The Northern Ireland Council for Voluntary Action has continued to plough its lonely furrow among civic society to get people to engage with the scale of the cuts that are coming. As NICVA completed its series of departmental briefings it warned:
"...warned that the cuts could amount to £2bn over the next four years. NICVA's Seamus McAleavey said officials from Executive departments had indicated to him previous estimates of the cuts were too conservative."
DETI minister Arlene Foster states:
"A lot of people are hiding under the duvet thinking the cuts aren't going to affect them, but we have always said that this is going to be a very serious issue for us."
However, the loneliness of NICVA highlights a larger policy problem in Northern Ireland, the lack of a developed policy world here. Special interest lobbyists is almost all we have supplemented by lobbying companies so it doesn't lend itself to big picture thinking. This is unsurprising for such a small place with no strong tradition of political or corporate donations and only recently restored powers.
Yet many of the national think tanks ignore Northern Ireland completely as well. It has improved somewhat in the past few years but reached more the acknowledgement of our existence rather than engagement with issues. None of them seem to have grasped that devolution could be the opportunity for their ideas to be implemented on a smaller scale. All of this will hamper the debate and mean less ideas to grapple with the painful process ahead and get people through the next few years especially the squeezed middle.