Planning for a reunited Ireland: how are we doing?

You can easily get left behind. Until this morning I thought that while nationalists in the North were pushing for a reunification referendum, unionists in the north were insisting that a border poll shouldn’t be so much as considered.

Emma Souza, writing in today’s Irish Times, makes one very valid point and one surprising and alarming point.

The very valid one is that while unionist politicians see absolutely no reason why they shouldn’t trumpet their love of the UK, those who would even mention, never mind advocate a reunited Ireland are being deliberately provocative. This should not be the case. It is laughable that ex-Taoiseach Leo Varadkar should be condemned for suggesting that reunification might occur during his lifetime, while the British secretary of state Brandon Lewis has no qualms about announcing his advocacy of the continued link between the North and the rest of the UK.

Her second point, which surprised me, is that unionism is out there, beavering away at providing props for the continued Union. Ulster Unionist Party councillor Philip Smith has co-founded a pro-UK campaign group UnitingUK. Then there’s ‘We Make NI’, a group of civic unionists who, much like UnitingUK, aim to make a positive case for Northern Ireland in the UK.

And there’s the Castlereagh Institute, which is chaired by Arlene Foster and aims to  “create a civic voice for those of us who are British”. Emma de Souza concludes that it is “a pro-UK think tank, designed to influence the outcome of a future vote on constitutional change.”

So here’s the thing: why has civic nationalism not created comparable groups, to argue the case for Irish unity? Or is there a fear that this might upset sensitive unionists?  Once again, while unionist politicians are openly advocating pro-Union positions and establish support groups to buttress their position, nationalist Ireland takes comfort from the odd mild statement from Leo Varadkar and largely accepts that now is not the time to campaign for a reunited Ireland.  We would do well to demand equally urgent action from the southern government and from nationalists of all stripes in the North.

To quote Boris Johnson’s question on another matter: “If not now, when?”

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