Tuesday 16 January 2018

Maurice Hayes: North's segregated school system faces harsh lesson in economics

Maurice Hayes

Maurice Hayes

Something strange happened on the way up to Stormont recently -- the parties have started to talk about real political issues. Mind you, they have not got to the point of decision, or even consensus on an agenda any more than the parties in Leinster House but there are signs of realisation that they are there to govern -- to grapple with serious social and economic issues, and that the time for posturing and point-scoring is long past.

There is nothing like a good crisis, like the prospect of being hanged, for clearing the mind of cant and focusing attention on the essentials of survival. The crisis, of course, North and South, is the state of the public finances. The position in the North might even be relatively worse. As a sub-set of the British economy they are buffeted by winds from which there is no local shelter, and they are part of a fiscal system in which other hands control all the main levers.

Until the chancellor unveils his plans later in the week, it cannot be known how deeply the axe will bite across the United Kingdom. However deep the cuts they are likely to impact more heavily in the North, given the high dependence on the public sector both for expenditure and employment and the relatively higher dependence on benefits.

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