Unionists should aspire to the Republic’s public sector model

The Dissenter takes an interesting tack of his own, inspired (if that is the right word) by the News Letter’s Unionism 2010 series. And in the process he says things that should be of interest to all constitutional camps in Northern Ireland:

…the business sector is as much grounded in a dependency culture as the social sector. Nationalists cannot complain about a significant reduction in Northern Ireland’s public sector. If there is to be an all-Islands economy (one of the largest in the world of which we are already an integrated part) then the public sector engagement in the economy has to be reduced to the UK level (even at its current high of 50%) . Perhaps we should aim to be close to Irish Republic’s smaller public sector, otherwise a reduction in corporation tax is pointless and should not even be under consideration.

Those who are creating wealth in society must be encouraged at the expense of those who profit from public subsidy. Far from NI Water returning to the Department of Regional Development it must be prepared for the private sector.

It is not necessary for Unionist parties to unite structurally to agree common points on a future for good government.  The Unionist electorate is not a single monolithic body. It does not lack choice in Party, rather in leadership and ideas on moving forward. No matter the number of parties, Unionism is currently failed by a lack of strategic and purposeful leadership.  There would be a collective electorate groan at the thought of the present Unionist leaderships entering more talks on the future of Northern Ireland given their abject failure to date.

What is required to 2021 and beyond is coherent vision and a policy driven agenda that sets out what is necessary for a small, open, free and intelligence-led economy making a positive social, cultural and political contribution within the UK. This, far far more than (and probably in spite of) political manoeuvering or structural machinations, will build and strengthen the Union.

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  • Cynic

    “What is required to 2021 and beyond is coherent vision ”

    ….. and therein lies the problem

  • DC

    The policy is the rhetorical vision except in written format.

    But I’ve yet to hear anything visionary that can at least be applied in practice and run out of the Assembly.

  • fin

    “Those who are creating wealth in society must be encouraged at the expense of those who profit from public subsidy. Far from NI Water returning to the Department of Regional Development it must be prepared for the private sector.”

    Does anyone in NI actually have a clue about the “mainland” a few weeks ago Sammy was banging on about the success of privatisation, hold your horses, train travel now costs more for both commuter and taxpayer than BR times, BG posted a 98% increase in profits yet are the cheapest supplier (fatigue is setting in and consumers can no longer be arse to hunt around for a £20 saving on £1200 a year energy bill) my water company is owned by a Aussie bank who resist all Govt pressure to fix leaks, the CDC now helps noone and was sold for pennies but worth millions, the MoD privatised everything and can no longer function yet is a black hole for taxpayer cash.

    In short privatisation sucks, as does PFI, £200 to change a light buld anyone!!

  • Brian Walker

    A couple of points out of the linked text “The Union is strengthened” by good government automatically because the reformulated Union in a three stranded constitutional relationship is the status quo. If the system is working, so also strengthened is the confederal character of the relationship with the Republic. It’s most unlikely that you will ever again have the one without the other, whatever unionist noises are currently being made by Conservatives.

    In this set -up might there be a lurking temptation for either side to go for bad government – ie adopt a new wrecking strategy? No, that would only make life much worse for their own supporters.

    Dwindling sectarian behaviour, a recovering Tiger that respects the unionist tradition equally with nationalism,an all island economic relationship which delivers more sustained growth for NI than would be likely under the Union and then prompts the general thought – why not link up fully? – these are the best medium term hopes ( if that’s the word) for breaking the British constitutional link. Rationally this seems a tall but not impossible order by 2020.

    Right, that’s the Union dealt with. Internally I would love someone to spell out in detail

    (a) the scenario whereby Westminster with required Irish support would legislate to replace the present Assembly system with weighted majorities for Executive formation and most lawmaking

    (b) if by some chance it did, what difference it would make at Stormont apart perhaps from the election of a First Minister.

  • Brian Walker

    fin Privatisation is no panacea but maybe the solution is more real competition, not a recourse ( which as you know won’t happen) to more State monopoly? Where do you suppose fresh capital will come from?.

  • Driftwood

    Why does Translink have a monopoly on public transport in NI?
    Surely competition would drive down prices here.

  • HeinzGuderian

    Brian…..’a recovering Tiger’ ?? What,Mr Woods ?? You surely don’t mean the Oirish economy……….Come to think of it,Mr Woods would be a better bet to recover quicker……………and he has lost it completely !!!

    No,a notion once again is not an option…………..even the shinners came to realise that….eventually. 2016//2020……..not enen by Nne O’clock !! 🙂

  • joeCanuck

    I’m not sure how well served small towns and villages are served over there now. It was pretty good under Ulsterbus when I were a lad because they were mandated to do so.
    As I understand the argument, yes,c competition would drive down the cost but only between larger population centres. The big companies would stop serving small communities. If a government backed service were to continue to exist to serve those small places, the cost would be horrendous. In other words, the profits would be sucked out by a few companies.
    Having said all that, not that many people had cars when I were that lad so maybe there wouldn’t be any problem.

  • Not sure about the north but public services in the south SUCK and mostly what they suck is taxpayer money.

    It seems to me that no public sector can work without the private sector to fund it. It takes both and somehow Ireland has got to get its head around how to make it work successfully.

    And that is a bitter pill for some socialists to swallow.

  • Driftwood

    The Heubeck years have gone Joe.
    Now Translink pays its CEO’s (and ex CEO’s) huge 6 figure salaries and the cost of travelling is do prohibitive that car driving is cheaper. But to adopt the competition model prevalent in the rest of the UK seems to be unacceptable to the powers that be. Except in West Belfast of course where ‘Black Taxis’ operate under different ‘franchises’.

  • Rory Carr

    “It seems to me that no public sector can work without the private sector to fund it.”

    Would that include the Defence Forces, the Gardaí, education, the justice system…shall I continue?

  • Rory Carr

    How nice…

    By all means for as long as you want. Its called taxation, that little thing all governments do to their reluctant electorate.

    For a ‘public servant’ (thats a joke in itself) to pay tax, someone in the private sector has to have paid theirs first. All i would like to see is a recognition of how dependent the public sector is.

  • Mick Fealty

    Yes, but the thing is, he’s right. There is still a need for public service.

    Under the Anglo economic model, responsibility for innovation is generally hived off to the private sector because the public sector model is rigidly didactic and hierarchical in a way those pesky capitalists shrugged off at least a generation ago.

    The solution may be to return to first principles, not just to leave everything up to that wholly owned subsidiary of the state we call the market. (that’s if we can be a**ed)…

  • Yes he is right, but I did not say that he was not. I said that both are mutually dependent and somehow government has to find a way to make it work. I also said it was a bitter pill for socialists to swallow, that is because traditionally socialism is suspicious of big business. Or at least it was in what might be called ‘my day’.

    Is the ‘market’ a wholly owned state subsidiary? today when almost every major company is multinational. and then there are the banks…

    I hope politicians can be a***d, that’s why they are elected.


  • Glencoppagagh

    “Nationalists cannot complain about a significant reduction in Northern Ireland’s public sector”

    Quite so if they’re serious about a united Ireland but SF clearly haven’t worked that out yet to judge from Mitchel McLaughlin’s truly witless invervention in the debate.

  • Rory Carr

    “For a ‘public servant’… to pay tax, someone in the private sector has to have paid theirs first.”

    And have you considered, Pippakin, that the tax that the “someone in the private sector” pays might just include tax on a large whack of income that it received from the expenditure of the salaries and wages of those in the public sector? And, indeed that the income tax collected from public sector wage bills and the VAT on the expenditure of public employees might also contribute in large measure?

    We all have to eat you know.

  • tierney

    Not only this; the private sector uses public services just as much as anyone else. Public services are enjoyed by everyone, not only state employees. It is a throwback to18th century econmics to think there is a ‘productive’ sector (i.e. the private one) and a parasitic public sector. The creation of value can happens irrespective of ownership, and many activites are in public ownership because they are, in fact, essential for value-creation but achieved poorly by private enterprise (basic infrastructure is a good example). The question is whether particular goods or services are delivered more efficiently by particular forms of ownersip, or perhaps more importantly, organsiation.

    Taxation might be considered an involuntary payment by some (in fact we have choice over the level of tax; it is just one where we have to achieve consent with our fellow citizens whether to raise or lower it), but we would still have to pay for the goods and services it pays for, whether payment was funelled through the state or not. Of course, with deficit financing (PFI or otherwise…), when someone in the public sector gets paid, it is because the money has been borrowed off someone in the private sector has leant the state sector money, which then gets paid back at a greater rate of return to the private sector, based on taxes paid by both state and private sector workers. the net beneficiary in the long term is the original lender (although that borrowing might also be used to add value for everyone). So there are plenty of people in the private sector who are happy with high state expenditure.

  • slappymcgroundout

    ” …the business sector is as much grounded in a dependency culture as the social sector.”

    Not so. Not that I’ve been there, but I will assume that it works the same everywhere. What is the wage difference between comparable private and public sector employment? What is the difference in job security? In pension?

    With that in mind, if I’m a beginning university student, looking to secure my future, what do I study? What I need to get a job in the civil service? Or chemical engineering or applied physics? Your business is moribund because you’ve given the young folk every reason to aspire to and train for the civil service and no reason to train and aspire to be the chemical engineer and the experimental physicist.

    The sense in which private business is dependent on public funds in the detrimental sense is that it can’t afford the workers that the state and its superior compensation, job security, and pension package can. And so even with respect to comparable employment, the state gets the better workers.

    For the cherry on top, since the state isn’t in the profit-making business, the better workers working for the state have no real reason to be all that more efficient than they need to be to keep their job and ensure their collectively bargained for grade in pay advancement as the years roll on.

    In sum, some, me included, would call the described state of affairs a model of maximum inefficiency.

    Almost forgot, but since I spoke to university, the other problem that you all have is not enough university spaces. And so more than a few leave to learn elsewhere and a not insignificant number of such folk never return to provide their contribution to your collective advancement.

    Sorry, but I had wanted to avoid the “national” question, but I really can’t. And so the other problem you have is that if one assumes that Sinn Fein comes up with a good idea, the other tribe would vote it down, believing that Sinn Fein’s good idea is a nationalist plot to secure a united Ireland, and heaven forbid we have that, even if it means that we have the highest standard of living in the world.

    For one more almost forgot, the author of the cited piece is simply insane if he believes that an essential service ought to be farmed out to the private sector. And I’m being generous with “insane”. The worst possible scenario is profit motive and monopoly. Monopoly ensures no accountability and profit motive ensures that you’ll die of thirst while they add to their retirement portfolio. Interesting that the one soul mentioned the Aussies and English water, since when I was discussing the matter of privatization with some fellow US Repubs, I pointed precisely to the Aussies pathetic performance when it comes to delivering water for the English. Truly lastly, as Joe mentioned, the first thing that happens in transportation when it goes public to private is that all of the non-profitable routes get tossed, even if that means that some who well and truly have no alternative get marooned out there in no man’s land. And when I say, no alternative, I don’t mean just transportation, but also include not having much of a choice on where else to live, as they simply can’t afford to live anywhere but on the fringe.

  • Rory Carr

    Of course, but it does not alter, in fact it increases the mutual dependency.

    Communism tried to deal with it by taking over all business. It did not work, business needs more incentive than a gun to the head. Capitalism tried to deal with it by minimizing regulation but that does not work. Greed and stupidity are not confined to MPs, TDs, or MLAs.. A mutually beneficial system must be devised.

  • fin

    Interested to hear if anyone can mention a privatised part of te public sector in the UK which has actually improved the service and/or gave better value for money?

    Privatisation is generally a good political move, sell the service for a little cash, than let private industry, generate big profits, tax the profits thereby raising money by not raising taxes, the UK is a master and disaster at this, income tax, council tax, NI are all the same in the end. But something like energy is great, energy prices drop globally but not in GB, private energy companies make a fortune HMG takes a slice and makes the occassional mumble about prices.

    Although elsewhere its a disaster and comes about through lobbying and ideology, private medical firms are slobering with the tories in power, although it they pretty good under labour aswell, as the NHS is sliced and diced, yet even that is still ok, as the HMG still gets to collect taxes from those involved.

    It’s now almost £10 for me to make a return off-peak 17 minute journey to London Victoria, in Spain you can cross the entire country on a high speed train for less, owning a recruitment company, my Contractors are tending to only consider drivable or local work, or else its staying in a B&B/Hotel during the week because its cheaper than making 1-2 hour peak time journey.

    All this pushes up their day rates, and so their taxes and VAT, it generates income for hotels, more tax and VAT, or more big profiits for train companies more tax and VAT.

    If this continues the UK currency will become Shares as poorer people live in perpetual poverty due to energy and transport costs the only way to recover some cash is to be a shareholder in Centrica and Arriva.

    It also means the battle is lost for the population as their work pensions are tied up in the same companies that are fleecing them, it is becoming impossible to unravel the cash cow while at the same time no matter which party is in power they are sucked into more and more privatisation.

    Interesting footnote, Iraq prior to invasion had a great public sector infrastructure covering education, medicine, transport etc, one of the first moves which theoil fields were still burning was to privatise everything.

    Knowing several people who grew up in communist East Germany there is a strong hankering to return to those days when you could rely on the Govt. to take care of you.

    Finally, finally, finally, for those who might want to use the myths about the bad old 70’s when GB was run by the unions and had a large public sector, go find a graph on national growth and output, you’ll notice little or no difference.

    Thing is if there is a street with 20 houses whose income is £20k no one notices, if there is 20 houses 19 with an income of £15k and 1 with an income £100k people think its a great country because althought they only earn £15k they could earn £100. Personally I’d prefer the society with £20k incomes

  • aquifer

    ‘responsibility for innovation is generally hived off to the private sector because the public sector model is rigidly didactic and hierarchical in a way those pesky capitalists shrugged off at least a generation ago.’

    Yep. Getting paid well for doing much the same as last year is a public service specialty, and risk taking is asking for a gutting by some smartass auditor. Instead of celebrating successful innovation very modest targets are set for business as usual. Petty restrictions on small purchases that would increase efficiency ensure staff are kept demotivated resentful and unproductive. And childish on occassion. Oppression and paternalism are built into this system that still has the shadow of the big house over it. The smartest and best may leave leaving demotivated deadwood or the ‘cute’ whose lack of formal qualifications and skills is compensated by knowing who to suck up to, hang out with, or sit on top of.

    There are things like education and training that must be done but the private sector will not do, as the person trained may leave the company, creating a loss. The private sector is bad about maintaining standards in health vehicles or buildings.

    If we decide what must be done there is no reason not to let the private sector do it at least cost, whether that is water and sewerage provision, training skilled technicians, public transport coverage, extra tourist hotel beds, rental housing, videoconferencing, business training for people without english as a first language, quality standards in health, car maintenance, and building improvements.

    What we lack is leadership. The executive simply does not know what it wants to do, so cannot ask the private sector to supply anything.

    And who is going to sack public servants before elections?

  • Greenflag

    Good post Fin ,

    Some more facts for those who trumpet the Free Market uber alles doctrine .

    In 1970 GDP per hour in the EU was 35 % below that of the USA . By 2005 the gap was lesss than 7% and closing fast. Productivity per hour of work in Italy, Austria and Denmark is similar to that of the USA but the USA is now distinctly outperformed in this key measure by the Netherlands , Ireland, Norway, Belgium, Germany , france and Luxembourg .

    Europeans even appear to be better at generating small and medium sized businesses and they create more employment (65% of european jobs in 2002 were in small and medium sized companies compared to 46% in the USA .

    Norway’s Valgard Haugland former Christian democratic Minister for children and families made the point that Americans like to talk about ‘family values’ . Norwegians do more than talk -they use their tax and oil revenues from sovereign wealth funds to pay for family values .

    IN the USA some 1% of the population hold almost 40% of the wealth and they are redistributing it ever more to their advantage . One American in five is living in poverty compared to one in fifteen Italians . Any benefits from economic growth over the past couple of decades have not trickled down to the middle or working classes . And now the USA is trying to jump start it’s return to growth by trying to persuade the 65% or 70% of the population who have been ‘looted’ to spend the economy back to growth ??

    Even worse the Americans are now launching a tirade against the selfish Germans and Chinese who simply prefer to save as much of their earnings as possible .

    As an economic model for the future of any country the USA is whats called a busted flush . It has few redeeming qualities .

    The USA is however an excellent country to be rich in at least for now . But the average American works about 300 hours a year more than the average European And what does the average American get in return ?

    Something that’s called ‘freedom’ . According to the WHO the USA is number 1 in health spending per capita in the world and 37th in the quality of it’s service 🙁 If one is part of the 5% of wealthiest Americans the service quality is of course the best in the world . Americans on average live shorter lives than Europeans and their children are more likely to die in infancy . The USA ranks 26th among industrial nations in infant mortality witha rate double that of Sweden .

    According to the World Economic Forum the USA has now slipped a few rungs in the world business competitive table and is exceeded by the ‘high ‘ welfare state countries of Scandinavia .

    Those who still believe that a ‘pure ‘ free market with minimal government and low taxes and incentives for the ‘wealth ‘ creating sector of the economy as being the answer to society’s economic ills worldwide are deluding themselves .

    The truth is that economic and market change in this day and age proceeds at several times beyond the capacity of elected politicians and officials in the public sector to keep up to. Thus the huge ‘knowledge ‘ gap between what was actually happening in Wall St and in the financial sector and our politicians ‘understanding ‘ of same .

    And on privatisation how has the British Rail experiment worked out in practice ? Is British Rail now providing a better , cheaper more reliable service than their state run French, German , Spanish and Italian equivalents ?

  • BT, there’s one. I remember when it took six weeks to get a phone connected.

    Anyone who thinks BT is no good, move here.

  • Greenflag


    ‘The executive simply does not know what it wants to do’

    A bit harsh . Some may actually know what they want to do but are aware that because of limitations of powers and even more the limitation of cash due to falling tax revenues etc they are between the proverbial rock and hard place .

    There are no votes in and a short political career for any NI politician who comes out in the open and tells his constituents that he or she is but a naked emperor/empress and that they had better send for Lady Godiva if they the ‘punters’ want to see real action ;)?

    Its a huge topic this getting the balance right and there is no one correct answer for NI or ROI or the UK as the rate of economic change continues to outpace the capacity of our politicians and mandarins to keep up .

    A new paradigm ahead but when and how is the question .

  • Greenflag

    ‘who is going to sack public servants before elections?’

    This sounds like the kind of stunt that the UUP could excel in 🙁 If they don’t head the NI political party league in the number of own goals scored I’ll be amazed ;)?

  • Greenflag

    Pippakin ,

    I’ll grant you that telecommunications have vastly improved on the island of Ireland and worldwide. I suspect that that has been due to huge technological innovation and satellite communications .

    Does anybody think BR provides a better service now than 20 years ago forgetting for the moment the rubberlike quality and texture of their ham sandwiches ;)?

  • Greenflag

    I miss BT. I have neighbours either side of me who have broadband I do not because of some antiquated cock up Eircom are unwilling to correct. BTW the rental per month is almost as much as BT charge per quarter…

    If I remember correctly BT improved their installation dates very soon after going public.

    There is no help for BR or whatever it calls itself now, sure a rose by any other name…

  • slappymcgroundout

    “The USA ranks 26th among industrial nations in infant mortality witha rate double that of Sweden.”

    How large is Sweden? While you are pondering that question, Sweden’s neighbors on the list:

    Hong Kong

    Notice any similarity? So, by large, I mean to say, geographically, and so of course their numbers are between 2.31 (Singapore) and 3.23 (Iceland), while the US is at 6.22, since they don’t quite have the same relative number of humans living in some instances as much as hundreds of miles away from the nearest hospital. Helps to live close to the facility in time of troubled pregnancy event. And as you can imagine, even when some are living somewhat close to a facility, there isn’t quite the same facility when it serves a rural population of tens of thousands versus the other facility serving the urban millions. If one controlled for distance to facility, and urban versus rural, I’m sure you’d find a picture other than the one you present. By the way, the world average is 44.13.

    There’s also another rather significant difference, to wit, do you know that we have a differing measuring system than some others? We believe that all born alive are human live births. Some of you Euros and some in Asia don’t think that all premature births constitute the birth of a live human(so when they die they don’t lower the infant mortality rate). And so the numbers become meaningless when we aren’t even using the same definition. And, sorry, but I’ll stick with our definition, since if the DNA is human and the heart beats and there’s brain waves, it’s a live human birth, the dehumanizers among us be damned.

    Lastly, you lose all credibility with your citation to the 37th. See:


    Note the “violent crime rates” in the WSJ piece. Why I have “laugh” at your Troubles. A few thousand dead over a few decades. Try LA County having around 450 gang-related homicides in a year, for a decade there. That’s 4,500 over a decade and doesn’t include all other homicides. You think you’ve seen the war zone, not even close.

    Lastly, note also the drop in ranking when you account for spending. Merciful and humane humans that we are, we not only count all live premature births as live human births, we also spend an extraordinary sum of money on late in life care, even though it doesn’t add much in terms of extension of life span. I’ll let you and some others tell the old folk that they just aren’t worth the expense as it won’t add much time onto their remaining days.

  • tierney

    It’s hard to know where to start with the frankly bizarre arguments here. But let’s start by saying that we can be very sure that when we break down US infant mortality rates along rural/urban lines we will not find that distance from facility is a major factor. Will we find that rates in Idaho and Montana are higher than in New Orleans or south-central Los Angeles? In any case, the author has obviously not been to Sweden or Iceland recently – two of the least densely populated countries in Europe, which by this argument should have the highest rates on the continent.

    It is also curious that the author seems to want to celebrate the startling inefficiency of the US healthcare system – the system that not a single other nation on the planet thinks it wise to emulate. It is, at least, original to defned the United States on the grounds that wasted and inefficient expenditure is one of the great virtues of its system. It might display greater virtue to spend the same amount of money and actually get better healthcare results.

  • Greenflag

    How large is Sweden?

    Twice the size of the United Kingdom with approx 12% of the population of the UK . The population is mostly concentrated in the southern one third of the country . Next to the Ukraine and Spain, Sweden is the largest country (area) wholly in Europe.

    I’m sure you find much amusement at the death toll in Northern Ireland-a mere 4,000 over a thirty year period . When pro rated for population size that would be approx 600,000 in the USA or a mere 20,000 a year over 30 years . Actual murders in the USA are and you can correct me on this if i’m wrong are about 40,000 per year which over a 30 year period would be about 1,200,000 or 66% of the entire current Northern Ireland 🙁

    Puts the current death toll in Iraq , Afghanistan and the 9/11 mass murder in perspective eh ?

    Why would a country with it’s prisons full to capacity and with a murder rate 10 times that of EU countries think that the ‘world’ needs to follow it’s example ?

    The British Empire in it’s day had a similar ‘arrogance’ problem . But it never had to fill it’s prisons -it merely exported those who refused to starve to death quietly at home by ‘exporting’ them overseas so that they in turn could steal from the indigenes and bring them the ‘Christian message ‘ of love and forgiveness which they obviously lacked .

    Which reminds me of a British Jewish writer who was told by an evangelical that the Jews were suspicious of gentiles , clannish , and unfriendly.

    ‘Yes’ he said. ‘Two thousand years of Christian love has made us very nervous’

  • Greenflag

    Is there nobody who will speak up for the ‘success’ of the British Rail privatisation ?

  • Greenflag


    ‘It is also curious that the author seems to want to celebrate the startling inefficiency of the US healthcare system – the system that not a single other nation on the planet thinks it wise to emulate.’

    As I said above not a role model .

    ‘It is, at least, original to defned the United States on the grounds that wasted and inefficient expenditure is one of the great virtues of its system.’

    It’s the medical equivalent of ‘creative destruction in the economy or the foreign policy of killing tens of thousands of Afghans and Iraqis so that they too might enjoy ‘American’ democracy .

    Alas it’s not an original argument . It’s been part of the USA agenda by both GOP and Democrats since the 1980’s . Recent attempts to rein in the wasteful excesses of the private health insurance debacle in the USA while welcome have foundered on ‘affordability’ and the sheer reluctance of US citizens to see any more taxes being spent on the education and health of it’s citizens while gleefully accepting the need to cast trillions of dollars into holes in the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan at the behest of corporate interests 🙁

  • Greenflag

    alappymcgroundnut .

    ‘ I’ll let you and some others tell the old folk that they just aren’t worth the expense as it won’t add much time onto their remaining days.’

    As long as access ‘health care ‘ is considered not a right for everybody but an economic transaction which must be ‘profitable ‘ for not just the medical profession but the hordes of bureaucrats and insurance companies and legal interests then the ‘expense ‘ of the last days of life in US hospitals will be a drain on the system.

    The Terry Schiavo case in Florida must have cost millions over a period of years and for what ?

    There is a book on the huge cost of ‘final medical’ care which has just been written by an American doctor which I’ll link later which looks at the ‘end costs’ and compares them to results for terminally ill patients

  • One who knows

    Having worked for FirstGroup before moving back home I think I know what I am talking about when I say that privatisation is essential for competiton in NI, the problem that translink will have is that it will be lumbered with large pension costs against any new entrants into the market. With regard to the non profit making routes, in UK these were subsidised by county councils and subject to competitive tender to operate, so which ever company bid lowest would get the subsidy