These are valid questions to ask, in the light of a remarkable statistical exercise from On Stride Financial- which appears to show NI people are the most freely giving in the whole UK when it comes to lending money.
We’re not talking about petty cash, since collectively the UK lent £2 billion to friends, family and neighbours over the last year.
For a part of the country surely famous for its traditional values of thrift and sensible dealing the NI stats may surprise many other areas - and there’s no immediate explanation as to why, for example, Northern Irish people are around 15 per cent more likely to lend money to a friend than seemingly more cautious residents of East Anglia.
Statistics can sometimes mean different things in particular contexts, but arguably the most startling thing about this analysis is the clarity with which this one region stands out from (virtually) all the others.
Nobody, unsurprisingly, is completely relaxed about lending money to neighbours (although of course some “neighbours” may also be, as in the Australian soap drama, “good friends” too) - but even in this category it’s Northern Ireland that comes up trumps again.
A whopping 16.52% , getting on to one in five NI people, are prepared to hand over cash to the needy person next door as opposed to just under ten per cent of canny Scots - and, lowest of all, a little over five per cent of people in England’s south-east.
Certainly the clannish nature of family loyalty must have something to do with it, as NI people are most willing to lend to family members, but NI is also the second-highest region lending to friends - second only to London, where high levels of disposable income (as an average across the population) may skew the equation.
Of course we can’t assume that clichés about family loyalty or endearing friends are the whole answer, but it seems some of the factors we most readily associate with the Northern Irish - those close family bonds, and a willingness to share and share alike with good friends - may be a significant part of the explanation.
But another way of looking at it might be somewhat more pragmatic, and that’s the possibility that people are more willing to lend (which implies full repayment) if they’re confident about being repaid promptly and completely.
A breach of trust may prove a bad move in close knit communities where people have come to rely on those they most value to keep their side of an honest agreement - the expression “my word is my bond” could, in these circumstances, be literally true.
In less homogeneous urban environments, where friendships may be more transient - and families sometimes less “organised” - there could be some built-in hesitation about the notion of handing over cash to someone who, while well meaning, might have a somewhat more elastic attitude to repayment than a “typical” (if there is such a thing) Northern Irish family member or reasonably close friend.