Is Northern Ireland really a corporate beggar?

Well, Shane thinks it is. And he said so last Friday on the Nolan Show (50 minutes in, the conversation got hemmed to the news by a more popular item on Barcelona’s bikini ban), and got one caller in favour, and one against. He had a right ding dong with Bumper Graham of Northern Ireland Public Service Alliance (NIPSA). Here’s the heart of his argument:

Northern Ireland is a beggar.

Bumper and his ilk are quite happy spending to their hearts content because ultimately they’re not spending their own money. They’re spending the money of taxpayers in England. To the tune of some £7bn every single year* (for a population the size of a handful of London boroughs).

And let me be clear, as someone born and raised in Northern Ireland who now lives in London and will never return to the province, I feel sickened by the way ‘my country’ comes cap-in-hand; particularly at a time when the people in England have their own financial challenges to contend with.


  • Michael Shilliday

    “will never return to the province”

    “my country”

    Can’t have it both ways young man.

  • otto

    Has anyone ever set out how these subventions are calculated. What happens, for example, with taxes raised on the NI employees of firms with GB PAYE offices. If I work for a firm with SE offices and my P60 has the tax office in, say, Surrey where do my taxes “count”?

    As far as I know there’s no way of assigning me to a geography other than by tax office reference so how do any of these figures make sense?

  • Who is Shane? Other than a famous Australian cricketer, that is.

  • Well, folks, as a Northern Irishman residing in Norn Iron, I am becoming frankly embarrassed at the line of our politicos about how the government owes us all a living. How many times has Martin McGuinness banged on about promises that “the British government” (as opposed to “my government”) failed to honour. Most folk secretly concede that we have always had Westminster by the short and curlies. If you don’t fund our peace process as we stagger towards democracy, who knows what might end up happening? It sounds to me like London must continue to donate for fear of “we haven’t gone away y’know.” It wasn’t so long ago that David McNarry stated that the local parties must stand together as ‘team Ulster’ (or was it team Northern Ireland?) and confront the coalition government about increasing the block grant.
    Flip me, if I was Cameron or Osborne and my appointments secretary asked me when I should squeeze them tiresome Ulster beggars into the schedule, oh I would be rather busy for many months, even years, before I would allow our self-important types to pose outside Downing Street on a regular basis like the visiting dignitaries that they definitely are not.

  • Old Mortality

    I didn’t hear the interview as I try to avoid Nolan’s facile populism. So much the when one can also avoid hearing the arrogant pronouncements of the NIPSA leadership. Unfortunately, they know that if they can enlist the NHS and teaching unions to the cause, the Skodariat will soon capitulate. Some ministers may even go out on the streets with them just to prove they’re not on the side of the taxpayers.

  • FuturePhysicist

    Quite inflammatory comments from “Shane” here, I think any business entrepreneur or exporter from this region should be the most insulted at this typical generalization. I’d rather here from real business people than journalists, who no offence have limited scope of the big picture.

    The UK’s trade deficit should highlight that it isn’t the most self sufficient region of the world either. It’s hard to think of a country which isn’t a Gulf nation that is.

  • Old Mortality

    In theory, HMRC should be be able to find out what income tax is collected in NI by using postcodes but whether they have the capability is another matter. They certainly don’t know how much corporation tax is collected in NI.
    Nevertheless, it’s obvious from the numbers receiving an income from the state relative to the numbers employed in the private sector, that there is a sizeable deficit: it’s just a question of how large.

  • lamhdearg

    Is it just income tax that is counted, or all tax, do we pay more tax per head when the extra vat collected (due to more expencive goods, fuel, ect) is counted. also a little late but check out panorama bbc1 8.30. north wales and joblessness, not much tax coming in there. but i still have to agree with shane, to many beggers in ulster.

  • Zig70

    Can argue with anything Shane says. We should stand on our own feet. Mind you I’m trying to figure out how to get a public sector job. Bad timing. I’m the only one of my family who is not in the public sector, who actually inputs to this basket case and guess what – I’m the lowest paid and work the longest hours.

  • Lamhdearg, “to many beggars in Ulster”? I beg to differ. Now I’m off to complete my Jobseeker’s Allowance booklet. Oh by the way, is there anybody on here who’d lend me a few hundred pounds?

  • aquifer

    Yep pity the private sector, squeezed between the orangies ‘of course the state pays us, we’re loyal’ and the separatists we had five hundren years of opporession and ukgov owes us’.

    One thing for sure, the GDP of seventeenth century Ireland is no longer worth fighting for. Modern capitalism is the real deal, not that anyone around here is inclinded to admit it.

  • patio dev

    These figures are an educated guess, but if 7,000,000,000 is the figure coming in and the population in NI is 1,000,000 the working population is roughly 40% of the population (I heard this fig. today on FiveLive, based on the UK) each worker would have to contribute 17,500 a year in tax to balance the books. This doesn’t count the VAT, Inheritance, Corporate contributions.

    your right about the private sector being squeezed, but it’s not just the orange and green. The public sector is now so bloated why would anyone vote for change?

  • patio dev

    I’ve just read the last part of Shane’s piece. 77.6% of NI’s GDP is dependant upon state spending. Anyone have a breakdown off industry figures, how much of the 22.4% is from agriculture, which is turn is heavily dependant on EU funding. No party has any plan to get out of this mess. The Shinner point to their Utopia and the Unionists sit comfortably stating ‘the south can’t afford us.

  • aquifer

    Sinn Fein seem to be for a cut in corporation tax. Some communists.

  • Frustrated Democrat

    As the owner of a business that exports around the world I see the attitudes of our politicians as demeaning their cap in hand approaches to London are embarrassing. What we need is a plan that increases the private sector and at the same time accepts that we have far too many civil servants, for the size of NI.

    We will always receive funding from London due to the concentration of business and Goverment in the South East but current levels are not sustainable in the longer term.

    We need more professionals in Sormont who are prepared to make these changes and not continue to increase the size of the civil service and rattle their begging bowls.

  • nightrider

    Harold Wilson called us ‘spongers’ in ’74 and there was much local indignation. Not just all the highly paid civil service non-jobs with associated sick leave and ‘flexitime’ perks, but the high levels of incapacity benefit etc.
    Why bother working when you can join the public sector?

  • I am Mr Corporate N Ireland with a begging bowl in one hand and the DUP and Sinn Fein in the other and I look down on them.

    I am Mr Joe Public Service with a begging bowl in one hand and flexitime, six weeks annual leave, and average fifteen days sick leave in the other, and I look up to him and down on her.

    I am Mrs Roma Foreign National with a begging bowl in one hand and a Big Issue in the other and I look up to him because I’m in the gutter

  • Mick Fealty

    You have to listen to Nolan… It’s pretty passionate…

  • Mac

    Nolan was Nolan. Smug versus angry was all the show offered.

  • FuturePhysicist

    Patio Dev … For the sake of argument … have you looked at the SDLP and Alliance’s plans?

  • Comrade Stalin

    The deeply personal invective launched against Shane Greer was outrageous. Nolan’s show carries the full responsibility for that and I’m sure they screened the callers as usual to get the nutty morons on. At the start you had that mad guy shouting down the phone, interrupting Greer and then yelling at Greer for doing the same thing. Then the next callers having a go at the guy’s accent, all that “little Hampshire” talk etc .. and then the “you English bastards made us do it” arguments that were made. If Northern Ireland was personified in that show then we are a spoilt tantrum-prone child. It was ridiculous and so embarrassing to listen to. Quite understandable if serious political pundits to refuse to have anything to do with Nolan’s show ever again.

    I don’t think Greer was making some sort of hack and slash argument. He was making a point that has been made by politicians here – Tom Elliott (I seldom give him credit but he did repeat this point through the election campaign) as well as Alliance in particular – that there is a need for a strategy to grow the private sector and cut wasteful public expenditure, and that it’s simply wrong for us to go back to the UK government and ask them for more money rather than face up to tough decisions back home. Many of our politicians would rather have the easy life and sell us the pipe dream that we can reasonably ask the UK exchequer to bail us out of water charges and increased regional taxation. It’ll all end in tears and soon the British government will simply get sick of it and turn off the taps.

    And this isn’t about hostility or them and us. If you have a friend who is an alcoholic, you don’t help him out by giving him more money to head down to the bar with. You support him, financially and in other ways, to help him find a way out of his problems. That’s what our politicians and the UK government need to work collectively on.