AFTER Gerry Adams offered the stunning insight to Barack Obama that jaw jaw is indeed better than war war, he sagely noted on Bloomberg that closer economic ties with the Republic of Ireland may see the island reunified within his lifetime. You have an acceptance that partition no longer has any economic value, said Adams. It could be that the economy would be a big decider for many unionists. Clearly the Sinn Fein leader believes that the exodus of Southern shoppers to the mecca malls of Derry or Newry is a short-term phenomenon, and has forgotten how the Border crossing supplied both the IRA in south Armagh and cheap petrol to NI in the past. On this side of the Border, both unionists and nationalists seem exceptionally happy that the retail traffic from the Republic is keeping them very profitable as the recession bites harder elsewhere. And since paying for NI in the long term seems to scare the bejaysus out of the politicians in the South, I find it hard to be convinced by Adams – even if there are some persuasive arguments for an all-Ireland economy, and that a Cruiser-style selfish interest may be the only thing that could ever entice Unionists into a united Ireland. But – if it’s swings and roundabouts, as Peter Robinson said, about whether to shop north of south of the border – is it a realistic prospect in Adams’ lifetime?
ADDS: Adams elaborates on his economic agenda here. As well as an all-Ireland economy, he wants “greater fiscal autonomy and the ability to gather taxes and manage our economy independent of British Treasury restraints”. While I agree in principle, I wonder if the current Stormont regime has the maturity to handle handle tax-varying powers, and calling for higher taxes (I can’t see them being varied downwards) during a recession won’t be popular. Adams also criticises how “the British Treasury also attempts to impose its own political and fiscal philosophy on how the government here does its business. For example, this approach dictates that the public sector can only become efficient if exposed to competition from the private sector, that assets should be sold off and public services privatised”.