So, Gerry Adams has revealed the goals that will unify the island of Ireland. Can’t really argue with any of them, but all of them depend on petitioning the agency of others. Journal.ie has framed an article around a party presser on the subject:
1 To popularise re-unification as viable, achievable and in the best interests of all and to build consensus for this;
2 To encourage all non-unionist political parties and sections of civic society to become persuaders and actors for reunification;
3 To convince a section of unionist opinion that their identity, self-interest and quality of life will be best served, secured and guaranteed in a united Ireland;
4 To challenge those who would seek to maintain the status quo;
5 To ensure the Irish Government act on the constitutional imperative of reunification;
6 To encourage the British Government to become persuaders for reunification;
7 To build on international political and practical support for reunification drawing in particular on the support and influence of the diaspora.
So what can we say? Well, outbreeding the Prods is off the table. And I don’t mean that flippantly. Nearly ten years ago that was the plan. At the time Graham Gudgin rather pessimistically thought it would take at least another census to force a change in tack. Yet as Tom McGurk noted about the same time, partition itself was an integral part of the peace deal. Untying it won’t be easy. And not for the reasons usually cited,
What this adds up to is a determination on Sinn Fein’s part to persuade everyone, north and south, that political unification is important after all. In truth though, no one struggling in Sinn Fein to create a credible and relevant opposition to the Republic’s coalition government has any time to give to unification. It’s the economy, stupid.
Which may go to explain why there are no concrete proposals in this seven point plan… Ironically, one of the out workings of the Belfast Agreement has been te almost complete disappearance of Northern Ireland from the consciousness of southerners, and vice versa. For most, Ireland now means 26 (and occasionally, when the rugby’s on, + 6), not 32.
Despite the undoubted benefits of a long peace, the Belfast Agreement now seems to constitute a weight that’s retarding Sinn Fein’s labour in trying to persuade either part of the island that unification any longer matters. Particularly now the border is all but gone.
The admission by the party that agency lies elsewhere, suggests that at this stage they still have no answer to the question, what problem(s) is unification supposed to solve?
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