Time to talk and act constructively

The latest local election seems to have dislodged something – it’s hard to say just what it is, other than a queasy feeling in the stomach of some unionist politicians. Having had their favourite nightmare – a Sinn Féin First Minister – become reality, the shift in the political wind has been emphatically reinforced by the 144 local council seats taken by Sinn Féin candidates. Something feels disjointed, maybe even broken, within unionism.  In a letter to The Irish Times the other day, a correspondent sees it as inevitable that there’ll be a border poll somewhere between 10 and 20 years’ time.

People who talk in terms of such a timetable – 10 to 20 years – never quite explain why there should be such a gap. If a border poll will be good in 10 or 20 years, why is it not a good idea now? Maybe they’re thinking that if it’s stretched out long enough, people will get bored with the idea and drop it. I’d rate that as unlikely. Maybe it’s so unionists can get used to the idea that there might be a reunited Ireland coming down the tracks.

My own view is that a border poll should be held just as soon as a citizens’ assembly on a UI has made its report, which should happen within the next three years.  Then, if a majority vote for Irish unity, as I think they will, sin é – task accomplished. 

Except there’s one thing that nags a little: what place will unionism and unionists have in the. new Ireland? As some like to point,  they are unionists, and if the union with Britain is ended, what’s the point in being unionist? Which is a fair question and one which southern politicians in particular skip past.  I remember talking to a republican in Dublin a couple of years ago, and he argued that unionists would be free to hold their Twelfth parades, have Royal afternoon tea on the Hillsborough lawn, should such things be desired. And of course, the national anthem and the national flag might also be matters for discussion. But long-term, unionist identity would be respected.

There are nationalists/republicans, especially in the South, who refuse to consider such change. I think they’re wrong. We saw the mistake unionists made with regard to NEI – discrimination, gerrymander. That led to a nationalist population which never felt any sense of identification with the state. What fools we’d be, to inflict the same triumphalism on our unionist neighbours that they inflicted on us. 

Every possible opportunity should be taken to discuss these matters and arrive at some agreed conclusion. My key question would be, If a border poll would be a good idea in 10 years time, why wouldn’t it be just as good in 5 years’ time ?

4 Responses to Time to talk and act constructively

  1. Kieran McCarthy May 29, 2023 at 12:05 pm #

    Republicans/Nationalists in the South?

    Do Republicans in the south really think differently to Republicans in the North about how a new Ireland should look? I honestly don’t believe so.

    To be honest, anyone who considers themselves a republican living in any part of Ireland and feels that the rights, traditions and culture of those from the former unionist tradition should take second place, to the rights of everyone one else living on the island, cannot truly consider themselves a republican.

  2. Jude Collins May 29, 2023 at 12:32 pm #

    I’m with you, Kieran – but there are a lot of people who find it hard to understand that equality includes equality for those whose ideas we reject…

  3. Michael Hegarty May 29, 2023 at 1:15 pm #

    If Unionists demand the right for a change of flag or National anthem, will they be giving up their British Citizenship? If not, why should they have a right to demand change to the Irish National Anthem and flag, they would still have their own.
    It would be tantamount to Ex-Pats telling the Spanish Government to change the La Marcha Real!

  4. James Hunter May 29, 2023 at 2:25 pm #

    Very good Jude