North-Southery? Build a wall or a bridge?

I remember reading through old government documents from the 60s being perplexed at seeing members of the Northern Ireland government referring to their southern counterparts as members of the ‘republican government’ who were on the other side of the ‘frontier’ (that’s the border to me and you). But what was more disturbing about that period were proposals like co-operation in tourism and trade which had benefits for Northern Ireland being turned down because of political concerns about the integrity of the Northern Ireland state.

So, the history lesson is over and why should we care about what Lord Brookeborough’s government did 50 years ago? Well, watching the debate about the DETI committee report which touched upon  an all island energy market you realise that not an awful lot has really changed with some peoples outlook.

This brings me to Jim Allister, who in the debate made two interventions protesting that energy be put into the remit of the North-South Ministerial Council. At the moment we are re-constructing (the original was blown up by the IRA in 1975) the North-South electricity interconnector which will be at the heart of our Single Energy Market.

If we have these projects moving on and indeed, our energy needs (we have one of the highest costs of electricity in Europe) can be met by throwing our lot in with the Irish Republic, then surely it makes perfect sense for energy to be under the remit of the NSMC?

We are a region of 1.7 million people on an island with a combined population of around 6.2 million. Underneath all of the politicking, constitutional mistrust and the idel nonsense that passes for real debate in Stormont can we not surely agree that sharing our energy resources makes some degree of sense?

No government likes giving up sovereignty or power, but I don’t honestly the point of government if it doesn’t recognise that hording power to yourself while prices continue to rise is not really the standard we should be aiming for. Our place in the world is made more meaningful by our alliances and partnerships with others. North-Southery as its call by detractors is an easy thing to attack, but the hard work is done by not the nay sayers but by those within the DETI Committee who did a great deal of work in making this report possible today.

I hope Minister Foster doesn’t fall for the North-Southery gimmickry, but recognises the importance of enhanced co-operation and anytime people like Jim Allister give her grief about undermining constitutional integrity should just shout back the ‘Jim, the Irish government are really just not that into you.’ We build enough walls within  Northern Ireland, why on earth would anybody want to build them to keep out possible trading partners?

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  • David,

    I just looked up the meaning of frontier to make sure I had it right. One meaning is simply a synonym for border, the other is the limit of settled territory or to be more correct the limit of settlement by one side that is expanding its control and settlement. It may betray a mentality that looked at 20th century NI in terms of Ulster in the 17th century when there was a frontier between the plantation and the native population. I’m sure that if you asked any of those who authored the documents–if any are still alive–they would claim that it was the first meaning that they meant. As far as “republican government” goes this is simply the adjectival form of republic, which the Republic of Ireland is. It would be like referring to the British government in London as the monarchist government–odd-sounding language but true enough, particularly as regards the Tories.

  • FuturePhysicist

    If Jim doesn’t want it under the control of the North South Ministerial Council, let him argue that it should be controlled entirely by Dublin. It really is that simple, pay, piper, tune.

  • notimetoshine

    Really interesting post, hits the nail on the head.

    Just shows how realistic important issues can as always here, end up in our unique political lala land. Where common sense and the common good end up out the window, to be replaced with well take your pick…

  • BarneyT

    There is a great deal of separatism within unionism……

    The border is convenient for others and not so for many. A economic union or at least a level of cooperation is critical. Perhaps if NI could manage its own tax affairs, the border may dissolve in economic terms as there would be more incentive to protect revenue. The border and the many monetary disparities between north and south attracts fraud and other effects that may be regarded as semi-entrepreneurial….mostly illegal…as it would anywhere. We need to look at closer cooperation to bring down the costs of everyday living, focusing on utilities, health, education and other services that we cannot do with out.

    But all of that to some just sounds like reunification. now theres an idea 🙂

  • David, there are three strands to the 1998 Agreement, not just one 😉

    Mrs Foster … We do, of course, engage on a North/South and east-west basis. I recently had a very informal meeting with Pat Rabbitte to talk about the North/South interconnector and other related matters. We have extensive engagement with counterpart Departments, official to official. The inclusion of energy under the auspices of the North/South Ministerial Council is a matter that is neither within my gift, nor one that I will support…

    Mr Allister: Will the Minister give way?

    Mrs Foster: No, I am not going to give way. We have heard enough of you today.


    Mr Wilson: Despite what the Committee report states, it will ultimately be a decision for the Minister. I believe, as with all such things, that it is best done on a Minister-to-Minister basis rather than through a structure that is moribund and does not deliver anything anyway.

  • David, excellent post.

    This is an issue that needs to get resolved quickly or we face hindering the growth we’ve begun to see in the manufacturing sector. Richard Ramsey in the Bel Tel yesterday argued that Northern Ireland manufacturers pay the second highest electricity costs in the EU. “This is a major cost disadvantage for local manufacturers and poses the threat that some of our flagship exporters may need to relocate out side of NI to retain competitiveness.”

    I would hate to see a fear of the border hinder the potential of our economy.

  • pjs

    All Ireland Initiatives are great but this one need to be approached with caution – it looks to me like a way for the fracking companies to sneak in – the border is one of the hurdles in the fracking issue, in the words of Mark Durcan “shale gas beneath the surface will not follow the meanderings of a border above ground” – creating an all Ireland energy market might facilitate the destruction of the border regions due to fracking. I suspect Arlene will be clapping her hands at this one.

  • Greenflag

    This ‘debate ‘ reminds me of the old joke of the Northern Irish Jew who finds himself in a cul de sac surrounded by a group of thugs carrying hammers and baseball bats who ask him menacingly whether he’s a Catholic or a Protestant .Smiling with relief the Jewish guy replies confidently he’s neither only to be met with the unanswerable further enquiry as to whether he was a Protestant Jew or a Catholic Jew . Being unable to answer the thugs gave him a hiding anyway .

    So now we are down to Protestant electricity and Catholic electricity or Unionist electricity as opposed to Republican electricity ?

    I see the day coming when there will be a debate as to whether the Big Bang which started this universe was a Protestant big bang or a Catholic big bang .

    Perhaps Mr Allister could visit Stephen Hawking who I’m sure will appraise him of the physics behind electricity ?

    Everything in NI it seems mus first pass through the prism of sectarian stupidity before anything cn be done 🙁 No wonder the province’s economy is non competitive and FDI is virtually non existent 🙁

  • Comrade Stalin

    The DUP have descended over a short period of time from being the strong, confident leaders of unionism to people who are living on the edge and obsessed with ensuring that Jim Allister doesn’t get one up on them. For the past two weeks it feels like they have spent half their time responding to Allister and trying to smear him. they are clearly worried by him.

  • “the North-South electricity inter-connector which will be at the heart of our Single Energy Market.”

    David, this is just one of several inter-connectors. There’s one between Scotland and Northern Ireland, one between Wales and Ireland as well as the links to Holland and to France.

    At present, there are three electricity interconnectors linking the Northern Ireland grid operated by Northern Ireland Electricity plc and the Republic of Ireland grid operated by the Electricity Supply Board. The main North-South Interconnector between Tandragee and Louth has two 275kV circuits, each of 600MW capacity. This interconnector is being used to trade electricity between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland (and, potentially, through the Moyle Interconnector to regions throughout Great Britain). In the immediate future, it is expected that trading will predominantly bring electricity into the Republic of Ireland market. .. source

    “I hope Minister Foster doesn’t fall for the North-Southery gimmickry, but recognises the importance of enhanced co-operation”

    We saw the fakery of alleged co-operation in tourism last year when Minister Foster was given one day’s notice of Ireland’s ‘ourselves alone’ “Gathering”. See my two NALIL blogs: “The Diaspora – Homecomings and Gatherings and Shortcomings”.

  • Coll Ciotach

    I would rather freeze than use fenian lectrick

  • IrelandNorth

    It’s not an epoch ago when one Rev Dr Ian Richard Kyle Paisley, (now the Rt Hon Lord Bannside), proposed building a Berlin wall type structure around the meandering nonsense that masquerades as the boundary that was never commissioned in 1925. Apart for being good for shareholders in Cement Roadstone Holdings (CRH) (as was its Israeli actualisation in Palestine), it wasn’t much good for anything else, other than reinforcing the Plato’s Cave which Ulster unionism generically succeeded in constructing for itself with partition. And lest we forget, it isn’t a aeon ago either when the area approximating Leinster/E Ireland as the tow hold of Anglo-Norman colonisation on the island was considered the epicentre of civilisation, and outside its Pale the realm of dragons, pegasuses and one eyed monsters. The more things change the more they stay the same – for some!

  • Delphin

    There has been a single electricity market on the ‘Island of Ireland’ since 2007. I have included a link to their most recent report.

    One interesting point is that without the second N-S inter-connector due to come on-line in 2017 the electricity supply in the North will be in deficit by 2020.
    How things have changed
    1974 – the UWC strike, bigots from Larne holding us all to ransom by shutting Ballylumford power station – treasure island as they affectionately called it
    2020 – the protestant people of Ulster relying on green electricity – (in both senses of the word).

  • ForkHandles

    David, I think you are suffering from the nationalist “Lets create an all Ireland such and such cos its just better” mentality. No facts and figures. There is no benefit in creating an all Ireland authority regarding leccy. Its just the usual Nat “anything all Ireland is greeeeat!” nonsense.
    As has been pointed out, there are several connectors between NI and other parts of the UK and also ROI. We don’t need any Ireland wide authority to control this. That would result in the loss of any potential advantage to NI in having cheaper power costs than ROI. Infact it is in NIs interest to try to ensure that we have cheaper leccy than the ROI and can trade it to themmuns at a profit. It is also a factor in attracting business to NI if our our costs are less than the ROI. So why do you think that some kind of all Ireland arrangement would be better for NI? The truth is that nobody thinks that we should be on the same footing as ROI as it would remove a potential possibility of benefit of business locating to NI. We should be linking to cheaper leccy in Britain and elsewhere and also trying to be a producer that sells to the ROI.

    People who call for all Ireland whatevers are just nationalists that want to try to be more like the ROI and don’t care about our own prosperity. A tired but well known line….