The economic cost..

In Saturday’s Irish Times, former Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald brought back into focus an all-too-often neglected aspect of the relative economic performance between north and south.. the Provisional IRA’s activity. As he points out, it’s a topic he has covered at several points over the past 35 years [subs req]

“in the year 1953, I found that in that year Northern Ireland’s output per head was 27 per cent higher than ours. However, when I next wrote on this subject (Towards A New Ireland 1972), I found that our economic growth in the 1960s had narrowed this gap to about 18 per cent. Returning to this subject in 2005, I was frankly astonished to find that during the intervening decades this gap in economic performance had not merely been bridged, but had actually been reversed! Our output per head was now 21 per cent higher than that of Northern Ireland.”

He acknowledges aspects of the make-up of the industrial landscape in the north which have contributed to the changing economics during that time, such as the larger textile and clothing industries than the Republic, and the rapidly disappearing shipbuilding and associated heavy engineering sector..

Even if all other things had been equal, this would have left Northern Ireland at some disadvantage vis-a-vis the Republic during the industrial modernisation process of the late 20th century.

But that..

The additional factor that has inhibited Northern Ireland from catching up with Britain and achieving a level of output per head equal to that now enjoyed by the Republic was of course the campaign of violence and destruction waged over several decades by the IRA.

This had the effect of hugely discouraging investment in Northern Ireland. But for this factor, its economy would have been boosted at least sufficiently for it to have held its own vis-a-vis the Republic in terms of output per head – even if its lack of freedom to match our corporate tax regime would inevitably have held its growth rate below that of our State.

The scale of the divergence between the Northern and Southern economies created by the IRA campaign now poses what may prove to be an unbridgeable economic gulf between the two parts of our island. Why?

Simply because if Northern Ireland were now to move from the United Kingdom to an all-Ireland state, in order to maintain the living standards of its people we would need to find at least €6 billion to substitute for current British transfers to the North.

And that would require an increase of something like 12 per cent in our present level of taxation, which I greatly doubt our electorate would support.

Short of such a willingness on our part, there would be very few Northern nationalists, let alone unionists, who would be prepared to accept a reduction of something like one-fifth in their living standards.

As someone who has always thought that the division of the island in 1920 was a huge mistake, damaging in the long run to both North and South, I have to say that I deeply resent the damage thus done by the IRA in creating a major fresh obstacle to the prospect of eventual Irish unity.

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  • willowfield

    ANTHONY B

    I’m not trying to justify anything; the point I am trying to make is that in 1970 (ish) Northern Ireland found itself in an invidious position, where all sorts of things were screwed up in the society as a whole. That there was economic productivity of X or whatever did not account for the inherent weakness of the society.

    I didn’t claim otherwise. This, however, in no way backs up your ludicrous claim that “the economic output was entirely being generated by and benefitting the unionist / protestant classes”.

    That the economy failed after that point was not due to one factor, but to many.

    Again, I didn’t claim that it was caused by only one factor. What I did do, though, was point to the biggest single factor, i.e. the terror campaigns.

    It’s a classic cause and effect thing, chicken and egg – the IRA were going away before the oppression of Catholics gave it a new raison d’etre. Therefore the oppression of Catholics caused the economic downturn because it created support for the IRA which attacked economic targets? I don’t think you can make that extrapolation any more than you can the first (IRA = poor economy).

    WHat you stay doesn’t alter the fact that the terror campaigns massively damaged the NI economy.

    I don’t think the rebalancing was happening anyway in 1970.

    Then you ought to read up on the period, with particular attention to the civil rights movement.

    The O’Loan report alleges collusion as recently as 2005 – that’s 35 years after 1970.

    Yes, and try to spend a bit of time thinking about what happened in those intervening 25 years and whether that had any effect on the policing and intelligence tactics that were deployed.

    Is that reflective of a balanced society? Can you hold your hand up and say honestly that the North is now balanced? It would be, in my opinion, a brave position to take.

    Generally, yes, it is balanced.

  • willowfield, in response –

    economic output was entirely being generated…

    Admittedly exaggeration – under no circumstances could such an absolute position be true, of course, but was it not was broadly the case that the Unionist / Protestant classes controlled most of the economic apparatus?

    the biggest single factor [for the failure of the economy was] the terror campaigns

    Relative terms are difficult (e.g. biggest – bigger than what, and how does one measure bigness in this context?); would the terror campaign have happened if the ruling classes had been nicer to Catholics and nationalists? I mean, even looking at the IRA in the late 1970’s, they began to lose support and peter out, only to be reinvigourated by the hunger strikes and Thatcher’s absolutism.

    you ought to read up on the period, with particular attention to the civil rights movement

    Just expressing an opinion – any concessions won by the civil rights movement were marginal and broadly insignificant. A level of change was required where the ruling classes would accept that they had too much power, and should accede to sharing some of that power. Why would they give it up willingly? Therefore, my (humble) view is that the civil rights movement in and of itself would not have achieved the rebalancing of society that was necessary.

    On the O’Loan report: try to spend a bit of time thinking about what happened in those intervening 25 years and whether that had any effect on the policing and intelligence tactics that were deployed.

    Are you suggesting that state-facilitated murder is justified? Or that the IRA is to blame for the collusion of the RUC and Special Branch? Step back a second!

    As an aside:
    Philosophical question of the day: which is worse, a murder by a group who’s stated objective is the subversion of the state, or a murder sanctioned by the state? Further: is the state subjectively (or objectively) good? In a democratically elected organisation, do we define goodness as being our collective will? And therefore when the state acts to compromise the rights (including the right to life) of an individual, or when the state itself is acted against (in a manner intended to compromise the state itself, such as in a terrorist campaign), is it right to elevate such action as treasonous? Should the state, through its constitution, not be above such issues?

  • willowfield

    ANTHONY B

    Admittedly exaggeration – under no circumstances could such an absolute position be true, of course, but was it not was broadly the case that the Unionist / Protestant classes controlled most of the economic apparatus?

    Classes? As in all capitalist states, the “bourgeoisie” controlled the economic apparatus. In NI, of course, the middle-class was largely, but not entirely, unionist/Protestant. “Controlling most of the economic apparatus” is something quite different from “economic output was entirely being generated”.

    Relative terms are difficult (e.g. biggest – bigger than what, and how does one measure bigness in this context?); would the terror campaign have happened if the ruling classes had been nicer to Catholics and nationalists? I mean, even looking at the IRA in the late 1970’s, they began to lose support and peter out, only to be reinvigourated by the hunger strikes and Thatcher’s absolutism.

    Whether or not the terror campaign would have happened in different circumstances is irrelevant. The only relevant fact is that it DID happen and was the biggest single factor in damaging the economy.

    Just expressing an opinion – any concessions won by the civil rights movement were marginal and broadly insignificant.

    If that is what you believe, then you patronisingly dismiss a huge class of Catholic/nationalist opinion at the time. The civil rights movement analysed the situation and made its own demands. It did not consider that its demands were “marginal” or “broadly insignificant”. On the contrary, they felt they struck right at the heart of the unfair Stormont regime. And I agree with them.

    A level of change was required where the ruling classes would accept that they had too much power, and should accede to sharing some of that power. Why would they give it up willingly? Therefore, my (humble) view is that the civil rights movement in and of itself would not have achieved the rebalancing of society that was necessary.

    There is no way of knowing whether you were correct. In my view, though, it is inconceivable that an ongoing, peaceful campaign – in the UK and international context of the time – would not have succeeded in achieving a rebalancing of society. The fact that it had already begun to achieve rebalancing before the terror campaigns began supports that view.

    Are you suggesting that state-facilitated murder is justified?

    No. Why do you make such an outrageous suggestion? You ought to retract it.

    Or that the IRA is to blame for the collusion of the RUC and Special Branch?

    Only in an indirect sense.

    The point I was making, which you have chosen to avoid, is that the collusion uncovered by the O’Loan report was a direct result of the events of the past 25 years. Without the terror campaigns, there would obviously have been no collusion with terror gangs. It is untenable and illogical, therefore, to point to events that were inextricably linked to the Troubles as evidence that a “rebalancing” would not have occurred without the Troubles.

    Philosophical question of the day: which is worse, a murder by a group who’s [sic] stated objective is the subversion of the state, or a murder sanctioned by the state?

    All murders are equally wrong, no matter who the perpetrator.

    Further: is the state subjectively (or objectively) good?

    It depends on the nature of the particular state.

    In a democratically elected organisation, do we define goodness as being our collective will?

    It depends on whether our collective will is good.

    And therefore when the state acts to compromise the rights (including the right to life) of an individual, or when the state itself is acted against (in a manner intended to compromise the state itself, such as in a terrorist campaign), is it right to elevate such action as treasonous? Should the state, through its constitution, not be above such issues?

    No idea where the “treasonous” bit comes in, but all crimes should be treated equally and fairly, no matter who carries them out. Crimes carried out by state agents should be dealt with with no less vigour than those carried out by anyone else.

  • Greenflag

    willowfield,

    ‘In my view, though, it is inconceivable that an ongoing, peaceful campaign – in the UK and international context of the time – would not have succeeded in achieving a rebalancing of society. The fact that it had already begun to achieve rebalancing before the terror campaigns began supports that view.

    You might think that willowfield but it’s wishful thinking at best . Stormont under the UUP proved incapable of the reforms necessary which is why HMG suspended Stormont in 1972 . It was the British Government which brought in most of the reforms which were to ultimateley placate most northern Irish nationalists . Had either the UUP or Paisley’s mobs been left to rule NI in 1972- by now NI would be a razed wasteland .

    This btw is not to justify the violence perpetrated by the Provos or the NI State and it’s supporters -it’s just a statement of the harsh truth. There is a reason why in 2007 there is still no devolution and why there may never be a functioning devolution in a 6 county State .

  • willowfield, ever notice how these posts get exponentially longer?! Let me try and ‘cherry pick’ your post, hopefully not avoiding any critical bits.

    On the (slightly pythonesque :)) argument re: economic apparatus etc., the key point is that unionists controlled stuff, nationalists did not.

    The circumstances within which the IRA grew in strength are entirely relevant. It could be argued that it would be difficult for any society in such circumstances not to resort to militarism. Had the IRA not formed as it did, there is a school of thought that suggests that the Irish Army may well have invaded parts of the North, thus providing the military response. That’s not to say it was inevitable – but I would argue that the confluence of circumstance made it difficult to avoid, and the increasing militarisation of the State made it more acceptable as it spiralled out of Stormont control.

    If that is what you believe, then you patronisingly dismiss a huge class of Catholic/nationalist opinion at the time. The civil rights movement analysed the situation and made its own demands. It did not consider that its demands were “marginal” or “broadly insignificant”

    Of course their demands were significant – what I said was what they achieved was not (in terms of real and immediate state concessions – their achievements went deeper than that, particularly in establishing a cross-community sense of togetherness and solidarity). But that commonality of purpose was not to see adequate rewards from the State.

    AB Are you suggesting that state-facilitated murder is justified?

    WF No. Why do you make such an outrageous suggestion? You ought to retract it.

    Well, what you said was, about the O’Loan report:
    try to spend a bit of time thinking about what happened in those intervening 25 years and whether that had any effect on the policing and intelligence tactics that were deployed.

    As I read that, you are defining state facilitated murder as a policing and intelligence tactic. That is at least careless, isn’t it?

    And as for the follow on statement – that the IRA were indirectly to blame for state facilitated murder – that’s just silly.

    Final point – on the treasonous bit. Is it not more serious that the state, which makes the laws, itself breaks them? Does that not in itself undermine the rule of law and compromise the legitimacy of the state?

  • JG

    JG,
    Dessie O’Malley nearly got De Lorean to build his factory in Limerick only the Irish government didn’t like the whole deal.
    It was a close-run thing though.
    Yes, nearly. They avoided it whereas a government which was propping up lame duck industries did not.

    In the 1920’s and 30’s NI was given Dominion status and the chance to stand on it’s own economic feet just like Australia and Canada.

    And in 1935 Craig admitted that it was not economically viable. Luckily he had someone willing to bail it out.

  • willowfield

    GREENFLAG

    You might think that willowfield but it’s wishful thinking at best . Stormont under the UUP proved incapable of the reforms necessary which is why HMG suspended Stormont in 1972 .

    Um, but Stormont DID make the reforms. It wasn’t suspended because of its failure to make reforms: it was suspended because the Unionist government resigned on principle over security policy.

    It was the British Government which brought in most of the reforms which were to ultimateley placate most northern Irish nationalists .

    No. Stormont brought in the reforms demanded by the civil rights movement. Obviously, once it was gone, further reforms were made by HMG.

    Had either the UUP or Paisley’s mobs been left to rule NI in 1972- by now NI would be a razed wasteland .

    Mere speculation. A prolonged and determined peaceful campaign would have made it impossible for Stormont to function without reforming.

    There is a reason why in 2007 there is still no devolution and why there may never be a functioning devolution in a 6 county State .

    Indeed. Because the 30-year terror nightmare has caused scars so deep that many are scared of making the necessary compromises.

    ANTHONY B

    The circumstances within which the IRA grew in strength are entirely relevant.

    They’re not relevant to the question of whether or not the terror campaigns damaged the economy. The only relevant questions in relation to that issue is whether or not the campaigns took place (yes), and whether or not they damaged the economy (yes).

    It could be argued that it would be difficult for any society in such circumstances not to resort to militarism.

    Many things could be argued, but that particular argument would not be relevant to the question of whether the terror campaigns damaged the economy. Indeed, the question is actually predicated on the terror campaigns taking place. Therefore the question of why it happened is not relevant.

    Had the IRA not formed as it did, there is a school of thought that suggests that the Irish Army may well have invaded parts of the North, thus providing the military response.

    But the IRA did form as it did.

    That’s not to say it was inevitable – but I would argue that the confluence of circumstance made it difficult to avoid, and the increasing militarisation of the State made it more acceptable as it spiralled out of Stormont control.

    Inevitable or not, it doesn’t matter. The fact remains that the terror campaigns damaged the economy and were the biggest single factor in doing so.

    Of course their demands were significant – what I said was what they achieved was not (in terms of real and immediate state concessions – their achievements went deeper than that, particularly in establishing a cross-community sense of togetherness and solidarity). But that commonality of purpose was not to see adequate rewards from the State.

    Er, because the campaign was snuffed out by tht terrorists!

    As I read that, you are defining state facilitated murder as a policing and intelligence tactic. That is at least careless, isn’t it?

    Of course “collusion” was a police “tactic” (as you put it)! I’m not sure what you think it was, but whatever you or I think it was is irrelevant to: (a) the fact that I condemn it, yet you disgustingly suggested that I condoned it; and (b) it was a response to the terror campaigns. Your failure to retract your outrageous slur against me is noted. Shame on you.

    And as for the follow on statement – that the IRA were indirectly to blame for state facilitated murder – that’s just silly.

    It’s not silly. “State-facilitated murder” was a response by the state to terror campaigns by, among other groups, the Provisional IRA. Without those campaigns there would have been no “state-facilitated murder”. The one follows from the other. There is a causal link. Therefore the Provisional IRA, among other agents, was indirectly to blame. To argue otherwise is to argue that collusion took place in a vacuum, entirely unconnected to the Troubles. Such an argument is ludicrous and I note that you offer no evidence whatsoever to back up your fanciful claims.

    Final point – on the treasonous bit. Is it not more serious that the state, which makes the laws, itself breaks them? Does that not in itself undermine the rule of law and compromise the legitimacy of the state?

    In answer to your first question: as I said, all murders are equally wrong, no matter whom the perpetrator. In answer to the second, yes, of course it undermines the rule of law and compromises the legitimacy of the state!

  • Greenflag

    willowfield’

    “Stormont broug’ht in the reforms demanded by the civil rights movement. ”

    When it was already too late as usual . And we now have deja vu again with this power sharing nonsense – 33 years too late for it to work !

    BTW -I’ve absolutely no doubt that if Paisley’s mobs had been allowed to rule NI in 1972 you would have had an uncivil war with the Republic dragged in -probably ending with a new border /repartition etc. Might have been a better outcome than 35 years of political navel gazing and getting nowhere slowly !

    ‘Because the 30-year terror nightmare has caused scars so deep that many are scared of making the necessary compromises.’

    True . There was also no compromise in Northern Ireland 1920 through 1969. This aspect should not be forgotten either as we grope towards a ‘solution’

    An agreed and fair Repartition of NI will sooner or later be seen as the only political solution which can maintain the Union for the majority of NI Unionists !

  • willowfield, you are insisting on direct / absolute causality where I am arguing that the context of the IRA’s emergenence is relevant; but you are insisting on relativism when you argue that the State wouldn’t have facilitated murder were it not for the IRA. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

    In terms of your reference ‘tactic’ as my word, check again. Your first post on the subject used the word, I’m quoting you. You’re concerned that I’m not retracting my question, which is what it was – I asked whether what you were suggesting was that state-sponsored murder was justified. You have clearly said that it was not. I think. You condemn it at least. I made no claim that you had one position or another, but the lack of clarity in your assertion…

    try to spend a bit of time thinking about what happened in those intervening 25 years and whether that had any effect on the policing and intelligence tactics that were deployed.

    …begged the question. How is a question a slur?
    And there is a difference between condemning something and retaining a belief that it is justified.

    Look from what I can see your position is (please correct me if I’m wrong) that the IRA were awful, and they did awful things, and that the state took steps that you condemn. However, rhetorical / suggestive statements like the one quoted suggest that 1) there was a causal link between the activity of the IRA and the state sponsored terrorism, and that 2) there is perhaps a diminished responsibility on the part of the State as a result.

    Or is the culpability of the State absolute irrespective of causation?

  • willowfield

    ANTHONY B

    willowfield, you are insisting on direct / absolute causality where I am arguing that the context of the IRA’s emergenence is relevant; but you are insisting on relativism when you argue that the State wouldn’t have facilitated murder were it not for the IRA. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

    Nonsense.

    (1) It is an indisputable fact that the terrorist campaigns badly damaged the economy. The reasons for the campaigns are irrelevant to the issue of whether or not they damaged the economy.

    (2) Collusion occurred in response to the terrorist campaigns. It did not occur before the terrorist campaigns. It was a result of infiltration of the terrorist organisations conducting the terrorist campaigns. If it is your contention that collusion occurred entirely independently of the Troubles (a mere coincidence apparently), let’s see your evidence to back up this never-before-heard claim. I note that so far you have failed even to attempt so to do.

    You’re concerned that I’m not retracting my question, which is what it was – I asked whether what you were suggesting was that state-sponsored murder was justified. You have clearly said that it was not. I think. You condemn it at least. I made no claim that you had one position or another, but the lack of clarity in your assertion…

    I’ll accept that as a retraction. Thank you.

    …begged the question. How is a question a slur?

    It didn’t beg the question: but apparently it raised the question in your mind. The question is a slur because it must have seemed to you that it was possible that I would support collusion, despite the fact that nothing that I have ever said could have given such an impression. Merely observing that collusion was a result of the Troubles is not enough to suggest the possibility that the observer is a supporter of collusion.

    And there is a difference between condemning something and retaining a belief that it is justified.

    I would find it difficult to reconcile how someone could condemn something that he felt was justified.

    Look from what I can see your position is (please correct me if I’m wrong) that the IRA were awful, and they did awful things, and that the state took steps that you condemn. However, rhetorical / suggestive statements like the one quoted suggest that 1) there was a causal link between the activity of the IRA and the state sponsored terrorism, and that 2) there is perhaps a diminished responsibility on the part of the State as a result.

    (1) is self-evident. (2), however, does not follow from (1).

    Or is the culpability of the State absolute irrespective of causation?

    Obviously – as I have stated several times (how clearer can I be?) – all murders/crimes are wrong, no matter who commits them. If the state commits a crime it is wrong, regardless of why.