Sunday, November 22, 2009

Northern Catholics count their blessings

Northern Catholics count their blessings

Fri, Nov 20, 2009 – The Irish Times

OPINION: With gloom in the South, Catholics in the North are glad to be part of a separate economic system, writes CONALL Ó MÁIRTÍN

Despite the doom and gloom that persists in the South at present, the situation in the North is not quite as pessimistic.

Northerners have had the distinct advantage or disadvantage, whatever way you might perceive it, of being under a separate state of economic governance, which has allowed us to escape the same economic depression that has forced many in the South of the country to escape to warmer climes with the increased promise of work and a sunnier outlook on life.

Arguments about the perceived good or bad of Nama (National Asset Management Agency), the fallout between public sector workers and those who have bled the country dry in the past 10 years, do not exist here.

While we in the North pay regard to the current economic situation in the South, it is clearly from a distance and with a view to discovering if Nama will affect house prices in the North.

It is the sign makers and sellers of discount drink and electrical items in and around Newry who are most troubled by the economic situation in the South.

We in the North, while also experiencing house price rises, did not experience anything like the boom that pervaded the Celtic Tiger part of the country.

I firmly believe that the Celtic Tiger only affected the Pale and its surrounding hinterlands, large areas of the rest and the west remained in isolation from the boom that engulfed the east.

The remainder of us waited for whatever trickled down to the lower levels, benefiting some but not all.

Now that the chickens have come home to roost, for once Northern Catholics are glad to be part of a separate economic system. While the downturn had required an adjustment in the spending practices of many people, only a small group who tried to jump on the get-rich-quick ship got totally burned.

For those in more lower paid employment, as is the case for the majority of workers in the North, housing has become more affordable again, first-time buyers can now afford their own home at a reasonable price.

I think that the most frightening situation for those under the governance of Stormont is the day when Sammy Wilson, or some other like-minded politician, gets a hold of the purse strings completely.

The longer such powers remain in Westminster, the better.

Conall Ó Máirtín is 30 and lives in Donaghmore, Co Tyrone. He teaches Irish at St Catherine’s College, Armagh. He graduated in law from Queen’s University Belfast. He worked for a time with the Jefferson Smurfit group in Dublin before entering teaching full time.

He is also a Gaelic Games analyst for TG4 and a regular contributor to BBC Radio Ulster


The vast majority of Irish Americans would take the same position as the generations before us, that of “a free and united 32 county Ireland” at any cost and as soon as possible. This is most assuredly an admirable goal and one to which I, for one, am totally committed. Obviously, the writer of this article has a different point of view. He seems to be content with the current form of government in the North. One cannot help but wonder how many Nationalist people in the North share his opinion especially the younger generation who tend to be somewhat more pragmatic than those in previous generations. They can’t be condemned for their beliefs. After all, isn’t it true that in any society formed under the principles of democracy, the political agendas and individual points of view of all members of that society must be respected?

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