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.