Who fears to speak of Irish re-unification?


In some ways, the attitude of an increasing number of commentators to Irish re-unification is similar to the attitude of an increased number of commentators after the banking crisis of 2008.

Cast your mind back to the south’s general election of 2007. Remember the TV debate in which Minister for Justice Michael McDowell   was seen as having exposed Gerry Adams as an “economic illiterate”? It’s a tag which has been stuck to Sinn Féin ever since, with that debate the foundation for its veracity. But if you check back on the debate, you’ll find that Gerry Adams was urging change in the division of wealth, with more government controls on the market. Michael McDowell was chuckling at such an analysis and, as befitted a Progressive Democrat, urging more of the Celtic Tiger, foot to the floor. So when the south’s economy had its massive car-crash a year later, which man was the economic illiterate? Under the iron thumb of the Troika, the south of Ireland quickly learned to jettison the McDowell line in economics.

Likewise Irish re-unification. There was a time when no southern politician dared speak favourably of nationalism, let alone re-unification. The only people doing that were Sinn Féin, and everybody knew they were a bunch of economically illiterate gunmen. Then we had the Good Friday Agreement and Sinn Féin’s commitment to politics made it harder to sell the gunman charge. And this year we’ve had Brexit, which has sent an electric jolt through the minds of people who wouldn’t have countenanced the thought of Irish re-unification.

In addition to the expected effect of Brexit on the north, there is the contrasting economic progress of the south as a continuing member of the EU. There was the economic report by Dr Kurt Hubner of the University of British Columbia, mapping the potential economic benefits to the north of re-unification. In last Wednesday’s Irish Times Kevin Meagher, a former special adviser to Shaun Woodward, argues a similar economic case. The SDLP have long since dumped their post-nationalist thinking, as  articulated by John Hume. Unionists are lining up to get their hands on an Irish passport, urged on by Ian Paisley Jr. And it’s just not farmers who are feeling very nervous about the promises from Westminster that their loss of EU subsidies won’t hurt one little bit. More and more people would appear to be opening their political minds even as they tighten their economic safety-belts. What was once exclusively Sinn Féin thinking is being shared by more and more people.

As a Fermanagh woman, Arlene Foster probably is aware of this shift in thinking. But don’t mention it to her – she has enough to be thinking about as things are.

21 Responses to Who fears to speak of Irish re-unification?

  1. Desmond mcKinley December 30, 2016 at 11:11 am #

    No one ever thought that Sinn Fein had any thinkers in its ranks. Apart from english n US.Tgey knew better.

  2. Perkin Warbeck December 30, 2016 at 11:23 am #

    As you quite perceptively point out, Esteeemed Blogmeister, one by one the political nay-sayers of Ireland’s Eye-land are beginning to fall into step behind the Shinners’ line on Irish Unity. Even as the scales are falling from their All-me-Eye-land.

    Reluctantly, of course, but still falling into line . Whether it be Fianna Falling or even Fianna Failing Better.

    ‘Events, dear , boy , events ‘ have dictated that matters be thus. Events, of course, not of their own choosing. But, then, that was their choice.

    It was of course, Harold Macmillan who first uttered that deathless comment, when quizzed by a hack as to how his Tory Government might be blown off course. One should add ‘allegedly’ as there is some doubt whether old Basset-hound Harold actually barked those words.

    What is not in dispute is that another Anglo-Irish partnership definitely go belly up in 2016: that was the Gill-Macmillan partnership in the publishing world. A combo which started back in 1968 and so ran its course for nigh on Fifty Years. Nothing, if would seem, is Irish permanent in this temporary existence of ours.

    Even (gasp) the Mac Giolla aka the Uncle Tom-Macmillian pact on the political front. One by one the scales are being compelled to fall from the Ireland Eyes, not unlike the scales from the (gulp) Brexit-supporting Queen Elizardbeth.

    (Nach fada go mbeidh Tú ar do cheithre cosa arís, Eiliís Aibhléiseach !).

    Another thing which is not in dispute is the continuing relevance of the wit-loaded lyrics of the Lorretto Lynne song by the peerless Shel Silverstein:

    -I’m glad Raquel Welch just signed a million dollar pact
    And Debbie’s out in Vegas workin’ up a brand new act
    While the TV’s showin’ newlyweds, a real fun game to play
    But here in Topeka, the screen door’s a bangin’
    The coffee’s boilin’ over and the wash needs a hangin’
    One wants a cookie and one wants a changin’
    And one’s on the way.

    The Debbie namechecked here in this 1971 hit, is of course, the l., g. D. Reynolds.

    One can only speculate what the next one to fall in line will be.

    Perhaps, even, that serial electoral loser, late of F.G. and the P.D’s.,Michael McDowell, will justify his nickname (Dowell Triangle) and seek to join his third party, the party of his grand-pops, Eoin McNeill, the, erm, Shinners?

    Thereby, in the process, erm, countermanding his previous political allegiances from riding-cropulism to flopulism to climb up from a kneeling position to, erm, hilltopism?

  3. Joe McVeigh December 30, 2016 at 11:50 am #

    Imagine the Irish Times giving a page to Irish re-unification written by a Brit.Something is happening- and there’s probably a lot going on ‘behind the scenes’ as always. It is a subject that will be getting a lot of attention in the coming months and years leading to the inevitable conclusion. Arlene will be unable to stop the momentum.

    • jessica December 30, 2016 at 1:29 pm #

      If an investigation proves what some in her party are saying happened, she may well end up behind bars in a new united Ireland.

      I wonder if such a situation arose, would she request a transfer to a jail in GB instead?

  4. Mens sana December 30, 2016 at 2:20 pm #

    He doesn’t gain credibility by linking him to Shaun Woodward. And why isn’t he writing this stuff in the GB press? They are the people who are grissly ill-informed.

    • jessica December 30, 2016 at 2:28 pm #

      “And why isn’t he writing this stuff in the GB press? They are the people who are grissly ill-informed.”

      Yes, but they probably don’t give a shit and they have no say in our future anyway so why bother?

      It is only Irish opinion that matters and we should focus on reconciliation around this island as there is plenty of healing needed and a lot more truth to come out

    • KEVIN MEAGHER December 30, 2016 at 8:16 pm #

      To be fair, I am: http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/staggers/2016/07/brexit-beginning-end-northern-ireland

  5. Ryan December 30, 2016 at 2:27 pm #

    “Remember the TV debate in which Minister for Justice Michael McDowell was seen as having exposed Gerry Adams as an “economic illiterate”?”

    If Gerry Adams is an economic illiterate then so is renowned Irish Economist David McWilliams. He predicted the 2008 economic crash during a debate on the Late Late Show in 2003. My father told me the same when I visited him in Dublin in 2005, where the amount of Porsche cars being driven around was like something from Hollywood, California. But it was all an illusion, funded by debt, not genuine economic output. It maybe would’ve been different if the cash was invested in something better, instead of empty buildings and houses. There are still ghost estates in the South, those homes should be given to homeless families.

    I was down in Dublin on the 17th December this year for another visit, the amount of expensive cars to be seen today is considerably less than 10 years ago but things are picking up. If Ireland wants to see genuine economic growth it needs to learn a few things from the Germans. The first thing that needs dealt with is this Irish culture of Emigration, it must stop. People born here should be encouraged to stay through thick or thin and build the place up and have families.

    “And it’s just not farmers who are feeling very nervous about the promises from Westminster that their loss of EU subsidies won’t hurt one little bit.”

    Westminster doesn’t give two hoots about this place, not for nationalists and not for unionists. We will barely get a mention in the Brexit talks. Siobhan Fenton wrote a very good article this week in the Belfast Telegraph explaining how Theresa May and the British Government are seriously risking peace here, and are either reckless or extremely ignorant of the people of the North. I’ll post a link below.

    ” In last Wednesday’s Irish Times Kevin Meagher, a former special adviser to Shaun Woodward, argues a similar economic case”

    I was listening to Kevin Meagher’s interview with Pat Kenny on Radio last week. His new book “A United Ireland: Why Irish Unification is inevitable and how it will come about” was released recently, I will certainly be buying it.

    Meagher explains in the interview with Kenny that the North isn’t seriously considered British by most of Britain. He says that 2nd generation British-Pakistani families are considered more British and that NI is always at the bottom of the priority list when it comes to British politics. He also says that from the early 1990’s onwards it was always the intention of the British Government to leave the North, that its of no importance to them (as declared in the Downing Street Declaration) and that the current “Peace Process” is all about bringing about Irish Unity. He says that the change in demographics is really what everyone is waiting for before Britain hands the North over to an “All Irish State”. He also notes the fact NI is just 2% of the UK’s economic output and is a tiny percentage of its population.

    Kenny, insulting I’m sure to many Unionists, says most Unionists “may have a British passport but they’re born in Ireland, they’re Irish”. Meagher then explains that most Protestants in the North are beginning to choose a “Northern Irish” identity over a British one and that this is due to them realizing that they are not British like the Scottish, Welsh or English. I believe the full radio convo can be found on RTE’s website.

    Irish Unity is inevitable, I don’t just say that as a Republican or because I want to see it, its the truth, it is inevitable. I’m very confident we’ll see it within the next decade or 2. The Northern state makes no economic/social sense whatsoever, in fact its been a social disaster. Instead of trying to integrate Nationalists and make the state work for everyone, political Unionism has literally done the opposite in the past and are still doing the opposite today, hence why I say they are destroying their own state. Their inability to compromise and to embrace equality is their main downfall.

    PS: Files released this week under the 30 year rule show Margaret Thatcher admits the border being drawn up in 1921 was a mistake. Basically she was saying the creation of NI was a mistake. Wow, your very quick Maggie….

    PPS: The Files also showed Ian Paisley Snr and Peter Robinson were seriously thinking of declaring an “Independent Northern Ireland” due to the Anglo Irish Agreement. Paisley was intending on blaming Thatcher for him taking such a measure. Wow, the DUP really do know how to make a bad situation much worse.

    I honestly believe this idea of an “Independent Northern Ireland” will be revived by Unionism in the near future….


    • jessica December 30, 2016 at 3:18 pm #

      The first thing that needs to be dealt with is the removal of the sweetheart deals costing 2 billion per year to the Irish economy and reclaiming as much of the 13 billion plus interest as we can from Apple while we can.

      This will be critical to counter the repatriation of 24 billion of Apple wealth which will be returning to the US and will leave Ireland with a drop in GDP which on paper that the world has never before seen.

      Outward immigration will not and should not be stopped through thick or thin other than by investing in our economy and building a country that people will not want to leave and will actually want to come home to when opportunities are actually available at home.

      This money could be invested in building social housing for example which will stimulate jobs, wealth and help reduce the housing issues.

      Rent should be lowered regardless of landlords and higher tax on additional and higher value homes which would help address the homeless issue at little expense and help keep house pricing under control.

      A major wealth adjustment is unavoidable, which means public pensions cannot be honoured, previous governments have borrowed to patch the deficit but this is no longer an option. These issues are going to have to be addressed.

      Major adjustments are going to be needed. Who is up for the challenges will be interesting. There is plenty of good will being shown in the international community since 2015, you can be sure that unification will have a part to play in this.

      Fine Gael and Fianna Fail want unification like a hole in the head but may have no choice in the matter.

  6. PF December 30, 2016 at 9:38 pm #

    Thank you for drawing my attention to the Kevin Meagher article – the trust of it is, indeed, correct; however…

    There will continue to be those (Unionist politicians and commentators) who will peddle the misapprehension that (to borrow their phrase) that the Union is safe – it is nothing of the kind – but neither form of Unity is.

    To begin with, the breakup of the (UK) Union is already afoot, and it involves more than Northern Ireland – it goes by the name of ‘Devolution’. This, incidentally, was the main miscalculation made by Unionists following the Rising – full integration and governance by Westminster ought to have been the aim, and would have secured the future of Northern Ireland’s place within the Union more firmly than the localised version of ‘Home Rule’ which ensued.

    But this Union is already on shaky ground due to a combination of rising nationalism and globalism, something which can only result in a greater centralisation of global power, which will, and can afford to, devolve responsibility for hedge cutting and holy days to local councils (called Parliaments) as a way of maintaining the myth of the nation state.

    So with the politics of Ireland; it is as much in thrall to global corporationism as anywhere else, and one might easily predict that the race to decrease tax on exorbitantly wealthy corporations while increasing it (if not directly) on the most poor, will gather speed. That Ireland must gather food for food-banks for Ireland’s people says little for any of us.

    The political future of Ireland, then (both North and South), merely plays second fiddle, flute and lambeg, to its subsumption within greater economic, social, cultural and moral powers.

    Hasn’t anyone noticed that what we once called national identity has been reduced to fulfilling the role of entertainment: sport, tourism, nostalgia, and, ironically enough for Ireland, ‘Fest days’ (no spelling mistake) – primarily St. Patrick’s and the 12th – Paddy-Fest and Billy-Fest.

    What Unionists should make of all this I don’t know. I for one do not seek a United Republican Ireland, but find it slightly more preferable to the disintegrating globalised mush the UK has become, if only because it holds out the hope of an identity. In such times one might to well to hold one’s loyalty close to one’s chest.

    For Republicans, however, I see no cause for rejoicing either. As Meagher notes, “the evidence-based case for unity will be made in flat, sober tones. PowerPoint presentations, not stirring graveside orations, are the order of the day.”

    Gone, then, are the ancient national rivalries – the disputes over identities, national myths, customs, religions, language, culture. Risings, Covenants and governance… all at rainbow’s end.

    Seems like we all lost.

    • jessica December 30, 2016 at 10:28 pm #

      Peter Robinson didn’t consider the union to be that safe when he apparently considered an independent northern Ireland in 1986.

      Why should anyone believe anything the DUP have said since?

      • PF December 30, 2016 at 11:05 pm #

        Unionists in general reacted negatively to the Anglo-Irish Agreement, as did the DUP to the following Downing Street Declaration and Belfast Agreement, preferring their own amendment – the St. Andrew’s Agreement.

        All of which rather makes my point, that in-spite of contemporary protestations that the Union is safe, they can’t really believe this.

        Each of these efforts at making peace have been attempts to solve an Irish problem rather than a British problem. And therein lies the rub for Unionism: that to which it wishes to remain united proved not only to orchestrate its own dissolution, but had already ideologically withdrawn from Ireland in 1916 – legal withdrawal is but a whisper away.

        None of that, however, solves the problem of Irish willingness to sacrifice its own nationhood on the altar of global finance. And perhaps this, beyond the supposed economic benefits will be the justification for unionism agreeing a United ireland. (The small ‘i’ is intentional.)

        • jessica December 30, 2016 at 11:52 pm #

          Peter, Britain was, is and will always remain, the other island.

          Ireland is the island on which we live (all of it) and it should be up to the Irish people all over this island as to what relationship we have with britain, and with the rest of the world. Even Maggie Thatcher acknowledged it was wrong to partition Ireland in 1921.

          Ireland divided will be at the mercy of multi nationals. it is only through unity and confident leadership that Ireland can do what Iceland has done for its people.

          I support the 12.5% corporation rate, it is necessary for Ireland.
          I disagree with the sweetheart deals for companies such as Apple and would call their bluff and even let them go if need be.
          I would create a 25 year growth strategy to build road infrastructure right around this island, build a troubles museum at the Maze and give attractive incentives to corporate businesses to develop there, invest in renewable energy making Ireland totally self sufficient and become a global provider of renewable energy installations constructed in Belfast.

          I would freeze public wages but also slash rent and prioritise housing for Irish citizens.

          I would introduce heavy landlord taxes for multiple property ownerships and expensive homes to drive down house prices.

          I would review mortgage deficits and where banks are seen to have borrowed beyond current regulations, I would triple the length of the mortgage terms to reduce the monthly payments to the current house value rates with a gradual write off over a long term.

          None of this goes against the principles of 1916.

          Ireland has great potential. But we wont achieve it shackled to Britain or with Fine Gael or Fianna Fail at the helm and the communist alternative I would find more abhorrent than british rule.

          Sinn Fein is in my opinion, our last hope.

          • PF December 31, 2016 at 12:18 am #


            Whatever the accoutrements of any envisioned old/new ireland, my point is that the horse has already bolted, to Tir na nOg.

            If we could transport Pearse or Carson to 21st Century Ireland, both would have more in common with each other than either would have with our contemporary world.

            That Ireland, as in the story of Oisin, has aged beyond recognition and lies in a state of abandonment and disrepair – and it, like most other modern nations, it has done it to itself.

            Really, a United Ireland means very little in a world more concerned with its latest phone upgrade and its allegiance to an operating system – Western nations are now an address rather than an identity – modern identities relate more to social and moral preferences than they do to nations.

            I have come to realise this about the UK, and the loss of an Irish ideal makes me as sad as the loss of a British one.

          • jessica December 31, 2016 at 12:45 am #

            It depends how you look at it Peter.

            Ireland has not yet had its chance in the world. We have yet to have our independence day, to finally have a nation of our own.
            It means a lot to me and perhaps it took some economic hurt or potential hurt to focus minds.

            Ireland should not be in competition with itself economically just as it should not abandon any part of the nation socially.

            Britain has more to gain from an economically prosperous Ireland than a failed Ireland as does the EU or even the US.
            Partition has always been wrong.

            I have every confidence in our ability to make Ireland a prosperous nation.

            Let us start by making it a nation, the rest will fall into place.

          • Scott Rutherford December 31, 2016 at 12:36 am #


            You seem to be lamenting the loss of nationalism and don’t appear to be a huge fan of globalisation or diversification which is undoubtedly is on the increase.

            Perhaps you could explain to me how exactly everyone’s life’s are improved in any country be it the UK, Ireland, France etc by having a strong dominant nationalistic/patriotic tendency, which is often is based along linguistic and/or ethnic lines.

            Is that not simply a recipe for more tribalism in the world which often simply descends into prejudice and conflict.

          • jessica December 31, 2016 at 1:06 am #

            Globalisation is going to lead to another world war Scott.

            It is not nationalism which is the problem but intolerance and lack of respect between the worlds nations.

            It is greed which pursues the wealth of other nations and those who control it that use it, to control and use more and more people for their own benefit and like yourself, make them believe it is wrong to go against it. It is a great deception. What else can make nation rise against nation but the threat of one nation over-ruling all others.

            Tribalism is a good thing Scott, it is humans binding together to help one another. Empire building is the evil which turns the tribes against one another.

            The Indians managed very well in tribes before white man came to America and imposed their empires upon them.

          • Scott Rutherford December 31, 2016 at 1:27 am #

            Globalisation does the opposite of leading to war Jessica, in fact it helps prevent war by creating interdependencey between nations that make the cooperation preferable to violence. Why would a country make war with another country if they’re mutually beneficial to each other.

            Tribalism is far from a good thing. I thought anyone from NI could see that clearly enough. Tribalism or more simply put us’uns and them’uns, leads to division between people often leading to misunderstanding of each other’s culture which brings up a build up of fear and prejudice to people who one side sees as “different” or “weird” compared to one sides social norms. This fear and prejudice often leads hate and sometimes even racism.

            I also feel globalisation is not really a choice a nation can make it’s simply a reality of the progress of technology, which through jet travel, super fast logistics and instant communication anywhere in the world has made the world a far smaller place.

            It’s an unstoppable force quite frankly and it’s probably better to simply embrace it.

          • jessica December 31, 2016 at 1:57 am #

            It is not an unstoppable force Scott.
            Globalisation will not benefit the majority of people but the minority wealthy and the US election has shown that it can be stopped dead in its tracks just as upcoming elections around Europe will also.

            In fact it is the progress of technology that means globalisation can operate just as well without political unions and these are more about control than creating interdependency.

            Division was imposed on Ireland by another nation, it was not tribalism that caused conflict here but denial of freedom and british misrule.

            We are not two tribes here Scott, but we have divided and often misguided loyalties.

          • PF December 31, 2016 at 12:11 pm #

            Hi Scott

            I’m afraid I must agree with Jessica.

            “Perhaps you could explain to me how exactly everyone’s life’s are improved in any country be it the UK, Ireland, France etc by having a strong dominant nationalistic/patriotic tendency, which is often is based along linguistic and/or ethnic lines.”

            I’m happy to answer your question, but you have already prejudged nationalism and patriotism as bad things. (I’m guessing you’re younger than I am and that your view demonstrates the triumph of secular liberalism! – although that’s cheeky assumption – I hope you don’t mind.)

            The biggest problem I have with your suggestion is that you cite nationalism as the cause of “prejudice and conflict.”

            But not only are nations now divided between each other, they are also divided within themselves.

            Vast and sweeping social, moral and economic change has led to as much prejudice and conflict as nationalism ever did – and significant intolerance of those who refuse to agree with the new norms.

            And let’s remember that the type of globalisation envisioned is secular liberal western globalisation, rather than any other kind (think on Middle Eastern religious globalism for a possible alternative). These global movements have nothing in common and will led to serious conflict.

            But even aside from that, is the average person better off economically? Isn’t this frightening?


            Globalisation, ultimately means, ‘Coporationism’. Corporations are more wealthy than many nation states. Politicians are owned by business – businesses so huge that they count their profits in many billions, while the host nations lower their taxes.

            So I don’t see the benefits.

            Unfortunately globalisation has not led to friendly cooperation between peoples, but to corporate empire building. People separated into ever smaller identity groups usually based on social or moral preferences, economic status, technological loyalties (thing Google, Apple and Android) and sometime religion – it’s classic divide and conquer – with a good deal of social control thrown in for good measure. We are controlled socially by political elites and financially by corporate elites.

            Contrary to that, nation states bind people together, protect against empire and protect against the tyranny of the most wealthy.

            Having said all that, my other point to Jessica was that whatever form any United ireland might take, it will be an ireland subsumed within a corporate goal empire, which sort of renders any thought of an Irish nationalist victory hollow.

            But yes, as a Unionist, I prefer Irish Nationalism to Globalism.

          • jessica December 31, 2016 at 1:19 pm #

            I have little interest in any nationalist victory Peter and I don’t see a united Ireland is the end of the struggle, on the contrary, it will only be the beginning and will involve many new relationships including I hope a much better one with britain and a new merging of unionism/nationalism into humanism for want of a better word.

            Perhaps a new era of working class opportunism and returning once again to Christian values without the blind allegiances of the past but built on equality and decency starting with helping the most vulnerable.

            It is a disgrace that there are so many homeless children while the likes of Apple are given 2 billion euros per year of tax payer money and allowed to keep almost 19 billion the EU have already ruled is owed to Ireland but MUST be paid somewhere as tax revenue, to which Apple have already accepted and agreed to.

            It will take decades to repair the damage caused by the corporate greed even if Europe can break up peacefully.

            I don’t know if it is my age, but the modern world is just too promiscuous for my liking.

            Whatever new Ireland is emerging, at least the mainstream of the churches here will need to work together as one more than they ever have done before.

            Their voices will need to be heard.