There is considerable crowing and unfounded euphoria around today. On a local scale, of course. On the wider sphere, we’re all up against it. That misogynistic racist Trump declares he’s the subject of the biggest witch-hund since they banded up against the witches of Salem in the seventeenth century. In our next door neighbour, we have the sight of an overweight liar who hides in a fridge when he doesn’t want to answer a question, seizes a reporter’s phone when he doesn’t like the question he’s faed with and and talks about children with water-melon smiles. Even worse, on both side of the Atlantic they have a huge fan base. These are scary times.
Back here, we have our ups and downs. The ups are clear: Nigel Dodds is no longer an MP. A world in which you can make that statement can’t be all bad. Unfortunately, it also contains a DUP party that firmly believes the collapse of Stormont was all the Shinners’ fault. No suggestion that they might have been even partly responsible. No apology for comparing their political opponents to crocodiles. And perhaps most confusing of all, the SDLP appear to be making a comeback. You’d certainly get that impression from reading the southern papers. Not that they’re mad about the SDLP: witness the near convulsions that Micheál Martin had when he heard that Eamon Ó Cuiv and Mark Daly had made a trip up north to give official blessing to an SDLP candidate in Tyrone.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict that the SDLP have as much chance of reversingtheir fortunes as has a week-old corpse of unscrewing its coffin-lid and clambering clear. Derry is the home of John Hume and the fact that they ever lost the seat says something about the quality of the Sinn Féin opposition rather than the sparkling skills of Colm Eastwood. In South Belfast, Claire Hanna got a massive boost when Mairtin O Mulleoir stepped aside and gave her a free run (which, let be fair here, the SDLP did in Fermanagh/South Tyrone, except that the SDLP there didn’t have anything like the support of Sinn Fin in South Belfast.
So where does all that leave us? In my view because the drive for a border poll is either splintering or uniting – a fairly safe statement indeed, Virginia. The border poll is receiving its energy from the likes of Niall Murphy and Colin Harvey rather than Mary Lou McDonald or Michelle O’Neill. The SDLP is also behind it, although of course not yet – as are the Fine Gael party. So that’s all good. What is less good is that they’re fairly busy taking pot-shots at one another, instead of sitting down NOW and working out what kind of vehicle – a Citizens’ Assembly, a New Ireland Forum, a series of town hall meetings – that are necessary to provide a vehicle to carry us towards a border poll. Plan in detail first, vote in confidence after.
And in the name of the sweet ever-living God, could we not have talk of postponing things until the dust of Brexit settles. That’s the thing abot Brexit. It’s going to keep creating sandstorms for years to come – sandstorms that will damage us all. Time to put up or shut up.