Whatever happened to our ‘peace dividend?’

editorial image

In six weeks it’ll be 17 years since the Good Friday Agreement was reached.

In six weeks it’ll be 17 years since the Good Friday Agreement was reached.

What happened to the ‘peace dividend’? Did we blink and miss it? Derry has the worst unemployment record in the North and in the UK and we’re ‘exporting’ our brightest young people.

But, according to the MP for Cúil Raithin agus Léim an Mhadaidh (Coleraine and Limavady) we mustn’t whinge. That sounds rich coming from a unionist, considering they’ve turned whinging into an art form. They’re the new MOPEs. That’s the Most Oppressed People Ever. That’s the trouble with equality; it’s tough when you’re not used to it.

It’s only fair to recognise that some things have changed. The one-party ‘statelet’ has been swept away. We’re inclined either not to grasp the enormity of that, or else to take it for granted. It’s a bit like the beauty of Derry’s physical location – we’re so used to it we’re inclined not to notice.

So, the political scene has changed enormously but our economy remains the same old basket-case, or has got even worse.

Even in England the Tories have accepted that one way out of recession is through public spending on economic infrastructure. Yet it seems outrageous that so little investment is going on across the North and particularly in the North West. Fair enough, Ballykelly is to get the Department of Agriculture but all-the-while a disproportionate number of jobs created by Invest Northern Ireland go to Greater Belfast. We need to redress that regional disadvantage.

The big issue is the university. It was amazing that Higher Education Minister, Dr Stephen Farry recently gave a long TV interview to the BBC’s Mark Carruthers which made no mention at all of Magee or Derry. It focused on St. Mary’s University College and Stranmillis University College. Everything is Belfast centric.

The Stormont Executive need to change all that as a matter of urgency. Elected representatives from the North West need to push far, far harder for that change. We get positive statements from our local representatives but we’re still left with an impression of complacency. Why are they not making their voices heard more effectively by the Executive?

We’ve been waiting 50 years for a decent road to Belfast. We don’t want to wait another 50 years for the promised road to Dublin.

Meanwhile, Minister Danny Kennedy says work on Derry’s railway will resume soon. That’s good but we’re years behind the upgrade from Coleraine onwards. He also says there are no funds for Waterside Station but just about every other town already has a new station. Why is Derry always last in the line as well as on the line?

On a brighter note, plans for an Acht na Gaeilge (An Irish Language Act), similar to language acts in Scotland and Wales, have at last been unveiled. Of course, we know it’s only “toilet paper” to the MP for Cúil Raithin agus Léim an Mhadaidh but amongst other things it would allow the use of Irish in courts. That won’t be entirely new.

A few years ago a Derry man was up on a charge of disorderly behaviour. He insisted in speaking in Irish. A frustrated judge looked over his glasses at an RUC Sergeant and asked, “What’s he saying, Sergeant?” Quick as a flash the RUC man replied, “He’s pleading guilty, your worship”!