Speech given by Sinn Féin economy spokesperson, Conor Murphy MP, addressing the ‘Ireland’s Economic Future’ seminar
There is no doubt that a planned and agreed approach to economic development across the island of Ireland would have a positive impact on trade, investment, economic growth, workforce skills, productivity, innovation, research and development.
Even those politically opposed to reunification do not attempt to contradict this analysis but continue to use unverifiable and unsustainable arguments about dependence on subsistence from the British Exchequer and scare tactics about the ‘South’ not able to afford us.
If they are so secure in these assertions, what do they have to fear by examining the case for economic integration on the island as a precursor to political integration? Sinn Féin believes that there is potential in an all-Ireland situation, with larger economies of scale, with a population of six-and-a-half million people, with all of the different fiscal regulations and transaction costs being regularised, that you will actually create a better economy.
The economic arguments against uniting Ireland being put by those opposed to Irish unity are full of misinformation. Not only is the British Exchequer refusing to provide verifiable figures for revenue generated in the North, but proponents of the union with Britain produce figures that they claim a new national government in Ireland would have to replace, as though absolutely no revenue is generated in the North at all.
A new national government in Ireland would not automatically have to replace the £10 billion subvention that it is claimed the Northern executive receives from the Westminster government.
If you scrutinise the figures – which we have been doing for quite a period of time – the £10 billion actually contains up of £6 billion that you wouldn’t be required to spend in an indigenous all-Ireland economy.
For instance we wouldn’t be helping fund the exploits of the British army, Imperial museums in England, Scotland and Wales, umpteen members of royalty, their entourages and their dozens of residences and the other myriad of areas that are simply to do with the British establishment.
And this doesn’t take account of the savings that would be realised through the elimination of the duplication of every tier and aspect of government on the island of Ireland.
The north cannot realise its full economic potential operating in isolation from the rest of the island while being held to ransom by the stay as we are at all costs ideology of political unionism and island of Britain focused economic policies of the British Exchequer.
Having an all-island corporation tax policy would help create thousands of jobs in the north, yet David Cameron puts his political fight with Scotland ahead of the economic interests of the North of Ireland. An all-Ireland air passenger duty would help in the quest for new routes to Europe, North America, the Middle East and Asia, forging key links to growing economies. It would help attract foreign, direct investors and encourage more tourists to come to our shores. The promotion of the island as a single market would also produce dividends in these areas.
The mantra that the price tag of Irish re-unification is too costly is predicated on highly dubious guesstimates by the British Treasury, Unionist politicians and partitionist elements in the South of Ireland. Accurate figures on all revenue raised and actual expenditure specifically relevant to the north of Ireland are being deliberately withheld by the British Treasury, Excise and Customs and conveniently ignored by successive DUP Finance Ministers.
It does not make economic sense to have an island nation of 6.5 million people split into two separate tax, currency and legal systems, and two separate economies with split populations of 4.6m and 1.9m people in competition with each other. In the context of Irish unity, there would be a sovereign government able to access the full range of fiscal facilities required to build an economy specifically conducive to the needs of the population of the whole island while the additional – and growing – population would contribute through the full range of taxation measures to the Irish Exchequer. It would provide economies of scale and a bigger market with more effective indigenous industries and greater ability to attract FDI. Transactions costs would be eliminated thus leading to greater efficiencies. With national integration we would be in a stronger position to access not only existing European, American and British markets but the emerging markets of South America and Asia.
A new stronger economy arising from the integration of both existing states into a new, agreed Ireland can deliver sustainable economic prosperity that the present status quo is incapable of delivering. We need a new approach to economic development across the island, one which does not promote austerity, perpetuate two fractured economies, and force thousands of young people to emigrate in search of employment opportunities. There is no difference between the effect of the London or Dublin austerity policies that are crippling the lives of our people. But co-operation alone will not deliver prosperity for the people of Ireland. An economy which is built on fairness and equality will deliver a brighter future for all our people in a united Ireland.
There is a better way for the people of Ireland and it is through taking control of our own sovereign economic and political destiny. I challenge those opposed to Irish unity to enter the debate based on full disclosure of accurate economic figures and not on the basis of scaremongering and the misrepresentation of revenue streams.