Letter: Ulster peace in peril

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Sir: As one who is originally from Northern Ireland, now living in England, I am becoming increasingly sceptical of the ability of the recent peace agreement to actually deliver peace or anything approaching it. I believe the whole debate about ending violence in Northern Ireland has been premised on the wrong terms.

What many people do not realise is that thirty years of conflict - plus the annual pounds 3.4bn subvention from the British taxpayer - have resulted in an extremely comfortable standard of living for many people.

It has been estimated by a sociologist at Queen's University that 25 per cent of all jobs in Northern Ireland are either directly or indirectly related to the security situation, with one in ten of all adult Protestant males directly employed in a security related capacity - the RUC, the Northern Ireland Prison Service and so on. In effect, the Northern Ireland economy is a "war economy". There is also the added bonus of a health and social welfare system that has avoided the waiting-lists and cuts experienced elsewhere, good schools, cheap housing and one of the lowest rates of recorded crime in Western Europe. In economic and social terms Belfast has "never had it so good".

A "Yes" vote in this week's referendum is looking unlikely for the very reason that most Unionists are content enough with the way things are. What the Government needs to spell out to Unionists is the costs of a "No" vote. If the British public are happy enough to subsidise the lifestyle of Northern Ireland's middle classes that is their business. However, what they are also likely to have to put up with is an escalation of the IRA's bombing campaign in Britain.