In the gloom of Summer a debate about Irish unity has begun

Brian noted a piece written by Aaron McKenna on The about why Irish unity is a fundamentally bad idea.

Responding to his piece, Sinn Fein’s Matt Carthy sets out his view about why unity is a good idea.

Regardless of your views on either, I am personally half way between them on this issue, I think the debate is a really good one to have; here is where Matt attempts to set out some the nuts and bolts of unity

Some commentators and political figures try to distract and halt demands for change by focusing on estimates of public expenditure in the north.

The truth is we would all be better off with a single economy within Ireland.

Outlandish numbers are frequently presented to illustrate the level of subsidy of the north by Britain, with no focus upon resources generated within the north.

The fact is the people of the north pay taxes that are returned directly to Britain, but the British government has refused on repeated occasions to publish the exact amount of taxes that are raised in the north.

The most recent and complete estimates of the level of taxes raised in the north are available in a report commissioned by the former Finance Minister in the north, Sammy Wilson, and it underestimates the amount of revenue raised in the north in 2011-12 at £14.1 billion.

These figures are incomplete because they fail to take account of the level of corporation tax and VAT generated within the north by companies with British headquarters. The British Treasury tells us that in the same year for which Sammy Wilson has provided us with an estimate for revenue, the northern executive and councils spent £17.7bn.

That leaves an over-estimated fiscal gap of £3.6 billion, much less than the deficit McKenna quotes. Sinn Féin will continue to demand that the British government release full and accurate details of the amount of revenue generated in the north so that we can move beyond this stale non-debate.

Integrated economy

Let’s be clear, simply maintaining the status quo in the form of two separate competing economies on a tiny island will not deliver prosperity for the people of this island.

There are no advantages for a small island nation on the edge of Europe having separate tax regimes, regulatory and legal systems, disparate economic development agencies and programmes, divergent and competing investment strategies and economic policies.

Harmonised and integrated policies, laws and structures across the island are central to creating a fully integrated and healthy economy.

Healthcare is one area in which the case for Irish unity is strong.

There are multiple examples in which a better service has been delivered through an all-Ireland approach. The new joint cancer centre in Derry now provides services for patients from throughout the north-west. No longer will patients from Donegal or Derry have to travel to Belfast or Dublin for treatments.

There are opportunities within a new integrated island wide structure to reconfigure how we deliver health services across this island.

The total money spent per person within the current regressive health system in the south is more than what is spent per person in the north of Ireland or in Britain.

With vision, commitment and determination we could deliver better services to all the people of Ireland north and south.

People who read this site know my views, but in an attempt to further the debate on this issue, I think both of these articles are worth a read.


David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs

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