An enormous economic opportunity might soon peacefully enrich millions of Irish people, if a certain couple of organisations don’t gobble up most of it instead.
Right now we are hearing absurd claims that potential EU problems with the Northern-Irish / Republic-of-Ireland border are somehow the responsibility of Britain’s “foolish and irresponsible” decision to leave the pact. This is completely wrong: the “problem” is the sole responsibility of two groups, neither of them Britain:
1) Those Continentals who created a stupid trade bloc in 1957 with an external tariff wall (despite Ricardo’s still-unrefuted proof in the 1820s that tariff barriers destroy wealth);
2) Those Irish nationalists who started a new war between 1916 and the 1920s (started exactly while Britain was putting out the flames from another destructive attempt to unify Europe), creating a land border in Ireland that never needed to be there.
The fact there’s a border between the 26 counties of the Republic, and the 6 counties of Northern Ireland, means that when Britain leaves the growth-destroying walled tariff garden of the EU, smuggling will obviously occur. This is easy, overland smuggling, between the south (the Irish Republic, inside the EU) and the north (Britain, outside the EU). This should of course bring excellent outcomes.
This could benefit both the north and the south of Ireland, bringing extra prosperity to both regions and many others, as reducing restrictions on trade usually does. It will undermine the EU’s outside tariff wall, which is an even greater good outcome potentially benefiting billions of people. In fact a collapse in the EU’s mediaeval economic thinking is the only thing that can stem, long-term, the stream of desperate migrants right now crossing the Mediterranean in makeshift boats. Those migrants are fleeing countries kept poor, backward, and violent by Brussels-enshrined trade policies that haven’t yet caught up with early-19th-century economics.
Unless one section of society sabotages this prosperity: the paramilitaries.
Provisional Sinn Fein in particular will be on the horns of a dilemma. Having fairly smoothly moved into normal politics, they might soon be part of a Dublin government – matching their long-term plan. Some might find unsavoury their Leninist journey to power on the back of political murders and sincere stealing, but Sinn Fein must feel close to the final prize, and they can bask now in a glow of legitimacy. No other political party has anything like their paramilitary past. Recent efforts to link the DUP with Loyalist terrorists by contrast were almost poignant. There are links, but they are far more distant links and killed a fraction of the body count the Sinn Fein / IRA cobranded effort can boast. Furthermore, the Provisionals now have a hand in the respectable political game on both sides of the border, the DUP on only one.
Meanwhile, the outer EU tariff wall glistens with sticky temptation for the IRA’s more Neanderthal members, the boys now not behind the wire. There is already some smuggling there. UDA and IRA operations have moved stuff back and forward across the hard-to-police rural frontier. The Provos have even done joint smuggling operations with supposed ideological enemies, in one case the UVF. Complex fuel-oil scams brought both profit to the IRA and groundwater poisoning to a few border farms.
Furthermore, these trades to date are tiny compared to the vast sums the EU’s external frontier could squirt all over the biggest force on the border – violent Republicans who never gave up their guns.
The real question is this: will it be freelance smuggling, where everyone can make a bit of money subverting dumb EU tariffs that shouldn’t exist, or will it be smuggling tightly controlled by extortionists willing to torture, cripple, or kill any individuals not paying Sinn Fein protection money? In other words, will harmful tariffs be peacefully subverted (the good outcome) or will they just be converted into a massive tax extracted by the IRA? With perhaps some profit-sharing with the UDA and UVF, neither of whom have a political party within reach of a Dublin coalition role?
Can Sinn Fein and its Protestant business partners resist the extortion honeypot? This is the only important question here – (leaving aside those dunces who know so little about trade they sincerely think the EU’s external tariffs are net positives).
Voters in the Irish Republic curious about the newly law-abiding Provisionals might ask pointed questions right now. Can that group imagine any of its members screwing big streams of income out of smugglers with death threats? After all, the party’s official position is that they’re no longer gangsters, right? (At very brazen long-nose moments, they even allege they never were gangsters.)
So – when the smuggling boom comes, will the now-respectable Provo party step aside? Will it be able to show the public it doesn’t run gangland border-trade cartels together with Unionist thug groups? Will the paramilitaries let individual Irish people and small Irish businesses rake in peaceful profits from stubborn Brussels ignorance? Or will the greedy backroom lads of the real Sinn Fein use their unsurrendered weapons to intimidate most of that juicy cash into their own pockets? Thereby revealing themselves as the thieving hooligans they always were?
This coming moment of truth should be interesting.
Mark Griffith is a financial trader who keeps a weblog at http://www.otherlanguages.org