Why they won’t keep the union flag flying here
The Irish Republic must use its forthcoming six-month term of the European Union Presidency in January 2013 to save its economy by establishing closer political ties with the so-called ‘Auld Enemy’, the United Kingdom.
The considerable warming of Anglo-Irish relations is the perfect example of the maxim – money talks.
For the most of eight centuries, the native Irish fought numerous wars and terror campaigns against the Scottish and Welsh settlers who were loyal to the English Throne.
But Britain possessed what the Irish lacked – financial muscle. This prompted another pro-Union taunt against Irish nationalism – that nationalists hated the Crown, but could not wait to get their hands on the half-crown.
Since Southern Ireland formally joined the EU in the 1970s, substantial amounts of European cash transformed what was effectively a third-rate African-style Republic into a globally renowned ‘Celtic Tiger’ economy which was the envy of even the UK and United States.
When the Republic axed its highly popular Irish pound in favour of the euro, thoughts of bailouts and financial meltdowns were nowhere to be heard on the political agenda.
Using billions of EU cash handouts, the Republic was able to transform much of its transport network from Arizona backwoods-style dirt tracks into modern roads and motorways which were the pride of the British Isles.
Tory Foreign Secretary William Hague has put additional pressure on the Republic to negotiate a new Union with Britain by unveiling plans to make the Commonwealth a financial alternative to the EU. At the turn of the new millennium, talk of the Republic rejoining the British Commonwealth would have been dismissed as irresponsible ranting.
But that was before the disastrous Irish property collapse, mass emigration of Irish citizens and a multi-million euro bailout – much of which was contributed by the UK Government.
The irony of Irish politics is that the Republic may play smart and use its EU Presidency to loosen its financial ties with the European Union rather than exert pressure on the other Member States to gain more bailout cash.
The campaign to get Southern Ireland to at least join the increasingly influential Commonwealth Parliamentary Association is gathering considerable momentum. With over 50 regional and national parliaments to its credit, the CPA has now become a very credible political and economic rival to the EU.
Ironically, too, Ireland was a founder member of the original Empire Parliamentary Association in 1911 when the island was entirely under British rule.
In September 2012, tens of thousands of Unionists marched through Belfast to mark the centenary of the signing of the Ulster Covenant by almost half a million Unionists.
They were pledging to resist – using even violence – the political fallout of the Third Home Rule Bill at Westminster.
It threatened to establish a separate Irish Parliament in Dublin which would have a built-in Catholic nationalist government, a situation which the overwhelming majority of Ulster-based Protestant Unionists vehemently opposed.
The current Democratic Unionist/Sinn Fein power-sharing Executive at Stormont could be branded as Home Rule for very slow learners.
Such has been the development of Anglo-Irish relations in recent months, that what now exists in the Southern Irish Dail and Northern Ireland Assembly is in reality, a form of workable Home Rule.
The tremendously successful visit of Queen Elizabeth to the Republic earlier this year has reignited the Catholic Royalist tradition in Ireland.
Indeed, such is the growing popularity of the English Royals that when Prince William ascends to the Throne, he would well also be crowned King of Ireland.
A new era of cross-border and British-Irish relations has been spawned since the signing of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. This is a far cry from the mobilisation of radical Unionist militancy which was sparked by the 1985 signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement.
Southern Ireland has a strong tradition of euro-scepticism. The Republic taking over the EU Presidency should not be misinterpreted as Southern Ireland further integrating the nation into the European Union.
Rather, it should be viewed as the Republic taking the first tentative steps at loosening its ties with Europe, strengthening its links with the CPA and the UK, dumping the euro as the Irish national currency, re-introducing the Irish pound.
It may be 100 years too late, but Ireland is effectively under the banner of Home Rule without the threat of a bloody civil war.