Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 16 April 2014

Editor's Viewpoint: Disturbing snub to Ulster by Coalition

If the Coalition Government was hoping that the Queen's Speech would begin its fightback after last week's mauling in the local government elections, then it is sadly mistaken.

The slim legislative programme outlined was lacklustre and uninspiring, even for those parts of the UK which will be most affected by it. Northern Ireland, certainly won't be one of them, uniquely failing to even get a mention in the programme.

Not that we should be surprised at our omission. This Government certainly seems to take an arm's length approach to the province, in spite of Conservative atttempts to establish a base here.

Even the recent Budget only made vague promises about enterprise zones and lowering corporation tax, but they seemed more of an obligatory nod across the Irish Sea than initiatives invested with any great zeal.

Northern Ireland Secretary Owen Paterson insists he has lobbied hard on behalf of the province but his efforts seem to have borne little fruit. There are some proposed measures which are welcome such as a fairer deal for producers from supermarkets, banking reforms and reducing business red tape, but nothing to reflect our perilous economy, our high fuel costs or the jobless crisis. Martin McGuinness recently questioned whether we still need a Northern Ireland Office after devolution, and his query is given added weight by this latest central government programme.

Of course the relationship with Westminster has changed following devolution, which we welcome as giving local politicians some power to tackle local problems at a local level.

Yet for those of a unionist persuasion in Northern Ireland the growing distancing of the province from London must be a concern. We really are a place apart and this coalition Government does not appear to be in any distress at the gulf. Indeed, it seems quite content to let us go on our own merry way as much as possible with scarcely a trace of our name on their lips.

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