There’s a curious breed of lefties in the North of Ireland who either stay silent about or oppose a United Ireland. On a broad range of issues such as housing, healthcare and education I would normally find myself in general agreement with them, I tend to get the impression they’re coming from a place of genuine compassion. For example, like most people they abhor the sight of homeless people on the streets and a criminally underfunded healthcare system. I’ve met several people who fall into this category and a lot of the time I find their proposed solution to society’s problems are fairly radical. In many ways I admire their passion even though I sometimes disagree with how we go about achieving our common goals. I’m willing to accept that I might be wrong in how we go about solving these problems and I enjoy having a mutually beneficial discussion about this. In fact, I actually enjoy learning something new or even being proven wrong.
However, a lot of the traits I like in these people tend to go missing the moment the constitutional question is brought up. No longer are they radical in thought, open to discussion or indeed compassionate. On the constitutional question they appear just as brainwashed as a lot of the people in the North.
The ones who opt to stay silent basically say they’re indifferent or can’t be bothered with ‘orange and green’ and, ‘Sure one side is as bad as the other’. I also hear them say, ‘We need to move away from this and focus on what’s really important.’ I really wish it was that simple.
However ‘orange and green’ politics won’t subside until the constitutional question is resolved. This mindset that they love to criticize is the result of the partition that they tacitly support. Refusing to be drawn into a discussion on this issue isn’t courageous or brave, it merely signifies that they support the status quo and in turn support partition. Maybe they suffer from cognitive dissonance and don’t see the constitutional question as a binary choice between being for or against partition. People are free to stay silent if they want, but I just wish they knew that they don’t claim any moral high ground in doing so.
Some of this breed use a shutdown-the-discussion tactic instead. They’ll say,’Now’s not the time’ and, ‘Sure the South’s a mess, ye wouldn’t want to be part of it anyway’. Whilst I would agree with many criticisms of FG/FF, is this really enough of a reason to support partition? The alternative is of course clinging to a Tory government that demonstrably doesn’t not care about the North and doesn’t look like being displaced any time soon. Is this genuinely preferable? Or would we rather have greater electoral influence with a more democratic voting system i.e. PR vs FPTP within a much smaller population.
It’s easy to criticize FG and FF: personally, I would consider them two big arguments against a United Ireland. However, try comparing recent elections in the UK vs ROI. Yes, ROI still produced a government partly consisting of FF and FG but SF got the popular vote and although impractical they could’ve formed a coalition with other parties and independents (in theory at least). Now, considering that the main issue – namely housing – has gotten worse, SF will field even more candidates next time; and considering the additional 1.9m votes in a UI from people with no affinity to FF/FG, then it seems fairly likely for there to be an alternative government.
Even if you disagree with SF in making positive change, at least we have a realistic possibility of voting them out if they don’t deliver on their promises. In the UK the Tories look fairly secure in power and their only real opposition is a Labour Party that’s swaying closer to the right. For me, it’s pretty obvious that the greatest possibility for positive change is through a UI. The discussion doesn’t normally get this far as a lot of these left-wing partitionists have already tried to shut it down beforehand.
I’d like to clarify I’m not talking about all lefties in the North but specifically the ones holding these contradicting positions. No poll will gauge just how many people with this mindset exist but in my experience they seem to be a sizable number. I dare say if you added this number onto the current number of United Ireland voters we might just have achieved Irish unity by now. People are free to shut down discussion or stay silent but whenever they do this with a large whiff of sanctimony – which is quite often – it does stick in the craw. Ultimately, it leads me to conclude that perhaps I was being too generous when I described them as compassionate and radical thinkers who are open to discussion. These aren’t traits that should be so easily turned off when the conversation of what any self-respecting country wants is brought up i.e. to be governed by our own people and to have complete independence from any foreign occupiers.