Brexit and Irish unity January 11, 2017Posted 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?