‘We should not rush reunification project’

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Derry author Paul Gosling has said Ireland should be reunified but argued policy makers needed to learn the lesson of Brexit and not rush into the huge project too quickly.

Mr. Gosling said he believed the transition period for a united Ireland could take ten years in total.

However, he said both Dublin and London have yet to put in a lot of the groundwork to make Irish unity palatable for people living in the North and the South.

Speaking during a debate at the recent MacGill Summer School in Glenties, Mr. Gosling said the British Government needed to plough more investment into infrastructure in the North after decades of neglect.

“As it happens I believe the UK has a moral duty to Northern Ireland which it has ducked,” he said.

“People expected the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) to provide a peace dividend, yet it hasn’t. The gap between the employment rate in Britain and that in Northern Ireland hasn’t closed. There remains serious poverty and economic inactivity in many working class areas of Northern Ireland.

“The suicide rate has actually increased since the GFA and I believe the UK Government should recognise its responsibilities and its failures by investing directly into the Northern Ireland infrastructure above and beyond the City Deals agreed with both Belfast and Derry,” said Mr. Gosling.

The Derry-based economic commentator also levelled his sights at Dublin. While viewing the Irish Republic as “economically successful and socially liberal” and “my kind of country”, Mr. Gosling said the health system in the South compared unfavourably to that in the North and was a stumbling block to reunification.

“The Republic also needs to change. This is not just because we need to persuade unionists to consider the future. Northern Ireland cannot simply be bolted on to the Republic. There is widespread resistance in Northern Ireland, including in nationalist and republican communities, to the idea of joining an insurance based health care system. Ireland’s move towards reforming health care, Sláintecare, backed by increased all-Ireland health provision is important to win support for unification. But this too cannot happen quickly. Sláintecare is a ten year programme which is behind schedule,” he observed.

Mr. Gosling said long, careful and sensitive preparation would be required across many levels prior to reunification.

“My proposal is to learn from Brexit and not to try to do an immense project too quickly.

“A ten year timeframe might be realistic for the transition but first we need to prepare for the border poll, though we might want to change the words.

“Many unionists are very sensitive and will resist any terminology closely associated with Sinn Féin. Let’s not lose the objective because of the words we use and if that means talking about a ‘dysfunctional society’ rather than a ‘failed state’ then I’ll buy into that,” he declared.