For all the protests from Colum Eastwood and Michelle O’Neill over the calling of this election, Theresa May is not ignoring Northern Ireland. She’s merely taking care of business according to her own political version of Maslow’s pyramid of needs.
So where does Northern Ireland (our periodical losses of political power and will largely spring from the internal prohibitions of our covetous and beggarly political culture) fit in?
Sadly for us, perhaps, in these post-conflict days, Northern Ireland is no longer an issue affecting the base needs of the UK (or Ireland). Brokenshire’s announcement is merely sticking a pin in negotiations that were not, by any reasonable measure, going anywhere.
Whilst a strong majority in the election for her Conservative party will not strengthen her hand in the actual negotiations, it does allow her to bargain freely over the necessary trade-offs to prevent UK PLC falling into a deep dark hole.
This is also why there’s some (justifiable) optimism in Dublin that as Charlie Flanagan put it: “we could be looking towards a less hard Brexit than that was anticipated after the referendum”.
Some say that a new intake of Tory MPs will be more Eurosceptic. But this misses a key corollary of the referendum. Much as the ’75 Referendum passed the eurosceptic bug from Labour to Tories, it is now already working in reverse.
Any comfortable Tory majority will be honed out of a rapidly dropping UKIP vote share (Tory strategists now reference UKIP as a gateway drug for switching to Conservative) at the expense of Labour whilst inhibiting Lib Dem growth in the Eurosceptic south-west of England.
Eastwood does have a point (O’Neill is swivelling all over the place, backing an election one minute – “bring it on” – protesting it the next) in that London doesn’t care about Northern Ireland.
But of course, within the bounds of the devolutionary settlement, it’s not supposed to care about NI. That’s our parties job.
The only way for Irish Republicans to deal with that is quit sobbing tearfully about how you keep having your (shockingly minimalist) agenda beaten down by mean depredatory unionists, get back to Stormont and begin to repurpose that Brexiteer strapline: Take Back Control.
The Brits won’t do it. Nor, as noted here before Christmas, will any other external agency. If Mrs May gets her mandate she won’t be beholding to the DUP at Westminster (or anyone else), which will free her hand. However, she won’t be doing favours for anyone else.
First on the agenda is the stick rather than carrot. Power to set the regional rates (a piece of business left in complete disarray with undue haste by Sinn Fein’s former Finance Minister) will pass from local politicians to Westminister next week.
Significantly, it will be set on the advice of Stormont’s senior civil servants, a group of people who have none of the political discretion available to democratically elected ministers. They will have to make the best of the mess left behind them by that same hasty exit.
Leaving Northern Ireland languishing at the political base of Maslow’s pyramid and far from its peak (where actual political change is possible): ie, self-actualisation.