North – South Cooperation today and tomorrow

I blogged recently on O’Conall St about the lessons from NAMA and An Bord Snip for North – South Cooperation.

My basic argument was that over the past fives year public discourse about North – South issues has become a little stale. This was a necessary part of building DUP confidence in all island cooperation and reinforcing the message that working together does not in any way dilute unionism.

But now that we have stable institutions in NI and the DUP are happily cooperating under the auspices of the North South Ministerial Council surely it is time to get back talking at stakeholder level, identifying and discussing the practical issues and needs which are common to people across Ireland. If we don’t there is every possibility decisions will be (accidentally) taken by those in power in Dublin and Belfast which will negatively impact on the other jurisdiction.

Take NAMA and An Bord Snip.

NAMA has big implications for the North and more particularly for the City of Belfast. Should a fire sale of toxic assets outside the Irish state ensue, many believe it could trigger a major crisis in the northern capital’s property market.


Because so much of the funding for the new developments in Belfast over the past decade came from Dublin banks and now is part of the toxic debt they new ‘bad ban’ will be looking to offload. Yet until the matter was raised at a Plenary meeting of the North – South Ministerial Council last month, nobody had seen the potential problem.

An Bord Snip is another example. Even the most cursory glance at yesterday’s report raises many questions for Northern Ireland.

– How will it impact on North – South bodies?
– What will be the impact for Tourism or Trade Development?
– We have an embryonic all island energy market. Will this be affected?
– Will transport cuts affect North-South services?

Never mind education and science which has a huge all island dimension – has an Bord Snip accidentally affected off the prospects for a new a highly profitable area for both jurisdictions?

Truth is we probably don’t know the answer to many of these questions because there was little or no all island discussion during their formulation. Government must shoulder some of the blame for this as should MLAS who you would have thought might have been keeping a very close eye on what was going on in the corridors of power south of the border. But there is no escaping the fact that all of us out here in the real world who do business across the border need to reengage in public debate about big issues which affect the island as a whole.

Today it is an Bord Snip in the South but next year it could well be a similar crisis in the North following a UK wide public spending purge.

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