Letters to the Editor

Sorry for bursting Brian Feeney's unification bubble

In Brian Feeney’s article (May 30), I was delighted to hear that Colin Harvey has had a eureka moment and has finally recognised the complexity of the unification journey, rather than the fantasy island stuff that has been churned out in the recent past. As usual, Brian selects economic data that underpins his political bias. Firstly, the pension differential is bogus, as the UK state pension is £182.60 which includes pension credit and this compares to Ireland’s sterling equivalent of £210.00. An OECD report in 2019, showed that the UK spent 20.6 per cent of GDP on public social spending while Ireland spent 13.4 per cent. Regarding UK Jobseeker’s Allowance, it can be topped up by Universal Credit and Housing Benefit which Mr Feeney conveniently ignores. The continuing arguments around the subvention are now tedious and even more ridiculous when he stitches both Afghanistan and Trident into the equation. He quotes John Doyle, who discounts the importance of the British subvention. Removing central costs such as defence, debt servicing costs, etc, and adding back the British government’s legally binding commitment to cover pensions, the amount falls to a mere £2.5 billion. This flies in the face of Paul Gosling’s analysis, in which he says that the UK government after unification would have to support the six counties to the tune of tens of billions over 20 years. Aha, the dream of a unified Ireland at the expense of the Brits. The use of purchasing power parity to determine the pension differential is just not credible.

How would Brian deal with 50,000 public sector jobs that would be culled in the north to bring it into line with the percentage of the public sector jobs in Ireland? In the case of health let me quote Gosling’s report: “Ireland’s health system, however, is widely criticised as inefficient and costly. While Northern Ireland’s NHS is in severe crisis and in urgent need of reform, it is a more productive and less expensive system than the Republic’s.”

Dr Graham Gudgin, in an extensive article on north and south living standards on April 21, contested the view in the McGuinness and Bergin report quoted by Mr Feeney, that living standards were higher in the south than in the north. He highlighted a report published by Fitzgerald and Morgenroth in 2019 (Trinity College Economics Department) that concluded the reverse.

In respect of the famous Irish GDP, the professor points to a recent article by Patrick Honohan, former governor of the Irish Central Bank, titled ‘Is Ireland really the most prosperous country in Europe?’ This article made the same case as many others, even me, that Irish measures of GDP are inflated and distorted and do not reflect either the size of the Irish economy or the living standards of its citizens. It was Paul Krugman, a Nobel Prize-winning economist who first adopted the term ‘leprechaun economics’.

Finally, if a ‘new’ Ireland fails to embrace a secular education system, personally, I cannot get excited about unification, let alone Mr Feeney’s stats. Sorry for bursting your bubble.

Belfast BT8


Threat of violence

Throughout the Troubles successive British governments and unionist parties vowed that they would never give into violence for political ends. It was of course a reference to the armed actions of republican groups which they labelled ‘terrorism’. Recently news outlets suggested that the British Attorney General had advised the British government that following a bomb hoax targeting the attendance of Simon Coveney at an event in north Belfast that it would be lawful for the British government to make legal changes to the protocol due to the threat of violence that the protocol engendered. Predictably this was seized upon by the UVF which made a statement to news outlets afterwards threatening violence if the protocol was not changed.  Since then the political leaders of unionism have argued that there needs to be a change to the protocol to prevent violence and while they will publicly wring their hands at any emanations of such violence, they use the threat of it as a reason to justify their argument to change the protocol – “A brick can quickly change to a stone, a petrol bomb, a bullet and then to a coffin.”

What I would like to know from these spokespeople is who these bricks, stones, petrol bombs and bullets are going to be targeted at? Will it be the those members of the British and EU institutions who planned and agreed the protocol? Or will it be solely based on the sectarianism that typifies loyalist violence?  What do the leaders of political unionism and the British government feel should be the response to such violence? Should it be stomped out with all the energy and force that they can muster or should its political demands be acceded to?

Belfast BT11


MLAs should make diabetes a priority

Diabetes is a hidden condition, but the people living with diabetes should never be left at the back of the queue because of that. One in 14 of us live with diabetes across the UK and even more care for a loved one who does.

That’s why we’re calling on decision makers to do more to support people living with and affected by diabetes. We’re calling on all MLAs to make diabetes a priority in the new assembly’s plans because there are more than 105,000 people living with this relentless, serious condition. This number will continue to grow every year.

There are no days off with diabetes and it requires management and support day-in, day-out, and it can have serious complications such as the risk of amputation or sight loss. Visit diabetes.org.uk to receive the latest updates from our campaign, Diabetes Is Serious, and ?find out more ways you can get involved.

Diabetes UK, Northern Ireland


Stones and glass houses spring to mind

In his relentless attacks on Sinn Féin, John Cushnahan accuses them of hypocrisy.

This former leader of the Alliance Party left that party and then immediately joined Fine Gael which offered greater career opportunities.

Since their formation the Alliance Party have always been unashamedly unionist and partitionist. The unity and independence of Ireland and an end to partition has always been a central objective and core principle of Fine Gael. Stones and glass houses spring to mind.

Belfast BT11

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Letters to the Editor