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Opinion: A United Ireland – An Expensive Pipe Dream?

Recently RTÉ and the BBC NI commissioned a poll from Amarach research for a joint Prime Time/Nolan Live programme on a united Ireland. The poll found the following when asked if they would like to see a United Ireland in their Lifetime.

Republic of Ireland

  • Yes 66%
  • No 14%
  • Don’t Know 20%

Northern Ireland

  • Yes 30%
  • No 43%
  • Don’t Know 27%

The poll results were of no surprise for the Republic as the stated aim of every political party in the Republic is the eventual reunification of the island, but the results for Northern Ireland were a bit surprising for some.

Sinn Fein in recent times have been agitating for a Border poll based on the recent Scottish Independence Referendum, but I think they may start putting it on the long figure based on these results.

But why the disparity in the figures? The phrase ‘it’s the economy stupid’ comes to mind.

Northern Ireland is not as prosperous as it once was. The public sector is one of the largest employers in the province. Northern Ireland is net beneficiary of the Barnett Formula which balances UK spending across the countries that make up the UK.

Northern Ireland has a huge gap between income and expenditure. In 2011/12 as an example Northern Ireland took in £14.1bn in revenue, while they spent between the Assembly, Local Councils and national departments £23.8bn was spent in Northern Ireland leaving a £9.6bn deficit. That equates to £5,311 per head of population.

Most people in Northern Ireland are under no illusion that a united Ireland is not economically feasible for the near future and certainly not within most of our lifetimes.

While that deficit will grow and shrink depending on economic growth in Northern Ireland and pressures on the UK Budget, Northern Ireland will always get a better deal out of London, then it could ever get out of a Dublin Government.

Reunification is a costly process. The reunification of Germany has cost 1.3 trillion euros over the last 20 years. This has seen flows of money from West Germany to East Germany, resulting in the increase of living standards in the East, but stagnation in the West. This has led to some resentment building up.

The same could happen in terms of Irish reunification.

While everyone on this Island would like to see a united Ireland at some point, economics will rule the day. When questioned if they would support unification if taxes were changed the results were as follows:

Republic of Ireland – 66% Lifetime Aspiration

  • More Tax: 31% support
  • Same Tax: 63% support
  • Less Tax: 73% support

Northern Ireland – 30% Lifetime Aspiration

  • More Tax: 11% support
  • Same Tax: 22% support
  • Less Tax: 32% support

The poll results show that at the end of the day for a united Ireland the argument that must be won is the economic one.

Since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, there has been relative peace on this Island, no one is willing to sacrifice this for the sake of an expensive pipe dream.

Full Poll Results: Prime Time Cross Border Polls

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Stephen Spillane

30 year old Cork feen who should have left UCC years ago, but still writing for the Express. Has written for a number of websites including Spirituality Ireland and ESC Ireland. Interests include Politics, Religion and other things that shouldn't be spoken about in polite company.