We are delighted to give a platform to Enniskillen native Carl Duffy who writes for irishborderpoll.com for the first time.
Some very unhelpful objections are often vocalised whenever there’s talk of a United Ireland. From the lazy and uncritical, ’sure, the South can’t afford us’ to describing Irish reunification as divisive – which goes against the very spirit of the GFA. While many bad faith actors may want the discussion to go away, the fact is this conversation is already taking place. So instead of paying disproportionate attention to the potential challenges of reunification, let’s approach it in a more hopeful tone.
Firstly, a United Ireland can be whatever we want it to be. Presently, those of us in the occupied part of Ireland have many of our key decisions outsourced to Westminster. Even in an optimally functioning devolved Government, things like the block grant would still be determined by London (via the Barnett formula). Why should the likes of Labour or Conservatives – neither of whom have a single elected representative in the six counties- have this much power?
We effectively have little say over who gets elected to the UK Government, as we can only elect 18 MPs when there is 650 in total. To compound how undemocratic this is, the UK also has a ridiculous voting system for electing Governments. With first-past-the-post, one party could theoretically get 49.9% of the votes in each constituency, however if another party gets 50.1% in each then the larger party would get 100% of the seats, while the smaller party with 49.9% wouldn’t yield a single representative. If in a United Ireland we use the same voting system as the ROI then we’d escape the inherently flawed FPTP.
In a United Ireland, people from the North will have much greater electoral agency over who makes the key decisions currently made by the UK Parliament. In this year’s ‘NI’ assembly election we had approximately 1.37m registered voters. In the 2020 Irish general election the largest party (Sinn Féin) received 535,595 votes (≈ 39% of ‘NI’ registered voters) and the smallest party (Greens) in the coalition Government had 155,700 votes (≈ 11% ‘NI’ registered voters). In a New Ireland, we will have a proper democracy where we can have some genuine influence.
Once we’re democratically empowered after Irish reunification I feel we can finally mature politically. As the statelet was a created by a sectarian headcount, it was inevitable our politics would mutate. When the constitutional question is finally put to bed and partition is no more, the identity politics of the North should gradually follow suit too. Instead of ‘Orange and Green’ it is hoped our future political discourse will primarily be centred around the same things any grown up society should be concerned about e.g., economy, healthcare, transport etc…
On a lighter note, how would reunification affect sports? Currently our rugby team is one, but our football team is not. Smaller nations like ourselves and Wales seem to rely on ‘golden generations’ to get into major tournaments. Wales experienced this with likes of Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey, similar to how ROI had Shay Given, Robbie Keane and Damien Duff in 2002. ROI and ‘NI’ both have many difficulties in even qualifying for major tournaments, reducing our talent pool by partitioning our football just makes this even harder.
Lastly, an all-Ireland economy simply makes sense. We’re a small island yet we have two separate healthcare systems, and we acutely experienced the follies of this with our response to the Covid-19 pandemic. In addition to this we also have separate education systems and partition has devastated our rail network. This is incredibly impractical and we should instead be merging the best aspects of these systems into a better whole. The increased cohesion that comes with Irish reunification is predicted to expand our economy by 35billion per year. This figure considerably dwarfs even the frequently exaggerated numbers bandied around for subvention. At the time of partition, the North was the economic powerhouse of the island but is now a basket case that needs propped up. It is time that it realised it’s economic potential whilst also helping the island as a whole.
The partition of Ireland has been an unmitigated disaster. Fifty years of Unionist misrule, followed by the violence euphemistically described as, ’the troubles’ and 24 years of relative peace but with a devolved Government that seldom functions. Ironically, supporters of the Union are currently stopping this institution born out of partition from functioning, while a party that is opposed to the existence of ‘NI’ is willing to make it work.
There are many problems with remaining part of the UK: a revolving door of Prime Ministers that people from the North of Ireland can’t even vote for, a damaged economy and being taken out of the EU against our will. People will often complain about the shambles that is Stormont and Westminster, yet bizarrely some will still not countenance Irish Unity even though this offers an obvious escape.
Irish reunification is not without its challenges, and I’m not arguing that it’ll create a utopian society. Nor am I advocating any particular form of governance be it either capitalist or more socialist leaning. What I am arguing is that I want to live in a mature democracy which gives us the opportunity to choose any type of functioning autonomous government that we want. ‘Northern Ireland’ is a spectacular failure, and anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of proper democracies can see how backwards this part of Ireland is by comparison. I want to see an end to the statelet and along with it the democratic deficit, sectarianism and dysfunctionality. A better Ireland is possible.