22 July 2004 Edition
Irish people want re-unification
Former Irish Taoiseach Garrett Fitzgerald's view that Irish re-unification is economically unviable is typical outdated thinking that fails to stand up to scrutiny, writes Sinn Féin national chairperson MITCHEL McLAUGHLIN.
Sinn Féin has consistently argued that the Six-County state is a failed political and economic entity. Garret Fitzgerald's analysis is typical of the outdated partitionist thinking of many Southern politicians.
Claims that there is no desire for re-unification do not stand up to scrutiny. Recent elections across the island have shown there is an appetite for reunification and over 342,000 people now support Sinn Féin's vision for Irish Unity. Irish re-unification has the potential to create a real momentum and release the undoubted potential of people right across this island.
Increasing numbers of people also now advocate a single island economy because they recognise its potential. Re-unification would require substantial investment across Ireland to re-establish the transport and communications infrastructure but also in terms of connecting economies and the creative and knowledge-based centres across the island.
It is illogical that a small island nation of slightly over 5 million people should have two political structures, two economies, two transport systems, two education, agriculture, health, tourism, etc, systems. This duplication requires two bureaucracies which, if challenged, could generate significant new money for expenditure on frontline services and infrastructure. There are real savings that can be made by removing duplication, in pooling resources and in developing economies of scale.
The British Government has failed to invest in the Six Counties for decades and ten years on from the first IRA cessation we have still not seen a genuine peace dividend. Addressing the legacy of under investment and a genuine peace dividend has the potential to enable rapid economic development particularly in border communities, where it is impossible to ignore the negative social and economic impact of the border, and through investment in infrastructure. Garret Fitzgerald is adopting a 'head in the sand' approach if he cannot see this.
There should also be a sense of urgency in developing an all-Ireland approach within a rapidly changing Europe, particularly in protecting Ireland's interests in EU negotiations. Agriculture is a prime example of a sector where Ireland's collective EU contribution warrants a single policy and its effective articulation in Brussels. Unleashing the potential of working together on this small island will enhance the future of our farming and fishing communities and help provide a better future for rural Ireland.