Well, in fact the Alliance Party said that segregation costs billions, but the principle is the same.
Stephen Farry said, on 5 May, that: "Anyone serious about finding efficiency savings in Northern Ireland cannot afford to avoid addressing the huge costs involved within the fallacy of trying to manage a divided society rather than building a shared future."
"… there are the indirect costs of providing duplicate goods, facilities and services for separate sections of the community, either implicitly or explicitly … ", and "... there are hidden factors, linked to divisions, which impact upon the cost environment that Departments and agencies have to respond to".
Now while it seems natural to the Alliance Party – probably the most partitionist of all of Northern Ireland's parties – to talk only of divisions within Northern Ireland, their thesis is equally valid for the costs of the border.
If the Alliance Party had a shred of political consistency they would be equally vocal about the costs, north and south, of the border. As a 'liberal' party, non-sectarian and rational, they should be keenly aware that for a small island like Ireland to duplicate hundred of functions costs billions, while the cost to businesses supplying the country is raised by the necessity to comply with two different tax and regulatory regimes.
While some may argue that as long as unionism (too frequently assisted by the Alliance Party) represents a majority of Northern Ireland's electorate, the border – costly as it is – will remain regardless, this should not stop the Alliance Party from campaigning against the negative effects of the border. They should be campaigning for harmonisation of taxes and rules north and south, for much more north-south cooperation and for increases in the areas managed by North-South Implementation Bodies.
But all we hear is silence.
It seems that the Alliance Party has a very large blind spot – one that affects everything south of Newry. Its policies and statements barely mention the other three-quarters of our little island, as if it thinks that Northern Ireland is a little island of its own, floating just off Scotland. In this it is reminiscent of many unionist bodies, which have over the generations tried to pretend that Northern Ireland has one, and only one, external relationship – that with Britain.
Alliance Party policies barely mention the south, and make no attempts whatsoever to describe the benefits – for everyone in Northern Ireland (and the south) – of much closer cooperation. Until they address this large blind spot, and its consequences, their concern for the cost of divisions within Northern Ireland sounds like hot air, and their whole policy framework continues to look extremely unionist.