Forget Citizen’s Assemblies, productivity gaps, and subventions. The real litmus test for Irish reunification has to involve more than a technocratic plan. It has to include a vision for how a new Ireland will “unite all the people who share the territory of the island of Ireland, in all the diversity of their identities and traditions”.
Copyright on Amhrán na bhFiann lapsed in 2012, which allowed Dunnes Stores, among others, to start printing the lyrics on t-shirts. Kathy Sheridan, in the Irish Times, asks whether we are ready to change our tune:
“National anthems can be wonderful, inspiring, fierce and terrible, often announcing themselves with a bellicose roar, a dose of victimhood, a vow to visit great violence on some enemy and to be no one’s slave. But who do we intend to smite at this stage?”
We know that we can’t expect people to take a view on reunification without a clear plan that describes what will happen politically, economically, and culturally, but there is hardly a better illustration of how unprepared the southern electorate is at present than their reluctance to consider what a new Ireland would mean in practice:
“last year’s IPSOS/MRBI poll for The Irish Times on Irish unity told us three things: just under two-thirds would vote for a united Ireland, four in five would never pay for it, and seven in 10 would have no truck with any new flag or anthem designed to reflect the identity of our newly-welcomed unionist brethren. Repeat: seven in 10 would refuse to yield up Amhrán na bhFiann for the sake of the unity so many of them claim to desire.”
It seems that Brexiteers are not the only cakeists in town. Readers of Slugger O’Toole have debated the merits of retaining devolution for the NHS, PSNI and education, at least for a transitional period. We’ve discussed ongoing east-west cultural links, including the retention of the NI football team, local television programming and perhaps the Crown and President as co-heads of Stormont, yet it’s clear that even the most elementary points have yet to be resolved.
For those of us who identify as Irish nationalists, we must echo Kathy’s question regarding Amhrán na bhFiann: “What are we prepared to sacrifice for unity if not this?”
Éamonn Toland read Modern History and Economics at St. Hugh’s College, Oxford. He is the author of the forthcoming book, The Pursuit of Kindness, From Collaboration to Cruelty and Back Again: An Evolutionary History of Human Nature. He can be reached on Twitter @eamonntoland.
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