I was on the Big Bite programme on RTE this afternoon as part of a panel discussing what a united Ireland might look like. In the event, it’s clear that there is no agreed vision on the subject. John from the ESRI believes that the Republic could take Northern Ireland, but it would cost the Republic 30% of its GDP to keep the subvention at it’s current high levels. That would require political will of the most immense degree, and the cost would far outweigh that of unification of Germany. It was noted by several speakers that there is little appetite in Northern Ireland to make the cuts necessary.Celia Keavney, Fianna Fail TD for North Donegal underlined the importance in strategic terms for her county in cross border use of health facilities, citing the routine re-direction of emergency patients from Letterkenny, to Altnagelvin. Her view prioritised the need for devolution to facilitate local strategic planning, over the long term political objective of unification.
Chris, an academic working on a book on Ulster Unionism suggested that the elephant in the room was the million or so Unionists in Northern Ireland who had no interest in political unification and that this would be enough to stymie any attempt to prosecute political unification. Indeed this indifference of the south to the north and vice versa seems to be the biggest hinderence in moving the nationalist project further forward.
A survey conducted in the Republic two years ago suggested that younger people in the Republic had richer family and commerical ties to Britain than with people in Northern Ireland – whilst fifty per cent had visited the latter whilst eighty four per cent of those questioned had been to London.