Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence - Fourth Report


Further memorandum from the Northern Ireland Economic Council


  The purpose of this memorandum is to respond to queries raised during the Northern Ireland Economic Council's appearance before the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee on Wednesday 27 January 1999. However, we first wish to clarify a number of issues in order that the Committee can be better informed about the Council's remit and the definition of clusters.


  The Northern Ireland Economic Council is an independent advisory body, set up by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland in 1977. The Council has a wide remit to provide independent advice to the Secretary of State on the development of economic policy for Northern Ireland.

  It carries out this role through four series of publications. Reports generally make specific policy recommendations endorsed by the Council. Occasional papers are intended to promote discussion on topical issues while commissioned research monographs are published under the author's name. Finally, Council responses to consultation documents are included in the advice and comment series.

  Several of these publications are relevant to issues raised during the Council's appearance before the Committee. These are:

Occasional Papers

  3.  "Through Peace to Prosperity". Proceedings of the Peace Seminar hosted by the Economic Council (April 1995)

  4.  The Economic Implications of Peace and Political Stability for Northern Ireland (June 1995)

  8.  Towards Resolving Long-Term Unemployment in Northern Ireland A Response to Long-Term Unemployment (June 1997)

  9.  The Impact of National Minimum Wage on the Northern Ireland Economy. A Response to the Low Pay Commission (February 1998)

  11.  Growth with Development. A Response to New TSN (December 1998)

Research Monographs

  3.  Successful European Regions: Northern Ireland Learning from Others by Michael Dunford and Ray Hudson; with a Statement by the Economic Council (November 1996)

  4.  Educational Achievement in Northern Ireland: Patterns and Prospects by Tony Gallagher, Ian Shuttleworth and Colette Gray; with a Statement by the Economic Council (December 1997)

  7.  Improving Schools in Northern Ireland by Tony Gallagher, Ian Shuttleworth and Colette Gray; with a Statement by the Economic Council (August 1998)

  Copies of these publications are available from the Council.

  The Council also publishes an Annual Report and the text of the annual Sir Charles Carter Lecture, which the Council sponsors in honour of its first chairman. It also holds seminars and conferences designed to promote debate, whose proceedings may from time to time be published.

  The Council is composed of 15 members, one of whom is the Chairman who is appointed by the Secretary of State. Janet M Trewsdale is currently Acting Chairman. There are four other independent members. Five members represent trade union interests and are nominated by the Northern Ireland Committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. Five members represent industrial and commercial interests and are nominated jointly by the Confederation of British Industry for Northern Ireland and the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Members serve four year terms, which may be renewed. A list of members is attached.

  The Council has a small staff, including the Director, Dr Gorecki, economists and administration support staff (including the Secretary to the Council). Council publications are normally prepared by the economists, but outside consultants are also engaged for particular projects. All publications go before the Council for comment prior to publication. It is the Council which bears final responsibility for their publication but not necessarily for the content or recommendations of commissioned research monographs.


  Clusters have been defined as follows

    "A group of companies, interrelated and situated in a limited geographic zone which develop their activities in common or complementary areas and count on the support of service companies, forming between them an inter-active system". (P Cooke and K Morgan, 1998, The Associational Economy, Oxford: Oxford University Press, p 187).


  While a substantial body of research has been commissioned and published by the Standing Advisory Commission on Human Rights (SACHR) and the Central Community Relations Unit, there is also an academic literature on the issue of fair employment. Examples of the latter include:

    Bew, P, Patterson and Teague, P (1997) Chapter 5 "Catholics and Protestants in the Northern Ireland Labour Market". In Between War and Peace. The Political Future of Northern Ireland. London: Lawrence & Wishart Limited.

    Borooah, V, McKee, P Heaton, N and Collins, G (1995) "Catholic Protestant Income Differences in Northern Ireland". Review of Income and Wealth. Series 41, No 1, pp 41-56.

    Bradley, J (1997) "Evaluation of the Ratio of Unemployment Rates as an Indicator of Fair Employment: A Critique". The Economic and Social Review. Vol 28, No 2, pp 85-104.

    Breen, R (1998) "The Ratio of Unemployment Rates and Fair Employment: A Reply to John Bradley". The Economic and Social Review. Vol 29, No 1, pp 87-93.

    Bradley, J (1998) "The Ratio of Unemployment Rates and Fair Employment: A Response to Richard Breen" The Economic and Social Review. Vol 29, No 1, pp 95-97.

    Compton, P (1981) "Demographic and Geographical Aspects of the Unemployment Differential Between Protestants and Roman Catholics in Northern Ireland". In Compton, P (ed) The Contemporary Population of Northern Ireland & Population-Related Issues. Belfast: Institute of Irish Studies, The Queen's University of Belfast.

    Cormack, R, Gallagher, A and Osborne, R (1997) "Higher Education Participation in Northern Ireland". Higher Education Quarterly. Vol 51, No 1, pp 68-85.

    Eversley, D (1989) Religion and Employment in Northern Ireland. London: SAGE Publications Ltd.

    Miller, R L, Osborne, R D, Cormack, R J and Williamson, A P (1990) Higher Education and Labour Market Entry: The Differing Experiences of Northern Irish Protestants and Catholics: Research Paper No 1. Coleraine: Centre for Policy Research.

    Northern Ireland Higher Education Council (1995) Report of the Sub-Group on Access, Participation & Student Migration. Bangor: Northern Ireland Higher Education Council.

    Sheehan, M (1995) "Fair Employment: an issue for the peace process". Race & Class. Vol 37,No 1, pp 71-82.

    Smith, D and Chambers, G (1991) Inequality in Northern Ireland. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Teague, P (1993) "Discrimination and Fair Employment in Northern Ireland". In Teage, P (ed) The Economy of Northern Ireland. Perspectives for Structural Change. London: Lawrence and Wishart.


  SACHR, in its report for 1991-92, summarised research it had commissioned on subject choice by pupils in Catholic and Protestant schools as follows:

    "17.  This [Secondary Analysis of the DENI Curriculum Survey by R. Cormack and colleagues] is a valuable commentary on what might be termed the "subject profile differences" of the Protestent and Catholic school systems as revealed in examination outputs. The consultants clearly demonstrate that, although there is some evidence of a continuing bias at "A" level in Catholic schools towards the arts and humanities rather than science and technology, this gap has been narrowing in recent years.

    18.  More significantly differences can be observed in relation to the contrasting curriculum experienced by grammar compared to secondary intermediate schools. Thereafter the most significant observable difference appears to lie in the curriculum experience of boys and girls. In general this manifests itself in the form of under representation by girls in science and technology, particularly beyond the third year when these subjects become no longer compulsory.

    19.  The consultants indicate that the differential in the amount of time spent on science and technology in the two sectors appears to have narrowed at all levels including stage three. However, attention is drawn to previous research by Bell (1991)[1] which demonstrated that the performance of 15-year old pupils in Northern Ireland on the APU science test was inferior to that of their contempories in England. This was linked to inferior provision and a lesser degree of uptake particularly in relation to pupils attending secondary intermediate schools.

    20.  The curriculum reforms are probably already bringing about change in this area but the importance of monitoring the effect of these changes on attainment levels in the two communities cannot be under-estimated. Furthermore, the implementation of the Northern Ireland curriculum particularly in science and technology may have implications for Catholic schools both secondary and grammar, in terms of the scale of capital outlay involved in providing new and refurbished facilities. This raises questions in respect of the voluntary contribution and its continued existence.".

  More recent analysis of subject choice does not appear to be available. However, as noted above, the introduction of the national curriculum will likely have led to further narrowing between the two systems in subject choice up to the age of 16.


  The 1997-98 Annual Report of the Industrial Development Board provides an indication of the higher grant (or contribution) rates offered to firms locating in Targeting Social Need areas:

    A significant amount of IDB's budget is used to provide selective financial assistance to client companies . . . Enhanced assistance may be offered to encourage companies to locate in TSN areas. In the period April 1995-March 1998, the average IDB contribution to projects locating in TSN areas was 23.9 per cent compared to an average of 19.4 per cent for non-TSN areas. (p 34)


  A recent report for Northern Ireland Higher Education Council on Access, Participation and Student Migration found:

    —  In 1993 there were 11,786 new entrants from NI to full-time undergraduate level higher education courses at institutions throughout the UK and RoI, an increase of almost 80 per cent from 6,598 new entrants in 1985.

    —  Participation rates by young new entrants (under 21) in full-time undergraduate level courses in UK and RoI almost doubled from 19.6 per cent of the relevant age cohort in 1985 to 38.3 per cent in 1993.

    —  The proportion of women new entrants increased from 49 per cent in 1985 to 51 per cent in 1993.

    —  Representation from Roman Catholics has continued to rise to around 50 per cent.

    —  The proportion of NI new entrants to UK universities from the lower socio-economic classes was 29 per cent in 1992 compared with the equivalent proportion of 22 per cent for UK new entrants to UK universities.

    —  In 1993, 39 per cent of NI full-time undergraduate new entrants went to institutions in either GB or RoI. [By 1997 this had increased to 42.2 per cent.].

    —  The most significant growth was in NI new entrants to the former GB polytechnics and colleges sector, where numbers increased by 170 per cent from 932 in 1985 to 2,517 in 1993.

    —  . . .  about 85 per cent of those students who leave NI for higher education do not return. This represents an annual net loss of talent of over 11 per cent of that age cohort from the community representing for the most part its more intellectually able segment. (pp i-iv)

  Professor Osborne, University of Ulster, is currently conducting a survey of Northern Ireland domiciled entrants to university in 1991, in either Northern Ireland or elsewhere in the UK.


  It appears that no research was undertaken for the 1997 Dearing Report or National Committee of Inquiry into Higher Education on working class attitudes to debt. In Appendix 1, Report on Northern Ireland, for example, it is stated that:

    It is often argued that students who come from homes where family incomes are low are likely to be more averse to pursuing university education if it involves an accumulation of debt and the responsibility to repay later. (p 452)

  No reference appears to any hard research to support this view.


  The importance of Republic of Ireland domiciled entrants into Northern Ireland's two universities is as follows:

1985-86 1990-91 1993-94
Total% Total% Total%
NI Domicile3,489(85.0) 4,741(80.8)6,003 (80.4)
GB Domicile 379(8.4) 268(4.6) 190 (2.5)
RoI Domicile 152(3.4) 532(9.1) 801 (10.7)
Other EC 50(1.1) 167(2.8) 302 (4.0)
Overseas Students
99 (2.2)158(2.7) 168(2.3)
(N=100%)4,529 5,866 7,464

  (Source: Report of the Sub-group on Access, Participation & Student Migration, 1995, Table 3.3, p 16)

  This pattern may change with the recent announcement of an additional 2,000 university places in Northern Ireland.

24 February 1999

1   Bell, J. (1991) Science Performance and Up-take 15 year-old pupils, in Northern Ireland Educational Research, 33, 2, pp 93-102. Back

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