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.

And:

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.

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  • slug

    Aer Lingus’s choice to recruit locally in NI was very welcome. Naturally NI has enormous growth potential. But the key thing is skills. Our workforce still has a high % with no skills or qualifications, compared to the rest of the UK. This is one of the big challenges. Also to get the investment in high quality jobs that will bring back those who have skills who have left. There are signs that the workforce in NI is growing rapidly, with many people coming to NI from outside to work – both returnees and new people. That’s a really important turnaround.

    The south is being really helpful in NI’s economic development both as a market to sell to, a source of capital, and also as a way of sourcing cheaper inputs. Our electricity prices have been too high and that was bad for business. But the economies of scale of the wider generation market using the south’s geneartion capacity, will bring down input prices and be good for business here.

  • Donegaldub

    Not everyone in the south is crying about Shannon (though Finlay, a corkman writing for what is still a Munster paper) would like to you to believe that everyone outside the pale is as one on this.

    The north-west never benefited from the subsidy to Shannon and over here we welcome the Aer Lingus move to Belfast. Its far more likely that we’ll reap some benefits from tourists landing there than we ever did from Shannon when the tour buses came as far as Sligo and turned around after visiting the dead poet.

  • Yokel

    Whats Fergus going on about? Get with the plot man.

    Aer Lingus made a single investment decision end of.

    As for an all Ireland market..its here and has been for ages.

  • parcifal

    I’m sure the Irish Gov’t will press for a substantial “dowry” from the Exchequer in Whitehall, as and when her daughter “norn iron” is ready for marriage with Republic.
    Keep the courting going, and shower her with gifts.
    The old formulas are the best 🙂

  • Oiliféar

    parcifal – there’re times when it feels like the ugly sister though … I mean, *ahem*, “Yes, sweetheart?”

  • I, personally, was impressed by Finlay’s comment piece, and thank Mick Fealty for bringing it to my attention.

    The Examiner has come a long way over the years. Who’d have thought that John Francis Maguire’s organ would be advocating the use of condoms (also on today’s opinion page)?

    Credit, too, to Finlay who has a distinguished track-record on the “respectable” Left: there’s that piece about him by the Sunday Business Post still on line at http://archives.tcm.ie/businesspost/2005/03/27/story3461.asp

    Here his logic is irrefutable.

    Two general points jump off the pages of this column and the previous one:

    (1) Fianna Fáil have not been and are not honest about their privatisation programme: as Finlay said previously:
    … the day Aer Lingus was sold, so too was control of the Heathrow slots. Although their importance was stressed time and time again in the [2003] debate by the opposition, not one deputy on the Government side referred to the Heathrow slots. Except, oddly enough, the minister himself. In winding up the debate, he said, referring to a number of opposition concerns: “There are also concerns about the Heathrow slots and the commitment of any new owners to regional development. I share these genuine concerns.” Sadly, he never elaborated.

    (2) Westminster, under any Government, has been wanting out from under NI for a long time (and certainly since before Sunningdale). Finlay was Dick Spring’s representative-on-earth, knows where the bodies are buried, and, like Jack Black’s character in “School of Rock”, he must be inviting us to read between the lines on attitudes to devolution and reunification, and where the blockages have been.

  • The Dubliner

    Fergus Finlay is a dreamer. Part of the national interest is protecting economic interests. Indeed, MI5 has the protection of economic interests as part of its sinister brief (and won’t they love this idea). Finlay seems to think that Ireland will be dumb enough to allow the British exchequer to reap the benefits from diverting investment from the Irish economy into the British economy in an act that is tantamount to treason where the government to implement it as policy. While we’re at it, perhaps we could move our IFSC up north and give the British exchequer a tax windfall. He seems to think they will apply this ‘logic’ to gain unity without actually gaining unity, since the constitutional status of Northern Ireland remains the same.

  • The Dubliner @ 01:36 PM:

    You don’t get it, do you? This whole European Union thing?

    The RoI’s economic interest is enhanced by stability and a strong NI economy. And vice versa. It’s not all a macro-economic game of “Beggar My Neighbour” and “diverting” benefits. Cross-border investment is not merely gesture politics. Multi-national corporations don’t have an identity crisis because the N1 becomes the A1. And we stopped having our suitcases rifled and wallets investigated soon after Amiens Street was renamed.

    Believe it or not, everyone can be winners with greater liberalisation. There’s no need for firing squads in Kimainham to deal with the economic “traitors” (and didn’t we conclude that particular line of rhetoric on 25 April 1938?)

    If you think MI5 is dedicated to subverting the Celtic Tiger, you have a strange appreciation of their current priorities (or, at least, I hope that’s the case).

    “Unity” will work and is working in all sorts of ways, many quite subtle, and all beneficial, without Arm na hÉireann ceremonially mounting guard at Thiepval Barracks. And that’s not “dreaming”.

  • “Kilmainham” even.

    And the last time I was at Bushmills, they were bottling Jameson. How’s that for economic convergence?

  • DC

    “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.”

    What about this situation at the micro-level; there’s many a physical barrier around the interfaces where contested development is leading to segregation without good reason other than fear and mistrust – misconceptions of each other’s intentions. Can work at the macro level, such as large capital expenditure on border projects and other shared sites really diminish the problems at the micro or is it to be down vice-versa.

    So far the Governments have helped with the top-down effect in so far as getting parties to the table and peacing-out together; but, if Martina Anderson’s response to costs of segregation is anything to go by the top-down effect ends here.

    We are starting to see the challenges that lie ahead and for progressive integration to happen there needs to be an understanding of how equality for the group tribe can sit with universal equality placed in the heart of the individual.

    Ultimately, a shift away from advocating the primacy of equality for the group towards a balanced approach taking into consideration the rights of an individual may expediently start a process of change. It’s working out and agreeing on the interplay to achieve that.

    We can see the advantages if a settled view on equality can be reached; a basis on which to move forward together. In doing that will likely creat advantages in terms of speeding up the unification process, because harmonisation of a shared understanding may well help breakdown the mental barriers thus removing the political will to battle in groups.

  • inuit_g

    Agree with the basic point that both parts of Ireland stand to gain from this move – McWilliams had an excellent recent piece on the potential of the N/S economic corridor – his point being that Belfast with its 700,000 people is both far more populous and far closer to Dublin than cities such as Cork, Limerick or Galway.

    I think Finlay and McWilliams do overly stray into economic determinism however in stating that this will somehow lead to political unity one day – I wouldn’t say this is the case at all. Indeed making Northern Ireland more economically viable may well end up strengthening the case for the Union.

    Besides there are plenty of European examples of countries with tightly integrated economies who retain their political independence from each other.

    But must say its fantastic to read good-news economic stories about NI in the papers these days, it’s becoming a consistent theme. We need to work out what kind of solid incentives we can offer to potential investors, beyond the dreamland of a corpo tax cut (ain’t gonna happen!)

  • the dreamland of a corpo tax cut (ain’t gonna happen!)

    Th situation has moved on there significantly in the last couple of weeks. The new leader of the Scottish Labour Party, Wendy Alexander, has come out in favour of increased fiscal powers for Holyrood, and the consensus in Scotland seems to be that she has Gordon Brown’s backing for this idea.

    It’s also worth noting that her husband, Brian Ashcroft, is on the board of the Economic Research Institute of Northern Ireland, which wrote the key document making the case for a corporation tax cut.

  • DC @ 02:18 PM and inuit_g @ 02:25 PM:

    All glory, laud and honour! I thought I was alone in trying to think and not emote.

    But, surely, (and perhaps we shouldn’t let the ultras in on the secret) “this will somehow lead to political unity one day”. It may not be the precise “political unity” present mind-sets, formed in a different era, expect. Already, for many of us, on a day-to-day basis, it’s often just the details (colour of the money, the uniforms and the postboxes) that we notice. For the rest of the time it’s the difference between VW, Seat, Audi and Skoda: the spares are common from the same depot, in the same box, and from many countries.

  • The Dubliner

    “You don’t get it, do you? This whole European Union thing?” – Malcolm Redfellow

    So, how does this “whole European Union thing” mean that governments don’t protect their national interests? How does it mean that France diverts investment from its own economy and sends it to, for example, Germany? Is it because they’re both Europeans? I seem to have missed that clause in the small print. Care to point it out to me?

    “The RoI’s economic interest is enhanced by stability and a strong NI economy.” – Malcolm Redfellow

    Who said it wasn’t? We’ve been paying for your lot’s squabbles for the last 40 years. However, that doesn’t equate to one national government being absolved of its duty to put its own economic interests before the economic interests of all other states. There can be no conflict: the government must seek tp further its own interests before the interests of others. That doesn’t mean we can’t cooperate and help out, even where it is in direct subvention to a forgein state as in the donation of 600 million. But it means, at the risk of repetition, that your needs are secondary to ours – they do not have parity, and certainly not, predecence.

    “If you think MI5 is dedicated to subverting the Celtic Tiger, you have a strange appreciation of their current priorities (or, at least, I hope that’s the case).” – Malcolm Redfellow

    No, I have an understanding of their defined role because, guess what, it is defined. If you, however, think that furthering British national interests in their usual covert and underhanded manner at the expense of other nation’s interests isn’t part of their invested duty and active role because of other “priorities,” then you’re probably the perfect patsy for ploys, aren’t you?

  • The Dubliner

    “”Unity” will work and is working in all sorts of ways, many quite subtle, and all beneficial, without Arm na hÉireann ceremonially mounting guard at Thiepval Barracks. And that’s not “dreaming”. ” – Malcolm Redfellow

    No, it’s not dreaming – its engaging in sweet fantasy. The ever-so-slight flaw in your theory is that taxes will be paid to the British exchequer and not the Irish state. Others might regard that as a fatal flaw and deal breaker, but dream on…

  • Tom Griffin @ 02:49 PM:

    Thanks for the Alexander-Ashcroft link: I had missed it. Wendy the Walkura’s wikipedia entry indicates a high-degree of networking.

    The Corporation Tax thing was in the wind before the last UK budget: see http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article1599843.ece

    I also keep a weather eye on Richard Murphy (www.taxresearch.co.uk), who was, incidentally, on Radio 4 this morning concerning the ability of multi-nationals to avoid taxation. He recently had a nice and relevant hit at John Redwood:
    … there in the middle of [Redwood’s article in the ‘Daily Telegraph’] was a paragraph that stood out:

    “I have gone hoarse explaining that Ireland cut tax rates on business, and lowered capital taxes, and enjoyed a large surge in revenue from the extra growth it generated. Ireland shows you can have it all – much lower tax rates, and more revenue and public spending per head.”

    As ever, Redwood is wrong.

    Spending per head went up in Ireland because of the receipt of massive EU subsidies. And the spend rate before they flooded in was miserable.

    Corporation tax in Ireland also went up, not down. The most successful and largest companies in Ireland in the 1980s and now are foreign owned. They paid 10% in the 1980s and 12.5% now. That’s an increase, not a decrease. An increase of 25% in fact. No small amount.

  • The Dubliner @ 02:57 PM;

    Oh dear. Where to start?

    Can we agree that governments also have “Supra-national” interests?

    As a specific example, and only one, may I draw your attention to the Paris/London-Bruxelles-Köln-Amsterdam rail link? This has already been so successful that Air France has withdrawn services between CdeG and Bruxelles, which might be thought against purely national interest. The Nederland Government paid some €450M to Belgium to improve the Belgian section’s alignment between Antwerp-Rotterdam-Amsterdam. The Belgian section uses French signalling.

    etc, etc.

    Why, by the way, resort to the racist term “patsy”? Or are Dubliners not Irish anymore?

  • páid

    Aer Lingus’s move to Belfast will obviously benefit Belfast.

    But I believe it will ultimately benefit Shannon also.

    If there was a decent ballsy journalist in the Country, they might ask two questions.

    1. Are there figures for the efficiency of Shannon airport operations and Shannon Aer Lingus operation available?

    2. If not, why not?

    Spend 5 minutes in the company of local small business people from Thomond and you’ll be put right on the numbers doing not a lot at Shannon.

    But it suits no politician to say so.

    We had the same desperate whinging over the Shannon stopover. I was amazed the sun rose in the sky the morning after it stopped.

    Let Shannon do what Aer Lingus has to do. Compete for business.

    And let the politicians concern themselves with getting decent infrastructure into Shannon and not be intefering in the decisions of Aer Lingus in order to keep Johnny in his ‘handy number’.

  • The Dubliner

    Malcolm Redfellow, look, just come clean on this. There is no European entitlement to support your case. If there was, you’d be making your case to the European parliament instead of seeking a bi-lateral aid agreement with the Republic of Ireland.

    Essentially, you want free money and you don’t care how you get it. I’ve no problem with the begging or failing to accept responsibility for your own predicament or the resolution of it, but I find the sense of entitlement to be overbearing, particularly when it is accompanied with attempts to tarnish the reputations of those who don’t believe that you should receive endless subventions, donations, and sovereigns tossed into your begging bowls. Anyone who thinks different is a right-wing neanderthal, right?

    Personally, I’d much rather Ireland seeks to assist those who are in greater economic need, such as in Third World countries. There is a moral obscenity in thinking that northerers were more worthy of a 600 million donation to charity from the Irish taxpayers than, for example, those societies were leprosy afflicts people.

  • Yokel

    Shannon may have lesss to worry about if UK HQ’d airline launches new routes from it.

  • páid

    Dubliner,

    Anyone who drags lepers into an argument on European state subsidies hasn’t a leg to stand on.

  • IJP

    Two points in addition:

    One, I’m not sure the distinction is between “social” and “economic” as claimed in the article. It is between “input from an unaccountable government of another jurisdiction” and “cross-border cooperation”, two quite different things. In short, the price for the Republic’s influence in the North must be Northern influence in the Republic.

    Two, Malcolm raises an essential point. We always talk as if the Irish border is the only border in the world! There are far, far more complex cross-border issues elsewhere in the EU/EFTA (including where three or four countries meet at or near a given point), and they are resolved much more effectively. The example he gives is a very good one.

  • George

    Páid,
    “1. Are there figures for the efficiency of Shannon airport operations and Shannon Aer Lingus operation available?

    2. If not, why not?”

    I was wondering that and have found only this from Damien Kiberd in the Sunday Times:

    Number of Shannon-Heathrow passengers seeking connectivity has dropped by 30% since 2004 and traffic on the route is down 11%.

    It seems more and more of the locals are availing of the connectivity to 440 destinations offered by the flights to Stansted, Luton and Gatwick.

    Contradicts what they are saying about the importance of the Heathrow slots.

    Malcolm,
    ah the old EU subsidies chestnut. The Telegraph, who predicted the demise of the Irish economy as far back as 1996 do love to bring it up where possible.

    The majority of that went to farmers (how much tax have they ever paid) not business or your PAYE lackey.

  • The Dubliner @ 03:54 PM: and, in part, George @ 04:24 PM:

    If you look back over my attempts to contribute to Slugger’s threads, you might see that I have been consistent in deploring the short-sightedness and mendacity of the Paisley-McGuinness Administration in not taking the legacy money issue by the throat. Please, therefore, do not throw that “you” at me so readily. My Mummy told me it was rude to point.

    In broad terms, the UK contributes £175 per head per annum (2005 figures). The UK gets back funding for projects, agricultural support and the like, which reduces this to a net £50 pa. The economic advantages of EU membership (trade and the like) are worth more than £300 each p.a. So, on those figures, I’m not voting for UKIP, even though the UK “annual membership fee” is likely to increase in future years. I would also suggest that there are many other, non-monetary advantages. Nor am I begrudging the fact that (also 2005 figures) the average citizen of the RoI got €396 in direct receipts, the best of the EU15, plus of course those economic advantages of membership. With the addition of the new Member States, that is going to change radically.

    On Dubliner’s other point, yes, the EU is very much a self-help society, piddling on emerging economies (e.g. sugar). But haven’t we done well thereby? And that doing well gives us the wherewithal to be doing good.

    Please note, too, that my reference to the ‘Daily Telegraph’ was solely to source Redwood’s article.

  • The Dubliner

    “Anyone who drags lepers into an argument on European state subsidies hasn’t a leg to stand on.” – páid

    Gold star for that one!

    Malcolm, I actually agree with much of your posts in general, which is why I rarely challenge them. I tend towards a dialectic method or Devil’s Advocate as an attempt to get the southern perspective into a forum which is, of course, north-centric. George, as another southerner, is the voice of calm reason and supporting facts.

    I don’t see this debate as being anything other than pure self-interest by northerners masquerading as being something more virtuous. It is presented in terms of “enlightened nationalism” and also subtle emotional blackmail but I won’t even ask you how it is considered patriotic to serve another country’s economic interests before and ahead of your own, since the unstated propaganda is that serving British financial interests is one and the same thing as serving Irish financial interests, despite the benefits being lost to the Irish taxpayer and accruing to the British taxpayer. The curious logic being that improving the status quo will lead to increased dissatisfaction with the status quo and not, as logic would suggest, increased satisfaction with it, causing people to vote, counter to logic, to abolish the status quo via a constitutional referendum and join a state where they will gain no advantage due to the status quo already being equalised between them.

    As Father Dougal would say, “It’s mad, isn’t it?”

  • George

    Malcolm,
    With the addition of the new Member States, that is going to change radically.

    Keep this under your hat but in all the hullabaloo and horse-trading between Chirac and Blair last year, Bertie Ahern walked away with a cheque for 14 billion whistling “Ode to Joy” as he went.

    All this despite Bertie arriving with his cheque book.

    Ireland won’t be an overall contributor until 2014 at the earliest, when the next seven-year cycle begins.

  • páid @ 04:10 PM:

    I’ve been suppressing this one for an hour or more. I’ve tried everything, but I’ve got to let it out…

    They started a brothel in a leper colony, but business kept dropping off.

  • I think that Finlay asseses rather well the road ahead and the reality of an ever more evolving process of unification of the two states. Are people in the RoI ready to accept that the last 10 years of hard work and accumulated wealth will inevitably be redisitributed North of the Border. Surely any Rebuplican would favour a united Ireland and the huge financial investment that would be necessary in order to provide a similar level of development and service as in the Republic.

    If/when (most likely when) the Island is united, a good example to look at would be Canada, where the Consitution garauntees an equivalent level of services across the nation, so richer provinces are required to give some of their tax income to other provinces in a system of péréquation (or it’s aqward English equivalent: equalisation). So what do or would Dubliners think of their money not only going to develop Lifford but also Strabane?

  • sportsman

    Why would a uni in Belfast be competing with one in Cork in a UI? If inward investment becomes all-Ireland with a unified corpo tax rate then surely that will be a de-facto unification? Certainly in economic terms.

  • sportsman

    Forgot to say that all these possible problems pale into insignificance compared to the prize of unification. My lifes dream.

  • PaddyReilly

    Obviously if and when Irish unity is achieved, an immediate major worry will be countering Unionist insurgency. One strategy that could be adopted is by moving as many of them as possible elsewhere on the island, and as many citizens of the 26 counties into the six.

    Suggestions that Ireland needs 2 capitals and worries that Belfast and Cork universities would be in competition with each other could actually be part of the solution. For example Cork could specialize in science and Belfast in arts, meaning that Arts students and professors would all have to move to Belfast, and Science to Cork.

    South Africa I believe had three capitals: an administrative capital, a judicial and a parliamentary one. If Ireland had the same system then a general balance would be achieved, with a uniform 14% of the Civil Service etc coming from a Unionist background throughout the island.

  • Bran Mak Morn

    Obviously if and when Irish unity is achieved, an immediate major worry will be countering Unionist insurgency. One strategy that could be adopted is by moving as many of them as possible elsewhere on the island, and as many citizens of the 26 counties into the six.

    Why don’t you go the whole hog and send them to labour camps for “processing”? Perhaps they could be arrested if a group of four or more are seen together?

  • PaddyReilly @ 08:11 PM:

    Your essential concept smacks not of unification and reconciliation, but of conquest. Your solution, the wholesale movement of populations, is Stalinist. Please keep such dementia to yourself: it frightens the horses.

    In reality, reunification will come, but slowly, and it will as unremarkable as it is inevitable. It will start in small ways, when everyone is wearing M&S knickers, perhaps, or by having mobile ‘phones that ignore the Border, or each and any of thousands of ways.

    At some point, we may arrive at full “harmonisation” and regulation across the EU. It’s already happening, and (despite the Little Englanders obsessed by the 0.57litre/pint and the 1.6km/mile) it’s pretty well all to the good. It doesn’t herald the arrival of Orwell’s or Huxley’s dystopia (see Peter Hitchens in the Daily Wail, 8 May 2006 for that nonsense).

    And so on, until — suddenly — we realise that we hardly notice boundaries and frontiers and divisions any more. Plastic does need to know the colour of your money. It no longer is nationalism, or internationalism, but the trans-nationalism already implicit in that teenage hell-hole called Ibiza. I hope then we continue to celebrate our differences, but jovially, not but glassing each other’s faces.

    The re-united Ireland of the late 21st century will not be a 26-county writ a bit larger. It will be a synthesis, not an imposition.

  • John East Belfast

    Malcolm

    “And so on, until—suddenly—we realise that we hardly notice boundaries and frontiers and divisions any more..”

    with all due respect that is total fantasy and I would be surprised if you really believed that?

    Unification will only arise as a result of a border poll where demographics have significantly changed and there has been a reasonable shift in the voting pattern of the Pro Union northern Catholics and/or a similar shift in the Pro Separatist northern Protestants.

    It wont come with a whimper but with intense debate and possibly threats if not acts of violence.

    There will be no osmosis to Irish unity simply because the Union is still there and all you say about the disappearing border between north and south is already there between NI & GB.

  • John East Belfast @ 09:41 PM:

    Funnily enough, yes, I do believe that, however badly and dreamily I have expressed myself.

    The real border is not a line on a map, much of the significance of that has already gone for ever. Am I the only aged loon that recalls having two sets of customs men coming down the corridor on the Enterprise? The showing of the triptyques at Garrison? The rummaging of suitcases (since I was an impoverished student, the main targets must have been those “In your dreams!” condoms, Playboy and Lady Chatterley) on Amiens Street platform?

    Today the border exists mainly in people’s heads, north and south, in our separate little parochial and denominational mind-sets. “Reunification” will happen, is happening except for the numbskulls, in attitudes. It may never finally eliminate that curious cartographic indicator, and may not need to.

    If the EU thing works, if we continue to become trans-national in our attitudes, the artificial markers become less and less relevant. Eventually they disappear from our consciousness. We actually have to look for them. They become an historical curiosity. And that can happen with quite remarkable speed (for example, in Germany).

    Let me remind you of Campione, on Lake Lugano. The cars are registered as Swiss. The telephones are run by Swisscom (you need to use the Switzerland dialling codes). It uses Swiss postal codes. Most of the emergency services are Swiss. It is an Italian enclave, however. The inhabitants are EU citizens, as Italians, but there’s no EU VAT, as far as I can see. This peculiar status is in everyone’s interest: the Swiss come across on the ferry to gamble in the casino; the tourists love the anomaly; the people of Campione have kept that “d’Italia” affix willed on them by Mussolini as a mark of honour.

    On the other hand other boundaries remain important. For my sins I live in North London. In this patch there is an indefinable line, but marked clearly by the colours sported by the pubs, identifying the frontier between Spurs and Arsenal. Ignore that line at your peril.

  • Bretagne

    Hi JEB :-
    “There will be no osmosis to Irish unity simply because the Union is still there and all you say about the disappearing border between north and south is already there between NI & GB”

    True – but the subvention is too big (GB is paying) at £6bn and needs to be lowered – as Gordon intends..

    Slug on the first post was on the money…

    “Our workforce still has a high % with no skills or qualifications, compared to the rest of the UK.”

    Some of these are transferable skills where migrant workers – from the south or rest of Europe can make a considerable improvement quickly.

    ” the economies of scale of the wider generation market….., will bring down input prices and be good for business here.”

    This is key – an all island market is key to competitiveness, and skills transfer. Also, the beneift to the South in the medium term will be to get the unions to heel using the employment laws in the north, and show how easy it is to switch to other jurisdictions. GB had Maggie to sort this issue out, and now the South has the benefit without needing the balls to make the hard calls on union power. The unionist politicians will be so exited by the competition that the fact that jobs are switching to avail of more favourable employer’s terms won’t be mentioned. So that clever Bertie will get union reform by default, the north gets skilled labour and jobs by default – and Gordon wins by reducing the subvention.

    You end up with harmonisation of employment but not unification.

    To really get the subvention down our politicians will have to legislate to get rid of 80% of those claiming DLA, bring in ideas like road tolling etc to raise the funds, and deliberatley create economic migrants out of NI from those who dont contribute – and that brings your “has been a reasonable shift in the voting pattern of the Pro Union northern Catholics and/or a similar shift in the Pro Separatist northern Protestants” into play.

    The outcome re constitutional position is anyone guess – but the south has the flexibility to change corporation tax etc to switch these jobs to the south that NI does not have at present. Tricky thing devolution…

  • PaddyReilly

    Please keep such dementia to yourself: it frightens the horses.

    Yes, a Yugoslav friend of mine insists that Yugoslavia died of political correctness. The practise of assigning employment on the ground of spurious ethnicities (Catholic v Orthodox: filioque makes a big difference) preserved these ethnicities when they were no longer relevant and increased hatred between them. A pity the Serbs and Croats weren’t moved about a bit more.

    When you take a state job: soldier, prison officer, normally you expect to be moved about. I don’t see this is Stalinism. Stalin never persuaded the Georgians to merge with the Russians, did he? Actually, his regime preserved nationalities which, under capitalism, would have disappeared.

    As 9:41 indicates, the risk of violence is always there.

  • Dewi

    So sorry – trying to keep up with everything – but why can’t everyone try and write things a bit more succintly ? – some of us are trying to debate on other threads !!! (especially you Malolm Redfellow – it takes me ages to get to what u r trying to say !!!)

  • barnshee

    “And the last time I was at Bushmills, they were bottling Jameson. How’s that for economic convergence”

    Not really -I have bad news for you –Jamesons is in essence Bushmills. There are only effectively two distilleries in Ireland– Cork and Bushmills. By shifting the mix in blend between the two, “different” whiskeys are produced. (Compare and contrast with Scotland experience)

  • barnshee @ 10:45 AM:

    Thank you for helping to make the point.

    These things change almost daily, but the last time I looked Diageo (which is also, of course, Guinness, Haig, Bell’s, Black-and-White … Red Stripe, Gilbey’s, Gordon’s, Tanqueray … Dom Perignon, Moet … ) had bought Bushmills off Pernod-Richard.

    Pernod-Richard (Aberlour; Ballantine’s; Clan Campbell; Cream of the Barley and Glenlivet) had been obliged to sell Bushmills on competition grounds because they had bought Jameson. Pernod-Richard, who masquerade as Irish Distillers, use numerous brand names for whiskey: Jameson, Redbreast, Powers, Midleton, Paddy, Dunphy’s and Dungourney.

    Confused? We should be: it’s called multi-national capitalism. That amounts to Jeux Sans Frontières, which is one of my essential arguments.

  • Congal Claen

    Hi All,

    For all the reasons that an all island economy makes sense the same could be said 10 fold for an all British Isles economy. Reunification of the Republic back into the UK anyone?

  • Congal Claen @ 11:32 AM:

    With a nod at Salmond, would that be on the basis of one in, one out?

    Or perhaps we should recognise that these relics of defunct nationalisms are, in modern economics, redundant.

  • George

    Congal,
    we tried the UK pony for 120 years and over a million of us starved to death and millions were forced to leave on coffin ships.

    Just as the starvation fears faded, our great leaders started sending tens of thousands of our fittest young men over the top to their deaths.

    We’ll stick with this independent Irish Republic filly for a little while longer if it’s alright with you.

  • Congal Claen

    Hi George,

    Ireland was “united” through those periods also. Shoot that pony too?

    Why is it that you are only too willing to discuss the benefits of an all island economy thro unification. But, resort to the famine and war at the mere mention of the greater benefits of an all British Isles economy? Surely you’re economic judgment isn’t being clouded by petty nationalism?

    Hi Malcolm,

    Based on the above, the answer appears to be alive and kicking to your 2nd question.

  • Oiliféar

    “Obviously if and when Irish unity is achieved, an immediate major worry will be countering Unionist insurgency.”

    Like the analogy of one poster here, the true goundwork has to be done in the courting of Northern Ireland. This includes building, in advance, some form of “post-unionist” national pride/loyalty in the Protestants of Northern Ireland that is directed towards the island of Ireland, though it need not by necessity obliterate their current eastward or Ulster loyalties, nor would it be something entirely artificial.

  • PaddyReilly

    Why don’t you go the whole hog and send them to labour camps for “processing”? Perhaps they could be arrested if a group of four or more are seen together?

    Well the tactics of the last lot to tackle this problem was to imprison (colloquially known as ‘lift’) the whole of the disgruntled population on a periodic basis and blackmail the more vulnerable ones into acting as informers or saboteurs. This did, briefly, include a curfew, as you suggested. While not entirely ruling this approach out, I think it would be useful to start out with a diminished block of disgruntled citizens whose rioting capacity is sapped by lack of like minded personnel in the appropriate area.

    This includes building, in advance, some form of “post-unionist” national pride/loyalty in the Protestants of Northern Ireland that is directed towards the island of Ireland.

    And what are you going to build this with? Lego? Would not castles in the sky be a more feasible project?

    the greater benefits of an all British Isles economy

    And the even greater benefits of an all European economy?

  • IJP

    It seems the latest trick to bring about a stable united Ireland is to socially engineer Protestants.

  • IJP

    Malcolm

    You’re spot on as usual.

    I referred to it on another thread about this ridiculous phrase “membership of the United Kingdom”. In another thread I noted, in response to you, how ludicrous the notion of “independence” is.

    This is much better seen in terms of sovereignty. In due course, more and more of our fiscal, social and maybe even defence policy will be agreed in Brussels (officially or unofficially). In due course, responsibility for justice, security, probably even benefits will shift to Belfast and Edinburgh. And once all of that has happened, what role precisely will London have?

    And so Ireland will, to all intents and purposes, be united. It may be “one country, two systems” and it may not; it may form part of a British Isles equivalent of “Benelux” or “Nordic Council” and it may not; but none of that will have any real relevance to the average citizen.

    Which is why politics based on the constitutional question – over which we actually have no real influence and which is being decided by events anyway – is really rather silly.

  • Oiliféar

    The box of my Lego set shows a picture of the Protestants of the north-east attending universities in the Republic, shifting their economic interests south, supporting all-island sports associations (not the GAA), being represented on RTÉ, involving themselves in southern politics, attending cultural events in the Republic (from Cork Jazz to the Electric Picnic), holidaying south of the border without the idea of visiting “another country”, seeing the southern government as a partner of greater practical value than London, … … …

    All of these a feasable using the institutional mechanisms that are in place. It is the burden of the Republic to inspire them.

  • George

    Congal,
    just pointing out how difficult it would be to sell the idea of returning to the union, considering what happened the last time we were in it.

    Believe it or not, things like the mass starvation of the Great Famine and the mass slaugther of Imperial war have left their mark on Ireland’s national psyche.

    As for economic judgment, Ireland has a much healthier economic relationship with Britain now that it is an independent state. Trade between the two countries is more balanced and is booming. Why risk that to go back to a political union that left this island traumatised, dysfunctional and impoverished?

    Britain doesn’t want it, Ireland doesn’t want it. We are both more than happy with the current situation.

  • Oiliféar

    IJP, good points but could I add a little note on “sovereignty” in that circumstance (which is inevitable).

    In that context “sovereignty” means voting rights and representation. For a great part, Britain and Ireland represent very similar economic, social and value systems, and so form a pretty good block, but there are places where we differ. Where we do, would the interest of Northern Ireland be best represented by London (effectively England) or by Dublin?

    I side with the Northern Ireland’s European interests being best represented by Dublin, but a little lateral (no pun intended) thinking will bring you to a position far from the orthodox of a united Ireland – so too would Scotland’s, or, more precisely, the Republic, Northern Ireland and Scotland share identical interests (both those in common common with Britain and Ireland as a whole, and those unique to them).

    If you can swallow that then a united Ireland is really quite miniscule compared to the benefits that a Ireland-Scotland union (a “Gaelic” Union?) would present. Not only would the three jurisidictions align quite well, but the combined population, over 10 million, would put the newly formed state into the mid-sixed population bracket, affecting voting rights, and thus more influence (greater “soveriegnty”).

    But that, really is, pie in the sky.

  • IJP

    Oiliféar

    I’ve long thought NI’s European interests would be best served by Belfast, in the same way Catalonia’s are served by Barcelona. It’s just, as usual, we’re too busy arguing over stupid things to worry about influencing things where they really matter. (By the way, “influencing” requires more than an office in Brussels which hosts lots of nice parties.)

    But re-arrange your argument to economic (re-)orientation – which is, after all, what shifted Belfast towards Glasgow and Liverpool in the first place – and I think you’re on to something.

  • PaddyReilly

    The box of my Lego set shows a picture of the Protestants of the north-east attending universities in the Republic, shifting their economic interests south, supporting all-island sports associations (not the GAA), being represented on RTÉ, involving themselves in southern politics, attending cultural events in the Republic (from Cork Jazz to the Electric Picnic), holidaying south of the border without the idea of visiting “another country”, seeing the southern government as a partner of greater practical value than London, … … …

    Nice idea, but you can’t tell other people what to do and think. I believe your man Faulkner went to TCD, but he didn’t allow it to affect his politics. Some of the Unionist contributors to this very site are actually working in Dublin at this very moment, but they persuade themselves that it’s only like working in Japan.

    The box of my Lego set shows each of the counties and county towns of the 32 county Republic specializing in a different type of education, industry or branch of civil service, with North Eastern Protestants being evenly distributed among them. However, they still continue to moan and say they’re in a foreign country.

  • Oiliféar

    Paddy, it’s up to us to persuade.

  • Congal Claen

    Hi George,

    “just pointing out how difficult it would be to sell the idea of returning to the union, considering what happened the last time we were in it.”

    No more difficult a sell than a UI to unionists.

    However, we’re talking in economic terms here, not national psyche, whatever that may be. Economically, the UK is a much sweeter deal than a UI. The UK is a member of the G7 and has the biggest financial centre in the world. Yet all we here from nationalism is the economic benefits of a UI??? The benefits of a UI are dwarfed by the benefits of a united British Isles. Economically speaking it was mad for the RoI that Nationalists should ever have partitioned the British Isles.

    FFS, even this thread is about the move from Shannon to Belfast. Not the opening up of a route BETWEEN Belfast and Shannon.

  • Ydobemos

    Go to http://sluggerotoole.com/index.php/weblog/comments/is-squeezing-the-lifeblood-out-of-protestant-londonderry-derrys-modern-disg/

    Now notice that the non-RC Irish have been ethnically cleansed over a century.

    PaddyReilly is explaining how it works.

  • Oiliféar

    “Economically speaking it was mad for the RoI that Nationalists should ever have partitioned the British Isles.”

    More demonstrably, it was mad for Ireland to form a union with Great Britain.

    Congal Claen, as member of the second wealthiest people in the world (first in Europe), I can’t buy that. Sorry. I know its been a long-haul, and it’s disappoint you weren’t around for the ride, but the door’s always open, and if you can put your prejudice behind you, you’re welcome any time.

    “The UK is a member of the G7 and has the biggest financial centre in the world.”

    Quality, remember, Congal, not quantity.

  • PaddyReilly

    Now notice that the non-RC Irish have been ethnically cleansed over a century.

    No they haven’t, they intermarried, giving rise to, inter alia, me.

    PaddyReilly is explaining how it works.

    No, what I propose is quite the reverse, and will lead to the rejuvenation of C of I parishes in rural Irish towns. You can’t have it both ways. If Protestants leave Derry, and towns in the Republic, that is ethnic cleansing, if they get sent back there, that is ethnic cleansing too?

  • Congal Claen

    Hi Oiliféar,

    “Congal Claen, as member of the second wealthiest people in the world (first in Europe), I can’t buy that. Sorry. I know its been a long-haul, and it’s disappoint you weren’t around for the ride, but the door’s always open, and if you can put your prejudice behind you, you’re welcome any time.”

    An economy built on a housing pyramid scheme and a tax haven for foreign companies. And then you say “Quality, remember, Congal, not quantity.”

    When the wheels come off, I’ll welcome you back with open arms to rejoin your fellow islanders, if you choose to do so. I won’t even say “told you so”. Although, thinking about it, I may do. Over and over again to be perfectly truthfull actually ;0)

  • John

    Paddy Powers is overing 10 to 1 for unification by 2027, which means he thinks it will be 2047, otherwise he would become bankrupt after unification in 2027.

    The reality of a UI, not when, but if ever, becomes less and less likely every day that the ROI grows for the following reason.

    As the ROI grows then more and more nationalists will move there over the next 20 years to work and live, which will reduce the Sinn Feinn vote in NI to only those left behind. Also, once these nationalists move to the ROI they will have real parties to vote for, for the first time in their lives, and will quickly drop SF both in the ROI.

    At the same time the large numbers of new people coming into NI from outside the UK will prefer to hold a UK passport, with all its benefits, rather than hold an Irish passport.

    So NI will have a new population by 2027 that will be secure within the UK.

  • Oiliféar

    Thanks, Congal – at least it’s amicable, and no-one should fear an “I told you so” when it’s justified.

    p.s. I’ve my finger’s cross you get your “tax haven” status too.

  • Ydobemos

    “… they intermarried …”

    Which is why so many of the next generation are non-RC? Marry out of their faith-community or emigrate? Hell or Connacht?

    The result was the end of a five-hundred years tradition.

  • Wang Corr

    I think Fergus Finlay has been plagiarising my posts. Who do I complain to?

  • Oiliféar

    “Hell or Connacht?” Connacht, maybe. Growth south of the border was 8.6% for CoI, 14.4% for Presbyterian, and 21.2% for Methodist, compared to 6.3% for Roman Catholic (what about all those Polish?). Of course that is at the head of a long, long decline for CoI.

  • The Dubliner

    “There will be no osmosis to Irish unity simply because the Union is still there and all you say about the disappearing border between north and south is already there between NI & GB.” – John East Belfast

    Spot on. As a successful businessman, you probably belong to a federation within your industry which seeks to promote the mutual interests of its members and its particular industry. But that doesn’t mean you don’t care which company within your industry gets contracts, because you understand that companies are separate entities that compete with each other and that profit made by your competitor is a profit and a contract lost to you, right? It’s all very simple, yet beyond the grasp of our dreamers who seem to think that it doesn’t matter if the profit is made by Ireland Plc or Britain Plc! It matters. In fact, if you saw one of your managers sending one of your customers to your competitors, you’d rightly conclude that he was a planted stooge and fire him on the spot.

    Unless there is constitutional unity (a merger, to continue the analogy), then there is competition between the two states. Ergo, one must put its own interests before the other. It would be sweet if one side could convince the other that the British exchequer is the same thing as the Irish state and that serving its interests isn’t an act of treason by the Irish government, but I don’t think that is likely to happen somehow (only among the simpleminded). Nor, indeed, can it be claimed that serving British interests is de facto the same as serving Irish interests because, it is claimed, supporting British interests (NI) is a process which leads to merger (returning the short term losses in a long-term investment gain), since the process is more likely to have the opposite outcome, i.e. people are contented with the improved status quo and see no need to change it, allowing them to remain ‘British’ while still enjoying the same standard of living as their southern counterparts.

    The constitutional issue will remain; and, ergo, we will not treat your economic needs with parity or priority to our own, despite cooperating where applicable and mutually beneficial.

  • IJP

    Oiliféar

    Paddy, it’s up to us to persuade.

    If this is a reference to “persuading people to accept a UI”, forget it. You won’t “persuade” anyone.

    It’ll either happen (basically along Malcolm‘s lines), or it won’t.

    The trick is not to antagonize, so that if there comes a time when it basically becomes inevitable, the transition is stable.

  • Ydobemos

    Oiliféar —

    If you look at real numbers, not at percentages, the picture is completely different.

    RC: in 1991 3,228,327; in 2002 3,462,606: increase of 234,279.
    CoI: in 1991 89,187; in 2002 115,611; increase of 26,424.
    Look carefully at that 115,611 and you discover that 83,488 are “Irish” and 19,927 are “British”. That tells us that the CoI is still in real decline, but is kept afloat by other Anglicans.
    The increase for non-RCs is by immigration only. The increase in Methodists (5,037 to 10,033) seems spectacular, that’s the African immigrants. The “other stated religions” (+50,480) are mainly Muslims.

    Would you like to do a comparison of non-RCs in 1911 (last pre-Treaty census) compared with 1991 and 2002?

  • Oiliféar

    Ydobemos, thanks for digging deeper. I had been going by headlines, but they never really dug any deeper than the surface. I wonder how many of the British are from Northern Ireland?

    I am always suspicious when the decline immediately after the treaty is brought up. No doubt there were many who packed up, but numbers prior to the treaty were inflated by army and civil administration, and of those who left, I don’t imagine many leaving as “refugees.” The family of my local big house left, but kept contact until the mid-60’s when, with the Land Commission chopping up their lands, sold the house for a hotel and have never been seen since.

    The Land Commission and the rearing children as Catholic after marriages cut into a lot, but the hint at pogroms that I read in many amateur Unionist history strikes me as widely off the mark. From personal contact with the children of mixed-marriages, I don’t think it was ever seen as a problem or a loss of heritage. Of the one family, that I could identify as being mixed Catholic-Anglian marriage (there could have been many more, who knows?), the children were nominally brought up Catholic but on Sundays drifted between both parents churches as was convenient for maw or paw on that particular day.

    There were certainly a great number of big houses were torched during the civil war. One especially that I know of, having grown up near it, was ironically, and explained to me in bitter terms towards the IRA, the ancestral house of the first republican president of Ireland.

    How much of this led to “The result was the end of a five-hundred years tradition” I’m dubious about, but I do agree that its better for Republic to have a mix. One of the first big projects that I remember in my town in the period when people started having spare cash but before the boom hit (c.1990-94) was the refurbishment of the Anglican church. In some way linked to this was the resurrection of cricket on the old cricket grounds, in the center of town, now a small park. The grounds were donated to the town after the treaty to the town by the local lord and his house donated to the Sisters of Mercy who founded a school in it.

    With the help of Pakistani doctors – the only one’s who knew the rules! – and much community enthusiasm – though I don’t mean GAA levels of enthusiasm – cricket was brought back, leading to the establishment of a town club and the teaching of it in a couple of schools around the area. The Presbyterian hall was for all my youth derelict and, at the same time as the refurbishment of the Anglican church and restoration of cricket on the green, turned into a restaurant.

    (By way of a story, the lord who own donated the park and his home, incidentally, was the father of a certain Lord Lucan. Neither that Lord, nor his famous son, were never seen around the town again. However, his grandson was, during legal troubles to gain his father’s title. There was a threat that the town, which stopped paying ground rents after the infamous Lucan disappeared, could pose a thorn in the side of any attempt by the grandson to claim the title. An arrangement was arrived at (i.e. the town would support the claim so long the title was never used again to claim ground rent either in future or those unpaid) and the grandson is now quite regularly wheeled out as a minor celebrety, though he still does not have the title.)

  • Ydobemos

    Oiliféar @ 08:33 PM —

    That’s a nice post and a good read. Thanks.

  • The Saint

    I have to subscribe to this natural disaloution of the border the only signage that you may be leaving one jurasdiction is the signpost reads “speads in KMPH” to prevent schmart arsches doing 120 mph!! For the bulk of the population in Newry-Mourne-Armagh-Louth-Monaghan, where the bank machines dispense Euro and STG and the shops accept both, the border there is administrative only. I do believe in my heart of hearts that the border now is academic, enforced only by those with a very slim interest in it.

    I might at this point ask why the southern section of the N1 was finished first i thought we had good ole “protestant efficency and work ethics” on our side!!

  • Objectivist

    John,
    Your post was a classic example of wishful thinking:
    As the ROI grows then more and more nationalists will move there over the next 20 years to work and live, which will reduce the Sinn Feinn vote in NI to only those left behind.
    This has not happened so far nor do I think it will now that the N.I. economy is beginnng to improve.By your logic there should have been a stream of southerners into N.I. during the dark days of the fifties.
    I note an interesting circularity of thought here:
    Unionist argument circa 1960:
    The southern economy is miles behind that of N.I. therefore a UI is impossible.
    Unionist argument circa 2007:
    The southern economy is miles ahead that of N.I. therefore a UI is impossible.

  • IJP

    objectivist

    Spot on on all counts – I’d be interested in the Unionist response! I know one at least, who posts on here, has been man enough to admit the latter point!

  • barnshee

    “improve.By your logic there should have been a stream of southerners into N.I. during the dark days of the fifties.”
    Ha Ha –the republic emptied into GB during the 50`s and 60` GB is littered with Oirish and the posher “wilde geese” clubs.

  • Objectivist

    Ha Ha –the republic emptied into GB during the 50`s and 60` GB is littered with Oirish and the posher “wilde geese” clubs.
    I note that they tended to steer clear of N.I. however.The parlous state of the southern economy in the fifties owed a lot to De Valera’s antedeluvian economic policies.But it was also in no small part a negative hangover from membership of the union with its retarding effect on industrial development.
    Incidentally the childish schadenfreude of the above quote illustrates one minor benign consequence of the Celtic Tiger – it has wiped the smile off the face of a less pleasant type of unionist.
    Had an interesting thought following this discussion – of the 5 Norn Ironers (wonderful people one and all) that have wandered into my work sphere in recent years 4 are Prods.

  • barnshee

    “Incidentally the childish schadenfreude of the above quote illustrates one minor benign consequence of the Celtic Tiger – it has wiped the smile off the face of a less pleasant type of unionist”

    What? ROI is trying to shake off it priest ridden (lit) image and has conned megabucks out of the EU (still the biggest recipient per head in EU).

    Well done– the only smiles North of the Border are at the gullability of the EU and at prices in the “celtic tiger”.

  • Objectivist

    What? ROI is trying to shake off it priest ridden (lit) image and has conned megabucks out of the EU (still the biggest recipient per head in EU).
    This is one of the standard dog-eared urban myths peddled by some extreme unionists in denial of the tiger.
    No serious economist gives this one credence.EU subsidies have contributed at most 1/2% to a GNP that has averaged 8% pa during the tiger years and pales in comparison to GB subsidies to the North.The ROI is now a net contributor.
    And give me priests ahead of Free P style Bible-thumpers any day of the week.

  • Dewi

    She wore no jewels – no costly diamond
    No paint nor powder – no none at all
    She wore a bonnet – with a ribbon on it
    And around her shoulders a Galway shawl…

    I’m madly in love with Cerys Mathews !

    http://ie.youtube.com/watch?v=xpReF_rf-Lg

    You have the best songs – but we got the best singers !