I was in the East Belfast Skainos centre last week. It is an impressive building, modern and elegant in an area that otherwise shouts “Poverty!” at every turn. I wonder would the people of East Belfast think differently about our politics if all of the area had buildings of that quality.
Meanwhile the PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott seems to have the notion of poverty on his mind when he called for politicians to tackle endemic poverty and youth unemployment. He believes that loyalist and republican violence has its roots in economic and social neglect. He’s also warned of the dangers of violence coinciding with the G8 summit meeting in Fermanagh.
As to the second point: whenever the police predict an “upsurge in violence”, you can be pretty sure it won’t happen. Remember all those Christmas run-ups where the RUC warned us they had intelligence that said the IRA was planning a concentrated bombing campaign? Any paramilitary group with half a brain chooses its own time, not Baggott’s.
But he’s onto something with the first point. Something that’s rarely been addressed over the past forty years is the fact that most of the conflict was fought by those living in deprived areas.When you live in a system that clearly doesn’t give a damn about you, you’re more likely to seek radical means of addressing the wrong. As G B Shaw said so long ago, if you want to turn a revolutionary into a law-abiding conservative, give him £50,000,