Why does nationalism run away from Irish Unity at election time ?

Shortly after the announcement of the general election, I noted over in Scotland that both the SNP and Alba (Alex Salmond’s hardline pro-independence breakaway) were straight out of the blocks, seeking a mandate for Scottish independence. SNP leader John Swinney characterised polling day, July 4th, as “Independence Day”. In a press release which mentions the word “independence” seven times, he said : .. So let’s unite to win the powers of independence to strengthen our economy, tackle the cost of …

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Making Sense of the NI Subvention and the Economics of Reunification…

5 pieces of banknotes on yellow and white textile

An excellent podcast on the NI subvention and the economics of reunification has just been made available by RIA/ARINS (Royal Irish Academy / Analysing and Researching Ireland North and South). The participants are: Host Rory Montgomery (former Irish Ambassador to the EU and member of the Irish negotiating team for the BGFA). Dr. Esmond Birnie (senior economist, UU, and former UUP MLA for South Belfast 1998-2007), who argues that the subvention does matter. Professor John Doyle (VP for research at …

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The past, present and future of cross-border rail

Enterprise crossing Craigmore Viaduct near Bessbrook

Recently, to great fanfare, the Irish government announced an €800m funding package in support of its Shared Island strategy aimed at funding public spending on projects in Northern Ireland. The lion’s share of the spend is on the A5 project, and that, together with Casement, is where most of the media attention went. However, there is also an allocation aimed at increasing the frequency of cross border rail services. Before looking at this in detail we should talk a little …

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The end of a series

The latest series of Holywell Conversations podcasts began with reflections on the Good Friday Agreement, amidst fears that Northern Ireland’s devolution was over, and that series has now completed at a time when government has actually resumed. Over the series’ 18 episodes two themes have been examined – the challenges holding back reconciliation within our society, and the specific problems that continue to face the North West region. In the first episode, we heard from three people at the table …

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[Long Read] Next Irish Election will test whether what a government does makes a difference

In 2024 four billion people go to the polls: about half the population of the planet. In the US, poll watchers predict a Trump win in a campaign where he may spend more time in court than on the stump. In the early 1930s, Will Rogers, a lifelong Democrat joked that the reason Republicans nearly always won the Whitehouse back then was that they had a habit of having three bad years followed by one good one. The good year …

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Fix climate change and congestion with better buses

A recent job change, for me, led to a minor conundrum associated with the loss of a free city centre parking space. I could either continue to drive to work and pay for all day parking (£7 is the lowest price I’m aware of) or I could use the bus. I opted for the bus.  The Antrim Road area, where I live, is quite well served by the Metro 1 route. Using the “Belfast Bus Tracker” third party app (App …

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Farming in transition

Agriculture is worth around £1.7bn to the Northern Ireland economy, 4% of total economic activity, according to figures published by the Department for the Economy. This compares to farming comprising just 1% of the UK economy – so farming is worth four times more to our economy, proportionately, than to the rest of the UK. But it is a sector that is in transition and worried. Post-Brexit trade deals agreed by the UK with major agricultural economies Australia, New Zealand …

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A tale of one city and two regeneration sites

Derry is a frustrated city. Too often promises of improvement either come to nothing, or happen too slowly. Anyone who doubts this can consider the regeneration of two major development sites – Ebrington and Fort George. One is now partially occupied, the other largely vacant. This is two decades after the fanfare of their transfer from the Ministry of Defence for the benefit of the city. The former Ebrington Barracks, also known at one time as HMS Sea Eagle, were …

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Connecting the North West

Derry and Donegal are not only marginalised by their geographic position on the periphery of the island of Ireland, but they are also very badly served by the transport infrastructure. They are not alone in this: there are similar complaints from Sligo, Fermanagh and elsewhere in the West. After a long campaign, parts of the A6 road between Derry and Belfast have been upgraded – though it is still not a dual carriageway between Dungiven and Castledawson. It was back …

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Belfast Investment Conference can break all records…

cityscape photography during daytime

It all kicked off this week when Doug Beattie wrote to PM Rishi Sunak to ask him to postpone the Belfast investment conference because he said it shouldn’t be held when Stormont is down. A suggestion that this landmark event would be a damp squib and should be delayed until October enraged a group of our local business leaders. For instance, Roger Pollen, Head of the Federation of Small Businesses (NI), immediately hit back by saying, ‘It would be folly …

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Has Political Unionism Abandoned the ‘Economy’?

The latest polling undertaken by Liverpool University’s Institute of Irish Studies shows a significant disconnection between the numbers voting for a Unionist party and those who would vote to remain in the UK in a future Border poll. Just over 50 percent (51.9%) of those who would vote to remain in the Union voted for a Unionist party, such as the DUP, UUP or TUV. But a much higher proportion (69.9%) of those who would vote for Irish unity tomorrow …

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All Island Rail Review has been published – but will it hit the buffers?

Regional and rural interventions rail map from All Island Rail Review

Yes, I’m cynical.  You can’t entirely blame me. There is some great stuff in the All-Island Rail Review, published on Tuesday, including some blue sky thinking.  The summary, with my annotations, is below. Short term and decarbonisation Electrify remainder of Belfast-Dublin line, Belfast-Bangor, Dublin-Cork/Galway/Limerick/Waterford (both companies were already working on plans to abolish diesel traction, but NIR I think also intends to electrify the Larne, Portrush and Derry/Londonderry (hereafter referred to as Derry) lines) Increase line speeed to 100mph (currently …

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Ireland’s bailout conditions is Northern Ireland’s best chance of economic recovery…

a boat in a body of water near a city

The Republic of Ireland is ranked No.1 in the world for economic performance according to last week’s IMD World Competitiveness Ranking for 2023 and was only narrowly beaten by Denmark for the overall competitiveness award. However, this is a truly remarkable reversal of fortune, as it was only back in 2010 that Ireland was forced to accept an €85 billion bailout following the global economic downturn and banking crisis. There is no doubt that Ireland’s historic low corporation tax rate of 12.5% has been …

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Where is the Peace Dividend?

A few days ago the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee of the House of Commons was told that for some communities here, the expected peace dividend from the Good Friday Agreement never arrived. Tim Attwood of the John and Pat Hume Foundation reported on its recent ‘Peace Summit’. “One of the young people said, ‘The conflict was not the problem; the peace is’, because, in so many places, they do not see the dividend. Some working-class people in parts of Belfast …

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Trashing the environment

Just five miles from Derry’s city centre, on the suburban edge of the Waterside, is the site of one of the worst environmental crimes in UK history. It has been described as Europe’s largest illegal waste dump, which may be an exaggeration, but it is certainly one of the very biggest. The Mobuoy waste dump runs across both sides of Derry’s Mobuoy Road. It covers 116 acres and contains one million tonnes of illegally buried rubbish. While the company running …

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Fianna Fáil’s Michael McGrath lays out proposals for a new Ireland national wealth fund…

glut of money, 500 euro, euro

One of the big issues dogging countries across the western world is how to manage increasing fiscal pressures in a world that has suddenly become highly volatile and subject to multiple economic and socio political shocks. The lunatic Trumpian fringe amongst the US Republicans scant majority is threatening to impose a debt ceiling on government which would reset it to 2022 limits and provide for a one per cent increase each year going forward. Sounds reasonable until you consider this …

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Anger in the voluntary sector

There was anger across Northern Ireland when the government’s funding allocations from the replacement for the European Social Fund were announced. Firstly, the announcement was made late morning on the very last day possible. And secondly, the level of funding from the replacement programme, the Shared Prosperity Fund, was much less than that lost from ESF. Many people felt this was not the promise the UK government made after Brexit. For people in Derry, this was regarded by some as …

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Biden. It’s the Free Trade Agreement, Baby!

aerial photo of pile of enclose trailer

The famous 1970’s American actor, Tele Savalas, used to say, ‘Who loves ya, baby?’ As we reflect on President Biden’s visit to Northern Ireland, we might recall the splash of America glitz and affection that cheered our damp and cloudy Easter break. Or we might have gotten a little carried away with the Americanisms of the ‘land of the free’ or our distant relatives on the ‘other side of the pond.’ He might not have said these exact words – …

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Is deprivation in the North fueling racism?

brown game pieces on white surface

Some depressing news for those who want to see a more diverse and integrated society. A study commissioned by the RoI’s Shared Island Initiative and carried out by the Economic and Social Research Institute, (ESRI) was published on 6th March. The conclusion is that Northern Ireland is less welcoming to migrants than the South even though there are fewer of them. Why? Well there is a direct correlation between a positive view of the future, and attitudes to immigration, and …

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