Gerry Adams ups the ante on Unity, just as it comes under fresh critical examination

 Gerry Adams knows  exactly  how to deploy  sweet reasonableness as a weapon and end up  with a perfect circle of  obstruction.

He had had several “businesslike, friendly engagements” with DUP leader Arlene Foster since the talks began, and he had “no reason to doubt” she was innocent of accusations over the “cash for ash” Renewable Heat Initiative which precipitated this month’s Northern Assembly election.

However, the affair needed to be “properly scrutinised”.

Why block a resolution of the impasse if you believe she’s innocent? When did you start believing that? Before or after Sinn Fein quit the Executive?  What changed your mind?

However, Mr Adams said the issue of Sinn Féin blocking Ms Foster’s nomination would not arise until after an agreement to resuscitate the Executive was reached. At present, there was no sign of such an agreement, he indicated.

Mr Adams said the Irish Government had to be part of the effort to persuade unionists to join a united Ireland. “A section of unionism is unlikely to move while the British government underpins their position, and the Irish Government has to tackle that.”

Now you’re talking Gerry. So it’s a united Ireland or nothing? For today anyway?  Mere details, even the future of elective institutions, do not detain a man of destiny.  

 In their branded series Ireland’s Call and in  other well flagged –up sections of the  paper, the Irish Times has been a reliable barometer of every twist and turn of Brexit  jitters ever since 23 June. The net effect is of the paper striking a balance between resisting euphoria over the possible implications for a united Ireland in the Sinn Fein surge, and despair over the feared implications of Brexit.

Ever the northern contrarian, Newton Emerson has identified a departure from the familiar  southern partitionist mindset which blanks out all things northern. He speculates  that ”a newly energised” Sinn Fein’s latest rise in the Republic’s polls to a record 23%, one point ahead of Fine Gael is due to the “thrilling tribal slap-down” they delivered to the DUP in the Assembly election.  If true this would be a change of  reaction to Sinn Fein refusing to accept welfare cuts (mostly later cancelled) and blocking the northern budget  in order to harmonise with their anti- austerity campaign in the  Republic. Nobody in the south knew or cared about anything as boring as Sinn Fein’s block on northern welfare policy, nor do they care about the failure to pass a budget now. Perhaps it was economic recovery in the Republic that prevented a read-across the border and failed to fuel a Sinn Fein surge in the Republic in time for the 1916 centenary?  Or perhaps the  rise in the southern polls now, just ahead of Fine Gael, can partly be explained by  the circumstances of Enda’s long goodbye, hastened by his crash car in the Garda McCabe affair?


Our common preference for elevating identity politics far above the practical is given a rude shock by the sort of analysis of the cost of Irish unity that is usually reserved for Scottish independence.   The example of German reunification greatly attracts the Taoiseach. But there are other less welcome parallels, like the cost of 2 trillion euros.   “Irish unification would involve some of the same issues encountered in Germany”, writes  Edgar Morgenroth  an associate research professor at the Economic and Social Research Institute. A united Ireland within the EU with a hard economic border with Britain would be a bad bargain for the north:

The latest data suggests that Northern Irish manufacturing firms sell more of their goods to Britain than they sell in Northern Ireland, the Republic and the rest of the EU combined.

This suggests that Irish unity might have a bigger negative effect on Northern Ireland, at least over the short- to medium-term, than Brexit

Pensions liability for the north would start with adding  64 billion euros to the  Republic’s existing 98 billion but might be revised either up or down. And then there’s the little matter of the £10 billion “ subvention” from Westminster. Morgenroth carefully adds that unification is  largely “a political matter.  (ah sure it’s only money,” is not his language).  He says German reunification is generally regarded as a success, which indeed it is.

Unity is wishful thinking, writes  John Cushnahan , a Falls- reared man who was  both leader of the Alliance party and a Fine Gael MEP, now living in the south.

I would like to remind Sinn Féin that voters in the Republic of Ireland would also simultaneously have to indicate endorsement of a united Ireland for it to become a realistic option.

This being so, I would like the Sinn Féin parliamentary party in Dáil Eireann to spell out in detail how the Republic’s taxpayers are going to fund the €8-€10 billion annually that some experts have stated would be required to absorb Northern Ireland.

Although Northern Ireland’s farmers would be better off in a united Ireland because they would be guaranteed the continuation of Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) payments, they would still, like their southern counterparts, face significant problems selling their produce into a non-EU United Kingdom market.

And it is reasonable to conclude that taxpayers in the Republic would be unable to fund Northern Ireland’s education, health and social welfare budgets in a post-Brexit united Ireland, given the likely impact of Brexit on our own economy.

Surprisingly for a political editor who is  a reporter first, Stephen Collins gives  his blunt bottom line  opinion on the big issue, characterising the recent  heavy churn  as “a  campaign for a united Ireland.”

 The emerging campaign for a united Ireland, led by Sinn Féin and tamely followed by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, indicates that Irish nationalism has learned nothing from the events of the past 100 years.        If history tells us anything it is that the one way to ensure a united Ireland does not come reality is for a pan-nationalist front to demand its implementation.

There is no doubt that Brexit has put the future of the UK into the melting pot. The arrogance and stupidity of the Conservative Party, which did so much to make the process of Irish independence bitter and violent 100 years ago, has now put the future of the entire UK at risk.

However, by moving immediately to campaign for a united Ireland nationalism has repeated the old mistake of underestimating the depth of unionist feeling. The louder the demand for a united Ireland the stronger unionist resistance will become.

The second and even more serious problem is that, even if at some point there is a majority in the North for unity, there would still be resistance and possibly violent resistance from a significant loyalist minority. The prospect of loyalist terrorism against an Irish State struggling with the massive economic shock of unity is a terrifying prospect.

While it is possible that, in time, a significant segment of Ulster unionism might reassess its traditional loyalties, in the light of the indifference with which the British government has for its welfare, pushing for a united Ireland will only delay that day.

Like most  Irish commentators, Collins dismisses  the Conservative position over Brexit as arrogant and stupid. In so doing  he discounts the  pressures on the UK government from millions of English people uneasy  at the extent of ethnic change and static wage growth that led to the Brexit result.  Overwhelmingly, these  took precedence over the cohesion of the Union, and the impact of Brexit on Ireland.

The threat to the Union is as much about its asymmetry, with the concerns of 52 million English weighed against those of 12 million others. The  “others”  with their regional assemblies  have more leverage than the  far more  numerous English –  except when it really matters. Demonising the Tories is always tempting but it has its risks, as even Nicola Sturgeon may find out .


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  • MainlandUlsterman

    Large parts of the country get these funds though, not just NI. Many constituencies must be affected

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Maybe you’re not reading what I’m reading

  • Fear Éireannach

    it isn’t rocket science. People have every right to consider themselves British if that is what they want. What they do not have the right to do is declare parts of Ireland to be Britain and so imprison Irish people under colonial rule. Which bit of this is difficult to understand?

  • Katyusha

    Well, yes. Please, I wouldn’t be so crude as to generalise in some fashion that “all Prods voted Brexit”. I don’t think there was widespread support for Brexit on either side of the sectarian divide near the border. Take a look at a map of the results and see where the Brexit vote is concentrated.

    In the populous unionist towns in the North and East there was strong support for Brexit. Because they won’t have to deal with the fallout.

    I just think people are being practical about the fact we do have to deal with Brexit.

    I have not heard one practical solution apart from the idea of only applying customs and immigration at entry points to the island, and that doesn’t look like it will fly. There are also a great many practical people in the counties along the border for whom a practical solution to Brexit would involve removing any barriers or border controls that are established. I do not see any way to effectively control the border between NI and the ROI that does not end in remilitarisation. It won’t start with remilitarisation, but all you need is one event and things will escalate from there.

    And I think concerns are being listened to on the impact on border communities, it’s too early to say that they’re not

    One of those clauses is present tense, and in the present I have not heard word of any consultation with people who actually live in the area on the impact in will actually have on their lives. I have, however, heard a huge amount of pontificating from London, however, that everything will be fine, and we’ll just subject those who need to cross the border daily to a level of bureaucracy and surveillance that would cause absolute uproar if it were applied to UK citizens who happen to live in the home counties rather than NI.

    Forgive me if I’m not impressed by the narrative that everything will be fine, with no practical solution to back it up.

  • AntrimGael

    Did you watch True North on the BBC the other night about the 3 wee lads from Loyalist East Belfast who couldn’t get work? They eventually ended up at a company in the New Lodge who taught them design and got them a qualification. It was sad in a a way but showed the fellas had talent but lacked confidence and opportunities in their own areas.
    Unionist politicians are badly failing these kids while Loyalist gangsterism, thuggery and drug dealing are destroying Protestant districts. I know from speaking to people in the suicide/mental health groups in North Belfast that they are getting as many referrals from Loyalist districts as Nationalist ones.

  • Karl

    I can see her coming up with a wheeze to see that there are funds for Cambridge and Sussex. She has a chance of winning votes there and affecting the outcome of elections with this money.
    The same does not apply to Fermanagh and Antrim.
    They’re gone Im afraid.

  • NotNowJohnny

    I thought that too. Indeed I went to war over this. But now I’m not so sure that there aren’t other alternative interpretations.

  • Fear Éireannach

    No doubt Theresa May, on her tour around the UK, will visit Cullaville, Roslea, Belcoo and Clady to discuss how Brexit can be good for the people there. Not likely. All that will happen is lies from a distance, the inhabitants of these places do not count.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    She is a big believer in the UK though and likes to believe she cares about all its parts. She may be deluding herself. But it’s a delusion that may lead her to do the right thing here.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I didn’t see that, but it doesn’t surprise me.

    The problems are deep-seated and actually a lot of the core issues are shared with a lot of other cities in northern post-industrial Britain. Davif Goodhart’s new book, “The Road To Somewhere” interests me on that – he seems to be onto something. The economy has shifted to a place where academic qualifications and intellectual work (broadly defined) is the only way to prosper, leaving a generation of kids with more practical skills without a direction except to fairly limited minimum wage service sector jobs. Really hard one to fix, but we have to start rethinking technical education for starters.

  • Fear Éireannach

    I specifically mentioned the atypical nature of the period discussed, and you respond with reference to an article from a discredited journalist about the same period! The number in an age group has to do with the birthrate 20 years before and might change without any change in migration. The likes of Mullally would never do the sums on this. She gives the impression that everyone who left was Irish, when of course a large number who left were Polish etc, who only intended to come to Ireland for a few years, the change in the total reflecting a lack of new arrivals as much as anything else. I suspect when the full 2016 census results are released that these numbers will be adjusted anyway. As I said some people will always leave Ireland for opportunites elsewhere, but many also arrive

  • 05OCT68

    I’ii tell you what I’ve seen today in Derry, the AOB parading this morning, the Union flag flying at Orchard House (government building), Foyle street.

  • Trasna

    In what way would it shape and challenge the Rep?

    Are you really so precious a people?

  • harmlessdrudge

    Thank you. This is exactly the problem with Unionists. Their increasingly schizophrenic oscillations between smug supremacy and aggrieved victimhood are as absurd as the neurotic conspiracy theories about communist takeovers spouted by white south africans to justify their hegemony over those whose land they colonised and whom they oppressed.

  • mac tire

    Could you provide evidence for your assertions?

  • harmlessdrudge

    What do we have to offer people who make plain their hatred of the Irish? A ticket to England? What would you like us to offer them?

    I referred to Unionist hatred of the Irish and you respond as if they had every right to hate the Irish in their own country and should be offered some ADDITIONAL inducements to treat the Irish as equals?

    There is no chance of that happening. What is readily available is what is already enjoyed by the hundreds of thousands of British living in Ireland.

  • Damien Mullan

    Hardly, I haven’t got a response from him so he’s obviously used to such adjectives.

  • Damien Mullan

    When Northern Ireland hasn’t benefited from much of that nuclear power generation, the first inter-connector between NI and GB only came online in 2001, and since then has been bedeviled by faults and suspensions. Power generation in NI has been largely an internal matter, until that is the All-Ireland electricity market began to be developed in the mid-2000’s.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    So the cultural policy of the united Ireland will be to seek conformity from unionists with nationalist ideas of Irishness?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I think I did explain that. Not being precious, just insisting that nationalism lives up to its words on parity of esteem and acceptance of the Britishness of NI people who so identify.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    There are but I really don’t think they’d win the day in court, if push came shove on it.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    No, nor am I. But I do think there will be some at least substance to come. We haven’t even triggered Art. 50 yet.

  • harmlessdrudge

    Not in the slightest and frankly this is obtuse. The majority of Irish people, unlike the British who voted for brexit, are entirely comfortable with diversity. Ireland has four times the proportion of the population from the EU as the UK, and more than double the number per capita overall.

    We are not comfortable with and will not accept Unionist hegemony in perpetuity. That is what Unionism aspires to, and does so with an explicit, bigoted and racist rejection of Irish culture and values, with sneering supremacist condescension. There is not even a pretence of equality from this community. And I think you know this perfectly well.

    The Irish have shown considerable generosity and tolerance in allowing anyone born on the island of Ireland to obtain an Irish passport, without restriction, and to avail of the all of the privileges that affords, including the right to free movement in the EU and the CTA. If this idea of Irishness doesn’t suit Unionists they’re under no obligation to avail of it but their days of telling Irish people in Ireland that their identity is superior and will take precedence or is equally Irish while rejecting Irish culture and values is coming to an end.

  • Trasna

    You are owed no such privilege

  • Anon Anon

    Public sector pensions are predicated on people paying in for the vast majority of their working lives. The UK Government already got assets for the liabilities. The taxation is after the fact. I suspect there would be a legal wrangle if they default.

    Realistically, it’s an item for negotiation in a set of complex negotiations that would move NI from UK sovereignty to Irish sovereignty. Maybe the Irish Government would take them on in return for something else.

    But there is 0 chance the Irish Governments starting position is that they take on £1 for £1, the entire public sector pension liability of NI. It’s a dishonest suggestion.

  • MainlandUlsterman


  • NotNowJohnny

    IT would certainly be interesting if the SOS took the alternative view and held the poll. Would unionists say ‘bring it on’, or go to court to get the decision overturned?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Very hypothetical, as it’s really hard to think of plausible circumstances where the SoS might call a border poll outside the situation set out in paragraph 2. But yes if she/he did it would be chaotic.

  • Skibo

    MU the reason I recall the Lucid Talk polls is due to their accuracy. Can you comment on the accuracy of the Ipsos MORI polls? How did they get on with the last election polls?

  • Skibo

    ND that is why I believe a poll should be called once we know the result of the Brexit negotiations. Late 2018 or early 2019.
    By that stage FF and FG should have proposed a plan for reunification. You asked for a poll that showed 50% of Catholics voting for a UI, I gave you one that has that rate at around 95% and also 8.8% of Unionists!

  • Skibo

    Raising of our share of debt but with an actual future where we can pay it off and have a higher living standard. Hmm sounds good!

  • Skibo

    You say that yet Ireland’s debt is falling and the UK’s is rising.

  • Skibo

    Granni, it probably has more to do with the fact that I have two children, students at University. In England though. I wonder is the problem any worse in other cities that have large student populations?
    I think as we get older we all have to blame the ones coming after us for enjoying themselves too much.
    I think this problem has actually been caused by greedy speculators, buying up family homes and changing them into multiple occupancy. If Halls were more economical, these landlords would not have a market.

  • North Down dup

    That wasn’t a proper poll look at the questions the members were asked, if it was you would be looking at a border poll next month, did you see the view last week when they went to derry and asked do you want a UI 3 said no 1 said yes, that’s more in line with the poll that says only 30-40 catholics want a UI

  • Jollyraj

    Indeed, yes.

    I must admit I was tempted by the prospect of Sinn Fein paying off all our credit card debts, but…. common sense ultimately wins out 🙂

  • Granni Trixie

    I repeat, up until recent years I tended to stick up for students,resisting stereotyping on the grounds you refer to. I lived for quite a while around th holy lands so I have seen things go from Ok to being out of hand….bottles broken all over the pavements and being afraid to let young ones walk that way from school. And I know people who could barely afford to run a car having them wreaked. And as for th age thing – up until recent years I was doing post grad courses and socialised with students so they are not alien to me as you appear to suggest. If having a certain standard in my head about acceptable behaviour means I’m past it, I can live with that. But if my children behaved like that I assure you I would not be happy. You however appear to be saying that making neighbours families miserable is ok for your kids or anybodys – it’s what students do, right?

    I agree with you that greedy landlords etc have being part of the problem.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I don’t think any polling company covered itself in glory but actually Ipsos MORI was less off than many in 2015. In 2010 it was spot on. In the research industry Ipsos MORI would be seen as as close as you get to the gold standard on political polling. I’m in the industry myself, though over here in England and not a pollster. Lucid Talk I’m not so familiar with and haven’t heard anything either way.

  • Skibo

    MU I would suggest taking a look at the polls that Lucid Talk produce. You will find them very accurate. They seem to have a larger base to work with within NI.

  • Skibo

    Oh come on Chris, that was more to do with the government was able to cancel all the debt of the banks. It probably wouldn’t have taken as much to pay off everyone’s credit cards than pay off the bankers. God knows the poor old bankers and their bondholders probably needed our hard earned taxes more!

  • Jollyraj


  • Skibo

    Sorry, JR, you and Chris seem to be on the one political wavelength. I mixed you two up.

  • Declan Foley

    One of the many elephants in the room would be Local Government. Why on earth would the people of N.I be expected to adopt the most inane Local Government system in the world, where elected Councillors are not even rubber stamps, that is Local Government in the Republic, then take Health and Education.

  • Katyusha

    I think Northern Ireland has you beat when it comes to inane local government, Declan. The only thing we trust our councilors to do is organise the refuse collection.