The Assembly ain't coming back

IN the Irish Times, David Adams argues that “It is becoming clearer by the day that the British government believes the political institutions in Northern Ireland cannot be revived.”

Some excerpts from the article

Whether the judgment is that neither Sinn Féin nor the DUP is genuinely committed to reaching an agreement on power-sharing or, more charitably, that the gulf between them is so wide as to be unbridgeable is largely irrelevant.

With far more pressing matters than Northern Ireland demanding their full attention, the most obvious being the ongoing threat of terrorist attacks in Britain, it seems Tony Blair and his government are no longer prepared to waste precious time, energy and resources on the political equivalence of an irresistible force arm-wrestling with an immovable object.

Besides, from a British perspective the peace process, even as it stands, can only be considered a success. In the absence of a devolved Assembly it hasn’t been as successful as it might have been, but with thousands of troops no longer bogged down here and peace of a sort established the situation is light years beyond what it once was. The “armed struggle” is at an end and the activities of militant republicanism now confined to a tiny, hermetically sealed, corner of the UK. With Sinn Féin continuing to expand its political base in the Republic it could even be argued that, in many respects, the problem of how to deal with “a vast criminal and political conspiracy” now rests with the Dublin administration.

And he argues that neither Sinn Féin nor the DUP are, in reality, concerned about reinstating the Assembly..

Despite what they may say, neither Sinn Féin nor the DUP will be too discomfited by the prospect of the Assembly not being reinstated. Not least because the government assessment is right: for completely different reasons neither is interested in sharing power with the other.

Sinn Féin’s, and the DUP’s, focus will be in other areas, he says –

With or without a working Assembly, Sinn Féin will continue its twin-track policy of creating instability in Northern Ireland while expanding its electoral base in the Republic.

You don’t need the IRA or its weaponry to foment trouble around issues such as flags, parades or policing.

In the wake of Seán Kelly’s release and the disbanding of the RIR battalions, the DUP, in line with a majority of the unionist electorate, will now be even less inclined, if that is possible, to share executive office with Sinn Féin.

They will content themselves, instead, with politics at Westminster and in Europe.

And for the rest of us it could be a different form of devolution –

Unfortunately, the rest of us will just have to await the long overdue reorganisation of local government in Northern Ireland, with its promise of far fewer but much more powerful local councils, to deliver locally based, representative and accountable, democratic institutions.

..which could also be described as the cantonisation approach.

  • George

    Adams is on the money in that nobody is listening to the DUP but it is a statement of the obvious, in my view.

    The Assembly isn’t coming back and nobody really cares (nobody = people who pay the bills, aka Her Majesty’s Government and people who might have to in the future – Irish Republic) as long as NI continues on its less troublesome path.

    The RIR is being disbanded. No bad thing in this new era as there is no guarantee that these boys wouldn’t mutiny against the British down the line. Not needed and better to be safe than sorry is the British policy here I’d say. Plus they save a bucket of cash.

    North-South bodies in permanent suspension. They were castrated at birth and all unionism seemed to do anyway was poke at the wound rather than look at them as a way to heal the border scar so who really cares.

    Over a quarter of NI’s exports now go south while less than 2% of the Irish Republic’s go north. That is where we are today and the economic ties to the south are growing by the year.

    Business and economics are the new “battering rams” of north-southery and even the DUP can’t suspend trade. What’s it going to do, call a general strike? All those public sector workers coming out will only save HMG cash. They’ll be delighted.

    Boycott Policing boards? Will no policing boards stop police reform? No. Will it stop NI being policed? No.

    That’s it from the DUP. That’s how they intend stopping the current momentum.

    I have to ask has the DUP shot its powder or what else has it to threaten the people of Britain and Ireland with if it doesn’t get its way. What’s next boys and girls? What’s plan B?

    Has the party that promised an end to “pushover unionism” but which will have presided over an amnesty for IRA on the runs, the total disbandment of the RIR, possible speaking rights for northerners in Dail Eireann, mass demilitarisation and ongoing police reform got a plan to help get unionism’s voice heard?

    Or is it simply a case as Adams says, that nobody is listening anymore? I find that people stop listening when what you have to say is, or appears to be, irrelevant.

    I’d like to know what of relevance the DUP, or unionism in general, has to say that will get the British government back listening.

    I’m listening….

  • Felix Quigley

    The original division and creation of 2 states in 1921 still stands. The south has a right to its independent government and so surely does the north. The basic problem is that Britain, America and the South all see fit to interfere in the running of the northern state. I do accept that original creation of 2 states, there was a certain fairness about it. If that is the case then parliamentary (bourgeois) democracy should prevail – I think that powersharing arrangements imposed from without are a recipe for renewed bitterness.

  • lib2016

    Loved that ‘They will, instead, content themselves with politics at Westminister and in Europe.’

    Yeah! That’s why they have spent years building ties to parties at both parliaments. The cantonisation thing might have elements of truth about it in that they may be trying to hold onto their fiefdoms in the east – certainly that’s where the attacks on Catholics seem to be concentrated.

    That strategy is self-defeating in that the DUP have little or no influence with paramilitaries and there are a lot of loyalists who don’t want another Garnerville in their estate, not to mention all those owner/occupiers who are fed up with Orange/loyalist carry-on.

  • Keith M

    This is almost exactly what I have ben saying for quite a while on others threads. I see that no one is taking up my offer of a bet that we won’t see a fully functioning devolved assembly for 3 to 5 years.

  • Dessertspoon

    Is it an Executive….is it an Assembly???? NO! It’s a Super Council……….No ability to make primary legislation, deal with the economy, education etc other than dishing out the money as per HMG Govt guidelines….Is that what you want cos that’s what’ll happen…..

    Whether or not SF are going to continue their search for political gains in ROI doesn’t mean they don’t want a REAL say in what happens up here – at least I hope they do otherwise Nationalists and Republicans in NI should feel very upset that they are wasting their mandate! The only people who are happy for there not to be a devolved government here in NI is the DUP because they mistakenly believe they can influence legislation and important decisions on our economic future etc from Westminster. Lone voices crying out in the wilderness towards a government that isn’t listening, doesn’t need them and never will.

  • Jo

    Its quite obliging that the Doc deprives his own party of meaningful local power and in the same act of nasal self-immolation avoids the embarrassment of Gerry et al to once again taking the Queens shilling and administering education, roads or health services on behalf of HM the Queen.

    Power in the south is what SF lust after – sharing power in the north is a distinctly less sweet prospect.

    I suspect there will be some co-incidence between the prospect of becoming a junior partner in the next Dublin govt, the Doc’s departure (RIP) and a sudden reinvigoration of the lust for power in the second tier of DUP leadership. So much lust – but then politics is so masculine an arena.

  • TAFKABO

    Dessertspoon.

    It’s not about being a lone voice in the wilderness, it’s about Tony Blair needing DUP votes when another labour backbench revolt in on the cards.
    Sinn feins abstentionist position makes the DUP votes twice as powerful.

    I think it’s called politics.

  • martin@hotmail.com

    JO,

    you seem to suggest that lust is a sin indulged in by the male gender only—are you suggesting that most women are closet Asexuals.

  • George

    TAFKABO,
    Tony Blair needs DUP votes for his political survival as much as NI needs more public servants.

    The union will be saved by a Labour back rebellion against something. Talk about about grasping at straws.

  • Dessertspoon

    “The prime minister also said he wanted to see the restoration of devolution as soon as possible…”

    Link to Article

    Tony wouldn’t lie to me would he??

  • ballymichael

    Jo.

    “in the same act of nasal self-immolation”

    err … what? I tried googling “Big ian douses nose with petrol” but I didn’t find anything useful.

  • Dessertspoon

    I think Jo means cutting off his nose to spite his face. Rather than burning it off with petrol.

  • Jo

    Martin:
    Roll on the synthesis of spermatoza! 😉

    Dessertspoon:
    Indeed, I think the petrol would be rather gratuitous, but he feels it would help make his point…

  • Jo

    Martin:
    Haven’t scientists not got round to synthesising spermatoza yet?

    Dessert:
    Indeed. However, if he wants to use petrol to make his point….

  • TAFKABO

    George.

    I never said that the union would be saved, I don’t think the union needs saving.
    My point is that in many ways the assembly is, as has been mentioned, no more than a glorified council.
    I think the DUP could wield more influence in Westminster.

  • mickhall

    It is high time for the unionist communities to decide what they want from their politicians. Do they want local people who help provide services, decent schools, hospitals, education, police force etc and oversees the executive. Or do they want people who rant from soap boxes and appear on TV forever critiquing, whilst not being prepared themselves to step up to the plate as they feel it is to hot in the kitchen.

    If they prefer the latter, which most of the rest of the UK regard as little better than useless poseurs, so be it. But at least have the common decency to stop going on about the british government being responsible for all the Unionist peoples ills. It is difficult to find another example of a majority political party that refuses to govern then blames those who do and still retaining electoral support. If the DUP has no wish to govern when it is offered the opportunity on a plate, pray tell what is its raison d’être? To put it bluntly it is high time Unionism pissed or got off the pot and allowed someone to get on it whose bowels are not full of hot air and foul smelling wind.

    regards to all.

  • martin

    JO,

    seems like its high time the male population was re-liberated–in the wake of our treatment by the “poor downtrodden” militant feminists

  • TAFKABO

    Mick.

    That was a load of pish.

  • lib2016

    Let’s be generous, folks. If the DUPes can negotiate a better price for their forthcoming sellout then I for one would wish them well. God knows most of their constituents are in no doubt about what is happening.

    ‘I think the DUP could wield more influence in Westminster’ Hah! Hah! Hah!

  • George

    Deafening silence from all the DUPers out there, the largest party in Northern Ireland.

    What next from those who said the days of “pushover unionism” are over? How are you going to make the British government listen?

    No Assembly, no Policing boards and no north-south bodies is all you’ve got to offer? Common thread there, no, no, no.

    What do you say yes to?

    What are you going to do in the meantime to ensure the future economic and social prosperity of your community?

    Everyone knows what you are trying to cover from view but where’s the vision?

  • Jo

    Mick:
    Good questions – but why am I feeling a little queasy? 😉

    Martin:
    You have my my permission to apply to be considered for re-liberation.

  • Valenciano

    And while this merry dance goes on the non-existent assembly continues to cost a fortune!

    They should suspend the whole thing, including MLAs salaries, pending new elections.

  • George

    Let’s cut the Assembly and the north-south bodies and why not disband the policing board while we’re at it. If it makes the DUP see sense then I’m all for it.

    TAFKABO,
    you honestly believe that Westminster will put the British people’s interests above those of unionists?

    I know unionists are British too but do you really believe they would put your interests above their interests, economic and political, in the whole island of Ireland?

    There are 6 million people here, you know.

    They make billions from the Irish Republic, one of their largest trading partners. Northern Ireland costs them billions.

    Put yourself in their shoes.

    Where would your interests lie, in building relations with those who want a new mutually beneficial future, a future that will increase the prosperity and security of both your nation and theirs or those who want to hold it back and, even worse, want you to pay for the pleasure?

    You seem to be saying the answer to unionism’s problems is Westminster. Best of luck but I can tell you now, that parliament is more interested in little old me, a foreigner living in Cork, than they are in you.

  • heck

    I think I have said the same on other threads. The GFA is dead. It was killed by the unionist population at the last election when they voted DUP. I hope I am wrong and that with the latest IRA statement the assembly can be up and running soon–but I think not.

    The only way now to address everyone’s identity issues is meaningfull joint authority.

  • lib2016

    ‘…parliament is more interested in…a foreigner living in Cork,…)

    And for much the same reasons Bertie has to pay attention to staying on good terms with London and Brussels.

    The unionists have spent a great deal of time and trouble over the years insulting and denigrating both parliaments and their members because leading unionists honestly believed that Thatcher was a dictator (their word) for imposing the Anglo-Irish Agreement and even more weirdly that Blair is a ‘traitor’ because he married a Catholic.

    The entire EU is as we all know a papist plot.;-)

    And now we are being invited to believe that these institutions are going to save the union!

  • Brian Conway

    In the absence of devolution, why don’t both governments agree to a equalization of income taxes for the Island of Ireland and the use of the Euro as the official currency of Northern Ireland. These two changes, and I admit the income tax question would take time, or even the threat to do so, would make the DUP much more inclined to go into government with Sinn Fein. These two measures would all but eradicate the border which is so precious to the power base of the DUP.

  • lib2016

    The call for equalisation of Corporation Tax has already been made by industrialists and the business lobby. The energy markets North and South are being merged and that’s only one example of many.

    It’s going to happen and unionists will be part of it. The current negotiations are just about settling the price which unionists, especially the DUP can extract from Westminister.

  • Brian Conway

    The equalization of income tax rates and the adoption of a single currency would make the border completely permeable. Although I think it would be a great idea, I don’t see the DUP going along with it for purely “tribal” reasons. Accordingly, even the threat of implementation would make devolution more inviting to the DUP.

  • La Dolorosa

    Big Ian wants to get hands on the FIrst Minister’s job if it is the last thing he does and time is not on his side.

    However the shinners are more than happy to play a long waiting game and are not in any real rush for the assembly to get up and running. ie and so they have the (psychological) upper hand

  • G2

    “Is it an Executive….is it an Assembly???? NO! It’s a Super Council……….No ability to make primary legislation, deal with the economy, education etc other than dishing out the money as per HMG Govt guidelines….Is that what you want cos that’s what’ll happen…..”

    Desert Spoon,

    Of cource its going to happen. But the PM should have a plan *B* to counteract the DUP holding powersharing up by any veto or intrangience.

    One way to solve the situation if the DUP keep refusing to form an assembly long after IRA decommisioning and UK demilitarization is over is to shelve the assembly for ten years. The PM can then offer the leader of each party (To select an MP or MLA) to work under the Secretary of State.as “Eight heads of departments ” (Education , health transport etc etc) Under these the remainder of the elected MLA’s. could be given worthwile posts to fulfill their salaries and earn their keep.

    Every two-three years the secretary of state could change the heads of dept’s around so every political party gets a chance at equal power sharing.

    If the DUP refiuse to co-operate and take up the offer, then the Secretaty of State can offer two (Heads of Dept) posts to alliance.

    The DUP may be the largest party but in the end be left out in the cold.

  • George

    There will not be an equalisation of taxes between NI and the Irish Republic as long as NI is part of the UK.

    Otherwise Scotland, Wales and any other regions not doing too well would ask for the same benefit.

    Gordon Brown’s Gershon review means that public expenditure in NI is going to be cut by quite a bit in the coming years but I’m sure the DUP can stop him doing it with its 9 seats out of a total of 646 in Westminster.

    Still silence from all the DUPers here on what they are going to do next. H

  • La Dolorosa

    As Hillary Clinton says in her interview with the Belfast Telegraph ‘ Sinn Fein have called the DUP’s bluff”…..

  • G2

    “I think I have said the same on other threads. The GFA is dead. It was killed by the unionist population at the last election when they voted DUP. I hope I am wrong and that with the latest IRA statement the assembly can be up and running soon–but I think not.”

    Heck,

    It was killed by republican intrangience by refusing to implement the decommisioning section of the GFA by 2000.

  • TAFKABO

    The flaw in most of the arguments are twofold.

    firstly they assume that the IRA and sinn fein have done something, they haven’t.
    they’s announced that they are going to do something.
    Come back when we know that it’s happened.

    Secondly, they assume that unless the DUP do something, and do it quickly, then the union and unionists are screwed.
    that’s just a load of old tosh, typical republican bluster, smoke and mirrors to hide the fact that they have just accepted that the IRA lost, and that partition is here to stay, for the forseeable future.

    The biggest mistake the DUP could make is to listen to the hype.

  • G2

    “As Hillary Clinton says in her interview with the Belfast Telegraph ‘ Sinn Fein have called the DUP’s bluff”….”

    Hilary is to stand for President new election . She is playing the democratic Irish American green card.trick.

  • George

    TAFKABO,
    what do you think unionism should do next. Let’s take it as a given that the Assembly is gone, Policing board irrelevant, north-south bodies gone.

    What should it be pushing for? We know what it is pushing to stop but what direction now?

    Even if we accept that unionism isn’t screwed,
    it’s safe to say Northern Ireland is, and with Gershon and the cuts therein coming down the road, the screws are only going to turn some more.

    Also, can’t believe I wasn’t picked up on the potential for future mutiny against the British government in the RIR. More must agree with me than I thought.

  • TAFKABO

    “Also, can’t believe I wasn’t picked up on the potential for future mutiny against the British government in the RIR. More must agree with me than I thought.”

    Has it occured to you that perhaps most people don’t come here to humour paranoid fantasists?

  • Keith M

    “Hilary is to stand for President new election” (sic). That’ll be 4 more years for the Republicans then.

  • The Dog

    Unionism has been TOTALY exposed.

    The IRA were undefeated.

    The DUP refusal to get the institutions back up and running is short sighted. Republicans had no great love of it anyway.

    Speaking Rights in the Dail, progress on the All Ireland Agenda. None of these things need the strand one element of the GFA that was set up as something that unionism wanted.

    It means that local politicains won’t be able to sort out the mess that direct rule minsters are making.

    We will have water charges because the DUP don’t have a clue what to do. It means we will lose teachers, school busues, because the DUP don’t want to share power.

    Look at every single council where unionism has power – a single minded refusal to take responsibility – a byword for digotry and discrimination – no power sharing.

    But then Unionism has never been very strong on taking responsibility for anything let alone the mess it creates.

  • George

    And the rest of the post TAFKABO? No fantasies there.

    Okay, how about some hard economic facts about Northern Ireland.

    Maybe somebody from the unionist community has a suggestion as to how they envisage their party working to solve these two obvious problems in the coming years.

    1) How does the DUP/UUP/Alliance intend to tackle the situation where, in the last ten years of growth in NI, unemployment has fallen by 70,000 while those on incapacity benefit has risen by 50,000 and gap with the UK has failed to close.

    2) What does the DUP/UUP/Alliance think NI should do if, as Price Waterhouse Cooper say, a significant amount of the Foreign Direct Investment in the last decade is in the form of service sector investment and may not survive the tests of globalisation?

    If they are too specific, I can do vague.
    What is the plan?
    What is the vision?
    How are you going to achieve it? I’ll give you an easy one, one you can blame someone else on – what are the obstacles?

  • Jo

    Agree with La Ds earlier post and on this I have changed my mind in recent times. I used to think it was important for SF to demonstrate success to the IRA in terms of gaining power in NI, but they have now the time and facility thorugh the IRA statament to gain power firstly in the south and consolidate it in the north through elections, probably in 2006.

  • George

    Jo,
    you are way of the mark there about how strongly the overwhelming majority of southerners feel about SF in power.

    There is a greater chance of hell freezing over in the next 12 months than there is of SF getting into a ruling coalition.

    Fianna Fail and Fine Gael would go in together if need be to prevent it.

    Unless of course the IRA are no longer a proscribed organisation. As I said, a greater chance of hell freezing over.

  • Dessertspoon

    So to sum up – same shit different day, no-one has a baldie what to do now so guess what..we wait…again….. (rolls eyes, sighs, shrugs shoulders) Is it any wonder most people just don’t care anymore.

  • Tom Griffin

    There will not be an equalisation of taxes between NI and the Irish Republic as long as NI is part of the UK.

    Otherwise Scotland, Wales and any other regions not doing too well would ask for the same benefit.

    I think that is probably correct. although, the Scottish Parliament actually has the right to vary income tax levels without it automatically impacting spending levels in Scotland. The Scottish Conservatives are considering exercising this right in the unlikely event they come to power, a plan which has been sharply criticised by some of their English colleagues.

  • IJP

    George is basically spot on above, although I’d say it all rather more quickly: Unionists have to deal with the reality that 97% of the population lives in Great Britain…

  • George

    Tom,
    the Scottish Parliament can only reduce or increase taxes that are due to it.

    From the Scottish Office:

    “The Government propose that the tax varying power should operate on income tax, because it is broadly based and easy to administer. Income tax is relatively simple and easy to understand and has none of the difficulties associated with the other major tax bases: different rates of VAT on different sides of the border would cause practical problems and there would be specific difficulties with EU rules; corporation tax would place an unreasonable burden on companies operating in Scotland; National Insurance is inappropriate because of its direct link with the social security system; and council tax and non-domestic rates would over-burden the local government finance system and undermine the accountability of local government to its electorate.”

    So even if NI got to a similar level of, shall we call it, “devolutionary development” as Scotland, it still couldn’t change the corporate tax rate.

  • George

    IJP,
    And, in 2005, the overwhelming majority of that 97% are more concerned about their country building friendly and mutually beneficial relations with the Irish people in Ireland than placating unionists, whose leader won’t even shake the leader of the Irish people’s hand in public.

    That is also important.

  • fair_deal

    George

    If you’d take a few minutes to look at the respective party websites you would find answers on the economy.

    They have a core of common policies that are:
    Reduce business costs (banking, insurance, energy and taxes etc)
    Deregualtion
    Invest in infrastructure
    Invest in skills
    Invest on R&D

    The consistency is not surprising as these are what have paid off elsewhere. In terms of implementation they would do it if there was devolution and if not they want NIO ministers to implement it.

    The DUP doesn’t simply go for ‘give us the money argument’ arguing for an end of dependency on the public sector with reductions in public administration and savings and the option of a regional fuel duty. (You might want to have a search for some of George Dawson’s speeches and statements on the DUP website – he seems pretty clued into this stuff).

    The Alliance party’s is a bit woolier on a few points has more emphasis on environmental impact and wants to introduce the euro.

  • barnshee

    “what do you think unionism should do next. Let’s take it as a given that the Assembly is gone, Policing board irrelevant, north-south bodies gone.”

    When we add SF not in office I think thats quite enough to be going on with– then sit tight and wait for SAF/IRA to lose patience and watch “the war ” being restarted. Smug DUPERS say “we told you so” and so the story continues

  • barnshee

    “The equalization of income tax rates and the adoption of a single currency would make the border completely permeable. Although I think it would be a great idea”

    The sheer fiscal ignorance of posters amazes me. How could for exampl,e you prevent UK companies relocating on paper to N Ireland to take advantage of any changes? (Reminds me of the crackpot scheme to reduce Fuel taxation levels in N Ireland) You are either in our out of a fiscal union partial rules cannot apply.
    (here ends the tax lesson)

  • George

    Fair_deal,
    firstly, thank you for engaging.
    Reduce business costs (banking, insurance, energy and taxes etc)
    Deregualtion
    Invest in infrastructure
    Invest in skills
    Invest on R&D

    The NI parties can do nothing about any of these things. I want world peace but can do nothing about in real terms.

    But let’s have a look anyway because pressure can help force things to happen:

    For example, you talk about reducing energy costs but nobody in the DUP, UUP, SF, Alliance or SDLP noticed the botched deal done under direct rule on electricity privatisation in the 1990s which means every household in NI will have to pay 1,600 sterling more than they should have between now and 2010. What has changed that would make me trust the DUP?

    You talk about investing in infrastructure but refuse to talk to your main trading partner and only land neighbour about how best to work together to achieve this. How do we know the DUP aren’t going to spend all the money finally finishing that motorway to Enniskillen rather than Dublin?

    You talk about R+D but have refused to discuss the matter with the Irish Republic, which has the same goal, how we could best work together to achieve this. How can I take you seriously on this?

    Deregulation: New one to me. What does the DUP want to deregulate?

    Skills: how does the DUP envisage improving skills and, more importantly, how will it stop the south from poaching them for its economy.

    I worked in software localisation for a while and my company took tons of graduates from the University of Ulster. Went up each year and signed them up 3 months before graduation.

  • Nic

    Yeahhh, what strikes me in this thread is the repeated question: “what should unionism do next”?
    What I don’t get is why they need to “do” anything? A copper-fastened Union and the IRA are mostly Ireland’s problem now. “Mission Accomplished” from their point of view, no?

  • Brian Conway

    They can relocate “on paper” now to the Republic if so motivated. Read the post more carefully. I said equalization of income taxes. That requires the employee to physically work in the jurisdiction. Relocating on paper might address the Corporate tax issue but the not the income tax issue.
    Thanks for the lesson though.

  • George

    Nic,

    “Mission Accomplished” That’s probably what Honecker said when he finished the Berlin Wall.

    The situation is fine if you are happy with the current economic and social situation and can live with a steady decline in the 8 billion subsidy from Britain.

    Not fine if you want to improve yourself, which I suppose you could call the human condition.

    Or put more simply, if how NI is at the moment is good enough for unionism, one of the poorest and most divided societies in Western Europe, that ideology is doomed.

    Feel free to tell the people they are living in a British nirvana just like the SED told the East Germans they were living in a Communist one but don’t be surprised if it doesn’t work.

  • Oilbhear Chromaill

    Failte abhaile Seamus, Niall agus Martin!

    RTE are reporting the Colombia Three have come home to Ireland, after escaping the vagaries of the injustice system in Bogota.

  • lib2016

    Of course equalising taxes etc will inevitably mean reunification. My point was that the unionist middleclasses are beginning to accept the need for it even if they aren’t yet strongly in favor. It’s early days yet and a lot of things are changing.

  • George

    That piece of news is certainly worth a thread all of its own Oilbhear.

  • fair_deal

    George

    1. Without devolution all the political parties are essentially elected lobbyists.
    2. I can’t remember what people did or did not say at the time of electricity privatisation. The political parties for the past few years have policy units which has seen improvement in the quality and quantity of policy work. This could improve the chances of things like that being cuaght in future.
    3. Political parties can lobby for OFT investigations of bank and insurance charges. If memory serves an OFT investigation of bank charges has happened its now moving to what changes the banks will have to make. (The local banks can be put under pressure as their right to print money is presently under threat so they will be looking for political party support). One of the reasons for higher insurance costs here is a different system of compensation that traditionally makes higher payments than its GB equivalent. Thus the Assembly could reform this system in line with the GB and reduce insurance costs.
    4. Under devolution local taxation will be under their control so they can have some impact on that part of the company tax burden.
    5. The DUP position is they are happy to talk of issues of mutual interest with the RoI so your claim of an unwillingness to talk about such issues are not accurate. Your exmple of IT students is a good example of how the RoI is a potential partner and competitor so a balanced relationship is needed (I am sure the Alliance position is similar as for the UUP position check the website their attitudes seem to change everyday at the moment).

  • Keith M

    Brian Conway “The equalization of income tax rates and the adoption of a single currency would make the border completely permeable.”

    For almost 60 years after the south left the UK we had a single currency and for most of that time, very similar tax rates. The result was 20% of the population emigrated and we had to go cap in hand to the EEC/EC/EU for decades afterwards, to bring our living standards into line with the rest of Europe.

    It has to be said that in the short term, there is a case for the UK and Ireland to have a single currency. For most of the last decade, the Irish and UK economies have been performing way ahead of places like France and Germany, yet we are tied to the Euro meaning lower than desirable interest rates and high inflation and the subsequent “rip off Ireland” that everyone is complaining about. In such circumstances we might well be better to ditching the Euro in favour of the Pound.

  • barnshee

    “. Under devolution local taxation will be under their control so they can have some impact on that part of the company tax burden.”

    Sigh

    Local taxation = Rates -fancy being the party who carries the can for putting ups rates?

    National taxation(vat,income tax ,corporation tax, CTT CGT et al) – are “reserved matters” i.e. the UK government decides-the same rules apply across the UK.

    N Ireland receives more from the tax take than it contributes (try exploring what the money is spent on). I cannot understand why the treasury cannot say-this is what we have raised in N Ireland – here it is now fuck off, if you want any more you can borrow it(this I think is what G Brown intends) Would love to see it– especially with a SF Finance minister trying to explain why rates -house rates- have to increase exponentially, why hospitals /schools have to close etc etc.

    If the DUPERS have any brains(existence unproven) they will ensure that SF gets the shitty end of the stick when it comes to doling out ministerial appointments)

    (No more tax lessons without payment)

  • DavidH

    George: Over a quarter of NI’s exports now go south while less than 2% of the Irish Republic’s go north. That is where we are today and the economic ties to the south are growing by the year.

    The ratio between the 25% (‘quarter’) and the 2% should be about equal to the square of the ratio of the populations. And – so it is.

    Since you have the figures at your fingertips, perhaps you can tell us what % of NI ‘exports’ go to the rest of the UK, and what % of the Republic’s exports go to the UK. Are the figures greater than 25%?

    So – do the figures represent very close economic ties east-west?

  • DavidH

    lib2016: Of course equalising taxes etc will inevitably mean reunification. My point was that the unionist middleclasses are beginning to accept the need for it even if they aren’t yet strongly in favor. It’s early days yet and a lot of things are changing.

    No need to wait for unionists. The Republic could equalise taxes (and currency) unilaterally, if it wanted to. Maybe it could be achieved by 2016AD?

  • George

    Fair_deal,

    1. The DUP mentions what needs to be done for business and then says “in many of these area it is not within the gift of the DUP”. True as most power remains with Westminster so NI can live without devolution. It would be better with it and better again if it controlled its own destiny but as long as GB pays up direct rule will keep the place going. Won’t set the world alight but “we exist” as the football fans say.

    2. The best way you learn about policy is by implementing it. As nobody in NI seems to have experience of running the place it seems mad to me that the default position is to let others (NIO) continue to run it indefinitely.

    3. I believe it was Which? magazine and the General Consumer Council for Northern Ireland
    that launched the super complaint with the OFT and not the political parties of NI.

    What could the NI Assembly do to reduce insurance costs? The only way is to reduce the compensation culture by hitting the fraudsters or to increase competition. The Assembly can’t legislate to reduce compensation payments and I haven’t heard a single party mention how it would increase insurance competition. They all want to but how is the question?

    An obvious method would be to increase the size of the market but we are back talking to the Irish Republic for that one.

    4. The only direction taxes in Northern Ireland will be going in is up. I have to agree 100% with Barnshee here, you are talking about reducing rates, which isn’t going to happen. Even the DUP says all it wants is a “delay” in changes.

    You are telling me that NI parties would re-introduce industrial de-rating and cut services left, right and centre or increase Joe Public’s bill to pay for it? Somebody in NI has to pay. Who?

    Even if local rates were abolished, why would a company set up in Newry and pay 40% tax on profits when they can set up 20 kilometres further south and pay just 12.5%. No amount of de-rating will close that gap.

    5. I haven’t heard one suggestion from the DUP as to how they are going to work with the Irish Republic except a very vague commitment to try, although not shaking Bertie’s hand is hardly an auspicious start. “I want to work with you but I wouldn’t touch your filthy Irish mitt.”

    The only mention in their parliamentary manifesto on North/South activity is that they will veto it.

    What’s the DUP position on agriculture, probably the most obvious area where we could work together? Not a single mention in their manifesto about how they could learn from or work with their southern counterparts.

    Let’s Look at the 5 business issues mentioned by the DUP in its policy paper:

    Bank charges: can do nothing except lobby
    Insurance costs: can do nothing except lobby
    Fuel costs: can do nothing except lobby
    Energy: can do nothing except lobby
    Red Tape: can do nothing except lobby

  • fair_deal

    George

    1. A broadly reasonable summary of the default position.
    2. Agreed.
    3. I said they ‘could’ make complaints to the OFT.The Assembly or Westminster can reduce the level of insurance payments by adopting the GB system. The insurance pool is restricted to Northern Ireland by its legislative framework so again the RoI stuff isn’t an option without some legislative change. It is the legal position that is limiting the number of companies willing to enter the market hence the need for reform.
    4. On rates regrettably the measure for raising the necessary capital for our infrastructure is disastrous for local taxation (Thanks Durkan and Trimble). Also our system of powersharing is regrettably perfect for pork barrel politics.
    However, there are lots of ways substantial savings can be made. We do not neet 4 education boards and a department. We do not need 26 councils. We do not need so many health boards, trusts and a department in NI . We do not need so many bloody quangoes. (Although I think you will find the greatest opponents of these reforms will be the SDLP and SF). Also in time hopefully the infrastructure investment will expand the tax base.
    I would personally be radical on policies like education especially as we are to see substantial drops in pupil numbers e.g. the state should commit itself to the introduction of one system of secular education and the unsustainable duplication of the maintained, controlled, integrated sectors etc should end. This would ensure sensible investment in a reduced and amalgamated educational infrastructure. Instead of allowing PFI to be wasted on reinforcing duplication. (However, the ‘anti-sectarian’ ones don’t have the balls to take on the Catholic Church).
    5. On agriculture pretty much what can happen is happening. Also there is a limit to what constituent parts of the EU can do in this area as so much of the policy is driven from Brussels.

    “can do nothing except lobby”

    You asked what their vision was I have outlined it. On the implemengtation I have been up front and said without devolution they can’t implement it. What do you want me to do claim that they can do it with little access to power?

  • George

    Davidh,

    NI can’t export to Great Britain as it is the same country – the UK – so I don’t know dependant it is but either way, it can be weaned off. The rest of the island was.

    In 2004, Ireland exported 13.56 billion euros in goods from GB and imported 14.67 billion so they make as much out of us as we do out of them. Ireland is the UK’s fourth largest export market and the UK’s largest per capita market.

    In 2004, 16% of Ireland’s exports went to the UK and 29% of our imports were from there, so seeing as you have this “square of the ratio of populations” theory going maybe you could tell me what conclusions you come to from those figures considering GB is nearly 60 million and Ireland is 4.1 million.

    In 2004, Ireland imported 1.12 billion from NI and exported 1.4 billion.

    “So – do the figures represent very close economic ties east-west.”

    After independence, Britain accounted for over 80% of Ireland’s export market, now it is down to 16%, which is a healthy enough figure and means the Irish state isn’t as exposed to a British economic turndown or pressure as it once was. As a market, they are approaching the same level of relevance as Belgium now, which suits us fine.

    Close economic ties with our large eastern neighbour yes, and most welcome they are too. Economic dependance, no.

    As for equalising taxes with GB, only if they want to follow our lead.

  • George

    Fair_deal,
    I take your point on the vision so here is what I would hope for:

    The DUP should come out and say there are 100,000 too many public sector workers (50,000 even) and that they should go by natural wastage by 2020 say. A cap on new public sector workers. That would be radical and save billions in wages alone.

    On cutting the boards and departments, fully agree but unless there is investment and the creation of a business friendly atmosphere along with all these cuts all you will get is a permanent drop in living standards rather than the necessary restructuring.

    The Irish Republic cut everything in the 80s but in the 90s attracted lots of foreign investment. I can see how NI can implement the cuts but I don’t see what NI can do to get the investment.

    The problem I see is that there are more attractive areas to invest elsewhere in the UK, never mind the Irish Republic, and even with devolution NI can’t change that.

    On infrastructure, how about paying by tolling, is that within the remit of Stormont? Why blame Trimble and Durkan, there has been an infrastructure deficit for 30 years.

    After a long and winding journey of discovery, I’m now actually against state secular education and think its good the state pays for religious schools down south, like for Muslim schools and even the full grants to the elite Protestant fee-paying schools.

    I would be loathe to implement secular education up north. I don’t think it would work and it’s not just the Catholic Church you have to worry about.

    On the vision front, there are things the DUP could do apart from saying what the British govt could do and the meeting with southern businessmen earlier this year was a start. I would love to see them release a paper about what they learnt from that, for example.

    Or how about trying to turn the northwest around the University of Ulster and Letterkenny into a R+D regional hub with investment from the British and Irish governments?

    Look for economic concessions not political ones, I suppose is what I would like to see from unionism. The union is safe (consent principle) as long as the majority are content and a good economy is the only way to ensure the majority stay content.

    Nationalists can list what they would do for the economy if partition ended tomorrow, unionists have to list what they will try do today.

  • lib2016

    We are both modern European economies with centre-right governments and electorates with broadly similar demands in the consumer stakes. Equalisation is already happening and will continue to do so. We’re not in an East/West German situation nor anything like it although there will inevitably be a few strains and adjustments to be made.

  • DavidH

    George: NI can’t export to Great Britain as it is the same country – the UK – so I don’t know dependant it is but either way, it can be weaned off.

    Hoho. So – when you compared 25% of NI’s exports going to the RoI with 2% of RoI’s exports going to NI, that ignored the fact that a very large part of NI’s outgoing produce doesn’t count (yet) as an export. Whereas, of course, all of the RoI’s outgoing produce *does* count as an export.

    George: In 2004, 16% of Ireland’s exports went to the UK and 29% of our imports were from there, so seeing as you have this “square of the ratio of populations” theory going…

    The fugures you need to compare are % of Ireland’s exports to the UK vs. % of UK’s exports going to Ireland. I expect you would find that fits the model rather better!

  • DavidH

    Oops – I mixed up George’s ‘export’ response with lib2106’s original post. Sorry about my sniping, then, but I think the logic still stands.

  • George

    DavidH,
    “So – when you compared 25% of NI’s exports going to the RoI with 2% of RoI’s exports going to NI, that ignored the fact that a very large part of NI’s outgoing produce doesn’t count (yet) as an export.”

    No I wasn’t ignoring it. 25% of its manufacturing output, including GB, goes south. I don’t know how much goes to GB. Maybe you can tell me.

    “The fugures you need to compare are % of Ireland’s exports to the UK vs. % of UK’s exports going to Ireland. I expect you would find that fits the model rather better!”

    No problem. I gave you the figures for % of Ireland’s exports going to UK, which is 16%.

    The CIA figure for total UK exports in 2004 (can’t find them on UK sites) is 347 billion US or 281 billion euros. GB exported 14.6 billion to the Irish Republic.

    From that, I derive that 5.2% of total UK exports come here. Sounds about right for the fourth-largest market.

    So, Ireland population 4.1 million exports 16% to GB, (in other words excluding NI).

    GB, population approximately 58 million, exports 5.2% to Irish Republic.

    Now what does your “square of the ratio of populations” come up with and could you show me how because this methodology is new to me?

  • George

    Fair_deal,
    for example, would you, or the DUP for that matter, be in favour of winding up InvestNI, which isn’t up to the task, and creating in its place an all-island Industrial Development Agency, the IDA?

    It should have happened in 1998 with the GFA and this move could help investment.

    I think unionism, and NI as a whole, lost a great deal by concentrating on symbolism at that time rather than looking after the economic welfare of NI, which now makes up less than a quarter of this island’s economic output, down from nearly 40% 50 years ago.

    They could have got tax concessions and lots of other things back then which aren’t on offer now but the boat has sailed.

    Unionists say they conceded too much in 1998, I say they were all too worried about conceding, in the greater scheme of things, meaningless symbols, that they asked for too little in the form of concrete benefits.

  • fair_deal

    George

    Thanks for that, some interesting stuff.

    On the Invest NI stuff I don’t have a definitive answer. As our economies are in such different places it may not be that sensible. Also as I mentioned earlier in some aspects we are potential partners and others comeptitors. In FDI I think we are more likely to be competitors. The joint approach on tourism hasn;t exactly produced starling results even though Bord Failte had a track record of success and NITB was and is a joke. I must admit my pratcical experience of cross-border bodies has not impressed me (brewery, pissup etc tend to come to mind).

    Your Londonderry R&D proposal is interesting though. The economic boycott of the 1920’s did cut the border counties from their historic and natural economic circle Belfast and the North generally. So proposals on that would on first impression seem sensible. Who knows maybe the economic reintegration of the border counties could lead to their reintegration into the Union and Ulster (lots in the border counties seem to complain about Dublin ignoring them);).

    PS Gordon Brown is concerned with the lack of entrepreneurship in a number of sections of the UK (including NI) and is supposed to be working on measures. He may come up with some interesting approaches.

    I work in the community sector and I am very interested in the asset based/social entrepreneur approach that has been adopted by many in the USA. It is more market orientated encourages entreprenurship in the sector and generally plus it is much more positive than the needs based stuff.

    “Why blame Trimble and Durkan, there has been an infrastructure deficit for 30 years.”

    The infrastructure deficit is thanks to SF/IRA and all the other terrorist groups plus the government. Compensation (bomb damage etc) was basically top sliced off NI’s capital budget. It may have only been so many tens of million a year but as with a house so with infrastructure a basic and cheap repair ignored now becomes a big and expensive job later. It should have come out of the Treasury emergeny funds but that is not what successive governments did.

    Trimble and Durkan negotiated the loan package for infrastructure that will see local taxtaion double.

  • IJP

    George

    Yes, there are a lot of consequences on that 97% figure, including the one you’ve rightly pointed out.

    George and Fair_Deal

    Although you are right about the party policies in principle, the real point is how little attention the parties pay to the economy at all. The DUP’s manifesto had 13-times as much material on ‘constitutional issues’ as it did on economy – so whatever the value of its economy policies, they are both vague and the overall focus is on other, frankly less important, things.

    Admittedly there’s a touch of chicken and egg about this – how can local parties focus on economic policy if they’ve no power over it, and how can they persuade people of the value of giving them that power when the policies are so vague?

    Indeed, why not use this opportunity to put party rivalries aside and work together on a properly focused economic plan to be pursued whenever the Assembly returns, in whatever form?

  • DavidH

    George: Now what does your “square of the ratio of populations” come up with and could you show me how because this methodology is new to me?

    I worked out the ratio for nearby countries producing similar products, both operating in a larger market. So the *fraction* of it’s product that a country exports to the other country should be proportional to the population of the recipient country, and the *amount* would be proportional to the fraction times the production capacity (so overall, ratios going as the square of the population). So I was wrong in the first place about trade between NI and RoI (‘amount’ vs.’fraction’), but it does make it easier to explain GB vs RoI trade. The figures make it clear that GB is underperforming in material exports, and therefore scraping by on invisible earnings. Anything else, I put down to the RoI having a common language with GB, and lots of easy food exports, which aren’t reciprocated. I also attribute some of the RoI’s anomalous export success to Ireland being used as an EU beach-head and a corporate tax dodge – not that there’s a problem with that.

  • George

    IJP and Fair_Deal,
    It is an economic truth that NI and the Irish Republic are first and foremost, competitors. I would prefer it to be otherwise as, in this tiny space, it inevitably leads to one part being more successful than the other, and this is one of my main problems with partition, it builds in long-term island inequality, but that is the case today so we have to live with it.

    That said, we can work on areas of mutual benefit and one of the reasons the N/S bodies haven’t delivered as well as they could is because they were castrated at birth, in the womb even.

    To hold back development of N/S links for meaningless symbolic and political reasons (no unity without consent – case closed) is economic madness in my view but as all of NI’s parties took their eyes off the economic ball and sometimes don’t seem to even know what the game is I don’t know what can be done now.

    On tourism, NI has a lot to learn. Go to Bushmills, which could be world famous and should be a must-visit spot and what do you see? One of the more intimidating places on this island. A hole. Cue locals saying it’s wonderful but to outsiders, it’s a hole.

    On the issue of the 12th, the greatest potential tourist attraction, it should be a celebration of belonging on this island, a celebration that “outsiders” can join in – Orange for a day and all that, if that’s possible.

    Say I’m Johnny foreigner meeting all the nice Irish on my Ireland holiday and over the border I go and they’re burning the Irish flag on every bonfire? Virtually every Irish bar in the world, and there are a lot of them, has that flag. They might call that “celebrating Britishness”, I call it tourismicide.

    All parties in NI are guilty of neglecting their constituency. Unionism lives in hope that by blocking everything, the British taxpayer will help maintain the status quo and keep footing the bill. This won’t continue and status quo is a zero sum game which unionism will eventually lose.

    Nationalists are playing their own economic zero sum game, proposing unfeasible ideas like NI joining the euro, dropping corporate tax rates etc. as, perversely, an unsuccessful NI makes many think the idea of unification will grow in popularity. I could explain why this is madness too but this post would become a thesis.

    I think chaning corporate tax rates was maybe possible in 1998 and the British and Irish could have managed it in “the euphoria of the moment”, setting up an all-island economic zone for peace or the like, but post-Celtic Tiger, the EU is not going to allow us pull our northern brethren up on to that particular pony. They are more interested in pulling us off it.

    On Gordon Brown encouraging entrepeneurs, my fear is that he will reduce bureacracy (that’s job cuts in NI speak) and NI won’t be able to take advantage because cares about welfare only winning.

    The real entrepeneurs will simply go to Britain or down south, the begrudgers will stay where they are. As it is, Scotland’s best and brightest are going south i don’t see NI coping better.

    P.S. I could never support any ideology or state that thought excluding Donegal as a member was a good idea or a loss that could be sustained for the greater good. And no, that particular jewel is staying exactly where it is 🙂

    DavidH,
    I fear you don’t realise what Ireland PLC is about and where the economy is at in 2005.

    Agricultural exports to UK (no separate GB and NI available) make up 2.1 billion euros or 14%. Industrial goods made up 12.22 up billion or 81.3%.

    As for using Ireland as a “corporate tax dodge”, creating a business-friendly environment for investors is not what I would consider a “tax dodge”.

    On being a beach-head for the EU, Ireland is attractive because its population speak English, is in the euro, has a business-friendly tax system, high producivity and an educated workforce.

    15 years ago, everyone said Ireland could never catch up because it was on the periphery, now it’s a beach-head. Shows how times change. We’ve now moved to the mainland, that’s continental Europe to us.

  • DavidH

    George: As for using Ireland as a “corporate tax dodge”, creating a business-friendly environment for investors is not what I would consider a “tax dodge”.

    But it’s a bit more than just business-friendly. Having the lowest corporate taxes in the EU by special dispensation would naturally reduce costs for foreign companies – that’s certainly business-friendly. But for multinationals, there’s a real dodge: All they need to do is use Ireland as one step in a production chain (easiest if it’s the last step), then, with the right lawyers and accountants, they can declare that a large fraction of their profits were earned in the Irish production stage, and pay the corporate taxes to Ireland. That suits the company, and Bertie, but it disadvantages the other countries that can’t use the lower tax rates. Now, we know US companies are far too ethical to take full advantage of the dodge, but there are surely less scrupulous companies around.

  • lib2016

    Some of the new EU states have zero corporate tax rates. We’re in a dynamic changing world and simple remedies here and there won’t work. We need proper N/S bodies working together and that is exactly what we are moving towards, in fact it’s already happened in tourism.