Case for unification: “I sense that republicans don’t actually know the answer themselves”

On the subject of polls, I’d blogged Owen Paterson’s thoughts before Alex Kane’s column came online:

My own view is that this is the perfect time for a referendum. Bring it on, in fact! In 1973 we never got the chance to have a proper debate about the realities, consequences and ramifications of Irish unity. As is so often the case the nationalists ran away from it. In one sense, of course, you can’t blame them for not wanting a forensic examination of unification, for once you have sidelined the blarney, mythology and teary-eyed ballads about martyrs and incompetent revolts, you quickly discover that there’s nothing else in their cupboard.

So let’s cut the nonsense and have the debate. If Sinn Fein and the SDLP are convinced that Irish unity really does represent some sort of political utopia then perhaps they should set out the case. Let me put it bluntly: what would ever make me choose to swap my citizenship of the United Kingdom for a newly united Ireland? I only ask the question because I sometimes sense that republicans don’t actually know the answer themselves. Instead, they seem to have convinced themselves that there will come a day when there are more Roman Catholics than Protestants in Northern Ireland and that those Roman Catholics will, when given the choice, choose to vote themselves out of the United Kingdom.

This touches on an important difference between any future Scottish exit from the Union and Northern Ireland’s. In the former case, the destination is febrile, protean and the final outcome can be trimmed somewhat what the maximum number want/will settle for.

In the case of re-unifying Ireland, there’s the tough matter of retrofitting a fragment of the UK to a small but, by its own account, imperfectly formed Republic to which there are limitations as to how it might be reformed to suit the needs and wishes of any prospective northern partners.

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