Interesting address by Rathfriland Ulster Unionist MLA John McCallister to Sinn Fein Newry at the weekend is well worth listening to in full… well constructed and thoughtful he condemns what he calls ‘the economics of the playground’… ie the idea that Britain and Ireland’s economic destiny can be considered in isolation from one another…
He doesn’t reisle from tough messages to Sinn Fein, saying that ‘you cannot go on shouting partition each time the question of economics is raised’… He gently chides them for neglecting to mention that Britain is Ireland’s top trading partner, and Ireland, Britain’s fifth largest…
…it is frankly incredible that Sinn Fein’s recent document “Uniting Ireland – The Only Way Forward” does not mention that Britain is Ireland’s largest export market. And that Ireland is the UK’s 5th largest export market.
The economic destiny of these Islands points not to an isolationist, ‘ourselves alone’ ideology… But to partnership and interdependence.
For Unionists, that partnership and interdependence is the foundation of the Union. And it is as close economic neighbours – whose economic well-being is mutually dependent – that London, Belfast, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Dublin need to be co-operating. Building economic prosperity across these Islands, then, is in the interests of all of us.
Later he notes that what unionism can bring to Sinn Fein ‘is a shared Northern Ireland, but this means confronting our past…’ This is the line that’s been picked up most attention in the mainstream press… Gerry Adams’ response was both familiar and predictable:
“Of course, as John McCallister has reminded us, to plan for the future we have to deal with the past. Sinn Fein has never shied away from this whether on the issue of victims or on other matters. Dealing with the past is not easy and there is little agreement at a political level about how we do this. But that should not be an obstacle to the future.”
As Denis Bradley observed in an extended interview with Will Crawley a few years back:
…you have Sinn Féin running around the place talking about an international tribunal, [an] international independent truth commission.
“Now, first of all, they’re told truth commissions are very difficult and they’re very… they’re not really the stuff [of] which our culture lives and survives and has its being.
“On the other hand are they talking about this international independent [commission] being set up by the United Nations? Fair enough, except the United Nations doesn’t do this type of stuff.
“So who’s going to set it up, and who’s going to be independent, and who’s going to pay for it?
In rough translation then, ‘there’s no fear of that John’.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty