Political Conflict, Partition, and the Underdevelopment of the Irish Economy
Maura Sheehan, Douglas Hamilton, and Ronnie Munck
If the dust settles on a new political situation in Ireland, we can confidently predict increased attention being brought to bear on other issues shaping its future, such as the economy. There has already been, since around the mid-1980s, increased discussion and analysis of the Irish economy, and its deeply embedded and seemingly irresolvable, economic and social problems. Yet it has been a strangely disembodied analysis that studiously ignored, downgraded, or took a biased view of the political dimension of the Irish economy. This economic analysis has, on the whole, operated within a static framework and has been almost totally ahistorical in its approach.
In terms of the political conflict there has been some debate on the "economics of 'The Troubles.'" Some authors have estimated that there has been a net loss of jobs as a result of the conflict ( Rowthorn and Wayne, 1988), while others have argued, surprisingly, that even though the conflict has led to a loss of manufacturing jobs its net effect on the regional economy has been positive, due to the induced expansion of public-sector expenditure and employment ( Canning et al., 1987). According to this view, therefore, it is a mistake to blame economic problems on political conflict. This is consistent with the wider political literature that gives little coverage or importance to the economics of the political conflict ( Whyte, 1991; McGarry and O'Leary, 1995). Factors such as dependency on the British market for exports, reliance on declining traditional industries, a lack of significant energy resources, geographic periphery, and disadvantageous demography have all been cited as important explanations for poor economic performance ( Rowthorn and Wayne, 1988; NIEC, 1991). In terms of analysis of the southern Irish economy, the political conflict has hardly featured, with only a few studies citing its damaging effect ( New Ireland Forum, 1984).