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Austerity and Inequality: A threat to peace? Conference Report

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As those directly affected are well aware austerity has been biting in Northern Ireland for years. The cuts and spending plans of the new UK government and the ‘finance and welfare’ changes envisaged in their earlier brokered Stormont House Agreement plan however to take austerity to new levels and have already destabilised the political institutions at Stormont.

As elsewhere austerity almost always exacerbates inequalities and poverty. Within a divided and post conflict society however such impacts carry additional risks. Elements of the peace agreements to date from the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement on also included provisions and frameworks whose objective was to move away from historic patterns of inequality and disadvantage. Yet austerity now threatens to put what progress has been achieved into reverse.

This one day conference explored perspectives on the impacts of austerity from home and abroad; and addressed the question of the immediate and long term impacts of austerity on inequality in Northern Ireland.

International Speakers included:                              

Virgínia Brás Gomes, Member UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Adam Ostry, Project Manager, Public Governance Review Northern Ireland, Public Governance Directorate, OECD

SHA inequalities research presentation:

The conference featured a presentation of research conducted by Prof Christine Bell and Dr Robbie McVeigh into the equality impacts of the ‘finance and welfare’ provisions of the Stormont House Agreement.

Impacts of cuts and addressing inequality:

Included presentations on matters ranging from analysing the impact of current budgetary plans, the organising model of PPR, to CAJ’s recent successful judicial review over the failure to adopt an anti-poverty strategy based on objective need.

Other speakers and panelists included:

Patricia McKeown, UNISON (co-convener Equality Coalition); Les Allamby, Chief Commissioner, NI Human Rights Commission; Michael Wardlow, Chief Commissioner, Equality Commission NI; Kevin Hanratty (Human Rights Consortium); Bernadette McAliskey (STEP); Kate Ward and Nicola Browne (Participation and Practice in Rights – PPR), Paul MacFlynn (NEVIN Institute), Gordon Anthony BL, Goretti Horgan, Lynn Carvill and Charmain Jones.

The conference was chaired by Susan McKay and opened by Daniel Holder, CAJ Equality Coalition co-convener.

 Northern visions covered both our Stormont House Agreement Austerity and Inequality events in April 2015 and Oct 2015 click on the links to watch more.