Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Northern Ireland

It turns out that the credit for the power-sharing deal that's been agreed in Northern Ireland really should go to Peter Hain, who hit on the simple but brilliant tactic of threatening to increase water bills in the province if direct rule continued, and threatening to stop the salaries of the elected men too, if they didn't get on with the business they were elected for.

Turns out that pocket-book issues win out every time!

Of course credit should also go to John Reid, who played good cop to Hain's bad cop and intervened in the last two weeks to persuade the DUP to keep talking. And to Gordon Brown for stumping up some cash to sweeten the deal and agreeing to look at variable corporate tax in N.I. (there's the money element again). And to John Major for having the courage to start the process in the first place, to Bill Clinton for appointing George Mitchel as honest broker, and George W Bush for banning American funding to the IRA (albeit he waited till after 9/11 happened, but still).

And above all credit to Tony Blair, who had the sense to back Major's efforts to the hilt, so that the Irish parties couldn't play one UK party off against another or use regime change in Westminster as an excuse to delay, and then for the patience in persuading the parties to keep talking these last ten years, on the understanding that the longer the peace held, the more the voters in Northern Ireland would get used to it and the more impatient they would get at any hint of a return to the old ways.

And we must credit the EU and the Single European Act in particular, which made corporate tax competition come into play, once other barriers to competition were stripped by the Act - if the Irish Republic had not become such a prosperous place the temptation would have been strong for the republic to dwell on old grievances (as they did most of the time during the 1980's). As it is, they have been enjoying making serious money so much, they were rather cross and alarmed at the nutty Sinn Fein seeking to gain a hold in the south and worse, join the north to the south and spoil their party with bombs and mad policies. Hence they gladly changed their constitution renouncing any claims to the north.

That's the money effect at play again. For all the high-fallutin' rhetoric, human beings are base creatures really.


Hughes Views said...

Peter Hain's come a long way from leading the Young Liberals (they were like the Young Conservatives but with more folk singing and sandals) which is what he did when he and I were very young. Still not sure that he'd get my vote for deputy over Hilary Benn though...

jams o donnell said...

There was an expression that became obsolete with decimalisation.. being loyal not to the Cown but to the half crown!

Whatever it took to get Paisley and Adams smiling together in a photograph and promising to work for the betterment and prosperity of all in Morthern Ireland cannot be a bad thing.

Here's hoping it works

Political Umpire said...

Congrats on the best post on this I've read so far.

The idea that Northern Ireland would resolve itself if they all got rich quick isn't new. In the late 70s, the Labour Government tried it with the Delorean Factory. Unfortunately, while they had the right idea, their methods were a disaster. One thing governments cannot do is build cars (British Leyland, anyone?). It didn't take a genius to work out that building a sports car from scratch with an untrained work force, intended to compete with Ferrari and Porsche, was a bit optimistic to say the least.

Labour of course lost power and after a few tens of millions (worth far more today, of course) had gone down the drain with ropey cars being built and failing to sell, the Tories pulled the plug. But for the time the factory was in operation, relations between the mixed workforce were, by all accounts, very good indeed. Unemployment was so high that all tended to leave the Catholic/Protestant thing at the door once they showed up to work.

Unknown said...

One of the most simplistic, anglo-centric analyses of recent developments in Northern Ireland that I have ever read.

The idea that the governments are any more willing to throw cash at the problem now than they were in the past is laughable. The idea that removing Articles 2 + 3 is due to governments in the South wanting to ward off Sinn Féin or reunification is ridiculous. (As indeed is the idea that economic growth in the Republic is down to corporation tax competition or that the EU is to be credited with corporation tax competition.)

Your breathtaking generalisations and ignorance are almost insulting.

That said credit is due to all those you mention as well as, you know, some Irish politicians like John Hume, David Trimble, Gerry Adams, Bertie Ahern and the members of the Ulster Unionist Council who continually backed David Trimble every time Donaldson et al tried to topple him.

Also Peter Hain has probably put in the best stint as Northern Ireland Secretary ever but not just over water charges (again over-credited in your simplistic analysis) but also on gay adoptions, grammar schools, super-councils - the works. He really made the DUP want to get rid of him. He's very good at being objectionable.