A NEW UNION – IRELAND 2050: A consultative draft report

Posted on May 17, 2018 · Posted in Self-published

A NEW UNION

IRELAND 2050

POST-BREXIT ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL

CONSULTATIVE DRAFT REPORT

 

CONTENTS

 

  1. AIMS OF REPORT

 

  1. FOREWORD

 

  1. 10 POINT ECONOMIC PLAN

 

  1. UNITY OR THE UNION : A DEBATE THAT CANNOT BE IGNORED

 

  1. CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGES

 

  1. LEGAL CHANGES TO PROTECT UNIONIST CULTURE & IDENTITY

 

  1. ALTERNATIVE VIEW – DES MURPHY OPINION

 

  1. CONCLUSION

 

  1. RECOMMENDATIONS

 

10. APPENDICES

 

 

AIMS OF REPORT

The aim of this discussion document is to provide suggestions to inspire the beginning of a civic debate in response to the letter by 105 unionists in the Belfast Telegraph.

Our primary aim is to outline a form of economy and political settlement which aims to satisfy, at least partially, the aspirations of our unionist neighbours on this island and command their loyalty.

It has been said that Irish nationalism has failed to gain traction with Protestants and dissenters in the north east corner of the island (the fourth green field) because it sought to impose political authority through coercion without first securing social cohesion.

We are making suggestions for debate as to how this social cohesion can be achieved going forward.

We are motivated by the question: What kind of island do we want our children and grandchildren to inherit in the Ireland of 2050?

People need to reach out and understand other people’s point of view; in the absence of dialogue we get misunderstanding, fear and conflict.

We further aim to promulgate the most accommodating ideas we have come across for a long term political solution that will not only command consent of the majority in both parts of our island, but also loyalty to the new union.

It is not just a question of union with GB versus united Ireland, but a question of shaping also a new Union between the nations who share these islands: Scotland, Wales, RoI, NI, IoM and Jersey, respecting and built on civil and economic rights.  Martin Luther King’s essays were not just about civil rights, but also economic rights – this is what our young students should be debating, not just flags and languages.

We aim to bring about a debate or discussion of how we need to expand our Irish identity to include other than the two traditional faiths and contested land identities, can Irish civic republicans articulate a civic nationalism  that is free from ethnic sectarian nationalism? There must be space to disconfirm old assumptions and expectations thus making habitual responses and even identities seem anachronistic.

Our hope is this will lead to the reigniting of the process of reconciliation which has lacked momentum in recent years since being dropped from the Executive’s programme in 2007 and which is essential not only if we are build a new union, but if we are to have harmony within the house we live in.

 

Authors Pat Mc Art, Paul Gosling; legal contributor Des Murphy SC.

Research co-ordinator Colm McKenna.

 


 

FOREWORD

“It is acknowledged all the above – and many, many more – made a massive contribution to our shared history; what is rarely mentioned is all were Protestant.”

The contribution of the Protestant community to the island of Ireland has been immense. The first civil rights movement in Ireland was initiated at the First Presbyterian Church, which overlooks the Bogside in Derry/Londonderry as indicated by the plaque on its walls honouring those who suffered.

Without Edward Bunting much of our music and folklore would have been lost. Wilde, Yeats, Beckett, O’Casey brought our literature to the world. Charles Stewart Parnell, Wolfe Tone, Thomas Davis, John Mitchel were all towering political figures. The Irish language revival owes much to Douglas Hyde.

It has to be acknowledged all the above – and many, many more – made a massive contribution to our shared history. What is rarely mentioned is all were Protestant.

Now we stand at the brink of what are likely to be two the most momentous events in this country since partition almost a century ago – Brexit and the emergence of a Catholic/nationalist majority in Northern Ireland. The implications for the two communities on the island are immense.

It is our firm belief that rather than procrastinate we should begin discussing our future now, and we ask you to join with your fellow islanders in developing a constitution and/or Bill of Rights for the whole island. A new union would be a victory for all the traditions on these islands; it would not be surrender if all of who live here were to engage in designing a peaceful future to hand down as our gift to our children and grandchildren.

It is with profound respect for both your culture and traditions we request you to do this.

Times are much changed. There is much to discuss, and many more changes to be made. While it is accepted that the Catholic church held undue sway in the Republic for many years, the picture was not always as it seems. Two of the first Irish presidents were Protestants. It also needs to be pointed out the Protestant gentry in the south did not lose their lands. To this day many of the biggest and most successful farmers in the Republic are Protestant and proud of it, and in no way have to hide their religious beliefs. And does it not seem more than a little paradoxical that polo, a game with a very British military background, continues to be played in the Phoenix Park in Dublin but not in Londonderry?

Should the 12th of July become an all-Island bank holiday? Could the ‘Londonderry Air/Danny Boy’ become the new national anthem for a New Ireland? How could the Union Jack and the Tricolour be accommodated in a new flag? These are all issues that need to be discussed and decided upon.

As has been pointed out time out of number the Orange Order while the source of much friction in Northern Ireland has long paraded and is made most welcome in Donegal.

An Ulster man, Harry Ferguson, has probably done more to help farmers than any single individual in history.  Arguably the greatest footballer this world has seen, George Best, was born in Belfast. Rory Best, our rugby captain, is as much a hero in the south as he is in the north.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth took it upon herself as monarch to speak in Gaelic when visiting Dublin, Prince Charles who sees himself as “defender of faiths” not a faith has expressed his desire to wander among the hills of Kerry with the same freedom as he enjoys elsewhere.

In a new, agreed union he could.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

UNITY OR THE UNION: A DEBATE THAT CANNOT BE IGNORED

Brexit and the changing demographics in Northern Ireland have brought centre stage the so called ‘union or unity’ debate. The rapidity with which the issue has come from the back burner to mainstream has caught many by surprise. And whilst it is certain to be a cause of anxiety to unionists it’s a debate, according to leading unionist political pundit, Alex Kane, that cannot be ignored.

Writing in the Belfast News Letter (April 23rd) Kane didn’t pull any punches: “My advice to fellow unionists: do not ignore this debate, do not kid yourself this issue is going away. Do not kid yourself that somehow it’ll be ‘alright on the night.’”

Kane has good reason for exhorting unionism to get engaged. They are in a minority in Belfast city council. Four out of the six counties now have nationalist majorities. They are in a minority in the Assembly, and in the last two elections unionists/pro-union candidates were also in the minority.

Referring to the changing demographics, Kane didn’t provide much cheer for the unionist community there either: “The latest figures from Dr. Paul Nolan – a specialist in the field – suggests that Catholics will represent a majority by 2021. I don’t buy the view that all Catholics oppose the union or would, in a border poll, vote against but I do buy into the view that unionists should take nothing for granted anymore.”

The whole issue of ‘unity or the union’ is, of course, nothing new.

Sir Edward Carson, the founder of the northern state – who described himself as ‘a proud Irish man’ – was very much in favour of a united Ireland, albeit under the aegis of the Parliament at Westminster. His belief was that his country was better off in union with Britain than without. Partition in 1921 was not his first choice option.

Fast forward half a century from partition to 1971 and broadcaster and author Don Anderson tells the story of the night when that colossus of modern day Ulster unionism, Rev Ian Paisley, discussed the possibility of Irish unity during a meeting in the Europa Hotel with a group of southern journalists.

The former BBC journalist wrote: “Far into the night Paisley eventually gave Liam Hourican of RTE an interview, in which he asked that, if the Republic ditched the 1937 constitution (meaning the sovereignty claim over Northern Ireland) and changed certain other laws, whether he would consider the prospect of being part of a united Ireland. He (Paisley) replied, to the astonishment of the journalists, that such a situation, would present an ‘entirely different set of circumstances’.”

In fact, Paisley went even further in an interview with the Irish Press newspaper later that same year, when he said if the people of the south wanted the Protestants of the north to join them they should scrap the 1937 constitution in its entirety, so as to ensure the Catholic church could no longer have undue influence on Irish politics, adding: “If this were done, then the Protestant people would take a different view…”.

The decision of the British people to vote ‘leave’ in the Brexit referendum has, undoubtedly, been a major catalyst in accelerating the debate. Many nationalists were reasonably content with a UK that was part of the EU where, they believed, their identity was protected. That comfort blanket of protected identity won’t exist, many feel, in a UK outside the EU.  The Dublin government and various nationalist parties in the north have been quick to give voice to this concern.

But it’s not just nationalists who have an issue with Brexit. Good Friday Agreement negotiator, Jonathan Powell, has said some unionists would prefer to live in a united Ireland rather than leave the EU.

In an article in the Belfast Telegraph on April 9th this year he stated: “You do hear stories of middle-class unionists in the golf and rugby clubs saying, ‘if we’re going to leave the EU, we might as well stay in as a united Ireland’.

“Friends of mine tell me they’re hearing this. You’d have never heard that before.”

Mr. Powell, former prime minister Tony Blair’s chief of staff, pointed to the fact that the percentage of people in the north who voted ‘remain’ in the Brexit vote was more than the Catholic population, which indicated to him there were some unionists prioritising EU membership.

How all this will pan out is far from conclusive. There hasn’t been a ‘national’ conversation on the issue yet, and it’s unlikely there will be one until Brexit is sorted. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t need for one. The issues at play here are many and varied. For many nationalists in Northern Ireland unity is not an open and shut case. Far from it.

David McWilliams, who has done extensive research on the north, has no doubt that major change is inevitable. Writing in the Irish Times last year he pointed out: “Demographics are leading to a changed north…. Some northern Catholics may want to remain in the union, which ironically could be more attractive if the Catholic population were in the majority, because they’d have the power without having to pay for it. Also many people in the Republic might baulk at the unification bill. But the demographic patterns pose the most significant and immediate challenge to unionism, because, within a generation, democratic politics in the north will come down to whether unionism can persuade nationalism to keep Northern Ireland intact.”

Does it still pay to be a unionist?

 

When Northern Ireland was established in 1922, after the partition of the island of Ireland, unionists could point with great confidence to the three rock solid pillars on which their political edifice was built – politics, religion and economics.

 

In terms of politics they had a solid two thirds majority in every election, in regard to religion the six counties was overwhelmingly Protestant and in terms of economics, in and around Belfast was a powerhouse producing almost 80% of the industrial output of the entire island of Ireland.

The logic of the unionist position in any debate on the issue of whether partition was a good or a bad thing was blindingly obvious – it paid to be a unionist. Big time!

 

Fast forward to 2017 and McWilliams, writing in the Belfast Telegraph, pointed out that the north has an effective budget deficit of 22% of GDP (15% in 2002) while the RoI’s is 1%.

 

It gets worse. In late December 2017, in an article in the Irish Times, McWilliams delivered a devastating critique of just how poorly the north is doing in real terms: “The Republic’s economy is four times larger, generated by a workforce that is only two and a half times bigger. The south’s industrial output is today 10 times that of the north. Exports from the Republic are 17 times greater than those from Northern Ireland, and average income per head in the Republic, at €39,873, dwarfs €23,700 across the border.”

 

Those are just some of the startling statistics that reveal a massive reversal of fortunes between the two economies. Another is that while incomes in the north have grown five times in 60 years incomes in the south they have grown by twenty times.

 

And the bad news doesn’t end there. There has been a massive demographic shift in that four of the six counties now have Catholic/nationalist majorities. And those changes are gathering pace in that census figures from 2011 reveal the Catholic birth rate is way higher, while the Protestant death rate is almost double that of the other community. Put simply, there are more Catholics being born, more Protestants dying. It’s a double whammy.

 

With Brexit fast approaching and economic upheaval likely  –  the riddle of how trade will function with one part of the island inside the EU and the other outside has yet to be solved. It would seem the time has now arrived when the question can be legitimately asked: Does it still pay to be a unionist?

 

And a corollary question naturally follows: Would unity now make more economic sense for all citizens on the island?

 

It would seem the evidence is in the affirmative. In a massively detailed study of the impact of Irish unification published in 2015, a team led by Canadian academic, Professor Kurt Huebner of Vancouver University, came to the conclusion that a combined Irish economy, as opposed to two separate economies, would, in a short number of years, be greater than €35bn a year. It seems somewhat odd that this study, the only one of its kind ever undertaken, has been all but overlooked.

 

It is also self-evident that in terms of economies of scale, having two separate tax regimes, two legal systems, and two competing economic development agencies, doesn’t make sense. Neither does it seem particularly efficient on an island with just over 6.6m people to have two states and three governments – London, Dublin and Belfast – having input into the governance of the people.

 

Economically, the argument seems well defeated. The Republic has moved massively ahead of the north in terms of foreign direct investment. Since the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, US corporations have invested £312bn in RoI, equivalent to 56 years of UK government subvention in Northern Ireland.

 

London School of Economics professor Dr Christian Kissane, writing in the Irish Times last May, pointed out that the future for the north is likely to change dramatically post-Brexit. English politicians and taxpayers, he suggested, will likely demand cuts in the subvention upon which the Northern Ireland economy has become dependent and baulk at picking up the tab previously paid by the EU by way of subsidies and grants.

 

As far back as 2002 two leading Irish business journalists, Sean MacCarthaigh and Eamon Quinn, writing in the Sunday Business Post, put forward a detailed analysis of some elements of the restructuring needed of the Northern Ireland economy. In their conclusion they observed: “While they appear formidable none of the obstacles to an all-Ireland economy are insurmountable.”

 

Most formidable amongst those obstacles is the economic failure of Northern Ireland which needs to be addressed; any state that, according to the British government figures, still requires a £10bn annual subvention 100 years after its creation cannot be considered a success or sustainable. However, the whole question of the subvention is disputed. In their document, ‘Towards a United Ireland’, published last year, Sinn Fein decried this figure – they suggest it could be as low as £3bn – and alleged the £10bn figure was purely ‘a ploy’ by the British government to dampen down debate on a united Ireland –  but whatever the truth of the matter, it will have to be addressed.

 

Finally, it has to be acknowledged that Brexit has changed the dynamics of the debate on the future of this island. As News Letter columnist Alex Kane observed earlier this year (on January 5th), some unionists had taken offence at comments by Leo Varadkar in regard to a united Ireland, believing he should have ‘kept his nose out of our affairs’.  Kane wryly retorted he had no problem with Varadkar’s position, pointing out: “…thanks to the Brexit results, ‘our’ affairs have become their affairs.”

 

Any proposals to address the concerns fears and aspirations of the people of this island need to be

 

  1. Aspirational on an individual basis.
  2. Future orientated
  3. Realistic

 

 

 

The Southern Protestant Experience

“Irish Catholicism is itself becoming more Protestant”

Marlene Jefferson was a well-respected and well liked unionist deputy mayor of Derry/Londonderry in 1993. She was invited to give her views to the Opshal commission which had been established to look at ways to move things forward in Northern Ireland. Nothing was off the table, including looking at possible unity. Councillor Jefferson said she would have personal concerns about this, not least the fact that as a member of the Church of Ireland, she had seen the dramatic decline in membership in her church in the Republic.  This, however, changed at the end of the last century.

Heather K. Crawford, author of ‘Southern Irish Protestants and Irishness’, addressed this point in 2010 when she wrote: “The downward trend lasted until the end of the 20th century when it was arrested, Protestants were 3.8% and Catholics 87% of the population, i.e. Church of Ireland went up from 115,611 in 2002 to 125,585 in 2006. Other denominations also increased.”

In 2013 Justine McCarthy, writing in the Sunday Times, confirmed that the Republic’s 2011 census recorded a 6.4% increase in the Church of Ireland population between 2006 and 2011.

How much things have changed can be gauged by comments by well known journalist, Andy Pollak, the former Irish Times religious affairs correspondent, who spent a long time working in Belfast.

He stated: “I believe in 2015 the Republic of Ireland is a good place for Protestants. In the words of former Labour Party leader, Ruairi Quinn, Ireland is now a post-Catholic pluralist republic.”

Pollak went on to say that Garret FitzGerald’s view that Irish society had changed more rapidly than any other society in Western Europe in recent times held true – nearly 10% of the population is now foreign born.

“The Church of Ireland and other Protestant churches are growing again helped both by emigrants and by Catholics often disillusioned by a lack of spiritual and moral leadership (most scandalously by child abusing priests) in the majority church.”

Pollak added: “Irish Catholicism is itself becoming more Protestant with far more emphasis on liberty of the individual conscience and participation by grass roots members than in the previously authoritarian institutional church.”

Today many members of the Protestant churches are centre stage in Irish life. Bono of U2 bestrides the music world like no other. Ireland’s most loved sportswoman is Katie Taylor. Judge Susan Denham is a former president of the High Court. Ivan Yates is one of the country’s favourite broadcasters, while Graham Norton is beloved just about everywhere. Until recently there were two Protestant cabinet ministers, Heather Humphreys and Jan O’Sullivan, while one of the most colourful politicians in the Oireachtas is David Norris, who has been joined in the Irish senate by former Ulster Farmer’s Union president Ian Marshall.

Catherine McGuinness, retired Supreme Court Judge, argued at the Merriman Summer School that Irish Protestants can be, and were, as Irish as anyone else.

Perhaps we should conclude with Pollak`s quote in full: “None of this is any kind of attempt to persuade northern Protestants and unionists to give up their Britishness. However, they should realise the Republic isn`t such an alien place these days – in many way it is more open-minded, tolerant and liberal society than the north: and secondly, it wouldn`t do them any harm to admit they too have a little bit of Irishness in their make-up and it might be interesting to visit the south to explore that.”

 

 

ECONOMIC EFFECTS OF AN ALL-ISLAND ECONOMY 2018

Financial journalist Paul Gosling’s 43 page report “The Economic Effects of an All-Island Economy 2018 “ (published in April 2018) considered the potential economic impact of Irish reunification, with particular consideration given to the likely effects of Brexit.  The potential impact of Brexit could be devastating to the Northern Ireland economy and serious consideration needs to be given to what political strategies could mitigate the damage.  North-south economic integration would generate substantial benefits for all of the island.  This report concludes that there is a significant positive potential economic benefit from Irish reunification, particularly for the citizens of Northern Ireland.  It is recommended that preparations begin now in accordance with Article 3 of the Irish constitution, as amended following the Good Friday Agreement.  Progress towards achieving an all island economy should be reviewed annually by the Oireachtas.  This report included a ten point plan for how Irish reunification might be achieved.

 

“The Republic of Ireland sits atop the European growth charts, while Northern Ireland is closer to the bottom.” EY’s Economic Eye, Winter 2017

Ten Point Plan

  1. The UK government agrees to continue its subvention to Northern Ireland (currently operating through the Barnett formula) but on an annually tapering basis, with the UK subvention removed entirely within a negotiated period beyond reunification. UK support might be needed until 2050, supporting pension liabilities for civil servants, etc, under an arrangement similar to that with EU withdrawal. Over the long term this would produce a significant fiscal gain for the UK, which is likely to be welcomed by taxpayers in GB.  For Northern Ireland, the subsidy would be replaced by higher tax revenues as Northern Ireland benefits from the economic impact of reunification and the Republic’s economic policies.  Sovereignty might also transfer on a gradual basis.  Stormont might continue to operate as a devolved assembly, but of Ireland rather than of the UK.  There could also be a graduated move towards a truly all-island economy, with both sterling and the euro accepted by businesses during the transition process.  Substantial efforts must be made to accommodate the fears and concerns of those who have a British or Ulster Scots identity throughout the island of Ireland in order that a successful unified economy is achieved.

 

  1. Increased spending on capital projects is required to bring infrastructure up to modern European standards. The infrastructure deficit that was carried forward from the period of direct rule needs to be addressed, which means that the UK government has an obligation to help meet the cost of correcting the infrastructure deficit. A UK government investment of £10bn would assist significantly with this, towards the cost of roads, health reform, education facilities and water and sewage systems. A bridge or tunnel connection with Scotland could provide reassurance to unionists that economic, social and political connections with Great Britain could actually be strengthened through new arrangements.

 

  1. A reduction in the number of civil servants in Northern Ireland to the same level as the Republic would assist in making Northern Ireland financially self-sufficient. This would take place on a gradual basis to reduce the impact on individuals and on the wider economy. Ideally the impact would be spread over several years, achieved as much as possible by natural wastage. All redundancy, pension and restructuring costs would be paid for by UK. This restructuring would assist in boosting Northern Ireland productivity.

 

  1. The European Union would be asked to assist in the reunification of Ireland, which would address the problems caused by the Irish border post-Brexit. A new 32 county administration should be empowered to borrow cheaply to invest in the economy and all-island infrastructure. The European Investment Bank would play a key role in this.  

 

  1. A political agreement on a new all island basis, inside the EU, would attract increased EU funding through Interreg, including financial assistance in restructuring Northern Ireland’s infrastructure to improve its competitive position and integrated all-island economy.

 

  1. IDA Ireland would promote all of the island on the world stage. This would produce benefits for all. Given its track record in attracting FDI worldwide it should prove to be a major player in turning the Northern Ireland economy into a world class competitor with the added benefit for the Republic that the two agencies would no longer be in competition  but would be working together to produce economic growth.

 

  1. Improved direct links between education and industry in Northern Ireland as per the Republic would lead to a more competitive market-oriented economy, over time producing improvements in living and working environments. While Northern Ireland needs to learn from the Republic with regards to elements of its education and skills system, the Republic needs to learn from Northern Ireland in terms of the cost and efficiency of its health system. Neither system is adequate at present.  The Bengoa reforms need to be implemented in Northern Ireland as at present it has too many general hospitals, without sufficient specialist expertise.

 

  1. A harmonised corporation tax would make all the island more attractive to foreign direct investment and lead to domestic companies throughout the island being more competitive, thus leading to economic growth for all.

 

  1. As part of the post-Brexit response from the European Union, a special case should be presented to the European Union for assistance with the cost and social pressures involved with Irish reunification. This might be structured in ways that learn from the Marshall Plan and the experience of German reunification.

 

  1. A single and integrated Ireland would create economies of scale and a more competitive economy. A single Ireland would be a world leader in the fields of research and development (eg Trinity College, UCD and Queen’s, all in the same country), higher education, pharmaceuticals and new technologies.

Mike Nesbitt, quoted in the Brisbane Times[1]

 

Summary

 

  1. Since partition, the economic strength of the north and the south have gone into reverse. In 1920, 80% of Irish industrial output was in and around Belfast, with Belfast the largest city in the island of Ireland.  The economy of the Republic is now four times larger than that of Northern Ireland, with industrial output ten times larger than that of Northern Ireland.
  2. Average full time income per head in the Republic in 2016 was £40,403, compared to £25,999 in Northern Ireland. In other words, a worker in the Republic is typically paid half as much again as someone working in Northern Ireland.
  3. The cost of living in the Republic is much higher than in Northern Ireland, mitigating the benefits of higher pay. Housing availability and costs, in particular, would have to be addressed by a new state formed through reunification.  Regional policy would also need to be re-assessed by the new state.
  4. Since the Good Friday Agreement, increased investment has flowed to the Republic, rather than to Northern Ireland. Some £312bn of US investment has gone into the Republic since the GFA.
  5. GVA – gross value added – per capita in the Republic in 2014 was €38,100, compared to €22,000 in Northern Ireland, just 57% of that in the south.
  6. The Republic is much more globally and export focused than is Northern Ireland. As of 2015, exports accounted for 39.5% of Irish economic output, twice the level of Northern Ireland.
  7. The Republic is Northern Ireland’s main export market, accounting for 31% of international exports – a market likely to contract significantly following Brexit.
  8. Northern Ireland sells more goods and services to GB than to RoI. However, much of that trade is dependent upon all-island supply chains that could be disrupted by Brexit.  More NI businesses trade with the Republic than with GB.  An effective strategy for either retaining or replacing the trading relationships with GB would be needed as part of reunification.  Reunification is likely to greatly increase trade between the north and the south.
  9. The Republic has a fundamentally stronger economy than has NI and the economic performance gap between the Republic and Northern Ireland is widening. According to the latest Economic Eye study from accountancy firm EY, economic growth last year in the Republic was 4.9% and in Northern Ireland it was 1.4%.
  10. The Republic is expected to increase its employment level, while Northern Ireland is predicted to lose jobs. EY predicts that the Republic will generate an additional 91,000 jobs by 2020 compared to 2016, whereas Northern Ireland will lose 3,500 jobs.
  11. The Central Bank of Ireland’s latest economic bulletin predicts strong continued growth in the Republic, with pay expected to grow 3.3% in 2018 and 3.3% in 2019, with the Irish economy growing 4.8% in 2018 and 4.2% in 2019, despite the moderating influence of Brexit. Unemployment is predicted to fall, with an additional 99,000 persons forecast to be in work by the end of 2019.
  12. Northern Ireland suffered significantly as the UK moved its focus from manufacturing to being a service economy. Devolution arrangements since partition have been insufficient for Northern Ireland to create its own economic policies that are truly independent of London’s and have been insufficient for the north to generate the level of jobs growth required.  That policy weakness was exacerbated by the Troubles, which discouraged foreign direct investment.  Devolution has failed to deliver for Northern Ireland in terms of the economy: the gap between Northern Ireland’s and the UK’s employment rate has actually increased since the Good Friday Agreement.
  13. Northern Ireland compensated for the loss of manufacturing and private sector investment by relying on the public sector for employment, with a big growth in public sector employment between the mid 1960s to the late 1980s.
  14. The Republic generated substantial economic growth through its use of a low corporation tax base, a strongly skilled labour market and business friendly policy, attracting large levels of foreign direct investment. Northern Ireland was unable to compete, generating investment instead in low cost support services, while profit centres went to the lower tax jurisdiction of the Republic.
  15. The Republic has benefited from a very effective IDA Ireland, which has been more successful than Invest NI in attracting foreign direct investment, with the assistance of a more helpful business operating environment in the Republic.
  16. The Republic has been clever in its targeting of growth sectors, particularly those that prosper in a globalised economy. RoI has an open economy, from which it is easy to trade internationally.  Dublin’s International Financial Services Centre has been a major success.
  17. The Republic continues to benefit from membership of the European Union, with investors from countries outside the EU using Ireland as a bridgehead into the EU. Ireland is currently benefiting from some Brexit relocations from London.  Germany is the second highest source of inward investment into RoI, after the US.
  18. There is a greater focus on skills and qualifications in the Republic than in Northern Ireland. While 45% of young people in the Republic complete their education with a degree or higher, this is true of only about 31% in Northern Ireland. More than a third of Northern Ireland school leavers who go on to university do so in Great Britain, most of whom do not return to work in Northern Ireland. While 26% of Northern Ireland’s adult working age population are graduates, the figure is over 35% in Dublin and Cork.  Both the Republic and Northern Ireland suffer from a problem of too many adults lacking basic skills.
  19. Ireland’s health system is widely criticised as inefficient and costly. If Irish reunification takes place, any merged health care system should be based on a reformed NHS.  A united island would have to take the best from each jurisdiction, not simply add Northern Ireland onto the Republic.
  20. There are around 403,000 public servants in the Republic of Ireland, 8.4% of the population. There are around 205,700 public servants in Northern Ireland, 11.4% of the population.  This is also much higher than the UK average, where the figure is 8%.  More than 50,000 jobs would go if the public sector in the north were proportionate in size to the Republic and GB.  This could save more than £1.7bn a year in pay costs and national insurance contributions.  But any such process should be achieved as far as possible by natural wastage to limit redundancies and the negative impact on individuals and the ‘multiplier’ impacts on the wider economy.
  21. The possible retention of Stormont as a devolved assembly might limit to a small extent the level of job cuts.
  22. Experience in Great Britain suggests that the economy can generate more private sector jobs than are lost in the public sector, but that many of the new jobs are less well paid and insecure.
  23. Northern Ireland is less economically productive than is the Republic. PwC calculates that the Republic is 60% more productive than the north and that the UK is 15% more productive than Northern Ireland.  A review by Ulster University concluded that Great Britain is 25% more productive than Northern Ireland.  The productivity gap between GB and Northern Ireland is widening.
  24. Factors causing weak Northern Ireland productivity include lack of private and public sector investment, an inadequate skills base, lack of R&D and innovation, a weak culture of entrepreneurship and an insufficiently competitive economy. The small size of Northern Ireland may influence these factors, for example by reducing the level of internal market competition.
  25. Poor infrastructure is a key factor in the productivity weakness. Symptoms include long commuting times, delays in taking goods to market and slow broadband speeds in rural areas.
  26. The CBI and Ibec have called for substantial infrastructure investment to support the all-island economy. Northern Ireland’s weak infrastructure is, in part, the result of inadequate investment during direct rule years: it can therefore be argued that the UK government should contribute to addressing this deficit.
  27. Northern Ireland’s Investment Strategy plans for a capital spend on infrastructure projects of £8.2bn for the five year period 2015/16 to 2020/21, including road projects (including Belfast to Derry, Derry to Dublin, Belfast’s York Street interchange, Belfast to Larne and Greenisland); healthcare, schools; water and waste water; and housing.  This investment is insufficient to address Northern Ireland’s existing infrastructure deficit.
  28. Brexit will severely damage Northern Ireland’s economy, whatever type of trading relationships replace membership of the European Union.
  29. Leaked analysis conducted by officials in the Treasury concludes that Northern Ireland will be one of the UK regions most negatively affected by Brexit. According to reports, it concluded that without a deal with the EU, Northern Ireland’s economy will be 12% smaller than it would otherwise be; with a hard Brexit deal, the negative impact will be 8%; and with a soft Brexit deal it will be 2.5%.  This economic damage would be either eliminated or mitigated by Irish reunification and the retained membership of the European Union.
  30. A European Parliament report predicts a likely 3% reduction in Northern Ireland’s GDP through withdrawal.
  31. The economic cost to Northern Ireland of Brexit is likely to be severe. A 2.5% underperformance by the economy would equate to a loss of around £930m a year in potential economic activity compared to a non-Brexit scenario; a 3% underperformance in  the economy would be an annual £1.1bn loss of potential activity; an 8% hit would cost the economy £3bn; and a 12% hit would make the economy £4.5bn smaller than it would otherwise be.  That is equivalent to £2,500 per person.
  32. If the jobs impact was pro rata to the loss in potential economic activity, then we would have 67,000 fewer jobs in Northern Ireland under the 8% assumption and more than 100,000 fewer jobs under the 12% scenario.
  33. Northern Ireland’s agri-food sector is particularly at risk from Brexit. There are more than 29,000 farmers in Northern Ireland, with 87% of Northern Ireland’s total farming incomes coming from the EU’s Single Farm Payment. Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payments are crucial for Northern Ireland’s farmers, who receive 9% of the UK’s total allocation of EU pillar payments.
  34. Brexit provides a further threat to the agri-food sector in depriving it of access to an EU-wide labour market, on which many producers are dependent.
  35. There has been a significant increase in cross-border commercial operations in recent years, as agricultural and food producing organisations achieve economies of scale through cross-border mergers. Dairy production, in part as a result of this, can cross the border repeatedly during the production process.  It is as yet unclear how these activities, and these business structures, will be affected by Brexit and a UK/EU border.
  36. The most comprehensive analysis of the potential economic benefits of Irish reunification was led by Karl Huebner. It concluded that using its assumptions (which predate the Brexit vote), unification could benefit people across the island of Ireland by €1,497 per year in the year of implementation, rising to €2,810 per person per year within seven years of implementation.  Most of the financial benefits would be felt in the north.
  37. There are different ways to calculate the level of subsidy Northern Ireland receives from the UK government. In 2013-14, total government revenues in Northern Ireland amounted to £14.9bn, with expenditure of £24.1bn.  Some £4bn of this was on ‘non-identifiable’ items – Northern Ireland’s share of general UK government expenditure.  Many of the non-identifiable items – such as international relations – would not continue as costs to Northern Ireland after reunification.  If these costs are ignored the deficit of revenue against expenditure for Northern Ireland is reportedly £5.2bn. A range of figures have been suggested for the size of the subvention to NI.  It would be useful for there to be more work undertaken to provide a less contested figure.  But it seems unlikely that any UK subvention in the range of £3bn to £11bn (the range of estimates) can continue indefinitely and despite recent years of austerity in GB – even if Northern Ireland continues as part of the UK.
  38. A major restructuring of Northern Ireland in terms of its fiscal position within the UK seems likely, or is arguably inevitable.  The removal of Northern Ireland as a cost to the UK would be welcomed by large numbers of taxpayers in GB, particularly in England. It seems very likely that whatever happens politically that there must be substantial reform in the coming years to the Northern Ireland economy and structure of public service delivery. While London generates an annual fiscal surplus of £3,070 per person, Northern Ireland is the cause of the largest fiscal deficit, at £14,020 per person.
  39. If the UK government agreed to gradually taper its subsidy of Northern Ireland, it is reasonable to believe that the adoption of the Republic’s economic policies could increase tax revenues substantially, reducing the continued level of subvention for the north. The objective would be for the north to become economically self-sufficient, not dependent on fiscal transfers from either the south or GB.
  40. A Ten Point Plan for how to achieve Irish reunification is included as a conclusion to this report.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Conclusion of the Economic Effects of an All Island Economy 2018

 

If Irish reunification is to be achieved, it has to be achieved by consensus. That means that the unionist population needs to be accommodated and confident that reunification is in their collective best interests.

 

At the heart of this would be the recognition that a genuine all-island economy would produce significant economic benefits for Northern Ireland, with more jobs and higher incomes generated.

 

Social and political concerns would need to be addressed and satisfied.  Unionists would need to be convinced that their chosen identity would be respected and their relationships with Britain would be protected.

 

There also needs to be significant preparation, not least to achieve the economic stability during the transition and to maximise the subsequent economic benefits.

 

These preparations should begin now in accordance with Article 3 of the Irish constitution, as amended following the Good Friday Agreement.[2]  Progress towards achieving an all-island economy should be reviewed annually by the Oireachtas. Given the pressing need for the reform of the health systems in both Northern Ireland and the Republic, a separate study should be commissioned by the Oireachtas on how an all-island health system could be organised on the basis of an NHS-type arrangement.

 

Many of the replies to the report highlighted that for unionists it was not merely their economic welfare they were concerned with, but also their constitutional position and protection of their cultural identity. As a result of this we have undertaken research into unionist fears concerns and aspirations and the result of our research is contained in the following chapter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

Unionist Concerns and Aspirations

Anyone who has come across the 2018 Sunday Times ‘Rich List’ could not but be impressed by the massive growth in wealth in the Republic. Indeed, the south can now boast of having one of the world’s highest billionaire rates amongst its 4.7m population. There is a billionaire for every 313,000 people, almost twice the proportion seen inthe United States, Kuwait, or Sweden.

Meanwhile, the north is punching below its weight. While having 27% of the population of the island, it accounts for just over 13% of the wealth of the richest 300 people on the island of Ireland.

But economics is only part of what is a deeply embedded and deeply complicated set of problems and issues confronting those who wish to promote the case for a New Ireland. The roots of our diversity go deep.

Yet it would seem that recently there has been a significant shift in the terms of reference for any future debate. For years the public discourse in Northern Ireland was largely about convincing nationalists that the union with Britain was in their best interests; now, because of changing demographics and Brexit, there is a groundswell of voices suggesting that the bigger question is how to convince unionism Irish unity is the future.

A microcosm of this new reality was detailed by the former vice chair of the Northern Ireland Policing Board, Denis Bradley, who, in the wake of the recent failed Stormont talks, told of meeting two businessmen, one nationalist, the other unionist, who were depressed by the failure to reach agreement.

Bradley, in an article for the Irish Times, described the nationalist as ‘annoyed and frustrated’, and particularly angry that unionism seemed content economically to withdraw into itself and into the eastern counties of the north leaving a ‘wasteland’ on the western side along a line that runs from Coleraine to the southern tip of Fermanagh.

The unionist was more interesting.

Bradley stated: “Born into a unionist background and a business that straddled the Border, his thesis was that Irish unionism was on its last legs. Because of changing demographics he argued that all that was needed was to convince a small number of unionists that Irish unity was the future.” (Irish Times, February 21st.)

The fact that so little effort has been made in the past to engage with unionism and address their concerns and fears is the most obvious bollard on the road to any meeting of minds. Indeed, much of the portrayal of loyalism, not just amongst nationalists, has been negative, of the stereo typed tattooed, beer drinking, hard men standing around bonfires on July 11th. Needless to say, most find this kind of portrayal not only deeply unflattering, but also offensive.

So what motivates unionism? What does need to be addressed?

Empirical evidence gathered from casual conversation with unionists is that they feel unwanted, under threat. Many express resentment that traditional music, poetry, even Irish dancing have been almost exclusively appropriated by the nationalist community, despite the rich and varied contribution of Protestants to those aspects of our mutual cultural heritage.

A prime example of this is quoted in the book, ‘Northern Protestants – An Unsettled People, by journalist Susan McKay, where she quotes the liberal unionist John Robb as stating that Protestants were feeling “increasingly demoralised and threatened” and that “they (the Protestants) were in a terrible state”.

This book was published almost 20 years ago when unionism was very much in the ascendancy, so it would be reasonable to conclude they are feeling much more ‘unsettled’ in 2018.

The former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, the late Rev John Dunlop, also made it clear when he wrote more than two decades ago that at the time of the IRA ceasefire the unionist community was “not ready, prepared or happy” with the beginning of peace. He suggested it was more prepared to endure the continuation of the Troubles than engage with republicans.

It might not be unreasonable to point out that that is no longer an option.

As previously stated, unionist political pundit Alex Kane has pointed out, very forcefully, that the situation has changed dramatically and a failure to address the rapidly changing realities is not in unionism’s interests. But Kane, writing in the very same article, accepts there are many others who feel they shouldn’t, that it is somehow ‘disloyal’ to even be discussing the possibility of Irish unity.

This is a theme James Wilson, an academic engaged in research amongst loyalist/unionist community, also acknowledges. He has stated that there are two impediments to Protestants discussing a future outside the union: firstly, there is the ‘blood debt’ to those who died fighting the IRA, and, secondly, there is the ‘No Surrender’ mantra handed down through the generations.  The blood debt aspect runs deep, a feeling that it would be a betrayal of those who died – a ‘did they die for nothing?’ sentiment – while concessions or change from the status quo would, he points out, be conceived as ‘surrender’ and the act of a ‘lundy.’ It’s a charge few unionist leaders want to run the risk of.

The whole question of the Ulster Scots identity has also to be addressed, including cultural and legacy issues. Anyone who has visited the battlefields of WW1 on mainland Europe will have seen the massive sacrifice made by the men of the 36th Ulster Division. Hardly a community in the north was unaffected by the huge loss of personnel: 5,500 alone dying on the very first day of the Somme offensive. That’s a legacy of sacrifice that cannot, and should not, be forgotten.

In more recent times, it’s been an oft quoted fact that many young Protestants leave to pursue third level education in Scotland and few come back. What is rarely contextualised is that while the numbers might have increased, this is not a new phenomenon. There is massive affinity between Ulster and Scotland going back through the mists of time. Long before the Plantation of Ulster there was a constant to and fro between Ulster and the west of Scotland, not least that of St Columba who established one of the first monasteries on the island of Iona after founding the city of Derry-Londonderry.

For centuries the traffic was mainly inward but by the time of Irish famine in 1847 the reverse was very much the case. In the 20th century literally thousands of people from Ulster, particularly from west Donegal, made their way to Scotland to work as ‘tattie hokers’ – that is, potato pickers. There were other ties of kinship too in that the Scots spoke Gaelic and English, liked to sing and dance in styles not to dissimilar to that found in Ireland, not to mention the partiality of both to a drop of whiskey.

One of the few politicians in the Republic to actually take a pro-active position on possible unity is Fianna Fail senator, Mark Daly. He is spearheading an effort by an Oireachtas committee to tease out what a reunited Ireland might look like post-Brexit. The key task the committee has set itself is to both understand and address comprehensively the fears unionists hold of a united Ireland.

Daly has already met with various groups of unionists who are willing to engage on the issues,  and while most, he says, do not aspire to a united Ireland, or anything like that, there are those he describes as ‘pragmatic elements’ who value at least preparing for it, should that be the will of the people, north and south.

James Wilson has already met Daly’s committee, and in his submission he pointed out that much of the fear of northern Protestants around unity is ‘real and powerful’: fear of dispossession, fear of retribution, and fear of assimilation into an alien Gaelic culture that eliminates their ethno-cultural diversity as British/Ulster Scots.

The retribution element is primarily felt amongst serving and former members of the security forces. At this remove, fear of dispossession of lands obtained during the Plantation of Ulster more than 400 years ago seems more than a little quixotic: nevertheless, Wilson says that fear exists.

In recent months, Patrick Kielty’s question to DUP leader Arlene Foster asking what she would do in the event of unity – she said she would probably leave Ireland – stirred considerable debate. Peter Robinson, the former DUP leader, said he would never accept it, while David Trimble said there was a possibility of loyalist violence.

Back in February, Mark Daly was asked the same question and he responded by pointing to a 2010 survey which found that 82% of unionists would accept unity in a democratic vote. The remaining 18% he described as ‘fight or flight’, with some probably opting to leave and the remainder opting to oppose by physical force.

The Fianna Fail representative said the case had to be made to loyalists and unionists that there would be opportunities for them in a new Ireland, and that they were left behind by the current leaders. “It’s about giving jobs and opportunities, education and hope and making sure that there’s a society where they have a future.”

This approach is in marked contrast to his party’s position in 1981 when the then taoiseach, Garret FitzGerald, suggested a ‘constitutional crusade’ to enable changes to be put in place well in advance of any reunification. The leader of Fianna Fail, Charles Haughey, rejected this position, stating there should be no changes until “unionists were sitting around the table”. As has been pointed out, this was the equivalent of a salesman trying to sell a car without showing the buyer what type of vehicle she/he would be buying.

It is also worth noting that there is a grassroots stirring amongst ‘civic unionism’ which has made it clear that nationalists are not the only ones interested in rights and equality. In a letter to the ‘Irish Times’ in late February, signed by 105 unionists – including former UUP leader Mike Nesbitt, Doug Beattie MLA, academic Peter Shirlow, and former rugby international, Trevor Ringland – it was stated: “We wish to unite, not divide, and in encouraging transparency we call upon civic nationalism and others to engage with us in frank and fulsome debates about the many values and beliefs that are commonly shared and are vital to transforming the issues that we face”.

There is acceptance, seemingly at ground level (something not yet grasped by the politicians) that the tectonic plates locally are shifting. However, it is vital that nationalist leaders and opinion formers do not make the equivalent mistake that unionists did in not listening to, or addressing, the concerns of a deeply disenchanted nationalist minority held against their will in the years following the foundation of the northern state.

To make any progress it is absolutely essential that there is root and branch consultation to bring unionism on board with clear policies and constitutional and legal proposals on the table.

As James Wilson recently stated: “Until we feel an accepted part of the nation, we cannot be expected to engage with any confidence in the so called ‘National Question’.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGES

 

Rostrevor born T.K. Whitaker was the top civil servant in the Republic when the the northern Troubles broke out in late 1968.

 

Because of his Ulster background, he had an understanding of the north in a way few others in the corridors of power in Dublin had at that time, and in a confidential report to the then Taoiseach, Jack Lynch, he advised a policy of ‘patience, understanding and forbearance’ when it came to dealing with unionism.   Whitaker told Lynch:  “The most forceful argument in favour of the patient good neighbour policy aimed at ultimate ‘agreement in Ireland between Irishmen’ is that no other policy has any prospect of success.”

 

Half a century later a stark headline in the ‘Irish Independent’ in July 2016 screamed out: “The EU needs to prepare for a united Ireland’.  It was a bolt from the blue in that the source was Enda Kenny, probably the least republican taoiseach since the foundation of the state.  His comment was totally unexpected, in that it took his own supporters as much by surprise as it did unionists in the north. It was a major change in political direction.

 

Brexit was the catalyst for Kenny’s declaration in that he told the McGill Summer School in Glenties, Co. Donegal, that the decision of the British people would have seismic implications for both parts of the island – economic, political, social.  It was something, he said, that could not be ignored or wished away.

 

Since then, the political road has become increasingly rocky. The new realities have necessitated considerable change in the Irish government’s stance and outlook, and it has spooked unionism in that previously warm relationships between Dublin and the main unionist party, the DUP, are now badly strained.

 

So how can we begin a process of creating the conditions that would assuage unionism’s fears about unity on the island of Ireland? How far are we willing to reach out to the 900,000 people who would regard themselves as both unionist and British?  And, perhaps most importantly of all, the question has to be asked, are modern day republicans up to the task of making major concessions in the pursuit of real unity?

 

If they are having trouble getting their head around this the template for such gestures is already in place. Back in 1921 Eamonn deValera, the man who many regard as the key figure in the founding of the Irish Free State, stated: “We are ready to give such local autonomy to Ulster…as would be practicable, if it would make for the contentment and satisfaction of the residents there..”  He was willing to give Ulster a parliament as long as it was bounded within the Irish state.

 

In 2018 one gesture that would almost certainly send out positive signals would be for Ireland to rejoin the Commonwealth. The possibility of increasing the links with Scotland by means of a tunnel running from the Co. Antrim coast, should also be explored.

 

Strengthening where possible and practicable the ‘East-West’ relationship would give considerable comfort to people who see Scotland, more than England, as the motherland.

 

The construction of a new constitution would be another massive step in creating the right mood music. It could consider including incorporating many different aspects: –

  1. A Bill of Rights respecting  the British identity on this island including the valued place the unionist community has for the Royal family
  2.  Respect for the marching traditions of both cultures, particularly in regard to Orange parades, but subject to an overriding consent by hosting communities.
  3.  Dual citizenship for all residents on island of Ireland and acceptance of equality on the island for all those holding British passports.
  4. Guaranteed security of tenure of land for all – no redistribution of land.
  5. Possible regional or federal government to be agreed for the six counties
  6. Military forces for each administrative area north and south to be drawn from each respective area.
  7.  No change in federal or regional government structure without 70% vote in favour of the same in the six counties.
  8. Parity of esteem for all languages by way of legislation – English, Irish, Ulster Scots.
  9.  Equal recognition of Catholic, Protestant and other religions and their place in Irish society and guaranteed respect for their identities and independence.
  10. Recognition in the constitution of the special relationship Ireland has with the UK, historically and culturally.
  11. Matters of conscience such as abortion should be decided in each administrative area by referendum.
  12. New flags, the anthem and other regional and national symbols should be agreed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

LEGAL CHANGES TO PROTECT UNIONIST CULTURE AND IDENTITY

 

Discussions have a much better chance of success in a calm environment – like now!

There are just over 883,000 people who classify themselves as Protestant in the 2011 Census; 48% of the population of Northern Ireland. While some would vote Alliance and the Green Party and various other disparate minor parties, the vast majority of the Protestand population would describe themselves as unionist. They see themselves as British. So the road ahead in terms of promoting a new and different political settlement could well be extremely difficult, but the problem is no one seems to want to find a map that could provide a proper route.

Fianna Fail senator Mark Daly has stated that “policy neglect rarely goes unpublished” and it’s a matter of record that the Dublin government has no policy to put to unionists in regard to unity. It’s a clear case of failing to prepare is preparing to fail.

For example:                                                                                                                 

* Would unionists be expected to sign up to a unitary state, a federal state, a confederal state, a continuation of Stormont under the aegis of the Dail?

* What would the currency be?

* What would happen to health care? Would it cost £80/£100 to visit the doctor/A&E?

* If there was a border poll, what would the questions be?

Without knowing the outcome of even these basic questions it goes without saying that unionists are highly unlikely to even seriously consider discussing unity, much less voting for it.

Unionists also need massive assurances that their identity, their culture, their traditions, etc will be respected and given legal and constitutional protections.

Recent history, right across the globe, has provided incontrovertible evidence that sensitive discussions have a better chance of success in a calm environment. Any discussion on the future make up of this island should take place as soon as possible, not when Brexit is an immediate reality and emotions are high.

In his book, ‘Countdown to Unity’ (which could be regarded as the seminal work on the topic of possible unity), Judge Richard Humphreys suggests some form of negotiation or discussions should take place with unionism prior to any referendum. While admitting that unionists are unlikely to agree to such a negotiation, it would, however, permit the referendum, he explained, to embody not just the question of Irish unity, but also the approval of any other measures agreed in the negotiation to accommodate unionism.

In a forward to the book, a leading Irish senior counsel, Rory Brady, spelled out why this course of action was so important: “It is a fact there is a community on this island with a British identity. It has been present for hundreds of years. In the event of a referendum in favour of unification it is axiomatic that this sense of identity and its expression – as a matter of human rights –be legally protected and secured.”

Humphreys was unequivocal that any negotiations on a new constitution should start with a blank sheet, or as he put it, ‘no sacred cows’.

Former Irish Attorney General, John Rodgers, in an article in 1998, suggested that the current Irish constitution should be amended to recognise what he describes as ‘the plural origins’ of our people and the absence of an acknowledged history and common allegiance. The preamble, he argued, should include the phrase that ‘the republic is established for all members of the community on a basis of equality and respect.’

The changes anticipated were expected to be wide and varied. For example, The New Ireland Forum, established by Garret FitzGerald in 1983, recommended that references to God be toned down and that references to Christian God be removed. In line with this and the Citizens Rights Charter suggestion, which appeared to be advocated by civic unionists, the religious formula for oaths of office would be removed and judges would make a secular declaration rather than religious.

It’s an old maxim that gesture politics is not a bad thing if the gesture can be capable of being shown to having achieved something. Gestures that give comfort to one side while costing the other little could achieve much.

For example, unionists are not accustomed to a written constitution and have not until recent times lived in a culture where parliament can be judicially reviewed and is thus subservient to the judiciary. This consideration could be taken into account when proposals for the constitution to be replaced by are ‘Bill of Rights’ are made. British law is mostly based on ‘the Magna Carta’, written in 1215, which, basically, was the first ever ‘Bill of Rights’ for a democratic society in that it upholds the principle that everyone, even the King, is held equal before the law. Put simply, unionists do not like the idea that the pronouncements of a sovereign, duly elected parliament can be over-ruled by unelected judges.

Some of the more uncomfortable features of the Irish constitution for unionists, as outlined to the New Ireland Forum by Professor Brice Dickson, a law lecturer at Queen’s University, should be debated by Queen’s, UCD and Trinity, etc, with suggestions being made by each for consideration. For example, rights conferred under Articles 40 to 44 are not those to which unionists would themselves accord priority within society in that unionists’ suspicion of the office of the president is a consequence of their loyalty to the crown. In developing an all-island constitution or Bill of Rights these sensitivities need to be considered in language and tone and content.

Des Murphy SC, when asked to advise on the implementation of the 12 constitutional changes published in an early draft of this report, recommended that an international mediator should produce a set of proposals for consideration, as was done prior to the peace process. This would only be for consideration within the framework of the Good Friday Agreement.

As James Wilson has pointed out, there are real fears amongst many unionists, particularly amongst serving and former members of the security services, that there will be retribution once the British presence is gone. That this will not happen has to be spelled out with cast iron guarantees. The most inclusive form of unity must be proposed, and new constitutional arrangements in the scenario of a unified island must allow for no prosecutions for politicians, or forces of the crown, etc, for actions in the past.

There is a need to comprehend and include the Irish identity, which includes a British identity. Former Ulster Unionist politician, Christopher McGimpsey, didn’t underestimate the difficulties involved when he described the formation of such a definition as “being as simple as nailing jelly to a wall”, but it needs to be done.

In the interim there are many things that can be easily achieved.

As has been stressed throughout this document, there is a clear need to ensure British identity can be celebrated and respected within a unified Ireland, but honeyed words are not enough. Hence the need for clear, unambiguous legal measures – perhaps identified by a cross party Dail committee – which will recognise the legitimacy of the British identity and the British dimension in Irish life.

This shouldn’t be a heavy lift. It is a matter of fact that a lot of our institutions and laws are largely drawn from, or influenced by, Britain. This should be reflected in the wording of our constitution, as well as recognising the primacy of European rights legislation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE ‘NEW DEAL’ BLUEPRINT

Following a report by Paul Gosling that an all-island economy is viable and would be beneficial to all the people of this island, the recent call from a group of 105 unionists for civic nationalists to engage in “a transparent and inclusive debate concerning rights, truth, equality and civil liberty “ and we offer the following in reply.

TRANSPARENCY

There is a need to ensure British identity can be celebrated and achieved within any new union within Ireland. The British influence is evident throughout the island from Dun Laoghaire harbour, to the Royal Dublin Show, to Cork’s English Market, to Irish towns like the English designed Westport. There is a need for official recognition, and to transparently acknowledge, that our institutions and laws as well as parts of our cultural heritage are drawn from, or influenced by, our joint history with Britain.

TRUTH

John Rodgers SC has said that the preamble to the constitution should be amended to recognise the plural origins of our people and the absence of an acknowledged history and common allegiance.

There is little doubt that few, if any, efforts have been made to address the elements of our constitution that Bruce Dickson told the New Ireland Forum were uncomfortable for unionists as acknowledged in Justice Humphrey’s ‘Countdown to Unity’.

RIGHTS

* British citizens within a united island would need to be able to vote subject to residency requirements as is the UK situation for Irish citizens.

* There should be legal and constitutional protection against discrimination for people who do not speak Irish.

* There is a clear need to remove any requirement for compulsory Irish from students, lawyers, etc.

* An agreed union should sign-up to recognise the International Court of Justice as the UK has done. This could act as a safeguard for unionists to ensure rights are interpreted, implemented and protected.

* In the event of a six county administration being restored under a unified island, an ombudsman or similar office holder should be appointed to ensure that ministers carry out their functions in compliance with the oath they take to obtain office under the Good Friday Agreement.

EQUALITY 

* Ireland should rejoin the Commonwealth now that it can accept republics.

* Symbols such as shamrocks, green insignia, the harp and the Irish language should be retained and added to with, for example, the lambeg drum or crown as appropriate.

* Scots Irish should be recognised as an official language.

* Elements of the Union Jack to be incorporated in a new flag or flags, or the Union Jack be flown on designated days on main government buildings alongside the tricolour or new national flag on, e.g. the Queen’s birthday or 12th July.

CIVIL LIBERTIES

* Make the 12th July a bank holiday in the Republic as recommended by the ICTU.

* Ensure that judges in the new republic are trained in the laws of Scotland as they are now   in English law, to recognise the value unionists have in their Scots–Ulster links.

* Irish citizens are precluded from being members of the Privy Council or holding a knighthood. This disbarment should be ended.

* Restriction on religious ministers standing for election needs to be reviewed.

The visit of Queen Elizabeth to the Republic in 2011 was, as many commentators on both sides of the water suggested, a ‘game changer’. It changed the dynamics of the relationships between our two islands. In 2018 we are not in the same Ireland as we were in 1916 or 1922. Given that, it would not be ridiculous to ponder what Michael Collins or Edward Carson would be prepared to discuss or consider if they were alive today. Our current leaders might well take note.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

ALTERNATIVE VIEW / DES MURPHY SC OPINION

 

COUNTDOWN TO UNITY 2008 OR GROUNDHOG DAY 2018

By Desmond Murphy, Senior Counsel

In 2008 Richard Humphries authored a book entitled ‘Countdown to Unity’ in which he outlined in detail a possible path towards the unification of Ireland. Since then there has been only two other significant works on the topic: Mark Daly`s ‘Brexit and the Future of Ireland’ and Paul Gosling`s ‘The Economic Impact of an All Island Economy’.

However, since the vote of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union in June 2016 and the possibility of border controls, the debate on the future of Northern Ireland has sharpened to a level where many northern nationalists with an almost millenarian fervour have espoused the belief that Irish unity is inevitable and if it cannot be obtained by persuasion, will be achieved by the demography of a catholic majority in Northern Ireland in the near future.

Two points need immediately to be made:

  1. Nothing is inevitable in history: a single example will suffice: most educated Europeans on 27 June 1914 would have taken for granted the continuation of peace and prosperity of previous 100 years and could never have imagined destructive European wars within six weeks.

 

  1. The second point is the danger of precedents. While German unification was largely successful and quick for specific reasons, the disintegration of Yugoslavia in the 1990s into multiple sectarian civil wars should make one ponder, especially as it was praised in the 1970s and 1980s as an alternative to capitalism and communism.

The period 2016 – 18 has been discouraging in Northern Ireland. The Executive collapsed in 2017 and all attempts to restore it have failed. However, even worse has been the complete collapse of trust between the DUP and Sinn Fein, and the virtual elimination of smaller parties. There has been an explosion in twitter abuse: false news and deliberate attempts to rewrite the past.

It is inevitable that this position will infect Catholic and Protestant outlooks eventually, more importantly this abuse and bad faith given an inkling to what a referendum on the future of Northern Ireland would consist of. It would create a sectarian mobilization not ever seen in Irish history and would probably climax in one side or the other not accepting the result. It would eliminate any dissenting voices especially in the Protestant community and could easily trigger the disintegration of society. It would mean an inclusive constitutional conference impossible.

II

Humphries’ optimism of 2008 that issues such as the Irish language or flags and anthems could be resolved now seems misplaced. The bitter dispute over an Irish language act in Northern Ireland in the past few years, and the flags protests of 2012, suggest that compromise is now impossible; this hope of confidence building measures by nationalist Ireland now seems remote and impractical. Equally given the present strident languages, it would appear impossible for any unionist to negotiate on any form of Irish unity prior to a referendum.

However, in all texts considered, hard questions are avoided: a few can be alluded to here:

  • What will be form of the state: if it is an independent republic then unionism will have lost and indeed cannot exist.

 

  • If that is so, what is the point of recognizing British identity. The essence of unionism in Northern Ireland is loyalty to the crown and monarchy and to historical sacrifices on their behalf. If those links are snapped, fuzzy promises about holding British passports will be meaningless.

 

  • Where would power lie in the new state, and more importantly what would be the distribution of such power. Unionists / Protestants could not exercise effective resistance in a new state unless there were artificial protections at the centre of power.

 

  • Humphries reliance on the Good Friday Agreement as a means of driving constitutional change (p152) or the hope that a forum of joint authority over 30 years (p205) would ease the transition now seems sadly misplaced. Neither government has shown any interest in using the Good Friday Agreement to provide constitutional change as stalemate in Northern Ireland has prevented even modest workings of devolved institutions, never mind ambitious plans for a joint authority.

 

 

III

 

So, we have reached ‘Groundhog Day’ where the parties in Northern Ireland are content to abuse one another and allow society to fray at the edges. Topics that might be discussed at a constitutional convention will remain a wish list.

 

It requires imagination to break the current short and long-term stalemate. One suggestion would be to have a small independent commission receive suggestions for a different Ireland and to put the final proposals to the people in referendum north and south.

 

It would be made clear that if these were rejected, the status quo would continue, the position being that, if accepted, it would be possible to have detailed discussions on implementation without the pressure from either community that betrayal was imminent. It will be a slow process, but at least it would offer a fresh start and avoid reigniting the sectarian conflict in an even broader morass than before.

 

CONCLUSION

The history of Ireland is one in which change has been demanded, in which force has been used to achieve change, but in which debate and accommodation  have not been used often enough.  So the future must not be like the past.  The future needs to be decided through debate and negotiation.

We should recognise that the fiscal situation of Northern Ireland is unsustainable and that this means that change will come. Only Irish reunification offers a realistic possibility of fiscal and economic sustainability for what is now Northern Ireland. But the political system and fear of change get in the way of having the necessary conversation about what the future might look like. The political impasse that is destabilising Northern Ireland is likely, in the short-term, to worsen, as the impact of Brexit damages community relations as well as the economy, and probably leads to job losses.  This means that ways need to be found to bring communities together, recognising common interests, rather than accentuating divisions.

Engagement across community divisions is necessary to break down barriers.  This might include re-establishing the Civic Forum, to enable communities to speak more directly to each other, rather than being brokered by political parties which often seem to play a ‘zero sum game’, in which confrontation is rewarded electorally.

The protection of human rights and of different cultures and identifies needs to be enshrined in law in any future state.  Connections between Ulster and Scotland need to be maintained and actually strengthened.  It is clear that the constitution of a new Ireland must not be tied to any particular religion, nor must the offices of state be limited in terms of religious affiliations and outlooks.  A conversation is needed about whether Stormont should continue within a united Ireland; what powers it might have; whether it administers the six counties of Northern Ireland, or the historic nine counties of Ulster; what arrangements might be needed for the other provinces; and how regional and sub-regional policy might improve, to ensure the new state works for all people.

The new Ireland must be socially integrated and non-discriminatory.  The Republic is already proving itself to be more socially liberal than when it was founded.  It is clear that the basis of negotiating a ‘new Ireland’ must begin with a clean sheet of paper.  It may need an ‘honest broker’ to sit in the middle to be the host for difficult conversations.

More than anything, we need to prepare.  It is most likely that reunification will be a gradual, long-term, process, rather than being achieved through a single step.  But, increasingly, changes to the character and constitutions of the island of Ireland are moving from the probable to the inevitable.

Change is going to happen conversation needs to begin with civic debate now to avoid conflict of identities and clash of cultures escalating to conflict.

The suggestions in this discussion document are put forward along with Pauls Goslings lengthy economic study as a template for debate – let the debate begin, observations and comments welcome.

 

 

RECOMMENDATIONS

Call for the British Irish Council to organise debates to discuss the totality of relationships between these islands.

HRH The Prince of Wales Charles, as an opinion leader, should be approached to organise debates to see how the monarchy could be recognised for its historical and cultural importance in any new all island union.

Economic debates should be organised by academic institutions on how a political settlement might attract EU funding, further US investment and transform an all island economy which will improve the standard of living for all on the island.

Law societies in Queen’s, Trinity, Magee, UCD, UCC, Maynooth, etc, should debate how best to begin to construct a new all-island constitution or, in the Presbyterian tradition, an all-island bill of citizens rights. Alternately, what legal changes could be introduced immediately to protect the British, Ulster Scots and unionist cultural traditions and identity.

Students unions across the island should be encouraged to conduct debates on building a new union which will promote a truly inclusive society incorporating all religions, races, and the importance of equality of economic opportunity for all citizens.

 

We recommend the renewal of the process of reconciliation dropped by the Executive in 2007 as an essential part of the process of building a new union, as part of the process we need to consider how the pro-treaty and anti-treaty communities were forced to forget their bloody civil war and stop demonizing each other, we need to decommission our national blood sacrifice mind set and move forward together.

 

An all-island commission should be established to oversee the introduction of a ring-fenced  tax to finance a new health service.  That all-island health service should achieve internationally recognised standards of excellence, on a level with that achieved, for example, in France.

An academic should be appointed to examine options for new flags and symbols, including anthems. Texas has six flags flown in recognition of the six nations which lay a claim to its territory and their respective blood  debt. Surely in a unified island we could live with three.

 

 

 


 

APPENDICES – suggestions for debate

Ten Point Plan

 

  1. The UK government agrees to continue its subvention to Northern Ireland (currently operating through the Barnett formula) but on an annually tapering basis, with the UK subvention removed entirely within a negotiated period beyond reunification. UK support might be needed until 2050, supporting pension liabilities for civil servants, etc, under an arrangement similar to that with EU withdrawal. Over the long term this would produce a significant fiscal gain for the UK, which is likely to be welcomed by taxpayers in GB.  For Northern Ireland, the subsidy would be replaced by higher tax revenues as Northern Ireland benefits from the economic impact of reunification and the Republic’s economic policies.  Sovereignty might also transfer on a gradual basis.  Stormont might continue to operate as a devolved assembly, but of Ireland rather than of the UK.  There could also be a graduated move towards a truly all-island economy, with both sterling and the euro accepted by businesses during the transition process.  Substantial efforts must be made to accommodate the fears and concerns of those who have a British or Ulster Scots identity throughout the island of Ireland in order that a successful unified economy is achieved.

 

  1. Increased spending on capital projects is required to bring infrastructure up to modern European standards. The infrastructure deficit that was carried forward from the period of direct rule needs to be addressed, which means that the UK government has an obligation to help meet the cost of correcting the infrastructure deficit. A UK government investment of £10bn would assist significantly with this, towards the cost of roads, health reform, education facilities and water and sewage systems. A bridge or tunnel connection with Scotland could provide reassurance to unionists that economic, social and political connections with Great Britain could actually be strengthened through new arrangements.

 

  1. A reduction in the number of civil servants in Northern Ireland to the same level as the Republic would assist in making Northern Ireland financially self-sufficient. This would take place on a gradual basis to reduce the impact on individuals and on the wider economy. Ideally the impact would be spread over several years, achieved as much as possible by natural wastage. All redundancy, pension and restructuring costs would be paid for by UK. This restructuring would assist in boosting Northern Ireland productivity.

 

  1. The European Union would be asked to assist in the reunification of Ireland, which would address the problems caused by the Irish border post-Brexit. A new 32 county administration should be empowered to borrow cheaply to invest in the economy and all-island infrastructure. The European Investment Bank would play a key role in this.  

 

  1. A political agreement on a new all island basis, inside the EU, would attract increased EU funding through Interreg, including financial assistance in restructuring Northern Ireland’s infrastructure to improve its competitive position and integrated all-island economy.

 

  1. IDA Ireland would promote all of the island on the world stage. This would produce benefits for all. Given its track record in attracting FDI worldwide it should prove to be a major player in turning the Northern Ireland economy into a world class competitor with the added benefit for the Republic that the two agencies would no longer be in competition  but would be working together to produce economic growth.

 

  1. Improved direct links between education and industry in Northern Ireland as per the Republic would lead to a more competitive market-oriented economy, over time producing improvements in living and working environments. While Northern Ireland needs to learn from the Republic with regards to elements of its education and skills system, the Republic needs to learn from Northern Ireland in terms of the cost and efficiency of its health system. Neither system is adequate at present.  The Bengoa reforms need to be implemented in Northern Ireland as at present it has too many general hospitals, without sufficient specialist expertise.

 

  1. A harmonised corporation tax would make all the island more attractive to foreign direct investment and lead to domestic companies throughout the island being more competitive, thus leading to economic growth for all.

 

  1. As part of the post-Brexit response from the European Union, a special case should be presented to the European Union for assistance with the cost and social pressures involved with Irish reunification. This might be structured in ways that learn from the Marshall Plan and the experience of German reunification.

 

  1. A single and integrated Ireland would create economies of scale and a more competitive economy. A single Ireland would be a world leader in the fields of research and development (eg Trinity College, UCD and Queen’s, all in the same country), higher education, pharmaceuticals and new technologies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SUGGESTED CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGE

  1. A Bill of Rights respecting the British identity on this island including the valued place the unionist community has for the Royal family.
  2. Respect for the marching traditions of both cultures, particularly in regard to Orange parades, but subject to an overriding consent by hosting communities.
  3.  Dual citizenship for all residents on island of Ireland and acceptance of equality on the island for all those holding British passports.
  4. Guaranteed security of tenure of land for all – no redistribution of land.
  5. Possible regional or federal government to be agreed for the six counties
  6. Military forces for each administrative area north and south to be drawn from each respective area.
  7. No change in federal or regional government structure without 70% vote in favour of same in the six counties.
  8. Parity of esteem for all languages by way of legislation – English, Irish, Scots Irish.
  9.  Equal recognition of Catholic, Protestant and other religions and their place in Irish society and guaranteed respect for their identities and independence.
  10. Recognition in the constitution of the special relationship Ireland has with the UK historically and culturally.
  11. Matters of conscience such as abortion should be decided in each administrative area by referendum.
  1. New flags, the anthem and other regional and national symbols should be agreed by negotiation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SUGGESTED LEGAL CHANGES TO PROTECT CULTURE AND IDENTITY

British citizens within a united island would need to be able to vote subject to residency requirements as per the UK situation for Irish citizens.

  1. Join the Commonwealth now that it can accept republics.
  2. Make the 12th July a bank holiday in the Republic, as recommended by the ICTU.
  3. Ensure that judges in the new republic are trained in the laws of Scotland as they are now in English law.
  4. Symbols such as shamrocks, green, the harp and the Irish language should be retained and added to with the lambeg drum or crown as appropriate.
  5. Flag options should include including elements of the Union Jack and tricolour in a flag or flags.
  6. Scots Irish should be recognised as an official language.
  7. There should be legal and constitutional protection against discrimination for people who do not speak Irish.
  8. Remove need for compulsory Irish from students, lawyers, etc.
  9. In unionist eyes its unthinkable for unionists to lose the Union Jack – perhaps elements of it could be incorporated in a new flag or flags or the Union Jack could be flown on designated days on main government buildings alongside the tricolour or new national flag ie on the Queen’s birthday or 12th
  10. Priority of Irish language text in laws – could be clarified or a code of interpretation be applied where conflicts arise.
  11. Irish citizens are precluded from being members of the Privy Council or holding a knighthood – is this necessary in the context of a unified island?
  12. Apparent restriction on religious ministers standing for election – could this be reviewed ?
  13. It was felt by the forum that a general review of education health and censorship to remove any residue of ‘Rome rule’.
  14. In the event of a unified island we recommend the new Ireland sign up to recognising the International Court of Justice as the UK already has – this could act to interpret and ensure any safeguards given are implemented and protect unionists’ rights.
  15. Also in the event of a six county administration being restored under a unified island, an ombudsman or similar should be appointed to ensure that ministers carry out their functions in compliance with the oath they take to obtain office under the GFA.

 

 

 

 

ESMOND BERNIE

Esmond Birnie, Ulster University

 

Your [Paul Gosling’s] paper proposes that the NI % public sector employment should be reduced to the RoI average rate implying 50,000 direct job losses. There could be long run benefit to NI economy if so-called “re-balancing” could be achieved- preferably through expansion of private sector rather than absolute decline of public.

BUT:

  • If this reduction is done suddenly it becomes very problematic.
  • Arguably, the Voluntary Exit Scheme was very much a second best (with perhaps unintended negative consequences- loss of some of the most experienced and best staff) but this would be VES on a super scale.
  • How many of the 50,000 would get other jobs? What about multiplier effects?
  • In fact 50,000 represents 6% of total employment in NI. Once multiplier effects are included we start to get into the terrain of the upper scale losses (as in the Feb. 18 leak) produced by the Treasury modelling on Brexit. Your report describes such losses as “devastating”.

The Fiscal Transfer

Your paper suggests it is “only” the gap between identifiable spending and NI tax revenues which we should really worry about i.e. c. £5bn. rather than c. £10bn.

BUT:

  • You need to assume about the “international services” (e.g. consul rep. for NI abroad and investment promotion) some of the following: (1.) RoI currently has great spare capacity and so could expand delivery without spending more or (2.) RoI could dramatically up the productivity of these services or (3.) the quantity/quality of services delivered per head post-unity would go down.
  • You also need to assume no increase defence spending despite acquiring extra territory and coastline (and also assuming public order stays the same).
  • Assuming the “rest of the UK” imposes no debt obligations on the new state (later on, you concede that dealing with NI’s infrastructure may require borrowing).
  • You’ve treated the accounting adjustment as just a technical (or paper) exercise but is it ? (amounting to £1bn p.a. re. capital consumption and proportionally larger in NI than UK average). But such Non-Market Capital Consumption is a reflection of higher proportional public sector capital stock- as this depreciates, to the extent it is replaced, there will be a “real” call on the NI + RoI taxpayers (a point you partly recognise when you call for GB to continue to pay for some infrastructure spend in NI).
  • Interestingly, you impose on the generosity of the GB taxpayers by the possibility they may have to transition out of the transfer payment over a long period of time (and also pay for an infrastructure fund- which suggests to me the “real” transfer is more than £5bn p.a.).

HM Treasury modelling

You quote the figures from the leaked document. It is very unsatisfactory that we have only the end figures without access to the underlying modelling (especially assumptions). It is probably reasonable to assume Treasury made similar assumptions to those made in their April 2016 document. So, we probably have the same flaws in their “gravity modelling” and their assumptions about very strong trade/output to productivity effects.

Use of the recent RoI national accounts

As the Dublin government and CSO Ireland have recognised, we cannot assume that in any meaningful sense RoI national output grew by 26% in 2015.

RoI comparative wage levels

It is not helpful to imply these are 50% higher than here in NI- cost of living differences.

(Devolved) Political economy of a united Ireland

Whatever the representational merits of devolution, I think there is a lot of evidence the Executive-UK government relationship has not worked well in terms of a sensible fiscal arrangement; Stormont has been “irresponsible” relying on HMG as the funder of last resort. Would that relationship be any better Stormont-Dublin, might it be even more problematic?

  1. Hubner’s modelling of unity

I’ve critiqued this elsewhere (blog for This Union website).

There is a general point- be it Brexit or German unification in 1990 or possibly Korean- about reservations about using these types of “Competitive General Equilibrium” models to make point predictions about the future and this even more so when economies undergo big structural changes.

Then specifically to this model re. NI and RoI (some of these points you make):

  • The exchange rate situation is now very different.
  • Their assumptions about the fiscal transfer seem very unclear.
  • It is unrealistic to assume NI productivity would rapidly converge on the RoI level.
  • There is no allowance for the negative impact of greater frictions to NI-GB trade (which is four times greater than NI-RoI).

Identity issues

As you say, people do value these. Sometimes more than economic gains/losses. I think it would be misunderstanding of the position of many pro-Union people to say they would settle for a status akin to, say, the Done

[1] https://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/world/europe/more-peaceful-but-facing-uncertainty-northern-ireland-20-years-on-20180409-p4z8i1.html

[2] http://www.irishstatutebook.ie/eli/cons/en/html#part1