I’ll being putting together my own thoughts on our seminar on the future of nationalism, which was ably convened and chaired by Irish News Political Correspondent John Manley. But for now, this from on of the principle speakers Tom Kelly in his column in today’s paper:
There is clear evidence that the nationalist vote in Northern Ireland has declined whilst the demographic evidence points to a growing Catholic population.
The fight is definitely on for both unionism and nationalism to set out their stalls for what is the best way forward either to remain within the UK or join up with a United Ireland.
But the solution does not lie in numbers alone- the North was created by a fear of numbers and re-igniting that fear won’t create a united Ireland. The Belfast Agreement affirmed the supremacy of the ballot box and the Irish parliamentary tradition over militant force.
The 1916 commemorations should be seen in the context of their time and not as justification for the aftermath of the Civil war or the Troubles.
The SDLP will not as some think die away. When Adams and McGuinness finally depart the electoral scene, there will be no iconic figures left from the era of the Civil Rights or the Troubles and to be frank this is necessary if we are to move away from divisions based on the turmoil created by the protagonists of that time.
Fionnuala O’Connor once wrote a book called ‘Catholics in Search of a State’ but based on the electoral and demographic statistics since 1998 and the achievement of full equality, it would seem for the moment anyhow, that many nationalists were looking for a place in the State and aren’t too bothered to look outside of it. And therein is the challenge.