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The economic case for Unity: How to win the undecideds

The UK is the most unequal of all major European economies. Its finances are perilous and the cost of living crisis desperate.The latest cross-party report details levels of poverty among the disadvantaged not seen since Victorian times.The north of Ireland is the poorest region in the UK. The gap in living standards between the north and south of Ireland grows exponentially. Strikes by teachers, classroom assistants, cleaning staff, bus drivers, nurses, doctors, vets and others confirm the dire situation in NI. Pay parity with workers in Britain is long gone. Real term cuts in Education and Health budgets compound the problem. The failure of Stormont adds to the sense of terminal decline. British minister Chris Heaton-Harris, aloof and ineffectual doesn’t even pretend to be interested. Leader of the British Labour Party Keir Starmer offers no hope and promises to follow Tory government austerity if elected. All the while people in the north are reduced to the role of passive spectators, robbed of agency and unable to avert the dire situation visited upon them. 

However, the good news is, we have an escape route from penury. It is a United Ireland. Reunification with one of the most buoyant economies in the world. In every poll its population expresses their support for unity. This year they have a 10 billion euro surplus. Next year it is projected to be a 16 billion surplus. By 2027 it is expected to have a 65 billion economic surplus. Already the Dublin government is pumping tens of millions into the North on roads, canals, bridges and university support via its Shared Island fund as well as other funding streams. It’s making a financial contribution to the new Casement Park. In the South its surplus is earmarked for investment in infrastructure, public services, housing, hospitals and schools – the very things that are collapsing in the North. 

The very good news is that when southern voters are asked in the Irish Times/ARINS survey if they were prepared to pay for Irish Unity the numbers show more voters than not happy to consider footing the bill for a United Ireland. 

“When the proposition that the Republic should put aside 10 percent of its surplus budget to pay for the future cost of a United Ireland is put to voters, those in favour in the South (36%) outnumber those against (26%) comfortably”. 

(Irish Times/ARINS poll, December 4th, 2023) 

The remainder replied they would like more information before coming to a decision or were not sure. Those supporting unity in the South are always in a huge majority when polled. Partitionist cynics claim such support is based on romanticism – that those people would never vote Unity if it affected their pockets. But now we have a clear answer. Southern voters are prepared to make a financial contribution towards unity. 

But probably the most exciting finding from the latest survey is the extent to which voters in the north can be swayed by economic and financial considerations in a Border Poll. For a very significant cohort of voters in both jurisdictions, how the economics of Unity plays out in their personal lives is very important and will have a significant bearing on how they vote.

In a game changer answer from Northern Protestant voters, When asked if Irish Unity made them £3,500 better off a year would they be either a lot more likely or somewhat more likely to vote for a United Ireland – 23% of Protestants answered Yes. When the same question was posed to those who self-identify as ‘Other’, 33% answered Yes – that it would sway them more in the direction of voting for a United Ireland. These findings are seminal and likely decisive when it comes to a Border Poll. That there has been little media attention around these findings is intriguing. In short, they are a massive boon to United Irelanders and cause for optimism as we plot the trajectory of a Unity referendum going forward. 

We have the economic evidence and financial figures on our side as we seek to win over that particular cohort of Protestants and undecided voters who are key in winning a Unity referendum. They want to know if a more prosperous and stable future for their children lies in being tied to Britain or in an increasingly affluent United Ireland. We know the answer and it is our ace in our pack. We need to ensure every person long before they go anywhere near a polling booth are also clear about the facts and figures. If we are able to clearly communicate the economic and financial benefits of a reunified Ireland then we have a huge advantage over the other side in the referendum campaign. The 23% of Protestant and 33% of undesignated voters are the key target demographic that will deliver Irish Unity. This is our route map to navigating a successful border poll campaign. The Dublin government if they are serious about a United Ireland need to establish an Irish Unity Financial Fund sooner rather than later so there is money in the pot to smooth the transition to Unity. 

Of course there is no guarantee that the economy in the South will boom into perpetuity or that the North will be an economic and financial basket case forever. But right now when we crunch the economic and financial numbers they are on the side of Irish Unity. So let’s press home the advantage and shout it from the rooftops . Let’s put the figures front and centre of the conversation and win over the persuadable 23 and 33 percenters. If we do it right we win that Border Poll.