With Ireland (RoI) negotiating what is essentially a bail out for the banks through the EU and a further direct bilateral loan from the UK I find myself asking what is the future for the island of Ireland?
The Celtic Tiger came roaring into play in 1995 and Ireland was transformed from one of the poorest countries in Western Europe to one of the wealthiest. There was money to be burnt with disposable income at an all time Irish high and unemployment at 4.5% just 3 years ago. Post GFA were the days when the people of Northern Ireland (NI) flocked across the border for cheap shopping and fuel. There was a sense of peace in NI and the Celtic Tiger was undoubtedly benefiting from the weekend invaders looking for a bargain.
The death of the Tiger in 2008 resulted in a reversal of cross border traffic. Newry and Enniskillen have in the past two years become the hottest cross border shopping locations in the world. In 2008 exchange rates led to cross border savings of 30%. Christmas 2008 saw 500m Euros spent by the Republics cross border shopping commuters and ASDA Enniskillen became WalMarts 6th most profitable store and Sainsbury's in Newry was the highest trading store in the company for alcohol, with 30% trade in Euros.
It seems 2010 has condemned both NI and Ireland to economic and social breakdown. The UK government has introduced massive cuts in the NI economy which will affect the nation greatly as the reliance on public sector jobs and funding is greater than the rest of the UK. The UK has been for years propping NI up and now it looks likely that it will do the same for Ireland. Ireland has lost its sovereignty through its greed after joining the EU. It needs 80b Euro to essentially prevent state collapse in the near future and the UK is obliged to offer financial assistance due to its land border with Ireland in NI.
The financials will be sorted and Ireland will ultimately be saved for better or worse but the interesting times lay ahead. The social connotations are much more uncertain. It is my belief that a United Ireland will eventually occur but I cannot see this happen for at least another 20-30 years. No one wants to be a part of a failed state but everyone wants a stable state. A United Ireland may one day become the best option for the people of the island of Ireland however the next ten years are set to prove difficult for everyone on the island. Essentially the entire island is supported by hand-outs from a UK lacking any long term direction and an EU which is simply lacking and doomed as an economic union. Eventually the people of the Emerald Isle will grow tired of a lack of sovereignty and revolution will once again be in the air. Hopefully peaceful revolution...