reservations from an educational perspective to do with the idea that creativity can somehow be formalised and institutionalised and taught as a ‘skill’. … but this is straying of the point, perhaps.

    The thing is that individually our ability to change this lamentable state of affairs in limited. And yet I know of many people who would be similarly frustrated by the condition of NI. So, is there anything you’d join to become part of a collective effort?

    1. The thing is that individually our ability to change this lamentable state of affairs in limited. And yet I know of many people who would be similarly frustrated by the condition of NI. So, is there anything you’d join to become part of a collective effort?

      Is that a call to action?

      1. A political revolution is just what NI needs. The only way anything is going to change is if the big two parties feel the breath of the voters on their necks. Increasing numbers of people are disengaging from the political process because they feel powerless in the face of the new consensus. Those people who have no interest in the tribal headcount are the new political underclass. Time to rise up!

      2. Considering that most enterprises in NI are publicly funded in some way, be it directly through quangos or grant, or simply from investment from Government ‘shell’ accounts, is there anywhere left with enough political neutrality to be a hub for that kind of collective effort?

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