08 February 2006

Almost all NIO staff based in unionist districts

Daily Ireland

Just three NIO workers located in deprivation-hit west Belfast

By Jarlath Kearney

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us More than 90 per cent of Northern Ireland Office staff are located in predominantly unionist constituencies of the North, it was revealed yesterday.
NIO minister Shaun Woodward revealed that 1,723 staff (or 94.3 per cent) of NIO employees are based in constituencies across Belfast, East Antrim, Lagan Valley, East Derry, North Down and Strangford. (Photo: Catriona Ruane)
The statistics were published just days after it emerged that only 23.6 per cent of NIO’s core departmental staff (155 out of 657 employees) are Catholic.
Yesterday’s figures about the location of NIO employees relate to 1,828 members of staff — excluding those on career break, Youth Justice Agency social workers, and uniform prison service staff.
The North’s border constituencies — Foyle, West Tyrone, Fermanagh and South Tyrone, Newry and Armagh, and South Down – are all represented by Sinn Féin and SDLP MPs. Just 33 NIO staff – or 1.8 per cent – are located among these five constituencies.
Just three NIO staff are located in Gerry Adams’ Belfast West constituency, even though this has the worst levels of deprivation in the North. There are 49 NIO staff in Belfast North.
By contrast, 690 NIO staff are located in the Belfast East constituency, and 672 staff in Belfast South.
South Down assembly member Caitríona Ruane said last night that the new statistics reinforced her party’s concerns about the composition and “agenda” of the NIO.
“Sinn Féin has voiced huge concern about the composition of the NIO and particularly the fact that less than one in four core departmental staff are Catholic,” she said.
“The huge disparities in terms of where civil service staff are based reinforce these concerns. The fact that 1,414 out of 1,828 or over 77 per cent of NIO staff are based in Belfast suggests a huge Belfast bias. Within Belfast, only three are based in west Belfast.
“If East Antrim, Lagan Valley, East Derry, North Down and Strangford and Belfast are looked at together, over 94 per cent, or 1,723 staff, are based in these constituencies. This means that only 105 NIO staff are based within the other nine constituencies. Only one member of NIO staff is based within my own South Down constituency.”
Ms Ruane raised the issue of there being an association between the new statistics and the apparent bias in relation to the NIO treatment of nationalist constituencies and areas west of the Bann.
“Many people would ask if it is any wonder that, when key decisions are taken by the NIO, nationalist constituencies and areas west of the Bann can be seen to lose out time and time again.
“Sinn Féin has argued that there is an imperative to decentralise the civil service, not just because of the economic impact but also because of the impact on decision making.
“These figures reinforce the general argument about the need for decentralisation but also reinforce specific concerns that Sinn Féin has about the NIO in terms of composition and its agenda,” Ms Ruane said.

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