TIDE HAS TURNED ON BORDER POLL DEBATE.
Excellent Article by Brian Feeney in todays Irish News. In Ireland, North and South the debate on a Unity and the need for a unity poll in line with the promise of the Good Friday Agreement is well underway. Lets get the discussion moving in the America. Please share and comment.
TIDE HAS TURNED ON BORDER POLL DEBATE..
Have you noticed how the tide’s been turning?
In 2018 Simon Coveney said it was “unwise and unhelpful” to talk about a border poll. Irish unity wasn’t on the Fine Gael agenda; it was an aspiration. He wasn’t alone in those views, either in his party or in the prevailing attitude in the Dáil.
Repeatedly senior figures in the old civil war parties would intervene to say it was premature to talk about a border poll. It was ‘divisive’, destabilising and irrelevant. Slapping down talk about a border poll was a way of isolating Sinn Féin.
Intellectual dishonesty was the prevailing line. People were ‘accused’ of calling for a border poll and creating instability even though the accusers knew perfectly well that no one was calling for an immediate border poll, but instead asking specifically for preparations to be made for one given the experience of the disastrous outcome of the unplanned Brexit referendum in 2016. Political leaders in the south wouldn’t say why they wouldn’t prepare for one. They preferred to answer a question that wasn’t asked.
The exception was Micheál Martin who invented his meaningless Shared Island unit (rejected by all shades of unionism, so instantly dead on arrival) as a distraction from all talk about Irish unity. At the launch of his Shared Island plan in October 2020 he declared there would be no border poll in the next five years. It was “not on his government’s agenda”. Martin’s policy was instead a futile project first to appease unionism – altogether now – to achieve reconciliation, that helpfully undefined chimera which he falsely claims was the aim of the Good Friday Agreement.
Fortunately Martin is a lame duck taoiseach who will be history in November 2022, so it’s difficult to see how he can talk about 2025.
In the meantime the ground has shifted beneath Martin’s feet. He has been overtaken by events and political developments. Three weeks ago, Leo Varadkar told his party’s ard fheis that it was their mission to achieve a united Ireland which he believed would be achieved in his lifetime. A fortnight ago, in an online discussion Coveney, in a reversal of his position held until 2020, said it was perfectly legitimate to talk about Irish unity and a border poll. He added that while unionists, and even British politicians, regularly talked up the UK and the ‘precious union’, they object when Irish politicians talk about Irish unity, an aim they are entitled to pursue.
The new, more assertive line followed by Fine Gael may be partly the result of a singularly provocative, impertinent and outrageous intervention in Irish politics at Westminster when our current proconsul said it was “unhelpful and ill-advised” for Leo Varadkar to proclaim his united Ireland ambition. He suggested it was because of the Dublin Bay South by-election. That “ill-advised” proconsular foray provoked a furious response from Simon Harris who said, “it’s been a helluva long time since any Irish minister needed permission from the British government to make a comment at a political conference.”
However, the time line indicates that Fine Gael had begun their conversion to the merits of planning for a border poll some time before that arrogant colonial intrusion from the proconsul. Polling results have also figured as a factor. Not just that SF is consistently polling level or even ahead of FG, but that polls indicate young voters are attracted to a new Ireland.
There’s more than that though. Other figures like Fianna Fáil’s Jim O’Callaghan and Fine Gael’s Neale Richmond have put in their spoke on the question of a referendum on Irish unity. Bertie Ahern thinks there will be one by 2028 and urges preparation. Last week in an opinion piece Mary McAleese invoked the sainted memory of John Hume to recommend planning and preparation. Others will follow.
The plan to shut down discussion on a referendum has failed. The tide has turned.