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 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.
" … 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."
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.