07 April 2006

Inefficiency pays off


By Fr Des

WHAT awful mistakes we must have made during all those years. Remember how we set up education projects out of our own money? Remember the street collections for them, the scraping and saving, the empty rooms and the people being asked to invent education without money and without teachers if necessary?

All madness – why did we bother? We should have sat on our hind ends, done nothing and waited for £30 million from Mr Hain's government, the £30 million which comes, like everything, to those who wait. We should have gone out every election day and voted for the very people who kept the poor Protestant unionists in a state of bad housing and near poverty and a lot of ignorance. Look what it gets you, £30 million. But we did not. We had too much respect for them and for ourselves to vote that way.

Of course, the poor unionists were always just as badly off as the poor nationalists. So what difference was there between us in the deprivation stakes? Well, one difference was that the poor unionists voted for, paid for and often prayed for the political representatives who kept them deprived, while nationalists and republicans did not.

Don't ask why the poor unionists voted for ‘the great deprivers’, it is one of those strange acts of a strange world. We voted against them.

We voted against the unionist politicians who wanted their own people to be poor enough to stay in subjection. Less poor than poor republicans or nationalists, of course, but poor all the same.

So where did we make our mistake? Was it in using our own resources to educate ourselves, was it by parents scraping up enough money to pay 100 per cent or 65 per cent or 25 per cent of the cost of a school for their children or a hospital?

Was it our mistake to set up all those community associations, credit unions, writers' groups, nursery schools, public inquiries, small businesses?

Well, yes, it was, Mr Hain's government would say, you should have waited; waited until the money for the shipyards ran out – like some of those who worked there – waited until the “security" jobs in the police, army, prisons, government offices had run dry, waited until the various sources of ready cash for virtuous government supporters had dried out – when by a miracle of riches in a cash-starved world, lo and behold, money in sackloads would appear pouring from the ready hands of those who love you still.

And would it be for us too? For all who wait sitting on their hands, or just for some? Ah no, it is reserved for deprived unionist waiters, of course.

And these, the once privileged, now deprived, it appears, are to be found in droves in all places where the union flag flies in reverence for the government and its representatives who made them poor. There they have waited, like the exiles in Babylon, the poor unionists.

Thank God they are still well-dressed and well-fed and so forth, and thank the lodge they have a deal of self-respect left too, but deprived.

Deprived because through some wickedness for which they are not responsible they have fewer community structures than ‘those others’ have, and, alas, they have made less use of education, and have rejected the kind of education ‘those others’ have made for themselves.

What foolishness. Why did we not just wait? We might have received Mr Hain's government's bounty too. Just sitting there and saying no to education, no to sharing, no to inventing things, no to making a real work ethic rather than a pretend one, no to being independent (maybe that is the trouble). Unionist leaders kept their opponents in as near to servitude as they could, and kept their own people in as near to poverty as they dared – provided, of course, that the ‘professional and business classes’ who led them were well-heeled themselves. But why think about that, sure after all didn't the poor unionists vote happily and determinedly for the people who did all that to them? And would do it again. Provided their leaders, including Mr Hain's government, will guarantee that while the poor unionists will have their acceptable level of poverty ‘those others’ will have worse.

You could call it their acceptable level of deprivation.

Well, good luck to the poor unionists who will now spend, what is it, £30 million? We will watch their space and see what they create out of it. If they create half as much as the republicans and nationalists created out of the nothing Mr Hain's government allowed them, they will do well.
One doubts it, though.

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