Cross-border relations continue to improve – yes, really

Nolan has his faults, but his direct question to Irish Government Minister Jimmy Deenihan, as to whether the Republic could afford to take on Northern Ireland given its annual fiscal deficit of £9.8b, was a master stroke. As was the Minister’s response – straightforwardly and honestly he said “Well no, really”.

Over on Slugger this response was written off by some Nationalists as a mistake or even a setback for cross-border relations. It was neither. Straightforward confirmation that a “United Ireland” is not on the table in the short to medium term, and will never really be until Northern Ireland pays its way, was exactly what Northerners needed to hear. The task now is to make sure they heard.

Firstly, Unionists can no longer get away with raising the immediate notion that a certain course of action will herald a “United Ireland”. No course of action (apart from, ironically, the UK leaving the EU) could possibly lead to a “United Ireland” in any remotely foreseeable timeframe. There should be no more bogey man – it is time to play our part in the UK while maximising our relations and trade with our next-door neighbour.

Secondly, Nationalists need to get over the notion that being an economic basket case somehow makes a “United Ireland” inevitable. Actually, it makes it impossible. And, by the way, if their core argument is that partition leads to duplication of services, they can start leading by example and removing duplication within Northern Ireland itself – starting with pointlessly and expensively divided teacher training facilities. They may also care to note that their fellow citizens in the South do not think profit is a dirty word, do not think mass welfare is a serious economic strategy for the future, and do not believe in running government deficits. Bloody Tories the lot of them…

It has long been obvious to any rational thinker that the only short and medium term priority for Unionist, Nationalist and “progressive” alike is to make Northern Ireland work economically. These mean a radical departure from the stale politics of endless government intervention and being scared of actual export-based wealth creation. After all, it is precisely that which makes us so different from our neighbours… yes, really.


One thought on “Cross-border relations continue to improve – yes, really

  1. Well, in terms of cross border relations there isn’t much that can be told of a survey of 2000 or 4000 people. We could have ones transisland and transcontinental to see where else a culture of conformity exist. Of course correlation does not equal causation and common behaviour does not mean common bounds. There is still a lot of room for improvement, in terms of students going to Southern universities and energy. The one “border” that was missing was the cross community aspect, we still probably have lower social mobility and reluctance to work, live or sometimes go into a community of a different political background … we may have skills to fill a lot of our own skills shortages, but the will to do so gets undermined.

    I agree that if there was an immediate Irish unity or indeed there was more economic exposure to the Republic it would be a cultural shock to many Northern nationalists. Even before the Celtic Tiger, Southern Ireland had to live within its limited means and make the best it could from what it got. It had to live with the consequences of its own decisions. It had to take risks, it had to invent. The low corporate tax was a risk that paid off, it won’t pay off here if the region is economically unattractive in other ways. They also invest more time, energy and interest in R&D rather than sticking to a best practice forever.

    On welfare the ROI does put more money in the hands of claimants and is more generous with tax credits, but this benefit is mitigated by higher private taxes and the two-tier health services system. Unemployment I believe might be higher there than Northern Ireland, but the welfare trap dogma could probably be ignored given the higher impact from the recession on the Republic. There’s no empirical evidence to support the welfare trap dogma.

    The ROI didn’t have the same burden of the Troubles at the same level of Northern Ireland. Major welfare reform programs do need to be sensitive to those who are in the greatest need. It is being sold as a panacea to fixing Foyle and West Belfast job shortages if a plethora of skills programs and apprentices are ran alongside them, if there is evidence based lessons to be learned from the Republic it will be radical wholesale reform like Irish Water you do need the public to buy into the difficult decisions or it becomes a net loss to the State. If there was a united Ireland root and branch welfare reform would be mandatory, but one of the main reasons why the two areas are so resistant is because job creation interventions from Invest NI are loaded towards South Belfast and established economic powerhouses on Northern Ireland, rather than developing regions which would have a bigger impact on unemployment. We can’t move the entire population of the West of the Bann and West Belfast to South Belfast. I worked in an IntertradeIreland program called Fusion, one of the firms developing their software engineering abilities was a fashion company based on the Aran Islands, we can do a lot more in remote locations these days in terms of work.

    It is going to be a culture shock if anti European unionist pro UK unionists who have sided on the side of security for nearly a centuary have to canvass for a path of genuine risk. Stormont controlling possibly reduced agricultural subsidies, Universities losing programs in Nanotechnology and Human brain research, loss of funding that not only helped us connect across the island but helped to link us with Scotland too, with absolutely no guarantee that anything would change with regards to fishing and migration as new international relations would have to be forged and policies better implemented. The Ulster Covenant is the only major constitutional political risk for political unionism in the pre-Peace Process era.

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