North is going boom only this time, its
not to the sound of terrorist bombs, but a bustling
if the Paisley camp and republicans can agree
a power-sharing Executive by the 26 March deadline,
it will be a further case of 'let the good times
roll!' across the North.
the signing of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement
and the establishing of the cross-border bodies,
the North has been able to take full advantage
of the economically rampant Southern Celtic Tiger.
the founding of the Northern state in the 1920s,
the Unionist-dominated government at Stormont
largely survived with substantial cash injections
from the Westminster Parliament.
subsidies to prop up the North increased after
1972 and the fall of the original Stormont Parliament
and the imposition of Direct Rule from London.
present total cost for running the North is £9
billion a figure revealed to Stormont MLAs
in November 1998 by the then Northern minister
the Northern Ireland
budget the Assembly will eventually deal with
which combined comes to some £9 billion
Unionists organisations, such as the UDA, Ulster
Vanguard and the Ulster Clubs, would all politically
play with the notion of an 'independent Ulster'
along the lines of Ian Smith's Rhodesia in the
1960s, economically, such a move was a 'non-starter'
for the North.
since the republican and loyalist paramilitary
ceasefires of 1994, the North has witnessed a
steady and prosperous increase in its standard
of living a fact copper fastened by the
explosion in house prices.
village in Co Antrim is a prime example of the
property boom. As one of the commuter satellite
locations for both greater Lisburn and Belfast,
its close proximity to the M1 and the International
Airport has seen home prices rocker.
1995, a year after the ceasefires, a new four-bedroom
detached house fetched £52,000. This year,
the same new build home costs an average of £300,000.
North's economic expansion has been made possible
by a twin-track approach marketing the
North globally to attract overseas investment,
and developing an all-island partnership between
Northern and Southern-based companies.
the standard of living has considerably increased,
two major questions are still being posed
could the North ever become prosperous enough
to pay its own way, and will the North always
be heavily dependent on the Union?
answer is 'yes' to the first, 'no' to the second
especially with the threat of a break-up
of the United Kingdom should the Scottish nationalists
gain power in the Scottish Parliament following
May's expected elections.
'yes/no' answers will also become an economic
reality provided a power-sharing, fully legislative
Executive can be established at Stormont.
crucial factor has been heavily emphasised by
CBI Northern Ireland, the business organisation
which represents Northern employers.
Northern chairman Declan Billington, said: It
is only business that creates the jobs and the
wealth. But it can only do this if we have the
commitment and support of our politicians.
CBI also issued an election document, A Mandate
for Prosperity, which clearly stressed the re-establishment
of a Northern Assembly was at the heart of continued
the North's booming economy could go bust if the
Assembly flops and joint authority with Dublin
is implemented by the British Government.
power-sharing Executive is the one barrier against
hard-hitting home rates and water charges being
dumped on the Northern population.
while the South is planning to pump millions of
pounds into the North as part of a peace dividend,
those costs could soar if Britain decides to halve
the £9 billion bill with Dublin for running
the North under joint authority.
prosperous Celtic Tiger may currently be able
to afford millions to develop North-South partnerships,
but a £4.5 billion price tab to run the
North may be a lump sum too far for the Republic's
will make the North pay heavily if its politicians
fail to agree an Executive and the South
will be expected to foot the bill for this failure,
would be realistic to think if Direct Rule is
replaced by joint authority, then the Labour Government
will be expecting the Southern taxpayers to help
'cough up' to run the North.
what will citizens of the 26 counties be expected
to pay for in return for joint authority of the
remaining six counties?
there is a boom in property, jobs and investment,
theres also the struggling Northern health
service, bogged down with never-ending waiting
lists and being steadily strangled with mountains
of red tape.
about the pensions for all the retired RUC officers
and former Ulster Defence Regiment soldiers
especially given the legion of allegations of
collusions with loyalist death squads which these
two organisations have faced?
taxpayers will also find cash for the millions
of pounds in dole and other benefits being paid
to supposedly jobless loyalist paramilitary members
spite of three substantial acts of Provo decommissioning
of terrorist weapons, with the exception of a
token gesture by the fringe Loyalist Volunteer
Force, none of the other Protestant death squads
have either decommissioned or disbanded.
many loyalist gangs are believed to be still heavily
involved in criminality so the South will
have to pay its cut in combating the Northern
loyalist crime lords.
joint authority, the costs of Dublin involvement
in the North will rocket substantially compared
to the meagre amount needed two decades ago to
run the Maryfield Secretariat near Stormont following
the signing of the November 85 Anglo-Irish
involvement in Northern affairs then was merely
to give a voice to Northern nationalists and republicans
not the proposed running of the North itself
under joint authority.
not included in the £4.5 billion joint running
costs in the bill for any damage in the South
caused by loyalist terror gangs protesting about
the imposition of joint authority.
Ahern administration will try to calm Southern
taxpayers fears of the bill expected by
joint authority by stating there is no firm evidence
British premier Tony Blair would ask Dublin to
share Northern costs.
if Blair is replaced as Prime Minister by the
money-minded Chancellor Gordon Brown, the tough-talking
Scot will surely demand his financial pounds of
flesh from Dublin in return for any joint role
in running the North.