North-South relations and the game the Irish government wont play anymore.

The past week has not been a good one for North-South relations as the EU funding was pulled for the Narrow Water Bridge. Mick noted the general disengagement of the Irish government in an earlier post but as I sat at the NI21 Conference, I listened to the Junior Finance Minister, Brian Hayes TD, give his verdict on North-South relations which to me highlights our current problem in this area as he said;

There has been too much navel gazing concerning issues like this by politicians in Dublin and Belfast. The Peace Process and North South relations are very important but they are not the only game in town. We need to lift our heads up and look at what is happening next door. We need to take a much keener interest in political developments in Britain; particularly on Britain’s relationship with the European Union.

While I agree with his sentiments, Hayes misses the fundamental point in that we are not even taking a great deal of interest in what happens in one another’s jurisdiction. He even acknowledged this problem in the first lines of his speech as he recalled telling a colleague that he was visiting NI21 over the weekend only to get a reply that he wasn’t aware of that particular road.

If Hayes wants to take a greater interest in Britain and Europe, a good place to start would be to encourage his government colleagues to look over the border once in a while. The decline in economic initiatives and the general political disengagement is not a healthy sign for the future as we approach potentially turbulent political times ahead.

North-South relations are not the only game in town as the Irish government appears to have given up playing it a long time ago. Once upon a time, the symbolism of the two governments of this island coming together really did inspire hope and optimism. From Sean Lemass and Terence O’Neill to Bertie Ahern and Ian Paisley-these meetings did show the best in our leaders. In the economic sphere too-co-operation over electricity, agriculture and commerce showed that the island of Ireland could yield important benefits when we worked together.

That idealism has however, fallen completely by the wayside as the entire project has lost its way under directionless leadership. This is the real problem with the North-South relations project. We have only ever made progress on common issues when the political will was there to do it and we will never achieve any substantive progress while we continue to let North-South projects fall by the wayside.

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  • Charles_Gould

    Not sure about your thesis: Isn’t truth that North South relations are like they have never been before in 90 years? Positive, constructive, respectful, cooperative?

  • Drumlins Rock

    Charles, the positive, respectful and cooperative is generally there, but the constructive is lacking. Token white elephant projects that fail, different agendas in different juristictions and it seems an unwillingness to treat the east-west and european dimension eaually if not more imortant in many ways.

  • David McCann

    Charles,

    I want to make clear this about more than just the bridge~if you compare the level of political engae$emt there has been a decrease and inot the only one who is saying it as Denis Bradley did a piece not long ago on the same topic.

  • Charles_Gould

    DR

    Well its true that there have been two “construction” projects that have failed, so in that sense the relationship has not been as “constructive” as it was recently hoped. But if anything those projects relate to a past when North South was about infrastructure.

    Today North South *doesn’t* make the news not because it isn’t happening but because it has become routine, via the North South bodies.

    Look at Rememberance Sunday. Enda and Eamonn laying wreaths in the North. That’s what I mean by constructive; the whole nature of the relationship has gone from one of tension to one of working together.

    The East-West dimension: look at the invitation from Buckingham Palace to the President to a State Visit. Again, constructive and positive.

    David

    I wasn’t talking about that bridge – it is a minor issue frankly. I am not sure what sort of political engagement you seek. As I say to DR there is more than before on routine matters via NSMC.

    What sort of issues do you think Dublin could engage on more?

  • Drumlins Rock

    David, I could add the Autism Centre at Middletown, the failure to develop the Ulster Canal, the management of the launguage bodies, etc.

    The area where increased co-operation is most vital is probably health care, however the interation with the rest of the UK has to be central to any policy there too.

    Strangely as a Unionist I see good quality cross border work as a positive thing, because it draws the Republic back into a closer relationship with the UK, ironically giving HMG (NI devolved branch) control over its affairs! But it has to be real practical advantages, not token gesture.

    PS. I though the bridge would have been a blot on an amazing landscape so am not sorry to see it scrapped.

  • Charles_Gould

    “as a Unionist I see good quality cross border work as a positive thing, because it draws the Republic back into a closer relationship with the UK, ironically giving HMG (NI devolved branch) control over its affairs!”

    I think that was one of the things about the NS bodies in the GFA that the UUP negotiated quite cannily.

  • Charles_Gould

    ” I though the bridge would have been a blot on an amazing landscape so am not sorry to see it scrapped.”

    The ferry service doesn’t operate year round suggesting the route is not very popular.

  • aquifer

    If governments don’t have the dough or the focus to do much maybe the trick will be to make sure that businesses are making the most of synergies. Sectoral conferences could make sense, to try to get businesses co-operating or amalgamating before they all go bust.

  • cynic2

    different agendas in different juristictions

    I suspect there is one Agenda – to make both sides cooperate by cutting off the ability to run to Mummy for support every time they cant agree.

  • Coll Ciotach

    Garrett the Good spelt it out in an interview he gave in which I heard him say that his policy was to keep the north out of the south, FG have been distancing themselves from the north for decades now, they of course see it as a different country and their allies in London are of more importance.

  • Tir Chonaill Gael

    “…since the Dublin Monaghan bombings put manners on the south.”

    Glorification of terrorism, right there.

  • Charles_Gould

    The Ulster Canal is a good project.

  • Occasional Commentator

    Sadly, FG are now the closest thing in the RoI to an old boys club, southern Unionist party.