Did you know there’s an organization called the Constitutional Conversations Group? No, me neither. Whoever proposed the title should be blind-folded in front of a linguistic firing squad and put out of their tone-deaf foolishness.
That said, the CCG serves an important purpose and that was on display last night in the Shaftesbury Community Centre off the Ormeau Road. The star of the show by a country mile was Prof. Colin Harvey.
He emphasized the urgency of addressing the question of a border poll and the need to plan for it. He dismissed those people who pretend to be neutral on the constitutional question. He didn’t mention the BBC but I will: the BBC is, lest we forget, the British BC and thus supports the status quo. When we hear squeaks about balance and neutrality from that quarter, they should be dismissed with contempt.
He also said he was sick listening to people who talked about the constitutional question and measured it in terms of “in my lifetime.” Good man, Colin. The constitutional question is coming down the tracks an awful lot quicker than those who’d rather postpone it for another generation would like.
I left the meeting feeling informed but irritated. If a citizens’ assembly is the first necessary step in planning for a new Ireland, it needs to be set up by the Irish government very soon – certainly by the end of this year and preferably before the summer.
This, you would assume, would receive a welcome from Sinn Féin; but the one thing SF was conspicuously muted or even silent about during the election was the question of a border poll. It’s understandable: when you’re trying to pull in the votes, you’ve got to emphasise those matters that bother the public, like health and housing. But if Mary Lou ends up Taoiseach, she needs to put the establishment of a citizens’ assembly very high on her agenda. If she doesn’t, those who believe in it, most obviously the CCG, should devise a strategy that will pressure her into addressing the matter.
Of course, Mary Lou may not be Taoiseach. The struggle to form a Dublin government may well be protracted. But in terms of a border poll, enough with the talk, with the speeches, with the ‘conversations’. If we’re real about a new Ireland, and not just intent on taking our ego out for an airing, then we need to take action.
We don’t need to talk about a citizens’ assembly, we need to do what- ever is necessary to see it established. We’ve talked the talk; time to walk the walk.