Bradley’s latest pitch for nationalist unity puzzles me

It’s apparently straight talk like Denis Bradley’s in today’s Irish News article,” Neither SDLP nor Sinn Fein has credible plan for unity” that intrigues me more than a hundred boilerplate party speeches. His conclusion is in a way unexceptional:

“ Now that the IRA has gone, they might even consider working up a joint strategy for a new and better Ireland – and that might give all their supporters a bit of hope.”

But what prompted the piece, the second in this vein in recent months, beyond Alasdair Mc Donnell’s most recent attack of Sinn Fein? Is it a sign that traditional identity politics are becoming less relevant as the dust of the Troubles begins to settle? Or the opposite, a call for a pan northern nationalist pact? (His memories of Eddie McAteer are a bit rose-tinted: he was indeed “ a decent man” with the gift of a quip, which tended to conceal a deadening conservatism). Or as some have alleged, is Denis hoping enigmatically for the rise of Fianna Fail North? This doesn’t fit the text. Perhaps he’s calling for an end to the arid game of who is the better nationalist and a united grouping that might one day become persuaders for unity through good government? But wouldn’t it be better to break out from behind the old barricades altogether? Maybe Denis wants us to work it out for ourselves; or maybe he’ll develop his thinking further if we ask him nicely. Not for nothing was he once a priest. Adds: so that’s what he was on about. Another puzzle is born. How is this the right time for a serious debate on Irish unity? Greater economic cooperation is surely the creative thing to discuss, leaving the toxic issue of political unity parked.

Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London