Sean Bresnahan thinks there is potential for a united Ireland.
With Brexit and demographic change in the North speeding new opportunities towards Irish Unity, Republicans have much to consider.
Chief here might be that the ‘Good Friday’ border poll, promoted by an increasing number, leads not to the Republican objective but to a revised continuum of the status quo — this based on a renegotiation of the three-stranded template first set out by the Major Government in 1991, later entrenched in the Framework Document and codified, in turn, in the 1998 Agreement.
Republicans would do well to consider that a pathway to the Republic does not lie here. This process, as constituted, leads instead to the ‘Agreed United Ireland’ of John Hume — since taken up by Sinn Féin and more recently by Leo Varadkar.
This ‘Agreed Ireland’ will be bound, like today’s order, by the same parameters set out by Peter Brooke’s ‘totality of relationships’, which seek to weld Ireland to England on a continuing basis. Accordingly, Republicans would do well not to attach themselves to the border poll, for in doing as much we internalise its outcome — the ‘Agreed Ireland’ — making the achieving of full Irish sovereignty even more difficult than is presently the case.
Instead we must set forward the unflinching demand for the Republic, insisting in every eventuality — including, it should be noted, a ‘Yes Vote’ border poll — that the Republic is what then proceeds. While the Republic should in no way be dependent on such a poll, were it to go forward out of one we would hardly object.
While Brexit and demographic change have significantly bolstered the prospect of Irish Unity, freedom must still be demanded if it is to be attained. It will not be handed us by happenstance. Absent this demand, nothing will be given by the British beyond what they choose to give up themselves. We are entering a critical phase in our history and cannot afford to be found wanting.
In these times of great flux, the Republican argument should focus not on what means are to be employed to effect change but on what any process of change should incur — including in the wake of a ‘Yes Vote’ border poll. If such a process sets toward a continuation of the Good Friday Agreement and its three-stranded constitutional structure — only with sovereignty transferring to Dublin — then that is not what we should be involving ourselves with.
Nevertheless, while the national rights of the Irish people should in no way be subject to a contrived gerrymander, were a northern majority to be arrived at it would be remiss, on our part, not to insist that Britain in turn leave Ireland. Indeed in such an event, Britain should be afforded no further role here other than to leave and that is the argument we must make.
By associating ourselves with a border poll referendum or concentrating our efforts on a call that one be held — this while ignoring the parameters of the process to follow — we sow the seeds of our own destruction, allowing Britain, with her minions, the latitude to determine all of these matters for herself.
In a long line of mistakes by Irish Republicanism, this would be the greatest of them all. Fortunately for ourselves, as a movement, there is still the time to get our heads around this, to make any adjustments required. This, indeed, is what we now must attempt to do.