Beware the ‘snake-oil salesmen’

As Gerry Moriarty, in the Irish Times reports, the Irish Government Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern, was at the launch of the SDLP’s proposals yesterday. And he had a scathing response to Sinn Féin’s calls for an Irish Government Green Paper on a united Ireland – “Like the snake-oil salesmen of the American west, the proponents of a Green Paper advance it as a panacea for all our ills. It is not.”The Irish Times report consists mostly of quotes from Dermot Ahern so I’ll add those paragraphs in here –

“Those advancing it are in fact impeding the drive towards unity by distracting attention from the immediate priorities of getting the institutions of the [ Belfast] Agreement back to full working order, including the concomitant North/South dimension and the justice, equality and policing reforms,” he said.

“I want to stress that we already have the template [ for Irish unity] – it’s called the Good Friday agreement. That agreement is backed by a popular 32-county vote. Its mandate is bigger than any one party. Only those who are working to implement the agreement have credibility on unity,” Mr Ahern added.

He said that as a “republican my main personal and political goal is the unity of Ireland” but that it could not be achieved by violence. “For Fianna Fáil, the democratic political goal of a united Ireland is at the heart of our republican perspective. Our project did not end in 1923.

“Our project held, and still holds that unity by armed force would – at best – transfer nationalist isolation and alienation on to unionists. At worst it would threaten the lives of tens of thousands of fellow Irish men and women. We believe Connolly was right when he said that ‘Ireland without her people means nothing to me’.” He said the agreement represented the clear will of the Irish people, and “no republican can impede that will”.

“Our bottom line is this – unity down the barrel of a gun, unity through intimidation, aggression, murder, cannot work. Anyone clinging to those means is impeding the path to unity. Any such group or party cannot claim to be republican,” he added.

Unity could not be achieved unless nationalist Ireland started focusing on the future and not the past. He said Irish republicanism has always been “of its time” and “whatever about the past – in today’s democratic world violence for political purposes is simply unacceptable”.

“While the alienation and isolation of the past should never be forgotten, rather than be immobilised by a divisive past we need to focus on a shared future. We must stop describing the present with reference to the conflict and the simple dichotomies of the past – Catholic versus Protestant, Irish versus English.”