It’s not quite April Fool’s Day yet – but it is worth recalling at this juncture that Northern Ireland has an awful lot going for it. Indeed, it was remarked to me the other day by a colleague at NI Screen, that reminding the world that Northern Ireland has much to be positive about and proud of is a constant theme of this blog. And why not?
Northern Ireland has the highest rate of cancer survival, the highest rate of dementia diagnosis and an integrated model of health and social care envied elsewhere in the UK. Generally, life expectancy is higher than in neighbouring jurisdictions.
A recent report by Boston College gave Northern Ireland pupils the highest scores for numeracy and literacy anywhere in Europe or the English-speaking world – after a fundamental change in classroom policy in 2007. This is in fact of greater significance than its regular appearances at the top of UK A-Level and GCSE tables.
Northern Ireland’s trains are the most punctual in the UK, and among the most modern (offering a standard of service on board, including free wifi and on board facilities, which is rarely achieved elsewhere) and least expensive.
Social mobility is recognised to be higher in Northern Ireland than elsewhere in the UK, and poverty (in fact, inequality) rates lower (source: Joseph Rowntree).
Simple – Northern Ireland’s roads have been the safest in the world (counting all remotely comparable western countries) during the 2010s.
Northern Ireland has implemented significant safety measures, while already enjoying arguably the finest secondary road network in Europe (dating right back to the days of the linen export trade).
You what? Well, Northern Ireland has led the way in the UK in areas as widespread as dog licensing (now copied elsewhere), the single Mental Health Act, and driver restrictions among others…
Northern Ireland has produced more individual winners of golf’s majors in this decade alone than any other European country has managed in the past half-century. It is by far the most over-represented country in the Ryder Cup, typically now producing two of Europe’s 12 players plus a vice-captain. Two of its golf courses are widely recognised as among the ten finest globally. That is before we mention Rory McIlroy, the world’s number one player for most of the past year!
The smallest country to have progressed at a World Cup (twice, for good measure), Northern Ireland produced George Best, Danny Blanchflower and the World Cup’s youngest player Norman Whiteside. Its youth teams continue to impress, and its ladies’ team has progressed dramatically in recent years.
Northern counties are now also frequent challengers for GAA’s Football Championship.
NI is home of the European Music Awards in 2011 (Belfast is the smallest city to host them), the Game of Thrones, and the world’s finest action actor Liam Neeson.
And nobody’s mentioned van Morrison yet…
“Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” – the astonishingly advanced words which found their way into the United States Constitution were first thought by Co Down’s Frances Hutcheson (and of course the document itself was printed by Co Tyrone’s John Dunlap). Hutcheson came from the very same part of the world as the inventor of the tractor (essentially to modern agriculture), the inventor of the ejector seat (essential to modern aviation), the inventor of the pneumatic tyre (essential to modern transport), the inventor of the mobile defibrillator (essential to saving thousands of lives annually)… how many of us know this stuff?!
Of course, the contribution to the United States didn’t end there – no fewer than half the American generals in the Revolutionary War were of Ulster parentage or grand-parentage. Yet the above inventions were carried out not by those who left, but by those who remained!
… and in fact, officially, nowhere in the UK has mastered the “pursuit of happiness” quite like Northern Ireland, where the sense of community (from neighbours offering lifts to passers-by fixing cars) is enviable.
Standard of Living
Whisper it quietly, but another reason for this happiness could be that NI enjoys the highest public spending per head of any UK region, while also paying the least tax. NI householders do not pay Council Tax, water charges, prescription charges. The costs of thousands of pounds of school fees or payments into private health insurance, which are commonplace in the south of England, are almost unknown in NI (to no great detriment, see above) – oh, and commuting is cheaper in Northern Ireland.
… and finally…
What Car magazine recently announced its “Car of the Year 2013” (the new Audi A3 Sportback, for reference), and look where it chose to do so…