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The Economic Case For Unity

A Pro Unity Sign Near the Armagh/Dundalk Border

When partition was imposed almost one hundred years ago the six north-eastern counties were the economic powerhouses of Ireland. Belfast was larger than Dublin and was sustained by heavy industry and trade. The North was a net contributor to the British economy. The twenty-six counties that made up the South were relatively poor with decades of under-investment and a largely agricultural economy.

By 1930 the North was no longer paying its own way and had experienced industrial and economic stagnation. Since partition economic growth in the South has surpassed the North. The South is now a modern outward-looking global economy and member of the European Union. The North, reliant on Westminster and being dragged out of the EU by Brexit faces further economic decline.

There was never an economic case for partition; it has been bad for the North, for border counties, and held back the whole island from reaching its full potential. Time has proven that partition was and remains a political and economic failure.

But what about the future? What is the economic potential of unity? Today Sinn Féin published a discussion paper ‘The Economic Benefits of a United Ireland’. It sets out the clear economic advantages arising from reunification. It exposes the lies of partition and proves that a united Ireland is achievable and affordable.

Dr. Kurt Huebner Director of the Institute for European Studies at the University of British Columbia

The conventional wisdom is that the British government grant of £10 billion to the North to keep it afloat is so great that it is unaffordable for the South. This myth has been busted. The facts show that the real figure for the grant is at most £6 billion. Of this £3.5 billion is spent on pensions which would be part of any negotiation on unity. The final grant cost could actually be as low as £2.5 billion. That is also before looking at efficiencies and growth. This is very affordable for an all-Ireland economy. A united Ireland will have a bigger, stronger, more dynamic economy. It will be an all-island economy that will deliver jobs, economic growth, a higher standard of living, higher wages and deliver better public services.

In two widely read studies published in 2015 and 2018, before and after the Brexit vote, Dr. Kurt Hubner took on the task of precisely forecasting the benefits of unleashing the potential of the Irish economy post-reunification. Writing before Brexit, and taking account the economic conditions of the all-Ireland economy in 2015, Hubner pointed to a boost of billions in output within the first decade of reunification. Following the Brexit vote in 2018, he subsequently modeled a €23.5bn surge in output.

Sinn Féin Finance Spokesman Pearse Doherty Introduces The Discussion Paper on the Economic Benefits of a United Ireland

What’s more, with the North guaranteed automatic re-entry into the European Union post-Unity, and with a history of the EU providing vital investment as in the case of German reunification, a strong case also exists for additional EU funding to propel this transition to a fairer, greener and prosperous all-island economy. Germany today has an economy stronger than the sum of its two parts pre-unification.

Not only is Irish unity affordable, but the economic potential released by reunification over time will dwarf the costs of the integration of both economies.

Irish unity makes economic sense. It is time for a debate that recognizes these facts and prepares for an economic transition from which all stand to gain. The ‘Economic Benefits of a United Ireland’ makes a cogent, sensible case for a united Ireland.

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