Idea of Dublin-Belfast economic ‘corridor’ floated in 1992

Former civil servant proposed European Community should treat island as single entity

Sir George Quigley, chairman of Ulster Bank in 1992, had identified the conditions necessary for the development of the ‘island market’. File photograph: Peter Thursfield

Sir George Quigley, chairman of Ulster Bank in 1992, had identified the conditions necessary for the development of the ‘island market’. File photograph: Peter Thursfield

 

This year’s files released by the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland include discussion of a proposal by the former senior Stormont civil servant and chairman of the Ulster Bank Sir George Quigley for “an all-island economy” in Ireland.

The proposal was made in a speech at a meeting of the Confederation of Irish Industry in Dublin on February 28th, 1992.

In a memo in response, dated March 6th, 1992, a Northern Ireland Office official, R Gamble informed the Northern secretary, Peter Brooke that Sir George’s central idea was that, “given the imminence of the single market and worldwide economic trends, the island of Ireland must move towards functioning as a single economy”.

Sir George had identified the conditions necessary for the development of the “island market”, including improved physical communication and better information about the supply and demand for goods and services in both parts of the island. This mirrored matters discussed at an intergovernmental conference on March 6th, 1992.

Mr Gamble informed Mr Brooke that two aspects of Sir George’s paper had broken new ground: the first was the proposal that, in its economic programme, the European Community should treat the island as a single entity and create “a special budget aimed at the promotion of a vigorous island economy”. The second was his proposal for the creation of a Belfast-Dublin “economic corridor”.

However, the official informed the secretary of state that these novel suggestions had political as well as economic implications and had already drawn negative reaction from unionist politicians. Consequently, the secretary of state should react cautiously to Sir George’s proposals at this stage.