At last: talk of a citizens’ assembly

It’s a grey-looking day on the other side of my window this morning, but I feel a small surge of optimism. As those of you who watch myself and Pat McArt discuss the approach to a border poll will know, I’ve got just about fed up with people saying “Support the drive for a border poll” or “We are having a meeting to assert the right of the nationalist and republican people to have their say about a future 32-county Ireland.”

The reason I’m fed up with the above is not that the sentiments expressed don’t chime with me, but that they’re too abstract. What does “support’ mean? Is a border poll something I need to prop up? Lean my shoulder against? And when I’ve asserted the right of people to have their say on a future Ireland, what then? Just what can I do to not just talk about but maybe help create a new Ireland?

Well, this morning I see that Declan Kearney has called for a citizens’ assembly to be established on constitutional change and a future Ireland. A sensible recommendation, I figure, especially as it is the one thing I’ve been urging for months if not years (this damned Covid-19 world makes it hard to keep exact track of time).

In a short video which I’ll (try to) attach to this, Kearney seems a little vague as to whether the citizens’ assembly would attempt to hammer out the projected shape of a new Ireland in advance of a border poll, or if it would follow such a poll. Or maybe it’s just too early in the morning for me.  But for sure, the citizens’ assembly must, must, MUST be established and let do its work before there’s any question of actually holding a border poll. Brexit gave us a giant eating-its-own-farrow sow, because it was a case of make the break first, then try to figure out what people voted for.  Let’s not be devoured by the same sow.

So yes, three rousing cheers for a citizens’ assembly.  But can Sinn Féin set up such an assembly, or is it something only the southern (or northern) government can do? I’m not clear on that and Kearney hasn’t made me clear. So take that down to two-and-a-half cheers.

One final point: when and if this citizens’ assembly is established, can a line of communication be kept open to the general public? There are lots of us out here who are eager to assist in any way that will further this project, so for God’s sake tell us what that way might be. Or is it to be left to the smart people, while the rest of us twiddle our thumbs and wait?

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