What do the Southern parties have planned for Northern Ireland?

There’s an election on in the South in case you hadn’t noticed.

Whilst yes, the North plays a little role in determining the outcome of an Irish election and the interest from Northern Ireland has hardly been great, I thought that since we now have the manifestos of the main parties out there now, it would be interesting to see what plans each of them have for the North.

You will be relieved to know that in all of the main parties’ platforms, Northern Ireland does get an honourable mention, however not all of them have the same depth of ideas or seeming interest.

Let’s start off with the party closest to home, Sinn Fein.

United Ireland

SF 1

United Ireland Policy

It’s not surprising that the party features a United Ireland at the front of its policy on the North. Indeed, Sinn Fein are the only party that has any policy structure on the issue of Irish unity specifically.

Should the party win government it promises to produce a Green Paper on unity and an Oireachtas Joint Committee on Irish Reunification which will outline the processes of transition to a United Ireland. Although, the manifesto does not specify when exactly these papers will be produced by.

Near the top it pledges an island wide referendum on unity, alongside speaking rights for MPs from Northern Ireland. Likewise, they party has a policy of extending rights to Northern Ireland for presidential elections.






All Island economy

SF 2

All Island Economy

The party starts by making the case for an all island economy;

Sinn Fein make the case for an all island economy; There are no advantages for an island nation of 6.4 million people in having two separate tax regimes, two currencies, two public service systems and two separate, competing economies. We would all be better off with a single economy within Ireland.

A United Ireland would grow the economy north and south. There are many examples in which a better service has been delivered through an all- Ireland approach, e.g., marketing the island as a whole for tourism, the joint cancer centre in Derry and the delivery of paediatric cardiac care from Dublin on an all-Ireland basis.


This policy has been pushed recently by Peadar Tóibín in his Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Report on the All-Island Economy and the party is pledging to advance its recommendations. Likewise, the party cited the recent report that highlighted a possible €35.6 billion boost in GDP in the first years of reunification.

The pledges are simple enough with border region development zones, building the A5 and Narrow Water Bridge projects. They also want social clauses in public contracts and further co-operation in public services.

Dealing with the past

The manifesto mentions some legacy issues and pledges to raise them with the British government;

SF 3

Fianna Fail

Northern Ireland policy features in the Fianna Fail manifesto with a re-statement at the top of the section about the party’s policy on Irish unity and supporting the Good Friday Agreement.

FF 1

United Ireland

All Island Economy

What is interesting about the party’s manifesto is that it has some costings in areas about just how much a Fianna Fail led government would be prepared to spend in this area. The first example is border region development zones which states with party committing €3.5 million as an initial fund.

FF 2

Border Development Zone

Then we have the usual suspects as North-South projects with the A5 and Narrow Water with the party committing €98 million and €20 million respectively.

FF 4

Narrow Water/A5

Political Issues

FF 5

Northern Representation in Seanad and Presidential Elections

The party does depart from Sinn Fein in regards to representation in the Oireachtas as Fianna Fail commits to Northern representation in the Seanad through the use of the Taoiseach’s nominee system.

Similarly, the manifesto like Sinn Fein’s commits to extending the presidential franchise to Northern Ireland. Though neither manifesto say how this would work practically if it were introduced (postal votes, polling stations etc, how would it happen?).

A slight surprise in this section is that the party mentions sectarianism in Northern Ireland and vows to assist in tackling it if it got into government by increasing Peace & Reconciliation fund by €2.3 million.


The manifesto does mention the Cross Border Crime Agency and voices support for tackling issues around border.

FF 6

Fine Gael

Now onto the governing party and the current holder of the Department of Foreign Affairs and if you think that this experience over the past five years would have fed into some good ideas, then you’re going to be disappointed.

To start off with the party firmly back the status quo;

FG 1

The manifesto does through a curve ball by highlighting its support into an inquiry into the murder of Pat Finucane which along with the Sinn Fein manifesto is the mentions of historical legacy issues and support for a Bill of Rights.

fg 2

All Island Economy

The party makes some basic commitments to review projects like Narrow Water and to continue seeking EU funding but little else;

FG 3


Fine Gael is typically seen as the law and order party, so cross border crime does get a mention in this section of the manifesto. They pledge co-operation with the Executive at ministerial level and that Gardai will be properly resourced to tackle smuggling and other criminal operations along the border

FG 5


Out of all the parties, Labour have the weakest Northern Ireland section (I use this term loosely) and they hold the North-South co-operation portfolio but only have this to say about the issue;

Lab 1



Overall, I was not expecting Northern Ireland to feature heavily in any manifesto, but it is always a good reality check to see what we potentially have coming from the next government.

Fianna Fail did a good job putting a price tag on their promises, which helps lift them out of the abstract, though I felt the Irish unification bit could have had a little bit more in it, in terms of how the party might proceed in the future.

Sinn Fein ticked the boxes they needed too with some interesting proposals and the past, but unlike the rest of their manifesto, I didn’t see costings beside the proposals which again would have lifted them out of the abstract and I would have re-organised their United Ireland section placing the green paper at the top and make it seem like a process towards the border poll (we will advance this policy by step 1, 2, 3 and 4).

The two governing parties’ manifestos I felt summed up their current approach to Northern Ireland; short, sweet and not very thought through. I was in some bits having to read twice to find exactly what they meant. Something which regardless of what you think about either the Sinn Fein or Fianna Fail plans, I never had to do.

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  • Charlie Farlie

    Really interesting summation of the comparison between parties on this issue. It would be great if someone with an economical, non-partisan mind, that understood the fiscal state of Southern Ireland, laid out their costings in the same way.

  • banana man

    Putting my Republican bias aside I like the sound of speaking rights for Northern MP’s, that way noone can accuse the Shinners of not representing their electorate and it will show where the SDLP’s true allegiances lye

  • Roger

    I don’t know much about the fiscal state of Cork and Kerry, but I join you in praising David McCann’s piece.

    My only other observation is that of the three parties competing in Ireland’s election that are profiled, only SF cannot bring itself to refer to Northern Ireland by its name. I haven’t read their manifesto, but doubt they can bring themselves to clearly use Ireland’s name either. Though I’m open to correction on that one.

  • Gingray

    Extending the presidential franchise to Northern Ireland would be fantastic, and I think it was recommended as part of the constitutional convention.

    Should be interesting to see what deals the next government makes to get things through and whether FF or SF would use any leverage for Northern Ireland.

  • Roger

    How much would extending the presidential franchise to UKNI cost though? I’m not against the idea in principle. But it is tokenism and if its very pricey, I don’t think it would be worth it.

  • Granni Trixie

    What’s the point in Southern parties putting energy into anything to do with NI – isn’t it all settled by GFA? No change until the people in Northern Ireland agree they want it. Sounds as if the writer of the post assumes UI by stealth “is a good thing”.

  • On Sinn Féin’s “commitment” to “campaign to raise public support for an island-wide referendum on Irish unity”.

    We’ve been here before. As I noted in 2011

    Sinn Fein’s John O’Dowd told BBC Radio Ulster that this vote would be on an all-island basis.

    Asked if a referendum result for unity would be binding despite the Belfast’s Agreement’s requirement for consent in Northern Ireland, Mr O’Dowd said: “An all-island referendum would have precedence.

    “The people of Ireland have a right to choose their own destiny. That is my view.”

    He also stated: “Surely the people who live on the island of Ireland have a right to decide the destiny of what political future and make-up the island of Ireland has.”

    As I further noted in that 2011 post

    …do Sinn Féin now want to tear up that 1998 Agreement? [added link]

    Update Today’s Irish News notes John O’Dowd’s hasty retreat.

    However, speaking to The Irish News last night, Mr O’Dowd moved to clarify his earlier comments.

    “Ideally we would like to see an all-Ireland referendum,” he said.

    “Every citizen should be equal and so that is Sinn Féin’s preferred position.

    “But we will work within the confines of the Good Friday Agreement.”

    [Just another symptom of political psychosis then? – Ed]. Indeed.

    So is the party still committed to working “within the confines of the Good Friday Agreement”?

    Or are they just repeating their previous undeliverable “commitments”…

  • David

    “Likewise, the party cited the recent report that highlighted a possible €35.6 billion boost in GDP in the first years of reunification.”

    You mean this “independent” and economically right-wing report?

  • Roger

    “until the people…want it”
    what’s a political process about, if not to achieve change.
    keeping stum doesn’t usually change things.

  • “What’s the point in Southern parties putting energy into anything to do with NI – isn’t it all settled by GFA?”

    You’d think so, Granni.

    But, apparently, Sinn Féin want to tear up the Belfast Agreement.

    Because they didn’t get want they wanted…

  • Thomas Barber

    If its English votes for English laws would that not make the part in the GFA giving a British secretary of state from England the pwer of veto over any future referendum null and void ?

  • No.

  • Thomas Barber

    Obviously from a Unionist position no, but from an Irish nationalist position it would be seen as being open to challenge.

  • David McCann

    Hi Granni,

    I think a UI is good thing, I have written about it here many times. So there is hidden agenda here.

    My post actually focuses more on the North-South aspects than unity. Hence my point about costings for North-South projects and SF putting the kart before the horse in terms of putting border poll ahead of the pledge for a green paper.

    In terms of North-South, even the DUP acknowledge the benefits of cooperation, so it would make sense for this to happens. Also don’t forget the Irish government are part of the GFA, so seeing how a potential Irish govt might deal with it is useful I think.

  • David McCann

    Hi Pete,

    Yep, I agree with Newton Emerson’s take on this that there is viable way for a UI, but it would need to be based on a sensible, largely centre right economic vision.

    However, you would need to strongly enhance the North-South co-operation measures there first.

    I am also surprised that the party didn’t incorporate more of this report published in Jan into their manifesto http://www.oireachtas.ie/parliament/mediazone/pressreleases/2016/name-31515-en.html

  • You want to challenge the 1998 Good Friday Agreement?

    Go ahead!

  • I’m sorry, David.

    You’ll have to spell, and grammar, check that contribution.

    You seem to be fixating on Newton’s comment rather than the substance of the actual post.

  • David McCann

    I understood the point of your post a few months ago, but I am more interested (if you’re talking about a UI) the most viable way to go about it.

    Which in an economic case is not the way SF argue for it.

  • It wasn’t Newton Emerson’s subsequent comment that I was posting about.

    “Which in an economic case is not the way SF argue for it.”

    In which case, you might have reflected that in your original post.

    Rather than simply transcribe party positions….

  • David McCann

    I was referring to Newton’s comment on the post you just linked you. It is the first one you hit as you go down.

    On the post, I just merely wanted to do a clear nuts and bolts of where they all stand. That’s all but thanks as always for the feedback.

  • I know what you were referring to. It’s not part of the actual post.

    As for

    I just merely wanted to do a clear nuts and bolts of where they all stand.

    Transcribing, rather than journalism.

  • David McCann

    Awk now now Pete, (pinky promise) I will link back to one of your posts next time.

  • That’s your response to

    Transcribing, rather than journalism.

  • David McCann

    Well you’re not a fan and it’s 1am. But really I just file your kind of stuff under “life’s too short.”

  • You keep doing that, David.

    “But really I just file your kind of stuff under “life’s too short.”

    Is that posts and/or comments?

    (pinky promise)

  • David McCann

    Some of your comments, I enjoy many of your posts.

  • Robin Keogh

    I don’t think it is healthy to get so rattled when a UI is mentioned, it shows a great weakness exists on something that is essentially settled in the context of consent. We should be working toward a unity of minds on what is best for the people rather than ones own selfish interest or paranoid disfunction.

  • Robin Keogh

    Ireland is an Island, did you not know that?

  • tmitch57

    “To start off with the party (FG) firmly back the status quo;:”

    David, first of all, thanks for the important collection of manifestos. But it does seem that Fine Gael and Labour have figured out that a state’s reputation is more enhanced by it faithfully fulfilling its treaty commitments than by its representatives pandering for votes in elections. This latter is something that Fianna Fail did for decades. Now their place in the electoral scheme has been taken by the Shinners.

  • Thomas Barber

    Just the part about an English MP deciding if or when Irish citizens can decide for themselves when or if we should end the link with Great Britain.

  • Kev Hughes

    Perhaps he should’ve just linked to his own posts from before? That’s, of course, REAL journalism, right?

  • Gingray

    The Constitutional Convention delegates overwhelmingly supported
    the motion to extend franchise to Irish citizens resident in Northern
    Ireland (73% in favour, 20% against, 1% 7% Undecided/ No Opinion.) The
    question regarding all citizens resident outside the State was also
    passed by a margin of 78%, 21%, 1%).

    You may view it as tokenism, but the President of Ireland is designed to be a role that represents all Irish people, and any Irish citizen should have the right to elect that person.

  • Paddy Reilly

    No change until the people in Northern Ireland agree they want it.

    I’m not sure if we’re quite in agreement here: do the people of Northern Ireland all have to agree they want it, or is it only necessary for a majority of those who go to the polls to vote on this specific issue to want it? I think it is the latter.

    Now, a government returned to power in the Irish Republic will probably last from 2016 to 2021. And it is exceedingly likely that during that time-frame the Northern electorate, by which I mean a majority of it, will lose its objection to measures designed to bring about reunification of the whole island.

    So the 32nd Dáil will be the one which starts the Reunification Process, and candidates for that Dáil need to be prepared for this.

    It’s not a matter of Sinn Fein wanting to tear up the Belfast Agreement: in fact, they want to implement it, fully.

  • Nevin

    ” it is always a good reality check to see what we potentially have coming from the next government.”

    David, the activities of the BIIS in Belfast aren’t open to scrutiny so we only get to see part of what an Irish government does in regard to Northern Ireland. ‘Transparency’ and ‘accountability’ don’t get a mention in the 1998 Agreement.

  • murdockp

    If a tree falls in a forest and any individual that might be in the vicinity and be in a position to hear the noise have made sure they have cleared off before the actual event occurs ensuring they have complete deniability, does anyone from London or Dublin actually care?

  • Granni Trixie

    But Roger, some of us prefer to put energy into getting NI into a better place given it is not working well. A festering sore it is.

  • Granni Trixie

    Two different jurisdictions,one island.

  • Roger

    Yip…that sounds a laudable goal and in no way is it mutually exclusive with the other goal in question…

  • Roger

    Thanks; did the CC delegates work out how much it would cost?

  • Roger

    Did you know that islands don’t have fiscal positions….states do.
    Southern Hispaniola doesn’t have a fiscal position either…

  • Reader

    What are the thought processes of the 5% who want to extend the franchise to all Irish citizens outside the state except for the Irish citizens resident in Northern Ireland?

  • Reader

    Well, there are still some republicans that think that the way to a united Ireland is to make Northern Ireland as fractious and unpleasant as possible. And not just the dissidents.

  • Reader

    Ireland is the name of a 32 county island.
    Ireland is the name of a 26 county state.
    Both Roger and Robin are correct. You are both welcome to the confusion that may cause. I’ll use less ambiguous terminology instead.

  • Robin Keogh

    I am not at all confused 😉

  • murdockp

    Exactly my point for years is that the SF strategy of extreme socialism is the polar opposite of the policies required to deliver a UI.

    The longer SF remain in power, the less likely a UI will happen.

  • Robin Keogh

    Regions within states and nations do indeed have fiscal positions

  • Robin Keogh

    One Island, two jurisdictions.

  • Brendan Heading


    Speaking of “transcribing rather than journalism” with the implication that such work is of a poor standard, would you care to comment on the standard of a few of your own articles ?

    Your own articles come in Ikea kit form – extensive transcription, quotation, and sea of hyperlinks, interspersed with childish/sarcastic witticisms from which the reader is supposed to construct the story himself.

    While we’re on the topic of standards in general, under what kind of standards do you think it appropriate – on repeated occasions – to publicly criticise the approach taken by another contributor ? Your conduct here, and on other threads, meets the dictionary definition of bullying. I’m sure David can stick up for himself, but if you haven’t got anything constructive to say, could you maybe do everyone a favour and keep your little barbs and jibes to yourself ?

  • Ryan A

    Indeed. As much as the Nationalist establishment mightn’t like it, Fine Gael are likely the only party who are positioned to bring this about, and they have no interest in it.

  • Brendan Heading

    There are numerous problems I can foresee with a few of SF’s proposals.

    The prospect of granting a vote in the Presidential election to anyone with an Irish passport opens up the chance for large numbers of people who never set foot on the island to influence who its head of state is. There would have to be some kind of recent residency requirement or other tie to show a connection to the island other than ancestry.

    Allocating Dáil speaking and consultative rights to Northern Ireland MPs is interesting. It is entirely legal under the UK Disqualifications Act 2000, but I wonder how useful it would be in practice. The right to be consulted by the Dáil is not the same as the right to be consulted by the Government; and the fact that Northern Ireland residents pay no taxes to the Irish exchequer is likely to mean that their contributions will amount to little more than a charade. Unionists would, of course, make a big show of not attending; and I’d personally be quite annoyed if my MP took time out of an important debate in the UK Parliament to be politely ignored at Leinster House – although I’m sure generous expenses payments will be made to MPs for their trouble ..

    I was curious about the proposal to “remove transaction costs for cross border trade”. We are in a free trade zone so there are no “transaction costs” beyond any banking charges related to moving funds between currencies and jurisdictions. The same costs apply between any two EU member states that are not part of the Eurozone and I’d imagine that any attempt to subsidise these would fall foul of EU state aid regulations.

    I have to laugh at the plans for an all island tax system and currency. None of this can happen without a successful referendum and the numbers don’t exist to provide one. I expect the Irish electorate will be cogniscant of manifesto promises about a party wasting time and money pursuing reunification instead of addressing the immediate needs within the country.

  • Granni Trixie

    But why do any of this in advance of agreement by citizens of NI?

  • Roger

    …”nations”….So the Kurds have fiscal positions too I suppose?
    You’re confused. Jurisdictions (state level and, sometimes, sub-state level) have fiscal positions. Purely geographic regions like the island of Ireland certainly don’t. The island was once a jurisdiction as you may know, but that was long before my time or yours or almost any one living today.

  • Roger

    I bet you’re right.
    There are no doubt some loyalists who think that Catholics should not have the right to vote.
    But I think we stray off onto completely irrelevant topics.

  • Robin Keogh

    I think it is you who are confused. I merely pointed out that regions have fiscal positions such as Catalonia for example.

  • WindowLean

    Brendan, I’m a resident of NI and I pay tax to the Southern exchequer. Can I have my vote??

  • Mike the First

    Irish citizens? Don’t the rest of us have a vote too?

  • Mike the First

    I think you’re misreading that – it would presumably be 78% in favour of extending the vote to all Irish citizens living outside (the Republic of) Ireland, including those living in Northern Ireland, and 73% in favour of extending the vote only to Irish citizens living in Northern Ireland.

  • Mirrorballman

    How much does a stamp and sheet of paper cost….

  • Mirrorballman

    Maybe when FF finally start to contest elections in the North (I’ll not believe it until I see it) we will get speaking rights and presidential votes. Just can’t see a FG led government ever prioritising either.

  • WindsorRocker

    SDLP True Allegiances…….. You mean voting and debating in the place that actually decides how much tax their constituents pay and how much is spent on services for them rather than grandstanding in a legislature that decides neither, just so they can avoid reality for an afternoon whilst representing no one on any issues of substance and relevance to daily life…….

  • banana man

    I mean wasting their time in Westminster where they also have no say in any of the issues you just mentioned

  • WindsorRocker

    With a government with a slim majority and pushing through controversial finance bills. I could understand if the majority was large but it’s not. Either way, the bills passed in Westminster especially finance bills are more relevant to people in Northern Ireland than bills passed in Dublin. Dail speaking rights would be grandstanding. At least the FF Seanad idea has an element of outreach built into it rather than something reminiscent of the first Dail.

  • Brendan Heading

    Above my paygrade, but if you want my opinion you’ll need to give me more information. By “tax” do you mean VAT or corporation tax, or do you mean you are a PAYE employee of a company operating in Ireland ?

  • Brendan Heading

    Playing devil’s advocate, I can see a case for republicans in government in the south laying the groundwork and making preparations for reunification. Reunification cannot happen without a referendum, but that doesn’t prevent them from pursuing the other details – especially if it influences the argument in favour in the North.

    In practice none of this will happen. SF won’t be in government, and even if they are, they won’t have time to run after spending Irish public money on pipe dreams.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I love Sinn Fein’s “Dealing with the past” section – priceless

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Reading all this rubbish, you’d be forgiven for thinking Northern Ireland people must be quite interested in a united Ireland. Given the massive lack of desire for Irish unity in NI, the tone of the southern parties on the topic is pretty off. Perhaps the Republic returns to its traditional fingers-in-ears stance on Northern Ireland when it comes to election time? It’s all a bit meaningless anyway … yes, yes, Irish unity, whatever, blah, blah, blah. It’s not happening anytime soon, everyone knows it, so they can say anything they like. What a charade.

  • Charlie Farlie

    I’d say its a case Roger more of them being true to their original ideals, rather than going against them to secure votes? Many in the South take issue with SF on this stance so it would probably be in their electoral interests to say ‘Republic of Ireland’ and ‘Northern Ireland’ granted. But the fact remains is that they don’t and never have seen them as legitimate entities, constitutional ones, maybe, but not legitimately.
    That being said, I do see a respect for those who consider themselves British or Northern Irish emerge more and more within Nationalism. Equality should mean, that everyone should have a right to follow their own ideological ideals. I don’t see a problem with chosen terminology if it is consistent, which in this case it has been.

  • Roger

    Correction – It’s ‘Ireland’ and ‘Northern Ireland’.

    Rejecting the legitimacy of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Refusing to even use their names. Those aren’t ideals I’d vote for, even if they are indeed original SF-IRA ideals.

  • Charlie Farlie

    You don’t have to vote for it Roger, that is your right. But please don’t ‘correct’ my right that was enshrined under the Good Friday Agreement to hold an Irish passport and consider myself Irish even though I was born in the 6 counties. As you know it is not black and white and it was the fascistic dictatorial nature, that you are perpetuating that created a conflict in this country. Respect people’s rights to use whatever terminology they believe in. I respect yours not to.

  • Roger

    Where did I say anything about passports! But, if we are on the topic, check yours. Does it mention the words ‘Republic of’? Now that is a black and white question.

  • Charlie Farlie

    With a black and White answer – No!

  • Roger

    I’m glad that I think you’ve got my point, the correction – it’s ‘Ireland’, not ‘Republic of’ anything.