Arguing in favour of a United Ireland often feels like an uphill battle. At best it can become an incredibly complicated affair and at worst it can invoke accusations of being divisive. However, it does not have to be this way. Support for a United Ireland can in fact be a simple and logical position that is a prerequisite for achieving the type of society we want.
Irrespective of where people stand on issues such as the economy, healthcare, environment etc… we need to consider how certain stances can be translated into Government policy. Do we try to ‘make NI work’ or do we take a different approach?
‘NI’ has failed for over a hundred years and currently does not have a functioning Government. Nonetheless, perhaps there is a magical scenario where it will start working. Fence-sitters who spout slogans such as ‘We deserve better’ would argue that all we need is a more ‘moderate’ party in Government. This breathtaking ignorance can lead people to attacking the symptom I.e., ‘orange and green’ politics rather than the disease (a gerrymandered statelet).
the Notwithstanding, if we allow for the unlikely possibility –and dismantling the current consociational arrangement- of a party such as Greens or Alliance being in Government then perhaps ‘NI’ will function properly. Except, even in this event we would not have full autonomy over our affairs. The block grant would still be determined by Westminster (via The Barnett formula) and disastrous decisions such as Brexit would also be outside our control.
In effect, arguing in favour of the status quo essentially says we should cede control –outside of devolved matters- to the British Government. Instead of having a strong democracy, where we can make all of our own decisions, Unionists – and their collaborators- must therefore believe likes of Labour and Conservatives should make the ultimate decisions for us. Why should these parties –which do not have a single elected representative in the North- have this much power?
Has the partitionist mentality become so insidious that people in the six counties (Protestant, Catholic and other) now feel incapable of having full control of their own affairs? Is there an intellectual or moral deficit built into our fibres that leads so many of us to indirectly argue in favour of outsourcing our democracy to Britain? For me, I do not feel we are inferior and that we cannot make all these decisions ourselves.
This is why I firmly believe that support for a United Ireland can transcend all other political beliefs. People on this island are more than capable of governing themselves. Which is not to say that we will suddenly become a 32-county utopia in the event of a United Ireland. ROI is certainly not a jurisdiction without its own problems. For example, the appalling housing situation in places such as Dublin is making it look like an increasingly unappealing place to live.
Like anyone else, I abhor the sight of hardship on this island and beyond. Which is precisely why I want people in the North to have much greater influence on mitigating or eradicating the injustices people experience. In a United Ireland, we will have this influence. When I hear people talk about how the ‘bread and butter’ issues are far more important than the identity politics of the North, I entirely agree. However, to some extent the constitutional makeup of ‘NI’ and the limitations of devolved powers means our hands are tied to a degree.
In a new Ireland, we can have greater autonomy (albeit as an EU member state) and will no longer need to outsource any of our decision making to Britain. Once the constitutional question has been resolved we can gradually move away from ‘tribal’ voting and move towards supporting whoever we believe is best suited to improving our living standards (which for some may still be Sinn Féin). Why would anyone not want to live in a stronger democracy where we have a real chance of electing a party that can enact real change?
This newfound influence that people from the North will have cannot be understated. In this year’s ‘NI’ assembly election we had approximately 1.37m registered voters. In the 2020 Irish general election the largest party (Sinn Féin) received 535,595 votes (≈ 39% of ‘NI’ registered voters) and the smallest party (Greens) in the coalition Government had 155,700 votes (≈ 11% ‘NI’ registered voters). If the anger that many in the North feel towards the abysmal public services could be channeled into a collective political vision, then it could easily determine the largest party of this new state.
By comparison, if every single registered voter in the North voted for the same party, then this would only represent roughly 9.8% of the Conservative’s vote in the last UK general election. If you could somehow unite all the people of the North to vote the Tories out, it would be futile.
People can justifiably complain about the hardships inflicted by the Tories, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael; however the latter two’s combined vote total from their last election (likely to be much lower next time) would be under 69% of the North’s registered voters. In our current arrangement we effectively have no influence on whether the Tories (aside from the DUP’s confidence-and-supply anomaly) get into power; In UI we can be kingmakers.
So, wherever you are positioned on the political spectrum (e.g., PBP, Alliance, Greens) and if you believe in a stronger democracy (where all parties have a real chance of getting into Government while having greater autonomy once there), and none of our decision making is outsourced to Britain then supporting United Ireland is the only logical (and truly democratic) position.