Editor's viewpoint: Ireland needs all the help it can get
Viewed from this side of the border, there is a certain irony in the realisation that the UK taxpayer may have to come up with some £6bn to help stabilise the Republic of Ireland’s debt-ridden economy.
Not so long ago, at the height of the Celtic Tiger boom, some people were suggesting that Irish unity would be no bad thing given the soaraway economy in the south compared to the relatively stagnant economy in the province. How times have changed.
It has come as something of a surprise to learn that the UK may have to help bail out the Republic if it yields to pressure and goes to the EU for aid of around £50bn. Some £6bn of that would come from the UK under an agreement signed up to by the former Labour government. That has provoked anger among some Tory backbenchers who feel that the UK should not be responsible for the reckless lending of Irish banks which fuelled an unsustainable property boom.
Yet it has to be acknowledged that the Republic and the UK are close trading partners of long-standing and are both members of the European Union. While there was an impression that the Republic’s financial problems were a matter for its Eurozone partners, the fear that other countries within the EU, particularly Portugal and Spain, may also face increasing |financial pressures, has meant that all countries within the EU are being asked to rally around.
The Republic’s government insists that it does not intend to ask for a EU bail out, but many economic experts feel that it will be forced to accept aid, probably sooner rather than later. It’s debt problems are so enormous there are fears it could spark a contagion within the EU unless checked quickly. In these times market confidence is vital and an aid package to Dublin from Brussels is seen as the only way to placate the market.