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Revealed: What Britain really spends here

By Staff Reporter

The British Government  spends just £4.8 billion on the North of Ireland every year –  and not the £10.5 billion claimed by unionists.

New figures were revealed by Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams a day after the DUP said they are considering “calling Sinn Féin’s bluff” by backing a border poll.

On Tuesday, Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said she had held discussions with senior colleagues, including party leader Peter Robinson, on the issue. She said the feeling is that a pro-union vote would consolidate the North’s position within the UK. Sinn Féin has welcomed the development.

Minister Foster also claimed that the recent census figures indicated that voters here would not be voting for a united Ireland any time soon.

On Saturday, Gerry Adams launched the party’s border poll campaign. Writing in today’s Andersonstown News, the former West Belfast MP said: “According to the British Treasury, the North costs the British government £23.2 billion a year. Figures from the Department of Finance and Personnel show that the North produces £12.7 billion. The gap, therefore, is £10.5 billion. That is the figure the unionists and the British claim is the subvention that is needed to keep the North functioning.”

But the TD for Louth adds: “The problem is that if you look closely you discover that over half of that alleged subvention – £5.7 billion –  never comes to the North. It is spent by the British Government on what you might call ‘our whack’ of the British military and wars in Afghanistan, on British debt, on the British civil list, on war pensions, on royal travel and palaces, on military museums and much more. They claim they do it on our behalf, but in reality neither the Executive nor citizens here see a penny of it.

“That means that on the figures provided by the British themselves, the subvention is £4.8 billion. But remember, they refuse to provide figures for corporation tax or VAT paid by British and international companies trading here but whose headquarters are in Britain. So that £4.8 billion is in reality considerably less.”

SDLP leader Dr Alasdair McDonnell has welcomed calls for a border poll.

“The SDLP first mooted the idea of a border poll on a united Ireland in 2003 and we firmly believe that any such poll would re-affirm the right of people across the island to self-determination which is a fundamental tenet of the Good Friday Agreement,” he said.

“We welcome the opportunity for the will of the people of Ireland to be tested regarding the important issue of national identity and reunification.  Since our party was founded in 1970 it has dedicated itself to bringing about a united Ireland in a solely peaceful way.

“The real challenge in such a poll would be to formalise a specific proposition for those that wish to see a united Ireland and this must be grounded in an economic and social reality.

“There is currently a lack of serious debate about what a new Ireland would look like. I believe the time has come for a robust debate around the issue. That will require an appreciation of what the new Ireland will look like and perhaps include a new nation with a new constitution. Indeed, there is an opportunity in the constitutional convention [in the Republic] to see what that new Ireland may look like.

“Many people will question the timing of Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams’ remarks about a border poll, given the current unrest in the North. At this very difficult time we need to recognise that mutual respect, dealing with the past and also meaningful reconciliation is the only way to build a prosperous future for everyone on this island.”

The SDLP leader added: “All parties must rise above selfish party interest when advocating reunification.

“The SDLP are committed to seeing a united Ireland but this is underlined by a real need to engage in debate about what the new Ireland will look like and how we can deliver that for the good of all our citizens.”

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