One of the topics that will not be an issue in the south’s general election is clear: there will be no mention of the north.
Well no, let me back away from that a bit. You can mention the north but only in the context of its relationship to the EU. You can talk about how Leo and Simon did a super job, making sure there was no hard border on the island of Ireland. It seems to have worked, and many’s a businessman and farmer will breathe a sigh of relief and hail Leo – along with the other 26 European states –for standing by us.
What you will not hear is any dispute or discussion of whether the border should exist in any form – visible, invisible, legal, illegal. There’s a reason for that: Britain is bigger than Ireland. You don’t pick a fight with a guy ten times your size. Although you might if you had 26 tough-looking customers at your back.
But don’t fret about that. Any mention of a united Ireland will be at best one united by trade, and that union in turn will be linked to commercial union with the EU.
The exception to all this, of course, will be Sinn Féin. Irish unity is at the heart of their existence. But you may be sure they’ll spend more time talking about health and education and jobs, than you will hear them calling for a nation once again. In fact , I’d be astonished if the matter is raised by more than you could count on one hand that’s had two amputated fingers.
That’s because Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, both of whom are proud to trace their lineage to the violent struggle for independence 100 years ago, have made it capital-letters clear that they won’t go into coalition with Sinn Féin on the grounds that Sinn Féin are not like other political parties.
Fianna Fail leader Micheál Martin has spoken of “non-elected figures’ who decide Sinn Féin policy”. If I were Sinn Féin, I would immediately call his bluff: where is his evidence? As for Leo and Fine Gael, their contention that the economic policy of the two parties differ radically is so much hokum, except you believe that the rich should be rewarded and the poor penalized.
So here’s the questions journalists – and householders – should all ask Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, but will be afraid to:
- What evidence have you that Sinn Féin is run by non-elected representatives? Names would help.
- What are the economic policies over which you see your party at odds with Sinn Féin? Is it that you don’t favour redistribution of wealth in the south and they do?
- What do you plan to do in order to speed the day when a key component of the Good Friday Agreement, the calling of a border poll, will happen?
If any party fails to answer all three questions honestly and to your satisfaction, tell them to clear off, you believe only in voting for people who did geography and history at school.