Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: In dire times, we all must stick together

The gravity of the international financial situation is reflected in the current talks at many high levels, including the finance ministers of the G7 countries and also the European Central Bank.

In the height of the holiday season, these talks are an indication that international leaders are fully aware of the seriousness of the situation.

What can be done about it is another matter. Only recently the European finance ministers were elated by an agreement which was intended to allow Greece and the eurozone some breathing space, but further worries about the situation in Italy and Spain have underlined the fragility of such a short-fix approach.

The United Kingdom is marginally less at risk because it is outside the eurozone, but the domino effect of international turbulence threatens our financial interests as well.

Against such a background, it is tempting to think that there is little we can do to help ourselves in Northern Ireland.

Nevertheless the Finance Minister Sammy Wilson is right in calling today's meeting of business, industrial, trade union and other leaders to discuss what might be done collectively to help shield Northern Ireland from the worst of the prevailing international financial storms.

The province, which is seriously over-dependent on the public sector, is already facing massive cuts, and the situation is likely to get worse. Each of the representatives at today's meeting might naturally be tempted to approach the talks in a spirit of self-interest.

That would be the wrong approach. It would also be a considerable help if the Government in London recognised more sympathetically that economically this province already lags behind most of the rest of the UK.

However, such special recognition is slow in forthcoming. Even tougher times lie ahead for Northern Ireland, and today's meeting should impress on everyone that we are all in this together. The serious belt-tightening has only just begun.

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