Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Real All-Ireland Economics

It’s now over a week since Peter Robinson and Brian Cowan announced that Northern Ireland would play a "key role in providing additional financial service skills to companies based at the International Financial Services Centre in Dublin."

Robinson went on to say:
"For years people have been talking glibly about cross-border co-operation that is to the mutual benefit of people in Northern Ireland and the Republic. This is what it looks like. For the Republic it allows for the expansion of an already significant Financial Services sector and for Northern Ireland it provides the potential of thousands of high value-added jobs."

"Cross-border co-operation", closer economic ties between the Republic and Northern Ireland, more jobs. Yet not a word of welcome from the Sinn Fein newsroom (nor their chief media boot-lickers, Feeney and Ó Muilleoir) where the main topic of the week appeared to be the developing plastic-bag crisis (don't worry, there'll be an all-Ireland solution I’m sure).
I wonder why then the silence?

Firstly, it wasn’t them that came up with the idea, but the Republic’s government and the Unionists- Fianna Fail and the DUPes basically outflanked SF, leaving them no opportunity whatsoever for them to take the credit (or gloating rights) for another step along to the... coming soon...any-day-now imminent...blink and it'll be here... "All-Ireland economy".

Secondly, as Liam Clarke points out here, if you think about it a bit more, this "win-win" scenario was actually only possible because of political partition delivering differential tax and grant structures, not to mention those salary gaps which Aer Lingus earlier this year took advantage of. Put bluntly, the Republic’s companies can do the work in Northern Ireland with its lower overheads and better incentives, whilst still paying much of their corporation tax at the cut-rate in the south- a scenario which just wouldn't work in all-Ireland economy.

Still, Sinn Fein can’t really complain, bearing mind that they and particularly their South Armagh representatives have taken advantage for years of the *business* opportunities such differentials offered, the only difference now is that it’s now the authorities who are playing the game, legally and without a gun or baseball bat in sight.

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