Irish republicans should view with alarm, if not necessarily surprise, the recent musings of Sinn Féin opinion-shaper and party hack Jarlath Kearney on the future trajectory of constitutional change in Ireland (Dublin government's Brexit stance no 'back of the envelope' job; Irish News, 9th August).
With those of his party's 'Northern Leader' Michelle O'Neill, speaking a day earlier in Belfast, his remarks – parroting no doubt the latest line being fed them by the 'Think Tank' – reveal just how far the 'New Sinn Féin' project has been shunted away from Irish republicanism and onto a purely constitutional footing.
Worse still, even here we find constitutionalism, as exhibited by Kearney and in which Sinn Féin is now wholly enmeshed, kowtowing not just to the notion that Ireland should arrive at independence only when the means for her doing so, according to British constitutional theory, have been satisfied but that British constitutional theory itself, with its continuing application to Ireland, should remain intact going forward 'post-Irish unity'.
The wishes of a majority in the Six Counties to remain part of the so-called United Kingdom is cast as the reason why Britain is still involved in Ireland. It is and has been the 'democratic' stick used to beat nationalists and republicans since the six-county statelet was formed, given especial merit since the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.
Now, though, that this majority approaches redundancy, we see a new justification for Britain's presence in Ireland being fast-tracked by the likes of Kearney, O'Neill and their ilk – this being the supposed 'Britishness' of the Ulster Protestants and a need that this be guaranteed should nationalism emerge as the majority constituency in the North.
Thus has been born the notion, set forth by Kearney but no doubt dreamed up by his superiors, that 'two states – one system' should be the vision for Ireland post such a nationalist majority. Indeed, incredibly, he presents the merit of the above even in the event that a 'landslide' for unity should emerge from a border poll – the poll we were sold as the means by which Britain would leave Ireland. It seems we are now being told otherwise.
For as if this weren't bad enough, Sinn Féin seem intent on going further and are embracing, wholesale, the Unionist Veto in its fuller sense, positing that Unionism, even when no longer able to carry its majority, should retain the ability to frustrate a full all-Ireland republic. How else are we to describe it when, through their mouthpieces in the media, they have begun arguing that a nationalist majority – even be it a landslide – is no longer enough to bring forward such a republic?
For Britain, the maths are simple: Irish Unionists must be made British that her writ in Ireland, albeit in reduced capacity, be extended once demographic change lays waste to her current vice to hold the Six Counties. The Ireland she envisions, which finds symmetry in Sinn Féin's Agreed Ireland project, is one where Britain gets to stay – within the so-called 'totality of relationships' (which Sinn Féin now espouses) – while the Irish agree to it.
This is the where New Sinn Féin are headed, as their pseudo 'Agreed Ireland' shifts away from the republican notion of 'two traditions – one nation' to the British design of 'two nations – one island'. Kearney's article, which merely reflects the thinking of his party's leadership, is the ground being prepared to shift the republican base onto this footing. As the old saying would have it, 'for what died the sons of Roisin?'