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Number Crunching

With the omens currently pointing to joint authority by Christmas, political journalist and Unionist Revisionist Dr John Coulter tots up how much of the whopping annual £9 billion to run the North Southern taxpayers will have to cough up.

Dr John Coulter • 24 August 2006

Four and a half billion pounds – that’s how much Southern taxpayers will probably have to fork out annually to run the North under joint authority with Britain.

In early September, crucial final talks resume between the Northern parties aimed at trying to restore the power-sharing Northern Executive before the 24 November deadline.

There is still considerable gloom in Stormont circles a workable deal cannot be thrashed out between Ian Paisley’s DUP and Sinn Fein to set up the Executive in spite of all the positive work being done by the Preparation for Government committee.

If there is no deal by the November cut-off date, the 108 MLAs will have their salaries and expenses chopped, paving the way for the Dublin and London governments to implement Plan B – joint authority of the North by Leinster House and Westminster.

With Dublin government plans to build its plush new operational base in Belfast’s Notting Hill at an estimated cost of £6 million, it is clear Taioseach Bertie Ahern wants to be ready to implement the process of joint authority by this Christmas.

However, it has been mooted that joint authority will mean the Dublin government also having to share the massive billion-pound annual bill for running the North with the British Government.

The present total cost for running the North is £9 million – a figure revealed to Stormont MLAs in November 1998 by the then Northern minister Paul Murphy.

He told them: “ … the Northern Ireland budget the Assembly will eventually deal with which combined comes to some £9 million …”

It would be realistic to think if the present Direct Rule governing the North is replaced by joint authority with Dublin, then the Labour Government will be expecting the Southern taxpayers to help foot the bill to run the North.

So what will citizens of the 26 counties be expected to pay for in return for joint authority of the remaining six counties?

There’s the struggling Northern health service, bogged down with never-ending waiting lists and being steadily strangled with mountains of red tape.

What about the pensions for all the retired RUC officers and former Ulster Defence Regiment soldiers – especially given the legion of allegations of collusions with loyalist death squads which these two organisations have faced?

Southern taxpayers will also have to cough up the cash for the millions of pounds in dole and other benefits being paid to supposedly jobless loyalist paramilitary members and supporters.

In spite of three substantial acts of Provo decommissioning of terrorist weapons, with the exception of a token gesture by the fringe Loyalist Volunteer Force, none of the other Protestant death squads have either decommissioned or disbanded.

Indeed, many loyalist gangs are believed to be still heavily involved in criminality – so the South will have to pay its cut in combating the Northern loyalist crime lords.

And with the seven new super councils planned for the North to replace the existing 26 local authorities, there is a very strong chance Protestant working class voters will elect the political representatives of the banned terror groups the UVF and UFF.

With the salary of these new supposed super councillors rumoured to be in the region of at least £30,000 annually, Southern taxpayers will again have to contribute to the financial upkeep of the apologists for loyalist terror gangs or hardline Protestant DUP fundamentalists.

Under joint authority, the costs of Dublin involvement in the North will rocket substantially compared to the meagre amount needed two decades ago to run the Maryfield Secretariat near Stormont following the signing of the November ’85 Anglo-Irish Agreement.

Southern involvement in Northern affairs then was merely to give a voice to Northern nationalists and republicans – not the proposed running of the North itself under joint authority.

And not included in the £4.5 billion joint running costs in the bill for any damage in the South caused by loyalist terror gangs protesting about the imposition of joint authority.

The Ahern administration will try to calm Southern taxpayers’ fears of the bill expected by joint authority by stating there is no firm evidence British premier Tony Blair would ask Dublin to share Northern costs.

However, if Blair is replaced as Prime Minister by the money-minded Chancellor Gordon Brown, the tough-talking Scot will surely demand his financial pounds of flesh from Dublin in return for any joint role in running the North.




















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Index: Current Articles

27 August 2006

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The Letters page has been updated.



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