Contemplating the price of a unification process…

Fergus Finlay argue in his Examiner column today that Shannon may only be the first of a series of prices inflicted by an island wide move towards a single market space:

It has been an understated part of the strategy of both the British and Irish governments for many years that they should take every opportunity to develop any situations that have an all-Ireland dynamic to them. Some of the unionist and loyalist parties in the North might have professed a complete lack of interest in the north-south dimension in the past, but now they are in government they too will seize any opportunity for economic investment and growth. Just look at how they reacted to the Aer Lingus decision, and especially how they reacted to any talk that pressure might be exerted to have that decision reversed.


If we all wake up some morning, some time in the future, and realise that a virtually united Ireland has come about almost without any of us noticing, it will be because the all-island potential of the peace process has been finally realised. And that won’t happen, can’t happen, without us down here facing a lot of difficult decisions. We tend to think that any move in the direction of greater unity on the island of Ireland will involve pain and surrender by unionists. In some respects that might be so, but it will only come about if we are prepared to endure a lot of pain along the way.

Eliminating duplication in public service will also generate its own logic in the public sector:

SOONER or later, key decisions will start to be made about the logic of having, for instance, big healthcare investments in Derry and Letterkenny, with duplication and waste of resources caused by the fact that both places are separated by an artificial border.

Eventually, there will be agonised debate about whether to invest huge amounts of money in competing universities in Belfast and Cork, or whether it would make more sense to turn one of them into an international centre of excellence.

All of these decisions will involve winners and losers. If the losers are the people of Drogheda or Letterkenny, or Cork, will they understand that Ireland’s overall future is being served? Or will they feel betrayed, as the people of Shannon do now? These are all tough choices, and there are many more one could think of.

But what if it went further. Unionists would not be the only ones to face awkward questions:

Harmonisation within the area of education, for instance, could be about a lot more than investment. The development of an all-island curriculum could make sense — and it could drive us all wild. How are we going to agree, for instance, on the historical treatment of Oliver Cromwell? How are we going to decide the place of Irish in the Leaving Cert, or indeed whether it should be the Leaving Cert that determined the future at all?

We’ve never really discussed this, have we? And yet, if we are to do more than pay lip service to the idea of developing a real sense of unity, we must face an enormous array of difficult decisions. A lot of them, just like Shannon, we won’t like one little bit. But they’re coming down the tracks.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty