Whatever the parties say the post #AE17 dissolution is no stepping stone to a united Ireland…

With the plethora of positive comment in that direction, you’d certainly think was already coming in the post. It’s certainly good to get the subject out on the table (even if the party politics of it obscures more than it reveals of the subject).

It’s good to know Fianna Fail is working on a 12 point plan (although the proper time to judge the worthiness of any such plan will come when they actually release it).  The something in the air was the Assembly election when Unionism got an almighty kicking.

But what’s gone missing in most analyses is that Nationalist gains only moved votes inside the same footprint it had had back in 2003.

Gone missing too to those who monitor Catholic and Protestant numbers (as if tracking enemy populations) is that whilst Protestants dropped by 5%, Catholics in the 2011 Census only moved up by 1%. 17% either stated no religion, or did not state religion.

As I pointed out on The Week In Politics week before last, what’s missing from most observer’s representations is the burgeoning middle:

The fatalism around Brexit (exaggerated by UK Labour’s seemingly endless drift on the matter of Brexit and Theresa May’s stubborn insouciance in her attitude to critics) is feeding unrealistic expectations on the matter.

It’s also based on a shorthand reading of Northern Ireland’s majority against Brexit does not take account of the fact that across the UK nearly half of all Remain voters accepted the defeat with grace and simply want May to get on with the supreme act of folly it.

Republicans and nationalists should talk about what a united Ireland would look like. But perhaps they need to spend more time in thinking about how to build sufficient trust to get there.

If the NI state was built on sectarian geography (as it assuredly was) it does not stand to reason that it will be undone by inverse but similarly sectarian means. There was a febrile cross-community consensus on Brexit which time and the intensity of the Assembly election has all but wiped out.

My old Long Peace mucker Trevor Ringland has a useful corrective in the form of a letter in today’s Irish Times. I don’t agree with all of it (the Republic’s politicians and government have a duty of care on Northern Ireland as reflected in the British Irish Treaty), but…

…it’s important to keep building relationships across the island. Political unity is a rather far-fetched aspiration for the time being, but perhaps it is possible to work toward a “united people”. One of the things that can help this process is a clear, consistent understanding that the use of violence outside the law to pursue a political aim was and remains wrong, unjustified and unjustifiable.

He concludes:

Peace is predicated on Northern Ireland’s representatives taking responsibility, and striving to make Northern Ireland work in the shorter term, in order to promote their long-term preferences as regards the Border. This must take place in an atmosphere, in both parts of Ireland, that respects the principle of consent and the consequences that flow from the principle.

Irish unity is one of those things that people like to talk about more than to actively pursue through actions or the exploration of shared interests. Both SF and FF are currently doing little to expedite the building a new interconnector that could have multiple benefits north and south.

On those last ten years: not a lot done, a helluva lot more to do.

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