If a columnist writes for a paper, does that mean his/her views match with that paper? Not necessarily but it helps. Certainly there must be few papers – I can think of none – which have a columnist who consistently sees the world and political events in a way that is at odds with the management.
There’s a good example in today’s Irish Times. In its editorial, the paper urges the DUP and Sinn Féin to co-operate in talks which are due to start to find a way to restore the Executive. The paper makes little if any distinction between the two parties: they’ve fallen out, they’d better get together, because if they don’t they’ll be forced into a general election after January 2020.
In the IT this morning there is also a column by Stephen Collins. Whether it is that age is not just greying Mr Collins’s hair (no, OF COURSE I’m not talking about myself, Virginia. Are you blind?) but also leading towards an entrenched, not-an-inch position, I can’t say. But he’s definitely getting more and more contemptuous of northern opinion.
One example: he begs to differ with the 1000+ citizens who have written to Leo Varadkar, urging him to convene a citizens’ assembly that could begin to look at what a new Ireland might look like: “ The last thing nationalists should be doing is attempting to exploit their [the DUP’s] anxieties. That is precisely what the latest campaign for a united Ireland is designed to do.”
He compares this letter ‘campaign’ to the waving of a red rag at a bull, and he commends Leo Varadkar and particularly Micheál Martin for rejecting it, putting country before party.
“The entire point of the Good Friday agreement was to stop an endless focus on a binary constitutional choice from destabilising society”
Effectively, Mr Collins is saying that no discussion of what a united Ireland might look like should take place that doesn’t include unionists. That’s to suggest that the door is locked and bolted against unionists. The opposite is the truth. Unionist politicians have made it clear they’ll have nothing to do with such a grouping, while nationalists would welcome the presence of unionists.
Mr Collins’s whole-hearted support of their not-an-inch stance effectively hands a veto to unionist politicians. Some months ago we were told that any border poll would need, to be successful, to have the assent of a majority of unionists – which is, of course, contrary to the Good Friday Agreement. Now we’ve moved – or will have moved, if Mr Collins, Mr Martin and Mr Varadkar have their way – to a point where there must be a major unionist input for a discussion of a new Ireland, let alone a vote that attempts to bring it into being.
If I were a unionist, I would pour myself another cup of tea and sit back with a contented sigh. Clearly the will of the south, if it’s represented in Mr Collins, is that to even speak of planning for a united Ireland, let alone organizing a poll for the same purpose, cannot happen without the assent of unionists. If I were opposed to a united Ireland, I would now have a double lock. The border poll can’t happen until I say so, and why would I say so? And, thanks to comrades like Mr Collins (has anyone ever actually seen Mr Collins in the North, let alone spoken to him?), any move to figure out how a new Ireland might look will be seen as provocative and will not happen.
I have news for Mr Collins. He is not only on the wrong side of history in this one. He is doing his level best to have those favouring a border poll make the same mistake that the Brexiteers made: vote for a concept and after voting, try to figure out what it was you voted for.
Not smart, Mr Collins. In fact deeply stupid.