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Republic `cannot afford' a united Ireland, minister says

Diaspora minister Jimmy Deenihan says the Republic can't afford a united Ireland
Diaspora minister Jimmy Deenihan says the Republic can't afford a united Ireland

THE Republic "could not afford a united Ireland", one of its government ministers has admitted on a live TV debate.

Minister of State for the Diaspora Jimmy Deenihan was pressed to give a "straight" yes or no answer on whether the south's economy could support the inclusion of the north.

"Well, no really," he told Stephen Nolan on Wednesday night during the BBC presenter's link-up with RTE's Miriam O'Callaghan's Prime Time.

"Look at something like tourism as an example of how an all-Ireland body can boost productivity (it is) very successful.

"(But) there are two aspects - affordability, in time we could arrive at that stage, it would be a long journey but we could arrive there; but, then there's consent. Consent won't be forthcoming from either the nationalist or unionist population for a long time."

Also speaking on the topic Labour minister Pat Rabbitte said while it was affordable, it would mean people in the Republic paying more in taxes.

"Yes, we can afford it if people are prepared to pay an additional two USCs (universal social charges). You don't have a normal, functioning economy in Northern Ireland, you have a public sector functioning economy.

"You don't have a wealth creating sector that is adequate to make a contribution, that's adequate to maintaining services at the level to which people in Northern Ireland have become accustomed."

He said while, as reflected in the island's "poetry and literature, our dreamers", when asked if they want a united Ireland "in their lifetime" people will answer yes, but "generally speaking people are concerned about the tax that they have to pay".

"When it comes down to the nitty-gritty of paying for it, I think that's a separate issue," he said.

"The issue is that the aspiration to unity is enshrined in the Belfast Agreement. We need to create more bridges on issues like agriculture and industry and tourism."