We're nearing the end of a century-long experiment to test the hypothesis as to whether Irish people are better off independent or as part of UK. The results are in:
- RoI living standards consistently amongst the best in the developed world, NI worst in western Europe...
- in 1921, the six counties had around 70% of the industry on the island, 26Cs largely agrarian. Now 90% of island's industry is in RoI.
- GDP p/c of RoI (even when adjusted down due to RoI's unique position) is more than double that of NI.
- NI average wage 55% of that of RoI
- There is now a larger gap between the GDP p/c of RoI and NI than there was between West and East Germany at time of its reunification. Even in knowledge that GDP isn't always a great measure of average wealth, that's shocking.
- In 1921, Ireland was seen as the backwater of the British Empire. In 2019, the average person in the 26 counties is wealthier, healthier and has a better standard of living than the average Brit.
- Even when compared to rest of UK, NI does poorly. Despite being NI's economic centre, Belfast in not even in the top 50 most important economic areas of UK. It's 52nd, behind Northumberland, which is a most mountainous region of England's north.
- Unionists often cite the UK welfare state as an advantage to the union. While that may well have been true in the 70s, nowadays jobseekers allowance in RoI is €193 per week, more than double UK's €82.70 a week.
- Unionists cite NHS as advantage to union. While I'm strongly in favour of fully nationalised healthcare as the best system, the Irish system is still a state-run universal healthcare system, far from the private free for all implied in this comparison.
This all raises the question; why? Why is it that in almost every comparison you can think of people in the Republic are on average better off than their northern compatriots?
Bare in mind, we're comparing practically identical people. We're from the same families, same culture, have the same surnames, same broad genetic makeup, share the same broad values; we're not comparing apples and oranges here
It's not like the Republic has significantly more talented/intelligent/lucky politicians, captains of industry, people, etc. In fact, RoI is stuffed full of stories of poor decision making, bad public servants, stupid private sector judgements, and still, theyre better off
The reason is this: as an independent country, the overarching question that determines all policies/decisions in the Republic is "what is best for us?".
In NI, run largely from Westminster with limited input from Stormont, the overarching question is "what is best for the UK?"
What is best for the UK and what is best for the people of the North is not the same thing. Social/economic/political issues in the north are reduced down to a question of security for Westminster; the aim is not to make the north more prosperous, just to keep it stable
So if leaving the local administration to a semi-democratic powersharing assembly with extremely limited powers will lead to stability, but not to good governance, well then, so be it. The aim of the game isn't to make things better for NI, it's to make things easy for London.
This has led to economic, political and social stagnation in the north. While the rest of Ireland and the rest of the UK gets on with things, the north stagnates and deteriorates. As such, the statelet of NI has been teetering on the edge of a final crisis for decades.
By comparison, the Republic has advanced forward socially, politically and economically. Despite its Haugheys and Aherns, despite half-baked economic doctrines and frequently inept governance, RoI has gone from a backwater to one of the best countries in the world to live in
This should not be interpreted an endorsement the politics of the 26 counties. I'm diametrically opposed to the politics and policies of the two and a half party system that has shaped the Republic. I believe Ireland could have been a lot better than it is now but for them.
Yet still, however bad the politics of the Republic has been, the net result is clear. In all material circumstances, Irish people are better off as an independent self-governing country than it has been under British rule.
Much has been done, and much more to do.
It's abundantly clear from the material facts that the way forward for the north is to work steadfastly towards reunification. Piecemeal reform of the institutions will make little difference to the overall material circumstances.
If you want things to get better, push for unity.
For those of us that feel that the purpose of politics is to make things better for us all, its clear that the constitution question is not adjacent to/separate from the political, social and economic questions of this island. Its the central question linked to all other issues.
Regardless of whether some persons that addressing the constitutional question is in some way inherently sectarian, the material facts are that all roads to a better future for the north lead through a united Ireland.
You can't shirk the facts because you don't like the question.
In conclusion, use this centenary to actively work towards a united Ireland. Don't just talk to people who are already on side, go out of your way to bring the message to people who haven't heard it before.
The future is ours to win, get out there and persuade folk.
Sin é.
The response to this has been CLASS. So, I've decided to go ahead with an idea that's been on my mind for ages, and start The United Ireland Podcast to talk on depth about the issues above and much more.
Donate the price of a pint and I'll love you forever
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