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Brexit and Irish unity January 11, 2017

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Elaine Byrne, writing in the SBP at the weekend muses about the potential under Brexit for unity. Of this state with the North. And she points to Enda Kenny’s comments last year that mechanisms should be put in place to ease NI if it joins the Republic into the EU.

And she makes a few good points about the detachment of Northern Ireland politics from the Republic, for example the lack of focus or interest in Arlene Foster becoming leader of the DUP, and how partition is as much psychological as it is physical. That’s seems to be true today. But as she notes ‘Brexit is an all-island issue’.

The vote in the North at the referendum was compelling. 56% against leaving the EU. And she wonders whether…

A united island is imaginable whereby the North could continue with its devolved institutions within a federal context. This would preserve the North’s membership of the EU and keep the Irish border open.

She looks at the DDR/FRG situation in the late 1980s and early 1990s and draws some parallels – not least that unity ‘did not occur because of a swell of mobilised mass opinion’ but rather that it was pushed by leaderships.

But while the East German example she offers is interesting it has to be noted that even if reunification sentiment wasn’t hugely strong in the DDR, nor was there a bloc of any size adamantly hostile to it. And that is the key difference. Irish reunification (or unification more precisely) needs to accommodate the reality of a community with a national identity that is at odds with the very concept of unity.

None of which is to say that this new found enthusiasm is unwelcome but as a Republican it strikes me that whatever mechanisms are discussed and whatever structures might (stress on ‘might’) emerge those East/West links are going to abide for quite some time to come. Is it possible to envisage a confederal Ireland with the north-east having strong links to the UK? I don’t think that’s beyond the bounds of possibility. But getting there from here, even with Brexit?


1. deiseach - January 11, 2017

Paging Philippa Column, paging Philippa Column . . . seriously, this kind of article is daft. Amidst all the fantastical reasons for voting for Brexit, such as hostility towards immigration being highest where immigration was lowest, the desire for Ulster Unionism for Brexit because it pissed the Taigs off must rank as the worst by some distance. Watching Arlene Foster and company gloat at a situation which will, at best, impose great inconvenience on anyone in Northern Ireland planning to interact with the South and, at worst, will turn everyone in NI into a second-class citizen in the UK as Soviet-style internal borders are imposed, was a sickening sight. Elaine Byrne and her ilk need to realise that the vast majority of Unionists are not going to be reasonable about this. And in case that seems too harsh, imagine if it could have been demonstrated in the aftermath of the economic implosion that we would have been better off rejoining the Union. It wouldn’t matter because it would be something that we could not countenance as a nation. Why do we think Unionists are more malleable on the subject despite all evidence telling us that they are far less malleable?


2. Michael Carley - January 11, 2017

Vince Cable, in passing, wrote this:

The permeability of the Irish border must lead to a united Ireland in Europe.



3. Gerryboy - January 11, 2017

Ethnicity is built into the human psyche since time immemorial. Unionists feel ethnically British and Irish nationalists feel that they are part of the Irish nation. Northern Ireland has the Ulster British and the Ulster Irish. The GFA acknowledges that and the amended Articles 2 and 3 of Bunreacht na hEireann say that unification of the two parts of Ireland can only happen by peaceful means and by a majority vote in Northern Ireland. On the other hand, ethnic identity can be magnified by politics, and can verge on racialism. The independent states of Africa that came into existence from the 1960s have had to deal with the tension of ethnic differences and national unity – sadly by civil war and ethnic suppression in several instances. In Europe we have ethnicity largely but not exclusively defined by language. Belgium with its festering uneasy relations between Flemings and Walloons is an example at the heart of the EU. Look at how Tito’s meticulously constructed federal Yugoslavia with three autonomous regions was savagely torn asunder when Milosevic of Serbia began beating the tribal drum. Look at Catalonia and the Basques in Spain.
Tragic Ireland is not a unique political and social experience.


FergusD - January 11, 2017

Taking up the above points there is an interesting take of Brexit on this blog which argues many voted Brexit, at least in part, for “identity” reasons. This would apply to NI Unionists I would think as it is hard to imagine they were concerned about immigration or felt they would benefit economically from leaving the EU.



4. roddy - January 11, 2017

Unionists were certainly voting on immigration.They are vastly more hostile to immigrants than any other sector of Irish society.People in mixed workplaces were telling me that unionist co workers were boasting that “we will be free of foreigners come referendum day”.


5. An Sionnach Fionn - January 11, 2017

I got into the confederated/federated Ireland argument recently with some “Éire Nua” advocates. It was clear from the discussion that even the Éire Nua supporters are confused about what is exactly meant by “confederation” or “federation”. A lot of RSF or Saoradh folk are actually talking about devolution or regionalism, not political union between two equal and autonomous states to form a greater whole. I certainly wouldn’t see reunification in those terms, and a 32 Cos. Ireland adopting some form of stereotypical confederation/federation would be a nation on the brink of continuous crisis. A green and orange Belgium.

Unionist parties would almost certainly use con-/federation to drive an administrative wedge between “north” and “south”, a type of backdoor partition with UDI as the ultimate goal.

Washington or London might go to war to maintain the territorial integrity of the nation but Dublin was faced with that test in 1921 and failed miserably thanks to Griffith, Collins and company. Nothing has happened in the decades since then to convince me that twenty years into a confederated Ireland that a Taoiseach would lift a hand to stop “Northern Ireland” declaring independence and heading off into a bloody and turbulent sunset.

And then we’re back to races.

A type of reverse Good Friday Agreement, power-sharing in a north-eastern region with local autonomy, and east-west links, within a 32 Cos. state seems the most likely outcome by far, perhaps in perpetuity. Anything too elaborate or partition-lite carries inherent instability.


6. CL - January 11, 2017

-Speaking to The Independent, Ms Long said: “There is a growing perception in Northern Ireland that the potential usefulness of DUP votes in Westminster to advance Brexit may be compromising the UK Government’s willingness to challenge the DUP and ability to act as honest broker and impartial guardians of the Good Friday Agreement.”-


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