Time for unity among those advocating Unity

Matt Carthy is a Sinn Fein MEP for the Ireland Midlands-North West constituency 

Something big is happening.

Brexit has simply accelerated a debate on Irish Unity that was inevitably going to happen anyway.

Irish Unity featured during the recent Westminster election campaign in a way in which it hasn’t in living memory.

That is simply a reflection of what is occurring in communities, within civic society and among members and supporters of all the main political parties North & South with the obvious exception of the unionists.

The SDLP election campaign call for a post-Brexit Irish Unity referendum was welcome development. So too is Fianna Fáil’s assertion that they will publish their proposals on a United Ireland soon. The fact that the issue of Irish Unity even embedded itself into the Fine Gael leadership contest proves, beyond any doubt, that the sands are shifting.

Unfortunately in all instances these parties have yet to reach the point where they can advocate for Irish unity without simultaneously attacking Sinn Féin.

For our part Sinn Féin understand that we cannot win a United Ireland campaign without the support of other pro-unity parties.

They, likewise, need to recognise that Irish Unity won’t happen without Sinn Féin.

We will happily challenge, debate and argue with those parties on most current political, social economic issues – in many cases we will have fundamental disagreements.

But, on the biggest issue before our people – that of the reunification of our country – we apparently agree. So, why not work together in the knowledge that it is only by doing so that we have any prospect of delivering it.

Up to this point Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael & the SDLP have refused to accept Sinn Féin invitations to join with us in setting out a collective vision for a United Ireland. For example all have been invited to our National Conference to be held in Belfast’s Waterfront Hall on 24th June. Those invitations remain unanswered.

Of course, some have cast doubts over their real desire to pursue this objective. Many fear that the rhetoric of unity is coupled with a series of excuses as to why it shouldn’t be pursued.

For many years the question of a United Ireland was met with the rhetorical question (by supposed advocates of the proposition) “But, can we afford it?”

When the economics of Unity became so obvious, helped in no small part by studies such as the Hubner report on Modelling Irish Unity, the response changed to “This isn’t the right time”. As if after over 100 years since the Easter Rising and almost 20 since the Good Friday agreement it was “too soon” to address the issue of partition.

Regardless, Brexit has put paid to that argument.

To most people it makes no political, economic or social sense to have one part of this island inside the EU and another outside.

Understandably, the prospect of the North being removed from the European Union against the will of the people living there, and a reinforcing of the border, has raised many questions about the future.

More people than ever, North and a South, are saying that we need to look now at creating new political structures that benefit all our people across the island.

It is becoming clearer that we need new constitutional arrangements that better suit the new realities of Ireland today.

Brexit has created an entirely new dynamic for the building of a new and agreed United Ireland. The argument that “this isn’t the right time” simply doesn’t stack up any longer.

For some this will just mean changing the argument. A glimpse of this was on view during the aforementioned recent Fine Gael leadership contest when the now-Taoiseach Leo Varadkar cast doubt as to whether a 50%-plus-one vote would be sufficient to secure a United Ireland. This was a question previously put by Mr. Varadkar’s predecessor, John Bruton.

It is a mischievous position and blatantly so.

The Good Friday Agreement is specific and unambiguous on this point that both governments will:

recognise the legitimacy of whatever choice is freely exercised by a majority of the people of Northern Ireland with regard to its status, whether they prefer to continue to support the Union with Great Britain or a sovereign united Ireland;

It is clear that a 50% plus one vote will secure unity. But, let’s not have it so close.

We should work together with the common objective of convincing the greatest possible number of people across Ireland that Unity is in their best interest. And let us convince those who think otherwise that they have nevertheless nothing to fear from the outcome of a referendum.

What Brexit and the election results demonstrate is that there is now an urgent need for an inclusive, constructive debate on our future.

This must include constitutional options and what a United Ireland might look like.

Unionist representatives also need to be involved in that debate. They need to influence it.

They cannot remain aloof from this discussion. Attempting to do so amounts merely to head-in-the-sand politics and does nothing to serve the interests of the people unionist parties claim to represent.

Unionists and nationalists, North and South, cannot continue to seek to live separately. Our futures are bound together.

Economy and society across the island of Ireland are intertwined. The prospect of Brexit has merely served to highlight that reality.

Back-to-back development and wasteful duplication serves nobody, in either jurisdiction.

It is unarguable that a United Ireland will act as a spur for economic growth, job creation and a society across the whole island where all our citizens can prosper.

Recent changes have presented new opportunities for building strong, enduring relations between the two historic traditions on this island.

It is the time to come together to design a pathway to a new, agreed and inclusive Ireland.

All our people, from all backgrounds and traditions, Orange and Green must be involved in that. All parties need to engage and all who advocate for Unity need to come together to develop common positions where we can.

Something big is happening.

We now have a unique opportunity to build a future beyond Partition, sectarianism and division.

It is a historic opportunity to build a society that serves the interests of all the people who share this island.

It’s an opportunity to deliver a United Ireland. Let’s seize it.

, , , ,

  • Alan N/Ards

    “Any concession extended to intransigent Unionists can and will be reversed when the next change of government takes place, as already happened in 1937.”

    The amendments to Articles 2/3 have never been amended by the people of the ROI. The major parties supported the changes and the people agreed, and that is to be respected.

    I’m sure that you will agree that the Oireachhtas will discuss any “concessions” to non republican/nationalists to give any UI a good chance of success. And when they put those “concessions” to the people of the ROI they will agree that it is the only way to go. Unionists should then accept the deal that has been negotiated (as they will be involved in the discussions). Many people (on both sides) would be appalled if the deal negotiated was overturned at a later date. Many of us believe that we have moved on from the 1920’s,30’s, 70’s and 80’s but it appears that you don’t think so.

    My own personal thoughts is that any deal done will be honoured and that you are one of a very small minority who would oppose it.

  • Jag

    Bit naive of Matt to express disappointment that neither the SDLP nor FF want to be associated with a SF initiative on reunification. It would damage the FF brand in N Ireland, just as that party starts to really think about its launch here in 2019.

    The best way forward for SF on reunification is to increase pressure for a Border Poll. Call the Tories out for their hypocrisy withholding a poll because there’s not a “remote chance” of it passing (it’s 4/1 according to Paddy Power which is far better than the 500/1 that every single Tory candidate had here in the seven constituencies they contested last week).

    A Border Poll probably won’t pass in 2017 (though, there’s an outside chance it would), but that’s not the point, it will force everyone to confront the issues, the economics and the politics, and to practically set out the road map. Getting unity from your political opponents will be difficult, especially if you’ve just wiped them out.

  • Donal

    The only true way of uniting people (2 tribes) is by giving them a common enemy.
    Poverty, ISIS etc

  • grumpy oul man

    I Class myself as Northern Irish but i would vote for a UI.
    It has been claimed by a few unionists that nationlists defining themselves as Northern Irish have become small u unionists.
    I have to tell you that is not what i have observed, there are probably some who fit your opinion but i certainly not count on them to save the day for unionism when that day comes.

  • grumpy oul man

    What new EU army. Ireland is a nuetral country not belonging to any powerblock including NATO .
    Would you care to expand on that.
    And The Donald has had a lot of luck in getting thingdms done.
    Even his dramatic withdrawal from the paris accord was phoney, America is committed to remaining a signatory to at the earliest 5th November 2020, so not much of a threat there, even less considering the large Irish caucus in goverment and the important Irish vote.

  • grumpy oul man

    Apart fro the SNPb the third largest party and the largest in Scotland.
    So not all the main parties then.

  • grumpy oul man

    I have a fondness for the tricolor but agree we would need a new flag, as for the anthem, get rid of it.
    It no more represents the modern republic that ireland has become.
    I’m nobodys soldier and positively hate the whole militarism of the dirge.

  • Mark Petticrew

    Though the Northern Irish identity is ultimately one which has been spawned by partition, I don’t think it can be taken as a natural extrapolation that those who identify as such are partitionist themselves.

    In a 2015 B&A poll, for instance, 45% of those who identified as Northern Irish stated that they wanted to see a united Ireland within their lifetime; 66% amongst NI-identifying Catholics and 28% of NI-identifying Protestants.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    For fear of opening the floodgates of outrage would you mind expanding on that a wee bit (it’d be nice to hear a fresh voice on the matter)

  • grumpy oul man

    Why would we do such a stupid thing, make a deal with a large section of the population on a important subject or subjects then break our word at the first chance.
    That would be a very stupid and dangerous thing to do.

  • Tochais Siorai

    I come across loads of Poles living in Ireland. Yet to meet one who has any gripe about Irish and any interest in Polish getting official status.

    They are nevertheless very proud of having retained their distinct cultural identity and language (note the numerous Polish Sunday Schools throughout Ireland) despite centuries of invasion and subjugation by their neighbours.

  • Tochais Siorai

    It’s may well be happening alright, Matt, but unless you are extremely naive you should realise your party has to take a back seat on this one. Your support base is large but those who don’t want much to do with you is much larger, even amongst nationalism in the broadest sense. Many people who want to see a UI, particularly in the Republic would be very uncomfortable being associated with a project driven by yourselves. Whether you like it or not, the closer you are to leading the UI project the further away it will remain.

    You scare the horses. And that’s the truth of it.

  • Marcus Orr

    Coming back to you again on this Seaan, I have of course examined the historical record and I have a different view to you on the matter.
    First of all, although it’s true that Ireland never got to ask whether it should be a part of the United Kingdom or not, the fact is that it was never a colony, but rather sent 100 odd MP’s to Westminster (roughly one-sixth of the total (since 1800). Of course, the penal laws were only abandoned fully for RC’s in 1829 (a little before that for protestant dissenters such as myself), but the old IP party was sending regularly 70 odd MP’s to Westminster from 1874 onwards and Daniel O’Connell already had 40 seats under him as early as 1832, so Ireland was no colony in any sense of the term even back then – the people had the right to vote even though the secret ballot act (1872) was probably needed to remove the worry of tenants from voting against the wishes of their landowner.
    Irish politics dominated Westminster in the late 19th and early 20th century. Every time that the Liberals needed the IP for a majority vs. the Conservatives – in 1886 and again in 1910 – Home Rule was introduced as a measure. The problem in my eyes was that already way back the House of Lords blocked Home Rule but suggested a compromise solution with Ulster exempted, or the 6 counties, or 4 counties. The liberals were not prepared to negotiate (the IP neither) – for the IP there had to be an all Ireland solution, or nothing. It is a simple fact that the North was well developed industrially and had crucial economic ties with mainland Britain in those days. The influence of the Roman Church was also different (much stronger, and much more hostile towards protestant “heretics” in those days) – it took until Vatican II in the 1960’s for the RC church to start to soften its position vis-à-vis the rest of the Christian world.
    My great aunt from County Cork told me before she died about the visits they got from some of Michael Collin’s men back in 1918 or 1919 down there. They were simple farming folk down in Cork, but were known to be protestants, so the Sinn Féiners simply removed (stole) all the furniture in the house (at gunpoint) to help finance the struggle (I have of course no idea if this was an isolated action or commanded by Collins himself in a general way, he maybe knew nothing about it). There was very understandable fear of what would actually happen in a nationalist dominated Assembly back in those days. After partition, apart from some initial pogroms in County Cork in the 1920’s, things went quite well. Protestants were 8% of the population in the 26 counties, so they understood that if they kept their heads down and accepted the situation they would be treated ok – and they were. In the North however there was a large unsatisfied minority, around 30%, which no state can easily integrate. Given that unionists accounted for 29,2% of the votes in all Ireland in the 1918 general election, the same situation (a large unsatisfied minority) would have arisen had there been no partition in those days. It could have worked out if at least the 29% had been more or less evenly dispersed throughout the Island. But the fact that they were concentrated in the North, and had developed very close economic and social ties with the rest of the United Kingdom, made an all Ireland solution very difficult to imagine.
    We are no longer in the economic or cultural situation that we were in back then. Also the ROI has truly moved on become a true modern nation, well developed, successful and with much closer and friendlier ties to GB. We are no longer in 1982 when Charles Haughey could back a disgusting Argentinian military dictatorship responsible for many thousands of horrible civilian deaths and many abuses in the UN against the UK during the Falklands crises – anybody but Britain. The Republic has moved on since those days but only NI rests stuck in the old conflict. There must be some way to move things on without either side in the North thinking that they have “victory” or “defeat” in the matter.


    Your moniker is well chosen.

  • Georfe Jungle

    “What new EU army.”


    I didn’t say Ireland will fight (I don’t think they would be missed due to their lack of military power) but you can be sure that Ireland WILL pay for the new EU army.

    You can’t cheery pick the bits you like/don’t like in the EU, haven’t you heard ?

  • grumpy oul man

    Well since its a economic and trading block i can’t see Ireland being obliged to pay for any army.
    You can opt out of things you never signed up for.
    Ireland doesn’t need a big army since it isnt in the habit of getting involved in Americas wars and has no enemies.
    The Irish Defence forces is large enough to fulfull it’s UN peacekeeping duties which being a neutral country it can do very well.
    It easier to work with people in other countries as a peacekeeper if you don’t have a history of invading it and stealing its resource,s

  • John Collins

    If there is ever a UI, and as I am in my late sixties, I will not see it, there can be no winners, just accommodation on all sides.

  • grumpy oul man

    I dont know were that came from but thank you.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Marcus, a very long post from you has appeared in my “notification” emails which does not appear on the site itself. I’d reply at length if it were up, but just so that you do not imagine I’m ignoring what you’d said, I’m posting this.

  • Marcus Orr

    Yes, sorry Seaan it seems to have disappeared completely, I don’t know what has happened. I didn’t use any rude words (I think) so it is rather strange – lost !

  • Peter Moore


    Without getting too personal, I was born in North Down into a considerably well off CoI family (my uncle was Bishop of Cashel and Ossary, with his home Cathedral St, Canice’s in Kilkenny) I was therefore also quite well versed in theological arguments of Christianity – the creed of one Catholic and Apostolic church should be familiar to all Anglicans.

    I was fortunate to have some phenomenal teachers from an early age, my school History teacher had his PhD in Irish History and his constant “you MUST examine both sides of any argument” still rings in my ears today.

    I was an archaeologist and studied the subject in an all island, indeed all-European, context. The Beaker traditions and Celt peoples knew no such six county divisions. I also studied, as a consequence, later Medieval and post-Medieval archaeology and history including the plantations. At university my friends came from all sides of ‘the divide’ here. In short I think it’s safe to say i had an open mind.

    However, my policitcal views morphed when I becan to see the extreme elements within parties such as the DUP; e.g., Gregory Campbell’s [continued] antics, the inability to cast of a triumphalist attitude, in Brexit the astounding views of Nelson McCauseland, Paul Girvin’s thinly veiled bias (need I go on). I think it was Sir Edward Carson who said the statelet of Northern ireland will not last far beyond a century….it is unnatural in every way.

    I have seen Orange parades in Donegal and elsewhere down South, there seems to be a compeltely irrational fear of a Medieval persecution in a United Ireland, there is simply no basis for such an argument. Having been fortunate to have travelled extensively, almost everywhere else in the world I have been that knows about Northern Ireland views politics here as farsical. It’s difficult to argue against them.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    It has not been moderated as that is clearly marked with “removed”, so all I can assume is that part of the deal with May includes occasional covert editorial control of items on Slugger by parties concerned! I may be wrong of course, and it may just be a disqus blip.

    I have a reply, but it would be pointless for other readers without your long and significant posting. Sufficent to say that the experiences of your Cork informant were something of a common place also in parts of Belfast where IPP supporters and Catholic ex-service families were targeted by loyalist mobs and even by uniformed Specials. I know of three ex-36th veterans I met in the 1960s who left the Specials in protest, and imagine that similar indignant dissensions occurred in Cork amongst the Republicans also.

  • grumpy oul man

    Bit of the oul nit picking.
    Of course if he had of mentioned it first you would have conplained and if he didnt mention it at all then you would have really gurned.
    BTW you do realise that normally the important part goes in the middle.
    You prep up for it. Mention it and then explain It.
    Just for future reference.

  • grumpy oul man

    I bow it silly of me to ask for a explanation since you don’t do explanations.
    But why is SF not a constitutional party.
    They stand for election and follow the rules, so explain please.
    Nothing from history please.

  • Tochais Siorai

    An O Neill wanting ‘O Donnell Abú’ as the national anthem?

    We’ll see ye in Kinsale………

  • Tochais Siorai

    Speaking of dirges, under no circumstances whatsoever……… Ireland’s Call.

  • Reader

    Barnety: They can also claim some level of “copyright” on the basis that they have not ever appeased partition
    I am not convinced that signing up to the GFA – which caused amendment of Articles 2 & 3 of your constitution – is a more pure position than writing Articles 2 & 3 in the first place.
    All of the parties have displayed aspects of posturing and stubbornness over partition. And none of them have kept their position unchanged.

  • grumpy oul man

    Sometimes i think some people on this site get their “facts” from the sites that LAD makes fun off.

  • grumpy oul man

    This isnt the 1920s or1930s, ireland is no longer a priest ridden peaswant society it has matured over the last 90 years.
    We have learnt the lessions of the past and have no intention of repeating Devs Ireland or a NI 2.0.
    No we will have a unique opportunity to build a whole new Country , that will not be wasted by the petty and spiteful.

  • grumpy oul man

    Pretty good i would say!

  • grumpy oul man

    This old chestnut. Before the IRA fired a shot, NI brought a begging bowl to Britain..the troubles brought a massive influx of cash to NI.
    From wages to builders replacing destroyed property (the British paid bill for replacing blown out windows alone must have run into tens of millions) the compensation courtesy of westminister.
    The servicing the security forces, the wages from all those UDR and RUC.
    The international fund for Ireland,
    The EU fund for Ireland.
    And more than a few other sources.
    And before you go off on one im not saying the troubles was either good or nessacarry just pointing out a fact.
    Also you seem to be completly unaware that Unionists blew up a few things themselves and a lot of money was spent handling the regular street violence from unionists.
    As a matter of fact the Fleggers cost us a few million and how much did Twaddell cost , tens of millions.

  • grumpy oul man

    Really how, please explain!

  • Alan N/Ards

    The Tricolour ( in my eyes) would have made the ideal flag if the island had remained as one, in 1921/22. I appreciate the symbolism of it and can understand why you have a fondness for it. But the symbolism of the flag was lost when articles 2/3 were put in to the Irish constitution. Thankfully, they have been amended. The violent campaign of republicans most definitely ended any chance of unionists accepting the symbolism of the flag.

    I have absolutely no problem with the colour green. The NI football team play in the colour and I’m a loyal fan. I also happen to like the colour orange and I come from the orange Irish tradition on the island. Is it possible to design a flag which would incorporate these two colours (but isn’t a tricolour)?

  • grumpy oul man

    Im sure it would be. However the national colour of Ireland is Blue,
    Maybe that might , if not satisfy everybody, not offend anybody to much.
    I’m up for just any reasonable suggestion that might fly.

  • Patrick Jones

    Matt McCarty might read the Life and Times Survey

    Support in NI for a UI is up 3% ….. to just 19%

  • Patrick Jones

    But just 19% want a United Ireland

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Of course I’d be a little ambivalent after Farsetmore:


    But you’ve got to really admire the way Red Hugh O’Donnell out- manoeuvred Feardorcha “Kelly”‘s boy Hugh and set himself up to supersede him as Lord of Ulster. And, come on, it’s the best tune!

  • harmlessdrudge

    A fine post thanks. There are 288,000 British people (from the mainland UK) living in the Republic, including my wife. They haven’t stopped being British. Unionists would have immense influence in a unified polity. The people of the republic would have no difficulty living with those happy to live together, like those already living here, but I doubt there’s much appetite for accommodating violent refuseniks (though they shouldn’t have a veto). Let’s wait and see how things look a few years after brexit.

    As a citizen of the republic I’d be delighted to pay additional taxes to benefit from access to two British institutions we respect greatly: the NHS and the BBC. If we can find ways of allowing people to have either or both of their identities it should work. My kids have both passports and are baffled by tribalism, but then they were educated and reared abroad and regard the world as their oyster. They are in Mrs Mays snarky words “citizens of nowhere”. Or rather, of everywhere. Everywhere that is not a tribal backwater that is.