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North and South July 29, 2016

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

David McWilliams in the SBP this weekend had some comparative statistics in relation to North and South which led him to suggest that ‘the Union has been an economic disaster for all the people of Northern Ireland…. they’ve all ben impoverished by it and this shows no sign of letting up’. Granted one suspects that the last few decades have been kinder to this state than to the North, but he has a point. He notes that in 1920 80% of industrial output came from the three counties around Belfast. And in the 1910s Belfast was the largest city on the island. I’ve got to admit I only learned that this year and I still think it fascinating and perhaps indicative of the true nature of the ‘union’ at that time.

By contrast the South was mainly agricultural, no strike that, overwhelmingly agricultural. And was to remain so – and let’s not ignore the fact that that sector is still massively important.

Whereas today, industrial output in the South is ten times greater than that of the North, Exports (as he notes distorted by multinationals, but still not unimportant) are €89bn as against €6bn, the size of the RoI economy is four times the North, and income per head? That of the North is a little over half that of the average income per head of the South which is just shy of €40,000.

Of course it’s not quite that simple. The histories of the two parts of the island have been considerably different and as we know all too well economic winds blow hot and cold. Moreover the progress of the economy of this state was hardly an upward climb since partial independence. It might also be worth factoring in – and again in fairness he does mention this – different public services and so on. Though I think some might wonder given the nature of the dispensation there politically and socially whether that rebalances the scales. He makes the point that the Union did protect living standards but that that changed around 1990. I’d like him to expand on that.

He’s no demographic determinist, but he sees in the 2011 census returns for the North the possibility of increasing nationalist populations in the medium term. Still all this dovetails with Michael McDowell’s piece in the same paper referenced on Wednesday where he asks whether the South would be willing to assume the economic burden of the North?

Still, a contemporary resonance too, he notes that Conor Cruise O’Brien once said that Unionisms last battle would be with English nationalism. Loath though I am to credit CCOB there’s an aspect of that today, isn’t there with the post-Brexit developments?


1. EWI - July 29, 2016

If you lookthrough (especially) Labour and Sinn Féin-originated matetial of the period, there were strongly-made claims that Ireland was over-taxed and deliberately hobbled in the commercial sphere in favour of the ‘mainland’.

As well, industrial parts of the UK were deliberately dismantled under Thatcher, I understand. Hard not to believe that this was a major contributing factor to their modern lack of prosperity.


2. sonofstan - July 29, 2016

“He notes that in 1920 80% of industrial output came from the three counties around Belfast. And in the 1910s Belfast was the largest city on the island. I’ve got to admit I only learned that this year and I still think it fascinating and perhaps indicative of the true nature of the ‘union’ at that time”

Suggestively analogous to the imbalance in England now between London/SE and the rest, and the desire of the former to stay in a union that is perceived to be of no benefit to the latter….


oconnorlysaght - July 29, 2016

The bit about B’fast being the largest Irish city in 1911 should be qualified. As Connolly remarked, its boundaries coincided with its population area, whereas Dublin city was legally cut off from two areas that were naturally part of it (and part of which had been within its borders until 1888). These were the townships of Pembroke and Rathmines, established so that the wealthy (and disproportionately large Protestant) population of these units would not have to pay rates necessary to service (and improve) the city.

Liked by 1 person

RosencrantzisDead - July 29, 2016

The above is a good point. Even today if you were to compare the cities of Dublin and Belfast – Dublin would have a population of 530k compared to Belfast’s 330k. Of course, comparison of the metropolitan areas of Dublin and Belfast would reveal that Dublin was over 3 times the size of Belfast in terms of population.

Both cities, however, would dwarf the City of London, which only has a population of 8000.


EWI - July 31, 2016

There were actually nine townships established to get away from the teeming Irish Catholic masses in Dublin city, if my recollection is right. Dún Laoghaire lasted the longest.


3. sonofstan - July 29, 2016

Also might be instructive, if impossible, to try and hazard how well/ badly the economy of the island as a whole might be doing if we were all still in the UK. Badly, would be my guess.


4. Joe - July 29, 2016

My Cork mother-in-law had this saying:
“Belfast was, Dublin is, and Cork will be
The greatest city of the three”


WorldbyStorm - July 29, 2016

I’m in Cork as we speak, its great.


Peter James - August 2, 2016

Co Cork’s population was 390k in 1911. It has grown by 25% to today. In the same period the State’s population has grown by 70%. Any thoughts on why Cork is falling behind so badly? Perhaps an insufferable parochialism to blame?


5. Joe - July 29, 2016

So yeah, a United Ireland blah blah blah.
Antoinette Quinn wrote a great biography of Patrick Kavanagh, the poet. I’d recommend it. There’s a great story in it about the time someone gifted Kavanagh a second typewriter. Always short of a few bob, the poet decided to try to flog his first typewriter to any of his literary friends who might want it. A while later someone asked him how he’d gotten on. “It was like trying to sell an arsehole”, he said, “everyone already has one”.
My friend Roddy, on here, has described Northern Ireland as a shithole. Why would the south want another shithole? We already are one.


sonofstan - July 29, 2016

So we could talk out of both at once?


Joe - July 29, 2016


WBS. We need a thread on holes. A friend of mine used to love to wind up royalist acquaintances in England with the egalitarian statement that “the Queen’s hole smells”.


shea - July 29, 2016

Can’t expect an arse with out both cheeks not to make a mess.


Dr.Nightdub - July 29, 2016

On NI as a shithole, my da has worked out how his conversation with St Peter at the pearly gates will go:
St Peter: Well, what have you got to say for yourself?
Da: I’m from Belfast.
St Peter: Come on in, son, you’ve suffered enough.


EWI - July 31, 2016

Why would the south want another shithole? We already are one.

We’re less of a ‘shithole’ for having gotten out of the Union. And there’s a hell of a lot of our fellow-countrymen and women trapped on the wrong side of an artificial border arbitrarily applied by the departing colonial power.


6. roddy - July 30, 2016

The north is a shithole because of the total artificiality of it’s construction and will only bear any resemblance to a “normal” society when it no longer exists as a solely “British” possession.


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