As the Irish government clings desperately on to both the country’s economic independence and to its tiny Dáil majority whilst simultaneously promising the Plain People in the South more pain in the shape of less pay, fewer jobs and disappearing public services it may seem surprising that they are still funding that road which winds its way through the middle of the Ulster countryside and for no obvious electoral advantage.
Of course, all political parties in the South insist that they are on the one road when its comes to their core principle of unification of the National territory and it is perhaps for that reason the Warriors of Destiny/Fianna Fail (plus their diminishing motley parliamentary coalition) seem prepared to close hospitals and schools but keep funding the under-construction National route from Derry to Dublin.
The road just seems to encapsulate the constitutional confusion ushered in by the GFA legislation in both supposedly copper fastening partition and yet copper fastening the Irish government’s say in Ulster’s affairs and this project appears to have been eagerly seized on by Dublin to both symbolically and literally cement the extension of Southern influence into the North.
Meanwhile up North, Unionist blogger Drumlin’s Rock doesn’t like it and just as per many/most issues in Ulster many/most of the Plain People make their minds up on the basis of ideology first, and then only if absolutely necessary, on the basis of practicalities and merit.
So we can expect SF to organise a motorcade of Black Taxis wielding tricolours to celebrate the opening and expect disgruntled Unionists to organise a boycott urging motorists to take alternative traditional routes. (Perhaps the Irish government could take Unionist sensitivities into account and suggest that the central reservation be made Loyal Orders friendly and suitable for the brethern to march along with President Mc Aleese inviting Mr Saulters, or perhaps Mr Elliott, to jointly open a red, white and blue Garvaghey Road section.)
In Stormont, the recent dust up between team-DUP-SF and the British government regarding the latter breaking its promises was marked by a pragmatic DUP holding up the Irish government as an example that the British government should follow in sticking to its spending committments.
But how long will this cosy, pragmatic, executive consensus hold? Unionist grumblings in the assembly can be expected to increase as the budget cuts take effect given that the project requires hundreds of millions of Stormo money and it may be offering an opening for the newly elected Tom ‘the Orangeman’ Elliott to make some mischief ?
Perhaps Free Statery/self interest will get the better of the Plain People of the South – and given that the vast majority of the Southern money has yet to be spent – this project, which is undoubtedly the biggest and best example of cooperative, non covercive North-Southery, may yet run into the ground?