Irish Unity makes economic sense – Matt Carthy TD
Cavan Monaghan Sinn Féin TD, Matt Carthy, has said that a United Ireland will make economic sense and help deliver the full potential of a great nation. He was speaking as his party published a discussion paper entitled ‘The Economic Benefits of a United Ireland’.
Deputy Carthy commended his Sinn Féin colleagues who developed the document under the leadership of party Finance spokesperson, Pearse Doherty TD.
Teachta Carthy said:
“Discussions about the constitutional future of our island are becoming more real by the day.
“They have been turbocharged by Britain’s decision to leave the European Union in 2016; a decision that has exposed the democratic deficit at the heart of partition. Despite the majority of the electorate in the north choosing to remain in the EU, they have been dragged out against their will. So much for the principle of consent!
“That is a decision that will have long-term consequences for the whole country but for the northern economy in particular.
“But Brexit is just the latest example of a status quo that is not working.
“The truth is that partition is a failed experiment.
“Before partition, the North East was the industrial engine of the island, accounting for 80 percent of industrial output. The centre of the Irish economy was in Belfast.
“Today, southern exports of goods and services dwarf those of the north.
“In terms of economic output on a per capita basis, the north stands at £26,000 while the south stands at €40,000.
“When we compare the southern state with Britain, we observe a similar trajectory.
“Since 1970, the south has seen a rapid improvement in living standards; from 70% of the EU average to a standard of living now well above the European average. In comparison, the British economy has seen the standard of living, relative to other European countries, stagnate since 1970.
“The reasons for this are well known; an industrial policy which abandoned high value manufacturing in its regions to pursue a financial services model concentrated in London with a low-value services sector everywhere else.
“This has been coupled with a lost decade of austerity following the Great Financial Crash.
“The British government’s policy choices have ignored regions outside of London. They have certainly ignored the north of Ireland.
“And it is the London government that retains control over economic policy in the north.
“Despite the devolution of certain powers; control of fiscal policy, tax and spending, the ability to borrow in order to invest, ultimately remain the preserve of the British Exchequer.
“The north of Ireland suffers the consequences of this reality but all of Ireland pays the price.
“There is an alternative to the Union; an alternative to Brexit.
“Irish unification is a guaranteed path back to the European Union; it gives the whole country a chance to steer our own course; to enjoy the dynamism of an all-island economy and to work together for our mutual benefit.
“Of course, whenever discussion of Irish Unity begins, the question of the subvention is often raised – this is the difference between the revenue raised and expenditure attributed to the north.
“It is telling that the most oft-used argument in favour of the union with Britain is that the north is such an economic basket case that it is unaffordable.
“This is not a strong argument.
“Instead, it exposes how weak the northern economy has been served by Britain.
“The subvention is real, but before we consider it, or what unification would “cost” the south as a result; it is important to understand what it is made up of – what items would remain in a United Ireland and what items would not.
“Rather than the regularly cited figure of between £9 and £10 billion the truth is that, when you take out the north’s contribution to things like the British military and royal family the overall subvention is a fraction of that.
“And, of course that is before we consider the huge economic driver that Irish Unity would present.
“While the purpose of the Sinn Féin document is not to pre-empt, predict or predetermine the exact economic model that will be pursued in a unitary state, it does outline some of the great opportunities that will present.
“As we emerge from Covid-19, we are reminded of the failings of a country of just over 6 million people operating under two back-to-back economic systems.
“Our country deserves better, and a United Ireland offers so much more.
“Irish unity would allow for coordinated investment and development; something the Border region has been missing for a century.
“Irish unity would utilise economies of scale; allowing one economy to develop rather than having two economies compete.
“The current trajectory of the all-island economy attests to these opportunities.
“The total value of cross-border trade now stands at more than €7 billion every year.
“As is now well known in light of much debate Brexit’s impact on cross-border supply chains; a greater number of businesses now trade from North to South than to anywhere else, including to Britain.
“With partition, that potential will never be fully unlocked, with border counties, towns and economies suffering as a result.
“Irish unity would secure our place as an open, outward-looking, progressive island at the heart of Europe.
“With the twin threats of Brexit and Covid-19, there has never been a better time to take stock, talk to one another, and consider our future together and of our future generations.
“Our discussion document will contribute to that discussion. It’s time for the Irish government to join us in start planning for a better, a fairer and a united Ireland”.
The Sinn Féin document ‘The Economic Benefits of a United Ireland’ can be accessed at www.sinnfein.ie or in hard copy from any party representative.