Could Northern Ireland go it alone, wonders Waugh…

INDEPENDENCE is part of the future agenda for serious debate, argues Eric Waugh. With the West Lothian question in mind, Waugh looks to the non-UK crown dependency of the Isle of Man for inspiration, particularly its low tax rates which, he maintains, has grown its economy steadily. Waugh writes:

The Isle of Man has never been part of the UK – nor of the EU. It is not bound by EU law; nor does it pay anything to – or receive anything from – Brussels. But, vitally, it has a free trade treaty with the EU. Externally, the UK is responsible for its defence and international relations and the Queen is head of state.

An independent Northern Ireland would forego those British links, although nothing would exclude treaties with either Dublin or London to mutual advantage. But it would be the Isle of Man’s financial sector – 36% of the economy – which would be the target to imitate. With its own currency, Northern Ireland would be free to devalue, making it a desirable site for outside investors and rendering the products they would manufacture within it more competitive abroad.

In the meantime, though, the new state would require bolstering for up to 20 years by the UK, the EU – and possibly the US and even the Republic. Each of these would gain something by settlement of a political running sore. Independence is part of the future agenda for serious debate.

  • George

    One week we here that perhaps the Union could be in danger with the goings on wiht nationalists in Scotland and England.

    Soon after, like spring follows winter a unionist commentator floats the idea of an “independent Ulster”.

    God forbid that a democratically endorsed united Ireland could ever happen.

  • willis

    The man is a genius!

    Why did no-one think about this before?

    Still 1.7m seems like too many people compared with 78k.

    What about a border at the Sydenham By-pass with a new, independent state incorporating Holywood, Bangor and the George Best Airport?

    It would get rid of the riff-raff, just like the IOM.
    Eric would be happy also Alliance, Sinn Fein and the SDLP.

  • GavBelfast

    I don’t think there’s any reason why, per se, 1.75m people couldn’t “go it alone”.

    The problem is it’s OUR 1.75m people, where there would still be at least two main blocs pulling in different directions, possibly even three: those who would to make it work, and those who would still have retained aims of British or Irish sovereignty.

    Other people have suggested enforced joint authority – with United Kingdom and United Ireland both legislated against for ever and a day. Like we are the sort of people to be forced to do anything!

  • Crow

    If an administration cannot be agreed with the British in charge, why would one be agreed without them? Unless of course we are talking of majority rule once again. Even if it could be achieved, it is hard to see how it would not end in conflict and/or repartition.

  • George

    “Even if it could be achieved, it is hard to see how it would not end in conflict and/or repartition.”

    And just like spring follows winter the summer of repartition follows on once the “independent Ulster” has been ruled out by most as unworkable folly.

    Next we’ll have the autumn of a “united Ireland” being the only answer before we return to the winter of our current discontent, waiting for the cycle to start all over again.

  • Stiofán de Buit

    How about the Andorra model? Andorra is a ‘co-principality’ with two heads of state, the Bishop of Urgell and the President of France, yet is functionally independent of both Spain and France.

  • Rory

    Appealing as this idea would be to the rest of the people of these islands it is just too silly to be considered. It would not even deal with the suspicion of the “external enemy” of each community, respectively the UK and the RoI as their close proximity and economic dominance would remain and indeed loom ever larger. A sure recipe for civil war if it were even seriously broached.

  • dantheman

    Unworkable horseshit.

    “If Britain doens want us, we’ll have to go it alone, from a union with russia, float the 6 counties away and form a union with polar bears…..”

    Anything bar the only obvious solution. Clear as crystal evidence that unionists are in fact partitionists.

  • Bugbear

    We’ll have the idea of the Island being united within the Commonwealth being refloated next

  • Brian Boru

    Already here Scottish politicians complaining that if NI gets a special corpo-tax regime so must day – underlining what I said b4 about why that would never get off the ground. Mr.Waugh then might at first seem to have a point about the need for an independent NI. But he is wrong. The reality is that such an independent state would not be politically or economically stable. He himself envisages a scenario in which the UK and Republic continue propping up NI with funds. It’s a bit much to ask for this if they are opposed to it happening in principle. Then you have the question of how the Six County entity would be governed – or indeed if it would be governed – they still haven’t been able to set up a govt for 4 yrs in case you haven’t noticed. And even if it had one, the Nationalists would most likely see independence as a transitory phase towards a 32 county state. I think the reaity is that there can only be 2 viable constitutional frameworks for NI – continue in the UK and fall economically further behind the South, or a United Ireland with all the benefits of the low corpo-tax regime and our links with the US without being dragged into unnecessary and costly wars.

  • Yokel

    Theoreticaly yes they could. Practically no, the people as a whole are too lazy and too much of a bunch of whingers…..

  • DK

    I am the only one that has noticed that this is what is happening already. The British are trying desparately to get rid of NI, the Republic don’t want it either. So both governments are puching very hard for a local assembly to look after the place so they can stop being hassled by irritating NI politicians.

    In 20 years time we’re suddenly going to notice that we have been ruling ourselves with minimal intervention from Britain or Ireland. Then what?

  • Brian Boru

    DK what evidence have you that “the Republic don’t want it either”?

  • jaffa

    “It would not even deal with the suspicion of the “external enemy” of each community”

    I’m going to sound wishy-washy again but I’m not convinced this is about conflicting enmity as much as conflicting affections and the “right” if that’s the right word to hold them. To me it sometimes feels as if being from the North is like being the child of a broken marriage with two hostile parents telling us we’re not allowed to care about the other.

    Having lived and worked away for twenty years I am glad to be home. I like County Down, Belfast, and Irish people of all colours. They’re brighter than average, a bit less materialistic (though that’s changing) and for all their whinging most do want to feel proud of their work (in my experience).

    But I get impatient when loyalists whine that the South are all corrupt, lazy EU spongers and when hard nationalists argue that any affection for “britishness” (including the Commonwealth) could only possibly come from sectarian bigotry, misinformation or misplaced sentimentality.

    Independendence is the worst of all worlds as it gives in to both predjudices.

    Given apparently conflicting choices you either take neither (independence) or you do a bit of thinking and take both. I note the Joint Sovereignty season isn’t on George’s calendar.

  • dantheman

    “Theoreticaly yes they could. Practically no, the people as a whole are too lazy and too much of a bunch of whingers….”

    True words Yokel. In theory it could function within a EU framework.

    One point I would note is that the EU have given a lot of peace funds to NI. If it decided to go it alone maybe, just maybe, they’d think we were taking the hand of them.

    And they’d probably be correct.

  • jaffa

    “they’d think we were taking the hand of them”.

    Well our provincial emblem is the taken hand of Ulster

  • DK

    I do now, in the interests of balance and pig-headedness make a solemn pledge to mention independence on every thread and especially whenever repartition is mentioned.

  • Greenflag

    A smaller ‘independent’ Northern Ireland is possible following a fair repartition of Northern Ireland . Whether it becomes another Isle of Man or another Luxembourg is a matter for Unionists or ex Unionists .

    Waugh can’t ‘envision’ repartition but he is at least moving in that direction . Scotland will have it’s independence because of it’s national cohesion . Northern Ireland does not have that ‘cohesion’ as a political unit.


    ‘But I get impatient when loyalists whine that the South are all corrupt, lazy EU spongers and when hard nationalists argue that any affection for “britishness” (including the Commonwealth) could only possibly come from sectarian unpleasant, misinformation or misplaced sentimentality. ‘

    Now that’s a fair statement . I can relate to affection for Manchester Utd, Fawlty Towers and Blackadder but the ‘monarchy ‘ leaves me unaffected 🙂


    ‘Theoreticaly yes they could. Practically no, the people as a whole are too lazy and too much of a bunch of whingers….. ‘

    Unfair statement.Most people realise that the 6 county framework does not work politically now, and a lot believe it never has – and if it can’t work with the 6 billion a year subvention it certainly won’t work without it .

    Waugh zt least deserves credit for his criticism of the SAA and pointing out the contradictions in this so called ‘solution’.

  • Bill

    The Isle of Man has a functioning economy, NI does not.
    The Isle of Man has the world’s oldest parliament, NI had a dysfunctional one for 50+ years with all its replacement being failures.

  • Greenflag


    ‘The Isle of Man has a functioning economy, NI does not.’

    NI has an economy -it’s just that it’s too dependent on the public sector. This ‘dependency’ on the English taxpayer is what keep’s Northern Ireland’s economy from making any significant ‘leap ‘ forward . The other side of the coin is that this very dependency is partly what keeps both sides from a major civil/uncivil war ‘ You could call the ‘dependency ‘ a sectarian ‘fix’ . The SAA will reenforce that dependency .