Wednesday 16 December 2009

Sir George Quigley, confederalist

In the recent past there have been few people who have dominated the business and administrative scenes in Northern Ireland as well as George Quigley.

A graduate of Ballymena Academy and Queens University (first-class honours BA in History in 1951, and Ph.D. in medieval ecclesiastical history in 1955), he first excelled in the Northern Ireland Civil Service where he was Permanent Secretary, successively, of the Departments of Manpower Services, Commerce, Finance, and Finance and Personnel.

In 1989 he became Chairman of Ulster Bank, and served on the Main Board of Nat West and as Chairman of the Royal Bank of Scotland Pension Fund. He is Chairman of Bombardier Aerospace and Lothbury Property Trust and a director of Independent News and Media (UK). He served on the Dearing Committee on Higher Education and the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority. He chaired the Scottish Fee Support Review. He was President of the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) and of the International Trade Institute in the south and the NI Economic Council. He conducted a Review of the N.I. Parades Commission.

As a Protestant senior civil servant and businessman, it would be natural for him to be a unionist, like so many others if his background. He has, though, to the knowledge of this blog, played no part in politics at all.

And so it is all the more interesting to read his lecture given on the occasion of the 10th Anniversary of the establishment of the North South Ministerial Council, on the 2 December 2009, in Armagh – Ireland 2020 – especially where he talks of constitutional issues:
"If there is ever to be a new constitutional configuration for the island, it seems to me that the form which has most prospect of winning consent is a confederal arrangement – in effect a joint and equal venture between North and South - but with each having its own separate parliament and executive. The powers to be exercised at the confederal level would be specifically delegated to that level and representatives of the two states would determine jointly issues of policy relating to those powers."
This conclusion comes after discussion of the economic stupidity of partition – echoing the views of this blog:
"The goal now must be no less than to remove any hurdles or distortions which prevent the island operating as fully as possible as a single market on both the demand and supply sides of the equation."

" … it is important to identify barriers which deny free rein to island-wide competitive forces, thereby ensuring that both parts of the island constitute a globally competitive production platform for goods and services traded worldwide. Neither part of the island does itself a favour by denying itself this ready to hand opportunity to move out of their respective comfort zones and to sharpen their competitive edge.

It would be perverse to condemn this island to a suboptimal future by refusing to recognise that its potential can only be realised as a shared regional space."
It seems that the view often expressed by unionist politicians – that Northern Ireland's place in the UK makes economic sense – is not shared by some of the most important economic actors.

Quigley knows the Northern Irish economy and administration intimately. He also knows the world of business north and south – as a key player. And he supports the dismantling of the economic border, for the good of all. Indeed, he supports the ultimate unity of the country in a confederation. This is clearly a message that unionists will not want to hear, but worst of all is that the messenger is one of 'their own'.

The silence with which the unionist parties greet Quigley's comments will speak volumes about their real interest in the betterment of peoples' lives. In a nutshell, they don't care. They would rather have relative poverty with barriers than prosperity without them. They are motivated by petty hatred of their fellow-Irishmen and women rather than by any economic rationality.


Anonymous said...

So what this guy is saying is that The ROI should rejoin The UK to optimise profits? I for one would need convincing of that.

Watcher said...

"They are motivated by petty hatred of their fellow-Irishmen and women"

It may be hatred, but it's definitely not petty. You should try visiting places like Roselawn cemetery sometime Horseman. You'd make a lot less glib comments afterwards.

Lest We Forget


Anonymous said...



Anonymous said...

If you were going to have two different parliaments anyway, would it not make more sense just to have an independent Northern Ireland? You could still take down the economic border if NI was independent.

Anonymous said...

the economic argument is even stronger for a reunion of the British Isles, providing a genuine economic counterweight to Germany's influence in Europe. of course, nationalists wouldn't countenance that either...

Bosssman said...

What about all the dough NI gets each year from already over-burdened taxpayers in England?

How on earth could NI ever become 'independent' if it's not economically viable in the first place?

Anonymous said...

How on earth could The Republic's 'over-burdened' taxpayers ever afford it either?

Anonymous said...

How on earth could The Republic's 'over-burdened' taxpayers ever afford it either?

bangordub said...

Simple Answer Anonymous.
By harnessing the talent available and converting it into productive wealth generating energy just like the south.
Instead of exporting the best, turn it to everyones advantage.
The futures bright my friend!

hoboroad said...

Sylvia Hermon to stand as an Independent Unionist in North Down at the next General Election.

David Vance said...

Sir George - the consummate Yes-man. And why would anyone listen to him, exactly?

Anonymous said...

No one does.