As a guest speaker at the recent Sinn Féin organised conference on ‘Irish Unity’ in Dublin, Alex Kane writing in the Belfast Telegraph, 31/01/2017, gives an account of his heartfelt Unionist speech in response to the question, "Is an agreed united Ireland possible?"
Kane, a journalist and political commentator and greatly deserving of those appellations, unlike many who usurp those professional titles for self-gain, is a person who's political opinion and writings would tend to be of a higher value and greatly respected than those of most his colleagues in his profession.
He begins by informing the reader not to be in doubt of his ‘Unionism’ or to hold false expectations that his presence at the conference is a sign of a potential greening of a Unionist heart, that he is "an unashamed, unambiguous, unembarrassed unionist". Thus setting the tone for what was to come.
He immediately and logically answers the question with a yes, by referencing the ‘agreed Ireland’ that exists today through the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) and points out that it would be absurd to deny that it would ever happen and likewise just as absurd to claim it as inevitable.
He goes on to point out that an agreed united Ireland:
...is predicated on a majority of voters in Northern Ireland voting to end the Union with the United Kingdom; ..... and, I suspect, it would also require majority support from voters in the Republic.
He then elaborates on the possible border poll voting pattern that will entail which unsurprisingly will follow long well established lines of tribal demarcation. He proceeds to outline that there needs to be a series of talks and discussions by all governments and parties involved to determine, if a positive in favour of unity result is returned, how would NI leave the UK and what type of Ireland will be created.
Kane goes on:
.....But Irish unity kills off unionism, reducing it to a mere cultural, political, electoral, constitutional curiosity ... The concept of joint citizenship - one way in which nationalists here can now retain and promote their Irish identity - is going to be enormously difficult to sustain if the UK is no longer in the European Union.....
Skipping aside the economic aspects of Irish Unity Kane goes on to highlight that for him personally it is all about identity and how that identity can be protected and promoted outside the United Kingdom.
I am a British citizen. I am content to be a British citizen. I want to remain a British citizen. My identity disappears in a united Ireland. I have yet to hear a persuasive argument for swapping my British citizenship and identity for an Irish one....
Kane finishes off with:
I still don't believe a united Ireland will emerge anytime soon. That said - and, unlike key figures within party political unionism, I am not complacent - there is a coherent, convincing case to be made for the Union. It's about time that the leaders of unionism here - indeed, across the UK - rose to the challenge and made that case.
When he set the tone by his strong declaration of his Unionism, Kane whether inadvertently or not, reduced the potency of his speech down to that of a leader of Unionism at an annual party conference who declares to those of similar mind, not so much as an inch. All the usual objections of the Unionist siege mentality were repetitively resurrected and fired at the audience to remind them that basically, never, never, never, was and still is very much the Unionist order of the day. No offer of quid pro quo for the croppy.
Calling upon the listener to understand his Unionist identity and how that was determined by where he were born, where he grew up and where he now resides, Kane passionately catalogues his identity with a Northern Ireland that according to him operated along normal societal lines. Implying a British Unionist Ulster that was/is equally shared through mutual respect by both Nationalist and Unionist. An identity swap that the majority on this Island were never properly consulted on.
That is, the conditioning of the public perception to accept a British defined and ‘sanitised’ account of how Ireland was partitioned and why. The true historical account is a far cry from this. And likewise the ‘Agreed Ireland’ that Kane refers to under the GFA, more a halcyon notion than reality, failed to materialise in concrete form. Once again a sanitised version of events was fed to the public and the application of continuing layers of cosmetic politics kept the deceit afloat.....that is until there were too many holes and not enough corks.
What Kane has achieved with his speech is to highlight the undemocratic position of Unionism with regards to Ireland.
Its total reliance on Britain for its existence, its astigmatic view of current political developments, its obstinate demands and refusal to accept parity of esteem, its arrogance of never the two shall meet, and their genetically inherited frontier fear of reprisal that comes from a conscious understanding of their own racial, sectarian, and bigoted position of authority towards and over all things Irish.
The call by Kane for Unionist leaders to step up to the plate and make a convincing case for the continued Union with Britain is a call that is made every 12th of July on the Orange fields of the North. Steeped in religious bigotry and racial hatred, the call is enthusiastically applauded by those brethren sober enough to listen! Unfortunately for Kane those Orange fields don’t welcome green shoots. His call is doomed to failure as Britain has less to offer now with Brexit than it did before.
The problem of answering the question, is that the question has been answered that many times before that it now becomes a moot point. Whether for an agreed unity or unity itself, its inevitability will only come about when the Irish people realise that they don’t actually require a predicated Unionist majority of agreement nor Britain's approval. They don’t actually need to concern themselves with how Unionism and its British identity will fare in a United Ireland– for Unionism, equality is a bitch!