North -South is a political gift going a-begging

Two cheers to the Financial Times (£) for giving space to one of the many topics that people in Northern Ireland who live close to it take for granted but shouldn’t. The story is headlined

Irish two-speed economy puts integration under pressure”.

Sixteen years after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement that ushered in a fragile but enduring peace in Northern Ireland – and helped boost the “Celtic Tiger” economy that was then taking off in the Republic – the economic and financial contrast between the two parts of Ireland has rarely been so sharp. “The border is a lot wider than you’d think it would be,” says Alan Ahearne, professor of economics at the National University of Ireland, Galway.

The republic experienced the gravest financial crisis in its history between 2008 and 2010.

Today, Northern Ireland is experiencing a fiscal crisis that, in some respects, is as severe as in the republic at its nadir.

The two-speed economy now threatens to unwind what little integration there is.

Integration? What integration? Simply by raising it, while they do little to help with their absurd posturing over fiscal policy, the subject could yet give a boost to a Sinn Fein currently under pressure for different reasons. North-south economic development without necessarily having constitutional implications would be a gift to what is  laughingly called the centre ground of politics – if only they  could bring themselves to seek advice on policy. It’s just one of the ironies of our wretched politics that everybody’s crying poverty – including the experts – but can’t be bothered to do anything about it. North-south is all the more relevant precisely because of hard times not in spite of them.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London