That was some alarming talk a while back about the SDLP, wouldn’t you say? They’ve been musing for years about an alliance/dalliance with Fianna Fail, but it’s never come to anything. There always was that bit in their title – the SDLP – the Social Democratic and Labour Party – that made it a bit rude to embrace Fianna Fail and ignore the south’s Labour Party. But hold on a minute: the south’s Labour Party is in straits almost as dire as the SDLP. Embracing them would be like a half-dead man strapping himself to a corpse.
And so the talk has been of a union with Fianna Fail, even in time for local elections here next year. What form that union might take if the two parties did consummate is another question. You may be sure that Fianna Fail won’t be changing their name to SDLP, which means that…That’s right. Fianna Fail would merge so completely with the SDLP, it’d swallow the northern party. There were even unnamed sources quoted as saying that 80% of SDLP people were in favour of a merger, and quick. There was even talk that – brace yourself – it was time for the SDLP to leave the stage. Now where have I heard that before? Mind you , Colum Eastwood was honest enough to concede that they’d lost seats and couldn’t compete with the Shinners’ “war chest”. Nice one, Colum. Wink wink, nudge nudge. We know what you mean. War chest. Hee-hee.
The pluses would be that were Fianna Fail (the Republican Party) to become an all-Ireland party, that would mean two of the major parties in Ireland would be all-Ireland. Fine Gael might think it’s time to push forward with the good-will they’ve earned in northern Nationalist circles because of how they’ve played the Brexit game. It’d certainly be a bit inward-looking if the other two main parties in the south – Sinn Féin and Fianna Fail – were all-Ireland parties, and Fine Gael wasn’t.
Brexit has put the notion of an all-Ireland economy, and the handicap to that economy of a hard border, full stage-centre as never before. There’s no need any more for Sinn Féin or anyone else to make the economic case for Irish unity- the common sense of removing trade barriers on an all-island economy is blindingly obvious to nearly everyone now. Once seen as the preserve of all-Ireland nutters, an all-Ireland economy is now accepted on all sides in Ireland – bar the DUP, of course.
And did you ever think you’d live to see the day when Arlene Foster was talking about what she’d do (emigrate) if partition were abolished? But unionists can cheer up – Robin Swann says he’s staying, and Mike Nesbitt too. It should of course be noted that both unionist politicians have been quick to say that this is all hypothesis and isn’t going to happen; but even voicing your reaction to a hypothetical situation (all situations are hypothetical until they happen) has made the notion of Irish unity more real than at any time I can remember.
But why would Arlene want to leave – especially since Robin AND Jeffrey Donaldson say they’d be staying ?
My guess is because it’s hard putting up with equality when you’ve been used to being top dog. I mean the humiliation of it. Maybe that’s what prompted so many Protestants from the south to leave when they found themselves stranded in a self-governing twenty-six counties after the Treaty. Did they fear for their safety? Did they assume the Irish people would seek retribution, or that they’d miss the comforting hand of Mother Britain, or did they simply not like the idea of being asked to consider the natives as their equal? Mmm. Maybe that’s what Gerry Adams had in mind with his Trojan Horse of equality remarks. Which you’ll remember raised a lot of unionists hostility Not because he suggested they were incapable of accepting equality, but because he called them “bastards.”