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  • Writer's pictureGreg O'Loughlin

The Price of Everything, The Value of Nothing

a Chara,

I get asked questions. A lot of questions. People in the US and Canada are interested in Sinn Féin, political developments, the peace process, and Irish Unity.

Sometimes simple questions require complex answers. Sometimes questions defy a logical answer.

Try explaining Brexit to anyone with any understanding of economics, trade, or international relations. “That doesn’t make sense”, is the common reply. And it doesn’t make sense unless viewed through the skewed prism of English Nationalism. Deluded by nostalgia for a time long gone. Driven by the idea that an empire lost; could be regained. Reality bites hard. England now stands isolated, with an economy in tatters, debts mounting and a government that is afraid of the electorate.

Before Christmas, a friend in Canada asked a series of questions relating to Irish Unity. I pushed them back to answer in the New Year.

One of the questions was “Can the South of Ireland afford the North?” A common enough question, and one that is well-researched.

The general consensus is; yes there will be a cost, yes there is a need to plan, yes that cost is affordable and yes a united Ireland will open up opportunities to grow the economy beyond the limits of two separate states. (Check out the excellent Making Sense of a United Ireland by Brendan O’Leary).

So research done, references identified, and books stacked on my desk, I set down to write up a detailed answer. I ended up in a Google rabbit hole reading about Oscar Wilde in America.

Then I came across this quote of his, “What is a cynic? A man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing”.

That got me thinking about the assumptions that lay underneath the question. That a nation is nothing more than numbers on a spreadsheet. Should Connaught in the West of Ireland be set adrift because it doesn’t show a profit? What about the other counties? Imagine applying the same logic to the US. What state would you exile? (please don’t write in)

The same economic test was not put on those advocating for partition. History demonstrates that since partition the North has been in steady economic decline and that the border regions of both states remain the poorest. Brexit demonstrated that partition remains an economic threat to the southern economy. Partition was and remains an economic failure.

The vast majority of people who share this Island know the value of Irish Unity and the price of partition.

Perhaps a better question is “How do we plan to realize the economic potential of Irish Unity for all on the island”. That, my friend, is a far more exciting question, and one that must be led by an Irish Government and all those who support unity.

Have a great weekend.

Is mise,


Ciarán Quinn is the Sinn Féin Representative to North America. Each week he writes a letter from Ireland with news and analysis. It is featured in the weekly Friends of Sinn Féin USA Newsletter. Be sure you are subscribed to stay up to date.

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