Magazine article New Internationalist

Northern Ireland: The Facts: Northern Ireland Was Once the Industrial Powerhouse of Ireland, Now It Has Sunk into Dependence on Britain for Its Economic Health as Well as Its Military Security

Magazine article New Internationalist

Northern Ireland: The Facts: Northern Ireland Was Once the Industrial Powerhouse of Ireland, Now It Has Sunk into Dependence on Britain for Its Economic Health as Well as Its Military Security

Article excerpt

POPULATION AND RELIGION

The majority of people in Northern Ireland define themselves as Protestants, though the proportion of Catholics has significantly increased since the province was created in 1920.(f.1)

Catholics' higher (though declining) birthrate has led to speculation that they will become a majority around 2025. But there would still be a time lag before this majority was reflected in the population of voting age.

Northern Ireland population

1,577,836

Protestant 50.6%

Catholic 38.4%

No or no stated religion 11.0%

Republic of Ireland population 3,523,401

Catholic 95.0%

Protestant 3.4%

Other or no religion 1.6%

All - Ireland population* 5,101,237

Catholic 77.0%

Protestant 18.4%

Other or no religion 4.6%

North 30.9%

South 69.1%

ECONOMY

Northern Ireland is the poorest of the UK's regions, its GDP per capita being 74% of the European Union average.

Luxembourg 131%

France 115%

Germany 106%

Italy 106%

UK 98%

Spain 80%

Northern Ireland 74%

Irish Republic 72%

Portugal 60%

Greece 49%

GDP per capita, 1991, for selected European Union countries (EU average = 100%)(f.2)

Even this position for Northern Ireland is misleading - its economy is artificially kept at this level by vast subsidies from Britain. What was once the economic powerhouse of the Irish island has suffered from deindustrialization with a vengeance while the Irish Republic has an economy with much greater underlying strength. In the long term this might provide the North with an incentive for closer political ties.

COST TO BRITAIN

Northern Ireland is massively subsidized by the rest of the UK. In 1992 - 3 the subvention - public spending in the province not covered by tax raised there - amounted to Pound3.3 billion ($4.8 billion).(f.4)

Northern Ireland is now heavily dependent on direct British subsidy for its employment, with an extraordinarily high proportion of jobs being in security fields like prisons, probation, the police etc. One in ten Protestant men now works in these fields(f.5).

The economic subsidy is much more of a drain on the UK Treasury than the cost of keeping the Army there. The total cost of the military presence was Pound405.6 million ($592.2 million) in 1993 - just 1.7% of the total UK defence budget.(f.4)

Footnotes:

(f. …

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