A standard thesis of some of our nationalist and republican commentators is that a United Ireland is inevitable, that everyone (practically) knows it and that unionists need to negotiate as good a settlement as they can in the new dispensation.
Rather than indulge in the standard rebuttal of this position which is what unionists normally do and rest assured I still do not accept the accuracy of the premise; I thought it would be more interesting as an academic exercise to suppose for a moment it is true and ask what then unionists should do about it? This is not an exhaustive analysis but it struck me as an interesting thing to do. In a future article I will look at what might actually happen in such a united Ireland.
In a nut shell; I would submit that the idea of agreeing a deal early in such circumstances would not necessarily help unionists and indeed refusing to do a deal might be more profitable.
So to the options:
Firstly we could go to war. Most regular slugger readers will realise and I trust most will accept that I personally discount this as utterly immoral and wicked and as such I will make no further reference to it.
Secondly is the repartition argument repeatedly and quite eloquently argued by Greenflag here on slugger. I will not cover it in any detail. It would inevitably end up with large unionist enclaves in the new RoI and vice versa and I do not know how seriously it would be considered by anyone.
The standard position outlined by most nationalists/ republicans is that unionists should do a deal with nationalist Ireland. It is suggested that this deal would involve keeping the current Stormont parliament and trying to preserve at least some of the trappings of a separate Northern Ireland. This thesis is, however, somewhat flawed by the fact that if there was a majority in Northern Ireland for a united Ireland this majority would almost certainly be because there was a nationalist majority in Northern Ireland. I know some of the romantics on slugger will suggest that unionists can be persuaded into a united Ireland. I think that boat if it ever existed left a long time ago and it is not a realistic option at the moment. As such we would have a nationalist majority. Hence, if we had a local assembly it would have a nationalist / republican majority, first minister etc. This would in the current scenario be an SF first minister and many SF ministers. This would, I submit, be more unacceptable to many unionists such as myself than a Dublin parliament from whom we would expect somewhat more fairness and respect.
One need only look at the recent spate of SFs equality measures with removing utterly trivial symbols of supposed unionism to see that a SF dominated Stormont would be very likely to be more unacceptable to unionists than a Dublin government which has made little in the way of recent attempts to remove the supposed trappings of unionism from Dublin see the Royal Dublin Society, the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland and a number of others.
Having a separate Belfast assembly in such a united Ireland might well actually be a republican dominated mill stone around the unionist communitys neck rather than a bulwark against things we fear.
So instead I would suggest that if unionists did think that a united Ireland was inevitable their best option would be to be as obstructive and non violently difficult as possible. They would be wise to spurn every hand of friendship from the south, refuse to negotiate but instead offer the option of causing as much trouble as possible, in much the same way as the Irish Parliamentary Party managed to do in the nineteenth century. This would make southern politicians feel that a united Ireland would be even more bother than they no doubt already think it would be. Hence, if is was becoming more and more likely that there would be a united Ireland the Dublin government would be getting increasingly concerned about the political chaos a large group of malcontents in Northern Ireland would cause. That might well produce many more concessions than civil negotiations prior to that.
I am reminded of many years ago a number of Fine Gael youth coming to the Young Unionist conference. I made a less than liberal speech (not related to the guests) and at the end welcomed them. A rather earnest girl remonstrated with me, saying Do you not understand we want to be your friends to which I replied No you do not understand, the more you hate us the less likely you are to want to take us over. Petty and childish and I have grown a little more sensible over the last 15 years but there is a grain of truth in there.