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United Ireland would mean huge job cuts for Northern Ireland... says the academic hailed by Sinn Fein

By Allan Preston

Published 24/10/2016

Professor Kurt Hubner
Professor Kurt Hubner

A leading academic, whose work is frequently quoted by Sinn Fein to back its economic arguments for a united Ireland, has now said unification would cause thousands of job losses in Northern Ireland.

Professor Kurt Hubner led a research team on the economic impact of Irish unification, claiming it would benefit the island's economy by €35.6bn in eight years.

The Canada-based academic was visiting Ireland earlier this month as a guest of Sinn Fein.

He gave a presentation to the Oireachtas Good Friday Agreement Committee and addressed a public meeting organised by Sinn Fein deputy leader Mary-Lou McDonald and MEP Matt Carthy.

But in an interview with the Sunday Business Post, Professor Hubner (right) appeared to go off message, saying the high level of public sector employment in Northern Ireland, around 31%, could not be sustained.

"We assume reductions in the public sector in Northern Ireland by 2% on an annual basis," he said.

"Those are savings; rather that putting savings towards debt service or something like this, the money is being reinvested to improve productivity in the public sector, in technologies and all those kinds of things that can be used more efficiently. At the end of the day, no doubt about it, savings means, in this regard, you getting rid of jobs.

"We couldn't qualify the number of jobs. It would definitely be in the number of thousands."

Sinn Fein MLA Declan Kearney denied the statement would cause red faces for the party.

He claimed the UK Government's Brexit strategy was a far greater threat to jobs here. "Professor Hubner's own report on Irish unity demonstrates the viability and sustainability of economic and political reunification in Ireland, based upon key strategic decisions being taken with respect to currency, industrial policy, investment strategy and fiscal adjustments," he said.

"He demonstrates that the benefits of a united Ireland in terms of job creation, investment and productivity and currency harmonisation on an all-Ireland basis could deliver a €35.6bn boost."

Mr Kearney said the cost of duplication of services caused by partition could be offset by increased investment in high value private sector jobs "benefiting all of the citizens of this island, including a significant jobs uplift in the north."

He added: "The report outlines a projected increase GDP per capita in the long run by 4 to 7.5% for the north and by 0.7 to 1.2% in the south."

Ulster Unionist MLA, Steve Aiken, the party's finance spokesperson, said job losses would be one of many financial problems in a united Ireland. "We have three times the number of civil servants as Scotland so there would be considerable loss of jobs," he commented.

"Belfast is a considerable regional centre now, Dublin is doing very well but that's not true in the west of Ireland.

"So Belfast would become like Cork and struggle to have a say - significant investment would be hard to come by."

He concluded: "Northern Ireland will always benefit by being part of the UK, one of the largest economies in the world."

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