Uniting our Shared Island by Professor Colin Harvey…

The discussion of Irish unity is gaining momentum; Brexit has altered the nature of this conversation, as more people now reflect on the constitutional future.  The debate is already happening, and has been ongoing for some time. That does not mean Irish unity is any closer; it simply suggests a willingness to contemplate this option and to think through the implications. Work by, for example, Claire Mitchell, Andrée Murphy, Paul Gosling, Fintan O’Toole, David McWilliams, Mark Daly, Richard Humphreys, and … Read more

Why Include Ulster Protestants in a New Ireland?

This week, we’re featuring submissions from readers on the theme of ‘Future Ireland: Alternative Conversations about Unity and the Union’. Competition winners will be published on Saturday. By Dilcy, a nationalist living in Belfast. Why Include Ulster Protestants in a New Ireland? Answer 1 They’re here already and may as well stay. Answer 2 We say stay, but we really hope they will eventually leave. Answer 3 They are really Irish anyway. Answer 4 We really need their help to … Read more

Future Ireland / Economic Inequality: An emerging challenge for a New Ireland

In October last year, I attended a keynote speech delivered by President of Ireland Michael D Higgins to a packed auditorium at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. The speech was anchored around Michael Davitt’s 1896 visit to New Zealand, a visit where Davitt was impressed by the then Crown Colony’s progressive policies on land, tax, pensions and the economy. Subsequently, the founder of the Irish National Land League brought a number of these innovative ideas back to Ireland, to … Read more

Join us for a live event – Is a New Ireland achievable or even desirable? Tuesday the 26th of June 2018…

Since 2016 there has been renewed interest in the debate about Northern Ireland’s constitutional future.  As a community is our future better within the United Kingdom or charting a new course in a United Ireland?  Two very different paths sit in front of us and our panel of political experts and politicians aims to tease out the key issues that are central to this debate. Hosted by Slugger O’Toole in partnership with Evolve CPA Panellists;  Alex Kane – political commentator Allison … Read more

John McCallister says Sinn Fein already have a “new Ireland” while Gerry Adams calls for “an entirely new dispensation”

By coincidence, while John McCallister didn’t have the opportunity to speak at the UUP conference today, he did get an invite to address Sinn Fein’s Towards a New Ireland – A new phase of the peace process conference in London this afternoon. He started a little apologetically … If my comments at any time seem unduly harsh or perhaps unfair, be assured that such is not my intention. I am here in good faith to promote political dialogue and debate … Read more

Ignoring the small issue of a border poll, what might a new united Ireland be like?

(This should have appeared early on Friday morning – until the gremlins got in the way.)

Last week, before the release of the BBC NI Spotlight poll, I talked to a local MLA about the concept of a new Ireland. Over the last few months there has been an increasing level of chatter analysing the mechanics of calling a border poll and interpreting census results.

Curiosity got the better of me and I decided to delve under the instinctive longing and loathing that is so often associated with the notion of a united Ireland to explore what the new state might look like if the conditions could ever be met to have a poll.

Much – though not all – of the commentary comes back to promoting a nationalist ideal of an El Dorado paradise or declaring the unionist nightmare of forcibly cutting ties to the British monarch.

Intellectually it’s a lot more interesting to get beyond the emotion and wonder … What if? What might be the shape of this potential state? How might the population in the north east corner relate to those in the south west? What governance arrangements might be put in place, or indeed left in place? What parts of Northern Ireland’s public sector and civil society would survive, or even thrive? How would the six counties integrate with the twenty six?

And while a poll may be a distant prospect, grasping the Presbyterian principle of ‘not refusing light from any quarter’ I wondered whether a Northern Ireland that is still settled in the Union had anything to learn from new Ireland thinking.

I’d heard Conall McDevitt, SDLP MLA for South Belfast, talking about the importance of region at an election event a couple of years ago, so I met up with him last week to pick his brains. We talked about identity, economy and his opinion of Sinn Féin’s “flag-waving” activity around the border poll. But first I asked about his vision of a united Ireland.

I think one of the great issues with the debate around the a border poll and in fact one of the great issues within both Irish unionism and Irish nationalism is that we have an awful habit of wanting to either remain in the union or to be in a united Ireland. But if we’re honest with ourselves we haven’t done a huge amount of work in trying to work through what that would look like (if you’re thinking about a united Ireland) or to consider the practical issues around it. How would you pay for it? What system of government might be best? Would it be a unitary state? Or would you have a federal Ireland?

Read moreIgnoring the small issue of a border poll, what might a new united Ireland be like?