Why are unionists starting to favour a border poll?

Watching the RHI scandal stone being lifted and getting an eyeful of the unpretty little creatures scurrying about underneath, bumping into one another, swerving round each other, climbing over the top of each other   – all that makes it easy to think that this ghastly orange corner of Ireland is a place you visit, let alone live in, at your peril.

Personally, the RHI Inquiry hasn’t surprised me in any way. To be fair to the DUP, all parties have a lot of internecine feuding going on beneath the surface: it’s just that some hide it better than others. Unfortunatel for the DUP and fortunately for the rest of us, the RHI Inquiry is making it clear that, far from being a God-fearing, chuch-going band of brothers and sisters, the DUP was – and is – a group of people with political knives with which they slash and rip anyone they think is getting in their way. With families like the DUP, blessed are the orphans.

But while the RHI scandal is an attention-riveter, it’s far from the only show in town. Brexit is almost upon us, and what we’ve seen of the possible consequences has made strong men and women blanch and head for the toilets. And as even Theresa May is beginning to realise, Brexit means border.

Unionist commentators have recently begun to talk about a border poll, a number of them have even advocated it. That’s because, despite many improvements in southern society, that state has an Achilles heel the size of a haystack: heath care.

At present, it doesn’t pay to get sick in the south. If you visit your GP, it’ll cost you around £55. And it’ll cost you about £12 more  if you then have to pick up a subscription. Suppose you have three children of delicate constitution: that could lead you into very deep financial waters. So until that massive problem is addressed and answered by the south, from a nationalist/republican point of view, any immediate border poll will not be a good idea.

Likewise if a hard Brexit happens, those who seek a reunited Ireland would do well to wait a year or so, let the dust settle and then survey the scene. It almost certainly won’t be pretty, but it’s important to let that fact sink into the populace, particularly the unionist part. The general economic argument is over: everybody wants, or says they want, an invisible border. In other words, all of Ireland clearly works a lot better than two bits of Ireland. If a contemporary, trusted account was made of what duplication of services costs, how a really good health care system would look and cost, what advantages remaining in the EU would bring: if all these things were researched and presented, then we should have a border poll. The reason some unionist commentators are now talking about a border poll is that they figure things may very well get worse. So before the smelly stuff really hits the House of Ulster, better have a quick, pro-Union  poll that’ll give us another seven years pressed to the bosom of Mother Britain.

Don’t you just love the delicious irony of republicans/nationalists saying “No thanks, not just now” to a border poll, while unionists gibber and dance in their desperation for one.

Leo Varadkar and his merry men (and women) need to devote a considerable amount of their rising revenue to creating a health care system that will make that in the north look like the over-worked, crisis-ridden system it is. Once that’s done, a lot of that tiresome unionist fears, will have been set at rest. That’ll be the time to tell Karen Bradley (or her successor) to get the finger out and fire the starting gun.

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