Irish National Caucus Briefing Paper. June 9, 2015: Nebraska’s and Florida’s Unjust Repeal of Mac Bride Principles

Posted By: June 09, 2015

Anti-Catholic Discrimination in Northern Ireland
Nebraska’s and Florida’s Unjust Repeal of Mac Bride Principles
Irish National Caucus Briefing Paper. June 9, 2015

This Briefing Paper refutes the decision to repeal Mac Bride Principles legislation in Nebraska and Florida, and exposes the flawed thinking— if not the anti-Catholic and anti-Irish bigotry— behind the unjust and irresponsible repeal.

It’s important to understand that, although unemployment levels have generally fallen during recent years, current official statistics continue to confirm that Catholics in Northern Ireland are still 50% more likely to be unemployed than their Protestant counterparts.
While it is true that the link between community background and unemployment/inactivity is a complex one, it also an inescapable truth that higher levels of unemployment and inactivity  occur in largely Catholic areas. This is fundamentally due to the policy of historic, on-going and structural-systematic  anti-Catholic discrimination.
At present, of the 582 electoral wards, 134 are predominantly Catholic, 230 are mixed, and 218 are predominantly Protestant (source NISRA – Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency). 
The Northern Ireland Multiple Deprivation Measure (NIMDM) ranks each ward in the Northern based on a number of deprivation criteria, such as income, employment, health and education, etc. Of the 29 wards which experience the highest levels of multiple deprivation 19 are Catholic, 4 are mixed and 6 are Protestant.
In contrast, of the 29 most affluent wards, 20 are predominantly Protestant, 9 are mixed, and there is not one single ward where Catholics comprise over 75% of the population. 
This structural imbalance is also reflected when in the  the levels of child poverty in Northern Ireland. Figures produced by the End Child Poverty Campaign (a UK-based organization) show parliamentary constituencies that have majority Catholic populations experience higher levels of child poverty than those constituencies that have majority Protestant populations. 
In West Belfast, 43% of children experience child poverty; in Foyle (Derry City) the figure is 36% and Newry/Armagh the figure in 23%.
The consequences of poverty (from ill health to debt) compound stress,  and negatively affect mental well-being. Poverty and deprivation also takes its toll on the emotional well-being of children – the future generation – not only because they’re missing out on things that their peers might take for granted, but also because they are often aware of the financial pressure their family is under.


In terms of inward investment, “Invest NI”— the body responsible for developing economic growth and attracting inward investment (including investment from the US)— has been regularly criticized by Irish nationalist/republican political parties for its failure to target investment towards those areas that  experience the highest levels of unemployment and multiple deprivation.
Investment by “Invest NI” in the predominantly Protestant East Belfast constituency in 2011-12 was £13.3 million ($20.33million), compared to £4.2 million ($6.4million) for predominantly Catholic West Belfast.
This does not include the following recent projects: the Titanic Centre (£75 million/$116.65 million), the new Belfast Metropolitan College Campus (£44 million/$67.26 million) and the new Public Records Office (£30 million/$45.86 million). These have been situated in Titanic Quarter, a major development on the old extended shipyard estate – again in the predominantly Protestant East Belfast constituency.
In the 2010/2011 financial year, out of £107.82million ($164.82 million) in financial assistance provided by “Invest NI”, just £360,000 ($550,000) went to West Belfast – the lowest of any parliamentary constituency in the North.  East Belfast came top of the table with £28.09m ($44.8 million) in assistance.
No jobs were created in West Belfast by “Invest NI” in the 2010/2011 financial year from Inward Investment projects that the body supported – again, the lowest figure in the North.

Irish journalist Jarlath Kearney points out points out a key institution responsible for implementing (and often obstructing) large parts of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement’s reform agenda is the Senior Civil Service. He explains how this elite state bureaucracy, numbering less than 300 top officials, still hasn’t even reached full compositional representativeness (in terms of religion and gender) of the community it purports to serve.
The Senior Civil Service also led the British Government’s campaign against the Mac Bride Principles.
Kearney also states: “The strangulating dynamic of the elite bureaucracy’s unreformed knotweed in the North’s body politic now demands a holistic and urgent focus on the fundamental institutional reform of the Senior Civil Service: its structures and functions; its mentality and culture; its processes and practices; its composition and representativeness; and the acknowledgement and analysis of its biased and active participant role, during both the conflict and the transition.” (Change a long time coming. Village. July 3, 2012).

A stable society can only exist in conditions of equality. 
This is equally applicable to those Civil Service mindsets that continue to direct high levels of investment towards affluent Protestant areas even though the need for such investment is proven to be greater within many deprived Catholic areas.
Where such mindsets continue to maintain these imbalances, then real opportunities for improving life and employment skills will remain stilted and chances for personal development will be thwarted.
In order to maximise the opportunities that arise from the major cessation of violence, and address the legacy of the conflict (and its origins), the needs of target groups and entire communities, which have suffered from low investment, sectarian discrimination, and high unemployment, need to be addressed. Barriers that prevent their inclusion in a pluralist society must be dismantled. 
While the link between community background, deprivation and economic activity is a complex and sensitive one, dealing with it squarely and honestly is vital if the economic potential of Northern Ireland is to be unlocked – which is why retaining, rather than repealing, the Mac Bride Principles should remain a priority at all levels in the US.
Any attempt by states or cities to repeal the Mac Bride Principles will inevitably be seen, at best, shockingly insensitive to Catholics and Irish-Americans and, at worst, anti-Catholic and anti-Irish. Why would states and cities want to engage in such irresponsible and provocative  action?