Sir, – In “We need facts and not rhetoric about a united Ireland” (Opinion & Analysis, November 19th), Sheila Davidson manages to cite just one actual “fact”, the UK subvention to Northern Ireland of £15 billion, calling it “undeniable”. Around £1.6 billion of the subvention goes to service the UK national debt. It also includes over a billion pounds attributed to the UK national “defence” budget - and I think most of us would agree that it might be as well if Northern Ireland did not have its own nuclear deterrent. More than £3 billion is attributable to pensions, for much of which the UK would remain legally liable. Over £700 million is calculated as the North’s contribution to the UK Foreign Office, and so on.
More egregiously, in an article calling for facts, the writer makes a virtue of saying she does not know how being in a “united Ireland would impact on our pensions, our health service, our benefits, our legal aid rights and our jobs”. She could get some indication from actually peering across the Border. In September, the State’s unemployment rate was 4.3 per cent, while the seasonally adjusted claimant count in the North in October was 3.8 per cent. Jobseeker allowance, as an example, in Northern Ireland is £77; in the State it is €208. Criminal legal aid (from the point of view of an accused) is as comprehensive in the Republic as in the North.
A quick internet search will help one with most of the other indicators.
In other words, this information is readily accessible, while accepting that the performance of the State as constituted would only be a guide to how a united Ireland would perform.
Instead of even that basic analysis, the article treated us to lines such as “I’m just an ordinary person but I want my voice to be heard, as well as all the shades of green, orange and grey voices that exist in this country.” That is rhetoric, just not very persuasive, or enlightening, rhetoric. – Yours, etc,
Sir, – Sheila Davidson writes that we need facts and not rhetoric about a united Ireland.
She mentions one figure – the annual cheque from London to Belfast which she puts at £15 billion.
This is a real figure, or will be for so long as those living in other deprived areas of the United Kingdom continue to ignore it.
Ms Davidson writes, entirely reasonably, I think, that she doesn’t know how being in a united Ireland would impact the jobs, pensions, benefits and health services which are currently subvented from London.
In calling for facts and not rhetoric, she writes that “vague promises of financial support from the United States and Europe are not going to cut it if our experience from Brexit is anything to go by”.
I’m sure she didn’t mean to suggest that the US and the EU had resiled from commitments to make good the damage to Northern Ireland arising from Brexit. I suspect she had in mind, rather, the fantastic promises of milk and honey made by leading Tory Brexiteers.
I note that Ms Davidson “was a member of the Conservative Party”. – Yours, etc,