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24 September 2014
Wars and Conflict - Personal Perpective

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But, it may be asked, would it have mattered if Ireland had remained a devolved part of the United Kingdom?

I believe it would have mattered greatly.

For it is now clear, as was not the case in 1966 when the Golden Jubilee of 1916 was celebrated, that Ireland’s capacity to transform itself from being the sick man of Northern Europe, with living standards 40-50 per cent lower than in the rest of this area, into a prosperous state with per capita output above the EU average, has depended crucially upon its being a sovereign, independent state.

For it is Ireland’s independence that has enabled it to determine its own taxation system; to educate a far higher proportion of its young people to a much higher level than in Britain; and to develop a constructive social partnership between government, business and trade unions - something that never happened in the larger island.

These are the factors that have enabled Ireland to move out of both absolute and relative poverty, to a level of GNP per head already slightly higher than that of Britain-and with a strong likelihood of becoming within the next decade one of the richest countries in Europe in terms of per capita output and incomes.

Northern Ireland is supported by regional transfers that add some 20-25 per cent to its domestic output...

The contrast with Northern Ireland is striking. During the past half- century Northern Ireland’s share of the output of the whole island has fallen from 37.5 per cent to about 23 per cent. That decline is much too great to be explained by such factors as Northern Ireland’s inheritance of declining industries or by the political violence of the past thirty years.

No, the key factors in this astonishing change in the relative economic capacity of the two parts of the island are, on the one hand, the remarkable economic growth of the Republic, and, on the other side, the undermining of the resilience and dynamism of the Northern Ireland economy by the debilitating scale of the transfers it has come to receive from Britain.

For, like the Mezzogiorno of Italy and Eastern Germany, the economies of which have suffered similarly, Northern Ireland is supported by regional transfers that add some 20-25 per cent to its domestic output. The consequent huge size of its public sector has sapped, and eventually undermined, the internal dynamic of entrepreneurship which, in the days before it was receiving major transfers from Britain, had led to it being far more prosperous than the rest of the island.

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