Senator Mark Daly from Kerry is a remarkable man. Everyone I’ve ever met from Kerry sees themselves as remarkable, but Senator Daly’s remarkableness springs from his actions rather than his place of origin. He’s been doing what southern governments should have been doing for at least the last twenty years: he’s been looking at what a reunited Ireland might look like.
He’s been talking to unionists – Protestant clergymen, loyalist communities, former paramilitary leaders. The result of his conversations is less than thrilling and makes the title of his study “Unionist Concerns and Fears of a United Ireland” pretty accurate.
Here are some of the things he heard:
- A unionist’s main raison d’etre is to maintain the union. If that collapses, as it must in a reunited and independent Ireland, what’s left?
- People like Raymond McCord wanted to know if there’d be a 50-50 recruitment basis to the gardaí, would street names be in English; would the union flag be flown; would playparks be named after loyalist terrorists; would Orange lodges be able to march through O’Connell Street?
- A senior Orangeman criticized nationalists who’ve gained so much under British rule and who have then engaged in armed struggle in defiance of majority wishes.
- A loyalist flute band told Senator Daly that if a united Ireland were vote for with a 50% + 1 margin, over half of them would support physical force to resist the decision.
It makes for sober reflection. These are indeed hard questions and some of the answers are even harder. The last item listed, for example, shows that this particular flute band thinks along very similar lines to Seamus Mallon. Is there any response beyond despair that can be given to the views conveyed to Senator Daly?
I think there is, if for no other reason than that we’re at the start of a long road to a reunited Ireland, and it’s amazing what you can learn and understand in the course of a journey.