Reality checks of north-south comparisons should be welcomed

This piece by Aaron McKenna , businessman and columnist in the is not holy writ but it does make some interesting north-south comparisons.

The UK government spends 24% more per head in Northern Ireland than it does in England, some £10,876 for every person in the province. If we got Northern Ireland tomorrow, that would translate to €15,464. In the Republic, we spend €11,120 per head.

Of course, the Northerners could spend what they like if they earned it. But the deficit in Northern Ireland is staggering, and on a per head basis is about double what it reached even in the worst years of the recession in the Republic. Its deficit has reached as far as £5,311 (€7,549) per head, vs the €1,001 it stands at down south today. A reunified Irish state would require taxes or borrowing to increase by up to €13.67bn per year.

The much maligned union, and you cannot underrate this, brings the UK civil and public service with it. They are by no means perfect, but if you’re a Northern Ireland resident it is pertinent to consider that senior doctors in the UK are kicking up major fuss because A&E overcrowding in the NHS is reckoned to have contributed to 500 deaths last year.

In the Republic, population 4.6 million to the UK’s 64.1 million, doctors reckon that A&E overcrowding kills up to 350 people per year. The HSE, if it operated at UK scale, would probably kill the 4,900 person population of Crumlin, County Antrim, each year. If you assumed absolute proportionality, a person in Northern Ireland would have to consider that overcrowding in the NHS could have accounted for 14 deaths last year. If they got HSE standards overnight, that could become 138.

Put up with a union jack over city hall… Or give up the NHS? It’s not a choice, really.

If we got unification there is also the small matter of security to consider. The PSNI employs some 7,200 officers, a ratio of 1 officer per 251 people. They have a budget of £836.7m (€1.19bn). The gardaí have 13,093 officers, one per 350 people; and a budget of €1.426bn.

It’s probably a slim to unlikely chance that Irish unification will occur overnight, no matter who is running the UK and Irish governments. But as we do march into 2016, it would be refreshing if parties calling for unification would consider and address the real issues that arise if they got their way. 2016 will be tiresome enough for posturing without having to listen to guff about a united Ireland that nobody really thinks is feasible, and few enough want.

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  • Muiris

    Well said, that man. I am as atavistic a nationalist as anyone, but I can’t argue with that analysis. The primary preparation for any form of Irish unity has to be economic/financial. Without that, everything else is waffle.

  • notimetoshine

    Very interesting and hopefully something of a reality check to nationalists and republicans.

    I have always thought that healthcare alone would be the major stumbling block of nationalist aspirations to reunification. I just can’t see people from the nationalist community (my family a prime example) giving up the health service. So either the southern people shell out for a state health service or reunification may well be impossible.

  • Sprite

    An interesting perspective. I’ve been puzzled why in the 15 years since the GFA republicans have not developed a clear narrative that sets out the benefits of a united Ireland to the people of Northern Ireland. The absence of this narrative means we end up with symbolic posturing about flags and names – actions which in themselves create further suspicion amongst unionists about the nature of any united Ireland and their place in it.

    If republicans really want to bring about unity, they need to stop burning Orange Halls and disrespecting their neighbours’ identity and traditions. There has been no effort made to win hearts and minds for unity; perhaps because republicans know that apart from appealing to the romance of a century old ideal, there is no substantive case to be made.

  • 23×7

    These comparisons are nonsense. I’m sure the UK govt spends more per head in Hull and Cornwall than it does in London.

  • 23×7

    Quite frankly this analysis could have been done by a GCSE student. I’m concerned you can’t find fault in it. Major discrepancies between the economies of East and west Germany existed prior to unification. The goal of Irish unity surely transcends simple economics.

  • paulgraham7567

    “Continuation of apartied principles”.

    Your argument is biased in that it over simplifies one issue, parades, and has a totally flawed history of the second, education.

    The Twaddell issue centres round 2 communities who refuse to compromise. Given the murderous history that they share, it is little wonder that neither side will budge. To simplify this to “10 minute walk” does nothing to address the real issue and has little to do with the original point being made by the article. Expensive though parading as a whole is, in terms of security, it doesn’t put too much of a dent in the budget. Strip away a bloated civil service and you might save some real money.

    Secondly education. The reason why Catholic maintained schools are separate from State schools is historic. Given that Catholic schools perform much better than State run schools, shouldn’t we look to build on their success, rather than try to blame them for a situation others created?

    The point of this article is well made. Before anyone can make any future plans, whether they be unifying a country or changing the car, one needs to do one’s sums. No £ to pay for it, no chance it will happen. If SF are truly committed to a UI, they should look at the maths, and work to bring the two figures closer together. Agreeing welfare reforms might be a start.

  • gendjinn

    Couple of dubious rhetorical tricks there – comparing the max per capita deficit figure NI reached during the recession with the current figure in the south today, for example.

    There have been far superior debates about the costs of a UI on slugger, and we know that the budget gap is nowhere near as stark as 23 billion cost vs 10 billion taxes that the bald budget figures portray.

    October election is being talked up so expect more of these pieces criticizing parties of the left from the organs of the oligarchs.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    At last someone has put on paper the real agenda to any Irish Border Poll. Last years Scottish Independance Vote should be a good learning curve for persuaders of both sides of the political argument.

  • Zig70

    Considering the price the South paid for unification I would say the north would be a bargain. My cultural identity isn’t something you buy. To mimic some unionists ‘move to London then if you think it’s so great’. At least unionists don’t entertain the concept of buying out their identity, for that some respect.

  • Buster Hymann

    Sectarians burn Orange halls, not Republicans.

  • Carlos Fleming

    It’s worth noting that under the GFA a united Ireland would be the result of two separate referendums, one in Northern Ireland and one in the Republic of Ireland. The referendum would have to pass in both countries, not just one. having looked at the numbers who really believes citizens from the republic would burden themselves with the North. (and that’s just from the financial perspective).

  • the rich get richer

    In fairness Northern ireland is just not Worth it.

    Everyone should be asked/forced to emigrate to somewhere that they are expected to Look after themselves.

    Northern Ireland is the Ultimate Nanny State with plenty of whinge, whinge and the hand out with biting the hand that feeds it a Hobby.

  • Tochais Siorai

    As the oul man in the West of Ireland said when asked for directions ‘Well, I wouldn’t start from here……’
    An even more pertinent question might be…’What’s going to happen when the UK decides to stop shelling out the £20 million per week to keep NI propped up?’

  • Brian Walker

    Actually no .. Identifiable exp per head in England is highest in London.

  • Brian Walker

    gendjinn, Let’s have more and better pieces,surely. In the meantime show me a second Irish oligarch left standing!

  • 23×7

    Fair enough about London but you’ll see that the south east, which services London, has the lowest spend per head and that generally as you move further from the SE spending per head goes up. The reasons for this aren’t rocket science and certainly aren’t down to the fact that we are less productive or are public sector freeloaders here in the regions.

  • Tom

    Check out these:

    Regional Disparity / UK North-South Divide

    According to Eurostat figures there are huge regional disparities in the UK with GDP per capita ranging from €15,000 in West Wales to €179,800 in Inner-London West.

    There are 26 areas in the UK where the GDP per person is under €20,000.

    These areas are the following:

    4.5 million (8.5% of English) live in these deprived English districts. 11 of these deprived regions in England: Durham, Northumberland, Greater Manchester North, Blackpool, Sefton, Wirral, Barnsley Doncaster Rotherham, South Nottinghamshire, Dudley, Outer London – East North East, Torbay

    1.4 million (45% of Welsh) live in these deprived Welsh districts. 6 of these deprived regions in Wales: Isle of Anglesey, Conwy & Denbighshire, South West Wales, Central Valleys, Gwent Valley, Powys

    1.1 million (20% of Scottish)live in these deprived Scottish districts. 5 of these deprived regions in Scotland: Clackmannshire & Fife, East & Mid Lothian, East & West Dumbartonshire, East & North Ayrshire, Caithness Sutherland & Ross,

    1.1 million (60% of Northern Irish) live in these deprived Northern Irish districts. 3 of these in Northern Ireland: Outer Belfast, North of Northern Ireland, West & South of Northern Ireland.

    Comparing it to the Republic Ireland, GDP per capita ranges from €20,100 in Irish Midlands to €57,200 in Dublin There are no regions in Ireland where GDP per person is under €20,000. Greater Dublin and Munster are the main economic engines on the island. Northern Ireland and Belfast hardly register.

  • barnshee

    Consider where the £20m is spent
    Hint DLA and social security league leaders

    West Belfast
    Newry and Armagh

    might squeek the rest —well hardly

  • barnshee

    “public sector freeloaders here in the regions.”

    DLA league leaders?– Stand up N Ireland

  • Thomas Barber

    Doesn’t the high rate of suicides, mental health problems in those same areas you mention in your previous post correspond with the high levels of DLA awarded in those same areas. Northern Ireland is a special case no other region in the UK has experienced such a sectarian conflict ,anyone with a brain would admit long term exposure to such conflict and violence would have an adverse mentall and physical effect on significant numbers of the population.

  • barnshee

    “The Twaddell issue centres round 2 communities who refuse to compromise”
    The Prods continually compromised- fewer members then fewer bands then no music played then even fewr members -to no avail

    “The reason why Catholic maintained schools are separate from State schools is historic”

    Yea to make sure no prods get employment in the schools to keep possession of the schools in the church and at the same time whine that the state would not maintain them

  • barnshee

    This is akin to the man who murdered his parents and then asked for mercy on the grounds that he was an orphan

    PS the research refutes conflict/DLA claim

  • submariner

    The solution to the Twaddell situation is for the UVF/UDA rabble to obey the ruling of the parades commission.

  • gendjinn


    I think you are in a very unique position vis-a-vis the history of the Troubles. You reported here for a very long time, you covered many stories, some of which we have now found out the truth the state hid from us. You are uniquely in a position to revisit the timeline of those stories – why did you report what you did, if your sources conflict with the truth, what org were they working for in lying to you, and compare what was reported at the time to what we now know is true.

    It would be absolutely fascinating for the arm chair historians out here.

  • congal claen


    “Those who would give up Essential Liberty, to purchase a little Temporary safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety”

    So, whilst I’d welcome a United British Isles, I’d only want it if today’s nationalists felt a genuine belonging to the state and not for purely financial gain.

  • murdockp

    unionists move to London. …they couldn’t afford it….

  • Thomas Barber

    Apples and oranges Barnshee are you suggesting every nationalist who receives DLA is a murderer ?

    Regardless of the conflict the numbers speak for themselves.

  • barnshee

    Its called an analogy an inference or an argument from one particular to another particular
    “The Guardian ” oh the one with the editor married to the ex provo and the contributor with Irish republican antecedents oh that Guardian

  • Zeno

    I’m assuming that’s a typo. It’s closer to £200 million a week!

  • Zeno

    I don’t think it’s that simple. Most of the people who are victims of suicide have never experienced the Troubles. I personally know two families who have lost children and both are well off middle class and from what would be described as nice areas. I know one other who was a businessman who ran into financial problems.

  • Reader
  • Tochais Siorai

    And the other £180m?

  • Tochais Siorai

    Ah trying to type on mobile. Dead right Zeno

  • barnshee

    Er its 200 see typo above
    Now add in

    Duplication in Education? Duplication in Leisure services?
    Obsence levels of public employment?
    Near monopoly on child credit by one section of the community

    Lots of room there for BIG savings

  • Thomas Barber

    Like I said apples and oranges Barnshee, innocent people cannot be equated with murderers no matter what type of loyalist spin you put on it.

    The Guardian, that bastion of republicanism where the likes of Ruth Dudly Edwards the hater of all things republican and Irish worked or even her dear friend Mick Fealty who is a regular commentator, who also has a hatred for Sinn Fein and republicanism, are you telling the above people the Guardian is a mouthpiece for Irish republicanism and therefore in your eyes unworthy.

    Delusions of grandeur you have.

  • barnshee


    “Its called an analogy an inference or an argument from one particular to another particular”

    In your words

    “Northern Ireland is a special case no other region in the UK has experienced such a sectarian conflict”

    I other words they created the problems themselves -let them pay for the solution themselves.

    Historicallty the Guardian for decades was pro united Ireland including “troops out” editorials

    A former editor (now deceased) was married to a provo whose conviction was found to be ” unsafe” (The old Scottish not proven) They were eventually outed by another journalist who identified the parties in the article “The provo cell at the heart of the Guardian” and they shifted away from the position slightly ( except for occasional outbursts from Seamus)

  • Tochais Siorai

    Er…..£20m + £180m = £200m.
    Add in whatever duplications you like (why don’t you include the cross border ones?), when the English pull the plug you’ll need a Plan B.
    They seem to be starting already……

  • Zeno

    Do they? I don’t see any evidence of that. If there really was a shortage of money we wouldn’t be spending £400,000 improving the road to the new Police and Fire Training College in Cookstown which isn’t actually going to be built.

  • Thomas Barber

    Repeats Innocent people cannot be be equated with murderers your loyalist analogy is nothing more than an excuse to offload your sectarian bile and pass it off as valid comment. Obviously you’re protected species on this site, maybe even Ruth herself. I guess I’ll ponder over your assumption that innocent people who were murdered in Ireland during the past conflict deserved their fate because they shouldn’t have allowed themselves to believe that those who serve the butchers apron wouldn’t do to them what they done to innocent men women and children throughout history – Watched as the murder gangs they created and controlled murdered all around them. You being a child of a English soldier would know all about what Im talking about.

  • John Collins

    If her conviction was unsafe then as in the case of the Birmingham Six, Guilford Four and indeed several others she is innocent. Innocent until proven guilty. Nobody has to prove their innocence.

  • submariner

    In Barnshees world there aint no such thing as an innocent Taig

  • Tochais Siorai

    Spending cuts of £1.5bn from the UK treasury to Stormont over the next 5 years? That seems to be a start to me.

  • barnshee

    “Spending cuts of £1.5bn”

    Seems good to me all that DLA in Foyle W Belfast Newry and Armagh– gone Endless grants for community activists — gone Child benefits beyond 2 children– gone etc

    All sounds good to me

  • barnshee

    The Birmingham six etc were PROVED to be innocent
    The party of the first was not

  • barnshee

    No INNOCENT person deserved to be murdered
    Perhaps you might consider the poor squaddies shot -mostly in back– what were they guilty of?
    Or the dog breeders at La Mon?
    Or Those at Enniskillen?
    Or the children in cars
    Or those at the Abercorn having a night out

    The list is endless

    Were they standing hurling bricks & bottles (and worse) at the IRA?
    No innocent person deserved to die

  • Thomas Barber

    No person at all deserved to die regardless of nationality or religion but obviously your infatuation with nationalism and republicanism, but more likely the religion of those people, is clouding your judgement. If you actually have any proof whatsoever that everyone receiving DLA in nationalist areas was somehow involved in paramilitaries or carried out acts of violence then put up or shut up.

    La Mon – RUC Special branch shielded and protected the culprits. Same with Enniskillen

    The British army and the RUC murdered dozens of innocent nationalist children in cars, their homes, in the streets, they were seen as nothing more than target practice for trigger happy British soldiers and the loyalist RUC.

  • barnshee

    Hardly the big burdens are Foyle, W Belfast Newry and Armagh followed by Fermnagh S/Tyrone

    The welcome reduction in Social support will be much less out side these areas -keep cutting

  • barnshee

    Examine the facts

    According to the McKeown Database

    extracted from “Lost lives”

    This records in detail all deaths during the murder campaigns —-the police were responsible for 53 deaths

    23 were terrorists of both hues during battle with the police

    The remainder were killed in during street riots and consequent battles with the police. It is a credit to the police ability to both arrange for riots and to be ambushed

    11 of the killed were protestant
    Get the facts before you try the propaganda

  • John Collins

    You miss the point. Nobody has to be PROVED to the innocent. For centuries there exists a legal assumption that you are innocent until proven guilty.

  • John Collins

    Were not some of those innocent Protestants mistaken for Catholics.
    I suppose you will make out next that the Miami Showband were terrorists. It was no fault of the vicious gents, who were members of your highly respected Security Forces, that those men did not go down in history as terrorists. How many more members of the Security Forces created victims like this. Oh silly me, I forget the Glenanne gang, who contained boys who were certainly a credit to the uniforms they wore.
    I think you are not too bad at the old Propaganda Yourself

  • Thomas Barber

    Examine the data in the present Barnshee, those figures you present as evidence by the likes of the McKeown and Cain database is being contradicted almost everyday by new evidence emerging through the Police Ombudsman or HET re-investigations into hundreds of murders, collusion in hundreds of murders, controlling thousands of agents who no doubt were given free reign to carry out, thousands of acts of terrorism, joint enterprise means just that and the RUC and British intelligence are just as culpable as those paramilitary organisations who were blamed or admitted responsibility in hundreds of murders carried out by state controlled agents in the various paramilitary factions in the past conflict.

  • barnshee

    “being contradicted almost everyday by new evidence emerging through the Police Ombudsman or HET re-investigations into hundreds of murders”

    Hot air- provide proof

    “Lost lives” sets out the detail of each death

    Examine them in detail – most deaths occured during direct attacks on the police during ambush or riot
    Murders by the various murder gangs are identified as such


    “It is a credit to the police ability to both arrange to riots and to be ambushed”

    (I`ll add a similar set of statistics for the Army shorly -that makes even better comparisons)

  • barnshee

    “Were not some of those innocent Protestants mistaken for Catholic”

    Check tthe facts from the sources provided

    (The prods were shot during confrontations with the police )

    Check the facts

    “Oh silly me, I forget the Glenanne gang, who contained boys who were certainly a credit to the uniforms they wore.”

    I don`t forget them– by the same parallel I don`t forget the RA who are “certainly a credit” to the roman catholic community in Ireland

  • Kevin Breslin

    I disagree with one point, I think it would’ve have been better to use Northern Ireland’s A&E mortality statistics that are above the UK average, than the UK average. Northern Ireland gets no direct benefit from English or Scottish Accident and Emergency, as very few of A&E cases are flown over there.

    Speaking to local doctors here in many cases the two health services have most of the same problems, such as rural population and staff shortages.

    To be balanced here, the sustainability of a £5,311 (€7,549) per head deficit within Northern Ireland is probably going to mean fiscal conservative measures are going to be forced on Northern Ireland even if it does remain in the United Kingdom within the foreseeable future, even if that would also be the case in Irish unity.

  • John Collins

    When I ‘checked the facts’ (Cain) I noted that, with those murdered in 1966, twelve of the first thirteen people murdered in the troubles were killed by the BA or Loyalists. Did this justify violence that ensued? No- of course not- but it does make one think.

  • John Collins

    Why not just restart the ‘hell or to Connacht’ campaign?

  • Paddy Reilly

    I’ve been puzzled why in the 15 years since the GFA republicans have not developed a clear narrative that sets out the benefits of a united Ireland to the people of Northern Ireland.

    Indeed, one might ask why the government of England does not develop a narrative which sets out the benefits of a united England to the people of Norfolk. The answer is that Norfolk is in England, as Northern Ireland is in Ireland, so the benefits are immediately obvious: economies of scale, etc.

    The only benefit to anyone of a divided Ireland is that the island-wide Catholic Nationalist majority is reversed and in this artificial area a Protestant Unionist majority has, until recently, been guaranteed. Consequently, the PUs, as beneficiaries of the division, are virtually immune to arguments in favour of unity, while the CNs need no convincing.

    There exists no order by any Republican party or organisation that Orange Halls should be burned. If this were Sinn Féin policy, surely there would be very few left standing in rural areas? They are in fact burnt by anonymous arsonists, whose religious and political opinions we can only guess at.

    But this is no great loss, because the Orange Order is about as representative of the Protestant Irish people as the Nazi Party is of Germans, the Mafia of Italians or the Ku Klux Klan of White Americans. Bridges need to be built: but they will be bridges between moderates.

    Barack Obama, when constructing a coalition which allowed him to become President of the U.S.A., found that Blacks would vote for him nearly to a man, and so would many reasonable White folk from the liberal and Democrat tradition. He did not need to go begging cap in hand to the KKK: it would have been a waste of time.

    Similarly when constructing a coalition to unite Ireland, we would expect that Catholics would vote for it nearly to a man, and many reasonable ex-Unionists with liberal and democratic beliefs would either not vote against it, or accept it when a majority voted in favour. We do not need to enter into negotiations with the TUV or OO: it would be a waste of time.