Some say it will come in ten years, some say twenty, others say one hundred, while doubters say never!! but it cannot be denied anymore that a united Ireland is coming and for Unionism, it must weigh up its options.
Unionism knows that a united Ireland is coming but they also know that they cannot in any way bow to that fact or concede to it because their voters would chastise them if there was any mention to openness towards a united Ireland. Unionism seems trapped on the other side as well. If they don’t engage in dialogue with the ever increasing majority of those seeking Irish Unity, they will have no place at the table and less, say, in shaping Ireland’s future: therefore no say in shaping theirs.
Unionism today is the ghost busters staring up at Vigo the Carpathian saying "we ain’t afraid of no votes" with a big "gulp". As the unionist majority has slipped from their finger tips in the north, Brexit looming, more Tory cuts coming, businesses already venturing down south and more on the way, a rising surge of Sinn Fein both North and South, Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, SDLP all upping their support for unity, a possible Corbyn-led Labour government in the coming years, Indy red 2 for Scotland, unionism should be afraid, very afraid or should they?
In my view, there is one option that could be the best deal for unionism in a united Ireland. A proposal offered by Ruari O Bradaigh in the early 70’s that was cast aside by Gerry Adams and sent to the echelons of republicanism. That proposal was of course Éire Nua.
This new Federal Ireland will encompass a parliament in the Ulster province, giving unionists a self governing body that will manage, this time. the whole of Ulster instead of the majority protestant unionist six county statelet. Orange, loyalist, protestant and unionist culture can be protected and recognised by the central parliament of Ireland. Their affinity to the English Queen and deep relationship with Britain can and should never be stamped out of society by anyone, as expressing ones opinion, tradition, religion or culture is something that lays in the heart of socialism and republicanism.
What this idea of a federal Ireland gives is not a compromise by either side as one may think but a broadening and expansion of both unionism as well as nationalism. Republican nationalists will have a new Ireland, an Ireland where they can do away with the old system that was brought in by the British government and never recognised fully as a republic by republicans of Sinn Fein. Unionism will finally have all of Ulster back in its hands to manage and shape it’s future of 2 million Ulster men and women with its new provincial parliament.
The link between unionists and Great Britain can never be severed regardless of partition or unity for it is the Ulster People themselves, not the land around them that holds the link with Ulster and Britain. That is something that can never be taken away. The tall tale of isolation, feeling of abandonment, cultural, social and religious oppression and economic catastrophe can all be put in the archives where they belong as these issues are old, outdated and are no longer the case in a modern more inclusive world and is only used as tactics to stir up the centuries old fear that has resonated through generations since plantation by those who profited and still wish to keep their profit from partition going.
In my opinion, these myths must be dispelled not just by nationalist socialist republicans but by members of the unionists communities as well. The Éire Nua, idea should also be discussed within the unionist communities, debated and shared out and challenged by unionists. It should be noted that at the height of the IRA’s bombing campaign, Ruari O Bradaigh gave this proposal to prominent unionists, should a united Ireland come about and said it would be the most appealing option. Even then, Éire Nua, was seen as the best idea for unionism.
I believe that part of the healing process of the conflict and all that came with it and all that came before it, involves uniting the island as ending one chapter and starting another. For Irish unity in my eyes is not the end goal but only the beginning. Only then can we all start to drift from the past and grow and build on that healing. I believe that Éire Nua, gives us that chance, that chance through the democratic process and as stated previous, without compromise by either side. So let us all go forward and seek out this new way of living using the ideas of the past.