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Ten people shot dead in Ballymurphy were innocent, inquest finds | Northern Ireland From “World news | The Guardian”



Ten people killed in Belfast during a British army operation in 1971 were unarmed, innocent civilians and posed no threat to soldiers, an inquest in Northern Ireland has found.The damning findings in a long-awaited coroner’s report implicated the army in an atrocity to rival Bloody Sunday, potentially galvanising a new push to prosecute army veterans.Nine of the dead were killed by soldiers using unjustified force but the inquest could not establish who killed the 10th victim, John McKerr, during a blood-soaked incursion in Ballymurphy, a west Belfast Catholic neighbourhood, in August 1971.“All of the deceased in the series of inquests were entirely innocent of wrongdoing on the day in question,” said the coroner, Mrs Justice Keegan, dismissing claims by soldiers that some of the victims had been armed and shooting.Families of the dead wept and applauded after the findings were read out in court, saying the truth had come out after half a century.“We have corrected history today. The inquest confirmed that the soldiers who came to the area supposedly to protect us … turned their guns on us,” said John Teggart, whose father, Daniel, was among the dead.“It hasn’t actually sank in, it’s like a dream,” said Joan Connolly, holding a framed portrait of her mother, Joan Connolly, a mother of eight whom soldiers had branded an IRA gunwoman. “The joy and the peace and the mixed emotions that my mummy has been declared an innocent woman.”Her father had not been able to identify his wife in the morgue because her face was mangled, said Connolly. “Her name has been cleared. We have got justice after 50 years. My daddy died a broken man.”The coroner’s blistering indictment of the army’s actions and state-backed efforts to depict most of the dead as IRA members prompted agreement across the political spectrum that a profound injustice had been committed.Brandon Lewis, the UK’s Northern Ireland secretary, acknowledged the “terrible hurt” caused to the families and said they “should not have had to wait this long”, but did not apologise for the state’s role in the killings or delayed justice. “The government will carefully consider the extensive findings set out by the coroner, but it is clear that those who died were entirely innocent of wrongdoing,” he said.The current system for dealing with the legacy of the Troubles was not working for anyone, Lewis said. “This government wants to deliver a way forward that will provide information about what happened during the Troubles in a way that helps families get the answers they want and lays the foundation for greater reconciliation and a shared future for all communities.” Lewis’s Labour shadow, Louise Haigh, said: “The conclusions of Justice Keegan are clear and irrefutable. Those who lost their lives were innocent and posing no threat.“Their deaths were without justification. The fundamental right to life violated. That families have had to fight for so long for the truth is a profound failure of justice.”The inquest findings coincided with a promise by the UK government to introduce legislation to turn the page on Northern Ireland’s so-called legacy cases, which some victims’ rights groups believe could grant a blanket amnesty for crimes. The former armed forces minister Johnny Mercer said the Queen’s speech on Tuesday contained no explicit pledge to shield army veterans from prosecution.Leaked proposals had suggested a statute of limitations would be introduced to prevent charges being brought for incidents before the Good Friday agreement was signed in 1998. Any time limit is expected to apply to former paramilitaries as well as ex-forces personnel, with plans under discussion by the UK government and politicians in Dublin and Belfast.Simon Coveney, Ireland’s foreign minister, said the Ballymurphy inquest had cast light on a dark page of the Troubles. In a veiled message to the UK government, he said: “Every family bereaved in the conflict must have access to an effective investigation and to a process of justice regardless of the perpetrator.”Naomi Long, leader of the Alliance party and Northern Ireland’s justice minister, said the families had to battle too hard and too long for truth.Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill, the deputy first minister, said: “What happened in Ballymurphy was state murder and for decades the British government have covered it up. Now the truth has been laid bare for all to see.”What survivors have long called the Ballymurphy massacre began on 9 August 1971 when the army swept through republican districts across Northern Ireland to round up suspects for internment without trial. Violent street protests erupted.The Parachute Regiment spent several chaotic days detaining and shooting people in Ballymurphy from 9 to 11 August. There were no TV crews or newspaper photographers to document what happened – unlike in Derry five months later when the same regiment massacred protesters, triggering worldwide condemnation.Outsiders largely overlooked events in Ballymurphy until relatives campaigned for an inquest. It began in November 2018 under Keegan, a high court judge, and heard from more than 100 witnesses including experts in ballistics and pathology, the former Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams and more than 60 former soldiers, among them Gen Sir Mike Jackson, the former head of the British army and chief of the general staff.Lawyers for the soldiers said the troops opened fire only when they perceived they were under threat. The coroner’s findings eviscerated that narrative. Applying the civil standard of proof on the balance of probabilities, the report found all of the 10 dead were innocent civilians and that nine were shot by soldiers.Father Hugh Mullan, a parish priest, was hit by at least two bullets as he read the last rites to an injured man. “Lacerations to the right lung, liver, stomach and intestines would have resulted in fairly rapid but not necessarily immediate death,” according to the coroner’s report.The priest died alongside Francis Quinn, 19, in what the coroner called “clearly disproportionate” use of force.Joan Connolly, 44, was the only woman killed. “She died as a result of blood loss from gunshot wounds after a period of initial survival, likely to be measured in tens of minutes.”The coroner found that the other fatalities – Daniel Teggart, 44, Noel Phillips, 19, Joseph Murphy, 41, Edward Doherty, 31, Joseph Corr, 43, and John Laverty, 20, were also innocent.She acknowledged it was a difficult environment for soldiers and that they had come under fire from gunmen but said the state had failed to establish that the shootings were justified. Adams, who is from Ballymurphy, told the inquest two masked IRA members were in the area during the violence.







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The Ballymurphy shootings: 36 hours in Belfast that left 10 dead | Northern Ireland From “World news | The Guardian”



Even by the standards of Northern Ireland’s Troubles it was a tumultuous, violent couple of days.The British army swept into nationalist neighbourhoods across the region on the morning of 9 August 1971 in Operation Demetrius, rounding up hundreds of suspects without trial in hope of snuffing out the IRA’s campaign.The army intelligence was poor – they scooped up many innocent people – and they ignored loyalist paramilitaries. Some neighbourhoods responded with barricades, petrol bombs and gunfire.Hundreds of homes were destroyed and thousands fled across the border to refugee camps set up by the Irish army.In Ballymurphy, a Catholic district in west Belfast, soldiers from the Parachute Regiment’s 2nd Battalion commandeered a community centre known as the Henry Taggart memorial hall.The next 36 hours were chaotic, bloody and left 10 people dead, 11 if you include a man who had a heart attack after an alleged mock execution. Unlike Bloody Sunday in Derry five months later there were no TV crews or newspaper photographers to record events in Ballymurphy.The troops maintained they targeted armed terrorists, with perhaps some civilians caught in crossfire.Residents told another story of soldiers raking their homes with gunfire and picking off unarmed people, then shooting those who came to their aid.Several residents gave statements, documented in a 2014 Guardian investigation, in which they described being pinned down on open ground. When one man, Robert Clarke, was shot in the back, a neighbour took two nappies from a woman taking cover and waved them in the air.Father Hugh Mullan, a parish priest, phoned the army to say soldiers were shooting at people fleeing their homes. Waving a white handkerchief, he then dashed out to give the last rites to Clarke.Kevin Moore, a seaman on leave who was sheltering nearby, saw the priest being shot twice: “He screamed and drew his knees up in front of his stomach and seemed to curl up in a ball.”Terence McIlharvey said in his statement Mullan prayed in English and Latin, then went quiet. “During this 10 minutes shots were still coming in very fast especially when anybody moved.”As Mullan lay dying another man, Frank Quinn, 19, attempted to help Clarke. He was shot in the head and killed.Soon after another group of people gathered opposite the Henry Taggart memorial hall came under fire.Joan Connolly, a mother-of-eight who had vocally protested against the army’s incursion, was shot dead, along with Noel Phillips, 20. Five men were wounded and were brought into the hall by soldiers. Two of them – Joseph Murphy, 41, and Daniel Teggart, 44, – died of their wounds.One who survived, David Callaghan, said in a statement he had been kicked and clubbed with rifles and that the wounded men in the hall were treated only when an army padre insisted.One soldier known as “Soldier E” when he gave his statement said he had shot three people, including Connolly. He said she had been armed with what appeared to be a pistol. Swabs of the dead woman’s hands suggested she had not fired a weapon. Soldiers recovered no weapons from any of the 10 dead.Soldiers fired so many rounds they ran low on ammunition. A soldier who resupplied them, Harry Gow, then an 18-year-old paratrooper, wrote in a book published in 1995 that the soldiers inside the hall “were on a high” when he arrived.“As soon as I walked in I understood why. Six bodies lay sprawled at the bottom of a raised stage. One of them was a woman, hit at least three times.”When asked as to what he meant by a “high”, Gow said it was because the soldiers had survived an armed action.







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‘People got nervous if a bag was left on a chair’: Paul Johnson on Northern Ireland | Northern Ireland From “World news | The Guardian”



Paul Johnson has a vivid memory of one of his most dispiriting moments as the Guardian’s Ireland correspondent.It was April 1986 and he was covering a Democratic Unionist party (DUP) conference. A warmup speaker for the party leader, Ian Paisley, electrified the audience with a suggestion.US warplanes had just bombed Libya, he said, so why shouldn’t British warplanes bomb republican strongholds in Northern Ireland? In fact, why not bomb towns in the Republic of Ireland such as Dundalk and Drogheda? Why not bomb Dublin?Two women in the front row continued knitting, apparent descendants of the French Revolution’s tricoteuses, while the audience stamped and cheered, Johnson recalls. “He said the south hadn’t earned the right to be treated as a civilised country. The crowd went absolutely mad. I felt quite depressed about that.”It was the mid-point of the 30-year Troubles and there was abundant reason to be depressed about Northern Ireland: almost weekly bombings and shootings, ubiquitous roadblocks, checkpoints, mesh wires and steel gates, 30,000 police and soldiers plus 40,000 additional people employed in security for a population of just 1.5 million.“People got extremely nervous if a bag was left in a pub or on a chair,” says Johnson, who went on to be a long-serving deputy editor of the Guardian and retired in 2020. “It was quite grim. Even the pubs were shut on a Sunday. There was an overlying weight of the Troubles.”There was the dreadful night in pouring rain Johnson stood outside a bombed RUC station in Newry where nine dead officers lay entombed, and people drove past the scene shouting “up the provos”.There was the day the police attacked a republican crowd and a baton round killed Sean Downes, who was standing near Johnson.Paul Johnson in his early days at the Guardian. Photograph: The GuardianIt was not hopeless. The British and Irish governments signed the Anglo-Irish agreement, which set a precedent for the 1998 Good Friday agreement, and Sinn Féin was edging its way into what would become the peace process.Even moments of tension could flash with humour. Gerry Adams, nervous about a possible attack before addressing a crowd in west Belfast, spotted Johnson with his notebook. “He said: ‘Well, if the worst happens at least my last words will be reported in the Guardian.’”For Johnson such anecdotes are reminders that Northern Ireland, for all the friction over Brexit and continued sectarianism, has come a long way. “I’m optimistic. When you think what it was like then – targeted assassinations on both sides, the inherent violence, the number of police being killed – and you go back there now, it looks very different. The day of the car bombs has gone – hopefully.”As the Guardian’s current Ireland correspondent, it can be a challenge to convey this positive context amid anxiety, resentment and uncertainty over post-Brexit arrangements. One day it is Arlene Foster, the DUP leader and first minister, lambasting the Northern Ireland protocol. The next it is loyalist paramilitaries giving a veiled warning, or a rash of menacing graffiti and anonymous posters.Rory Carroll, the Guardian’s current Ireland correspondent, interviewing Green party general election candidate Tate Donnelly in 2020. Photograph: Johnny SavageWhen the DUP and Sinn Féin trade recriminations over the handling of Covid-19, a visit by Boris Johnson or some unresolved historical grievance, it is easy to forget the miraculous fact these former enemies share power, with smaller parties, in the Stormont executive.A dysfunctional executive, true, but one that truly represents and has the support of the people of Northern Ireland. The DUP/Sinn Féin show grabs headlines but the most striking recent political development is the growth of a non-aligned centrist middle, notably represented by the Alliance party, that is bored with orange/green battles and wants to focus on jobs, housing and healthcare.The fact I am based in Dublin, not Belfast, testifies to Northern Ireland’s progress. Without mayhem in the north it makes sense to live 100 miles south in the capital of a country with a far bigger population and economy and its own story of remarkable transformation.When Johnson visited the south in the summer of 1985 it was to report on “moving statues”, a phenomenon in which people claimed that statues of the Virgin Mary and other divine figures spontaneously moved.Ireland was in many ways a theocratic state and the hierarchy was not keen on the public hysteria, says Johnson. “The church didn’t really want anything to do with it but those working in hotdog vans and selling memorabilia had an economic interest in keeping it going.”Almost four decades later, the Catholic church is a shrivelled entity discredited by scandal and left behind by a diverse, liberal population that has voted to legalise same-sex marriage and abortion.Ireland is now a place where the Catholic church has been ‘left behind by a diverse, liberal population’. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PAHistory, however, still exerts its grip, not least the border that partitioned Ireland a century ago and bedevilled Brexit, resulting in a trade border down the Irish Sea that unionists fear could tilt them towards a united Ireland. Sinn Féin, meanwhile, is pushing for a referendum on unification. Northern Ireland is at peace but the region remains unsettled.The process of reporting on Ireland has changed utterly. Today it entails Stormont briefings, WhatsApp groups, Twitter feeds, rolling updates and filing copy from buses, trains, cafes – anywhere that has a phone signal.In Johnson’s time it meant finding a public phone, preferably before Press Association rivals. “You knew every public phone box on all the main roads in Northern Ireland. You had to race to file before PA – but only once a day.”He might scribble the first paragraph or two of an article in his notebook and dictate the rest from his notes. Sometimes the nearest phone was in a pub, obliging Johnson to broadcast his copy to a suddenly hushed bar.Sometimes the nearest phone was in a pub and it would suddenly hush as Johnson dictated his story to copytakers. “I lived in fear of a hard of hearing copytaker – you shouted the story down the phone, aware that the pub, of whatever persuasion, had gone intently, quiet and all eyes were on you.







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Ulster Unionist party leader announces resignation | Northern Ireland From “World news | The Guardian”



Political unionism in Northern Ireland has been thrown into further flux after the leader of the Ulster Unionist party announced his resignation.Steve Aiken’s move comes 10 days after the Democratic Unionist party leader Arlene Foster was forced to quit after an internal heave against her.The announcement from the South Antrim MLA, who will remain as leader until a successor is chosen, was also prompted by mounting discontent within the party over his stewardship.With Aiken’s decision coming so soon after Foster’s, unionism is set for a significant realignment ahead of next year’s Assembly election.The broader unionist and loyalist community in Northern Ireland has been significantly unsettled by the emergence of Brexit’s Irish Sea border and their political representatives acknowledge the election could be pivotal for the pro-union cause.And if the political turmoil ends up destabilising the power-sharing administration in Belfast, the election could come sooner than scheduled.Aiken, a former submarine captain, was elected UUP leader unopposed in 2019. Many are tipping the Upper Bann MLA Doug Beattie as a likely successor.He was viewed as a serious leadership contender back in 2019 when the last vacancy arose but he ultimately chose not to stand, leaving Aiken with a clear path to the job.In a letter to the party chair, Danny Kennedy, Aiken said he believed he had taken the party as far as he could. “To achieve our goals, we now need new leadership,” he wrote.Aiken said he would remain in politics and continue as a South Antrim MLA.Discussing his time as leader, Aiken said he took pride in the party’s decision to take on the challenging health minister portfolio when Stormont was restored in 2020.He said his party colleague and former leader Robin Swann had been successful in his efforts to tackle the pandemic.“However, despite our successes, it has become clear to me that if we are to achieve the breakthrough in the forthcoming Assembly elections, we will need to drive further ahead,” Aiken wrote.“To represent the brand of unionism that builds on hope and not fear, and provides a clear, modern alternative that will be both the future of our party and Northern Ireland, will require strong leadership.”He said unionism needed positive, hopeful and progressive leadership.“The last few months have been a momentous time for our Union and for Northern Ireland,” he wrote.“It is also a time when unionism, more than ever, needs positive, hopeful and progressive leadership; leadership which I strongly believe only the Ulster Unionist party can provide.“Our party has delivered for the people of Northern Ireland for many years and in the centenary of Northern Ireland continues to do what is right – not just for unionists, but for everyone.”In a written reply to Aiken, Kennedy said he “regretfully” acknowledged his decision to resign.“On behalf of the officers and the entire party I want to express my deep appreciation for the service you have rendered as leader and pay tribute to your unstinting efforts to promote our raison d’etre – the maintenance and preservation of Northern Ireland’s place in the United Kingdom,” he wrote.Beattie was among those paying tribute to the party leader. “The loneliness of leadership is never easy,” he tweeted. “The cruel comments are a measure of those unwilling to put their heads above the parapet.“As my party leader, my colleague and my friend I want to thank Steve for his for service past, present and in the future.”Swann tweeted: “I want to thank @SteveAikenUUP for his leadership, it is oft time both a rewarding and challenging position to hold.“But most of all I thank him for his support and the trust he placed in me when he nominated me as health minister.”







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Dublin dismayed at London’s alleged plan to introduce prosecution ban for N. Ireland army veterans amid Brexit turmoil — RT World News From “RT World News”



Dublin has blasted a reported proposal that London will take unilateral action and introduce a ban on prosecuting Northern Ireland veterans from allegations of unresolved crimes during the ‘Troubles’ as Brexit tumult continues.

Speaking on Thursday, the spokesman for Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney announced his government’s disapproval with London’s alleged proposal. He said Dublin had been in touch with Westminster about their commitments to the Stormont House Agreement and “strongly advised against any unilateral action on such sensitive issues.” “We reiterated that only through a collective approach can we deal with these issues comprehensively and fairly in a way that responds to the needs of victims, survivors and society as a whole. Victims and their families are the only priority,” the spokesman was quoted as saying by the Press Association. On Wednesday evening, the Daily Telegraph reported that UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government is preparing to bring in new legislation next week which would grant Northern Ireland army veterans immunity from prosecution. 

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Two former British soldiers acquitted of murdering IRA leader Joe McCann after trial collapses due to inadmissible evidence

Unsolved crimes from Northern Ireland’s ‘Troubles’ remain a sensitive issue. One part of the Stormont House Agreement, signed by the UK and Irish governments and main Northern Ireland parties in 2014, proposes a new independent investigation unit to re-examine all unsolved deaths during the three decades of sectarian conflict between Irish nationalist militants, pro-British “loyalist” paramilitaries and the UK armed forces. Around 3,600 people died during the confrontations and it remains a sensitive issue 23 years after the Good Friday Agreement was struck. In recent months, pro-British groups have taken to the streets, protesting against the Brexit deal which sees them cut off from the rest of the UK and effectively still part of the EU’s single market. If you like this story, share it with a friend!







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Queen and Boris Johnson lead tributes to Northern Ireland on centenary | Northern Ireland From “World news | The Guardian”



Northern Ireland has marked its centenary with low-key commemorations, reflecting a mixed mood of pride, resentment and post-Brexit uncertainty.The Queen and Boris Johnson led tributes to the region on its 100th birthday on Monday with carefully worded statements that praised its people while acknowledging a troubled history and polarised society.Advocates of a united Ireland made their own statement by draping a giant banner over a tower block in west Belfast urging the region to leave the UK. “A united Ireland is for everyone. Let’s talk about it,” said the banner, which had a Sinn Féin logo. It was later removed.Several band parades, church services and other small-scale events, operating under pandemic restrictions, were held across the region.Northern Ireland was created on 3 May 1921 when the Government of Ireland Act came into effect and partitioned the island, leaving its six north-eastern counties under British rule and dominated by a Protestant majority that discriminated against the Catholic minority.The Queen said the anniversary was a reminder of a complex history that invited reflection on togetherness and diversity. “In Northern Ireland today, there is, perhaps, more than ever, a rich mix of identities, backgrounds and aspirations, and an outward-looking and optimistic mindset,” said her statement.“The political progress in Northern Ireland and the peace process is rightly credited to a generation of leaders who had the vision and courage to put reconciliation before division. But above all, the continued peace is a credit to its people, upon whose shoulders the future rests.”The prime minister said centenary events in the coming months would exhibit the region’s accomplishments. “The government will continue to showcase all the brilliant things Northern Ireland contributes to the rest of the UK and the world, from its world-class fintech industry and research capabilities to its inspiring young people and its vibrant culture of arts and sport.”Johnson’s statement added: “It is also important that we pause to reflect on the complex history of the last 100 years. People from all parts of Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom and across the globe will approach this anniversary in different ways, with differing perspectives.”Gerry Adams, the former Sinn Féin leader, published an essay recalling violence against Catholics in the early years of Northern Ireland, calling it a “pogrom” that launched decades of state-sanctioned violence against nationalists and Catholics. Adams also tweeted what has become a Sinn Féin rallying cry: “Time4unity.”The SDLP leader, Colum Eastwood, said Northern Ireland had reached a fork in the road. “It’s time we had a meaningful conversation about where we go next.”Ireland’s president, Michael D Higgins, said that instead of calling for a united Ireland it was better to call for a united vision against violence and “false differences”.The UK government has set aside £3m for centenary events in the coming months, including tree-planting, an online concert, a business conference, a postmark and a church service.Efforts to forge a united political front to mark the anniversary foundered. Sinn Féin and the SDLP boycotted a panel coordinating the commemorations. Sinn Féin also blocked the erection of a stone in the shape of Northern Ireland at the Stormont assembly.Unionists have expressed pride in Northern Ireland’s contribution to the UK, singling out arts, culture, sport and industry, but political developments along with Covid-19 dampened any festive spirit.Unionist leaders fear the post-Brexit Irish Sea trade border will untether the region from the UK just as Catholics seem poised to outnumber Protestants for the first time. A party revolt last week toppled Arlene Foster, the Democratic Unionist party leader and first minister. The possibility of Scotland seceding from the union has also fuelled anxiety and focused attention on this week’s Scottish election.







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Life in Northern Ireland v the rest of the UK: what does the data say? | Northern Ireland From “World news | The Guardian”



One hundred years to the day after its foundation on 3 May 1921 Northern Ireland, on paper at least, is outdoing the rest of the United Kingdom on many metrics.The UK’s smallest country has seen the lowest unemployment rate on the British Isles for six consecutive quarters, reaching a record low in late 2019; pre-Covid tourism was booming ; and it has the highest levels of wellbeing in the OECD.It is the only region of the UK where the proportion of people in persistent low income (after housing costs) is below 10% of the population while the absolute number of children living in poverty has fallen in the past five years, in contrast with the UK-wide figure.However, Northern Ireland has most recently made the headlines for what many had hoped were the long-gone reasons.The riots that broke out in the capital Belfast in late March and early April were variously attributed to unionist discontent with Brexit (specifically the Northern Irish protocol) and the decision not to prosecute 24 Sinn Féin politicians for alleged breaches of Covid-19 rules at the funeral of a former IRA member.But there were also those who warned that part of the violence was borne out of a frustration that working class areas of Northern Ireland have been left behind.EducationOn the face of it Northern Ireland ranks mid table when compared with the rest of the UK and the Republic of Ireland in terms of NEETs – those not in employment, education or training.However, take a microscope to the region and the cracks in the country’s education system begin to appear. A 2016 report into gaps in education attainment in the region found that the gap in the lowest and highest skilled was higher than any OECD country.Either side of the Shankill Road/Springfield Road peace wall in west Belfast educational achievement remains low: around two thirds of pupils living in one part of the Falls Road did not attain five GCSEs or an equivalent qualification, rising to 70% in part of the Shankill according to the region’s last deprivation report.Of the province’s 50 worst areas in terms of educational deprivation, 37 are in Belfast with NEETs running between 10% and 17% among late teens in some parts of the city.The problem – which is most acute among working class boys – is not a new one. And this attainment gap is felt more keenly in unionist communities. A 2018 report by the Northern Ireland Peace Monitoring Report echoed two decades of findings when it stated “Protestant boys continue to have lower educational attainment than Catholic boys”.Feeding into this division is continued segregation in Northern Ireland’s education system: controlled (predominantly Protestant), Catholic maintained and integrated schools. A report published earlier this year found that “balancing the demands of these denominational, cultural and national vested interests” had created a “divided, splintered and consequently overly expensive” school system.Richard Johnston of the Ulster University Economic Policy Centre says: “Other countries are overtaking Northern Ireland in terms of educational outcomes and spending less on a per capita or per pupil basis and therefore [it] must examine the efficiency of the current education system”.Child povertyWhile child poverty levels in Northern Ireland as a whole are on par with the wider UK, the proportion of children living in low income families remains high in parts of the region.Eight of the nation’s 18 parliamentary constituencies rank in the bottom third of the wider UK according to recently published government figures.At least one-in-five children living in those areas were in relative poverty in 2019 rising to more than a quarter (26%) in Belfast West – home to the Lanark Way and Springfield Road interface where some of the recent violence broke out – as well as the Belfast North and Foyle constituencies.Indicative ward-level data being prepared by the House of Commons Library shows that more than a third of children in some parts of the country are in poverty.The chief commissioner of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, Les Allamby, said child poverty was a severe problem in Northern Ireland where families are bigger on average meaning that the limit on universal credit to two children is acutely felt.“Six years ago the high court ruled that the NI Executive’s failure to adopt an anti-poverty strategy was unlawful, yet six years on this has not been remedied. The lack of a future for some young people means they remain fertile ground for recruitment by loyalist and dissident republican paramilitaries,” he said.EmploymentIt may be counterintuitive to some but while Northern Ireland has the lowest unemployment rate in the UK, it also has the lowest or second-lowest employment rate for the past four quarters (in quarter 4 2020 it stood at 69.4% in Northern Ireland compared with 75.1% in the rest of the UK).The region has relatively low levels of capital investment and innovation; limited amounts of home-grown startups; higher levels of public sector employment and a less well qualified workforce than neighbouring countries. Combined, these factors lead to lower competitiveness and employment.Another is that Northern Ireland has persistently had the highest rate of economically inactive people – a group that encompasses homemakers, full-time carers, the long-term sick or disabled, students and retirees – in the UK.“Prior to the Covid crisis, Northern Ireland set a number of economic records – employment, output, unemployment, export and more. However, whilst the region’s performance appeared strong when considered against its own historical context, it remains weaker than competitor nations and regions across the UK, Ireland and Europe,” Johnston says.Additional reporting by Sam Cutler







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Arlene Foster resigns as DUP leader and Northern Ireland First Minister From “Yahoo News – Latest News & Headlines”



Arlene Foster resigns as DUP leader and Northern Ireland First Minister – Phil Noble/ReutersArlene Foster has quit as leader of the DUP and First Minister of Northern Ireland in the face of mounting discontent among her party.She said she will leave her DUP role on May 28 and resign as First Minister at the end of June.The announcement comes 24 hours after an sizeable internal heave against her by DUP politicians unhappy with her leadership.The 50-year-old Fermanagh and South Tyrone representative indicated her resignation will mark the end of her political career, as she said she was preparing to “depart the political stage”.”It has been the privilege of my life to serve the people of Northern Ireland as their First Minister and to represent my home constituency of Fermanagh/South Tyrone,” she said.Mrs Foster had faced a revolt against her leadership over the handling of Brexit and a decision to abstain in a vote on gay conversion therapy.She will step down as leader of the Democratic Unionist Party on May 28 and as First Minister of Northern Ireland at the end of June.In a statement, Arlene Foster said: “It is important to give space over the next few weeks for the party officers to make arrangements for the election of a new leader. When elected, I will work with the new leader on transition arrangements.””It has been the privilege of my life to serve the people of Northern Ireland as their First Minister and to represent my home constituency of Fermanagh/South Tyrone,” she said.”I first entered the Assembly in 2003 and undoubtedly the journey of the last eighteen years has been memorable. There are many people who have helped and supported me throughout that period and I will always be grateful for the kindness and support shown to me by them.”Whilst there have been many difficult and testing times for the executive it remains my firm view that Northern Ireland has been better served having local ministers at this time. It is unthinkable that we could have faced into the coronavirus pandemic without our own devolved ministers in place and no ministerial direction for departments.”Story continuesIn her resignation speech, Mrs Foster hit out at “misogynistic criticisms” and “online lynch mobs.She said: “My election as leader of the Democratic Unionist Party broke a glass ceiling and I am glad inspired other women to enter politics and spurred them on to take up elected office.”I understand the misogynistic criticisms that female public figures have to take and sadly it’s the same for all women in public life.”I want to encourage you to keep going and don’t let the online lynch mobs get you down.”Mrs Foster said she entered politics to speak up for the voiceless and build a Northern Ireland that could prosper and be at peace within the United Kingdom.”I am the first to recognise there have been ups and downs over the last five and a half years,” she said.Mrs Foster added: “To the hundreds of Party supporters who have been in touch over the last few days, I say a sincere thank you for the opportunities to serve you and the support you have given me. For almost five-and-a-half years I have been incredibly humbled to have the opportunity to lead the Democratic Unionist Party.”I have sought to lead the Party and Northern Ireland away from division and towards a better path.”There are people in Northern Ireland with a British identity, others are Irish, others are Northern Irish, others are a mixture of all three and some are new and emerging. We must all learn to be generous to each other, live together and share this wonderful country.”The future of unionism and Northern Ireland will not be found in division, it will only be found in sharing this place we all are privileged to call home.”Arlene Foster’s statement, in full”A short time ago I called the Party Chairman to inform him that I intend to step down as leader of the Democratic Unionist Party on the twenty-eighth of May and as First Minister of Northern Ireland at the end of June.”It is important to give space over the next few weeks for the Party Officers to make arrangements for the election of a new leader. When elected I will work with the new leader on transition arrangements.”As First Minister it is important that I complete work on a number of important issues for Northern Ireland alongside other Executive colleagues. Northern Ireland and its people have been heavily impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic and there remains more work to be done to steer us thorough the pandemic and to lessen its impact on the lives of everyone.”It has been the privilege of my life to serve the people of Northern Ireland as their First Minister and to represent my home constituency of Fermanagh/South Tyrone. I first entered the Assembly in 2003 and undoubtedly the journey of the last eighteen years has been memorable. There are many people who have helped and supported me throughout that period and I will always been grateful for the kindness and support shown to me by them.”Whilst there have been many difficult and testing times for the Executive it remains my firm view that Northern Ireland has been better served having local Ministers at this time. It is unthinkable that we could have faced into the Coronavirus pandemic without our own devolved Ministers in place and no Ministerial direction for Departments.”As I prepare to depart the political stage it is my view that if Northern Ireland is to prosper then it will only do so built on the foundations of successful and durable devolution. That will require continued hard work and real determination and courage on all sides.”Whilst the focus is on me today I recognise that will pass. For me my decision to enter politics was never about party or person, it was about speaking up for the voiceless and building a Northern Ireland which could prosper and be at peace within the United Kingdom.”I am the first to recognise there have been ups and downs over the last five and a half years.”The 2016 Assembly election result and our Party’s best ever Westminster result in 2017 stand out amongst the high points when the electorate sent a clear message that they wanted to keep Northern Ireland moving forward.”The Confidence and Supply Agreement was able to bring one billion pounds of extra spending for everyone in Northern Ireland. Our priorities were not narrow but based on more investment in mental health and hospitals, bringing broadband to rural communities, improving our roads and ensuring funding to encourage more shared housing and education.”For our innocent victims, I am proud we battled together and whilst too late for some, we finally secured a truly deserved pension for you.”For our armed forces, the Veterans’ Commissioner is in place. You have an advocate to stand up for you and ensure your voice is heard at the heart of government.”Of course as with highs there were lows along the way.”The three years without devolution caused untold harm to our public services and the RHI Inquiry was a difficult period. The Protocol being foisted upon Northern Ireland against the will of unionists has served to destabilise Northern Ireland in more recent times.”Whilst there is still a job of work to do, I am proud that there is a young generation of Democratic Unionists getting involved in politics and trying to shape Northern Ireland for the better.”Over the last twelve months, I have been holding online meetings every week with young people mainly from working class communities and encouraging them especially the young women to get involved.”I echo that encouragement today. Politics and debate is the only path to effect change in society. You will and can be the MPs, MLAs and Councillors of tomorrow.”My election as leader of the Democratic Unionist Party broke a glass ceiling and I am glad inspired other women to enter politics and spurred them on to take up elected office.”I understand the misogynistic criticisms that female public figures have to take and sadly it’s the same for all women in public life.”I want to encourage you to keep going and don’t let the online lynch mobs get you down.”To the hundreds of Party supporters who have been in touch over the last few days, I say a sincere thank you for the opportunities to serve you and the support you have given me. For almost five and a half years I have been incredibly humbled to have the opportunity to lead the Democratic Unionist Party.”I have sought to lead the Party and Northern Ireland away from division and towards a better path.”There are people in Northern Ireland with a British identity, others are Irish, others are Northern Irish, others are a mixture of all three and some are new and emerging. We must all learn to be generous to each other, live together and share this wonderful country.”The future of unionism and Northern Ireland will not be found in division, it will only be found in sharing this place we all are privileged to call home.”Reaction to Foster quitting as leaderNorthern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis led the tributes to Arlene Foster on Wednesday afternoon.He said: “Arlene is a truly dedicated public servant, devoting her political career to her constituents for over 18 years and the people of Northern Ireland as First Minister for several years.”There are many young people, particularly young women, who will be inspired by her example to follow a path into politics.”I wish her all the best and look forward to continuing to work with her in the days and weeks ahead, delivering for all the people of Northern Ireland.”DUP MP Gavin Robinson tweeted: “There will be more to say about lies ahead in the days to come, but for now, I want to thank Arlene personally for her dedicated service to Northern Ireland.”She has been a constant source of encouragement to me and my colleagues throughout the province. Facing difficulties with courage and determination; and sacrificing so much over all of us over her 18 years in elected politics, I pay tribute to her, her leadership and her commitment to our Country.”







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