Thursday, January 05, 2006


Thursday Thoughts: Optimism

Integral parts of Ireland"We have always found the Irish a bit odd. They refuse to be English." - Winston Churchill

I am optimistic about the chances of a United Ireland.

Some might view this as merely a side effect of the overall air of optimism that tends to be generated at this time of year. That's not it though. In my honest opinion, if you are a supporter of a United Ireland, there is plenty to be hopeful about for Ireland and plenty of things to look forward to in the future.

Let's look at some of the things that have made the reunification of the country so difficult. Paramilitary violence, economics, identity. These three major problems have prevented the greatest day in Ireland's history taking place. But there's no need to be so cynical about these three factors any more.

Regarding the political situation, things have improved dramatically. This month the Independent Monitoring Commission is expected to confirm that the IRA have been true to their word and that they have renounced their illegal activity. Compare this with a decade ago and it's a great improvement. Compare it with thirty years ago and it is extraordinary. Paramilitaries are still a threat but not to the extent that they once were. These groups made sure that Irish Unity would be very difficult if not impossible but slowly and surely they are being taken out of the political equation.

A United Ireland is coming
The evil that is partition will soon end

Economics made the prospect of Irish Unity difficult as well. In the past the Irish Republic struggled to establish itself as an economic force and there was a history of emigration associated with the country. Unionists took a look at the impoverished south and regarded the idea of Irish Unity as the stuff of fantasy. Yet things have changed dramatically. The Republic has made itself an economic force and since the Celtic Tiger, the economy has generally been in very good condition. Again, this gives us hope because recently economists have started to realistically discuss the idea of a United Ireland. Who would have thought twenty or thirty years ago that a British Secretary of State would describe the NI economy as 'unsustainable' in the long term and advocate an all-Ireland economy? It is cause for much optimism.

In terms of identity, there is definitely still a problem but things are clearly improving. The Good Friday Agreement proved that people in Ireland can agree on issues which affect identity. The illegal claim on the territory of the 6 counties has been altered and people from the North can still regard themselves as members of the Irish nation under Bunreacht na hEireann. There are still problems though. The two main unionist parties spend most of their time trying to outdo one another on which one is more British whereas likewise the two main nationalist parties try to outdo one another on which one is more Irish. There is little or no consideration given to the 'other side' and that is a big problem. Many Republicans term attempts to unify Ireland as 'The struggle' but the real struggle in my opinion involves coming to terms with the other tradition and establishing a compromise which doesn't see any side losing out to the other. That is the challenge but it is a challenge I think we can all meet.

The noble quest to right the wrong of partition is going well. The Irish state aspires to Irish Unity and it would appear the British state and people share that aspiration. What northern nationalists need to do is work with unionists within NI. This is important for the prospects of Irish Unity. If a certain unionist party is determined to halt political progress, even if it means bringing discomfort to the people of the North, then that is something unionists have to take a good long hard look at.

There are many efforts that can still be made to advance progress. The people of the North should be allowed to vote in Irish Presidential elections, the British Queen should finally make her first state visit to the Irish Republic, an all-Ireland police force should be considered, an all-Ireland economy should be advocated as well. More radical steps should not be ruled out such as Ireland rejoining the Commonwealth, particularly if it can allow for British citizenship in the Republic which would be a good step on the road to Irish Unity in my view.

All in all, things are looking good. The greatest day in Ireland's history hasn't happened yet and we must all strive towards making sure that this day comes sooner rather than later. The day when the 32 counties of Ireland are officially united as a country once more. A day that will be ten times as emotional and joyous as the fall of the Berlin wall.

Winston Churchill was right. We're not English and we never will be English. We're Irish. Some of us might want to prefix that Irishness with the word 'British', or 'Northern', and that's fine.

The important thing is that we all unite together as compatriots and give the future generations an Ireland to be proud of. One that is free of segregation and division.

One that is united.


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