I have had an unpleasant epiphany. It came to me like a skin condition creeping for a few months.
I’ve realised that, because it is so painful and pathetic, I cannot enjoy unionism’s destruction of their own union. I thought it would be more fun.
The utterances of those creating the political environment which makes a united Ireland a real possibility, are so depressing that those of us who are hoping for a self-determined future are getting a glimpse of the task ahead for rebuilding lasting relationships on a safe, confident, independent island. And it’s not a good view.
I’ve realised what I don’t want. A new country built on humiliating failure. I don’t want the new Ireland to exist with extreme fissures between its people, pretending everything is OK when it clearly isn’t. That has not worked in any form since partition. We need to invest in our present and future relationships is our united Ireland is to gain the confidence of all her people. Currently the space for that is diminishing.Those of us who want a new Ireland have a responsibility to fix that.
One way or another what is happening has changed what our future looks like. Irish citizens’ standing in this part of Ireland was already being challenged in an unprecedented way following the collapse of the Assembly because of its failure to recognise equality of all citizens. The Brexit debate has laid bare the realities and lack of protections of citizens’ rights in a way which must change future arrangements, backstop or no backstop. And that changes the dynamic and environment.
Queen Arlene of the Fostered Fermanagh wrote an instructive piece where she advised Theresa May: “She (May) should learn from… Margaret Thatcher. Despite her unionist convictions, others persuaded Thatcher to sign the Anglo-Irish Agreement. She later deeply regretted the choice she had made.” Unionist objections to the Anglo-Irish Agreement were on the grounds of formal Irish involvement in the North. The tangible yet unexpressed objection to the Backstop for the DUP is of course the realisation that Irish citizens and the Irish government will be asserting their rights in a lived and cohesive fashion which changes unionism’s and Britain’s influence on their idea of what Northern Ireland plc should look like. And that sticks in their craw so much that any prospect of economic benefit or long-term strategic interest doesn’t interest them. Which is strange considering how much the DUP love an economic benefit.
The fact that Unionism will not even countenance that the backstop arrangement that could very well be the only way their precious union is preserved in the long term, is akin to when a child is squealing so much for a toy, that when the toy is handed to them they throw the toy away in a temper.
Perpetual temper tantrums challenge relationships. However, come what may there will have to be a rebuilding. Beyondthis Brexit fiasco we need to remember our peace is precious.We must build positive spaces where we talk to each other not at each other. Irish, British or both, Backstopped or not, at this time of change we all have responsibility for ensuring that we invest in our peaceful, respectful relationships. Particularly if we think that it is leading to a new Ireland.