DAVID McWilliams is a formidable man. He was raised in Monkstown, as comfortable a South Dublin area as you could wish for. He was educated at Blackrock College and Trinity College,  he has a Masters degree in economics from the College of Europe, Belgium. He invented the phrase ‘Celtic Tiger’ and he warned about its coming demise and the collapse of the property bubble in the South when others closed their eyes. In short, McWilliams knows his economic  onions.
So when in a recent article he compared the economies of the North and South, it made informative reading.
 To say he thinks Brexit was a bad idea would be an understatement. He notes that the two UK areas which firmly voted Remain – the city of London and the North of Ireland – are both doing well despite Brexit.
The reason the North is doing well, McWilliams argues,  is because the South is essentially dragging it up, raising its standards. Between January and April of this year, exports from south to north went up by 40 per cent. The North, thanks to the Protocol, is ideally placed, with access to the UK market and to the EU market. Yet northern unionists are intent on firing an Exocet missile into the Protocol and rendering it unworkable.  If anyone should be trying to parade the benefits of being in the UK, it’s unionists. Yet ironically it’s unionists who are doing everything in their power – including paralysing Stormont – to make the North not work. The irony is that the North, when established more than 100 years ago, was an industrial power-house. Belfast was bigger and more thriving than Dublin, and in the early years of the twentieth century the six northern counties were responsible for two-thirds of the island’s industrial output.
 All that has now been reversed. The North is dependent on the British annual subvention, and if it didn’t get it or a similar sum from elsewhere, the state would collapse. Relying on the subvention, McWilliams argues, handicaps self-reliance in the North.
 What is shocking is that there are still unionists and even some nationalists who cling to the idea that the South is backward and poor, the North modern and well-off. This, to put it bluntly, is bunkum. As McWilliams notes, the South’s economy is six times bigger than the North’s,  even though its population is only 2.5 times bigger. The median income in the south is €43,915  while that of the north is €33,500. He doesn’t add that the North has rates whereas the South doesn’t have them. Which is why I’m noting that fact. With his track record, McWilliams is a man well worth listening to.
 Those who are (rightly) calling for a citizens’ assembly to look at the prospects of a united Ireland are routinely dismissed, told that this is not the time, they are dreamers and, besides, the border poll would be lost by nationalists.
This kind of talk is infectious, until those who favour Irish unity begin to think maybe it would be better to wait ten or twenty years.
The truth would appear to be the reverse – it’s those who decry the notion of Irish reunification who have a weak grip on hard economic facts. There are even Northern nationalists who will tell you that the South’s health system and its education system  are both inferior to what we in the North enjoy. Poppycock. The huge tech firms like Google and Apple and Facebook repeatedly cite an educated work-force as one of the reasons for establishing themselves in the South. As for health in the North, an NHS where all services are free at the point of delivery  is certainly a good idea. But try getting your dental needs met without dipping deep into your pocket, or try getting a hip replacement and see how you feel after two years on the waiting list.
The people of Ireland north and south need educated in the economic realities.  When the economic facts are made clear, the notion of a prosperous north being shackled to an impoverished south will implode.
It’s time our politicians headlined the facts made available by David McWilliams and others like him. They can’t afford not to.