Adams “A referendum without a plan is stupid”

Something that happened towards the end of week was a blog post written by former Sinn Fein President, Gerry Adams about the issue of having a plan for Irish unification.

In his blog post he says;

This needs planned now. Not after the referendum. That is the one big lesson of Brexit. A referendum without a plan is stupid. So a referendum on unity must be set in a thoughtful inclusive process which sets out a programme of sustainable options. Including phases of transition.

What accommodations are needed to persuade political unionism that a United Ireland can work for it? Key to this is the need for it to be an agreed shared Ireland. What happens to the political institutions established by the Good Friday Agreement?

Winning support for a United Ireland is not just about persuading unionists although that is crucial. Everyone needs to be convinced of the advantages of unity – personal, economic, wages, health provision, environmental, cultural, peace, prosperity.

.There will be a referendum on Irish Unity. I am confident of this. Winning that referendum is the biggest single challenge facing United Irelanders.” 

The SDLP Leader, Colum Eastwood has also said;

Scottish Independence campaigners compiled a 600 page manifesto outlining what health services, schools, the economy and investment would look like in their new Scotland. They built a vibrant coalition across classes, creeds and backgrounds. And even then, they fell just short. Irish Nationalism must learn that lesson. We must now put in the hard yards to persuade our friends and neighbours that their interests are best served in a reconciled and prosperous new Ireland. We must spill our sweat to create that vision.

“No one party can shape that vision of a New Ireland. I have previously proposed the re-establishment of the New Ireland Forum post Brexit to secure a broad investment from all parties. It remains the best way to produce a blueprint for unity.

“Let the conversation that we’re about to have be based on what’s best for people. Let it be a cross-community conversation on a vision for the future that reflects where we are and where we want to be. That’s the challenge that lies ahead.”

I have caught up with the following debates on Nolan and Talkback that occurred on Friday and a few constant themes still seem to be coming up

  1. Lack of cooperation-There doesn’t appear to be any cooperation or any attempt at cooperation on the horizon between the main pro unity forces. This has always been a weakness for the reunification argument, when Unionism feels threatened they close ranks and will work together, but there is no such tradition within Nationalism.
  2. Lack of a forward march-Why did this create some noise? Because whilst this issue is being talked about, the argument hasn’t been moved forward. Listening those debates on the radio, we were still caught up in older issues about keeping Stormont or changing the flag. None of the generated momentum has been used to actually break out of the old boxes and put some new ideas on the table or answer these questions.
  3. Lack of preparation of what this actually means-I was always told what a united Ireland would look like, but as i look around at political reality on this island and watched how Britain has grappled with Brexit, i know that this vision is likely to be dramatically altered. Too many are still caught up about the idea of everything being run from Dublin with no recognition of some of the differences that do exist in the North. There needs to be a degree of expectation management that says unlike Brexit, this won’t lead to ultimate economic nirvana and it will involve changes during a transition period.
  4. Area of agreement- The reestablishment of the New Ireland Forum is an area where both the SDLP and Sinn Fein agree. This was mentioned at the SDLP Conference in 2018 and has since picked up some support, but again little movement from the Irish government. However, it does provide a point of agreement between the SDLP and Sinn Fein.
  5. Role of the Irish government-There is a clear role here for the Irish government, but again the issue is how do you make it relevant to people like Coveney and Varadkar. The irresponsible position is the essential one that does what Cameron did during the referendum and have no planning at all for a potential leave outcome. The Irish government cannot follow a similar approach that means nothing will ever change.

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