THE NORTHERN IRELAND
ECONOMY: BETWEEN WAR
There is considerable controversy about the performance of the Northern Ireland economy. Virtually every country or region has such a trenchant debate, but in Northern Ireland the difficulty is that exchanges about economic performance have become enmeshed in political conflict. Those of a Unionist inclination tend to be uncritical, painting as rosy a picture as possible of the regional economy. In contrast, those of a Nationalist persuasion tend to be uncompromising in their view that the Northern Ireland economy is a basket-case.
Sharply contrasting views have emerged as a result of these polar positions. On the one hand, some argue passionately that the Troubles have had virtually no impact on the underlying economy. On the other hand, others, with equal zeal, suggest that a war-economy has emerged as a result of twenty-five years of violence. One view is that a big economic bonanza awaits Northern Ireland when peace breaks out. But another suggests that the economic consequences of peace are minimal. This chapter gives an overview of the themes and controversies about the Northern Ireland economy. Our objective is not to offer a definitive analysis, but to give people sufficient understanding so that they can thread their way through the bewildering set of views that currently exist.
Perhaps the best starting point is to ask: what have been the economic consequences of the conflict? This is not an easy question to answer