Real mistake to think Brexit is main factor driving interest in united Ireland
So Alex Kane in his article – ‘Sinn Fein know there is nothing certain about a united Ireland’ (September 21) – believed the sixty something man who chuckled to him, ‘One thing is sure, Mr Kane, if we don’t get Irish unity when the odds seem so much in our favour, then it’ll be another generation before an opportunity as good as this one comes along’ with him was necessarily being serious, taking the aside hopefully to heart as meaning that should a united Ireland not materialise in the post-Brexit period then that, as unionists openly hope, would be that for a long, long time.
But I and many others raised in Ireland spent our youth among such men: uncles, parent’s friends and so on, and such pointed jokes that were in fact digs at the listener were their stock in trade. It’s a peculiarly Irish gently teasing humour, often designed to make the listener feel that they had heard what they’d been hoping for, when in fact the speaker had meant the exact opposite. It’s called being ‘wound up’.
But leaving that to one side, Mr Kane’s real mistake, along with many other unionist commentators’, is to believe that this period of Brexit negotiation and withdrawal is the main factor driving interest in a united Ireland, more important than any other like demography, human rights issues etc, when in fact it is only one thing pointing the way towards a united Ireland among many.
On Brexit itself there are three things. One: it is not a discrete event; Brexit is the ‘gift’ that will keep on giving in Northern Ireland – short of a vote to re-enter the EU – for the next 100 years, and those ongoing effects will, contrary to unionist thinking of, ‘it will all settle down once we’re out’, continue to impact on living standards, business etcetera here for a long time. Two: the majority of people in Northern Ireland wished to remain in the EU and can view its positive effects across the border at close proximity. And three: the behaviour of Westminster politicians over the past two years and the manner in which they have discussed Ireland and the border, has shown any that held any doubts in the matter that the rest of the United Kingdom doesn’t care about or understand Northern Ireland and is cavalier about its people’s needs. Add in the opposite approach from the Republic whose politicians seem to care more about Northern Ireland than its own, changing demography giving an increasingly Catholic, large and small ‘n’ nationalist population, likely to be in the majority within 10 years, and the drive for a united Ireland will not only occur now but gain even more momentum in decades to come, should the first border poll not give success. If you have any doubts on the matter, the vote for Scottish Independence is likely to be held again soon, such is the growth in nationalism there backed by the majority of the population’s desire to remain in the EU, and all the signs are pointing to them continuing the drive for independence until they succeed.
Ensure positive outcome in presidential referendum
It is welcome news that the Irish government have announced their intention to hold a referendum next May on extending the franchise in presidential elections to citizens in the north and amongst our global diaspora.
This is an issue I have consistently majored on since being elected to the Seanad in 2016.
The referendum is of course by no means won and I would encourage politicians of all shades, civic society, all-Ireland organisations and local community and voluntary groups, as well as individuals themselves, to think about how they can ensure a positive outcome that results in citizens in the north and our family, friends and neighbours scattered among the global diaspora, being treated equitably and afforded the most basic entitlements any citizen – the right to vote.
Uachtarán na hÉireann is an office for the people, it is the position of ‘First Citizen’, therefore it is passed time all of our citizens were able to engage in this most important democratic expression in Irish life; this is precisely what the Constitutional Convention voted in favour of in 2014.
In a modern and changing Ireland we must ensure we continue to stand for equality, for progress, for the rights and entitlements of all of our people, that includes those of us who have been left behind for far too long, unable to be full and equal participants in the democratic life of our society.
The ability to elect the president would be but one step, albeit it a significant one, in the ongoing and exciting journey towards an Ireland which cherishes all of her children equally.
Next May it is hoped that the people of the south will have an unprecedented and wonderful opportunity to do something truly transformative for their fellow citizens. I have every confidence they will approach this vote with the same joy, vigour, determination and understanding of other recent referenda.
SEANADÓIR NIALL Ó DONNGHAILE
Béal Feirste Thoir
Dismantling the union
Theresa May recently quoted in the Sunday Times “as a proud unionist and prime minister of the whole of the United Kingdom I am clear that any deal with the EU must protect our precious union and also honour the agreements that were reached in the historic Northern Irish peace process”. Fine words, but beware of the Ides of March. Are we to believe that the British government will provide absolute protection for the six counties? Currently with the present Brexit crisis Westminster is in total disarray and capable of doing anything including arrangements to jettison the six counties. The Irish government could assist them by undertaking a process of accommodation for a new Ireland that would enable the UK government, under the terms of the GFA, to allow a border poll.
Did the British government care about their Empire following the Second World War, when their domestic economy had been seriously weakened they systematically went about dismantling it? Starting with their jewel in the crown, India, followed with most of their colonies ruling themselves by the late 1960s. The legacy of which was the large influx of migrants, an issue which is at the heart of Brexit in taking back their borders.
The foreword of Theresa May in the White Paper, The future relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union, she wrote, so together we must now get on and deliver it. Would that involve dismantling the union?
JAMES G BARRY
UU should locate PAM course at Magee
Derry and Donegal school leavers will now be applying for October 2019 UU entry.
Hundreds of these students will be applying for UU PAM courses yet UU have not located a single PAM degree course at Magee.
A PAM is a professional allied to medicine. PAM graduate job examples are: dietician/nutritionists; physiotherapists; radiographers; speech and language therapists; podiatrists (formerly chiropodists).
Derry’s five MLAs, Elisha McCallion MP and mayor John Boyle should therefore work to persuade UU to locate at least one PAM degree course at Magee. All Derry head teachers should do so too.
Donegal TDs and head teachers must also put in the effort to get a PAM course into Magee as many Donegal leavers apply for UU PAM courses.
I suggest they all aim at persuading UU to target a first Magee PAM graduate intake for October 2020.
A PAM degree at Magee would also of course be good news for Magee expansion. But above all for Derry, Donegal young folk who want to become PAMs.