Belfast Telegraph

Tom Elliott stokes up Republic row

The leader of the Ulster Unionist Party has continued his war of words with Fianna Fail, claiming the Republic has been reliant on the UK for bailouts and employment for its economic migrants.

In an increasingly bitter tit-for-tat debate, Tom Elliott argued that the Republic had endured nearly a century of poverty after separating from Britain.

The row was sparked after comparisons were made between how the Republic secured independence and the current bid by the SNP for Scotland’s separation from the rest of the UK.

Mr Elliott accused SNP leader Alex Salmond of appearing to pose “a greater threat to the Union than the violence of the IRA”.

After a brief boom, the Fermanagh MLA argues in a letter to the Belfast Telegraph today that Dublin was now again looking for handouts from Europe, the IMF and even Westminster.

Earlier this week the Republic’s main opposition party hit out at Mr Elliott after he said the Republic would have been better off staying in the UK.

Fianna Fail Senator Thomas Byrne and his party colleague Brendan Smith claimed that life in Northern Ireland had been far worse under unionist rule.

They argued that the Republic was a successful country, despite the current recession. Mr Byrne added: “The old Stormont administration which the Ulster Unionist Party ran was hardly a shining light to the rest of the world.”

However, Mr Elliott responded: “There is no question that the Republic of Ireland has endured a century of economic struggle, blighted by unemployment and emigration, culminating in last year’s £7bn bailout to the Republic from the Westminster Government, with many claiming a diluting of national sovereignty.

“Economic matters will be a key consideration in the Scottish independence debate.

“It is perfectly legitimate to highlight the experience of the Republic of Ireland in informing that debate, because it’s not so long ago that Alex Salmond and the SNP were highlighting the Republic and the ‘Celtic Tiger’ as an example of what Scotland could become.

“That is indeed what I am worried about.”

Story so far

Mr Elliott has been promoting opposition to Scottish independence and said that he would go there to make his case. A day after Mr Elliott unveiled his plan in the Belfast Telegraph, DUP leader Peter Robinson said this was something the two unionist parties could co-operate on.

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