There is an article in today’s Irish Times, where the speech Jim O’Callaghan will give in the 3 Arena tomorrow is laid out as seven essentials for a united Ireland. (Jim, by the way, is tipped for the leadership of Fianna Fáil when Micheál runs out of road.)
- Mr O’Callaghan will say that in a new Ireland people of all religions and ethnicities, and none, would be treated equally before the law.
Who could quarrel with that? Well, I’m sure you can think of somebody but most sane people would say ‘I second that’.
- Under the second protection or principle, he says the cultural identity of different groups on the island would be defended. A loyalist flute band would be given equal status with all other cultural expression.
That’s fine, Jim, but I think you should have explored the possibility that a loyalist flute band might well express intolerance and sectarianism, which would put it at odds with No 1.
- :”Under the third principle, the people of Northern Ireland “would not become politically submerged under the control of the new State”.
What he’s arguing for here is that Stormont would remain, as part of a federal or bicameral system. It’s at this point that I would part company with Jim. Visit Stormont – the ghosts of the sectarian past and the spirits of the sectarian present are soaked into every marble corner of it. I think it would reduce Irish unity to Irish unity Lite. Sorry, Jim – no go.
- “A United Ireland will guarantee that for the first 20 years of its existence foreign direct investment shall be equally shared between both former jurisdictions”.
- I’ve no problem with this one. In fact I’d applaud it.
- “ United Ireland will guarantee that it will not demand the loyalty of all persons living on the island. A new Ireland must earn, not demand, the loyalty of its citizens.” * * I’m not sure what Jim means with this one. If we’re talking about taking some oath of loyalty then fine, unionists or anyone else should be allowed to opt out. But I’d worry about Irish citizens whose loyalty was to a neighbouring state which has been, if not the source of all our troubles, then certainly of a goodish number of them.
- “The British-Irish Council and the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference established under the Belfast Agreement will continue.”
- No problem at all with this. Knock yourselves out, guys.
- “Under the seventh principle, those who advocate Irish reunification would guarantee that at no stage will they engage in or support violence to promote their desired political objective and to achieve constitutional change.”
- On the face of it, this one makes sense. No loyalist sub-group should be allowed to continue in its violent ways. But if such a sub-group were to prove a threat to the existence of the new state, wouldn’t violence to curb them be necessary – and acceptable?
Conclusion: I salute Jim O’Callaghan for being perhaps the first Irish politician to put out there explicitly the kind of broad framework he sees for a new Ireland. The fact that I disagree with some of his proposals is neither here nor there – the whole idea is that we should explore, challenge, support CONCRETE SUGGESTIONS regarding the vision of a reunited Ireland. By doing what he’s going to do in his speech tomorrow, Jim O’Callaghan will have done some service to the state.