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So what does Dublin want? January 24, 2019

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.

Mick Fealty on Slugger linked to this useful analysis of Irish government priorities in relation to Brexit. It’s a piece by Mary C. Murphy of UCC and she outlines some basic aspects of the situation that skewer any notions about the ROI being hell-bent on territorial expansion through the mechanism of Brexit.

Mick rightly quotes these lines as being crucial in the piece:

There are no policy documents, no public consultations, no Dáil debates, no civil society movements and no media sources actively agitating for a united Ireland. Notably, there is also a reluctance among Irish political parties to enter a coalition government (or a confidence and supply arrangement) with Sinn Féin, the party most wedded to future Irish unity.

And she notes:

The priority issue for the Irish government is navigating Brexit in a manner which protects Irish economic interests, the peace process and the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement. There is unwavering commitment to the terms and spirit of the Agreement which includes provision for Irish unity by consent only. There is little appetite among the main Irish political parties for a discussion of Irish unity at this time, and perhaps more significantly, in the longer-term, there is no inevitability about the outcome of any such referendum in the Republic of Ireland. A recent RTÉ/BBC poll demonstrated that although 62 per cent of Northern Ireland voters perceive that Brexit increases the likelihood of a united Ireland, just 35 per cent of Irish voters feel likewise.

But there’s this too:

For Northern Ireland unionists however, it is not the Irish government’s stated position which is problematic, rather it is more often than not, the manner in which that position is framed. When Foreign Minister Simon Coveney talks about achieving a united Ireland ‘in my political lifetime’, this is met with alarm by a unionist community which has long felt vulnerable and besieged. Unionists were similarly dismayed when Taoiseach Leo Varadkar promised nationalists in Northern Ireland that ‘You will never again be left behind by an Irish government’. The unionist response to these pronouncements is to question the motivations of the Irish government, and to perceive a link between the aspiration for Irish unity and the Irish government’s policy on Brexit. In reality however, there is little evidence to suggest that the Irish government is angling to achieve Irish unity via Brexit.

For unionists to complain about ROI Ministers being Irish nationalists (and republicans) is to complain about water being wet. It is the definition of a Minister in the ROI being an Irish nationalist, even if that is limited in perspective to 26 counties (as has seemed to be the case at times) rather than a broader vision. And it is entirely legitimate for any Irish Minister to have that aspiration and indeed to express it without the expectation that unionism would complain about it. It’s as absurd as us being appalled at Arlene Foster expressing her attachment to the union. She is an unionist, that is her political orientation.

Indeed I would argue it was entirely necessary for Varadkar and Coveney to express the sentiments they did precisely because northern nationalism has been to some extent left exposed by the relationship between the DUP and the Tories. There’s a broader argument that not merely is it correct for ROI Ministers to say this at this point (for the point just made re the DUP/Tory lashup) because it is correct and there is a responsibility and duty of care but that it is a stabilising force allowing northern nationalism the comfort of knowing that at all times there is state actor which will support and assist them within the context of legitimate political activity and the GFA/BA.

It is also entirely legitimate for this state to prioritise its engagement. At this point it would be an absurdity to push for unity given the manner in which Brexit soaks up bandwidth – indeed I cannot imagine how that could be done (and again her point as regards the lack of any forces making that effort other than Sinn Féin – and let’s keep in mind that it is entirely legitimate for them to prioritise what they think is most important as well – is well made). This isn’t to say that that is not a legitimate aspiration, and it is possible that events will unwind in such a way as to make that more rather than less likely, or to offer a shorter rather than a longer path to unity. But this is nebulous stuff at this point. There are issues of over-riding concern as regards the nature of the border and the relationships on this island and the relationships with the island to the east that have to take precedence. The very fact that this is what the ROI is engage in should, logically, underscore the reality that a United Ireland is nowhere near the agenda.

And it hardly takes a cynic to suspect that this issue has been weaponised by political unionism, though tellingly not economic, business and farming unionism, in order to further their own ends. Whatever else the DUP is not an assembly of foolish people, however one may disagree with their approaches. They know full well what is being said, what it means and what the actual position of Dublin is. That the complaints are expedient, and self-serving, does not make them somehow more legitimate and it is crucial to treat them as the nonsense that they are so that engagement with the very real issues is possible.


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