A Guest post by Sammy McNally
Quite how many people in Northern Ireland would prefer a United Ireland remains open to debate and as the decision on the need for a referendum lies with Theresa Villiers (the Viceroy) and as she currently has no plans to hold one, we are unlikely to find out anytime soon.
In the wake of the review of the (disappointing) census results, when the subject last enjoyed a period of public debate in Northern Ireland, SF took a bit of a beating when they tried to push the case for a referendum, with Unionists gleefully enquiring of SF whether they expected Northern Nationalists to vote for the Southern Health service. Unionists had a point – and SF seem to have retreated quietly in some disarray to re-think their strategy.
The problem for SF was that FF had managed to almost bankrupt the Southern state with gombeenery, trousering, planning abuse and the encouragement of reckless speculation to the extent that one Irish Trade Unionist was moved to remark – that the Irish government had caused more economic damage than had been done by the British Government over hundreds of years. Nor could you anyway (at that point) have sold the case for land expansion to the electorate of the South who were being force fed austerity much worse than the Tory austerity being digesting by their fellow countrymen just across the border.
Britain remains the 5th (IMF 2014 Wiki) richest country in the world and if we wish to make the case for re-claiming the 4th Green Field we need to fight that battle on terrain that suits us – and that does not include trying to suggest Northern Nationalists would be better off economically in a United Ireland. Something that may, or perhaps more likely, may not, be the case.
The terrain that suits us better is clear however when we look across the Irish Sea at the current election campaign underway in Britain and there we can see where the true strength of the case for Irish Unity lies.
There are of course many values that bind Britain and Ireland together but in many other respects we simply see the world differently – and this is particularly clearly illustrated when it comes to matters concerning foreign policy and membership of the EU. We can also see the case for a united Ireland very clearly when we look at potential British coalition governments lining up Ulster unionist coalition partners (the DUP).A coalition that would not be in the best interests of good Ulster community relations or political stability in Ireland.
In the election campaign, the post military intervention shambles that is Libya, has raised its head, as thousands from Libya and neighbouring countries use the country as a departure point for their hazardous escape to Europe.
Mr Farage, who opposed military intervention, is supported (hypocritically) by Mr Miliband who favoured intervention in (correctly) pointing the finger at Mr Cameron for being at least partly responsible for the unfolding humanitarian crisis. (You have got to be concerned when Mr Farage appears to be Mr Reasonable on matters of British foreign affairs.)
As the British people worry over young muslims departing to fight for ISIS and worry more about them returning to wreak havoc and mayhem on the streets of Britain, very few seem to want to see the link between their foreign policy and the threat from within. A threat which ex MI5 boss Stella Rimington reminded Tony Blair of
“So I think you can’t write the war in Iraq out of history. If what we’re looking at is groups of disaffected young men born in this country who turn to terrorism, then I think to ignore the effect of the war in Iraq is misleading.”
I suspect MI5 have been told that such utterances were both unhelpful and embarrassing by Cameron, but these are cautionary words that still hadn’t been taken on board by the British PM when he was seeking support for military intervention in Syria – and we can only imagine how much more dangerous Britain and elsewhere would be if ISIS had been given a (further) leg up in Syria as well as Iraq and Libya.
The British have been involved with a series of campaigns that might be generously described as not in the best interests of world peace. Campaigns begun under Blair and continued under Cameron, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and (covertly) Syria. These campaigns could not be described as consistent with Ireland’s policy of neutrality but (insultingly) they do so with so-called ‘Irish’ regiments and with the involvement of Green Field Number 4. (Surely it is time for the Irish government to formally request the renaming of these regiments.)
This is not to suggest that we debate the issue solely in terms of Perfidious Albion versus Immaculata Hibernia but rather to highlight the difference in values between our two countries – values that have been moulded by the different experiences of sitting on either side of the colonial divide for centuries.
Back in January, the DUP accused Ms Villiers of breaking her word on the setting up of a parade ‘panel’ which the DUP believed would be of assistance to Orange Order. This is the same DUP that a Tory Government might find itself reliant on to keep itself in power.
Of course the DUP have made (some of) their demands for support of any future government public, but anyone with a modicum of understanding of Ulster politics will know that privately it will be made clear to Davey Cameron that the ‘panel’ (or other mechanism) to review the controversial parade will now be required. We can also be sure that such a (DUP inspired) ‘panel’ will decide that Orangemen will get their way to complete their parade in North Belfast. It is difficult to think of a more inflammable scenario, not only will ‘loyalists’ be delighted but the various Republican ‘dissers’ groups may well have their recruitment officers working overtime to deal with the surge in applications as the ‘Orange card’ is replayed by a Tory government.
If anyone thinks the British government is not stupid enough to risk upsetting the political stability in Ireland, just take a look at what is happening in Iraq or at the boats struggling to cross the Mediterranean.
Of course none of these Irish concerns have even entered the political debate in Britain(so far), nor have any concerns regarding the implications of Britain leaving the EU and taking Green Field Number 4 with it, nor have the implications of “protecting UK borders”, as the DUP puts it, in its election manifesto. (Any border posts springing up as a result of Britain’s exit from the EU, may well need some sort of “protection” for her Majesty’s staff and as history tells us that type of imposition does not does not tend to go down well with the locals in border areas.)
The British of course will put the interests of their country first and so should we in Ireland by pushing the case for a United country, not only for cultural and social reasons but also to avoid Ulster’s involvement in dangerous British political horse-trading and because, whatever the right and wrongs of British attitudes to the EU and military intervention, the views the British hold on these matters are markedly different from our own.