Jude Collins

Friday, 16 July 2010

Gizzajob?



The good people of Derry are whooping and hollering with delight this morning. Or at least some of them are: there are those who think  competing for the UK City of Culture is a betrayal of their Irishness.  If it is, it’s a betrayal that’s been going on in different forms for a long time.  Check on the number of  Catholic school principals in Derry  - particularly females – who’ve reached for an MBE or an OBE when it’s been dangled in front of them. Or consider all the Irish boxers from a nationalist/Catholic background who’ve cheerfully fought for the British, British Empire, British Commonwealth titles down the years. The two Spider Kellys - father and son, both Derrymen - come to mind.  Clones-man Barry McGuigan even managed to hop over the border so he could have the privilege of fighting for UK titles. If you reject the Derry bid on the grounds that it’s part of the UK City of Culture competition, logic demands that you  reject what all those boxers – and school principals – were happy to do.


In the end, it’s about money. Some people see culture as important in its own right  - I’m one of those myself. But there are others who only see it in  £ signs, and that’s probably the majority of Derry citizens. So what will the spin-off be financially between now and 2013?  An answer can maybe be found in the experience of Liverpool, which in 2008 was named the European (note that -  not UK but EUROPEAN) City of Culture. 

In 2006, the unemployment rate in Liverpool was  7.1%.  Two years later, the city was named European City of Culture. In 2009,  10% of the workforce was unemployed. So even after the European City of Culture title has had plenty of time to make its impact felt, the unemployment rate (always a good indicator of prosperity or its absence)  went up some three per cent.

Derry’s not Liverpool or Finchley either,  but the Merseyside  experience should put a brake on the euphoric projections for the Foyleside city  in 2013.  Let’s hope that champagne wasn’t too expensive.

6 comments:

  1. I remember Spider Kelly back in the 50's and I loved the guy. Unfortunately the window of opportunity for Irish boxes is so small the only viable route is the UK one.
    Sad but true.

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  2. You must be a near-exact contemporary of mine, Jim. I once got Spider (Jr)'s autograph. He looked plump and as if he was in the habit of having a jar or two...

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  3. an aquaintence spied Barry Mc Guigan on the way into the ulster final om Sunday and asked me to take a photo for him with the ex boxer. I politely declined, he'll always be Barry 'the brit' to me.

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  4. When you were down and out in Derry years ago and needed the price of a fish supper there were few there to help you believe me so you can't blame some people for choosing between culture and feeding their families as long as the money to pay for it came honestly and without harm to anyone else.I saw enough families going to bed hungry during the years when Spider Kelly was in his prime,it used to be a treat for us to get a bowl of spuds and butter before bed and you know as much as we were into the hurling,gaelic football ,the Feis,Colmcille debating society,the Gaelic league and the ceilis etc there was no one coming to our door during the hard times with as much as a bowl of soup and we didn't expect it as there were many in the same boat,a lot of people struggled to feed their families and keep a roof over their heads.You can't eat culture or the Sacred Heart Magazine and rosary beads or hurley sticks.Some people tend to forget that Derry had unemployment rates among males as high as 40% during those years with the closure of the BSR,some of the highest poverty rates in western Europe and some of the worst housing conditions.I remember what the old Bogside looked like and it was dismal and depressing,no one had any money unless their mother or sister worked in the shirt factories where the women worked hard from morning till night,I worked in the old Tilley and Henderson factory for a while during the early 70's as a mechanic and the words sweat shop and exploited come to mind,they were not nice places to work so forget the nostalgic books written about them.The Derry people did the best with what they had,they were a people deliberately put down by the very government supposed to represent their interests,maligned and undermined at every turn including the decision to locate the University of Ulster to Coleraine.You have to walk a mile in another mans shoes before you can judge him and to my mind the Derry people have been the most resilient people I have ever encountered in the face of overwhelming odds considering as I said the power of the British state was always up against them.The people of Derry are taking ownership of their own destiny for a change and the sense of optimism even in these difficult economic times is tangible,knowing where they are coming from historically we should all get behind them and wish them great success in the future regardless.

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