Is it time for the EU to include a united Ireland as one of its common policies?
In the European Commission’s “Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland” released last week, vice-president Maros Šefcovic noted that their proposals and subsequent engagement with the UK would be “in the interest of all communities in Northern Ireland” and not in the interests of the internal market, Ireland, or the European Union as a whole.
As it is now undoubtedly the case that the EU will continue to play a role in protecting the 1.8 million European citizens residing in the north of Ireland, is it time for the European Union to include a United Ireland as one of its common policies and actions on the international scene?
Since 2016 the EU has played an increasingly important role in preserving peace in Northern Ireland. While the UK government politicised tensions, with Boris Johnson stating he “would rather be dead in a ditch” than extend negotiations to achieve a compromise on the border, the EU quietly and firmly insisted on a compromise which would preserve the livelihood and peaceful existence of communities from Ballynagard to Warrenpoint.
Similarly, the EU unilaterally extended EU citizenship to the people of Northern Ireland following Brexit, and unanimously agreed that Northern Ireland would automatically rejoin the EU following a referendum on unification, while the UK focused their attention on implementing points-based tests for future immigrants from Europe.
As anyone who has followed Brexit can attest, the UK can no longer be relied upon to live up to its promises under international law and the result of this is that the EU is increasingly having to compromise its core values in order to make up for the UK’s lack of interest in preserving its obligations under the Withdrawal Agreement and the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. These compromises to protect the people of Northern Ireland risks undermining the territorial integrity of not only Ireland but the EU as a whole.
Article 21(2) of the Treaty on the EU notes it will act on the international scene in order to “safeguard its values, fundamental interests, security, independence and integrity”, and additionally to “preserve peace, prevent conflicts and strengthen international security”.
This is not a symbolic article; the EU acted as a unified force in order to preserve peace in the Balkans in the 1990s, and more recently imposed sanctions against the Lukashenko regime in Belarus following the fraudulent elections in 2020. It has also acted externally in Northern Ireland following Brexit in order to preserve the peace which was attained there in 1998.
As the UK continues to undermine peace in Northern Ireland, most critically by legislating for an amnesty for British soldiers who took part in massacres during the Troubles, and by threatening to replace the ECHR with a domestic bill of rights, there is now a strong argument that the EU should safeguard its fundamental interests, security and integrity by advocating for the re-entry of Northern Ireland into the EU as part of a united Ireland.
This could include providing funds in order to ensure an easy integration following reunification, the setting up of a formal parliamentary committee on achieving a united Ireland and continuing to make clear to the UK that the existence of a frictionless border in Ireland is integral to the fundamental interests and integrity of the Union.
Protocol supporters now looking lonely
It is interesting to note that Sinn Féin`s recent call for the other erstwhile full blooded supporters of the Protocol to join with them in showing continued support, met with a muted response from the SDLP and Alliance.
It looks like the political parties and others who insisted that the initial problems were ‘teething issues’ and that the EU should press ahead with the full implementation of the Protocol may now be preparing to change position.
The EU appears to have recognised that the Protocol in its current form is unworkable, which leaves its local supporters looking somewhat isolated. The motives of the local supporters of the Protocol probably vary from naivety to opportunism, this calls into question the credibility of any advice which may be sought from them when a solution to this debacle is being sought.
Prior to the Protocol being agreed I recall demands being made that the largest unionist party should not be allowed a veto. Perhaps a more conciliatory approach would have avoided the current situation.
Sinn Féin, SDLP, Alliance and the Irish government appeared to seize the opportunity to use the EU to give the unionists a bashing without considering that when all this controversy is over, we all have to settle down and make Northern Ireland work for everyone.
Our past should tell us that if it doesn’t work for both communities then it works for neither. The gradually evolving relationships have been torn asunder to the extent that the courts are now being used to try to force politicians to cooperate. Amazingly this approach is being welcomed by some.
It seems, at least possible now that the Protocol will remain in name only and an agreed solution will emerge. Those opportunists who saw the Protocol as a short cut to realise their dream of uniting Ireland have shown the rest of us how our views would be treated in such a scenario.
Dromore, Co Down
Glib denial of limbo disputed
Father McCafferty (October 13) exceeds even his usual standards with the usage of eight biblical references.
I dispute this glib denial that limbo was a “theological opinion – never a doctrine”.
As a primary school pupil in the 1960s it was indoctrinated that your soul after death would go to heaven, hell or limbo. These places were the kernel of many sermons shouted by thundering and hectoring missionary priests.
As the Church was all powerful and did not tolerate dissent, a cowered congregation rarely disputed such priestly assertions.
Today the concept of limbo is rarely mentioned and I assume this nonsense has been quietly abandoned.
Craigavon, Co Armagh
Drew Harris an inspired appointment
There were eyebrows and questions as to why a senior policeman from north of the border was chosen to be the Commissioner of An Garda Siochana.
Fast forward a few years and we see why the appointment of Drew Harris was an inspired choice. A man of experience and direction in matters policing is evident since his taking up the job.
His tenure is marked with immediate responses and authoritative approach to issues being addressed as needs be, both inside and outside of the force, when the public interest is called for.
He is known nationally as a man who is trusted in his leadership of An Garda, by the nation, and no doubt by the rank and file gardai. We are lucky to have the steady hand of Mr Harris as head of our police force.
Bantry, Co Cork