October 19th 09
Achieving Irish reunification
This blog travels to Wales on Tuesday – to Swansea – to speak to the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly. I will tell that forum that while Irish republicans want our rights, we do not seek to deny the rights of anyone else. We want justice for all and privilege for none.
I will go on to point out that the Irish question, as it has been described by some over the years, is not simply one for the Irish.
There is not only a democratic requirement on the part of the peoples of Britain to adopt a positive stance on how the Irish question should be finally settled, there is a moral imperative.
The peoples of Britain have a duty to themselves, to unionists in particular, to the Irish in general, and even to the world, to stand up and speak their opinion on the issue of the reunification of Ireland.
I believe that the economic and political dynamics in Ireland today make Irish reunification a realistic and realisable goal in a reasonable period of time.
We have to persuade the British government to change its policy from one of upholding the union to one of becoming a persuader for Irish unity.
This also involves persuading the other political representatives of the peoples of these islands – whether in Scotland or Wales or the North of England or London or the Isle of Man or Guernsey, that their interests are also served by helping the people of Ireland achieve reunification.
There are also common sense economic and social and environmental and health and many other reasons why Irish reunification makes sense over partition.
In reality the border is more than just an inconvenience.
It is an obstacle to progress and while its adverse affects are most clearly felt in the communities that straddle the border, it also impacts negatively throughout the island.
The reality is that the economy of the North is too small to exist in isolation.
The economies of both parts of the island are interlinked and interdependent.
The delivery of public services is restricted and inefficient.
There are two competing industrial development bodies seeking inward investment, with no coordination in supporting local industries.
We have two arts councils and two sports councils and three tourists’ bodies.
This is not efficient.
There are some who suggest that because we live in a period of severe economic difficulty that Irish reunification should be put off for the foreseeable future.
In fact the opposite is the case.
There is now a need, more than ever, for the island economy to be brought into being in the fullest sense, and for the political and administrative structures to be instituted with that in mind.
Many in the business community, north and south, already recognise this fact.
And all the indications are that the European Union also understands how the needs of Ireland can best be met by treating it as an island rather than as two entities on an island.
Geography does not necessarily determine politics, but neither can it be ignored in assessing what is the most effective approach to meeting the challenges of economic development and satisfying the needs of communities.
The Good Friday agreement is an opportunity to develop understanding and to advocate rationally, the benefits of Irish reunification.
The institutional elements of the Good Friday Agreement and of St. Andrews are therefore important mechanisms to be built upon.