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All-Ireland economy plans unveiled

February 17, 2011

By Staff Reporter

The document underpins views expressed exclusively in the Irish Echo Northern by Northern Secretary Peter Hain last year in which he said the north’s economy was unsustainable, and that it was “going to be increasingly difficult to look at the economy of Ireland north and south except as some sort of island of Ireland economy.”
“More joined-up planning and delivery will give better outcomes for people throughout the island,” the document released last week says. Produced by British and Irish government officials, and independent economists in consultation with business leaders north and south, the report skips examining the feasibility of north-south economic co-operation, but moves straight to explaining why it is essential for the economic future of the island.
“The [future] vision must be of an island characterized by a strong competitive and socially inclusive island economy with strong island-wide economic clusters whose development is not impaired by the existence of a political border. The aim of policy should be a world-class all-island economy which manifests itself in comparable levels of economic dynamism and performance in both parts of the island,” it adds.
“For Ireland this means consolidating its position as one of the world’s most globalized economies. For Northern Ireland it means developing the capability to become more fully integrated into the global economy,” the document notes, outlining the contrasting roles played by both economies on the world stage.
Nationalists have welcomed the document, but unionists have interpreted “joined-up” as economic unity and have reacted with fury.
“In the first page alone, it mentions ‘all island’ seven times. It’s ‘all island’ this and ‘all island’ that. This document has the potential to poison relations between Northern Ireland and the Republic at a time when progress was being made,” Ulster Unionist Party leader Sir Reg Empey declared.
The Democratic Unionist Party’s former Stormont Regional Development Minister Gregory Campbell said: “Those who are fascinated with purely focusing on the relationship between Northern Ireland and the Republic are missing the big picture. Northern Ireland’s economic best interests are self-evidently with remaining a part of the world’s fourth largest economy and market of 60 million people in the United Kingdom — and on into the European Union and beyond – not with the small economy of only four million people in the south,” he said.
While the DUP “believe in co-operation between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland that is to the benefit of our province”, if the plan was “to build up an all-Ireland economy, we’re not going there,” Campbell added.
Irish foreign affairs minister Dermot Ahern said however: “No-one today can be economically partitionist.”
“[The document] makes clear the strong economic imperative driving North/South co-operation. To be globally competitive we must exploit the opportunities of all-island collaboration. To make the knowledge economy a reality in Ireland North and South, the opportunities of cross-border co-operation in R&D should be eagerly grasped,” said Ahern.
“A coherent transport infrastructure is vital for the balanced regional development of this island and to support the development of areas which have historically enjoyed less economic success including the border counties and the North West,” he added.
Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain said the report marked a new degree of cross-border economic co-operation and linked it directly to the restoration of the Stormont Assembly.
“I look forward to further development and implementation of the goals and actions contained in the Study both in the weeks to come and as part of the agenda of the restored institutions,” he said at the launch.
The study highlights virtually all areas of economic activity and infrastructure as ripe for integration and collaboration. An all-island approach is recommended where “market failure arises from the existence of the border or where the public goods and services could be more efficiently provided on a co-ordinated basis,” it notes.
Recommendations include co-operation on infrastructure development, opening up the possibility of the Republic funding road improvements in the north to upgrade national roads between Dublin and Donegal and the north west. The reports notes that a total spend of

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