Caring about sharing is the way to build a consensus for unity - Tom Kelly

Politics, like soccer, is a funny old game

Tom Kelly

Tom Kelly

Tom Kelly is an Irish News columnist with a background in politics and public relations. He is also a former member of the Policing Board.

Leo Varadkar said there had been ‘scaremongering’ on the wording of the other referendum
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced an €800 million funding package for projects in Northern Ireland as part of the Irish government's Shared Island Initiative (Brian Lawless/PA)

The recent announcement by the Irish government to literally pump hundreds of millions of euros into the north is making good on the promise by Micheál Martin at the launch of the Shared Island Initiative to commit up to a €1 billion by 2030. It’s likely that figure will be surpassed much sooner.

Both the taoiseach and the tánaiste deserve much credit for their nurturing of the Shared Island unit. Micheál Martin has invested much political and personal capital in taking this approach and his doggedness has paid off in spades.

Those nationalists who were initially sceptical about the benefits of the Shared Island Initiative are now enthusiastic cheerleaders and those loyalists who scornfully begrudge the north being bailed out by an Irish government will simply have to stick with sulking, scowling and turning milk sour.

Real time and meaningful investment in projects and infrastructure which will have mutual benefits for north and south is much better than simply creating echo chambers with backslapping, likeminded individuals who are being prescriptive about their concept for Irish unity. Achieving unity is like learning the tango - it requires two to take to the floor.

Millions of euro have been allocated for the proposed upgrade of the A5
Millions of euro have been allocated from the Shared Island fund for the proposed upgrade of the A5 (Liam McBurney/PA)

Building trust and demonstrating the power of cooperation and mutual self-interest will pave the way to unity much faster and with less fear or suspicion than trying to force-feed reluctant unionists with a nationalist Nirvana narrative.

As an Irish citizen, this writer hopes to see the creation of an new Ireland which lives up to the aspirations of the national flag by uniting in peace the two main traditions on this island, orange and green: both living side by side, cheek by jowl, equal not only in rights but also in identity, culture and with reciprocal respect.

Building trust and demonstrating the power of cooperation and mutual self-interest will pave the way to unity much faster and with less fear or suspicion than trying to force-feed reluctant unionists with a nationalist Nirvana narrative

An energised Ireland at ease with the new Irish - those migrants who have been forced through war, poverty, oppression or lack of personal freedoms to come to Ireland for a better life, to provide opportunities for their children, to rear families in a safe place, to enrich society through cultural diversity and to contribute to the economic success of the country as workers and citizens. As the Spanish might say- a place where “Mi casa es su casa”.

Driving from Carlingford last week, I was dismayed to see posters saying ‘Ireland is full- go home’. This spread of far-right ideology stems from an international network of nefarious neo-fascists and illiberal lunatics to home-grown racialists and fanatics.

If modern day Ireland has its fill of anything, then it’s the xenophobic, lame-brained idiots who post these misinformed, tension-raising, scaremongering messages.

The north isn’t immune to recent increases in racially motivated crime. After all, we were once Olympians at sectarian-fuelled hatred and much of that still lingers not too far below the surface.

The injection of the new cash from the Irish government is the latter fulfilling some of its obligations to support the NI Executive and to build on the neglected all island aspects of the Good Friday Agreement.

Unlike the money from the British administration this additional dosh has no strings attached. No Stormont minister will have to sell a kidney (or their soul) as part of a contrived Faustian pact.

First Minister Michelle O’Neill, right, and deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly were congratulated on their appointments
First Minister Michelle O’Neill, left, and Deputy First Minister Emma Little-Pengelly attended former Taoiseach John Bruton's funeral (Brian Lawless/PA)

The new Executive Office seems to grasp the importance of visual imagery and the joint attendance of Michelle O’Neill and Emma Little-Pengelly at the funeral of former Taoiseach, John Bruton, was very commendable.

The official opposition appears to have got off to a solid start. After two years of sitting doing nothing, it’s rather perturbing to see that some MLAs are so little committed to the resurrected Stormont that within a matter of weeks they are throwing their hats into the Westminster ring.

Mind you, there’s at least one other MLA who seems to have split loyalties too. To paraphrase the late, great Jimmy Greaves: “Politics, like soccer, is a funny old game.”