Only in Ireland could we see commemorating the past dictating the present and directing the future.
With discussions well underway as to how the centenary of Northern Ireland should be commemorated in - hopefully - a post-Covid 19 society, republicans already are off the mark with their ‘failed state’ propaganda.
But they will have their own centenary ‘boogie man’ to confront in 2022 - the centenary of the Irish Civil War in which republican butchered republican in a manner which made the hated Black and Tans look like a Sunday school picnic.
Republican comrades who fought hand in hand and shoulder to shoulder only a matter of years earlier in the War of Independence, turned on each other like a taunted rattlesnake.
Then again, perhaps one of the central planks of the Northern Ireland centenary commemorations is that it has survived politically for 100 years in spite of the ferocity of that republican onslaught - hence the headline ‘100 not out’.
Makes you wonder what the centenary of the existence of the 26 Counties can throw up - a bloody Irish civil war, fascist Blueshirts, draft dodging the fight against Hitler in World War Two, the IRA helping the Nazis, republican terrorists using border counties as a springboard to attack parts of the UK, poking its nose into the internal affairs of another sovereign state, needing millions of euros for a bailout, taking weeks to form a stable coalition government; and so the list goes on!
So let’s just park the view that Southern Ireland represent a land of milk and honey for the Northern pro-Union community!
Northern Ireland, like Israel in the Middle East, is continuing to survive in spite of wars and terror campaigns.
Ironically, to some degree, the Northern Ireland centenary commemoration seems to have been overshadowed by the need for talk about Irish unity because of Brexit and the Covid 19 pandemic.
In short, by the time Brexit is finally sorted out and the pandemic brought under control could Northern Ireland find itself in a situation where it is in a political united Ireland in all but name - in effect, a British sponsored united Ireland, because there’s no way Leinster House would have the cash to pay for all the benefits of West Belfast alone plus the North’s very efficient National Health Service.
Liberals within the pro-Union community are peddling the myth that the Union - to survive - needs to be sold like some tasty Presbyterian tray bakes to the non-Unionist and soft nationalist community in Northern Ireland.
This tactic is based on the past three election results which show that Unionism is now the minority ideology in Northern Ireland and Unionists are losing the numbers game to the so-called Pan Nationalist Front of the SDLP, Sinn Fein and Alliance.
Practically, the pro-Union community must unleash its sales pitch that folk will be financially better off in the UK than outside it.
Sinn Fein will no doubt spin the position that given its electoral support in Northern Ireland, combined with its existing support in the Dail, in any future all-Ireland election, Sinn Fein will emerge as the largest party and be able to form a nationalist government in Dublin in the same way as the Scottish National Party (SNP) runs the Scottish Parliament.
But at least in Northern Ireland at the moment I can see a doctor or dentist without having to pay 50 euros for the appointment. Is it possible that Sinn Fein could persuade the British Government to foot the bill for Dublin running the north for say the quarter of a century after partition ended?
The danger for Dublin in any unity scenario is that the Westminster Government walks away from Northern Ireland with the simple memo - ‘you pay for the six counties now, Taoiseach!’
In this case, I certainly would not like to be a nationalist politician canvassing for votes in North or West Belfast when angry voters confront me with the chant - who’ll pay my benefits now? Then again, if there ever is a united Ireland, what’s the point in having an ‘ourselves alone’ Sinn Fein party?
The economic argument which the pro-Union community must push with all their might is that Northern Ireland can become a viable financial asset to the UK economy rather than a colonial-style drain on London’s finances.
The big challenge is - how does NI plc generate cash. Could it become a tax haven for the globe’s mega rich? However, what the pro-Union community has to take very careful note off is that it has been under a Tory Government at Westminster that Unionist control in Northern Ireland has been most eroded.
When the original Unionist controlled Stormont Parliament was first scrapped in 1972 it was Tory PM Ted Heath who was in charge.
When the Anglo-Irish Agreement was signed in 1985 giving the Republic its first major say in the running of Northern Ireland since partition, it was Tory PM Maggie Thatcher who was in charge.
When the Downing Street Declaration was signed which effectively signalled the end of the RUC it was Tory PM John Major who was in charge.
When Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU (even though the overall UK result was Leave) it was Tory PM Dave Cameron who initiated the referendum.
In trying to get a Brexit deal which would honour the Northern Ireland wishes over the referendum result, it was Tory PM Theresa May who was in charge. That idea certainly crashed and burned.
And with Brexit expected to be fully implemented by the end of 2020 with the threat of a border down the Irish Sea, who is in charge at 10 Downing Street - Tory PM Boris Johnston.
By all means, the pro-Union community must sell the economic benefits of NI plc as a major part of the state’s centenary celebrations because if the Scots gain independence as a result of an expected second referendum, Northern Ireland will be next for the political dumping bin by the English Government at Westminster.
Indeed, if I was an English Tory MP from the Shires, and given the financial meltdown caused by Covid 19, I would be whispering in Boris’ ears - cut the Scots and Northern Irish adrift politically; we’ve milked Scotland of its oil, and NI is too costly to maintain after the Troubles. Let’s keep that Scottish and Irish cash to rebuild middle England!
If Scotland does vote to remain in the UK and the influence of the SNP wanes again to the point where a nationalist government is replaced with a coalition government in Edinburgh, and Southern Ireland finds itself economically as well as geographically isolated post Brexit in 2021, then Leinster House will have to look seriously at some sort of union with the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association.
Then again, if Scotland does go independent and London cuts Northern Ireland adrift, then the Celtic Nation of Islands must be the alternative political entity within the European Union.
In such a situation, there is one sabre the pro-Union community in Northern Ireland can rattle. The UK has always harboured one major security fear - that a united Ireland would become the UK’s Cuba, just as Castro’s Cuba was a political thorn in the side of the mighty United States.
Russia is rebuilding its empire once again. In the 19th century it was the Tsarists; in the 20th century the communists; in this century its Russian nationalism.
Imagine the look on a Tory PM’s face when he receives an MI6 intelligence briefing document that the little expensive statelet called Northern Ireland that the English Government has finally got rid off has secured the future of the Harland and Wolff shipyard by servicing Russian warships and submarines, and Bombardier has just won a contract to build the next generation of Russian jet fighters!
Listen to Dr John Coulter’s religious show, Call In Coulter, every Saturday morning around 9.30 am on Belfast’s Christian radio station, Sunshine 1049 FM, or listen online at www.thisissunshine.com