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German reunification a 'useful example' of how planned Irish reunification could work, says Sinn Féin

Sinn Féin has launched a document on why there are economic benefits to a united Ireland.

Image: Shutterstock/Remizov

SINN FÉIN HAS launched a document on why the party believes there are economic benefits to a united Ireland.

The report disputes the £10 billion Northern Ireland’s subvention figure – its UK subsidy – stating it is about half the official figure.

The report also cites the experience of German reunification as a “useful example of how planned economic integration and investment, including from the EU, can substantially improve economic conditions in the smaller jurisdiction involved in transition”.

The EU played a pivotal role in supporting German reunification, the report states, adding that the “role of the EU should be even more central in the case of Irish reunification”.

“Direct support from the EU could come in the form of a bespoke funding mechanism designed to stabilise the process of reunification, however gradual this process may be,” states the report.

In relation of the subvention, which is the difference between the revenue raised and the money spent in the North, the report states that the pensions bill is £3.5 billion, so “the final subvention cost could be as low as £2.5 billion.”

A similar point is made in a report on a united Ireland by Fianna Fáil senator Mark Daly, now Cathaoirleach of the Seanad, who found that the UK would continue paying Northern Ireland’s pensions initially as the pension liability was accrued while Northern Ireland was part of the United Kingdom.

There has been much debate about the actual figure between economists and politicians.

The report states that Irish unity will “create new opportunities and new prosperity for all the people of the island of Ireland”. The party called on the Irish Government to make preparations and to examine the economic arguments, as well as the cultural and social dimensions.

This isn’t the first time the party has claimed reunificaion would not cost as much as people might think. A similar paper in 2016 stated that the issue of affordability has been subject to “wild speculation”.

While the party admitted there are legitimate concerns about the cost and benefits of unity, it criticised the British government for refusing “to fully open the books” as to what the North costs the British exchequer.

Today’s 25-page report seeks to “inform the discussion” on a united Ireland, a conversation the party says has already begun.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has said that an Irish unity referendum must happen in the next five years.

However, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said he doesn’t see a border poll happening in the lifetime of this government.

The Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said he would like to see a united Ireland in his lifetime, but added: “I would, but only in accordance with the Good Friday Agreement so that’s only with the consent of the majority of people in Northern Ireland.”

Sinn Féin has raised concerns in the Dáil in relation to the government’s new Shared Island Unit - the civil service division charged with reinvigorating cross-border relations – stating that it has a deliberatively inoffensive name.

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Last month, the Taoiseach set out the agenda and programme of work for the new shared island unit, which received €500 million in the Budget.

The money is to be ringfenced for use on cross-border projects.

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