Jude Collins

Monday, 21 January 2013

Irish unity or union with Britain - what's the difference?

Gerry Adams has called for a border poll and has been met with widespread derision. There’s no chance, Peter Robinson says, of the majority of people in Northern Ireland voting for constitutional change. They point to the census figures which show 63% of people here wanting to maintain the Union with Britain.  

Adams, however, points out that the census also shows only 40% of people here describing themselves as exclusively British. So again maybe it’s a question of lies, damned lies and statistics - it all depends on how you look at them. However, Sinn Féin have taken on the task of persuading at least some of  those who presently believe in the Union to change their minds.

There are two ways in which people here might shift their position on the constitutional question. They might look at what a united Ireland has to offer, economically and socially, and be drawn to that vision. In contrast, they might look at the union they now have and see the things they thought were good about it have in fact disappeared. They might move, in short, to a pro-united Ireland because the alternative has become unpalatable. 

At present, unionists (and some nationalists, I’m sure) believe that Gerry Adams’s call for a border poll is simple politicking - that he wants to show his party’s republicanism in a brighter and more attractive light than Fianna Fail’s new-found republicanism. I’m sure there’s something of that in it - Sinn Féin’s ambitions for development in the south are there for anybody to see. And political parties, by definition, work in the interests of their own party. 

Some unionists, Peter Robinson included, think that unionism should try harder to sell its benefits to the Catholic/nationalist population here. I don’t see any serious effort to do that - and of course the flag protestors have sent not just nationalists but many unionists reeling backwards in horror. 

An interesting comparison for us is that with Scotland, about which Kevin McKenna has an interesting article in yesterday’s Observer.  He looks at how those firmly in the Union - the people of England - are faring. Not so hot, it seems. The poor are getting seriously poorer, while employees of Goldman Sachs were last week awarded on average a bonus of £250,000. The gap between rich and poor is widening; the Tory government, with Lib Dem assistance, is allowing greed and corruption to be rewarded. The Citizens’ Advice Bureau is getting nearly 1,000 calls a day from impoverished families. The sons of the UK are being sent to fight and die in pointless foreign wars. To avoid focus on such matters, distracting displays such as the Olympics and royal jubilees are hyped, not to mention the dream of a big Lottery win. The UK treasury, according to McKenna, has just declared that each person in Scotland  would be £1 worse off in an independent Scotland. It seems, McKenna believes, a decent price for a change to a fair society where people run their own affairs. 

It’s time the benefits of the Union were spelled out. The flag protestors complain that the flag matters - “people have died for that flag”. Is the flag that leads people to occupations and invasions of other people’s countries the only benefit the Union has to offer?


  1. Poor article.

    Who exactly suggests that the only benefit of the UK is the Union Flag?

    Preposterous notion.

  2. I find it hilarious, the people of all hues and none who are castigating SF the most for campaigning for a border poll, because it's "laughable" it could be a yes - are the very same people who don't under any circumstances want a poll to take place.

    That simply doesn't make sense - if they are so convinced this is politicking and SF don't "really" want one - call their bluff, let's have at it!

    The fact is, if one was called tomorrow, it would be defeated, heavily. However that's not the way it works, it will take several years to arrive at the point of a poll - allowing all concerned to set out their stalls and for the first time ever, real detailed facts and figures and not hyperbole will be on display.

    The potential positivity surrounding a vision of a tangible united new Ireland sends the absolute hebejebes up the Free State establishment and the leaders of Unionism - people like positivity, something fresh and new and fairer. If the sums add up, who knows what support the idea might garner and from what quarters.

    1. you are 100% right, a lot of people, including myself, thought that after agreeing on a border poll it would take place in 6/12mths afterwards but when you see that it will take a few years it easy to see why the Unionists object to it.

  3. Just listening to Arlene there, to borrow a phrase "just do it!!!!!!"

  4. I think the unemployed would be swayed for a start. In the north a single person gets £71 a week, while in the south its 180 euros. The same goes for Pensioners, and wages are also much higher in the south. Stephen Nolan kept on at Alex Maskey about how people wouldn't have the NHS if Ireland was united but he should have said, whats left of the NHS. Sucessive British governments have hacked away at it and left a health service that is unable to cope and most of its budget goes to pay the wages of administrators. In a new Ireland there could be a new Health Service.