Actually, the best possibility of arriving at Irish unity is if we let it happen by chance. The central dynamic of the peace process was to arrive at a point where those who were at the heart of the problem were transplanted, eventually, into becoming the heart of the solution.
IN THE years ahead, a stable and prosperous Northern Ireland could be electing governments with a very clear mandate to work well with the government of the dynamic economy down here. We could well find that both governments, for example, are taking positions in Europe that are at odds with the positions adopted by Westminster. And little by little, the things that unite us could start coming into focus, while the things that divide us fade into distant memory.
But just suppose unity across the island was to come about that way. Do you know what it would be called? It would be called unity by consent an agreement to run our affairs together in the best interests of all of us.
The political parties of this part of the island signed up to that principle an awful long time ago and Sinn Féin eventually, in their signing of various agreements and their taking of office in the Northern Ireland Executive, signed up to it, too. A bit late, but then, as they say, better late than never.
Ive no idea whether unity by consent will happen in my lifetime (and like most people, I suspect, Im not too bothered). But I do know that its the only kind of unity that will ever work. A new campaign for reunification might sound great at an árd fheis, but theres a different game in town. I wonder do Sinn Féin get it?
As Michael Longley said, “peace is the absence of war: the opposite of war is custom, customs, and civilization.”