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Kelly - Making poverty a sectarian issue serious mistake

4 April, 2006

Sinn Féin North Belfast MLA Gerry Kelly commenting on the £33 million allocated to Loyalist working class areas has said that it is a serious mistake to sectarianise poverty.

Mr Kelly said:

"It is a serious mistake to sectarianise poverty. The only way to tackle poverty, wherever it exists, is on the basis of objective need, and need alone.

"Setting aside New TSN policy and equality legislation is also wrong and will have serious legal implications. It raises serious questions about commitment of the British government to the equality agenda and concerns about how future funds will be allocated.

"Poverty, educational under achievement and unemployment are huge issues across all sections of our society. The only approach should be to tackle need where it exists. Instead of taking decisions along sectarian lines the objective should be to tackle educational under achievement everywhere that it exists by putting money where it is most needed. The same approach should be taken with unemployment, poor skills, housing and health.

"Everyone accepts that there are serious levels of poverty in disadvantaged working class loyalist areas and particular problems around educational under achievement. By the same measure it should be accepted that all of the recent objective evidence shows that poverty and disadvantage is more widespread in nationalist areas. Seven of the 10 most deprived areas in the north are in nationalist areas. Nationalists are still more likely to be unemployed and a greater percentage leave school with no qualifications." ENDS

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