Irish unity and a disintegrating UK?
Letter in the Irish Times
The Irish Times kindly published the following letter from me:
Thank you for publishing the opinion piece by Kevin Meaghar about the reunification of Ireland (“Why reunified Ireland offers best outcome for North’s future”, Opinion & Analysis, December 28th).
His statements tell the truth plainly – the demographics are changing in the North, the British public really does not know much and cares less about Northern Ireland and Ireland in general, and the economics of unity in Ireland make sense.
I am particularly happy to see that he referred to a deafening silence in the Republic about the unification of Ireland.
It is to the eternal shame of Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Labour Party that they did not organise themselves on a 32-county basis as this would have allowed the discrimination in the North to have been addressed earlier and better.
By ignoring northern nationalists, they allowed injustices to continue and left the field open to believers in armed force to set the agenda. These parties condemned the IRA and other organisations for their activities but did not step up to offer leadership on the issue.
The freedom and unification of Ireland is unlike other political issues, such as a better health system or public transport. Why was it acceptable for Irish people in Monaghan to be citizens of an independent Irish state but it was not acceptable for Irish people in Armagh or Fermanagh? What was the difference between the people in these neighbouring counties?
The hypocrisy of supporting independence for Irish people in some counties but not in others meant that these parties lacked integrity when claiming to be nationalist. Hopefully the same mistakes will not be made now.
Difficult decisions need to be made by the next generation of Irish people. The so-called United Kingdom is slowly but surely breaking up and this will impact Ireland hugely. This will accelerate the movement to Irish unification.
Political parties in government and in opposition, as well as the public service, need to start thinking about how to deal with the changes that will happen.
As a nation we will need to ask questions about our national identity, what it means to be Irish, what our national symbols are and what constitution will we need for the changed situation.
It is not often that we hear of a federal constitution for Ireland but now is a good time to start imagining it. All political parties need to think of a federal constitution for Ireland if we are to have a viable united Ireland and avoid mistakes of the past.
I look forward to these debates and to more articles on this topic from your newspaper.
SEANÁN Ó COISTÍN,
This hastened a response from another reader:
Talk of UK disintegration is fanciful
The suggestion by Seanã?án Ã“Ó Coistã?ín that the UK is disintegrating is fanciful to say the least (January 2nd).
On the same day his letter was published, the latest opinion poll on Scottish independence, by BMG, was released. It found that despite the Brexit vote, support for independence, at 45.5 per cent, was running at the same level as the 2014 referendum, with a clear majority of 54.4 per cent opposed to a separation. And an even larger majority was against the idea of a second Scottish referendum being held this year. Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon knows full well that she would lose a second referendum, which is why she has now concocted the even more ludicrous idea of Scotland somehow remaining in the European single market should the UK leave. At some stage even she will have to accept that no means no, unless she can convince a majority of Scots otherwise.
The trend for Scottish freedom is clear
I feel that it is too early yet to claim that Scottish independence is dead. When the negotiations for the exit of the UK from the European Union begin and British people begin to know what it is in store for them, then they will know what their future is going to be like and Scottish people may decide that they need to be an independent state so that they can be closer to the EU or a member state. The evidence for Scottish freedom is clear – firstly there was the 1997 referendum to re-establish the Scottish Parliament. In 2007, the Scottish National Party won the election and formed the Scottish government. In 2011, the Scottish National Party trumped the system and won an overall majority in the Scottish Parliament, deliberately set up so that no party could win an overall majority. In 2014, there was the close run Scottish independence referendum. The result was 55% for remaining in the UK. Such numbers are not overwhelming so it is unwise to claim that the desire for independence is dead. In 2015, the Scottish National Party won 56 out of 59 seats in Scotland in the British general election. In the Brexit referendum in 2016, not one region of Scotland voted to leave the EU. It is clear that Scotland is moving in a different direction to the rest of the UK. Time will tell where this direction brings them to.
On a different note, it is interesting to see that my name is now spelled Seanã?án Ã“Ó Coistã?ín.