IF you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs
We are constitutionally and politically in no mans land. What most of us thought was going to be a narrow Remain win was shattered at 4:40 am on Friday morning with David Dimbleby’s call that “the decision this country made in 1975 has been reversed.”
This morning we are already reading stories about calls for another Scottish Independence Referendum and whether the devolved legislatures have a role in repealing EU regulations and whether their permission has to be sought before we are taken out of the European Union.
All of this is quite frankly immensely confusing for the media, commentariat and the public.
The absolute worst thing that politicians can do is to pile more uncertainty on top of more uncertainty. This is exactly what a call for a border poll does, it is essentially a distraction from the main task at hand.
We have real debates coming up as a community such as when will Article 50 be activated? What role will the Executive have in these negotiations? How will our interests be protected and respected? Most importantly, how will our relationship with the South change after the UK leaves the European Union?
All of these will take time to get through and answers will be needed before any border poll happens.
This brings me to my next point, if a genuine attempt is going to be made to hold a border poll, then there needs to be quiet and serious private talks with other like-minded parties to hammer out a common platform. Making unilateral declarations about this issue just simply turns people off.
There is painstaking work to be done in terms of devising a strategy about what way a campaign can be fought. We have just seen for ourselves where a disjointed and incoherent campaign gets you electorally and to those who want to rush head first into this, they need to learn serious lessons from the failure of the Remain campaign.
We have a real opportunity when all the nuts and bolts are thrashed out with the EU exit deal to show that Nationalism has a plan to both keep Northern Ireland in the EU and that it is our Unionist colleagues who now represent economic insecurity.
We can paint a united Ireland as the genuinely internationalist option with EU membership and as the only English-speaking country left as the new main bridge between the United States and the EU. Depending on how talks go on trade agreements, Dublin could become a major destination for many financial services looking for EU access.
This is essentially a new way for Nationalism, a new opportunity to move away from the old rhetoric that spouts the economic policies of the 1970’s along with the political talking points of the 1980’s.
We can have the EU debate as the critical bridge that is needed between Northern and Southern Nationalism, instead of having a disjointed campaign with incompatible promises being made by the two sides (Remember the Republic of Ireland has to vote to accept NI).
We also have an opportunity to use these new dimensions to speak to a host of people who previously might not have listened to these type of arguments before. This needs to be carefully thought about in terms of how you broaden the tent beyond the usual suspects.
All of this will take time, hard work and quiet discussions. It will also depend on how EU discussions end up, Nationalists should take the time to work out all of these issues.
Rome wasn’t built-in a day and you won’t get a short cut to a United Ireland through a snap border poll.
To those arguing for one, I go back to Kipling who spoke of the virtue of being able to dream, yet not having dreams becoming your master. Sadly for many, the dreams have become the master, what we need now are for people to have dreams at night and during the day get ready for hard work.
A key part of the Nationalist consensus is about to come to an end, our political leaders need to suit up and meet that challenge.
David McCann holds a PhD in North-South relations from University of Ulster. You can follow him on twitter @dmcbfs
Living History 1968-74
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