Ulster's 'second-class citizens': Millions of pounds have failed to create an equitable society. David McKittrick reports

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The Independent Online
DESPITE two decades of government attempts to construct an equitable society in Northern Ireland, every major indicator shows that the Catholic community is seriously disadvantaged.

This is particularly the case in unemployment, where latest research shows Catholic men are more than twice as likely to be without jobs than Protestant counterparts. Catholic male unemployment stands at 28 per cent.

Forty-five of the top 50 unemployment blackspots are exclusively or predominantly Catholic. By contrast, Northern Ireland Protestants enjoy one of the UK's lowest jobless rates.

Although Britain assumed direct responsibility for running Northern Ireland in 1972, and has diverted tens of millions of pounds towards the most disadvantaged areas, the inescapable conclusion is that direct rule has made only limited progress towards equality. Research shows the areas where unemployment is highest are almost always the most segregated on religious grounds, the most violent and most supportive of extremist parties, such as Sinn Fein.

Over the past four years the Government has placed new emphasis on tackling disadvantage, diverting funds into the most deprived areas. The authorities say government spending is increasingly being skewed towards areas of greatest need. That those are usually Catholic districts is leading to complaints of favouritism from Protestant politicians and clergymen.

Yet every yardstick shows the conditions of Catholics are much worse in jobs, housing and health.

Poor relations, page 4