On being poor: a study from the University of Ulster


You sometimes hear people talk about the peace dividend. English reporters will do features in which they comment on the Waterfront Hall, the new apartment blocks overlooking the river,  the bustling Europa Hotel,  the Grand Opera House –  Belfast, they say, is a transformed city. Well yeah, if you stick around the places above. All shiny and nice. But venture up the Falls Road or the Newtownards Road and note the difference. These streets – working-class areas – have the same grey pallor that poverty brings with it. The conflict was fought for the most part in working-class areas by working-class people. Now that the conflict is over (or largely so), those areas that bore the brunt of violence are still bearing the brunt of poverty.

A recent study by the University of Ulster nails one myth: that Protestant/unionist working-class areas are forgotten while ‘themuns’ – the Catholic/nationalists – are getting everything. Sixteen of the top 20 poorest districts in the north are Catholic/nationalist, the study shows. Yep, you read aright. Despite all the laws, all the changes, all the new dawns, Catholics/nationalists  live in over three-quarters of the poorest areas here. So can we now just shut up about the balance being tipped to Catholic/nationalists, leaving Protestant/unionists in working-class areas stranded?

But the big divide, surprise surpise, is between areas in need of major economic investment and those where life is more cushioned.  In education, better-off areas get an average of 62% of children passing their GCSEs with A-C grades. In deprived areas,  the figure is 38%. The gap is narrowing but very very very slowly.

On the other hand, the job situation in these areas is getting worse. In 2008, 5% of people were out of work; by 2012 the figure was 11%. If you’re a man living in a better-off area, you’re likely to live six years longer than a man living in a deprived area. Crime in poorer areas is twice as high as that in the more salubrious.

Those who say that Belfast is a transformed city are either wilfully blind or very very stupid. It is transformed if you live in a comfortable middle-class area. If you live in an economically-deprived area, your life will be harder and your death earlier. Why don’t governments pour money into those areas that sorely need economic transformation? Maybe the answer is that they believe in the trickle-down effect: get the rich areas bubbling with economic growth and the wealth will seep down and everyone will be better off. Or maybe the answer is that deep down, politicians don’t give a damn about those caught in poverty with its attendant disadvantages. They can keep on doing less well in school, being more likely to be out of work, dying earlier than their middle-class counterparts but hey, that’s OK, that type of person is innately dumb to a greater or lesser degree so how would you expect educational achievement? That type of person is work-shy and is too busy trying to find ways of levering grants from the government, there’s no time to go looking for a job. And that type of person dies earlier because they’re ignorant and they eat fast-foods, drink too much and take no exercise.

But at least they’ve stopped killing each other, which is a mercy. I mean, some of the pictures you used to see in the papers. Pass the paté de foie gras, would you, dear? 

10 Responses to On being poor: a study from the University of Ulster

  1. paddykool August 29, 2014 at 9:59 am #

    We all had a right old barney with the abortion debate and I’ve no doubt that this piece could quite easily unearth many uncomfortable opinions too. Poverty …real poverty can happen to anyone irrelevant of “class”. It’s really hard these days to fully understand what “working class” or “middle -class” actually means anyway.It’s not like it was when I was growing up ,when it appeared to be more black and white .I knew my father was working- class because he went out and “worked” as a stonemason and bricklayer, so he was definitely “working class”. He wasn’t always working , of course because that is the nature of the job but he was a very urbane and intelligent man and he was worldly and travelled long distances at times to work throughout his life. There was more to him than some dumb and rude mechanical , as Shakespeare would have it.In any family , you might have a right old mixture of social classes anyway. You might have the very well to do social climber who by graft made it to the peak of his achievment but remains socially inept and even …”uneducated”! What class are our current government ministers in , for example? Are they all the same “class” or are they a variety of “classes”?
    That was back in the days when travelling meant long boat journeys, no motorways and communications were not the same .That was my father .I’m sure there were many working class men who were not the same as him.I’m sure there were many who never left their areas or towns and wallowed, helplessly when work was scarce.Different strokes for different folks.Right?
    Every one of us is about two or three wage packets away from what we’d call poverty anyway …depending on our individual support systems..family , friends or otherwise. I’ve seen that happen recently where two very rich people lost the lot , had a relationship breakdown and quickly discovered how diffucult it is to even get Social Security benefits for basic foodstuffs, rent and the basics of life. There’s a gap in the system whereby if you are on your own , you can wind up literally penniless for weeks or several months. If you found yourself in that situation in a city , you could easily end up in a doorway or under cardboard . Years ago I discovered myself , how easily young people can fall into a squatting situation where the basic daily food can be hard to come across. People’s expectations now may be greater but we are all very close to poverty. Not, maybe the poverty of walking twenty miles for clean water , but what we’d call “stoney broke”.
    So what is happening in these middle class and working class areas? Many , what we’d call middle- class are only a generation away from their working -class roots. Education probably brought them to the point where they aspired to buy their own homes and of course society changed and there are now many more consumer goods and gadgets than there ever were when we were young. Things like expensive cell phones and satellite television seem to have appeared in every “working class” home. Is that poverty? There’s also the business now where our children …whatever “class” they might be ..{we’ll have to invent a new name for them!] ..are all well educated with their pockets full of “A stars” and so on, but seem to have a future working in what we used to call “working- class” jobs. They are stacking shelves in supermarkets after studying their Proust at university .This must be the most over- educated generation of manual workers that ever existed . There are the zero hours contracts and the general lack of future security in any employment too.
    Whatever is happening in these currently deprived areas. ? Even among so-called classes there are a variety of social “types”. There are those who don’t want to work. Those who’ll avoid it like the plague and happily suck up every benefit there is and demand their due by right. We’ve all read the stories of the teenage mothers with thir numerous offspring . We’ve seen the scamsters who bleed the systems. That’s not the whole story , of course. There are plenty trying to dig themselves out of the poverty trap, applying for every job there is, but who will eventually sink into a routine of the dole ..the late rise… the killing of time …the half ounce of tobacco and the pint…Maybe a cheap carry out blow out at the weekend …then back to the same week in week out routine …… There’s always the television…..or increasingly the internet , for diversion. How does anyone even afford even those lean pleasures?
    What we have in Northern Ireland is also compounded by the ghettos , the racism and the bigotry of certain types .It’s a strange situation when only a certain type of “working class” or “middle class” person actively joined a campaign for Civil Rights for everyone. You have to ask yourself why anyone wouldn’t want basic civil rights and would disparage the very idea.I’ll never get that one..It happened here , though. Are the “working classes” {or whatever we’ll call them eventually, when there’s no more work!} in Unionist areas a different type of “working class” to those in Nationalist areas?

  2. Iolar August 29, 2014 at 10:32 am #

    Do you know what I am going to tell you? If you have paid national insurance contributions all your working life and need hospital treatment today, the chances are you will end up on a waiting list. If on the other hand you have private insurance you will be seen immediately. Good luck to those individuals with private health care insurance, however, how much of the treatment is undertaken in NHS hospitals?
    Imagine two other scenarios.
    1. A patient in an operating theatre waiting to undergo surgery is told, the surgical team will not be ready until 11 September 2014, the date when normal business (?) trundles on in the Assembly.
    2. A fault is discovered today in the production line of a leading car manufacturer, would the Chief Executive wait until 11 September 2014 before deciding what to do?
    No doubt in the first scenario, a highly paid public relations person (someone who borrows your watch to tell you the time) would issue a statement about the operation which was a success, however, the patient died.

    • Norma wilson August 29, 2014 at 12:46 pm #

      Jude and Paddykool

      That was very heart rendering to read, it has made me quite sad. I suppose really the world has turned into an ” I’m alright Jack”!
      Even people our age, the world of computers, you need it for absolutely everything, being old in this world is not easy.
      Sinn Fein is the only politicians I would go to if I needed something done. They genuinely do care.
      Would a united Ireland fare any better for these young people, if I thought we could progress, and make things better, could I have second thoughts, what are my fears, I can only say, I know no other way of life, it would be like taking my comfort, or security blanket away. But deep down in my heart, I know things need to change. I would not want the troubles to be repeated for any generation ever again.
      Should I myself die right now, I have had a great life, and left school with nothing, a bit of Katherine Tate in me, saying “I can do that”! Full if confidence and cocky, I do feel for the kids if today.

  3. Perkin Warbeck August 29, 2014 at 11:20 am #

    Your posting today, Esteemed Blogmeister cements the view which some malcontents (who are always with us, alas) have long held that Ireland indeed is a united island.

    Because, the political purse-string holders on both sides of the imaginary frontier, including the Old Lady of Threadneedle Street herself and the poltergeist of Lady Lavery itself, subscribe to the same L-plated system of government: Lootocracy.

    As another lady who once held our heart strings in thrall, La Chanteuse, Eartha Kitt continues to remind us:
    ‘But the music that excels is the sound of oil wells
    As it slurp, slurp, slurps into the barrel’.

    In the context of today’s blog for ‘oil’ read ‘ ola / Uladh’ which is Leprechaun for the ‘oil of Ulster.’

    Coincidentally (or at least that’s how those other malcontents who are also always with us, the conspiracy theorists, see it), yesterday as a couple of Coynes (almost said a couple of Coppers !) were being tossed out of their home on to the side of the courthouse in the Lootocracy of the Free Southern State to make the minimalist music of eviction on the sidewalk, the good old TUT was also tut,tut,tut-ing about…. music.

    Specifically a song which has transported their separated cloth-eared breds in the Wee North to the realm of High Doh.

    The same broad-minded breds who believe (fervently) that if eaten bread is not soon forgotten, then it da-n well ought to be, if one is to be judge by their, erm, sparse attendance at the D’Arcy-choreographed funeral of Albert Reynolds. No Anglo arses on Romanist pews, perchance to be subjected to words in Erse, no matter how few. for sure. No tut-tutting from TUT on that one. But then, as someone or other, once remarked: ‘that’s ermine for you’.

    But, to return to the article in q. in the Q’s English: ‘ Unionists demand withdrawal of funding from fleadh over rebel song controversy’.

    The piece was penned by the anything but aimless Eamonn McCann of Londonderry (hope he doesn’t mind that designation, as he really is ‘anything but aimless’).

    Eamonn is of course a comparatively recent edish to the Sainthood of Columnists in TUT though the jury is still out whether he slots under the heading of St. ater, St.oop or St. ick. Perhaps, such is the breath of his anything but aimless vision that he is able to incorporate in his gigantic brain elements of all three? After all, the brain latidudinous is capable of also being the brain attiduinous, is it not? Also, the safe whiff of intellectual cordite (particular that which is stamped ‘damp”) is something the shrewd purse-stringers of TUT have been seeking to recruit for some time, not least now that their, erm, holy waters no longer run free.

    But, that is but to quibble on the ninth-part of a cross-hair. What is indubitable, indeed joyfully indubitable, is that the sainted columnist of Tara Street (one almost left the ‘Street’ out!) is, if one examines his name, but particularly his first name, now well able to make ‘n’s’ meet. A most Edwardian tradition of which TUT is a, erm, noted upholder.

    The gig which E Mac focused his gigantic brain upon was the Ardoyne Fleadh and the offensive song was ‘Go home British Soldiers’ which was originally howled by the Wolfe Tones outside the doors of Doris Day and other notable loyalettes.

    Fleadh of course is the Leprechaun for ‘party’ or as the TUT implies ‘Party’ and so will keep the flag-wavers in their cute b. aprons waving and stamping on the flag-stones for a considerable time to come, sans flagging.

    But, of course, Esteemed Blogmeister, as your posting today points out in the manner not imperceptive, the University of Ulster study nails one myth (the economic one respecting ‘themuns’ getting all the dosh and turning posh into the uneven bargain) TUT continues to perpetuate another one: the musical one.

    Which would cause PW to put up his own myths except that he is a peaceful soul, so much so, indeed, that it has been observed by Wise Old Oul wans in the past: “That Perkie makes even Gandhi seem like a goose-stepper’.

    To explain: as it happened, peace-loving PW found himself only yesterday (coincidence – again !) ensconsed in his favourite Queen Anne chaise longue with a glass of Madeira in one hand, a dog-eared paperback copy of ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ in the other and an ear cocked to the wireless which was broadcasting his fav request programme ‘An Earful of Cheerful’.

    The novel, incidentally was a birthday present from a distant cousin, P. Perkin Warbeck 1V of Provo, Utah and one is entitled to send in not one three requests on one’s b.day (as distinct from ‘on one’s bidet’) into the wireless prog. Thus, the reason why one’s ear was cocked, almost like the weapon of mass d. which features in perhaps, the two most SHAMEFUL lines of verse to come from the DIrty 30 Year War in the Wee Six.

    Entitled; ‘A Meditation on a Road-block in Darkest Doorless in the Wee Sleekit Hours of the Moonless Morning’, it barely escaped being labeled a haiku:

    ‘Oh, I bowed and I scraped and I acted quite polite
    But all the while I’m thinking of my little Arm—te’.

    Eat your h. out, Famous S.

    But, one digresses Back to Perkies’s fav request prog on RTE.

    Alas, the best laid plans of Mickies and Minnies.

    When they announced that his first choice of record, ‘while a wonderful song indeed, alas, it cannot be played as we regret to announce that under the terms of the Broadcasting Act (for said terms see under ‘Ardoyne Fleadh’ above) blah blah blah we are not permitted to play it.

    It being ‘S Wonderful’. Discerning readers of this Esteemed Blog (are there, indeed, any other sort?) will recognize it as the one which contains the incitement to hatred lyrics:

    ‘You’ve made my life so glamorous
    You can’t blame me for feeling amorous
    Oh ! ‘S wonderful ! ‘S marvelous !
    ‘S what I love to see !

    By the time a shocked Perkie had picked up his dog-eared paperback copy of ‘Rosemary’s B.’ off the Axminster carpet his second choice of song was receiving the same treatment from the wirleless DJ on RTE: that second choice was ‘It ain’t Necessarily So’. Yes, the same ‘offensive ‘ one that goes:

    ‘The things that you’re liable
    To read in the Bible
    It ain’t necessarily so’.

    The wireless DJ, who by this time was beginning to adapt an almost TUT-like tone of moral superiority, gratuitously added: ‘This lyric is particularly ‘offensive’ to our ‘separated breds who have been born in the North’.

    By this stage, as you may well imagine, poor Perkie was in an awful dither, not least because he had specifically e-mailed his cousin (distant) P. Perkin Warbeck 1V of peaceful Provo, Utah to tune (actually ‘toon’) in to the same programme as his name would be mentioned by way of a GRMA for his birthday gift. What would Cousin P be thinking by this petticoat juncture?. One held one’s breath that the third request would get an airing. Alas.

    The same old ‘raimeis’ (Leprechaun for ‘rigmarole’) from the wireless and by now, increasingly unctuous DJ, only this time he had added this extra notch to his condemnatory Colt: ‘ subversive’. Imagine, ‘Someone to watch over me’ being classified as …’subversive’.

    ‘ There’s a somebody I’m longing to see
    I hope that she turns out to be
    Someone who’ll watch over me
    I’m a little lamb who’s lost in the wood
    I know I could always be good
    To one who’ll watch over me’.

    Needless, to say, before you say ‘Tiocfaidh ar Law Courts’ the peaceful Perkie was on like a flash to RTE to query this hatrick of shots from their Silencer (known as a ‘Section 31’ in the broadcasting biz”.

    Lest there be any misapprehension or confusion in the minds of the Discerning Readership of this E.B. Uladh PW has decided to do a Snowden:

    RTE: He hasn’t gone away, you know.
    PW: Who hasn’t?
    RTE: He whom you describe in your request as ‘your favourite lyricist’.
    PW: Remind me.
    RTE: IRA.
    PW: IRA?
    RTE: IRA Gershwin.

    This, one said to oneself, is war. (One’s inner coward actually said ‘Waugh’ to the wireless DJ). But, one is not concerned. Next week, E Mac will most certainly redress the balance, a musical cognoscento is ever there was one, in the, if not august, then September columns of TUT. Even if it means he’ll have to deedpoll his first name to ‘Eamon’.

    PW has just one word of encouragement:

    Slap that Bass !

    • Jude Collins August 29, 2014 at 1:36 pm #

      Once more and from the heart, Perkin: we are not worthy. (Did I tell you I was a classmate of Eamonn’ McC’s? We go back a loooooong way)

      • Perkin Warbeck August 29, 2014 at 4:15 pm #

        Wow !

        Which of you got to play the role of …whatchjamayColm?……oh, yes, Charlie Brown.

        ‘Who walked in the classroom, cool and slow
        Who called the English teacher …….Daddyo?’

        • Jude Collins August 29, 2014 at 5:13 pm #

          That’d have been Mr McCann. I was a rough country hallion, E McC the sharp-tongued townie who drove teachers round the bend…

          • Perkin Warbeck August 30, 2014 at 8:06 am #

            Hallion? To rhyme with eaters of scallion?

            ‘Fee, fee, fie fie, fo fo fum
            I smell smoke in the auditorium…’.

      • paddykool August 29, 2014 at 5:07 pm #

        Great to see the Mighty Perk invoking the spirit of Mr McCann in the same surrealistic wordstream as the equally mighty Brothers Gershwin…lovely stuff….

  4. Perkin Warbeck August 30, 2014 at 8:08 am #

    GRMA, Paddycool.

    But like all GRMA’s from this source, it does not come unaccompanied by a health-warning:

    Enjoy PW responsibly.