We report today on the considerable cost of servicing Stormont’s £2 billion debt.
The £60 million annual interest payment is more than the cost of running the Assembly itself.
It is an illustration of the cost of debt.
Of course these sums are trifling compared to the UK’s overall debt pile, which is vast – and growing.
For almost six years, since the coalition government came to power in 2010, there have been repeated cries of austerity, as if the Liberal Democrat-Tory government had been cutting for the sake of it.
But it cannot be emphasised enough that Britain’s overall debt is continuing to grow ever bigger. The deficit is being cut, but that only means that the overall debt is growing at a slower pace.
It will be hard for a standalone Conservative government to eliminate the deficit entirely before moving on to scaling back the overall debt pile. Only this week George Osborne was (rightly) pledging more money for policing to fight terror attacks. The demands for funding are many. Foreign Aid and the NHS are among the budgets that are ring fenced. Mr Osborne even had to retreat from tax credit reform, such was the uproar.
Churchmen are among those who condemn the ‘austerity’. But where are the churchmen who condemn the profligacy of adults today that will be paid for by the adults of tomorrow?
Northern Ireland needs to avoid being perceived like Scotland, which at times seems to be hurtling out of the Union. The English are tired of what they see as whinging by a country that gets perks such as free prescriptions and free tuition fees that the English themselves do not get. And the English, after all, are the net contributors in the UK.
This Province has a special case to make based on the Troubles, and on our higher levels of poverty. But we need to make it diplomatically at these perilous times for the Union.