‘Substantial gap’ in income, living standards and economic performance between North and South
The startling extent of the divergence between the two jurisdictions was outlined during a recent briefing of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement (GFA).
Researchers from the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) briefed TDs and Senators on the extent to which the fortunes of citizens in the North have been diverging from citizens in the South.
ESRI director Professor Alan Barrett said: “There is an emerging body of research pointing to the existence of substantial gaps in income and living standards between NI and Ireland.
"For example, Gross National Income* [modified GNI – a measure used to avoid the distortion by US multi-national flows] per capita in Ireland was around 51 per cent higher than Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita in NI in 2018.
"Members will see that I have used GNI* in the case of the Republic. Other metrics also point towards higher living standards in Ireland relative to NI. OECD data show a gap in household disposable income of 12 per cent in 2017 in favour of Ireland.
"In addition, the proportion of individuals at risk of poverty in NI was 14.3 per cent, compared with 8.9 per cent in Ireland.”
Fine Gael TD Frank Feighan described the figures as ‘stark’.
“The witnesses gave figures of GNI per capita in Ireland being 51 per cent higher than GDP per capita in NI, which is stark.
"The proportion of individuals at risk of poverty in NI is 40.3 per cent, compared with 8.9 per cent in Ireland.
"A figure of 8.9 per cent is far too high but these figures are quite worrying. In Ireland, people live for 1.4 years longer. That is hard to fathom. There are obviously many different issues, such as education and health, that contribute to this.”
Fianna Fáil senator Erin McGreehan asked whether the Six County state was ‘created to fail’.
“The state of NI was set up more than 100 years ago. In the expert opinion of the witnesses, was that state created to fail?
"I ask because NI has not thrived in the way that it should have, particularly as it was the capital of industry and the best performing area on this island. I imagine that people thought that we would never cope down here by ourselves.
"We thought that the Boundary Commission would change the situation and that a place called NI would never continue. However, it now 100 years later and at every passing decade, we see worse outcomes for people.
"Do the witnesses think that NI was an economic state that was not meant to succeed?”
Dr. Seamus McGuinness of the ESRI, replied: “Those assertions are all true.”
He said a motivating impulse for their research was the ‘lies and misinformation, involved in the Brexit debate’.
"We thought that a border poll is now more likely and inevitable because the Brexit debate has resulted in shifts in political beliefs and demographics.
"Our paper was published in the Cambridge Journal of Economics recommends that we need to set out what is required for an honest referendum that avoids the worst mistakes of Brexit,” he stated.