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24 September 2014
Wars and Conflict - Personal Perpective

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By contrast, the Republic, as an independent state forced to live almost exclusively on its own resources, (EU transfers in the last couple of decades were at most, and temporarily, about 5 per cent of GNP), has painfully pulled itself up by its own boot-straps.

The rationale of Irish independence is not, however, confined to economic factors...

The divergent economic interests of Ireland and Britain, which have needed to be advanced and defended by two distinct sovereign governments, have also been highly visible within the European Community, where the two States have chosen to pursue quite different approaches in key areas such as regional policy and agriculture.

The rationale of Irish independence is not, however, confined to economic factors. There are other less tangible, but no less important, factors. Thus, cultural differences between the people of the Irish State and those of neighbouring Britain are such that these two peoples could not, I believe, have continued indefinitely to co-exist comfortably and successfully within a single political entity.

This has been evident, for example, in the quite different roles that Ireland and Britain have chosen to play in global affairs.

The Irish decision to choose the path of independence has thus been fully justified by the events of the past eighty years. But if Southern Ireland had failed to leave the United Kingdom at a time when transfer payment from Britain to Ireland were relatively small, later dissatisfaction with the relationship would have come up against the huge problem of the high cost of terminating it. 1916 saved Ireland from that dilemma.

But what about Northern Ireland, it may be asked? Following the outcome of the Home Rule debate in 1914, the aftermath of 1916 sundered this area from the rest of Ireland - for history had left the people of the north-east with deeply divided loyalties as between Ireland and Britain.

It is true that, because of its very different economic history, Northern Ireland probably benefited in the short run from having remained in the UK. But, as has just been suggested, this may have been at considerable cost in the longer run.

Northern Ireland’s best hope of recovering its lost economic dynamism may now lie in the development of a far closer economic link with its southern neighbour than has hitherto been envisaged – an economic link that need not prejudice its continued participation in the United Kingdom, unless and until its people choose otherwise.

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Did Garret FitzGerald interpret the Rising differently in 1966? Compare his reflections today with those that appeared in this commemorative article to mark the 50th anniversary of the insurrection. Click here to download (Rich Text Format - 29k)

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