At last it’s happened. I don’t often say the words “Read today’s Irish Times” but today I do. Because n it you’ll find an account of a letter signed by more than 1,000 people – with, significantly, two-thirds from the south of Ireland – addressed to An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.
The group who’ve signed the letter (including your humble scribe) is called ‘Ireland’s Future’ and it provides a nice counterbalance to the clichéd offal that was penned by the IT columnist Stephen Collins (how often do I have to tell, you Virginia – NO RELATION) last week dismissing call for a border poll as “dangerous guff.” (The IT didn’t find room for my letter explaining that SC was the guff-talker, but it has found room this morning for another Letters correspondent saying what a brilliant thinker Stephen is.)
What is so good about this Ireland’s Future letter is that it gets down to the practical – hence my opening sentence. It calls for a citizen’s assembly to look at and plan for an agreed Ireland. The group’s spokesperson is Belfast solicitor Niall Murphy: “We want to avoid the madness that has convulsed Britain’s body politic. Britain did not prepare. Britain put a flippant notion to an unprepared society and we feel that there are demographic and economic imperatives which are going to arise, which should be planned and prepared for, rather than responded to in an ad hoc fashion.”
If the membership of the citizens’ assembly is wisely chosen (a cross-section of Irish society north and south seems the obvious form), then it can get down to work by the turn of the year and be set a deadline – maybe two years. It should be able to call on advice from chosen experts and bodies, and present a practical model of how an agreed Ireland would look.
I have only two questions: when will An Taoiseach respond and set up a citizens’ assembly for a new Ireland? And what time limit will be put in place, so it doesn’t waffle its way into frustration and wasted time?
Meanwhile, well done to the Ireland’s Future group. And yes, Viriginia, that is my own back I’m patting – along with roughly 1,000 others.