Contrary to anecdotal reports, people in the south do actually see those of us north of the border as fellow-countrymen and women. Depending on when polls are taken and how the question is framed, something over 60% in the south favour a reunited Ireland.
This morning, the Irish Times is aglow with the details of its most recent polling regarding the up-coming EU election. They deal with all of the constituencies in the south, with a picture of each candidate and the % they would get, according to the IT poll. What about the prospects for candidates north of the border? Nah. Didn’t poll them. Although they do show Mark Durkan as coming seventh and last in the constituency he’s competing in.
The IT poll puts Fine Gael and Fianna Fail as the two leading parties in terms of candidates, with Sinn Féin showing likely to return its thre MEPs but with “stiff opposition from a plethora of left-wing candidates.”
Underscoring the importance of its poll, the IT even devotes its leading editorial to what the poll shows. It’s the last paragraph that makes me want to throttle the cat:
“A complicating factor in this election is that two of the Irish seats will not be allocated until the British have finally left the EU. It means that the candidates elected to the fourth seat in Dublin and the fifth seat in the South will be left in limbo until Brexit becomes a reality. There is even a possibility that they will never be able to take their seas if the British decide to stay.”
You get that? The poll is conducted on the basis that the south of Ireland will get two extra seats, given that Britain finally Brexits and that the north gets no representation in Europe.
The north could have representation after Brexit by a simple gesture: Leo Varadkar could have passed those two extra seats to the north. This would not have deprived the south in any way – it would still elect the same number of MEPs as always – but it would have given Irish citizens in the north what they are entitled to – representation in Europe.
But but but, you say. That’s pie-in-the-sky talk. The EU would never agree to two MEPs being elected by people in the north. Yes they would. They’ve made it clear that it’s Varadkar’s call. But but but, you gibber. The unionists would go mad if there were MEPs elected by the north post-Brexit: Leave means Leave. To which there are two obvious responses: 56% means a solid majority of people in the north want to stay in the EU and be represented there (no, Virginia, there is no impediment attached to the fact that the people in the north live in a different non-EU jurisdiction); and did anyone talk about nationalist outrage when, contrary to the will of the people here, we are yanked out of the EU?
Of course a reunited Ireland would solve the whole pig’s breakfast at one stroke; but in the meantime, it’d be nice if a newspaper calling itself Irish (read the label) would write as though the northern counties hadn’t been sawn off and attached to Britain.
Sixty per cent + of people may favour a reunited Ireland. But the IT will do its damnedest to make them think again.