Let’s not allow the Brexit elephant to sit on top of everything else

Since the UK referendum, Brexit has been the elephant in the room which forces its presence on everyone, rather than the elephant everyone ignores. In fact, the danger has been that this elephant will smother all other features of the room, regardless of their importance.

Example No 1. There is another referendum which we haven’t had – the one that is in the gift of the British Secretary of State. As you probably know, that’s the border referendum which can be held only when the British Secretary of State adjudges there is a mood for one and that it could be won by nationalists/republicans.

Why such a daft clause was allowed into the GFA is puzzling. No one seems to have considered what indicators the BSoS will use. Will it be when she meets three people in one day who say “Hiya Karen, grand weather that, I think you should hold a border poll”? Will it be when Karen reads three newspaper editorials advocating a border poll? Will it be when Karen hasn’t much else to do and figures a border poll would be one way to pass the time?

Since we’re the ones whose future will be involved, shouldn’t Karen come clean and let us know what she is using to judge when the time has come for the holding of a referendum? The Irish people’s future is at stake, so it’d be nice if Karen could be pressured into telling us the criteria she’s using.  

Example No 2: There are a number of politicians from different political parties who claim they favour Irish unity. Fianna Fail ( don’t forget it’s ‘The Republican Party’) have spoken from time to time about unity. When they go out to Bodenstown every year, they make the traditional declarations. So do Fine Gael, so do (I think) the Labour Party in the south. And of course so too do Sinn Féin.

So if they’re all really serious about working to produce a new Ireland, shouldn’t they be putting their heads and ideas together on the subject? Have they even met? Has the idea of a White Paper on Irish unity been proposed? It really is time – in fact there never was a better time – for drawing up a document that’d put the misty notion of a new Ireland into a practical form that could be debated.

Example No 3: what’s stalling Stormont. There is a tendency – almost an automatic reflex – by the media to show how balanced they are, by blaming both parties when there’s a crisis or a stall. There’s only one way to break free of this one’s-as-bad-as-t’other imagine and that’s to itemize the matters which are holding back everyone from climbing the Stormont hill. If it’s a matter of respect (and of course it is), make clear what is needed to re-establish respect. If it’s a matter of living up to past promises, two or three reneged commitments should be put out there and unionist politicians should explain why they’re not willing to deliver on each. If it’s legacy cases, a few well-known cases should be headlined and the DUP should not be given a moment’s peace until it attempts to justify its blockage of funding.

In politics, there’s a tendency to use the broad-brush approach and assume that everyone knows the issues and what’s at stake. That’s how the media get away with the laziness of a-plague-on-both- your- houses. Nationalism and republicanism should be sharp-edged and specific about what unionism has to do before a functioning Assembly can be established. Small words and short sentences would help.

Comments are closed.