When is a Billion quid really worth £30 million?

When it’s the amount of the deal done by the Conservative Party with the DUP, that’s when.

Today the parties announced the terms of reference and the financial package that will underpin their confidence and supply agreement. There’s been widespread shock and anger amongst Parliamentarians and the great British public that these upstarts from Ulster are getting their paws on a £1 billion notes.

But are they really? Is this new money at all? More importantly, is it money that wouldn’t have gone to the north anyhow?

I am not an accountant but I can count. Nor do I have the skills to launder money through various pots to hide its true source or destination. But I can add and subtract and I do know how much I earn and how much I owe. And that’s why the numbers just don’t add up to me.

In her speech outside Downing Street, Arlene Foster said: “We welcome this financial support of £1 billion in the next two years as well as providing new flexibilities on almost £500 million previously committed to Northern Ireland.”

Writing in the Belfast Telegraph, economist David McWilliams has described the deal as “nothing more that a subsidy junky’s shopping basket.” So let’s take a peek in the basket, shall we?

Ok new flexibilities – that just means £500 million can now be spent in places other than where it was allocated. It’s not new, so we can ignore it for the purposes of our sums.

First up was infrastructure funding of £400 million, a huge chunk of which will go towards the York Street Interchange Project. Isn’t that the same York Street Interchange that former Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard secured commitments from the EU to match fund? So match funding means that Westminster was always going to stump up for 60% of the costs of EU funded infrastructure projects, whether in direct funding or as part of a deal that might be agreed this week in Stormont. The British Treasury had already vowed to cover any EU funding shortfalls for projects signed off before Brexit. Sure, the DUP stole a march on the other parties in getting a written commitment on the funding today, but it was always going to happen anyhow and we already knew about it. Move along, nothing new or surprising to see here.

Likewise the £100 million over 5 years to fund areas of severe deprivation: this is the Social Investment Fund Mark 2 and also would most likely have come about following a deal at Stormont. Our politicians have become accustomed to negotiating in the payoff on any political deal.

In addition we have £150 million on high speed broadband, £200 million on health service transformation, £50 million on mental health services, and £100 million on immediate pressures in health and education. That’s the other £500 million right there on the credit side.

So £500 million that the north would probably have gotten anyhow and £500 million of other money; still a good deal, right?

Except on the debit side is that big £470 million of funds committed to future payments under the Renewable Heating Incentive scheme. Yes, RHI hasn’t gone away, you know.

There is no plan in place to address the financial commitments given under the scheme and, to date, no legal way identified for the Executive to withdraw from it. There is also no Westminster guarantee scheme to prop it up.

If you offset that liability against today’s announcement of funding – half of which would probably have come to the north anyway in one guise or another – then you’re left with a reality of only £30 million in tangible economic benefit.

That’s not a lot of money for supporting a government for up to five years.

Looks to me like somebody had been sold a pup.

  • Brendan Heading

    Isn’t that the same York Street Interchange that former Infrastructure Minister Chris Hazzard secured commitments from the EU to match fund?


    It is, but some extra detail might be helpful. From the press release :

    “In the case of York Street, while it is a project that could have attracted up to 40% EU funding, there would still be a 60% gap to make up.

    “My Department has of course been pursuing European funding for York Street Interchange through the Connecting Europe Facility. Unlike structural funds, this is a highly competitive funding programme with member states required to submit applications as part of a formal bidding process. This is implemented by a series of calls for funding. The next call for major projects is anticipated for early 2018. As a result, the funding stream for this project goes beyond the timeframe set by the chancellor.”

    When Hazzard took over the Department he altered the previous trajectory (under which it had committed to start construction in 2017, ie by now), focussing instead on dealing with underinvestment in the North West. As the statement shows, he wasn’t willing to fund the remaining 60% and that he instead wanted Europe to provide more money under a different scheme. A cynical person might think that Hazzard used brexit as a pretext for shifting funds towards the North West, even though the European funds were never under threat.

    It seems likely that today’s deal is the provision of extra cash which, once we see the detail, could reasonably be expected to fund York Street as well as keep things going for the A5 and A6. Unfortunately we’ll never know what was going to happen since the Sinn Féin Finance Minister failed to deliver a draft budget ..

  • Ciara 007

    That seems like a sensible move? Delay for a year in order to secure higher funding seems reasonable.

  • Patricia,

    That’s not analysis.

    And it doesn’t match the claim in the post title.

    “I am not an accountant but I can count.”

    No. And apparently not.

  • OneNI

    This is the most inept nonsense ever printed in Slugger. Completely inaccurate rubbish fuelled by political opinion with next to no understanding or even recognition of facts.
    This sort of thing damages Slugger reputation.

  • William Kinmont

    i think the sentiment is that we are now going to get some things in the short term that we would have got in the medium to long term anyway.
    Future Westminster governments of whatever type are going to treat us pretty poorly for the foreseable.
    Unless their is some scope in spending the money to NI s long term advantage , attracting tourism improving exports or securing long term jobs what has it achieved.
    i was hoping for something cleverer and more imaginative than a lump of cash that will be taken way in the future . We now have the same team that sold its majority to the architects of RHI negotiating Brexit.

  • chrisjones2

    As insightful and accurate as a County Grand Masters speech at a field on th 12th

  • mickfealty

    The flexibility means a further downgrade in shared education as a priority (the two could not agree on that and already moved it to shared housing, now there’s further flexibility). The concern I would have is that this further feeds the SIF, which is a pet project fund largely for the DUP and SF in the past.

  • mickfealty

    Not much we can do with such a generalised accusation. Comments are the way to correct blogger error.

  • Jag

    No, this is the most inept nonsense ever printed in Slugger. Completely inaccurate rubbish fuelled by political opinion with next to no understanding or even recognition of facts.
    This sort of thing damages Slugger reputation.

  • Brian O’Neill

    Chris you know the rules. Argue the points.

  • james

    Baffled. The OP seems to be saying, in essence, sure what good is a billion pounds – won’t it all end up being spent anyway??

    I’m at a loss as to how much money she feels would actually have represented a ‘win’?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    James, she’s pointing out that at least £470,000,000 is being wasted on RHI in a situation where it is being presented as something the DUP has “won” for NI.

    For the rest, she’s asking is this “new” money, as its being presented, or is it money which would inevitably have been spent here in the natural course of things, i.e.: is this a windfall, or is it something being misrepresented to the voters to boost party popularity. It is an important distinction.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Peter, if Patricia is inaccurate in her claims, perhaps it would be a help if you could point out the detail, rather than simply posting the sort of “Nah” with insults which mars many of the Unionist comments posted.

  • Georfe Jungle

    That is one seriously dodgy analysis. You are twisting figures to make it look like £30m, it doesn’t add up I’m afraid.

    You are taking one lump sum of £500m and balancing it against £470m over 20 years ???

  • Mike the First

    This is a particularly weird “anaylsis”.

    Surely, if £470m is to be wasted (over 20 years) over RHI, it is to be wasted anyway; it’s not part of the Conservative-DUP deal.

    So your starting point if you want to offset one against the other by factoring in the potential RHI loss isn’t £0, it’s [£0 minus £470m]. And the post-deal situation is [Proceeds of deal minus £470m].

    Therefore, guess what, the proceeds of the deal equals [proceeds of deal]. The £470m is cancelled out as it exists in both scenarios.

    And that’s without getting into the very different timescales.

  • Donagh

    Did she forget to add compound interest to the £470m?

  • Mike the First

    Also, why has £500m been subtracted from the £1bn?

    Surely it’s £1bn in addition to the £500m already agreed?

  • Brendan Heading

    Robin : it would be, until you consider that the Minister is contradicting himself by saying on one hand that Brexit is putting the scheme in jeopardy, and then on the other hand proposing to delay for extra money from Europe which brexit surely makes much less likely than it otherwise would have been.

    No, Hazzard’s plan was to divert the money to the A5 and A6.

    The York Street intersection which sits at the core of the motorway network, connecting NI’s three major motorways, is a serious and worsening bottleneck.

  • OPB58

    York Street

    SF was never going to complete this project because it only funds infrastructure that will be useful in buying votes.

    The South West Acute Hospital has wasted over £788m on a PFI hospital paid over 30 years, three times its estimated cost of £224m. It was placed in FST to win votes by a SF minister and it can’t be staffed, it is under used and will be down graded as we move to 4 acute hospitals under Bengoa.

    The A5 project has jumped to Derry and not continued from the recent A4 dualling to Omagh even though it could have been started and completed sooner because SF wanted to gain votes over SDLP in Foyle as McGuinness moved from Mid Ulster.

    In economic terms, York Street project would have gained more for NI by SF moved it to A6 again as a vote winner, even when both projects could have been carried out at same time if the finance was staged. There are no SF votes in York Street.

  • Reader

    SeaanUiNeill: James, she’s pointing out that at least £470,000,000 is being wasted on RHI in a situation where it is being presented as something the DUP has “won” for NI.
    But that money had already been wasted, and wasn’t actually going to be compensated by Westminster. The one billion is new, whether it is being used to plug a gap for which the DUP was culpable, or as new spend.
    In any case, didn’t the DUP already get punished separately both by SF and by the electorate for that £470m?

  • Nevin

    “Yes, RHI hasn’t gone away, you know.”

    RHI Inquiry update – 26 June 2017

  • Jag

    Why wouldn’t the York Street Interchange project* benefit SF? It’s in N Belfast where John Finucane is just about touching Nigel Dodds (19,000 v 21,000 votes earlier this month), so there would be local economic activity with lots of construction workers. These days, the contractors would be as likely to be nationalist as unionist. The project would ease traffic bottlenecks at the heart of a battleground SF constituency, why would they not be champtioning it?

    * York Street is the street just north of the Castlecourt Shopping Centre in Belfast city centre, York Street has heavy traffic north and south, but there is also the A12 going east-west, and the M3 going south-east to north – it’s a bit of a gridlock at present.

  • ted hagan

    Nah, I’ll take the money thanks… and a plague upon naysayers.

  • the Moor

    Patricia McBride’s is a political rather than a disinterested economic case. The economics of it don’t conform with any methodology an economist would recognise. Her polemic against the DUP, on inspection, turns out to be known none other than an old friend of ours in Irish political discourse – begrudgery. The pity of which as a strategem, is that it simply gives the argument away by allowing a swift refocussing onto the partisan motives of the begrudger. More interesting and insightful is the piece referred to by David McWilliams in yesterday’s Belfast Telegraph (which I read in McIlhinney’s Ballybofey). In it, he considers longtitudinal demographic trends alongside the comparative performance of northern and southern economies to make a rational poltical economic case for reunification.

    So rather than another pantomime wrangle of the Oh-yes-she-did/oh-no-she-didn’t variety, my suggestion is that a better use of energy might be to read the McWilliams piece and comment on it instead:

  • Nevin

    “That’s not a lot of money for supporting a government for up to five years.”

    Newsletter’s Sam McBride, one of a few insightful political journalists here: Just first course of what DUP envisages as a lengthy meal:

    After committing the DUP to support the government in votes of confidence and on supply – the various budgetary votes – as well as on the Brexit legislation and national security legislation, the agreement states: “Support on other matters will be agreed on a case by case basis.”

    That might not leap off the page in quite the same way as the £1 billion figure, but it could ultimately cost as much or more – either in cash or in a political price.

    What it makes clear is that this deal is only the first couple of courses in what the DUP expects to be a substantial five-year meal, if not a feast.

    By only committing to vote with the government in a handful of key areas, the DUP has done little more than agree to sustain the Conservatives in Downing Street.

  • Nevin

    Hyperlink problem.

  • ted hagan

    My fear would be the DUP steering the Tories on a Brexit course that would serious tensions both within the North and with the Republic. Then we could be getting into Belfast Agreement territory.

  • ted hagan

    There has been so much fury from other regions in the Uk that I doubt it will go beyond the first course. What damage, for instance, will this have done to the Tory revival in Scotland? Wales even?
    It is a party that lost its bearings and its judgment.

  • the Moor
  • Nevin


  • Casper

    You say ”mars” I say defines!

  • Nevin

    Which party? CUP or DUP? You can expect the Nats in all regions to be contrary.

  • the Moor

    McBride’s analysis confirms the fears expressed by leading Tories that the DUP are practised extortionists (‘with form’) and that monies extracted this time won’t be the last. However that would be to assume May’s government can outlast the initial 2-year arrangement. Given the unhappiness this bunge has caused among our Celtic cousins and the deep unease among the political class, one thing is for sure, the rpesent government is anything but strong and stable. At the least it’d surely be advisable to spend the money quickly!

  • the Moor

    including the English nationalists – aka Theresa’s conservatives?

  • Nevin

    I did say all regions! English nats would probably vote UKIP, CUP and Labour but probably not LibDems or Greens.

  • Nevin

    When the election was called, I speculated that as David Cameron had called it wrong on the EU referendum it was quite likely that Theresa May could have called it wrong re.enhanced majority. The UK was fairly evenly split on Brexit so much will depend on the approach pursued by the German dominated EU-27.

    PS I may well have Celtic and Rangers cousins but I’m more interested in genealogy than sport!!

  • the Moor

    English nationalism is the great unsaid in the ongong crisis convulsing our politics and the conservative party (which ceased to call itself a unionist party some time ago) is the seat of fissiparousness, the economic ramifications of which will likely result in the break-up of Britain and the unification of Ireland.

  • ted hagan

    I haven’t a notion what fissiparousness means (isn’t there a simpler word) but I do know that the Conservative and Unionist Party is still the Conservative and Unionist Party.

  • Nevin

    Plain English please!!

    Here’s the opening from the Confidence and Supply document:


    In accordance with our shared objectives for strengthening and enhancing the Union, security, prosperity and an exit from the European Union that benefits all parts of the United Kingdom, this letter sets out how the confidence and supply agreement reached between the Conservative Party and Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) will operate to deliver a stable government in the United Kingdom’s national interest for the duration of this Parliament.

    Naming, especially in the short form, can often be confusing. In political exchanges I mostly use the names of the two states, namely the UK and Ireland whereas in genealogy I would often limit Ireland to the name of the island. Dublin ministers who use Ireland as the name of the state then resort to ‘island of Ireland’ for the name of the island.

  • the Moor

    The Tories use the term unionist (dating to the absorption of the liberal unionists) when and where it suits them, as on this occasion.

  • Nevin

    So, when you said ‘ceased’ you were, er, wrong.

  • the Moor

    Not at all. Not anymore than the Labour & Cooperative Party routinely refer to themselves as such. The official name of Europe’s oldest political party, since 1912, as I said, is the Conservative and Unionist Party, but the latter term wasn’t used by Baldwin or throughout most of the postwar period (in part because the party in Scotland were called unionists, until at least the 1960s ). Its usage at this point is expedient. I fail to see how that can be denied. Expediency in the interests of retaining power is what the Tories specialise in and always have. You’ll no doubt be aware that the gaelic root-word translates as outlaw, robber, brigand. As evidenced by Cameron and May, the modern Tories remain as opportunistic and larcenous in service of party over national interests now as their forbears all the way back to when the Pittites split off from the Whigs.

  • David Crookes

    Politicians from Scotland and Wales should stop complaining at once.

    NI is getting a mere thirty million.

    Expect all the talk about grubby deals to die down promptly once the truth sinks in.

  • Nevin

    Except that you did say ‘ceased’.

    There’s nothing new about ‘expediency’/side-deal to get into or stay in government; it’s not limited to any particular party.

  • the Moor

    Again, no. My words (which can readily be checked) in relation to the history of the Tories is that the party ‘ceased to call itself a unionist’ some time ago.

  • Nevin

    In denial. Anyway, enough said.

  • the Moor

    On the substantive point, you’re right of course, modern political parties will be inclined towards expediency, especially in times of minority governance. It’s just that the Tories excel at it and the reason for that is they are are above all a party of power in the interests they represent.

  • the Moor

    Contrarily so. If you’re going to be a pedant then you’ll have to accede that the words I used were ‘ceased to call itself’. That’s quite different and distinct from officially ceased to be called.

  • the Moor

    Rather than these playful distractions, what did you make of the McWilliams piece?

  • Nevin

    Expediency isn’t exactly a modern phenomenon; the Liberal party did a series of side-deals with Irish nationalists when the latter were in the position of king-makers. As for parties of whatever hue, they represent particular interests.

  • james

    “For the rest, she’s asking is this “new” money, as its being presented, or is it money which would inevitably have been spent here in the natural course of things,”

    Are you suggesting that this is merely ‘money up front’ which will be subtracted from the block grant next year? Hard to imagine that’s the case.

    It seems obvious enough that Sinn Fein – having stridently announced their opposition to ‘Tory Cuts’ (and NI receiving a less money) are now stridently opposed to NI receiving more.

    At what point do you realize SF are simply being strident for the sake of being strident?

  • mickfealty

    It’s broad brush, and blunt, but I do think he makes a point made more generally in the more detailed comments elsewhere on the thread. That’s why I un-deleted it.

  • Nevin

    A snippet:

    It is unfashionable to say it, but the Union has been an economic disaster for both tribes in Northern Ireland.

    If we go back to 1920, 80% of the industrial output of the entire island of Ireland came from the three counties centred on Belfast. This was where all Irish industry was. It was industrial and innovative; northern entrepreneurs and inventors were at the forefront of industrial innovation. By 1911, Belfast was the biggest city in Ireland, with a population of close to 400,000, which was growing rapidly. It was by far the richest part of the island.

    Fast-forward to now and the collapse of the once-dynamic Northern economy versus that of the Republic is shocking

    I thought it was (militant) opposition to the Union that damaged our economic interests. When militant and armchair socialists, inspired by Desmond Greaves and his cynical use of rights issues, sought to remove the ‘conservative’ administrations in Belfast and Dublin in favour of a 32-county socialist republic, it wasn’t long before the militant socialists were sidelined. Street confrontation set communities at each other’s throats and precipitated a downward spiral into murder, destruction and economic mayhem.

  • mickfealty

    To be fair Jag, most of those jobs will not benefit many people in north, which needs microfinance and better planning to relief poverty, housing shortages and the sectarian angst of generations. The nearby roadworks is of more benefit to north Down and than north Belfast.

  • ConanMcDonnell

    You’re misrepresenting the issue, as I’m sure you’re all too aware. It’s nothing to do with how much or how little money is involved. It’s the way the money has been approved, i.e. as an electoral bargaining chip and RHI bailout for the DUP.

  • james

    Uhm… I’m misrepresenting the issue (because ‘it’s not about how much’) in an article entitled “When is a billion quid really worth £30million” – and which is primarily concerned with adding up (grotesquely inaccurately – she seems to believe that the costs incurred by RHI are reduced to zero if we were not to receive the touted billion £, for goodness sake!) the figures? Hmm…

  • the Moor

    It is interesting that you purport to believe a marxist historian to have had influence over two governments. What your critique overlooks is the historical illegitimacy of partition and the social injustice of the resulting post-1922 regime. The failure to address and sufficently reform the northern state in the face of reasonable civil rights demands was the primary cause of the civil unrest in the late 60s. But the proverbial tin-hat was HMG’s catastrophic failure to intervene effectively, decisively, instead opting to prop-up of an unreformable unionist authority. Up until August 1971, reform may yet have been feasible on an ‘internal’ basis, but the militarization of state policy in the form of Internment and then Bloody Sunday destroyed the prospects of an equitable settlement not least by creating the conditions in which PIRA emerged as a communalist defence force. By 1973 when Sunningdale was scuppered by orangeist belligerence, it had all already all gone to sh+t and by 1974 the terms of the grievance of the catholic community shifted from a focus on social justice to one of unfulfilled national rights in a belated addressing of the origin sin of partition.

  • Nevin

    “The failure to address and sufficently reform the northern state in the face of reasonable civil rights demands”

    Anti-partitionists, militant and armchair, were in favour of reunification so such demands were merely a smokescreen.

    The Birth of the Provisionals – Liam O Comain

    Sean Garland speech at Bodenstown

    Remove the then socialist leadership of the IRA and you’re left with PIRA.

  • mac tire

    Ian Duncan Smith was on BBC Breakfast this morning saying that over half the money was already to be allocated to the north.
    30 million, it may not be, but it certainly seems it is not 1 billion.

    Someone is covering up.

  • the Moor

    Really, that’s your theory: It was all the fault of the marxists in the OIRA? Couldn’t be at all that NICRA was a popular mid-60s reaction and movement for change demanding social justice (a movement that certainly included republicans, I grant you) from a sectarian unionist system and regime in international context of ‘student protests’ and civil rights marches in the US, France, and elesewhere? As to the 1970 IRA split, am not sure what point you’re making, but without the aggressive actions of the British army in the Lower Falls, it is quite likely there would have been no provisional IRA to contest with by the time the Officals declared a ceasefire. The provisional movement wasn’t initially socialistic in outlook or rhetoric, let alone marxist.

  • paul

    Money can be counted any which way an individual organization or government wants in order to make the sums total what they want to see and tell others.

    Forget about sending millions on this that and the other.

    Take £1b and divide it by the number of tax payers in ni and get hmrc to post the cheques out for end of july.

    If im not mistaken the A5 funding was allready sitting there ready. Contractors were on site working only had to stop because of inept road service not doing there end of the job. How much is road service paying to contractors behind the sceens because of client delaying access to the site under nec 3 contracting.

    A6 already started and contractor on site sitting about because of yet another court cast that should have been delt with before aggreeing to mobilize to site. Again roads service will be getting delay costs and charged which under contract conditions will have to pay out to the contractor.

    There will always be money to build what is needed when it is required.

    We are being fooled and blinded by so called stormont over government here and being blined by government etc in uk over brexit.

    As an ordinary working person im fed up listening to all the crap on the news.

    Think about this the £350m a week saved by brexit which was spouted on the telly etc this time last year will cover this so called £1b extra in less than 3 weeks.

    Them Dup ministers should have been asking for £10b maybe chanced there arm at £100b cash upfront no strings to do what we want with.

  • I struggle to see how the comment – the last line in particular – is anything other than man-playing in the form of an unnecessary personal comment.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    The important point here, Reader, is that this is being represented as a “clean” billion for NI, while almost half of the money is going to fill a hole of Arlene’s own making. Everyone is forgetting that Arlene shot a hole in our finances which the sheer luck of Teresa’s unpopularity has given them a means to plug. But to represent this as money for

    Odd comment “didn’t the DUP already get punished separately both by SF and by the electorate for that £470m?” Hardly, as nothing meaningful has been settled in this matter. Quite the contrary, when the wagons have circled and even some pro-Unionist posters here who were vociferous about DUP culpability have now begun to “rally” to their banner, and to shockingly endorse DUP amateurism and sheer incompetence. All of this is still clearly a major miscalculation, which, if Arlene was as unaware as she claims about the issue was a perhaps even more of resigning matter for how that suggests unimaginable levels of political insensitivity layered over the original incompetence. But all of this is being treated by Unionists as if it were an irrelevance, and this is something which will not end well for anyone.

    As mac tyre points out, and as my friends on the Tory back benches have already told me last week, the other half of the money was “already allocated.” While the DUP crow a rather hollow victory which primarily benefits them, and the mis-titled “windfall” deludes the impressionable and committed, the evaluation of the DUP in Tory circles as “Useful Fools” has now been reassessed to include “Worryingly Bullying Useful Fools.” Most Tories I’ve met in my life already seem to find the Union with NI an anachronistic embarrassment, now they are potentially being held to ransom on each and every vote by these political revenants from a century ago. This is not the way to nurture and sustain the Union.

  • mickfealty

    It’s close to the line, certainly. But not over. The headline needs a bold (and accurate) argument to stand it up.

  • Zeno3

    Odd that Mc Williams fails to mention Northern Ireland sales to the rest of the UK. Technically he is correct, that £12,5 billion isn’t an export but then again he isn’t giving a fair and unbiased opinion ,is he?.
    He also fails to explain how the growth of the Catholic population means a UI is on the way. If the Catholic population is at 44% and support for the union in the latest poll is 19% how can he predict a UI is on the way?

  • the Moor

    Is he predicting a UI or arguing for one on political economic grounds? Of course there aren’t any unbiased economists, anymore than you’re likely to find unbiased politicians, political scientists, mandarins or clergy under a rock or lying deep in the clover. To my mind the primary issue isn’t bias – his bias in favour of UI is declared – it’s the depth, reliability of the data and method and therefore, overall, of the analysis proffered. You’re clearly not persuaded. You say it’s odd that he exclude sales to GB. Yet as as these are ‘domestic’ on the current constitutional position, if instead factored as defacto exports (as you seem to infer), that’d surely presuppose an actually independent northern economy, which manifestly the NI economy isn’t. Second, in regarding the demographic trends, the difference between yours and his interpretation is as between headline, short-term (a snapshot of the present relation based) and a longitudinal reading of the underlying trends.

  • Zeno3

    My problem is he isn’t comparing like for like. We sell £12.5 billion a year to the UK. That is part of our economy. If he is going to compare the two ROI/NI economies then he has to make an allowance for that.
    Why he doesn’t is obvious. He is painting a false picture.
    On the second point. To prove it he needs to show correlation between the growth of the Catholic Population and support for United Ireland. Good luck to him with that one.

  • the Moor

    As argument comprises evidence supported by illustration, perspective on the evidence and examples used will tend to shine through. My issue lies in his model of a future island economy (not fully outlined in the piece) conjoined by commitment to low-taxation. That’d be a low-wage economy of minimal social infrastructure – in a liberal rather than a social democratic state.

  • Zeno3

    My issue is he is selecting facts which can easily be dismissed as evidence of the strength relative strength of the ROI economy and omitting facts that apply to the NI economy. The purpose of the article seems little more than to tell the faithful what they want to hear.
    A few years ago an American Company won Ireland’s Exporter of the Year. They didn’t produce anything in Ireland but simply booked all their advertising sales in Europe and even Australia through their Irish office. That company was Google and these sales became “exports” and were around 12 billion. Yet David happily compares “exports”.

  • the Moor

    Indeed. As I said, my concern is his model of a future Irish economy that cannot provide health care, education, infrastructure spending, or pensions. It is not a social vision that will find support on the left – though interestingly, it’s a vision of subalternity to multinational capital regarded favourably by FF and FG and, in Britain, by the brexiteers.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Nevin, you really need to read Alvin Jackson’ excellent “Home Rule” for a serious appraisal of this. Considerable research has been done about the complete commitment of rank and file Liberalism to Home Rule through all three Bills after Gladstone’s won conversion. With the curtailment of the power of the Lords the Third Home Rule Bill was a certainty for a party which believed is devolution. Your own obsession with “side deals” is simply not borne out by proper historical research. Although I should say that the story we Protestants were taught at school about a bullying IPP refers primarily to that great Belfastman, Wee Humpy Joe Biggar and the 1880s, and should not be so anachronistically inferred into the 1900s when they Liberals were all to keen to attempt a final settlement of Ireland’s British problem once the Lords could not block matters.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    The Moor, “It is interesting that you purport to believe a marxist historian to have had influence over two governments.” I have been attempting to inform Nevin that he really needs to read Desmond’s pronouncements far more critically, especially with an eye to what Desmond was claiming for his own interest. But then I suppose that image of all powerful and malevolent Republican Reds manipulating NICRA and the PD to fit into some pre-ordained plan fro the destruction of Unionist Civilisation SPECTRE style is simply too compelling. I blame Ian Fleming myself (whose NI interests are an eye opener in themselves).

  • SeaanUiNeill

    James, the issue is of money already allocated to the north, in other contexts, which is being bundled in with money squeezed out of Teresa’s treasury, but which will mainly go to plug the RHI ash pit. It is not new money adding a clear advantage of a billion to our community.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Thank you Mick, I could readily see how Patricia might be critiqued and was genuinely interested in seeing whether Pete could seriously deconstruct her arguments with his won “analysis”, especially as I agree generality on those points she is trying to make above about the misrepresentation of the billion as a clear billion of money “won.”

  • the Moor

    Nev doesn’t appear to wish to speak further on the matter, which is fair enough of course. A number of things about the response to my less-than-controversial critique of the early years of the troubles struck me. It is a while since I’ve encountered a for-real RED SCARE imagination and correspondingly paranoic fantasy life. Quite quaint in a way, very 1950s. More seriously, as a revisionist explanation, it infers that all was otherwise well in the sectarian state of NI prior to marxist meddling with the weak minds of the masses. However as this is almost too silly to comment on am not inclined to seek to rebut. I can’t comment either on his literary tastes. The comparison with Fleming’s febrile fantasies may be moot. It put me in mind of the playground passing-the-blame explanation: ‘A big boy did it and ran away.’

  • james

    “but which will mainly go to plug the RHI ash pit.”

    Said ‘ash pit’ is, sadly, a bill which has to be paid irrespective.

    If you receive a Xmas bonus of £2,000 – but are compelled to use it immediately to pay off the debt on your credit card – you can hardly credibly argue that your employer never really paid you.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    A delightful collection of what are very much my own views also. As you say, it has become a Unionist trope that all was well before evil men came and despoiled their Eden. My great grandfather was active in the inception of Unionism and I had “moderate, liberal” Unionist relatives at the time who seriously believed in the 1960s that O’Neill’s attempts to persuade Wilson to authorise his use of the Specials against NICRA and my pals in the PD was actually a plan! When that failed they began to mutter that Bunting Sr and Paisley were extreme, but probably what were needed at that moment. Really. And the endless Red scares. The innocuous Labour Party Young Socialists who set up the PD are pictured as bloodthirsty Marxist Chekists, even by historians who should know better! Marxists perhaps, but very “neo”, very Marcuse, and a few light years away from the excitable Trots who hung hopefully about the fringes of meetings at QUB Student Union waiting for a re-play of the November Revolution without the tears.

    As you say, its much easier to claim a “Big Boy did it and ran away” than to look at the still mighty shortcomings of captain O’Neill’s modernising but still inherently illiberal attempts to escape the world of Paisley and aspire to the world of Stanley Baldwin.

  • the Moor

    Perhaps TS Eliot rather than Marcuse – though I can why you mention him – in an intellectual context which combines fear and loathing of the demotic in equal measure and crosses over left and right versions of ‘mass society’ theory. Arguably, Orwell’s ‘1984’ repeats much the same motifs. But then he and they were writng in 1930s and 1940s, so they had a good pretext for their anxieties.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    My beef here, James, is that the DUP are being praised for filling in a part of a completely unnecessary hole their leader has dug us all into, and representing this as a victory of some sort. When someone breaks my leg and then hands me a branch as a crutch, please don’t expect me to feel grateful, let alone join in the accolades at their altruism.

    If they were honest enough to publicly admit the incompetence of Arlene in the matter, rather than feature smiling pictures of her undermining the Union by methods which one Conservative friend of mine described on the phone a few days back as “the paramilitary technique of demanding protection money”, I’d at least give them credit for the effort to correct a local party miscalculation. Look, I’m not saying we could not do with an injection of money, just that as half of it is earmarked to pay for something Arlene should have resigned over, and only those of our citizens signed up for RHI will be getting any of that £470,000,000, its a bit stiff necked to be demanding praise for this from the public.

  • the Moor

    I don’t know the Liam Cummins to whom Nevin provided a link. Do you? While I wasn’t there, it seems to me only good critical sense to be sceptical of the magnitude of claims made by participant–observers. Besides which, in my experience, as a group, Derrymen have a tendency to believe the whole world ends at Prehen …

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Nevin is referring to the Limavady born Liam Ó Comain, who wrote his own account of the period “In Pursuit of Peace in Ireland: The Memoirs and thoughts of an Irish Revolutionary Republican” a few years back. He also wrote a selection of poems titled “In Praise of Derry.” He was a player in the IRA in Derry from the 1960s, one of the group Desmond mentions at the Maghera 1966 meeting (so beloved of conspiracy theorists) and gets frequent mention in books like Eamonn McCann’s “War in an Irish Town” as being very active in what was going on over in the west. My own stomping grounds were Belfast and Dublin at that time and my own crowd of choice were the little group from whom the PD would develop after the Coalisland march in 1968. Derry was almost as far as Height Ashbury on my mental horizon until after Coalisland. Talk about Derry men believing the whole world ends locally!

    As you say, “it seems to me only good critical sense to be sceptical of the magnitude of claims made by participant-observers”, something I’d even occasionally apply to my own version of events. But so many people wish to believe that it was their actions which altered history, and alias, they put it in print for the uncritical and impressionable to construct patterns from. The most interesting person no-one remembers to my mind was Cyril Toman, who shaped the little group Mick Farrell inherited when he came back from Scotland to his meeting with destiny.

  • the Moor

    And what became of Cyril, do you know?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Cyril stood as a councillor during the troubles, but in time emigrated to Australia for a normal life after a lot of harassment. He is now a film maker living in Perth.

    I wrote about him on Slugger four years back:

    “Someone who should really be remembered as an inspirational leader is Cyril Toman who did all the real groundwork on which much of the People’s Democracy was built over 1967/8 well before Mick Farrell came back from Scotland, and before anyone this side of the country had even heard of Eamonn McCann!


    Cyril’s witty ironies probably went too far over many of the ideologists heads for his own good most of the time, but for any who relished the absurdities of those terrible early years of the troubles, he is much missed at the present day when his humour might just illuminate some of darker spots of the present. Like so many others past and present, Cyril is in exile in Australia today.”

    I particularly remember his returning from London after the Anti Vietnam war march on the American Embassy in March 1968. He was effervescent with stories of how he’d advised “Tariq” (Tariq Ali) on strategy based on good old Belfast know-how when the advancing march was blocked by lines of police. “The side streets are empty. Just send streams behind the cordons that way.” The sheer fun of seeing a liner weakness and simply flowing around it (over and over apparently) struck me at the time as a quite similar thing to how my illustrious namesake played with the Earl of Sussex’s invasion of Ulster in the 1560s. But “Me and Tariq” became a sort of byword after that for Cyril as a strategist.

  • the Moor

    Maybe he’ll be repatriated for 50th anniversary celebration. Does the ’68-generation have a collective plans for some manner of veterans march past?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I doubt he’d want to come back, the sun’s more fun down under, from what I remember of my own celebration of the millennium watching the Sydney fireworks with some family who have become surfers and beach bums.

    Paul Arthur gave a talk on “NICRA/50” at the Linen Hall Library a few weeks back where the PD were discussed intelligently and I saw some people I’d not encountered for quite a while. If a “fifty year” medal has been struck and a march past the old site of the Coalisland police cordon has been arranged, no one has contacted me or any of the survivors of the PD about it. Perhaps someone has told Austin Currie?