Current Affairs History Politics

A Colony Cannot Be Reformed

We Shall Overcome - Civil Rights In Ireland - The 1960s
A 1960s’ civil rights march in the north-east of Ireland demanding equality in housing, jobs, justice and voting. Decades on little has changed

In case you missed it, from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights at the United Nations:

“Press Statement by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on adequate housing…

From 29 August to 11 September 2013, I undertook an official visit to the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland at the invitation of the Government. My visit included various cities in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The main objective of my visit was to assess the country’s achievements and challenges in guaranteeing the right to adequate housing and non-discrimination in this context, in accordance with existing international human rights standards. The assessment includes legislation and policy frameworks as well as the consideration of concrete outcomes from those policies, examining how they respond to the housing needs of women, men and children, with a particular focus on those most vulnerable and disenfranchised.

Planning systems reforms are also being considered in Northern Ireland, devolving powers to Local Councils, which will also be territorially redefined. In this context, I want to express my concern at the potential that this decentralization may have for increased sectarianism and discrimination.

… population groups, highlighted by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 2009, which continue to face inadequate access to affordable housing are Catholics in Northern Ireland, specifically in North Belfast. The current allocation scheme was created to be fair and open, and to allocate accommodation on the basis of meeting the housing need of people. Despite the efforts of the Northern Ireland Housing Executive, I remain concerned that full equality has not been achieved yet.”

Nearly five decades on from the eruption of the war in the north-east of Ireland and the causes of the conflict remain as current as ever. Despite the signing of the Belfast Agreement in 1998, despite supposed power-sharing and improvements in civil rights institutionalised discrimination based upon religion and ethnicity remains the dominant feature of the last remnant of the historic British colonial state on our island nation. One cannot reform the unreformable. One can only wipe the slate clean and start again.

4 comments on “A Colony Cannot Be Reformed

  1. an lorcánach

    Established loyalist siege mentality will accelerate changes where the real winners of the “peace process” has been the middling classes – their children choosing to emigrate to Britain to be educated and unlikely to return: those left behind in low-wage jobs and on dole without any “peace dividend” are going to suffer badly with the six-county wider economy going down the toilet and on out of the public gaze


  2. population groups, highlighted by the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 2009, which continue to face inadequate access to affordable housing are Catholics in Northern Ireland, specifically in North Belfast
    What does that mean?
    Are they not allowed to buy or rent houses?


  3. The current allocation scheme in public housing is controlled by the Housing Executive and aligned organisations, so there is no discrimination there : planning is being devolved to the new local councils, not the allocation of public housing, or any kind of housing. I think there is a specific problem in North Belfast, in that demographic change has led to an expansion in the Catholic population and a consequent increase in demand in both the public and private rented sectors. In answer to Janis : no there is nothing to stop Catholics buying or renting houses in North Belfast , or anywhere else for that matter.
    Despite what the author says there is no “institutionalised discrimination based upon religion and ethnicity”, the Housing Executive was specifically set up to end such discrimination and I have never heard a Sinn Fein or S.D.L.P. politician complain that it was not doing its job properly ; I would imagine they would know the situation better than a U.N. official who has spent a fortnight here, made a generalized remark, apparently criticising the Housing Executive, but making no specific recommendations as to how the problem can be solved.
    To say that decades on from the Civil rights campaign little has changed in N.I. is too absurd even to comment on.


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