Probably unionism’s favourite southerner, Irish Justice Minister Michael McDowell, believes Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic can become political partners on a reconciled island very soon.
“I believe that the great project of reconciling Orange and Green will succeed, and that both parts of Ireland will become partners in a common political enterprise,” he told the Patrick MacGill Summer School in Co Donegal.“I believe that a much more diverse, heterogeneous sense of Irishness will replace the narrow official self-image of monochrome Catholic, nationalist Ireland which characterised the Republic in the 20th century.
McDowell added that the narrow image of Irish identity needed to be broadened to reflect increasing diversity of the island’s cross-border population, which he sees reaching 8 million.
“In concrete terms, I see Ireland rapidly becoming a successful, self-confident member of a partnership-based EU.”
McDowell continued to say that a society that simultaneously values both religious conviction and philosophical freedom is not only possible but attractive.
“I believe that it is possible to strike a happy balance between social diversity and social cohesion, a happy reconciliation between the rights of freedom and the duties of solidarity, and to effect a reconciliation between the ethics of altruism and individual responsibility.”
He also criticised what he called the “suffocating dishonesty and self-loathing of much of what passes for contemporary social commentary in Ireland”.