#VinB takes some time to consider the question of a United Ireland…

Normally I wouldn’t necessarily flag this up, but it is worth watching Vincent Browne programme on TV3 tonight. It starts at 23.15 BST) and amongst [planned] guests will be Sinn Fein’s Dublin MEP Lynne Boylan, Mark Cosgrove of the UUP, our own David McCann and chaired by journalist Justine McCarthy…

I don’t think TV3 is available on broadcast in Northern Ireland, but you can pick it up worldwide online.. so we’ll ask the ‘Editor’ forgo his customarily juvenile ‘Partitionist!’ jibe….

David may be asked to speak on a subject he laid out in a Journal.ie column on the undesireability of a Border Poll that northern nationalism is almost assured it will lose, and that nationalism should focus resoluted on dealing with the huge subvention Northern Ireland received from Whitehall each year…

Indeed it’s a subject we’ve given steady thought to over the years… It’s a decent spread of opinion so enjoy. And let us know what you think before, during or after…

  • Riocard Ó Tiarnaigh

    Anyone have any idea, why the channels from the Republic can’t be got as easily in the North as the British channels in the 26 Counties? I thought that anomaly was going to be sorted post-GFA – “parity of esteem” and whatnot….

  • mickfealty

    It’s only TV3. And it will get worse next year with UTV Ireland operating directly against them from January..

  • donnchup

    friendly advice from mexico way…. dont get too upset about not getting TV3. Its like UTV without the class, the budgets, the professionalism…

  • USA

    Surprisingly for me Martina Devlin from the Independent was very good (i’m not a fan of the Independent). I expected (or perhaps hoped for) a bit better from Lynn Boylan (SF). The Unionist Mr Cosgrave had some very dubious math but seemed quite genial and comfortable. I liked Devlin’s point about “cross fertilization”, and the true cost of the British subvention. SF do need to get some numbers for the economic case. Mr McCann posed economic questions but gave no answers, I also felt he went too far when speaking of the republic he said the “government is a wee bit corrupt and society just doesn’t really function”….really? BTW, no one is even suggesting loyalists on the Newtownards Road should be forced to speak Irish. Cosgrave handled the “Commonwealth” question well, from a unionist perspective 🙂

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Read David’s piece, thought it was very good.

    Now, with regards to the subvention, does anybody know exactly what we spend it all on?

    What makes us so expensive?

    And with regards to David’s point about compulsory Irish in mainly Protestant schools, I think that would be a disaster. It would be seen as SF imposing ‘their’ language on the schools.

    Far better to;

    a/ Take the sting out of the perception of the Irish language first
    b/ Offer it up as electives in schools, don’t impose it on anyone.

    I’ll watch the show when my router is fixed…

  • Jag

    It’s a bit pathetic for SF to blame the Westminster government for not “opening the books”, so the Shinners don’t know the economic condition of NI, so they can’t estimate the costs of reunification.

    And is the best we can do for NI, to say it has an annual deficit of “up to 30%” (mind you, Nee-Naw Hamilton indicates it’s around 25%). That means for every GBP 1 that Northern Ireland earns through taxes etc, GBP 1.25 is paid out in social welfare, public sector salaries etc.Soap-dodging scroungers? That’s unionism (or more correctly, partitionism) for you because nationalists want reunification which would mean the six counties would stand on their own two feet as part of a reunified Ireland.

    Funny that 900 years of conflict boils down to the economics of reunification, but if that be so, more resources should be thrown at measuring the challenge.

  • mickfealty

    There’s an interesting calm developing in the UUP, good on them for taking up the unionist slack in Dublin. Martina is a columnist, not a hack (of any description). She backed Martin for Prez in 2011.

  • Am Ghobsmacht


    “It’s a bit pathetic for SF to blame the Westminster government for not “opening the books”, so the Shinners don’t know the economic condition of NI, so they can’t estimate the costs of reunification.

    Is that the case? Is there really no paper trail for expenditure? (sorry, if that was a quote from the debate then I’m ignorant of it, haven’t watched it yet).

    Unionism will clutch at whatever straw it can to stave off a UI, 100 years ago the economic strength of the north was given as a reason not to be part of an independent Ireland, now the economic weakness of NI is given as a reason not to join the Republic.

  • Morpheus

    Here is the most recent Net Deficit Report AG, released in March 2014


    “In 2011-12 the net fiscal balance or ‘fiscal deficit’ in NI was equivalent to £5,311 per head, a figure considerably higher than the UK figure of £2,133. As a percentage of the 2011-12 GVA, the NI fiscal deficit was 33.1 per cent, again higher than the UK equivalent of 10.1 per cent.”

    Total revenue generated was £14,137m and total expenditure was £23,771m

    Expenditure was:
    Public and common services – £506m
    EU transactions – £76m
    International services – £229m
    Debt interest – £1,406m
    Defence – £1,108m
    Public order and safety – £1,489m
    Enterprise and economic development – £264m
    Science and technology – £81m
    Employment policies – £156m
    Agriculture, fisheries and forestry – £503m
    Transport – £610m
    Environment protection – £270m
    Housing and community amenities – £967m
    Health – £3,669m
    Recreation, culture and religion – £556m
    Education – £2,794m
    Social protection – £7,954m

    Westminster could take £3,000 PER HEAD off us and we would still not be on par with the rest of the UK.

    Notice the £1.1 BILLION on Defense, £1.49 BILLION on Public Order and Safety and the paltry £264m on Enterprise and economic development.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Cheers Morph, I thought it odd that no list would exist…
    Those figures that you mention do indeed jump out of the paper.

  • Morpheus

    Why is it pathetic?

    Asda are registered in England – you any idea if the taxes raised through the sale of goods and services in Northern Ireland are added to the NI figures? No? Neither do I. What about Tesco? Carphone Warehouse? Royal Mail? Caterpillar? Marks and Spenser? BT?

    Would NI be any better or worse off if taxes raised in NI were sent to Belfast instead of London?

  • mickfealty

    Whilst none of this matters as much as the democratic deficit for making the primary move, David is correct in his suggestion that before going to the people some thought should be expended on the current structural blocks.

    The cry of ‘we don’t rightly know’ is akin to Cowen confessing he hadn’t read the Lisbon Treaty. It will do nothing to enhance any positive outcome any called for Border Poll. Just watch Arlene tear strips off one of SF’s soundest performers for a good example of what happens to ill prepared (four long years into the party’s campaign) politicians who turn up with a ‘dog ate my homework’ excuse in public..

    Again, as David rightly pointed out, some of the blocks are already well known about, and would need a substantial workload over several administrations just to get the water levels in the adjoining north south docks to bring them roughly in the same territory.

    I thought though that Martina Devlin was furthest along the road to offering practical solutions. Work on the small scale solutions first with a mindfulness of your desired long term outcomes.

  • Comparing us to the UK as a whole is not a good comparator though appropriate though, the difference should be looked at by a similiar region such as the North East of England or Scotland (we would probaly still be higher but the differential much lower). The Rest of the UK will benefit from the pull up from London.

    I presume the defence spend is NI’s contribution pro rata for the UK as MoD is not devolved. The Health spend also doesn’t look right, its should be closer to £4.5Bn but some social care expenditure may be in the social protection line.

  • Morpheus

    As I have said over and over again there is absolutely no point in SF coming up with an economic case based on estimates and guesses because it won’t be looked at by half the NI population and written off as Republican propaganda. A completely pointless exercise.

    As for Arlene then I would hardly call it tearing strips out of him – Maskey is obviously clueless in that interview and he should never have been allowed to take part in this discussion with this level of woeful preparation but likewise Arlene with her eye rolling and gormless expressions equally did nothing to sell the UK to Republicans. “We are better off in the UK” – ah well, why didn’t you say Arlene, case closed, that’s Republicans convinced.

    We need an independent body who will work hand in hand with the guarantors of the GFA – an impartial body which can get access to the right information from the right people – and then present it to the public so we can decide yes or no when the time comes.

    Rather than coming up with their own report based on estimates/myth and mock border polls in highly partisan areas (why the hell were they thinking???) they should be pushing for an independent accurate report to convince the 30% who at this stage ‘don’t know’

  • mickfealty

    You have the cart firmly before the horse there Morph. Just kicking and shouting at the cart doesn’t work!! 😉

  • Morpheus

    I agree tubboy, there is no point comparing ROI averages to the UK averages because NI doesn’t come close to those UK averages. Take salaries for example. The UK average is £26,664 and the ROI average is the equivalent of £29,931BUT the NI average is only £21,836.

    We take the UK average and they are only £3k behind the roI but take the NI average and we are up to an £8k difference.


    Then again, I am sure those in Donegal don’t get £29,931 and the RoI figures are skewed because of the Dublin salaries so comparing apples with apples is always going to be difficult.

  • Morpheus

    SF report = written off as republican propaganda and thrown in the bin and based on Maskey’s performance why wouldn’t it? Independent report = the people of Ireland, North and South of the border, make an informed decision based on impartial, accurate information.

    SF don’t need to create the report they need to be pushing for the independent report to be created.

  • mickfealty

    So behind the cart, without a horse then?

  • Morpheus

    Which is better Mick:
    a. an ‘economically illiterate’ SF report based on guesses and estimates or
    b. an independant report based on cold, hard fact?

    What would you base your children’s futures on?

    I say again, in case all these horses and carts are getting in the way, SF don’t need to create the report they need to be pushing for the independent report to be created

  • Roy Walsh

    David’s question at the end of the UI discussion was the key one, unfortunately out of time. What do we do with 800,000 upset ex-Unionists if Ireland votes ‘Ta’?
    1974 again in Dublin, Monaghan, Ballyshannon, Adam, Mayotte.
    No where would be safe, there’s a long way to go in persuading Protestant Ireland that they’re better off working with the rest o f the micks.

  • Roy Walsh

    Adare Maynooth

  • mickfealty

    Morph, consider what you are actually saying here (and forgive me if I’m reading you wrong?). Is it that SF lacks the trust and authority to successfully prosecute a convincing and resonant case for a United Ireland?

    Expert reports do not get read. British and Irish governmental history is littered with reports which told them what the right thing was to do but which wound up in the litter bin.

    No horse, no movement.

  • Morpheus

    If you must insist with your horse and cart analogy then SF are neither the horse nor the cart – the cart is the independent report and the horse is the independent body who will work hand in hand with the 2 governments. SF would merely be the guys who pushed for the piece of work to be carried out in the first place.

    True, most reports do sit on a shelf gathering dust but I would give the people of Ireland, North and South of the border, a bit more credit when it comes to a report of this magnitude and importance. A referendum would be life changing for everyone so a conservative guess is that most would read the report if it contained impartial, detailed information on which to make an informed decision.

    Unionists should have nothing to fear from such an exercise, they, like Arlene, are 100% positive that the UK is the best option for everyone, right? And the aspiration of a UI is legitimate, right? So why would we not look into the possibility and see if it is even remotely feasible?

    The alternative is what we have right now, 3 camps. 44% against the concept of a UI, 26% for it and 30% don’t know. This report would put the ‘don’t knows’ into either of the 2 camps so we can move the feck on

  • Comrade Stalin

    The short answer is “no”. We’d probably be worse.

    The proportion of corporate profits of these large firms made within Northern Ireland are piddling. Aside from the fact that NI accounts for roughly 2.5% of the UK population, remember that many of these firms collect significant profits from operations outside of the UK. Tesco and M&S have expanding retail operations elsewhere. BT has a huge global consultancy division.

    Proportionately, BT’s £650m adjusted profit in 2012 works out at about £10 per head, or in Northern Ireland a taxable profit of £15m (which overestimates the proportion of profit made within NI). At 20% you’re taking £300,000. Tesco, in 2012, made £3.8bn before tax, or about £60 per head which is £90m in Northern Ireland. Again at 20% that’s netting £1.8m annually, a piddling sum.

    And in the event that you were to introduce a system where a corporation would pay tax in different parts of the UK in proportion to the profits made there, it could simply rearrange its subdivisions in such a way that it could keep its tax liability to a minimum by carefully channeling profits through the right part of the country. This is the sort of trick that Starbucks and so on are famous for – they’re clearly a huge operation in this country and but according to their books operate almost at a loss.

    So I think this is just the Shinners flying an economically illiterate kite. This is very much a case of “don’t ask for something too much, you might just get it” or perhaps “don’t look a gift horse in the mouth”. Introducing regionalized income and corporate taxation could harm us as much as it could help.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Curious about what the £1.1bn on defence even is or how it is worked out.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Further with the back of an envelope states …

    Total UK government tax receipts in 2013-14 were £573.5bn. Divvied up the way SF would like, that would mean Northern Ireland should receive 2.5% of this or £14.3bn.

    The Northern Ireland administration by itself has a budget of something like £10.5bn. This is spending which does not include things like national defence, customs, airspace regulation, currency regulation, international development or debt servicing.

    I’d say we’re getting a pretty good deal.

  • Zeno1

    “What you are saying?……….Is it that SF lacks the trust and authority to successfully prosecute a convincing and resonant case for a United Ireland?”

    That would appear to be exactly what he is saying. I’d go a bit further. Sinn Fein are an obstruction to achieving a United Ireland. Without them a UI would be more likely.
    Imagine a small Island where no one had murdered their neighbours and no one was glorifying the people who carried out the murders. Would they be more likely to come together or less likely?

  • mickfealty

    To which I can only reply, ‘A lot not done, a hell of a lot more to do…’ Why not try getting a horse?

  • Morpheus

    I don’t think anyone can deny that NI gets a good deal CS – as I said above Westminster could cut our spending per head in half and it still be more than the UK average – the problem is that you too have resorted to making the case using the ‘back of an envelope’ . What’s to stop the next guy using the back of his envelope? My point is that if the Shinners did likewise it would be written off as absurd republican propaganda and thrown in the bin.

    As for the God-awful phrase ‘economically illiterate’ then with Northern Ireland PLC running at a loss of £9,634,000,000 per year then I don’t think any of the powers-that-be can describe themselves as economically literate

  • frankie white

    that is not a valid point, the UVF/UDA are riddled with informers, and the security services no longer give them carte blanche to commit murder, so the conditions that allowed Dublin/Monaghan to occur are no longer present, the UVF/UDA have been reduced to mere drugs gangs unable to organise beyond a factional level, the average Dublin crime gang represents a bigger threat to national security than violent loyalism ever will.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    watched it; first of all, apologies to Jag and David McCann, I did indeed
    misinterpret a few things:

    1/ Jag, as per the interview I think you’re correct, we can’t really blast SF for not
    getting their economic facts straight if they are denied access to the raw data.

    2/ David, I mistakenly thought you were implying that there SHOULD be compulsory Irish for unionists and Protestants, I realize you were alluding to the impracticalities
    of such an task.

    First of all, as nice enough as he came across, I thought Cosgrave missed out on a trick by admitting that he would never be convinced of the merits of a UI. Far better
    for him to say something along the lines of;

    “well, personally speaking yes, I ‘COULD’ be convinced if the arguments and ideals were convincing, unfortunately, the main torch carriers for a UI are SF and they give the impression to us that a UI will consist of naming playgrounds after people who have had a hand in terrorizing us, renaming roads, buildings & institutions as per their want, removing all symbols & flags that we hold dear, demonizing the army that is core to our history, rewriting history itself and using our dearly held parades
    as political taps to be turned on and off as and when their voting block
    requires it, so, yes, I could be convinced but the cons out weigh the pros as
    far as SF’s model is concerned and a fine example of this was when Maskey was
    asked to ‘sell’ a UI to unionists on the Nolan show and couldn’t even arrange a
    coherent sentence to support the ideal that he has cherished all his life. So,
    I ‘COULD’ be, but am presently not….”
    (easy for me to say, away from the camera and having no capacity for public speaking whatsoever….).

    But, he pegged unionism’s cause to the mast of “we’re so useless you’re better off without us”.
    That is a tragic approach and a flawed strategy from a long term point of
    So I think they had better rethink that idea…

    I thought Justine McCarthy was very good, held her own and had some good answers (though I didn’t like the inference that the north would be the ‘Anglo-Saxon’ part of the Irish arrangement, Dublin, from day one has been the ‘Anglo/Germanic’ part of Ireland. Always has been, always will.)

    David was very pragmatic. Spoken as someone who sees where the practical problems lay and causes problems for both unionists and SF.

    As for Lynne Boylan, she did OK but the line about Scotland NOT being an economic
    basket case was one that could come back and bite her in the ass;
    there is NO way that NI’s figures would even approach those of an oil producing nation.
    So that was straw clutching to say the least.
    And as for the ‘small island; partition no worky ‘ idea, well, this chap makes some interesting points: http://itsstillonlythursday.wordpress.com/2014/07/17/the-truth-about-partition/

  • Robin Keogh

    the deficit includes expenses that would not apply in a UI such as defense, UK national debt etc. Much of the taxes are paid direct to westminister and we do not know what these exact figures are as the figures are unavailable, SF are simply asking for them to be released, seems reasonable enough. The UUP head spun the usual line that each taxpayer in the 26 would have to fork out 5k to support the North…. why are Unionists so convinced that the Irish people in the 6 are incapable of supporting themselves? why is it that they feel the only way to survive is to get a handout from someone else? Anyway, the VB debate was pathetic and too short to get a grip on anything serious. The debate in general wont get underway for sometime but I think morph has a point, the two govs should get some independent research done to check out the future potential of economic union.

  • mickfealty


    “why are Unionists so convinced that the Irish people in the 6 are incapable of supporting themselves?”

    I’m not sure they are. But what makes Mark’s point a, erm, ‘pointy’ one is the sheer lack of republican leadership on cooling budgets and aligning the two economies.

    Doing so would not in itself bring about unity, but it would go someway to removing a significant block to it. The reluctance to work on this plane communicates cynical detachment both to unionists and dissidents.

  • Robin Keogh

    Unionism from what I can see constantly use the block grant (hand out) as an argument against unification on the basis that ‘the south could not afford us’, in other words; we cant generate the wealth ourselves so we need to be hitched to somone or something that can. In my view, it is next to impossible to allign the two economies as long as partition exists; fundamentally that is the basis of the pro UI argument. London simply refuses to give Stormont the power to make the decisions necessarry to develop a private enterprise machine. The Londoncentric nature of British economic policy has long been a thorn in the side of regional entrepenurs. Republicans have costed fiscal and economic policies for the 26 counties so if you are wondering what the plan is you just have to read the documents. In fairness, Unionism will see cynical detachment as u put it, in any SF approach regardless of what bright ideas republicans throw out. However I do think you are putting the cart before the horse somewhat; we have to start the discussion first to see where people stand on the issue overall. With the rapid improvement in the 26 economy at full pace, I imagine the dbate will be eventually unavoidable. However, on a personal level, i don’t want to see a vote on it anytime soon. 2026 is time enough.

  • Roy Walsh

    Riddled with informers yes, who report to MI5 and Police yes, it was always so, who else ran loyalist paramilitaries?
    These same people would gladly ensure, to frustrate the will of the majority, that the Irish nation suffered.
    Drugs gangs, again yes, but if you watch the antics at the end of Candahar St. last evening you see the potential recruitment source and a willingness to beat the taigs, Jackie McDonald won’t be around forever.
    The average Dublin crime gang, Finglas, Drimnagh/Crumlin, have only one interest, making money, there’s no political affiliation, this is still there in loyalist paramilitarism and will always be, even the attempt to swim to an island, remove a flag representing the majority population in the area, to replace them with a flag representing the majority, regardless of how it turned out, exhibits the need to teach them damm fenians a lesson still.
    I wish it were otherwise Frankie but I’m afraid it is not.

  • Robin Keogh

    Frankie is correct, at the worst loyalists might manage to cause chaos in their own areas but that is where it would stop. Loyalists manage to look pretty angry but in reality a brief suspension of Irelands Human Rights commitments after Unification could sort out the loyalist threat once and for all.

  • james

    A brief suspension of Ireland’s human rights commitments?? That reads like an extremely sinister threat to me, and is key to unionists rejecting out if hand the notion of a UI. It simply does not seem to include any kind of future for us so, no, I cannot see any reason we would want any part of it.

  • frankie white

    Loyalist groups simply could not operate without the free reign given to them by British intelligence and special branch, they did not have the kind of discipline and training the IRA did, they did not have it during the war so what makes you think a crowd of semi literate drug dealers pose any threat now? they were used when they were needed, now it’s all over they have not got the discipline, training, and certainly not the equipment or support, intelligence capabilities are now greatly improved, the same reason why dissident republicans cannot operate despite having greater capabilities.
    a few youths rioting and a drunken old man dying trying to erect a flag is no excuse to overestimate the capabilities of armed loyalism in the way you are doing, they share more in common with Dublin drugs gangs than they do any political group, their only loyalty is crime.
    and Robin there would be no need for such measures, the level of mass surveillance in the UK today means no terror group poses any real threat, a similar approach to the july marching season would suffice, armed loyalism is finished, in this hypothetical reversal scenario armed loyalism would represent the Continuity IRA more than the Provisional, largely defunct and a front for criminality.

  • Zeno1

    What happens if members of the Intelligence Services and Military are opposed to a United Ireland? They have the training. There are 153,000 Licensed firearms in Northern Ireland. Who do you think has most of those? The truth is a couple of thousand well armed nutters could cause more death and destruction in a few weeks than we had in 30 years.
    But I wouldn’t be too concerned as there is no evidence that there will ever be a United Ireland.

  • Morpheus

    How many votes do the Intelligence Services and Military get?

  • Zeno1

    I’ll leave that one to somebody else since it has nothing to do with the subject matter.

  • Morpheus

    Riiiiiiight, so the number of gun licences in Northern Ireland has more to do with a UI than votes eh? Clever

  • Zeno1

    It’s obvious that yet again,you have completely failed to understand the subject of the discussion.

    Get someone to explain it to you.

  • frankie white

    so what you are envisaging is some sort of modern day Curragh mutiny? the intelligence services are controlled in Britain, they do what they are told, they keep things ticking over so that the economy is not wrecked, a war zone so close to Britain is not in the interest of the British government, and therefore not in the interest of British intelligence, there are no were near 153,000 registered guns in the North, and even if they were are all of these guns in the possession of loyalist would be terrorists?? the scenario you are envisaging is not workable and completely ignores the sheer incompetence of armed groups across the political spectrum.

  • Zeno1

    There are 153,000 licensed firearms in the North. Look it up.
    I think there would be a loyalist backlash. I can hear the cries of Sold Out No Surrender. What do you envisage would happen if 500,000 people were forced into a UI? All it takes is for one half of 1% of them to be nutters.

  • peepoday

    Majority in favour of united Ireland will change nothing,a struggle will begin on a local scale, ethnic cleansing, small irish defence force unable to cope, local warlords, chaos.

  • Morpheus

    Yeah, I saw Mad Max too