Jake O'Kane: There won't be a united Ireland until there is a united Northern Ireland wishing that to happen

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald upon learning she'd been elected following the Irish General Election count last Sunday. Picture by Niall Carson/PA Wire
Jake O'Kane

IMAGINE for one second you opened this paper to read that a 25-year-old man had been found dead in a toilet in Belfast and authorities suspected the cause was the coronavirus. There would be an immediate outcry, calling for those in authority to do everything necessary to protect the public.

Last week, a 25-year-old man did die in a toilet in Belfast. His death was not widely covered in the media, although this paper commendably carried the story on its front page at the weekend. The reason for public indifference is simple: the young man who died was a drug user who is believed to have overdosed.

In November 2019, I wrote in this column about the scourge of heroin addiction and the horrific rise in overdose victims. I suggested the adoption of 'safe consumption rooms' which operate across Europe, which dramatically reduce deaths due to overdose and facilitate opportunities for addicts to enter rehab and recovery.

One other lifesaving aid would be if Naloxone – an effective antidote to opioid overdose – was routinely carried by our emergency services. DUP councillor Guy Spence is leading a campaign for our police to be equipped with this life-saving drug and rightly asks: "If police can carry guns, why can't they carry Naloxone?" I applaud his efforts and pray our new Chief Constable follows the example of police in Wales, who this month began training 12 officers to administer Naloxone via a nasal spray.

Nobody in Northern Ireland in 2020 need die due to overdose – we have the answer.

:: HISTORIC wins by Sinn Féin place them, for the first time, on equal footing with the old establishment parties of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. Their unexpected upsurge gave them 37 seats in the Dail, only one behind Fianna Fáil and ahead of Fine Gael.

Before this election, few would have dreamed Micheál Martin would change his virulent and vocal opposition to any pact with Sinn Féin, which he described as 'a matter of principle'.

Once it became clear Sinn Féin had achieved an historic result and realising that his last chance of becoming Taoiseach lay in a pact with Mary Lou, Martin's language suddenly softened. Even before the final result was announced, the Fianna Fáil leader said that as a democrat, he would have to listen to what the electorate had said. How convenient.

Not that the Sinn Féin leadership will be worried if a pact proves impossible. If forced into another election, they will welcome the opportunity to remedy their uncharacteristic electoral mistake of not standing enough candidates.

However, having moved from a party of protest to a party in power, Sinn Féin's ascendancy may be short-lived if they fall short of their many electoral promises. While Unionists see the result as a threat, the Irish election had nothing to do with partition and everything to do with housing and health. If Sinn Féin mistake their electoral upsurge as indicative of a demand for reunification, then a border poll will quickly disabuse them of that fantasy. There won't be a united Ireland until there is a united Northern Ireland wishing that to happen.

Just as unionists faced the disinterest of the UK regarding their concerns over Brexit, nationalists here will finally have to face a similar level of disinterest towards them in the Republic.

:: PRINCE Andrew turns sixty next Wednesday. Usually an event marked with much celebration, pomp and ceremony, this birthday will occur under the cloud of the Jeffrey Epstein scandal.

Having been sacked by the Queen and relieved of all public duties, Andrew has suffered the added humiliation of having most of his birthday honours cancelled. He won't receive the traditional promotion to Admiral in the Navy and flags on council buildings will not be flown. Westminster Abbey balked at the tide of rebuke and will mark his birthday with their traditional ringing of bells.

Personally, the only bells I'd like Andrew to hear are those atop the police car taking him in for questioning.

:: HAVING managed to thwart those wishing to dethrone him via impeachment, President Trump demonstrated his petty nature by taking immediate revenge and sacking those who'd stood against him.

Proving how thin the skin is under his fake tan, he took offence at a photo on social media seemingly showing a distinct fake tan line on his forehead. Trump tweeted that the image was obviously photoshopped and 'fake news', but the truth is that the real fake is Trump – and that tan.

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