Dealing with the Irish Language in NI

The Irish Language is in that unfortunate space in Northern Ireland where reactions to it are emotional – often flavoured by “community background” – rather than rational. Cases around it are made to suit the existing narrative rather than on a genuinely reasoned basis; and anyone stepping outside the “expected norm” of their own “side” (most obviously the East Belfast Mission at Skainos) is castigated mercilessly (but often unreasonably) by that “side”.

It is worth noting that this is rarely done by stating outright untruths, but rarely by emphasising the truths which suit our own narrative. Thus the fact few speak it as a native language in Northern Ireland can lead to it being easily dismissed as “dead” (even though it is all around us); or the fact that Presbyterians were central to its revival in the late 19th century can be hailed as “proof of an inherent cross-community interest” (even though this has not been meaningfully apparent for over a century). As too often in Northern Ireland, we find facts being made to suit a case, not a case being made to suit the facts!

For all that, there are actually two core ways of looking at the development of the Irish Language (and the government’s/tax payer’s role in it). It is worth looking at them in the (no doubt vain) hope of a rational compromise.

Firstly, the argument goes that the Irish Language is unique to the island of Ireland; that if we don’t take action to protect it we’ll lose it (because only we can save it); and that it is all around us (not least in place names) and part of all of us (regardless of background). On those grounds, we in Northern Ireland should play a full and comprehensive role in its development (and, particularly relevantly right now, we should certainly not be deprived of that role by funding for development organisations being shifted in its entirety to Dublin and the Gaeltacht).

Secondly, the argument goes that the Irish Language is a minority community interest, effectively a hobby; that it is not the government’s (tax payer’s) role to fund hobbies; and that if people want to develop it that is well and good, but they may do so in their own time at their own expense because public money is needed for schools and hospitals. On those grounds, it is dubious whether there should even be a “Department of Culture”, English should be the sole language of administration at all times (not least because it’s cheaper that way), and if anything Polish should be the second language as it has more native speakers.

At a purely rational level, I can absolutely see both of those arguments. However, the issue then becomes consistency. Frankly (and almost crudely), if you take the first argument you have to deliver a meaningful cross-community basis to all Irish Language activity (which means getting out of “silos” such as using the language to “mark Republican areas”, and removing some of the more fanciful notions about the language such as its alleged “ancientness”); if you take the second argument to its logical conclusion, the Orange Order should pay for its own marches (including security arrangements, notifying residents of road closures, post-parade clean-up and so on).

I do tend, personally, towards the first of the above (I personally am willing to pay something towards protection of a language on the grounds of cultural value even if I don’t speak it); but I respect those who tend towards the latter – as long as we are all consistent! Therefore, it would be helpful at least if we could shift the debate on to more rational ground, and then recognise the logical conclusions on other aspects of culture of the position we choose to take.

North of England also holds key to future of UK

I agreed with one regular reader recently that it is northern England, not northern Britain or Northern Ireland, which holds the biggest key to the future of the UK.

The simple reason for this is that it is in fact the north of England – not Scotland or Northern Ireland – which has really borne the brunt of the recent economic calamity, having already been on a downward curve compared to the rest of the UK for most of the past century.

One Labour MP is also bringing forward a complaint to Parliament about European money being spent in Scotland and Northern Ireland which, on the basis of GDP/capita, should be spent in poorer northern English cities. Indeed, Liverpool and Sheffield have combined to consider legal action on the point. The northern English will be polite no more!

In the industrial era, the north of England was among the most prosperous places on the planet – for much the same reason that Belfast was. It made the linen, grew the food and built the ships that the world wanted. Through its use of canals and its invention of rail, alongside significant medical breakthroughs (and the game of football, for that matter), it was also the hub of global innovation. “Manchester United” and “Liverpool” remain the world’s two most famous football clubs precisely because people brought to growing urban areas at the height of industrialisation used football as a means of coming together and growing their new local identity.

The north of England was, of course, interdependent with (the west of) Scotland and (the north of) Ireland at that time. People moved between them widely. Even now, Scottish and northern English accents are heard at Harland and Wolff, though now building a few wind turbines rather than a mass of huge ships. Likewise, Irish communities in Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle continue to shape those cities – even now 1 person in around 130 in those cities, not that few if you imagine a heaving mass at a local shopping mall, identifies as “Northern Irish”; even more notably 1 in 30 in Northern Ireland identifies as “English”, with a majority probably from the north.

Yet the north of England’s economic and political decline has surely been even more marked. While Scotland gets away with free personal care and Northern Ireland gets away with rates and no water charges, households in the north of England have to scrape enough to pay for the lot. There is no oil dividend; as noted above, there are no peace funds. They gained the least during the Thatcher boom as many of the old industries collapsed (sometimes forcibly); yet they suffered most when the Great Recession hit.

To top it all, the northern English can do nothing about it. Where the Scots and Northern Irish have power in their own hands – with multitudes of government and third sector jobs going with it – the northern English lose out again. Liverpool may be closer economically, culturally (and even geographically depending on how you travel) to Belfast or Glasgow, it is governed directly from London. No Home Rule there!

I have to laugh, frankly, at Scots who claim they are second-class citizens in the UK. Put simply, devolution and other political developments have clearly seen Scotland and Northern Ireland advantaged and the north of England indisputably disadvantaged – both politically and economically. This is not something which will (or should) be allowed to go on indefinitely. Indeed, with all the focus on Holyrood and Stormont, it could just be that the very future of the Union is determined ultimately in the north of England – and justifiably so.

“No” campaign should agree to devolve all to Scotland that is devolved to NI

Welfare, air duty, employment law, aspects of equality policy, the Civil Service… I wouldn’t imagine many people know what connects those areas of policy. They are in fact the most prominent things, along with some other minor areas, which are devolved to Northern Ireland but not to Scotland.

In areas such as employment and equality, there are obvious historical reasons for this; with air duty, there is an obvious geographical one; with welfare and the Civil Service, it is more a historical quirk.

Nevertheless, I see no reason whatsoever they should not be devolved to Scotland immediately after September’s referendum (and Scotland’s income tax variation rights also transferred to Northern Ireland).

I have long argued that the obvious distinction between federations/unions with no real separatist movements (United States, Germany) and those on the verge of break-up (UK, Spain) is that the former have symmetrical devolution of power whereas the latter are a-symmetrical. This may seem counter-intuitive, but for a union to work all parts of it have to feel they are being treated fairly – not just the (culturally/historically) distinct part!

Bavaria is a markedly distinct part of Germany, historically and culturally. Likewise Texas or Hawaii in the United States. Yet they have the same powers as everywhere else – and are content with that.

The UK (and actually also Spain) must swiftly learn the same lesson. The “No” campaign should make that straightforward offer, while adding the potential for the devolution of financial powers also exists; this would have the added benefit of removing part of Alex Salmond’s whole argument, as Scotland would then have the power not to implement the “Bedroom Tax” and such like even in the event of a “no” vote. Indeed, he would even be presented with the problem of running his own Civil Service pensions schemes…

I disagree with Anna Lo on United Ireland

Anna Lo’s comments two weeks ago on the long-term future of Northern Ireland caused a furore when she said, in a personal capacity, that she thought it should unite with the Republic of Ireland.

Since I share Anna Lo’s social liberal stance on most issues, I will have no difficulty giving her my first preference vote, and campaigning for her. But I have to say I take issue with her explicit view that Northern Ireland would economically, politically and socially be better off uniting with the rest of the island.

So I guess I should come off the fence and state clearly an unequivocally where I stand. It is quite clear that, economically politically and socially, Northern Ireland should become the seventeenth state of Germany.

Economically, the case is quite simple. Over the past decade, German economic growth has been by far the fastest in Europe. German unemployment is also low at 5% (even youth unemployment is only around 7%), so you can take that map of unemployment in Ireland and shove it! Of all the parts of Germany, living standards have risen fastest in the five Eastern States, newly added to the Federal Republic in 1990. That is the type of growth which would also await Northern Ireland – except better, because DeLoreans are better than Trabants.

Politically, the case is even more compelling. Far from having to merge laws with the Republic or make up some new, unprecedented “Federal Ireland”, Northern Ireland would be joining what is already a Federal Republic – its domestic laws, legal system and education arrangements could remain unchanged, managed from the existing Northern Ireland Assembly (Nordirischer Landestag) in Belfast.

Even socially, in terms of identity, it makes sense too. Unionists will know what the Duke of Schomberg came from what is now Schaumburg, which is already in Germany. To seal the deal, Nationalists effectively get a United Ireland anyway – after all, the Republic has effectively been governed from Berlin and Frankfurt since 2008.

Northern Ireland would be one of the smaller States of Germany, of course, but far from the smallest – Hamburg is about the same size; Bremen and Saarland (itself transferred from France in the late ’50s – so a clear precedent, just in case anyone was thinking this proposal odd) are considerably smaller.

By the way, when it comes to sport, never mind a united Ireland football team – what about joining with Germany? In fact, it’s only right given that the penalty kick, which they have since perfected, was invented in County Armagh in 1891. “Wir sind nicht Brasilien, wir sind tatsaechlich besser” (“We’re not Brazil, we’re actually better”) would no doubt soon become a fans’ favourite.

Would the Germans want us? Well, probably not. But we should at least try, making the point that dealing with us would at least give them a break from having to deal with the Greeks once in a while.

The case is clear. Vorsprung durch Wheaten Bannock, as they whisper in Lurgan…

Nations’ League further example of greed

I was asked the other day what I made of the proposal for a “Nations’ League” of some sort. I can’t say I’ve had time to read the proposal in any detail, but the idea seems to be to have a scheduled set of friendlies between European countries split into divisions, with a play-off of some sort at the end (presumably in June).

In principle, I have heard of worse ideas. However, there are two big problems that immediately strike me.

Firstly, UEFA’s  and FIFA’s main events – the European Championship and the World Cup – are already limited by the fatigue of many of the best players. Rarely do Messis or Ronaldos shine on the ultimate stage, for the quite simple reason that they are tired – after playing through the quest for the national league championship, the latter stages of the Champions’ League and an array of cup fixtures all of which probably began with a pre-season tour of the Far East or North America.

To be clear, it doesn’t matter how many zillions a week you pay players, you cannot possibly maintain a mental and physical peak 12 months a year for 15 years or so consecutively. We should in fact be trying to reduce competitive fixtures, not broaden them still further. If we want to see the best players performing at their best level at the best stage, we need fewer games before World Cups, European Championships and Champions’ League Finals, not more.

Secondly, the whole thing is bound to be a damp squib in any case (or alternatively it could in fact reduce the appeal of World Cups and European Championships, in the same way the FA’s takeover of England’s top league saw the reduction of the appeal of the FA Cup). Ultimately FIFA and UEFA can stick their noses in all they like, the fact is the clubs pay the players and poll and poll shows fans are more interested in their club than their country (this explains the relative success of the Champions’ League and the lack of interest in imposing restrictions on foreign players).

The trend is already established towards bigger countries playing bigger countries in “friendly weeks” (Germany-England, Spain-Italy and so on) and the likes of Northern Ireland being left with epic fixtures away to Cyprus and home to Malta. I suspect the final playoff series will attract the same interest as the World Club Championship. Remember that? Thought not…

Meanwhile, in Catalonia…

“Everyone knows the Catalans want independence; they just don’t like to talk about it”. I had the great fortune to visit Catalonia on average every other year from 1992 to 2008, in almost every mode – business, conference, leisure, staying with a family. That sentence summed up the mood with regard to its constitutional position. However, since 2008, the changes have apparently been dramatic – I am always cautious about judging such things from afar.

Where once the impression I got was that most people there sought a federal state, or simply fiscal autonomy (as the Basques enjoy under age-old Charters), the polls and even the street demonstrations now point plainly to a desire for outright independence. My understanding is that this sentiment increased markedly upon the new centre-right Spanish Government’s insistence in 2010 on striking down aspects of the new Statute of Autonomy for Catalonia, agreed in 2006. Specifically, it sought to strike down aspects of it which were the same as neighbouring Valencia, but did not seek to do so in Valencia’s case. Catalans were outraged – and fully a third of them turned out at a single demonstration to show it.

That’s where it appears to get tricky, however. “Independence” isn’t a straightforward thing. How do you secure your markets in the rest of Spain? How do you fund, recruit and train your new diplomatic corps? How, even, do you ensure FC Barcelona can continue to play in La Liga? It is all very well to have your own national, linguistic and sporting identity – but what about the practical stuff?

The parallels are obvious. Why is nobody thinking?!

Scottish “yes” vote at over 40% heralds likely end of UK

Every reliable forecast – from bookies to pollsters to pundits – is now putting the “yes” vote in Scotland at over 40%. Just over, but over. That would be a remarkable achievement for the SNP – for it is essentially a victory.

[For the record, I am an exception; I think it will be below 40% - but for the sake of this article I don't regard myself as "reliable"!]

In fact, anything much over a third of the vote would be essentially a victory. Once the “yes” vote passes 35% or so, Scotland becomes a country unquestionably divided. The momentum, even at 35%, is all upwards for those seeking “independence” – it is essentially a tipping point.

I have written before that Scotland has already psychologically left the UK. The underlying notion that its maintenance within the Union depends on Conservative Governments being rarely if ever elected clearly points to a conditional stake in the UK. The fact that the UK Establishment has no idea what to do about this is only a further advantage to those who suggest it should cease to govern Scotland!

After all, it is accepted fact and convention that Northern Ireland is a divided country on whether or not to remain in the UK. At over 35%, and certainly at over 40%, it becomes unquestionable that Scotland is equally divided.

It is possible, of course, that after a close thing support for independence could begin to drift, as it did in Quebec. This is possible, not least because much of that support is based on the charismatic brilliance of one man, Mr Salmond. But it is not likely. The UK is a nuclear power, but Scots don’t like nuclear weapons; the UK is an economic Union, but Scots don’t want to share their oil; the UK is a broadly centre-right country, but Scots claim to be centre-left (leaving aside, ahem, their history as a disproportionate builder of the British Empire). There is more than mere identity to this.

On referendum night, therefore, it scarcely matters if the “yes” vote is over 50%. If it’s over 40%, or even much over a third, the game is pretty much up. The UK could be saved from that point – but the whole issue will be that there is likely no one in England with the nous or ambition to save it.

*Southwest* Ukraine may be next for Russia

Russian troops massing on East Ukrainian border – US says they may be preparing to invade” scream the headlines.

I doubt it. Russians are subtler than that; and in any case East Ukraine is not next.

A decade ago I spent part of the summer on a pro-democracy mission in Moldova, the outstanding aspect of which was a series of meetings in the breakaway region of Transnistria (variously spelled and even named depending on linguistic preference).


At the very outset of all of this I mentioned Transnistria, and watched in astonishment as almost no one else did! Remember, its existence essentially amounts to the occupation of part of the sovereign territory of Moldova by Russian troops, and has done since 1997 (the date after which Russia had agreed to withdraw them).

Now Transnistria is mentioned, but only in the incredibly simplistic way that it is “majority Russian-speaking”. I scarcely heard anything other than Russian there, admittedly, but then I scarcely heard anything other than Russian on the streets of Chisinau, the Republic of Moldova’s capital city. As I wrote last yet, it just isn’t that straightforward – and the media shouldn’t present it as such!

A little like Crimea, most of Transnistria was simply shifted from one Soviet Republic to another during the Soviet era (effectively, therefore, between what were seen as internal “States”) – in this case from Ukraine into Moldova. The rest of what is now the Republic of Moldova had been taken by the Soviet Union in 1940 during World War Two (western Moldova wasn’t – it remains part of Romania).

As was frequently the case, people were moved about in the Soviet Union, and those being moved typically adopted Russian as their first language regardless of ethnic origin or perceived nationality (as Russian was the Union’s language of business and administration). As a result the Republic of Moldova, essentially Romanian-speaking from a linguistic point of view, developed a large Russian-speaking minority – of course, those moving went primarily to the cities, and thus often became a majority (not least because Russian was simply more useful than Romanian to just about any resident of the Soviet Union).

Transnistria, of course, hadn’t really been Romanian-speaking to start with; it was actually Ukrainian-speaking if anything. However, a combination of Moldovans moving within their home Republic into its new zone (transferred precisely because it was industrial and thus provided the otherwise largely agrarian Moldova with an industrial hub), and Russian-speakers moving in from elsewhere in the Union, saw Transnistria become effectively tri-ethnic – about 30% Ukrainian, 30% Moldovan, 30% Russian with a few others making up the remainder (noting that these themselves are crude terms doing a gross injustice to the multiplicity of identities, ethnicities and nationalities really contained within them, not least once two or three generations of inter-marriage are introduced into the equation).

At the end of the Soviet Union, as many newly independent Republics did, Moldova adopted its originally native tongue (essentially Romanian, though some prefer to call it Moldovan and it is in fact referred to officially most often simply as the “Language of the State”), notably switching from Cyrillic script to Latin. There was even talk of union with Romania. As Transnistria did not originate from this, a civil war ensued, resulting in an uneasy truce in 1992 in which Transnistria effectively became an independent state backed by Russia but officially remained recognised as part of the Republic of Moldova. I think it fair to point out that the West has to understand this – it was not unreasonable for Russian troops to remain in 1992 when there was a real risk that Russians elsewhere in Moldova would be absorbed against their will and without cross-community consensus into Romania. However, they agreed in 1994 to leave within three years, and by 1997 the “Greater Romania” issue had passed – yet they are still there.

Transnistria adopted its own language policy, becoming officially tri-lingual but banning Latin script – thus road signs, for example, are in Russian, Romanian and Ukrainian but all in Cyrillic. (In fact, we visited a Transnistrian school which broke this law and taught Romanian in Latin script – it was a horrendously uneasy atmosphere and I was unsurprised to hear that the authorities promptly bulldozed it the following month.)

You can read about Transnistria but you cannot quite grasp the discomfort of the place. The authorities had cut off all phone lines, introduced their own currency, introduced their own stamps (unrecognised internationally, meaning Transnistrians have to leave Transnistria just to post a letter anywhere outside it), stopped dual-band mobile phone access, and it was clear every room we were in was bugged. Soviet statues predominated, militaristic parades were common, and public toilets (such as they were) consisted of a less-than-generous hole in the ground. Entrance to Transnistria itself involved passing two military checkpoints (one of which was openly Russian); there was one road only into and out of any town, and it too had checkpoints. Such was the paranoia of the place, the authorities even sent someone after us to Chisinau 48 hours after our departure to pretend to be an opposition spokesperson agitating fairly and democratically for union with Romania (complete with a Romanian-language T-shirt in Latin script) – even though he spoke only Russian and was obviously acting (literally) for the government.

Here’s the historical thing: contemporary Russia’s particular interest in Ukraine itself dates from Ukraine’s (perceived “anti-Russian” but actually anti-trafficking) decision to insist essentially that any imports into Ukraine from Transnistria be registered with Moldovan authorities – the inevitable response to which was a “referendum” in Transnistria where 97% “opted” for Transnistrian independence in “free association” with Russia. Sound familiar? It is astonishing that anyone reporting or analysing the Crimean situation would have missed this – yet they all did, as far as I saw! However, it must be said that Transnistrians in 2011 were free enough to vote for the wrong guy for President (an ethnic Ukrainian opposed to both main Transnistrian parties, to confuse matters).

Here’s the contemporary thing: Transnistria is already Russian-occupied and funded; and it is to the southwest of Ukraine – but it borders a part of Ukraine on the Black Sea which is comparatively pro-Russian. Geographically this part of Ukraine, centred on Odessa, juts out geographically like Crimea. So, ethnically justifiable on the same grounds as Crimea, historically justifiable similarly, and even geographically justifiable on the map, this all means that Southwest Ukraine is the obvious next stop for Russian “intervention” - not least on the grounds that it would constitute a “reunification of Transnistria with its original hinterland (in fact, Transnistria’s Prime Minister comes from Odessa)” while at the same time “respecting the results of the [aforementioned] 2006 referendum”.

Moldova is, of course, a “brother country” of Romania, which is now part of the EU. If Russia effectively annexes part of an EU member state’s “brother country”, is the EU going to do anything (like, really do anything) about it? What happens if it annexes a bit of the neighbouring sovereign state as well?

No, obviously. We are doing the opposite of what we should be doing. Quite aside from ensuring the linguistic and democratic rights of “Russians” in the Baltic States and as far as possible elsewhere and then putting it up to the Russians to act similarly democratically, we are in fact propping up an unelected government in Kiev allowing the Russians to justify taking away chunks of their territory. And few of the people commentating on these decisions in the Western media and to Western governments have even heard of Transnistria…

Belfastisms… and Ulster Scots

The Daily Mirror published a list last Friday of 28 expressions you will only know if you’re from Northern Ireland.

This begs the obvious question – are they Ulster Scots?!

“Ach, yous-uns are eejits” – could be; Scots would have Ach, yous anes is eejits (“yous-uns” is a pluralised “you” plus “ones” or Scots “anes“).

“Yer man is doing my head in” – probably isn’t; it’s likely English dialectal.

“I’m totally scundered” – is derived from Scots although the phrasing is English; but the <d> is a hypercorrection, the Scots word is in fact “scunner” (“A’m fair scunnert“), but idiomatically it would usually be used as a noun (“A taen a fair scunner“).

“Let’s head out for a wee dander” – is derived from Scots; but again the <d> is a hypercorrection – Scots has “wee danner“.

“This jallopy is banjaxed” – isn’t; it is perhaps onomatopoiea.

“Yer ma’s blootered again” – is derived from Scots; the word “bluiter” means the sound of a gust of wind, but “bluitert” has come to mean “drunk”.

“He fell on his hoop” – probably isn’t.

“Away on with ye” – probably is derived from Scots; Scots does frequently use awa “away” almost as a verb.

“Alright mucker” – probably isn’t.

“Catch yourself on big lad” – probably isn’t.

“Do you like my new guddies” – probably is derived from Scots; Scots more usually has “gutties” (originally meaning anything made of rubber, then more specific to shoes).

“Shut yer bake” – could be from anywhere; but indeed Ulster-Scots poems from two centuries ago do use “bake” (“beak”) for “mouth”.

“My gub’s killin’ me” – again, could be from anywhere; “gub” certainly is used in Scots, including in such a context.

“Give us a gravy ring there mate” – probably isn’t; this seems to be a Northern Irish speciality!

“Shut that windee” – probably is derived from Scots; Scots typically pronounces final “-ow” in English as “-ee” (usually spelled “-a” or “-ae” – e.g. winda(e), folla(e), Glesca(e)).

“We’ve been firing bricks at the peelers” – isn’t.

“Bout ye” – probably isn’t.

“Give us a juke at that” – is derived from Scots; Scots has “deuk“, actually meaning “duck”, in this context.

“Have a wee hoak for it” – is derived from Scots, even idiomatically, although has come to be slightly mispronounced; Scots would be the same phrasing, usually written “hae a wee howk for it” (“howk”, strictly, has the same vowel as “cowp”, but then so has “bowl”…)

“My da will knock your ballix in” – isn’t really; “da” is typically Scots, but is in widespread usage across Ireland too.

“He’s half-cut again” – isn’t.

“That dinner was ratten” – hmmm, is English!

“Quit yer faffin’ about” – is derived from Scots, even idiomatically; Scots would have “Quit yeir faffin about” (though “faff” is a perfectly good English word too).

“Get your lazy hole out of bed” – isn’t, particularly!

“Do you think I came down the Lagan [more commonly actually Bann] in a bubble?” – isn’t; coming down a particular river in a bubble is known across the British Isles and probably elsewhere in the English-speaking world too.

“Give us a pastie supper” – is derived from Scots; the concept of “fish supper” and the like is understood in Scotland but not generally in England.

“This is pure wick so it is” – “wick” isn’t, but “so it is” is, so it is…

Essentially, most of the examples are relatively usual Urban Dialect English, but there is a widespread Scots influence.

Belfast doesn’t need direct flight to Canada

For some reason – inexplicable to me but demonstrative of our politicians’ complete lack of economic nous – there is a campaign for a direct flight connection from Belfast to Toronto.

This is straightforward wrong-headedness. Even the connection from Belfast to New York – the largest city in North America and main economic centre of the world’s superpower – is loss-making and effectively now subsidised by the Northern Ireland ratepayer (through lower air duty). Has any of the MLAs nonsensically promoting a Toronto link been challenged on exactly how much subsidy that would require – all for an air link to a city half the size of London in a country with half the population of the UK?

It is astonishing, frankly, that any politician could advocate a link to a distant city on another continent in a country of 30 million, while missing the obvious fact that we have no direct link to nearby cities on this continent in a country of 80 million! Germany is Europe’s obvious economic power and engine; it is the UK’s largest trade partner; and Northern Ireland has not a single air link to it!

Sure, Canada and Northern Ireland have long-standing heritage links – but that is not what highly subsidised air links are for! Those who wish to pursue them can quite happily travel via Dublin. What we need, for jobs and wealth creation, is a proper trading link to our largest economic partner right here on our doorstep.

We need a direct link to Frankfurt, not Toronto or anywhere else.


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