North and South July 29, 2016Posted 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?