Happy, happy talk – but where are the structures?

 I wasn’t at the Lansdowne Hotel last night when there was a meeting about Brexit and a border poll, but I see David McCann quoted this morning on Twitter:  “Young people are increasingly  coming to the opinion that the north’s future is outside the United Kingdom.”

That’s an optimistic but also a vague -to-the-verge-of meaningless comment. “Young people” –  how many young people? What proportion of young people? And when does a person stop being young? 

Then there’s “coming to the opinion”. That suggests they haven’t arrived at the opinion yet, or it might suggest that some have come and more will follow.

It also ignores a key factor: young people  are poor voters. That is, they tend not to be overly interested in politics and they tend not to appear at the polling booth on polling day.

So while this coming election will be hugely interesting, both here and in England, Scotland and Wales,  we would do well to not overstate what it might do for a reunited Ireland.

Any talk about increased interest in a reunited Ireland should come with the health and safety warning: this election on 12 December is not or should not be about a reunited Ireland. We can only get definitive about a reunited Ireland after it has been looked at carefully, discussed in an inclusive and systematic way, with a clear ground-plan for what it is hoped the new state will be.  Frankly, I’m tired of rallying cries and talk about how Brexit has changed everything. Of course it has changed everything. Of course we should be talking and planning for a reunited Ireland in a rational and inclusive way. But we’ll not do that if talking-structures are not set up.

The usual response to this notion of creating structures for planning and discussion is that the southern Irish government should do it. That’s a waste of time: Leo Varadkar is not going to build his own gallows. It’s up to those who hold meetings and talk about the renewed appetite for a new Ireland (which I think there is) to also tell us about their plans for the centrally important task of building the forums, the citizens’ assemblies or whatever other kind of body is necessary for progress to be made.

Enough with the cheerful talk and judgements. Let’s see somebody who can offer a house in which debate and agreement can happen. Otherwise we might as well be standing on a hillside, exhorting cheerfully while pissing against the wind.

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