Ominous

This article in today’s Sunday Herald looks at the unified Germany.
A section of the Berlin wall has been rebuilt to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the fall of the Wall in 1989. However it seems instead to be stressing that the divisions remain.
Should this serve as a warning for Ireland if and when ?

Fifteen years on, the wall returns to haunt Berlin

‘Rebuilt’ partition captures German mood of cultural resentment and economic woe, finds Alan Crawford at Checkpoint Charlie

They’ve rebuilt the wall in Berlin. A 200-metre stretch of whitewashed concrete, three metres high and with the distinctive rounded top of the original, has been erected beside Checkpoint Charlie to mark the 15th anniversary of the fall of the wall on November 9, 1989.

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  • ulsterman

    There aint going to be a united Ireland ever. That idea belongs in the dustbin of history.

    Instead a new rejuvenated Protestant Ulster is about to be born under the DUP.

    Not one inch, Not one blade of grass will Dublin or Rome get.

    No Compromise and No surrender ever.

    God Save The Queen.

  • maca

    AFAIK they made a number of mistakes after reunification, spending money where it wasn’t really needed, spending it on “flash”. Of course people are going to be pissed off when their money is wasted like this.
    IF a UI ever came about they could use the German experience for reference.

  • Davros

    What I found interesting was that after a period of optimism the feel-good factor couldn’t counter the deep divisions.

  • Keith M

    There are fundamental political differences between Germany and the island of Ireland. Germany existed as a successful unified independent state since the early 19th Century following the Congress of Vienna. It fought two World Wars as a single political entity and the border was imposed by the forign powers against the wishes of the German people.

    Ireland has never been a single independent state. The only time it was unified was as a Norman/English/British colony before 1800 and as part of the U.K. from 1801 to 1921. The border was introduced at the behest of the people of one part of the island, (Nationalists in the south) in order to facilitate idependence from the rest of the U.K. Given that there is no indication that the south wants to re-join the UK in the foreseeable future or that the people of Northern Ireland want to leave the UK, there is no will to remove the border, unlike what happened in Germany.

    The terrorist activity in Northern Ireland has only serve the strenghten the border. For the last 30 years people in this country when asked about the violence in Ireland when at pains to point out that their country was generally peaceful but that Northern Ireland was a completly different place. It will take a long time for the lower levels of violence in N.I. to change that psyche and in the meantime the EU is making national borders all but irrelevant.

    This article is interesting, but it’s significance to the island of Ireland is minimal.

  • maca

    One thing we have to remember is that unification only happened in 1990. These things take time, if we check again in another 14 years the situation might be very different there.

  • maca

    Keith
    “there is no will to remove the border”

    You sure? Nationalists in the North, a majourity of people in the South would like to see it gone.

  • Keith M

    Maca : “Nationalists in the North, a majourity of people in the South would like to see it gone.” Firstly I’d like to see the real number of people in N.I. that would like to get rid of the border. Opinion polls show the figure at around 1 in 3. As for the south, people in this country have voted for a solution which puts the decision in the hands of the majority in N.I.

    Every now and again some politician takes a “united Ireland” from the back of the top shelf, blows the dust off with pleasant meaningless platitudes and puts it back. A “united Ireland” is not a significant political issue in this country and never has been.

  • Davros

    Nationalists in the North, a majourity of people in the South would like to see it gone.

    How strongly would a majority in the South want it gone ? Enough to risk their prosperity the way W Germany seems to have – assuming they would view themselves as W to NI as E Germany ?
    Or is the wish for unification vague and based on sentiment ?

  • Davros

    This article is interesting, but it’s significance to the island of Ireland is minimal.

    I’m not so sure Keith. If the prosperous movers and shakers look at the effect of Unification On West Germany, It will make them wonder – especially as
    the one Party that is really serious about Unification is a High Taxation Party.

  • maca

    Keith, Davros
    Current opinion polls in the south indicate over 70% would like a UI.
    Of course this will change in future, ecomonics will become more important and that percentage will drop. Even i’ll eventually change my vote 😉

    Anyway we’ve been down this road umpteen times…

  • Davros

    We all know about Opinion polls Maca 😉

    What % in the ROI would vote for Yes if the question was

    “Would you be prepared to see Income tax rise by 10% to fund a United Ireland” ?

  • Davros

    we’ve been down this road umpteen times…

    There haven’t been many examples of the realities of unification to study, just plenty of theorising.

  • George

    Keithm,
    You are completely wrong an the UI but even further off the mark on your German history.

    Germany only came into being under Wilhelm I and his Chancellor Bismark after the Austrian-Prussian War of 1866 and the Franco-Prussian war of 1870.
    Prior to this there was the link up of the Hohenzollern states in 1834 but this merely advocated free trade.
    The Congress of Vienna redressed the situation post Napoleon, it had nothing whatsoever to do with the birth of the modern German nation.

    Re the Wall.
    Firstly, one of the most compelling arguements I have heard as to Germany’s post unification troubles is that the 1:1 was given with the D-Mark – Ostmark because they believed the GDP figures for the DDR, which were completely false. The place was in an absolute mess.
    The country didn’t collapse as a result of this mistake and it still makes up a third of the EU’s output despite swallowing 17 million people’s problems. Unemployment in the west is still low enough and country as a whole has so much potential for growth. It ain’t going anywhere soon.

    Kohl wanted the wall gone and it all but disappeared but lately a lot of people have advocated putting a piece back so people will never forget (hundreds were shot trying to get over it) but also so tourists would have somewhere to go. The Yanks took Checkpoint Charlie back to Indiana you know. All that was left of the wall was a thin red line painted on the cobblestones.

    “Die Wende” is what the Germans call the fall of the wall and it means “change of direction”. No glorifying the defeat of an ideology or anything like that. They know this change of direction has brought problems but they aren’t blaming anyone or lording it up Daily Telegraph style.
    Sure there are the comments about the work-shy Ossis and arrogant Wessis but for the most part they are just getting on with it.
    There is no whataboutery from them.
    There was a solidarity tax paid by all West Germans to help fund reunification though.

    Or as the German saying about die ewige Stadt goes:

    Berlin bleibt Berlin (Berlin remains Berlin)

  • Davros

    If you are gonna use foreign languages George mo chara…

    Vergangenheitsbewältigung works both ways!

    (needless to say this is a 14)

  • IJP

    As one still technically a German resident (if only because I couldn’t be bothered to sign off again!), I will make a few comments.

    Firstly, the article is not entirely accurate, which always concerns me a little, because if it can’t get the things you know right, is it getting the things you don’t know right? For example, Gerhard Schroeder is a social-democrat, not a socialist, and the state’s name is Mecklenburg-WEST Pomerania (Pomerania is in Poland – need to be VERY careful about that!!)

    Indeed, the gains for the right in two eastern states a few weeks back were nothing really new, these parties regularly appear and disappear, and the apparently high percentages were a result as much as anything of low turnout.

    So, back to Ireland. We established on another thread (‘Kane: Why I’m a Unionist’) that an all-Ireland state could only be economically successful if the Northern economy was liberalized. That is not what happened in Germany. Essentially, lots of money was ploughed east, companies were basically bribed to set up there, but still Easterners are not earning their own way because they expect the State to pay for it.

    So, the German experience does not create a case against an all-Ireland state, but may provide a warning as to how to go about it should it come to pass.

    I don’t think it will come to pass, but then, I wouldn’t have thought an all-German state would come to pass in the mid-eighties either. A week is a long time in politics etc…

  • IJP

    Please heed Maca‘s warning folks – we’ve had that debate before and it is pointless!

    I think the three questions here are:
    – does the German experience provide a case for caution concerning an all-Ireland state?
    – does the German experience provide a model for unity between a largely capitalist larger area and a largely state-dependent smaller one?
    – is the German experience at all relevant?

  • ShayPaul

    Good points IJP for me the real sticky one is :

    Essentially, lots of money was ploughed east, companies were basically bribed to set up there, but still Easterners are not earning their own way because they expect the State to pay for it.

    This is the major risk for a United Ireland. The northern economy is too state dependent and not sufficiently prepared to face exposure to the “real world”. Liberating the Norths’ economy is long overdue and requires serious political leadership which is much lacking at the moment.

    The catch 22 is that the link to the UK has not been conducive to a liberal economy either.

  • alex s

    it seems that the problem in Germany is that the population still see themselves as either East Germans or West Germans, the lesson for Ireland is simple, Hume was right, the people have to feel united, 30 yers of bombing haven’t helped.

  • George

    There are no real comparisons to be made between German reunification and a future united Ireland.

    Firstly, the East Germans are more nationalistic than their western compatriots, there were no recaltricant unionists who needed to be pacified.

    The DDR system was completely discredited. I can’t see a UI happening under circumstances where the UK’s role in that part of the island will be despised by virtually all to such an extent.
    The UK’s role was discredited to a similar extent south of the border in 1919-1921 but unlike the Soviet Army and the Volksarmee in the DDR the British decided to try and crush the freedom movement by physical force a la Prague 1968 and Hungary 1956. They lost. Freedom won.

    Economically, NI is not in as a messed up position as East Germany was. You don’t have the environmental disaster left by East German industry to clean up, for example.

  • maca

    Davros
    “We all know about Opinion polls Maca ;)”

    It was Keith who first mentioned the polls, and the only reason I mentioned it 😉
    I think threat of violence more than economics would turn people away from a UI. This is changing though, as I mentioned.

  • aquifer

    It interesting to see how living under different political and economic systems changed (the same) people in Germany. A socialist state run by a repressive gang creating dependent impoverished clients, a stable currency and a capitalist state creating a humane yet formidable social democratic and industrial success story.

    And what of our ex-war economy. What did the war do for us. Knocked us off the multinational inward investment bandwagon just as it began to roll, locked us into state dependency, and just as the Belfast Boycotts had done, suppressed cross-border economic interaction for a generation.

  • Moderate Unionist

    Nice points aquifer
    You missed the recent thread on Kane- Why I’m a unionist (IJP mentioned). The points you raised were supported by others.

    IMHO The Germany experience is relevant. The key elements of the article are unemployment is higher in the East, funds are now being concentrated in areas of Growth (i.e. the West) and if you don’t like it move, leading to depopulation and social unrest. Even if only a possible outcome, not a great incentive.

    George
    You are completely wrong on the UI but even further off the mark on your German history.

    How is this possible? Inflamatory and unnecesary statements.

  • Henry94

    There would be no real divisions between north and south because the economic divisions wouldn’t map to the former border like they do in Germany.

    Unionists might find themselves in a more comfortable political position that nationalists in a united Ireland. It struck me that the parties which welcomed the Bush victory were Fianna Fail and the DUP.

    A coalition of unionists and FF/PD would find large areas of agreement on economic and social policy.

  • Davros

    Henry- the “Cultural resentment” would be rather difficult as would Historical issues. I just finished reading a fascinating examination of the contortions over redesignating a mutually acceptable to East and West Germany- version of the past to Buchenwald.

  • Henry94

    Davros

    But for a united Ireland to come about there would have to be a nationalist majority. I suspect unionist cultural resentment would be worse in a Sinn Fein dominated north than it would be sharing power with Fianna Fail in a united Ireland.

    Germany was different in that the East Germans were not divided and so came to see themselves as a seperate group in the new germany.

    The competition between unionist and nationalist would (given a nationalist majority) make a united Ireland a much easier change.

    Who would the average unionist like as Prime Minister? Gerry or Bertie?

  • Davros

    Henry- SF can never dominate the North as a seperate entity. They have reached as high as they can get – dominance in the minority.

    I’m not sure I agree with you about E Germany not being divided. If we run with the idea, for debate, that NI equates to E Germany as the poor relation, then surely plenty of E germans identified with family trapped on the other side of the border/wall and regarded the Soviets with much the same hostility as many in NI still regard the “Brits” ?

  • James

    “- does the German experience provide a case for caution concerning an all-Ireland state?
    – does the German experience provide a model for unity between a largely capitalist larger area and a largely state-dependent smaller one?
    – is the German experience at all relevant?”

    –Kohl screwed the pooch when he took the East German GDP at face value and traded ostmarks for deutschmarks on a 1:1 basis. Billions evaporated overnight and they are still paying for it. Thus I do not view the general German malaise as a template for Irish unification since I do not expect this kind of blunder. Northern Ireland is not a pig in a poke to Dublin.

    –Northern Ireland is not a state dependent economy, per se, but one with one hell of an overgrown security industry. Viewed from a California perspective, both north and south are socialistic as hell, nearly goddamn commies if you’re from Garden Grove.

    –Yes, I do think it is relevant. There have to be a few similarities lurking about, minefields to be avoided, etc. After all they DID reunify.

    I once did a back-of-the-envelope calculation after using the 1.468 million wage earners identified by the CSO and the usual 3 Billion sterling amount bandied about for subvention in NI and came up with about 2920 euros per taxpayer per year or about 56 euros a week per taxpayer. The same CSO reports that in 2000 weekly taxation varied from IR107 to IR43 with a national mean of IR60. Take a 1:1 trade from punts to euros for a lowball estimate and that nearly doubles the average taxpayer’s burden. Talk business into paying half (goodbye Intel) and that reduces it to a 50% increase in taxes.

    How is that going to play in Navan? Over here that’s a surefire recipe for a lynch mob.

    Maca, I would appreciate a link to the polls in the south regarding reunification.

  • Henry94

    Davros

    Henry- SF can never dominate the North as a seperate entity. They have reached as high as they can get – dominance in the minority.

    That is a knee-jerk reaction in the context of this discussion.

    Let me walk you through it again. If we are discussing the issues that would arise in a united Ireland then we are talking about a situation where nationalists would be the majority. Got it? Otherwise no united Ireland and no issue.

    In that situation Sinn Fein would most likely be the biggest party. OK?

    So Unionists may find a united Ireland where Sinn Fein could be excluded from power via an alliance with Fianna Fail an attractive proposition.

    If we run with the idea, for debate, that NI equates to E Germany as the poor relation, then surely plenty of E germans identified with family trapped on the other side of the border/wall and regarded the Soviets with much the same hostility as many in NI still regard the “Brits” ?

    Almost all of them did. That’s the point. There was no division in East Germany. It was simply the Soviet occupation zone of a defeated Germany.

  • Davros

    SF can never dominate the North as a seperate entity. They have reached as high as they can get – dominance in the minority.

    That is a knee-jerk reaction in the context of this discussion.

    No Henry. It was a reaction to this part of your reply:

    I suspect unionist cultural resentment would be worse in a Sinn Fein dominated north

    For the forseeable future SF cannot dominate the North. Even if they took every nationalist and RC vote, they would still be under 50%. I KNOW that you were being hypothetical.

    and even in
    in a united Ireland then we are talking about a situation where nationalists would be the majority. Got it? Otherwise no united Ireland and no issue.

    In that situation Sinn Fein would most likely be the biggest party. OK?

    Not OK. SF might become the largest party in NI if we are talking MPs or MLAs because of the Unionist split, but in a 32 county Ireland do you honestly think SF would be bigger than FF, or as would likely be the case ‘new FF’ (FF + SDLP)?

  • Davros

    That’s the point. There was no division in East Germany. It was simply the Soviet occupation zone of a defeated Germany.

    and isn’t that the orthodox Republican view of NI, that it too is the ‘British Occupied Zone’ of what was a defeated Ireland ?

  • Henry94

    davros

    SF might become the largest party in NI if we are talking MPs or MLAs because of the Unionist split, but in a 32 county Ireland do you honestly think SF would be bigger than FF, or as would likely be the case ‘new FF’ (FF + SDLP)?

    That is my exact point! In that case unionists may see a united Ireland as a better option, not as a defeat.

    and isn’t that the orthodox Republican view of NI, that it too is the ‘British Occupied Zone’ of what was a defeated Ireland ?

    Yes but it is not the unionist view. In East Germany it was eveyones view. So there is now a common East german identity which there will never be in the north of Ireland.

  • Davros

    Yes but it is not the unionist view. In East Germany it was eveyones view.

    Was it everyone’s view though ? There are still significant numbers of communists who yearn for the ‘good old days’ – eg from CNN 1998

    A recent survey by the conservative Allensbach Institute found that a majority of Easterners no longer identify with the capitalist system. They often say they feel lost in the maze of Western laws and regulations. Sometimes they even wryly refer to the events of 1990 not as “unification” but rather a “hostile takeover.”

  • Davros

    D: SF might become the largest party in NI if we are talking MPs or MLAs because of the Unionist split, but in a 32 county Ireland do you honestly think SF would be bigger than FF, or as would likely be the case ‘new FF’ (FF + SDLP)?

    That is my exact point! In that case unionists may see a united Ireland as a better option, not as a defeat.

    Why ? SF even if it get’s all the NI Nationalist votes will not be able to be anything more than a permanent opposition as they will not be able to take more than 50% of seats.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Davros.

    Come on now, you see what Henry is saying re. Sinn Fein dominating in the north. IF the situation ever arises in which a UI is imminent, that MUST MEAN that nationalists have become the majority in the north. It’s the principal of consent – I know you’ve heard of it. Okay, so we’re at some future point in which nationalists are in the majority, they have more than 50% of voters and, unless there is something rotten in the state of Denmark, more than 50% of political representation. This conversely means of course, that the unionist majority is no more. Unionists are now the minority. You may argue that this is unlikely but you cannot argue that it can never happen, so please, just go with it. If you do, then you’ll be able to see Henry’s point – and then deal with Henry’s point, rather than going in a completely different direction and arguing at cross purposes.

    Okay, so it’s the year two thousand and whatever and nationalists are in the majority in the north, unionists in the minority. Sinn Fein or some future likeness of SF are most likely to be the largest party – and hence the party in charge of NI.

    Which brings us to what I think Henry’s point was: at that point unionism would most likely see the greatest advantage in going over the heads of the SF government in Belfast straight to the government in Dublin and entering into a strategic alliance there, to counter the influence of the shinners.

    Or more bluntly – if SF ever became the dominant force in northern politics, a unified Irish state would in fact become unionism’s trump card, and the means of Sinn Fein’s disenfranchisement.

    Funny old world, eh?

  • Henry94

    Billy Pilgrim

    Exactly. Thank you.

    Over to you Mr Davros.

  • maca

    …and at that stage in two thousand and something ROI might be recovering after the collapse of the housing market and the fish finger market and we might want nothing to do with the North. Now’s your chance lads, before SF take power 😉

  • Davros

    Come on now, you see what Henry is saying re. Sinn Fein dominating in the north.

    Sorry BP – what was written back then was very ambiguous. I was asking for clarification , not being difficult ( on that occasion LOL )

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Fair enough Davros. It seemed very obvious to me, but I guess you would, understandably enough approach a shinner with a lot more circumspection than I would.

  • Davros

    BP – I would put it differently. I respect Henry and appreciate his thoughts. However I don’t nit-pick because he’s “a shinner” – there is a difference in how people here express things. So if I say something there’s every chance that a unionist will interpret what I am saying very differently to a nationalist and vice-versa. It’s more likely that a unionist will read me correctly than a nationalist.

  • maca

    …and you feckin’ unionists have to be so precise anyway ;-))

  • Davros

    You had better specify what you mean by “unionist” !

    LOL – see you later.

  • smcgiff

    James,

    Take out another envelope and factor in the below.

    The £3 Billion (€4.25B) burden would not fall on only the Republic’s tax payers. Remember we’re unified now, and it’s time for everyone to work for and benefit from a free economy! 😉

    Re:- your tax increase calculations – The Total Revenue the Irish economy took in for 2003 was €44 Billion. A manipulation of both direct and indirect taxes would allow the incorporation of the extra €4.25B without too much heartache.

    More importantly – While NI is not the basket case of East Germany, it has scope for significant development. NI is a backwater of the UK, something that’s considered by the UK government to be managed rather than utilised. In time, the UI will reap the benefits of synergy that the UK is not interested in developing. So NI’s subvention will eventually turn from a negative to a positive contributor to the UI economy.

    For all the analysis junkies out there (Hi Davros!) ye can read the below. Take a look at the number of VAT registrations and the valued added comparisons.

    NI and UI is a sleeping opportunity that I hope will be given a chance in my lifetime.

    http://www.cso.ie/publications/northsouth/economyandenvironment.pdf

  • James

    “Re:- your tax increase calculations – The Total Revenue the Irish economy took in for 2003 was €44 Billion”

    OK, I’ll sharpen the pencil.

    Christ, I feel like David Stockman.

    The gross 2003 receipts were 31.75 billion euros. The corporate and personal income taxes only amounted to 14.2 billion euros. I’m assuming that reunification will be financed by these sources.

    The final figures are approximately a third of what I had originally estimated giving you only a 16.6% raise in taxation if business takes half the bite. Congratulations, you’re one nation once again.

    They’ll still lynch you in Garden Grove.

  • James

    Damn, I did not include the northern taxpayers again.

    OK 12% tax hike north and south.

    Will that play in Navan or Ballymena?

  • smcgiff

    Hello James,

    I took my €44B figure from revenue’s actual 2003 figures. Don’t tell me you believe anything the government tells ya!

    http://www.revenue.ie/pdf/max_coll.pdf

    I think the above is the link I took my figure from, but I’m having difficulty with my Adobe software. I’ll check tomorrow from broadband land.

    Also, one other factor needs to be taken into account. A strange, but well documented, anomaly takes place when you lower the IT tax rates. Total tax take increases! There’s many reasons for this, such as, more people becoming tax compliant toward a perceived fairer system, and tax payers working harder (creating more income) knowing less (percentage wise) will be taken off them in tax. So, when NI is part of a lower IT tax economy, it will be more self-financing. 🙂

    I take your point about the corporate and personal tax sources being the more marginal areas for tax increases, but I imagine indirect sources like VAT, and maybe even less obvious taxes, such as road tax, would be utilised.

    However, lets not forget some external financing. It would be envisaged that subvention for NI would not be indefinite, and could be partially funded by government borrowings.

    As I said before, NI would turn into a utilised resource rather than a managed headache for GB. A UI would then be a stronger partner with the UK, to garner a more British Isles flavour to Europe.

    But, you’re right, I’d likely be lynched from one side or the other! 🙁

  • James

    “but I imagine indirect sources like VAT, and maybe even less obvious taxes, such as road tax, would be utilised.”

    Oh, that is indeed a low blow, raising VAT.

    Now the price of all the plastic leprechauns I buy at Knock will go up to fuel the aspirations for the Irish superstate. God’ll getcha for that.

    It would also be a smart political move to not load up the nordies with a tax hike for several years after unification. DUH!! If post unification fortune allows you to dismantle the security apparatus, the tax penalty may not exist.

    “However, lets not forget some external financing.”

    Yeah, just don’t expect much from Bush. The EU is your best bet.

  • North Antrim Realist

    I see the green mists that hide the real world have descended again, come into the real world guys, there will be no UI in your life time.

    12% /16% tax rises …………….. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Now who exactly would vote for that one?

  • Moderate Unionist

    Agreed

  • James

    “12% /16% tax rises …………….. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Now who exactly would vote for that one?”

    Exactly.

  • Ciarán Irvine

    What people are forgetting is that the Republic is currently forking out what, €5-6bn on infrastructural development, €500m on the SSIAs and €1bn on the National Pension Reserve Fund.

    As the NDP is completed over the next 3-4 years and the SSIAs mature by 2007 there’s easily a good €4bn a year coming on-stream from current taxation. 2004 is likely to turn out break-even with 2005 moving into surplus again, so there’s plenty of scope for borrowing another €3bn a year without breaching Maastricht. The national debt is the lowest in the EU (apart from Luxembourg which doesn’t have one) so borrowing for a short period is not really an issue.

    And the borrowing would be time-limited. Given the appallingly bad mismanagement of the northern ecenomy by the Brits and its astounding under-utilisation; and the experience of the Republic in managing the exact same type of economic re-balancing (from low-tech low-skill State-dependent loss-making economy in 1987 to today), I guess we could bring the north to a revenue-neutral position within a decade, with the north contributing to the national surplus within 15.

    So there you have it. From 2008 onwards the Republic will have about €7 billion eurons per annum available out of current taxation, should a UI be on the cards at that time. That’s the 26 only, mind.

    No crisis, no tax increases, no problem.

  • smcgiff

    NAR, Moderate Unionist, James,

    Let me make this unanimous and agree with ye. Nobody would vote for a 12% tax increase! That’s a no-brainer. That would be like turkeys voting for Christmas.

    But, let me put it this way, would you, NAR/Moderate Unionist pay 12% extra tax (James’ figure, BTW) for NI to stay within the union? Or you, James, would you pay an extra 12% in tax per year for the next four years if it meant Bush was not in the Whitehouse?

    So, there we have it. Such an increase would not be a factor. Nor was it a factor for German unification, when everyone knew there would be pain. However, to my mind, that’s where the similarity ends. The DDR was 100 worse off than NI.

  • Ciarán Irvine

    And how much extra tax would everyone in the north have to pay if Mutha decided tomorrow that youse had to start paying your own way, stand on your own two feet economically, and stop being a financial burden on the State you profess to love so much?

  • Moderate Unionist

    and your point is?

  • smcgiff

    What do you mean, Ciaran? It’s already started(or will start) with rates.

    Personally, I think the weaning process has begun.

    It’s time for the octogenarian son to pack up his toothbrush and leave his once promiscuous mum alone to her well-earned retirement. :O)

  • Ciarán Irvine

    Personally, I think the weaning process has begun.

    Well, the water rates and that “loan” for infrastructure a couple of years back could be taken as evidence for that.

    The problem is that raising some tax levels and reducing central spending like infrastructure without giving the north the freedom to properly incentivise FDI or radically alter spending priorities or make its own alterations to the tax base is probably going to do more harm than good, plunging an already deprived area of Ireland deeper into poverty.

    But then, they’ve never managed any part of Ireland properly in 800 years, so why should we expect their oversight of the Last Colony to make sense now?

  • Davros

    But then, they’ve never managed any part of Ireland properly in 800 years,

    Dublin was well run and prosperous second city of the Empire and all that ….

  • IJP

    Is not the point, however, that Germans underestimated the economic and social consequences?

    In 1990 Germans – even senior economic officials – were talking about parity within five years (and banding around statistics, similar to some above, to ‘prove’ their case).

    The reality, of course, was somewhat different, and that was nothing to do with economic statistics and everything to do with social reality on the ground. Is that not the lesson?

  • maca

    Also though, did they not make some mistakes in Germany? Spending money where it was not needed? At least that’s what an East German told me.

  • smcgiff

    IJP,

    You’ve got to strip out what the governments and establishment said publicly pre-unification ‘parity within five years’ to make such a huge reunification acceptable. This was probably said to encourage the West Germans rather than the gagging at the bit East Germans. You can be pretty sure the governments knew it was going to be nothing like five years, but in five years time they knew there’d be no going back.

    The ROI and NI situation is different, because no government is trying to endorse it or make a UI palatable to the people.

    As for the social consequences, do you think today’s East Germans would welcome a return of pre-unification? It’s easy to harp on about the old days, safe in the knowledge that they can never return.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Davros.

    “Dublin was well run and prosperous second city of the Empire and all that….”

    Oh dear. Dublin, pre-independence was a city with beautiful Georgian architecture set atop a teeming mass of slums that compared unfavourably with Calcutta. Have you never read any O’Casey? Lipstick on a corpse – it’s classic colonial policy.

    `Second city of the Empire’ was one of those phrases that the imperialist used to pat the head of the colonial lapdog. India was the Jewel in the Crown, a phrase which doubtless made the happy subjects of India boundlessly proud.

    So when you say “second city of the empire and all that” you are trying to pull a fast one. There is no “all that”. A bombastic phrase was pretty much all the people of Dublin had to show for their subjugation.

    IJP

    No-one underestimates the challenges that reunification has posed in Germany, or that would be posed by Irish reunification. But is there any significant body of opinion in Germany that believes reunification was a mistake? Do many people wish it had not happened? That for all the difficulties, does anyone wish that Germany was still partitioned?

    No. For all it’s difficulties – which are real, but should not be trumped up as though they are a deal-breaker either – few Germans would turn back the clock.

    The way Germany reunified was different from the manner in which Ireland is most likely to reunify. If Ireland does so, it will most likely be a case of the two states joining together to create a new state. Germany’s reunification was different. Effectively the old East Germany became a new constituent part of the existing Federal Republic of Germany.

    This approach did not create in West Germans the sense that they had to meet the Ossies half way – which would have helped greatly. German reunification was framed more in terms of the east returning to the (western) fold. Such an approach has not served Germany well, and would not fly in Ireland in the first place.

  • IJP

    Maca

    My contention – but it’s straight off the top of my head – is that the lesson is that the issue is social. Of course they made mistakes in Germany, but I’m not sure how much we can really learn from them.

    S Mc

    You can be pretty sure the governments knew it was going to be nothing like five years

    Well, I would say two things:
    – many people I work with in the field of international conflict resolution and boundary disputes have told me of discussions they had with senior German officials, and it was they who suggested five years – this was a mix, I fear, of two stereotypical German traits that are in fact quite accurate: incredible naivety concerning foreign affairs, and arrogance.
    – we are talking here about people, not governments. My suggestion is that, despite extremely good and welcome economic arguments here, those who seek Irish unification seriously underestimate the social consequences just as those who sought German unification did (while not disputing their number as a share of population is in reality very different).

    Some East Germans would welcome a return of their version of ‘socialism’, indeed I don’t think they even remotely understood the consequences of unification – how could they? That was always the case – almost as many people were caught heading east across the wall as west. That’s not quite the same as wishing to turn the clock back though, no.

    Are you a regular visitor to Germany too? Your posts on the subject are spot on.

  • maca

    IJP – ok, thanks. Just thought i’d raise it as it’s one of the main issues an East German lad I know highlighted.

  • smcgiff

    ‘Are you a regular visitor to Germany too?’

    Only once on a junket – There long enough to marvel at their infrastructure and realise Ireland doesn’t have the blandest traditional cooking in Europe!

    ‘almost as many people were caught heading east across the wall as west.’

    Surely this was for social reasons, i.e. funerals etc. I can’t imagine many (there’s always the padded cell escapees) who would have preferred communism.

  • IJP

    Billy P

    I think that’s broadly accurate, yes.

    The comparison falls down on the point that, on the fall of communism, German unification was utterly inevitable – not just the fact, but also the timescale and method. It had to be done quickly (otherwise whole piles of people would simply have streamed west), and as a result the method had to be simple abolition of the GDR and incorporation of the East into the Federal Republic (because there was already a precedent for this with Saarland). None of this was decided rationally by anyone, it was just necessary.

    I have stated on this forum many times that my great fear is not Irish unification – far from it, I’m instinctively anti-partitionist. My great fear is Irish unification that is not properly thought through in advance – that is the warning from Germany, in my view.

    (Although I know many people in western Germany – interestingly particularly among the generation that would hardly remember pre-1990 – who would quite happily re-partition is. As Seamus says, that’s all easy to say when you know it’s not an option, but it does lead to significant resentment. Last time I was there I watched a documentary on the lack of East/West marriages, for example – that sort of thing is more realistic and telling. All that said, this is as much a symptom of Germany’s economic depression and subsequent general social uncertainty as much as the mere fact of unification.)

  • IJP

    S Mc

    In fact people were generally allowed to cross the wall on temporary passes for funerals and the like. (For the record I crossed myself in 1985, though not for a funeral!)

    I can’t imagine many who would have preferred communism.

    Hmmm, you’d be surprised. A German lecturer of mine did his year abroad in Leipzig in 1975 and directly challenged the people in a bread queue on that very subject – and freely admits they argued back forcefully and nearly had him converted! Medicals every two years, certain jobs, definite homes, low crime rates – it had its merits alright. As I’ve often said, communism is a brilliant idea, it just doesn’t work!

    It is thought, however, that most of those heading West-East were originally from the East – i.e. they’d crossed, seen the grass wasn’t really greener, and tried to get back again.

  • smcgiff

    ‘As I’ve often said, communism is a brilliant idea, it just doesn’t work!’

    Yip, I’ve alwayst thought that myself. In an ideal world…

    ‘It is thought, however, that most of those heading West-East were originally from the East – i.e. they’d crossed, seen the grass wasn’t really greener, and tried to get back again.’

    Ah, yes. I can see how that would happen. I wonder does the same apply to Mexicans today crossing into the USA?

  • Henry94

    No, it’s an awful idea. You might as well praise prison for the three meals a day and a regular bedtime.

  • smcgiff

    No, Henry94,

    The concept is great; the fact that it would never work is not the point. Communism has failed (will always fail) because of the weakness of man, not the ideal of all men being equal.

  • North Antrim Realist

    What is this about all men (women) being equal. They aren’t and never will be. The concept should be about equality of opportunity for all not outcome.

    That is why communism failed it aspired to an equal level of mediocrity or worse in all things, and it killed ambition for all except the few.

  • Davros

    Henry :No, it’s an awful idea. You might as well praise prison for the three meals a day and a regular bedtime.

    Depends on where you are standing Henry. If you were starving on the streets of Calcutta or Rio I would argue that a spell in Maghaberry would look like paradise.

  • smcgiff

    As I was saying NAR, it was an ideal.

    Funny thing about ideals is that they are rarely (if ever) achievable. In the same way as objectivity in NI politics would be ideal.

  • Henry94

    smcgiff

    Communism has failed (will always fail) because of the weakness of man

    Communism failed because it was a stupid idea. It is the strength of man that he would never let himself be constrained by such a system and it is to the shame of communists that they murdered 20 million while trying to inflict it.

    Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Trotsky, Hoxha, Pol Pot and all the other butchers criminals and mass murderers of communism were not an abberation. They followed on from the logic of Marx who saw the individual as worthless and expendable in the name of history.

  • smcgiff

    See, Henry94, there you go by biasing the ideals by invoking such Head Cases.

    Communism is only a stupid idea because it relies on stupid man.

    The killing of twenty million people has got nothing to do with the ideals of communism in the same way as I’d not hold (although, let me think about it) democracy guilty for the antics of the US presidents.

    The hands of the leaders that have come to the fore from the democratic system are hardly bloodless, Hitler was, after all, elected.

  • Henry94

    smcgiff

    The killing of twenty million people has got nothing to do with the ideals of communism

    Either the mass-murders arose directly out of the concept or Communism is the unluckiest of ideologies with the “Head-Cases”, who happen to be the leading communists of the last century, always ending up in charge.

    Now which is more likely?

  • James

    My this thread as drifted a bit. Well what the hell, might as well nudge it over the edge.

    Most of you nice folks may be unaware that communism is still ticking over just across from my neck of the woods on the Pacific Rim. The news from Vegas is that some of the local players in the gaming industry are moving in on Macau.

    Let a thousand flowers bloom, les jeux sont faits or somthin’ like that.

  • smcgiff

    Henry94, I don’t need to tell you that leaders will, on the whole, do anything to stay in power. Look at Arafat (and his wife by Proxy) and Prez Bush for immediate examples. Such actions are not the preserve of communists.

    Marx expected communism to ignite in places like Britain and Germany. It obviously didn’t, but flourished in pre-existing totalitarian countries. But even that’s beside the point. The fact that the leaders of the USSR, China, N Korea etc are head cases, is proof that man is a failure, rather than the ideals of communism. Similarly, it doesn’t take communism for tyrants to rule. Iraq and much of Africa tell us this.

    Communism will never work on planet earth, but if there is a god, she’d be a communist! 😉

  • Henry94

    smcgiff

    The fact that the leaders of the USSR, China, N Korea etc are head cases, is proof that man is a failure, rather than the ideals of communism.

    No it’s proof that Communism is a failure. Why isn’t man failing to that extent in South Korea?

    but if there is a god, she’d be a communist!

    You mean she wouldn’t believe in herself.

  • smcgiff

    ‘Why isn’t man failing to that extent in South Korea?’

    Because ideals are impossible to live up to.

    ‘You mean she wouldn’t believe in herself.’

    She would, but she’d be comrade God.