Saturday, March 16, 2013

A United Ireland - Top 10 Benefits

With Sinn Féin pushing for a date to be set for a border poll in the life time of the next Assembly, it appears to be a good time to look at some of the advantages of a United Ireland. A United Ireland makes sense and here are ten reasons why:

1. Peace
There has been a conflict in Ireland for 800 years. The route cause of this conflict is British policy in Ireland, depriving people of their right to self-determination and self rule. The border divides our people. Division causes conflict. In a United Ireland the route cause of the centuries old conflict would be removed.

Any subsequent Loyalist backlash in the event of a United Ireland would dissipate, as would any further Republican insurgence. The level of public support that would be required for sustained violent campaign, against a democratic decision made by the people of Ireland North and South, by way of a referendum would not exist. The findings of the Independent Monitoring Commission on the strength and capabilities of paramilitaries also make it is difficult to envisage how a rebellion could be sustained in the medium and long term.

2. Ending Partition
Partition has had a devastating effect on Ireland. The new Irish Free State suffered as it was cut off from the industrialised North. Before 1922, £19.1 million of Ireland's £20.9 million of exports came form industries around Belfast. By 1926 only 7% of jobs in the South were in manufacturing, while in the North the figure was 30%.

The border regions were cut off from their natural economic hinterlands and continue to be disadvantaged from a lack of  economic stability as a result of having two economies on such a small island. At different times, business on either the North or South of the border have benefited or gone bust due to fluctuating and changing economic circumstances. Business does not like instability. This is not a sustainable long term economic policy for border areas or the island as a whole. A United Ireland would bring economic stability to create an environment in which business can thrive.

Just as two separate tax, currency and legal systems make no sense, neither does two competing economies on such as small island. Instead of competing against one another on this small island, a United Ireland would allow us to come together to compete against the rest of the world.

3. Economics
Economically a United Ireland makes sense. A United Ireland would bring about the removal of duplication of services on the island. This would lead to much more efficient and effective public services. A United Ireland would also bring about the transfer of fiscal powers from London. Focused and suitable economic policy would result in the creation of tens of thousands of jobs. A United Ireland would also benefit from economies of scale, greater efficiencies and synergies.

It has been argued that the Republic of Ireland could not afford Northern Ireland due to the the fact that Northern Ireland is subsidised by the English tax payer up to the tune of £10bn per annum, or closer to £4.5bn when VAT and Corporation Tax revenues, which are generated in Northern Ireland but declared in London are taken into account. Regardless of the figure, this is a grossly over-simplistic and naive argument. It does not take into account the additional tax revenue that would be generated from fiscal policy suited to the local economy rather than the economy of South East England. Neither does it consider expenditure savings from the removal of duplication of services and other efficiencies and synergies.

Economies of Scale would bring more effective indigenous industries and bigger markets not just in the context of an Irish market of 6.3 million people, but the door would open up to the European market of some 300 million people. Greater economies of scale would also lead to a greater pull in Foreign Investment.

4. Industry
For the agricultural, tourism, energy and other industries a United Ireland makes sense.

Ireland's reputation of producing high quality foods is second to none. An Bord Bia reports that Ireland's food and drink exports have reached €9 billion, a record high. Exports to the Asian market have soared since 2010, increasing by 75% (remember the Chinese President Xi Jinping visiting Ireland last year!). It is expected that Irish food and drink exports will exceed €12 billion by 2020. A 32 county approach will surpass this figure and ensure no part of Ireland is left behind. The marketing 'Brand Ireland' has the potential to create thousands of jobs and double exports over the next ten years.

A single cohesive voice will be better placed to ensure a fair price for produce from meat plants and processors, regulate the power of super markets and deliver better deals from CAP reform discussions. Agri-business will also benefit from the free movement of animals across Ireland. A "Fortress Ireland" approach will be better placed to fend off animal diseases such as Foot and Mouth and Blue tongue disease.

Ireland is the world's 'favourite holiday destination' and has the world's friendliest people according to Frommer's Guide and Lonely Planet. No surprise then that tourism in the Republic of Ireland is one of the biggest contributors to the economy, with over 6.5 million visitors annually, generating nearly €6 billion in revenue, accounting for about 4% of GNP and employing over 200,000 people.

2013 promises to be a bumper year for Irish tourism. Increased flights and flight routes to and from the vital North American market have coincided with ''The Gathering" festival which has got off to a good start and promises to bring thousands more visitors to these shores and generate an additional €1 billion for the economy. However Arlene Foster and DUP apathy to the tourist initiative means that Northern Ireland will see little or no benefit from the festival.

Is it any wonder then, that tourist numbers in Northern Ireland have fallen and fallen again despite the millions spent on the awful "Our Time Our Place" marketing campaign. Marketing Northern Ireland as "part of the United Kingdom" distinct from the rest of Ireland has not worked and will not work. The annual marching season will not attract visitors. Given the reputation of the Orange Order abroad and association of these marches with violence, potential visitors will avoid this "festival" like the plague.

A United Ireland would see all parts of Ireland, particularly the North reach its undoubted tourist potential. This will happen when the entire island is marketed as a single destination. Most overseas tourists, especially those from North America, come to visit the island as a whole. People come to Ireland for the céad míle fáilte, the scenery, the traditional music, the Irish language, the Guinness and all that is bound up in the Celtic Irish identity promoted abroad. It's cool, it's appealing, it's ancient and it works.

In the last 12 months as much as one billion barrels of oil have been discovered off the coast of Kerry (South Porcupine Basin), an estimated 1.6 billion barrels have been discovered in the Ballyroe oil field off the coast of Cork and half a billion barrels discovered off the Antrim coast. A gold rush in the south east and past gas field discoveries also provide evidence that Ireland has astounding wealth of natural resources.

Although taxation policy needs to be revised, Ireland's renewable energy also provides a great source of wealth. The recent signing of a memorandum of understanding with the British Government will mean billions of euros worth of renewable energy will be exported to Britain, benefiting the economy by generating additional tax revenue for the exchequer, providing huge savings from reduced imports of oil and gas and the creation "tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of jobs".

A United Ireland would see the creation of an All Ireland energy network which would facilitate further financial and efficiency benefits leading to reduced energy prices. The enormous benefits from Ireland's natural resources would be spread among it's 6.3 million citizens, much more beneficial to people of the North than their share of the proceeds of UK Scottish north sea oil spread among 60 million people.

5. Social
Socially a United Ireland makes sense. A United Ireland would mean that the most vulnerable in our society are protected. It is widely acknowledged that the level of social protection offered by the Irish Government is among the most generous in the developed world. Britain offers no model for social protection, where the ruling Conservative Party look after only the rich. OAPs in the UK receive c£98 per week. In the Republic of Ireland, those people who have worked all their lives and contributed so much benefit to the tune of c€230 per week.

6. Health
An All Ireland health service makes sense. An all Ireland version of the NHS is possible. Shared patient services such as single state of the art children's hospital, a single heart surgery unit and other shared services and units makes sense. Operating two inferior and unviable health systems and services on one small island makes no sense at all.

NI Health Minister Edwin Poots acknowledged "the views of eminent health professionals who believed a North-South model would be best". An All Ireland Health Feasibility Report has concluded that an all Ireland approach would provide "specialist surgical procedures on an island-wide basis, surgery that people at present have to leave Ireland to access".

A United Ireland would allow us to create a health care that provides full equality of access, that is responsive to the diverse health needs of the population as a whole, that is flexible enough to provide the highest quality care appropriate to the needs of each individual and that is free at the point of delivery.

7. Education
An all Ireland education system makes sense. Operating two systems on one small island makes no sense at all. It has led to imposed academic selection misery on children in the North. It has led to a brain drain of Northern Ireland students to Scotland and England, many of whom never return. It has led to Donegal Tuesday! Currently students are not able to choose third level education institutions on the basis of preference and convenience. This is due to the folly of two education systems operating back to back on an Island of six million people

An United Ireland with an education system that focuses on building a sustainable economy would bring financial and efficiency benefits, sharing of resources and expertise and greater ease of contact and mobility between and among institutions, partners and personnel involved in education. It would bring free education to all.

8. Sport
All Ireland sports teams and organisations make sense. Our Rugby teams have won grand slams and triple crowns, our boxers have 'boxed above their weight' with Olympic medal success and our golfers have taken on the world and won.

Football could learn from other sports, it could listen to Best, Gillespie, Jennings, Hamilton, Dougan, Lennon, Best, O'Neill, Giles etc. Together so much more can be achieved than remaining apart. An all-island league would generate more income for clubs and provide more talented players for a re-constituted national team.

9. Politics
Politically a United Ireland makes sense. Currently, part of the island is effectively governed from a city in the south of a neighbouring island with different political, economical and social needs. The Government of this neighbouring island does not have a mandate in Northern Ireland. Neither do any of the parties in Britain whether it be the Tories, Labour or the Liberals have any representation in Northern Ireland, nor do they have any real interest or connection with it.

Irish unity, a unity based on a parliament in Ireland with a strong role for Protestants (representing 20% of the parliament rather than 2% in the UK parliament) holding the balance of power and with strong safeguards for those of British identity makes sense. The people of the south want a United Ireland while the English have no interest in the place.

10. Romance
The Norman invasion from England in 1169 marked the beginning of the British colonisation of Ireland. At various times over the next 800 years Irish men and women resisted British rule and attempted to assert Irish independence.

The war of independence began with the 1916 Easter Rising and ended in 1921 after partition was imposed against the will of the Irish people under threat of "an immediate and terrible war" from Britain.

Partition brought partial independence to Ireland. 26 of Ireland's 32 counties would become free of British rule. The other six counties were left isolated in a sectarian "Protestant State for a Protestant people". The in built manufactured unionist majority treated Catholics as second class citizens. Decades of discrimination, electoral gerrymandering, human rights abuses and sectarian pogroms instanced by a sectarian state led to the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association emerging in the late 1960s.

The violent reaction to the demands of the civil rights campaigners and the widespread political unrest culminated in the murder by British Paratroopers of 14 unarmed civilians in Derry on Bloody Sunday in 1972.

The period know as "The Troubles" had begun and culminated in the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 which paves a peaceful route to a United Ireland.

A United Ireland would bring Ireland what it has endeavoured for 800 years. Freedom.


  1. Excellent article Enda,
    It is precisely the type of discussion we should be having. The ball is now rolling and I hope more people will choose to join in.

  2. Could you please elaborate further on "It has been argued that the Republic of Ireland could not afford Northern Ireland due to the the fact that Northern Ireland is subsidised by the English tax payer up to the tune of £10bn per annum, or closer to £4.5bn when VAT and Corporation Tax revenues, which are generated in Northern Ireland but declared in London are taken into account."

    Maybe show a independent source?

    I find your article fascinating.

    The finanacial arguement for me is the cornerstone of this debate and if your figures are correct then it will go a long long way to change minds

  3. Hi Enda,

    Great article as always. I was thinking bout the sporting part of a UI myself today and how I'd love to see Cliftonville thrashing St Pats and picking up a cup in the Aviva. We can only dream....

  4. "It is precisely the type of discussion we should be having"

    It was great up until point 10. Then is descended into a statement of claim and a denial of the right to northern self-determination that was accepted in the GFA. Which is a pity - especially when point 2 shows just how different the economies of the north and south were at partition and how rational support for the union was from a population that depended on trade in manufactured goods throughout the united kingdom and the empire.

    Which is it - an argument for an equal, liberal, open and prosperous society based on enlightened self interest or a hackneyed load of catholic grammar debating society cliche about rights and wrongs that will never leave the cul-de-sac of the last 40 years?

    Tell you what - and I mean this seriously - tell us why prods should accept moral arguments for a united ireland when no-one ever accepted the moral argument for not blowing up Bangor, Belfast, Coleraine, Newtownards, Lisburn, Enniskillen and any other town with a protestant majority and a better than even chance of the economic pain being born by prods and any collateral casualties being prod rather than taig.

    See - I've upset myself and I'm FOR a united ireland.

    Leave the moralising out of it.

    I liked your earlier piece on the economics of unity by the way :)

  5. YY, I do not have any indpendent sources....yet. Unionists have stated the figure is £10 billion. Nationalists argue (such as in leargas blog) that it is actually £4.8 billion. Perhaps when a referendum on unity is called, economic think tanks/consultants will be commissioned to report. I am confident about what their conclusions would be.

    Otto, I dont know what to make of your assessment of point 10 but I will have a think about it. This post is not complete.

  6. Just set up a new opinion poll on my blog. Every vote is welcome.

  7. Hi Enda,

    Apologies for being something of a self-promoter but I have a guest blogger on my site, Cleenish, posting in the same vein as yourself above here.

    You and your readers are, as always, more than welcome to pass comment.



  8. This all seems a bit too easy going and perfectly planned disregarding the opinions of people in Northern Ireland and in the Republic of Ireland, especially with the social aspect of OAP's in Britain receiving as little as £98 a week. Peace? There is peace now and has been developing in the North for about the last 10 years properly as compared to 1990, 86, 84 along with the fact that somehow a United Ireland might open up EU single markets to the entire island of Ireland ... we already are benefitting from such on both sides of the border. Politics is shit both sides of the border let's be honest now and a United Ireland just allows the Dáil to fuck over people in the North too. Also, 2 tourism boards of NI and ROI are working together to advertise the whole island to the world as a tourist destination. Ach sin mar atá saol agus níor mhaith le daoine ar bith Éire amhain níos mó mar anois, tá daoine sasta cá bíonn said.

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