The Economic Cost of Partition
Every week Ciarán Quinn, the Sinn Féin Representative to North American writes a weekly letter from Ireland for our newsletter. Never miss a copy and sign up here.
In his last letter, Ciarán was writing about the economic cost of partition.
A Letter from Ireland
I’ve been thinking about Irish Unity lately, and it struck me that much of the discussion is rooted in a myth that is no longer relevant - a myth of economics and affordability.
In 1920, eighty percent of the industrial output for the whole island came from the three counties around Belfast. At the time of partition, Belfast was a bigger city than Dublin.
When partition was imposed, the North was a net contributor to the British Exchequer. It paid more to London than London paid back to Belfast. By 1930, eight years after partition was imposed, that position had reversed.
Today the 26 counties have an industrial output 10 times that of the North. Its economy is four times the size with a workforce only two and half times larger.
The economy of the South is by no means perfect and much of it remains unequal, but the truth is the economic transformation since partition has been incredible. The North being anchored to London and cut off from the rest of Ireland has been an economic disaster, its once-thriving economy reduced to dependency. The negative economic impact of partition is inescapable.
The key argument being forwarded by those opposed to unity is that, “the rest of Ireland could not afford unity”. This is a myth.
A recent economic report found that unity would lead to increased economic output of €23.5bn. With this increase in overall economic output and higher-skilled employment comes a direct boon in tax revenue available to the unified state.
The status quo has failed the economy of the North. A united Ireland would unleash its full economic potential, with Belfast and Derry again becoming economic powerhouses.
There is no economic case for partition. A united Ireland is the opportunity to build a new, prosperous, and shared economy.
There is of course much more to Irish Unity than economics. Growing up in Belfast we were constantly told that the South was the poor relation. It never stopped us from dreaming of a reunited Ireland.
Partition remains an unmitigated failure from every angle. A united Ireland is an opportunity to reach our economic potential and it is no longer responsible to base decisions on myths.
The truth is that we can’t afford partition. The time for unity is now.