Tuesday, November 30, 2010
BRIDGING THE BORDER – RECONNECTING COMMUNITIES.
The news was about the weather. Blizzards and icy winds. Up to 20 inches of snow expected. Roads covered in black ice and the mercury dipping ever further.
But still they came. The main hall in the Westenra Hotel in Monaghan Town was packed. Standing room only. As Jackie Crowe the Mayor of Monaghan said ‘this issue of uniting Ireland is too important for us to allow a little bit of snow and cold to deter us.’
‘Bridging the Border-Reconnecting Communities’ is aimed at highlighting the problems pressing down on border communities. Many of these communities are separated and isolated from their natural hinterlands as a result of partition. This leads to economic and social hardships along that corridor.
The Bridging The Border project will collate views from a wide spectrum of public and community opinion. These engagements with business and voluntary and community bodies, with rural communities and statutory agencies, will be led by our Mayors/Chairs within each council area.
Sinn Féin Councillors currently hold a whole range of positions along the border corridor. Jackie Crowe (Mayor of Monaghan Council); Michaela Boyle (Chairperson Strabane District Council); Stephen Huggett (Chairperson Fermanagh District Council); Declan McAleer (Chairperson Omagh District Council); Padraig MacLochlainn (Mayor of Buncrana District Council); Mary Doyle (Vice Chairperson Armagh District Council); Michelle O’Neill (Mayor of Dungannon District Council); Cora Harvey (Mayor of Donegal County Council); John McNamee (Chair of Cookstown District Council); and Mick Murphy (Chair of Newry and Mourne).
They are all well placed to compile a major report which will bring forward concrete proposals to tackle the bad effects of partition. This is an excellent project. It is positive republican activism at work.
This blog commends all those involved in this initative, including Uniting Ireland Co-Ordinator Lucilita Bhreatnach. The Monaghan conference was originally scheduled to be held in Donegal but following Pearse’s success in the High Court and then the setting of a date for the Donegal South West by-election, the organizers very quickly moved the conference to Monaghan.
Their success was evident in the packed hall.
There was of course a major focus by all the speakers on the current economic mess, setting it in the context of partition and the two conservative states that were created after the passing of the Government of Ireland Act 90 years ago this year.
Independent economist Michael Burke made a very useful and interesting contribution. He tackled the often used argument that the north cannot survive without the British subvention and that the south cannot afford reunification.
Michael explained that the British are very guarded in producing detailed figures on how it manages its ‘regional’ economy. Notwithstanding this Michael revealed that the gap between the money raised in the north and the subvention is significantly less than the £14 billion often quoted. It’s around £3 billion he said. Crucially he added the north also creates significant levels of wealth each year. Around £29 billion. But almost half of this flows out of Ireland to Britain and elsewhere. A new political and economic dispensation could ensure that more of this is available for the local economy.
Michael also pointed out that an end to partition would see the north become part of an economy which would have the fiscal powers currently denied it. Instead of being at the backend of a British economy which is skewed against it, this and an ability to trade with the rest of the world, would see the north’s economy quickly grow.
There were also very good contributions made by other speakers, including Caoimhghín ó Caoláin TD and Cavan’s Katherine Reilly.
The agreement at the weekend between the Irish government and the EU and IMF on the bailout drew much criticism.
For four years the Irish Government’s desire to look after the interests of a small wealthy elite has seen it pursue an austerity strategy that has stripped over €14 billion of the economy.
The economy has deflated, unemployment has reached new heights, emigration is on the increase and families are losing their homes. Now the government has taken out a huge loan from the IMF and EU, has stripped the National Pension Reserve Fund to pay the bankers and plans to take €15 billion out of the economy over the next four years.
It is handing more and more power over our economic future to the IMF, the EU and the European Central Bank.
The Government’s economic and banking strategy is not credible.
This blogs made it clear that Sinn Féin will not be bound by the Fianna Fáil/Green Party economic plan and that we will seek a mandate in the next election to renegotiate what has been agreed.
It was a very good night.
And then this morning your man is trekking us through the snow to Dublin to meet with Pearse Doherty as he arrives in from Donegal South west for his first day as a TD.
As we travel news is breaking that Dermot Ahern has announced his decision not to stand again in Louth. He was widely criticized after his recent gaff when he claimed that the involvement of the IMF was ‘a fiction.’ Ahern was seen to be part of a government strategy to confuse and mislead the public.
Whoever stands for Fianna Fáil the fact remains that it and the Green Party are primarily responsible for the current economic mess. Its policies are driving the state and ordinary families into further and further debt.
The government should go. Citizens should decide on how we are to be governed. There would not have been a bi-election in Donegal if Pearse and Sinn Féin had not gone to the High Court. Our aim now is to bring about a general election as soon as possible.