By Brian Feeney (for the Irish News)
When unionist politicians give a knee-jerk reaction it is the mentality they reveal that still shocks - the boorishness, the ignorance, the bone-headed arrogance, the dog-in-the-manger attitude and in some cases just plain stupidity, though there is plenty of stupidity on the nationalist side too.
Broadly, the mentality is the same as tying up the swings on Sunday and smacks of the old joke that if they could, they would tie up the ducks’ legs to stop them swimming on Sundays.
I don’t do it, so I don’t allow you to do it either. I’m the boss. You do it my way or not at all.
What a sickening, overbearing cast of mind. We got the whole nine yards in reaction - for you could not call it a response - to the proposals on joint Irish-British investment in the north.
The spluttering also betrayed the usual confusion about whether unionists think the north is a country in its own right or whether it’s part of Britain or part of the UK. The funniest spluttering came from Gregory Campbell, the DUP’s economic and statistical expert sans pareil, who swung among all three interpretations talking about ‘adjoining countries’ one minute then being part of the UK economy the next. Here is a guy who would not allow dualling of the Derry to Aughnacloy road, or upgrading of radiotherapy provision at Altnagelvin Hospital or a new north-south electricity interconnector if he thought they were part of the dreaded ‘all-island economy’.
Aye, he would know too.
Listen lads, there is an all-Ireland economy. Who owns the banks in the north? Anybody in the north? Nope. The same people who own the banks in the Republic and yes, sometimes they’re fenians but it’s also Australians and English people too. Who owns the north’s food-processing industry and has done for years?
Well Gregory, what’s the answer? Companies in the Republic, that’s who. Do they care about the border? Do they want to govern limping Limavady? No chance.
What they want is to buy and sell. They want your money and you’ve been giving it to them for years. What’s UTV doing advertising in the Republic and owning a radio station in Cork? Exactly the same - trying to make money.
Why do companies in the Republic own so much of the north’s business? Easy. The Republic has moved into a modern economy, something no unionist politician would recognise if he swallowed one of its microchips. As the north’s, all together now, ‘traditional industries of engineering and textiles’ collapsed, the civil servants here struggled to replace them with more of the same heavily subsidised engineering and textile companies, all bound to fail. The Republic went for a modern, high-skill, globalised economy emphasising inward investment attracted by tax-based incentives and it succeeded.
They bought up anything in the north that looked as if it had vaguely modern potential.
You hear them talk on the meedja here about the north’s ‘economy’. The north hasn’t got an economy. It’s a basket case. It’s not part of the UK economy either. It’s isolated within the UK with a low standard of living just under 80 per cent of the UK average. The NIO has been running around for decades offering massive subsidies to any high street operator to open in Belfast to maintain the fantasy that Belfast is just another prosperous UK city. They tell chain stores about the high disposable income here. True - it’s because most people here are paid by the NIO.
What the hysterical unionist reaction to the joint proposals means is this. They want to stay in their comfort blanket.
They want to say, to hell with the future and long live the past. Yeah, well OK, we knew that already.
What they can’t be allowed to do is prevail over the chances of people living in the border areas to have a better life with modern roads and health services just because bigoted unionist politicians would rather eat grass. What needs to be driven home to unionists is that while they may have a veto over constitutional change, that does not and cannot mean they have a veto over any change whatsoever, particularly change that is to the benefit of their fellow countrymen and their own supporters.