THERE’S a danger that too much can be read into the news that the Republic of Ireland will this year experience a €10 billion budget surplus and a €16 billion budget surplus in 2024.
Those who use the figures to suggest that the Republic’s current rude financial health strengthens the case for a new Ireland should be aware that a simplistic reading of extremely complicted financial data does no argument any good (a large chunk of the revenue is windfall tax from multinationals that will not be repeated in years to come).
And, just as importantly, they should be aware that while the lure of lucre will factor into every sensible person’s decision on what constitutional arrangement best serves their financial security, even more complicated issues of identity, tradition and belonging will mitigate any attraction that traditional unionists may feel to becoming part of a prosperous, modern, thriving and well-regarded European democracy.
And so crude current comparators of Britain and the Republic’s financial circumstances – made even more stark by the continuing Brexit nightmare – should be avoided at all costs. Instead, in the midst of rapidly changing national, international and global realities what needs to be presented is a financial, social and political vision that offers a new way of living together on this island.
That vision is not yet fully formed. While it has its non-debatable elements – equality, respect and diversity – other needs and demands are competing and arguable. Much more important in this debate than the Republic’s current economic prosperity is the unfortunate reality that the United Kingdom is careering towards becoming an inward-looking, xenophobic, suspicious and hostile country more reminiscent of Viktor Orban’s Hungary.
It's not hating Britain. It's satirising Brexit which hasn't done anything to help Britain. Ireland has 2x NI Budgets in financial surplus. €65 billion, against with let's assume €26 billion in NIO & Stormont spending with €0.7billion in cuts.https://t.co/U8gr0kkxCv— Dr. Kevin Breslin.|Dr. Caoimhghín Ó Breasláin (@kevinpbreslin) May 9, 2023
‘Liberal’ unionists, who have been increasingly been looking towards Alliance, are as appalled by the increasingly doctrinaire and authoritarian policies that are the hallmark of Brexit Britain. The Rwanda callousness; the migrant barges; the weaponisation of policing; jaw-dropping pandemic corruption; croneyism; deepening austerity – many here identifying as British are struggling to process the rapidity with which one of the world’s leading economies has deteriorated and they are further appalled by how far the country’s reputation has sunk across the globe. But outlining these realities is not enough. Suggesting that the Republic of Ireland as it is currently constituted will be a comfortable fit for all would be as arrogant as it would be self-defeating. Very uncomfortable, serious and profound social and political issues of allegiance, symbolism and history will need to be revisited and reassessed in order to make the financially thriving but deeply imperfect Republic a place for all.
Money talks, but its language is strictly limited. It will be heard in the conversation. In its place.