Inattention to the deficit syndrome – how Northern Ireland spends more than it earns

Today’s public sector strike reflects widespread antipathy towards what was agreed in the Stormont House Agreement. Traditionally trade unions have been supportive of agreements made between local parties, and as Eamonn McCann points out, this is the first time that trade unions have opposed a deal. There is certainly a lot of anger on issues such as redundancies and cuts to services, but it is important to bear in mind the reason why the fiscal measures outlined in the Stormont House Agreement were introduced in the first place; the gap between what the Government spends and what it earns remains at historic highs.

The graph below shows how the subvention, the gap between tax revenues and government spending in Northern Ireland, has varied since 1967. Figures from 1967 to 1996 were sourced from CAIN, and figures from 2002 onwards were gathered from the Department of Finance Net Fiscal Balance reports (I couldn’t find data from 1996 to 2002). These figures are all expressed in 2012 pounds, and were adjusted using the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

There were three large increases over this period; at the outbreak of the troubles in the early 70s (increased security costs were a large driver), during the peace process in the late 90s, and finally in 2008, when tax revenues collapsed but spending kept increasing. A modest rebound in tax revenues since then has brought the deficit down slightly, but it is still at a historic high. At just under £10bn, the deficit is more than three times larger in real terms than it was in 1990.

NI Subvention

If Northern Ireland was an independent country, then its deficit as a percentage of the size of its economy would be vastly higher than any other developed economy. The graph below shows how the ratio of fiscal deficit to GDP has varied since 2008 (I don’t have data for Northern Ireland for 2014), with data from the OECD.

The comparison with the situation across the border in the Republic of Ireland is striking. The aftermath of the financial crisis saw the deficit jump to over 30% of GDP in 2010, close to the levels in Northern Ireland now, but swingeing cuts in the public sector, and a rebound in the economy has saw this fall back drastically (as of 2015, the ratio is 3.1%, less than the United States (4.6%) and the UK (4.1%). In 2012, the deficit in Northern Ireland was nearly three times higher than the fiscal deficit of Greece.

Deficit Comparison

Northern Ireland needs a serious economic growth spurt to increase the tax base and reduce the subvention from its current historic highs. It is unlikely that the patience of the British Government will last forever, and the days of a 90s-style explosion in public spending are well and truly behind us. If Northern Ireland doesn’t find a means of paying its own way in the world, then the cuts imposed by the Stormont House Agreement may turn out to be the tip of a very austere iceberg.

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  • Fi

    Increasing taxes for higher earners and distributing that extra funding to public services would of course solve this in a jiffy.

  • james

    Perhaps the issue is that Sinn Fein policy inflicts cuts which put people out of work in order to save money to spend on those that don’t. It is surely anomalous that they feel themselves able to lavish funding on a an Irish language school whilst laying off teachers elsewhere. Or giving millions to private contractors to develop GAA stadiums which local residents seem not to want. Not so worried about the residents feelings on that one. Certainly giving the Sinners access to the chequebook is a risky affair.

  • siphonophorest

    .

  • John O’Brien

    If those figures are true, Northern Ireland has probably received a subvention of over £100 billion from London since the Good Friday Agreement. The subvention to NI since the crash of 2008 to the present (£60-70 billion?) is also probably similar to that of the Irish banking bailout (€64 billion).

    Northern Ireland has always relied on grants for budgets and industrial subventions, particularly after the post-war welfare state. Which isn’t very loyal from a Unionist perspective. But surely it makes a United Ireland less realistic as well.

    For example, in 1968 TK Whitaker noted that the subvention to NI of £90 million
    made re-unification impractical in the short-term:

    “We cannot lay certain social ills in the North at the door of Partition without acknowledging (at least in private) that conditions for the Catholics in N.I. would be far worse if Partition were abolished overnight. We could not for a long time offer more than partial compensation for the loss of the enormous U.K. grants and subsidies”.

    http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/nai/1968/nai_TSCH-2001-8-1_1968-11-11.pdf

    Though it should be said that some in the Unions and many in Sinn Fein believe the subvention is overstated by the Treasury. Michael Burke at the SF Ard Feis last weekend claimed it was only £3 billion…

  • BetsyGray

    Dare I say it…”a failed political and economic entity” comes to mind. This is, no doubt just the begining of alot of very nasty cuts hitting the public sector/spending over the next number of years. It will get worse…….austerity doesn’t work…!…this is a Tory led ideological war waged on hard fought rights for working people following Ww2 and shrinking the state is not the answer in times of hardship.

  • BetsyGray

    You mean giving themuns equal and fair access to funding aswell ……

  • cimota

    Ignores that Scotland receives a proportional subvention too. The difference is the tax revenues generated.

    We do need an economic boost. But while the electorate are voting in Republicans who want to keep us on our knees and Unionists who want to keep us dependent on the UK, this isn’t going to happen.

    We have the talent to make Northern Ireland self-sufficient. We’re not the smallest “country” in Europe, we’ve just inherited a lot of crap. But other nations came from behind the Iron Curtain and turned themselves around. We should have had a peace dividend but rather than building infrastructure we built a dependent community sector.

    We just have too many people trying to hold us down, drag us back and shut us up.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    I think in a united Ireland the subvention into Northern Ireland would fall significantly.

    Government spending on the health service would drop significantly due to the abolition of the NHS and the requirement on everyone to obtain private health insurance. That’s £3bn, right there. Taxation would have to increase to the levels currently paid in the RoI – income tax would go up for most people, and VAT would go up for everyone.

  • barnshee

    I can see SF promoting a UI on the end of the NHS and Higher taxes

  • barnshee

    where did the money go?
    Hint try DLA for a start

  • Catcher in the Rye

    it could actually be really interesting.

    Would they veto Irish reunification, in the same way they are vetoing devolution at Stormont, if there was concern that it would impact vulnerable people ?

  • barnshee

    “You mean giving themuns equal and fair access to funding aswell”

    Don`t ” GIVE” ANYONE anything let them earn it– or in the case of sports – unlike the NHS-hardly a life or death activity- raise it themselves

  • barnshee

    Figures please whats a high earner how many in NI ? -what about water charges on all—sure would help

  • barnshee

    Then let him put his money where his mouth is and agree that NI should exist solely on the tax yield in NI

  • Korhomme

    Thanks for that; the extent of the subsidy does come as a surprise, though.

    Back in the day, Stormont attempted to balance the budget; benefits, such as the ‘dole’ were less here than in the main land. There wasn’t so much government investment.

    And now? Can anyone see any realistic unification of this failed ‘statelet’ with the South? They couldn’t afford us, whether politically they wanted the North or not. The UK government (= Westminster elite) would probably be glad to be rid of the North; just too dear, and for what?

    Looks grim; what do I advise people to do? Emigrate.

  • salmonofdata

    Considering that the subvention is around £10 billion, and non ring-fenced resource spend at Stormont is also around £10 billion, then the required spending cuts for self-sufficiency would be, um, 100%. With literally no schools, hospitals, or OfMDfMs, things might get a bit Mad Max.

  • siphonophorest

    .

  • BetsyGray

    What about amalgamation/harmonization of health and education services across Ireland which can be proven to save money….we did this with childrens heart surgery..why not go the extra mile on other areas…..common sense indeed.

  • Scribbler

    Maybe Ireland comprises two failed statelets? NI is run from London and RoI is run from Brussels.

  • barnshee

    “Yes. DLA. That’s the ticket. The only thing separating Northern Ireland and nirvana is sorting out DLA.”

    Selective reading on your part I`m afraid

    Hint try DLA FOR A START

    Then move to wastage on segregated education when you have quantified those areas of abuses come back- I have loads more “hints”

  • BetsyGray

    Good point…!

  • Salmon

    I distrust the figures, certainly pre-2008, never mind pre-1996.

    More compelling are those contained in the DFP net fiscal balance report 2011-12 [pdf file].

    That provides a Table 2.2: NI Fiscal Position 2007-08 to 2011-12, that has the benefit of using similar methodology. As that report notes, “Year-on-year comparisons should be made on the basis of the consistent estimates provided in this report.”

    NI Net Fiscal Balance (£million)

    2007-08: -6,639
    2008-09: -8,718
    2009-10: -10,291
    2010-11: -9,956
    2011-12: -9,634

    Net Fiscal Balance as a % of financial year GVA

    2007-08 -22.4%
    2008-09 -29.9%
    2009-10 -36.0%
    2010-11 -34.4%
    2011-12 -33.1%

    What is most interesting from those figures is the political background to the increase in NI Net Fiscal Deficit – “the difference between total public sector revenue and total public sector expenditure”.
    N.B MI5 expenditure may not be recorded in those figures.

  • barnshee

    (Un)fortunately ? For health there are two separate systems

    ROI– Paid for- Insurance based with cash top ups by patient

    NI “Free” at point of delivery-funded by general taxation– turn up and get treated free

    “proven to save money” The NHS pays the ROI system for services rendered The “savings” have yet to be quantified

    The big “saving” is the convenience and PERSONAL cost savings arising from moving the procedures from England to ROI

    Harmonise education ? abandon A levels for Highers ?
    I don`t think so
    Harmonise student grants across the Island The ROI funds the student loan system Island wide or the UK funds it ? LOL

  • james

    Erm…no. I think the Irish language school is grotesquely disproportionately over-funded, especially considering:
    1. It is not about filling a genuine need in society, and 2. This is a time when we are facing massive cuts which are already eating into vital public services. ‘themmuns’ presumably need & want, and certainly are deserving of, hospitals and emergency services, as well as teaching their children skills they might actually be able to use for the betterment of society as a whole. As for the GAA, given that we hear ad nauseum about the amateur nature of the players, one would have thought the clubs would be coining it in without having to expend their various revenues on playing salaries and scarcely in need of further funding. Where does it all go?

  • Btw, salmon, this

    “If Northern Ireland doesn’t find a means of paying its own way in the world, then the cuts imposed by the Stormont House Agreement may turn out to be the tip of a very austere iceberg.”

    Is a nonsense.

    It would only make sense if you were advocating an Independent Northern Ireland.

    As part of the UK we benefit from the sharing of the strengths of other regions.

    As part of a unitary Ireland we would also share from the strengths of other regions.

    Indeed, as part of the EU we share from the strengths of other regions. [Up to a point, Lord Copper – Ed]

    We need to see an improved economic performance, more job creation, more entrepreneurship, etc, certainly.

    But the direct comparison to the US, the Eurozone, or any individual state, however suspect their tax regimes may be, is dodgy, at best.

    However, now that the worst of terrorism and the attacks on economic investment in this region have stopped…

    We might see an improvement in future…

  • notimetoshine

    Surely SF could only seriously move towards a poll and a united Ireland with the NHS intact? Considering that the electorate who would be likely to vote on a united Ireland will have no memory of pre NHS days that could be difficult.

  • salmonofdata

    The figures you quoted are the figures that I used, except that I adjusted for CPI so that all figures were expressed in 2012 pounds, so the £6,639m in 2007-08 was £7,837m after adjusting for inflation.

  • “The figures you quoted are the figures that I used”

    In part, yes. Although the standard practice would be to take a point in the past, and adjust forward according to inflation. The point being that decisions in the past are not affected by economic conditions in the future.

    And it somewhat ignores my other point, re politics in the 2007-2012 period.

    Then there is my other separate comment…

    But the direct comparison to the US, the Eurozone, or any individual state, however suspect their tax regimes may be, is dodgy, at best.

    However, now that the worst of terrorism and the attacks on economic investment in this region have stopped…

    We might see an improvement in future…

  • siphonophorest

    .

  • chrisjones2

    Is a nonsense ….but only so long as English voters will subsidise us?

  • Gallowglass_rn

    a failed state

  • Reader

    Hmm. 1.6 million people in NI. Maybe half of them are income tax payers. Say call 10% of those ‘higher earners’. So £10 billion divided by 80,000 is £125,000 each. That’s more than the majority of those higher earners actually get paid…
    OK Fi, your turn – suggest some figures. Make sure they add up to billions.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    “Whether politically they wanted the North or not” That’s a good point Korhomme, under the GF Agreement a vote would have to take place in the ROI to accept a majority wish from NI for unification. ROI would have to significantly increase its borrowing to take it.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    it’s not a state, it’s a region.

    It would remain a region if it were part of an Irish Republic, with the same problems.

    That’s the Irish Republic that was bailed out by the UK to the tune of over £20b (£14b via RBS and Lloyds, £7b direct bail-out).
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/banksandfinance/9813358/British-taxpayers-funded-Irelands-14bn-bail-out.html

    Those decrying the UK’s role in Ireland might do well to remember we were there helping the Republic in its hour of need, even though our own financial situation was dire. Our government pumped more money into the Republic than into many of our own regions here in the UK. I think many in the Republic appreciate this, Gallowglass. Throwing insults at the UK isn’t really warranted.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    we can’t keep relying on other prosperous regions – we may not need to balance the books like an independent state would, but if all regions behaved like NI, the whole ship would go down. The reality is, NI is quite capable of performing much, much better economically, it just needs the right strategy and it needs its people to really want it to succeed. Otherwise no chance.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    cimota, you’re right there.

    NI should look to emulate small countries like Estonia and Denmark, who despite problems are focussed on and tipped to achieve long term growth. Investing in high levels of skills and encouraging bold business innovation is the key. (Estonia even has a similar ethnic divide to NI, complete with neighbour who wants to take them over). Why shouldn’t Northern Ireland become a hi-tech hub, given the calibre of our science and tech education resources, for example?

    Yet something always seems to be holding NI back. Is it lack of ambition? Lack of vision? Lack of belief in our ability to deliver world class goods and services? I don’t know, but I do think we are a little scared of really going for it.

    The 30 year “armed struggle” did huge economic and psychological damage to NI – and people will continue to live the trauma of that for decades. But other places around the world have had worse and come out determined to make a new start and surge ahead economically. But I think the constant ethnic grinding uses up way too much time and creative energy.

    However, as long as SF are there keeping the culture of victimhood, grievance and ethnic scapegoating going, I think NI is doomed to be economically stunted. And yes, some of the nutters on the unionist side have a similar negative impact. It poisons the place – and SF stokes this deliberately. The last thing it wants is for NI to do well, that being death for their dream of an all-island state. Their pointless obsession has cost all of us and is continuing to do so.

  • George

    The direct bailout loan from the UK to Ireland was £3.25 billion at an original interest rate of 5.9%. The bailout of the troubled UK banks came about because the UK failed to demand Ireland take full responsibility for those banks during negotiations in 2010. It has been described as the UK “missing a trick” in those bilateral negotiations.

    In regard to the direct loan, George Osbourne said at the time it was in the UK’s interests, not least because of the exposure of British banks but also because the Republic accounted for 40% of Northern Ireland’s exports. I would describe it as both a neighbourly and a self-interested gesture.

    For what it’s worth, I would be more concerned with the effect the ongoing drop in the value of the euro will have on the Northern Ireland economy than the ongoing regional subvention (for that is what it is). A large part of the NI economy is reliant on trade with the Republic and the border region is already experiencing the effects of a drop in euro spending there. It is only a matter of time before this spreads to export sector as NI companies get priced out by the currency differential.

    I don’t know what tools NI has at its disposal to cope with this problem.

  • salmonofdata

    I don’t agree that it is nonsense to say that if Northern Ireland doesn’t find a way to increase its tax base then further spending cuts are likely.

    Any fiscal deficit in Northern Ireland can be financed either by central UK Government borrowing, or through fiscal transfers from other parts of the UK (sharing the strengths of other regions, as you call it). The first is not an option any more as both Labour and the Conservatives are committed to deficit elimination. This means that the only option is transfers from other parts of the UK.

    It is difficult to conceive that this is politically feasible. Budgets are stretched throughout the UK, and it is very likely that the English are growing weary of throwing funds at fiscally incompetent devolved administrations. Devomax in Scotland has already seen English politicians start to beat the drum for “English votes for English laws”. A rise in English nationalism could make it politically inadvisable for English politicians to argue for continuing to pour funds into Northern Ireland on top of the quarter of a trillion pounds (inflation adjusted) that they have transferred since the 1960s.

  • cimota

    What is it about the Northern Ireland psyche that takes a trauma (The Troubles, Titanic) and makes an industry around it? What is it about us that ignores the actual successes and instead focuses on our embarrassing failures (George Best, The Titanic, De Lorean)?

    Northern Ireland people are culturally different to the rest of the people on the island whether we like it or not. Even the brand of militant nationalism is a Northern Irish artifice and is not heavily represented south of the border. Let’s face it – they don’t really want us and if they were forced to take us, we’d have decades of conflict.

    the Republic got a heap of EU money and they built a road network which benefitted everyone. We poured it into pace building and a community sector that, 15 years on, needs even more money and when the tap gets turned off causes our ghettoes to explode into violence again. Meanwhile released prisoners are jetting off on holiday to the villas they own abroad, bought with crime money, when the rest of us are watching our public services disintegrate.

    Northern Ireland needs to look seriously at independence. Not to actually become an independent nation but to look at being self-sustaining so that we are seen as an asset to either the UK or the Republic of Ireland. So that we can feel good about ourselves again.

    Yes, the armed struggle did damage us. I believe that a combination of the traumas and failures listed above keep our nation in a state of suspension. We built a ship, it sank. We built a car, it failed. We produced a footballer and he spent more time off the field than on it. We’re taking these handouts hand over fist with no shame because we’re already in a pit of embarrassment over the whole situation.

    If you’re of a certain age, you’ll remember looking at the economic maps in your atlas in school and seeing that the ROI was a different colour to the rest of the British Isles. It was a Second World country. The only region of the British Isles this applies to is Northern Ireland. Under the stewardship of the major parties, as part of the peace dividend, we’re economically screwed.

    We do need a change of culture. We’ve been saying for a while that the Public Sector is top heavy so whether you like it or not, it has to be reduced. These 20,000 seem like a lot and they will hurt us really badly (local economies will really suffer) but it’s a necessary move if we’re going to save the patient and it’s cheaper to have them non-productive on the dole than non-productive in full-time employment. We need some of the bright sparks in the public sector to move into the private sector and start new things (and not just join consultancies who will leverage their knowledge of the system). We need new investment in new businesses and it’s not always about the money! InvestNI has, to date, not helped me with any of my businesses. I started them off my own initiative and I’ve done my best to help others get started. I see “branding initiatives” for Northern Ireland as a complete waste if the rank and file of the people don’t believe it.

  • cimota

    I’d say maybe half of them are in employment, probably only 20% are net payers of tax. Probably less.

    We have a massive under-skilled, under-motivated, and under-employed workforce. Not helped by local investment into helping minimum wage call centres set up in the province.

    I’d make cuts elsewhere to ensure free transport and free education in the FE system. (!@$££$ the universities). Skill up, get to work.

  • Zeno

    “What about amalgamation/harmonization of health and education services across Ireland which can be proven to save money”

    Save money for who?
    We would just be putting people on the dole.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    “The bailout of the troubled UK banks came about because the UK failed to demand Ireland take full responsibility for those banks during negotiations in 2010”

    So, British error again, eh. Really we should be apologising to the Rep of Ireland …?

    Yes it was in our interests as well – none of us prosper from the problems of our neighbours and mutual support makes sense. That’s the principle behind the EU. But it’s still worth noting when one country helps another out.

    I’m no expert on the economic figures but all the reports I’ve looked at say £7b for the direct loan. And then the money pumped in via the (British taxpayer-owned) banks. That’s a big figure to inject. You seem keen to play it down though … why?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    problem is, the problems aren’t particularly related to us being in the UK – in fact the UK is better able to subsidise the place than the Republic would be.

    If it is still a “failed political and economic entity” – which assumes a finality that is not actually warranted – the question would arise, in what wider state would this entity suffer fewer problems? It seems wishful thinking in the extreme to imagine the Irish Republic is the answer to that question. Even if they were to take over, is anyone suggesting for a second they could do so without massive financial help from outside?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    but I agree austerity doesn’t work and we need to kick the Tories out 🙂 They are a huge threat to the country.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    what, introduce the NHS in the Republic? How are they going to pay for that?

    Also, don’t they want to be separate from the UK? But if they want harmonisation with us, fine – as long as they can sell it to their electorate.

  • Old Mortality

    ‘The last thing it wants is for NI to do well, that being death for their dream of an all-island state. Their pointless obsession has cost all of us and is continuing to do so.’
    It doesn’t seem to have dawned on SF that NI doing badly and remaining a sink of dependency is more fatal to their unification dream. Or perhaps they don’t care any more and just want power for its own sake.

  • Old Mortality

    ‘…shrinking the state is not the answer in times of hardship.’

    I agree with you on that. The orthodox Keynesean prescription would be to reduce the deficit when the economy is strong, but it takes a tough government to impose wage restraint in the public sector while private sector incomes are roaring ahead. You can imagine all the whining about bricklayers earning twice as much as nurses.
    And it’s just as difficult to raise taxes when revenue is buoyant.

  • George

    “And then the money pumped in via the (British taxpayer-owned) banks. That’s a big figure to inject. You seem keen to play it down though … why?”

    The key words are “British taxpayer-owned”. The Irish taxpayer carried a much larger can for what were turned into “Irish taxpayer-owned” banks. Why? I’m certainly not going to take your tack and argue that we were simply helping out Germany, the UK and France in their “hour of need”.

    The world banking system all-but collapsed and taxpayers across Europe paid and continue to pay the bill.

  • SDLP supporter

    Speaking personally, I would impose a very heavy life time tax on anybody who pops up on TV making the ‘we’re coming out of forty years of conflict…’ ploy as a justification for getting more money out of the British for welfare. I would also tax the phrase ‘peace process’. While I accept that people had the right to strike on Friday I have to say that people like Patricia McKeown and Bumper Graham come over as less than convincing. Graham puts me in mind of the Peter Sellar’s trade union character, Fred Kite, in the film ‘I’m all right, Jack’. If the salaries of certain trade union officials were made public here, people would be astonished.

    The Executive needs to find new sources of funding through progressive taxation sources. Leaving aside the silly idea of selling off forests, what about a ceiling on, or a confiscatory tax rate on salaries paid out of the public purse above a certain level, say £120,000?

    There are certain professional interest groups that have done very over the past few decades: lawyers and medics come to mind. Lawyers have been brought to book to an extent on free legal aid, where the per capita rates in NI are among the highest anywhere. It is daft that spokespersons for the NI Bar complain about the FLA cuts when the whole point is that they are self-employed professionals and they take the rough with the smooth as a consequence. A few people get enormous pay-outs and all lawyers are supposedly trained to very high standards, so it shouldn’t make any significant difference if Lawyer B with a reasonable record of experience of competence gets the brief rather than multi-millionaire Lawyer A who has been the leading specialist in the field for decades.

    We also need total transparency on public purse remuneration to medics, at both consultant and GP level, on both salaries and bonuses. This is anecdotal, but I heard of a case recently when an academic medic at QUB left after conflict with colleagues and who was replaced by two imports from across the water whose per diems work out an around £1 million a year.

    Finally, it really is time to let bodies like the International Fund for Ireland and the EU Peace Programmes wind up their work. I suspect that any good they have done, which may be a lot, has substantively been done and, as a community we need to show a bit of self-respect for ourselves.

  • cimota

    Can we also ban the use of the word “clearly”?

    Bumper Graham may have the support of his union but listening to him on the radio indicates he has a very loose grasp on economics. He doesn’t understand that the public sector lives on recycled tax. He doesn’t grasp that while the engine of society is the public sector, the fuel it runs upon is the private sector.

    Some would say we can’t put an upper limit on salaries paid to the public sector because then they wouldn’t be able to attract the best people. I figure these are the same sort of “best people” who the banks are trying to hire.

    They have tried turning off the cash-for-peace tap. And we got riots. Not one of the bastards has gone away.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    So, politically speaking who ‘wins’ if NI could again pull its weight?
    Re-unificationism could cite this as an advantage but then would have to ditch the ‘failed state’ mantra.

    Unionists would have to drop the ‘but themuns can’t afford us’ routine but would for once find themselves a welcome addition to the UK family.

    Anyway, it’s purely academic, most countries are struggling to turn a surplus, the chances of us being able to do it after so much teet-sucking is incredibly low.

    We are led by a coalition of men who either don’t want the place to exist or think that the place is 6000 years old, the Titanic’s rusted hulk at the bottom of the sea represents the best that we could aim for despite the wealth of talent at our disposal.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I agree … but I do also think the pro-Union case wins in a way if NI does well – or at least it worries Republicans that a successful NI means curtains for them. Though it shouldn’t be seen that way really. NI doing well depends much more on internal NI stuff than what wider container we find ourselves in. It wouldn’t be some kind of British victory or anything and nationalists shouldn’t feel their cause would somehow be damaged if the place worked a bit better. That’s the problem with the ‘failed state(let)’ narrative – it forces nationalism into a rather inappropriate ambivalence towards the success of the place as is.

  • Jeremy Cooke

    This is potentially the biggest problem everybody, Unionist or Nationalist, faces, how do we earn our living in this world. We can all quibble with the figures but the truth of the problem remains.

    Do we see any sign of the parties recognizing this? Any plan ? Anything other than trying to score points off each other in a battle that is becoming increasingly irrelevant?

    Are any of the parties setting out some sort of industrial development strategy for the next 15 or 20 years that will address this ?

  • Kevin Breslin

    Both and neither depending on how it plays out the contributions of which parties to this end.

    Some countries break free or unify to protect wealth, others break free or unify in order to generate it.

    Want historical examples, or will you take my word for it?

  • Starviking

    Can we have figures that reflect deficits of the regions of the UK, the Republic, and some other representative EU Nations? As it is, we’re not exactly comparing like with like.

  • John Collins

    During the Queen’s visit to Ireland William Hague gave an interview in which he stated that the loan was, as you say, in the UKs interest as well