Current Affairs Politics

The Weak Arguments Against A United Ireland

Given recent events in the United Kingdom, with Brexit representing a glorified if long delayed sulk by the British at having their imperial toys taken away, renewed talk of a united Ireland is very much in the air. And very much raising the ire of the Wannabe Brit tendency in the news media who fear seeing any further reduction in the nation’s historical ties with our former masters to the east. As long as Greater England’s first and last colony exists somewhere on this island, however diminished, the Ascendancy fetishists can still hope that we may eventually return to… Well, no one really knows what, not even themselves. But whatever their aspirations, the glut of anti-unity and pro-partition articles and opinion pieces over the last several months makes it clear that there are still a few barks left in the revisionist dog.

As it happens most of the “realistic” or “hard-headed” arguments made against reunification, as opposed to mere ideological postulation, are built upon weak stuff. Here is former RTÉ journalist Tommie Gorman:

A new proposition gaining popularity is “the game is up for unionists, Northern Ireland is a failed state and it’s time to push for a united Ireland”.

The RTÉ/TG4 poll, conducted alongside the May local and European elections, suggested 65% of voters south of the border would back a United Ireland if a referendum were held tomorrow.

Had the respondents or indeed the pollsters ever heard of the system of Motability or Disability Living Allowance (DLA) cars?

Motability is the scheme providing motoring to over three million disabled people and their families in the UK, Northern Ireland included.

Google search any of the main garages in Northern Ireland and it will explain how participants in the Motability Scheme are entitled to a new car every three years, replacement tyres, free insurance and road tax, no cost servicing and repairs, free breakdown cover and two named drivers for the vehicle.

One significant dealer in Northern Ireland says at particular times in the year 25% of his car sales are through the scheme. He also points out that the recipients are receiving no more or no less than their entitlements under the scheme.

Would the DLA system be part of the new Ireland? If yes, who would pay for it?

Would it not be the same people who pay for the free all-Ireland travel subsidy for pensioners? Or any of the other allowances that have been brought into effect by the authorities in Dublin and underwritten through the general system of taxation?

Of course we all know that the UK enjoys a significantly better health service than we have in Ireland and that this needs to be addressed in any debate about reunification. It simply can’t be ignored or we run the risk of the failed Scottish independence referendum of 2014. Or worse: Brexit. However, there is also no doubt that the UK-run Six Counties is one of the most impoverished regions of the United Kingdom and the European Union in general, with the public sector subsiding most aspects of the economy. Far from being an exemplar of the benefits of British rule, the North of Ireland is a basket case, politically, economically and socially, and has been in that condition since its inception in the 1920s. As a straightforward legacy of colonialism “Northern Ireland” offers no real and lasting benefit to its inhabitants beyond those who place national identity above their own personal well-being or that of their children. And when you have an open and festering wound that needs remedial surgery no amount of free plasters and lollipops is going to fix it.

23 comments on “The Weak Arguments Against A United Ireland

  1. rossioncoyle

    Who’ll pay for it? The same people who payed for the 46billion that disappeared into Anglo-Irish , who’s relatives and families left in huge numbers seeking a livable livelihood after the banker engendered crash. And we’ll pay for it with a long overdue progressive taxation with which we are also going to put an end to the obscenity of the landlord ridden (what Michael Davitt would think!) and billionaire supporting parvenu state this Republic currently is. That’s how and who by whom this country will be made , at long last, whole again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The public sector Ni constituted 31.3% of the region’s workforce. More than 300,000 public servants work across a broad range of organizations to deliver public services to the people of Rep.Ireland. So which civil servants do we fire ? the State’s national debt is €228 billion and here is the debt clock


      • None. They are UK civil servants. The UK will relocate them or handle their severance.

        Same for the PSNI.

        Not only do we have the precedence of 1922, the experiences of the 50 year post-WWII wave of decolonization in over a hundred countries are there for the harvesting.

        This is really, pretty straightforward, with plenty of examples to draw on. Anyone saying different is a Unionist.


      • rossioncoyle

        There’s going to have to be immense changes in society and economy in the next couple of years to deal with the looming ( probably deadly) crises. If we put value for the quality of human life above the already decomposing economic consensus of the last forty years, we might find ourselves in a more just place in 2030. I don’t pretend to have much hope for that however.


      • ferdia2010

        the debt clock is quite good and shows you how much we owe after 12/13 years of fianna fail , So “Get Real” whose side are you on ? For Unity or against ? They are a lot of savings to be made in a 32 county arrangement, the most efficient setup is best for all I think … Britain also has a big national debt as well.


  2. It used to be the NHS but its not what it used to be. For everyone who claims a DLA car in the North there is someone else who resents it. Its those living in more prosperous areas that have to be convinced that a New Ireland is a better place for them to live. With the Tories now secure in office I think that the days of milk and honey may be about to come to a end.


    • Over here in the UK with the dismal prospect of maybe five or ten years of very reactionary Tory government, we wonder with trepidation what will be left of our NHS, social services and benefits system by the end of that time. Let alone all the deregulation promised as a ‘bonus’ of Brexit. Scotland may well bail out of the Union and honestly NI would be well advised to do likewise.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The debate for re-unification will won on the basis of emotional reasoning, not appealing to pecuniary self-interest. The myth of the Catholic Unionist has been pushed by the NI state since its foundation and the NIO since prorogation. NIO’s creatures NILT and now Pivot make that clear. The privacy of the polling booth shows they never existed in any noticeable numbers, beyond publications by these government organs.

    If humans voted along rational, self-interested lines, thinking logically from an informed foundation, determining the consequences for themselves, their children and the world, we would haven’t half the wealth in the world concentrated in the hands of 0.1% of the worlds population.

    Re-unification will be won on emotional lines, not practical, not financial. For example, for years the line has been RoI would have to get a healthcare system like the NHS before a UI could be discussed. Now that the NHS is about to collapse, Unionists have pivoted to we have to bring the NHS up to the standard of the RoI before we could consider discussing re-unification.

    Except, the DUP. They are toxic to a wide swathe of Unionism. All we have to do is tie the DUP around Unionism’s neck. Get the DUP to be the leader in the argument for the Union, and we have won. So long as we are nice and polite to the Unionists, even the DUP, during the debate.

    Staring at the stark contrast of Boris Johnson’s Brexit UK, crashing out in a year, to the 26 cos. Those North Down voters and Garden Center Unionists will flock to the polls and vote for a UI, even if only to show their distaste for the DUP. Alex Kane’s comments in the Shared Ireland podcast, are trailing indicators of the Unionist mood. Although in 5 years they will be hailed as visionary and prophetic insights.

    With a bit of luck, the border poll could even be held and won before we have to celebrate the centenary of NI’s govt sitting in 1921.


  4. 50/50 recruitment for the PSNI will have to be restored. We will need a Police Service in the Six Counties that is representive of the communities it seeks to serve.


  5. The lack of a proper NHS in Ireland is I think something that needs to be addressed.

    There is no doubt in my mind that a modern Ireland could afford an NHS. The problem is however vested commercial interest and inherently neo liberal governments in the Dail -and this is something that needs to be addressed.

    It’s not really all that enticing to want to be part of a unified independent Irish state that does not, like other social democratic European countries, provide a free at point of delivery health service.

    The Brits may be many things but at least, thus far, they have provided their subjects a better health care system than the Oireachtas has for the citizens of the Republic.

    Time the neo liberal populist southern parties addressed this.

    Otherwise, let us all look forward to the prospect of a fairer, more prosperous United Ireland. It does not have to be the way that it currently is – and the insanity of Brexit may just be the catalyst to accelerate change.

    And yes, I think an independent Scotland would make much better fist of things too. So in 2020 let’s build the bridges for change .

    We can do it!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Again why not a French or German system? It seems to me those countries models have robust advantages over a “pure” NHS system. France combines a public/private universal insurance system with a number of devolved public hospitals that by holding 62% of the beds is much more than “where the poor folks go”. Most private ones have a non-profit mission.

      Germany managed to make the vast majority of insurance non-profit sliding scale although little is directly run by government.

      There is a theory of health systems called “sweet spot theory”. Which says if healthcare always falls on individual shoulders you have a lot of people who simply aren’t going to be able to handle that whether they are poor, high needs, or both. At the other end if nobody ever has to pay for anything except via taxation, you get shortages and folks who abuse the system.


      • ar an sliabh

        I completely agree. I was adopted by a family who lived in Germany, and lived there until a young adult. I can tell you first hand that is the best national health care system I have experienced throughout Europe (perhaps even the world). It is tiered, and individual contribution is pretty much based on income. It is paid for mainly by employers. Everyone is insured. The private insurance company aspect guarantees continued progress in medical procedures and pharmaceutical development which most classic NHS schemes pretty much provide no incentives for. Even though the average treatment received for the standard ailments by insurance groups that are basically public (the AOK for example) can be rudimentary when compared to a private outfit (such as Barmer Ersatzkasse), when special treatment is required, it is received in the end and at the same level of care. Public and private is meant in a very broad sense for the reasons you pointed out in your comment. I wish we had that here in Ireland. As others mentioned, we would have the ability to set that up here as well.

        Liked by 1 person

    • rossioncoyle

      Absolutely spot on!


    • The NHS is not the ‘best health service in the world’. Many are waking up to that reality(propaganda).


  6. here’s how to refute 20 Unionist reasons for not having a re-United Ireland – some of which were already mentioned above


  7. Is it such a given that The NHS is unequivocally superior to Ireland’s System. The NHS is currently suffering serious shortages.

    The Irish System while rather Byzantine could be improved without copying The NHS. Why assume Britain’s way of doing things is always The Gold Standard? Why not look to France or Germany for a better model to improve Ireland’s Healtg System. Indeed France’s model might be a good one in that it could for Ireland be a sweet spot between overly tepid reforms and having to rewrite absolutely everything from scratch. Some argue that France has the best system in the world-a harder case to make for Britain,

    Indeed the idea that Britain’s System is superior to models such as France’s or Germany’s because on a theoretical plane it could be considered more “left-wing”, ignores a lot of messy realities.

    I don’t see the assumption that France or Germany’s System is “more right wing” when you look at the society on the whole.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Posting as a Scot I have to say that I think that the NHD is excellent.

    In England there is a much lesser commitment to free at the point of delivery health care. Indeed, in the minds of many there is 5he belief that if you have money private is better.

    It’s interesting Grace that you think free at the point of delivery creates shortages and abuse of the system. Not sure how one suffering from cancer, or heart disease is abusing the system and if I may say your comment reeks of the mindset that the poor abuse the system creating shortages. And what shortages would that be – radiotherapy, chemotherapy, cardiac surgery, orthopaedic joint replacement et al.

    Yeh you’re right, if you don’t pay directly for it you abide it. Tell that to the minimum wage citizenry of Ireland or the US. Or even just those needing expensive treatment.


    • rossioncoyle

      Also, there’s always room it seems for feathering the nests and doing sweetners for completely unnecessary or downright harmful businesses. There should never (there is never) a valid excuse for a state not to provide the necessary. If there was, what’s the point in having a state.


    • Glad you like NHS Scotland. However there is a high proponderance of evidence that France, Germany, and other countries with a similar system do a better job. While each one is different the ingredients that seem to correlate with a great system are: 1) Some elements of both publicly run (not always above charging fees however) and public coverage for privately run-no “wall of separation” between public and private. 2) Completely ring-fenced or dedicated taxation, which nearly always uses taxes as the primary source. Sales taxes or VATS along with money from general funds may be added on secondarily but that baseline is almost always there. 3) Citizens and legal residents who are not excused from copays are usually given some incentive to have supplementary insurance.

      Most abusers of the system are hysterics and hypochondriacs not those with serious health issues. Being poor is not really correlated with the behavior.

      Hybrid health systems don’t do well on ideological purity, but in the real world they seem more resilient. France and Germany are the two best systems in the world IMO.

      As for having lived with a chronic illness and no way to get any treatment? I have actually spent four years in that situation until Mr. Obama’s policies helped me escape. That experience is a factor in why I’m more favorable to German or French model-not that experience on its own is any magical authority.


  9. terence patrick hewett

    I am a professional engineer and a Catholic who has lived and worked in many countries and there is little understanding in both Ireland and England of how the other thinks: and little understanding in Ireland of the wider UK – comprising as it does of three ancient nations in itself.

    To state the obvious – and to go back to basic principles as engineers love to do:

    Wanting a United Ireland is a perfectly respectable intellectual position – but – to attain this you are going to have to up your game.

    You are going to have to start looking at the world as it is: not how you would like it to be – and certainly not to imagine that the UK is the same today as it was in 1853 – or 1983. To imagine that the Brits are “nostalgic for empire” as so many in Ireland affect, is a concept so bizarre to today’s English people that if you were to repeat it in Brit company, it would provoke laughter and they would think you were a wee bit strange.

    The world is driven by creative science, engineering and technology and we are now well into the 4th industrial Revolution. The development of the transistor by Bardeen/Brattain, at AT&T Bell Labs in 1947 and the mass production of microprocessors, wrought changes in society that has dwarfed any of those achieved by political philosophy. The invention the World Wide Web by Tim Berners-Lee in 1989 has ensured a barely controlled dialogue between millions and has changed the world forever.

    Wallowing in endless victimhood, self-pity and bad history is a deadly equation which demonises the innocent and legitimises any atrocity be it ever so vile. Bad history: because if you study history seriously you learn not to make moral judgements unless within the framework of the time – to use history as a way of building up resentment is not history – it is politics: and pretty morally dubious politics at that. And – it does not work.

    If it is true that the English do not understand Ireland and the Irish then the opposite is true: the Irish do not understand England and the English. If the English do not understand the long fight for Irish national freedom, the centuries of political and cultural conquest and the terrible impact of the Famine on Ireland’s consciousness, then the Irish do not appreciate what the Norman invasion of England in 1066 did to England and the English consciousness.

    In 1066 England was invaded by William Duke of Normandy and Harald Hardrada of Norway. This invasion was ultimately successful and the result was that England’s culture and language disappeared around the year 1100 when Latin and Norman French became the working and administrative languages of the country and English became the language of the peasant and the slave. The Norman invasion of the fragmented Kingdom of Wales – whose leader King Gruffydd ap Llywelyn had just been killed in battle by his rival Gruffydd ap Rhydderch in 1055 – began shortly after the Norman Conquest and continued until 1282 with the Conquest of Wales by Edward I. England re-emerged as a cultural entity after the Anglo-Norman warlords were forbidden to own lands in both England and France and by that time English culture and the English language had transmogrified from Anglo-Saxon to Middle English: a similar sort of change was wrought in the Celtic languages. Culturally one can say for convenience, that when Chaucer chose to write in the vernacular rather than in Latin or French a significant point had been reached circa 1387 and the process of Anglicisation carried on until virtually finishing at the onset of the Elizabethan era in 1558. Wales became a full and legally equal part of the Kingdom of England when Henry VIII enacted The Laws in Wales Acts of 1535 and 1542 by which the legal system of England was extended to Wales.

    By the year 1000 the 4 nations or more correctly proto-nations had reached an uneasy equilibrium: but the Norman invasion was not just a game changer it was a nuclear explosion: the destruction was comprehensive and ruthless – the North of England did not begin to recover for 50 years. The English fought back against this invasion with the only weapon they had left – the dreaded willy – they absorbed and outbred the Norman – but the absorption created a society with split personalities – what emerged from the chaos in the 1300s was not England as it was: it was an Anglo-Norman-Norse-Dane hybrid, replete with the class system which we all know and love. This new entity set about both Scotland and Ireland and set up all the internal stresses and strains which we have to live with today.

    As George Bernard Shaw famously said:

    “It is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making some other Englishman hate or despise him.”

    Whimsically one can say that because of this history – the Irish hate the English the English hate each other – and this antipathy comes out in surprisingly different ways in England. Protestant v. Catholic: Republican v. Monarchist: liberalism v. conservatism: the first three English Civil Wars: the Levellers, the Diggers, the Ranters, the Shakers, the Quakers, the Seekers, the Muggletonians, the Fifth Monarchy Men, Leaver v. Remainer and much else.

    The creation of the United States of America was the product of this stress: of Whig and Republican theorists such as Edward Coke, John Hampden, James Harrington, Algernon Sidney, John Milton, John Locke, Pitt the Elder, Edmund Burke, Earl Grey, Viscount Palmerston, Richard Cobden, John Bright, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson.

    From the Peasants’ Revolt to the massacre at Peterloo to the Enclosure of Common Land to the fight for Universal Suffrage: much of English social history may be looked upon as the attempt to wrest back the perceived tribal freedoms of a pre-1066 England – the England invented and forged by Alfred in the face of the Norse and the Dane – an astonishing comeback from an England which at one stage consisted of a few acres of Somerset marsh. And because this is England we are talking about – much of it is of course about snobbery of one sort or another – amusing as that is.

    George Orwell also noted the phenomenon in his essay The Lion and the Unicorn:

    ‘….the English intelligentsia are Europeanized. They take their cookery from Paris and their opinions from Moscow. In the general patriotism of the country they form a sort of island of dissident thought. England is perhaps the only great country whose intellectuals are ashamed of their own nationality. In left-wing circles it is always felt that there is something slightly disgraceful in being an Englishman and that it is a duty to snigger at every English institution, from horse racing to suet puddings. It is a strange fact, but it is unquestionably true that almost any English intellectual would feel more ashamed of standing to attention during ‘God save the King’ than of stealing from a poor box…’

    With the demise of the Soviets however they have cobbled together a sort of enviro-druggie-climate-UKhate-UShate-EUlove-uglymusik-PC ragbag to fill their Marx shaped space.

    It has been jokingly said that the English don’t even know their own history let alone anybody else’s: but a surprising number do – even if many only have the understanding outlined by Sellar and Yeatman in their book “1066 and All That: A Memorable History of England, comprising all the parts you can remember, including 103 Good Things, 5 Bad Kings and 2 Genuine Dates.” But they have a very good idea of whose side they are on and what is in their own self-interest.

    But to return to our initial proposition: that of a United Ireland:

    With this long and turbulent history in mind – the English ask different questions than do the Irish. Many English are puzzled at Ireland’s desire to embrace the EU in an effort to rid itself of the Anglospherical world. They ask “What was 1922 all about then if Ireland is willing to sell its hard won independence and sovereignty to Macron’s European Empire just to poke the English in the eye?”

    And the stock reply is “we never fought for poverty.”

    And the English ask: “So is there a price on freedom? Because if there is a price on freedom then you don’t want freedom – you want something else.”

    But one thing that Ireland and the UK have in common is their gombeen political classes: never perfect in the first instance they are both a product of 46+ years of corruption by the EU and its precursor. And both the Irish and the UK political classes have been corrupted using the classical method employed by Imperial Rome.

    Imperial Rome did not have hard borders it had zones where Roman influence gradually faded – where it established client states whose elites controlled trade, commerce and the distribution of Roman manufactured products – a prelude to annexation. The process was cynically and accurately described by Tacitus in his Life of Agricola concerning the Romanisation of British tribal leadership: Book 1 paragraph 21:

    “Hence, too, a liking sprang up for our style of dress, and the toga became fashionable. Step by step they were led to things which dispose to vice, the lounge, the bath, the elegant banquet. All this in their ignorance, they called civilization, when it was but a part of their servitude”

    The last sentence hits particularly hard for both Ireland and the UK.

    As “goldgiver” the EU has marched through the institutions of both Ireland and the UK – in the case of the UK using their own money for the purpose. Imperial Rome always insisted that its colonies made a profit – incidentally that was what the Boudiccan Rebellion was all about – Imperial Rome were not getting their money’s worth – and we all know how that ended up.

    The EU method is Imperial Roman Clientism with a dash of national Serfdom – a vassalage which was obsolete in England and Wales by 16th century but lasted in some European states like Prussia and Bavaria until the 19th century.

    The cynical English never fell for the EU happy clappy, let’s all dance around the maypole, kumbaya shtick: and nor are the French or the German or the cynical Italian fooled by it either: that sort of nonsense is for the “little people.” For the English it was an entirely commercial arrangement: profit and loss and zero else. And to be brutally honest – nor has Ireland, Wales and Scotland fallen for it – where much of EU support is defined by antipathy to England – and which has been outlined previously: antipathy towards England by some of the English – it’s all part of the great game.

    The EU does not understand the nature of the dialogue between the 4 nations of our 2 islands – a sometimes extremely violent game that has been going on for millennia – and for many it is the only game in town – and it is a game to which the EU and the US are not invited – except by proxy to be used as pawns to be played or discarded at will.

    Another well-worn argument is that: “If Ireland is not a part of the EU then it will be under the thumb of the Brits again.” This again is a product of gombeen thinking – and a lack of ambition and of confidence in an independent Ireland and what it can achieve. The sort of gombeen thinking that goes on in the UK when it is maintained that the UK cannot succeed outside the EU. In stark comparison to Brexit – a statement not of nostalgia but of confidence by the extraordinary, ordinary people of the UK in what Britain can achieve in science, engineering, trade and on the stage of the world. And these extraordinary people, unlike politicians, have a very good idea what technology can achieve – they work on it and with it every day. Confidence in Ireland’s future can only be achieved if it stands on its own two feet and ceases to hold on to the hand of a nurse of any description.

    I repeat again – you need to up your game.

    An independent United Ireland is a sleeping giant: what can be achieved with the technology of the 4th Industrial Revolution is ill-understood by politicians on both sides of the Irish Sea. But with the inclusion of the North it needs to be realised that there will be a price to be paid in identity and self by both the South and North of Ireland – unless a Zimbabwe style Civil War burnout and land loot is contemplated for the Six Counties.

    And just as there will be a price to be paid for an independent United Ireland, there is a price to be paid for the Faustian pact which Ireland has made with the EU: and that particular price will be total political, fiscal and financial tax control of Ireland by the EU – turning Ireland into a rootless, money-making plantation. Ireland will be asked to sell its heritage for short lived material gain – a handful of Euros – cheap at the price. Just ask Greece – just ask the Troika: it will be done very nicely with more fig leaves than a gallon of califig syrup: Ireland was squashed like a bug in 2008 and 2010 by the EU – it does not like opposition.

    In short the Irish are to be treated like children by the EU.

    One day Ireland will have to choose between independence and servitude – like the UK has had to choose.

    All empires use varying levels of compulsion and all empires fail – and the EU is no exception. It will work – until it doesn’t.

    Tacitus again:

    “Victor and vanquished never unite in substantial agreement.”

    Taoiseach Varadkar has made few political friends in the UK and the US – but this won’t matter much to Ireland’s relations with both the UK and the US – which will always remain warm even if at times warm becomes red-hot.

    To the English, Scots and Welsh, the Irish are part of the fractious family of these two islands and therefore hold a permanent place in their regard – admired, loved, hated and loved again.


    • Your arguments do not seem based in reality.

      For one thing, Roman Clientism is different from the EU as Roman clients were not given a chance to elect Roman Senators, and often they were pushed in under the point of a gun. The EU has yet to do any such thing.

      For another even assuming The Normans actually did such a number on English psyche-not an original proposal-you have not made clear how that’s relevant to what Ireland should do when it comes to National Unity, EU politics, relationship with England, relationships with other countries. If indeed The Norman’s did so much damage to The English more logical answers than Brexit could include an English Parliament,
      end of The Monarchy, and the slow abolition of those bizarrely misnamed “public schools”. If the English are indeed victims of servitude it is to the club those “public schools” have been creating for centuries.

      To do Brexit because of what The Normans did to England is as misplaced

      As for how engineering fits into this? Most countries need to get their political ducks in a row before their scientists can thrive not vice versa. Since you bring up The US Founders they actually understood that principle extremely well. No they weren’t driven by Englishmen hating other Englishmen. They were motivated by fear of where British society was going, enlightenment ideals, lack of representation in Parliamenrt, and grave doubts about whether George III and most of his PMs really understood their needs. Soon after Constitution was ratified they created a mixed economy (that country’s biggest open secret is that it never had Laissez Faire capitalism like most of Europe).


  10. Samuel Johnson

    We have a word in Ireland for people explaining our history to us Mr Hewitt. It’s “tansplaining”. I wondered if that drivel would ever end.


    • Terence patrick hewett

      The main proposition was that both the Irish and the English misunderstand each other.


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