Who really wants a united Ireland?

Malachi O’Doherty was on Talk Back this morning. He argues that a lot of nationalist hankering is based on a vague feeling of wanting to be somewhere other than where they are. You can listen to the man himself, or read his text below:By Malachi O’Doherty

When the SDLP and Sinn Fein represent the unification of Ireland as a
core fundamental aim, are they really speaking for the most urgent
desire of the people who vote for them, or is this hankering for Irish unity in the hearts of nationalist people not more like an aspiration they would really prefer to indefinitely put off?

Certainly, if a referendum was held tomorrow and there seemed the remotest prospect of it being carried, it would be a rare eejit who
would vote for it, for higher taxes, medical cards and Fianna Fail perpetually in government; though Fianna Fail would ever afterwards be on the lookout for a Northern coalition partner to keep them in power.

I suspect that the yearning for a united Ireland is best enjoyed as an unfulfilled romantic notion, the way Irish America indulges it, without ever having to worry about living in it.

Like a lot of people in Northern Ireland, I have a great love for Donegal. From I was a child, I have been aware of a strange sense of
relaxation felt on crossing the border. It was the freer air, I supposed.

Behind you, in the black North, were B specials and rain spattered gable murals of William of Orange; in front of you, the fragrance of the burning turf and your first glass of beer in a seaside hotel overlooking a sun dappled bay.

And there was a little more to that sense of freedom; we believed that the Garda Siochana were a lax lot who would allow the the pubs to stay open all night long.

Just a few years ago, I was in a bar in Rosnowlagh on Good Friday, when drink could not be served, by law. We made our own arrangement with the waiter of course. As the night wore on the crowd behind a curtain grew larger and more animated. I asked the waiter to explain to me how all those people were able to get a drink.

“A sure, they are the ones from the Passion play up at the Friary”, he said. “We make an exception for them.”

That’s what I like about Donegal, a very flexible reading of the rules. It adds charm to a place you want to visit; it’s not what you want at home.

I think people imagine that if we one day have a united Ireland – and I doubt very much we will – you will be able to feel the fresh breeze off the hills of Donegal balmily lifting our spirits in the backstreets and housing estates of West Belfast.

In fact, a rainy day on the Falls will still just be a rainy day on the Falls. Our councillors will still be dull, unimaginative local people, most of them men who can rarely find their way from one end of a spoken sentence to another.

Already, the fantasy that we can be a one island jurisdiction clutters our politics and our civic life. Many local arts projects which have just learnt that their money has been brutally slashed by the Arts Council — or the Airts Cooncil o Norlain Airland, as it is happy to be called.

Those groups that have been cut are waiting to see which groups south of the border have benefited at their expense.

This is the height of petty crossbordery, that publishers down there can dip into our resources, and we can dip into theirs and all of us can spend twice as much time filling in enormous forms, to placate twice as many bureaucrats.

That’s what you get imagining that we are one when we are not.

You don’t have to be a sullen Unionist to see the nonsense of that. And you don’t have to be a nationalist to love the heft and roar of the Atlantic swell and to wish the odd time that it was on your doorstep.

The trouble is, it’s not.