Dr John Coulter ✒ with the latest census showing Catholics now outnumbering Protestants in Northern Ireland for the first time since partition, the jungle drums are now beating within republicanism for a border poll on Irish Unity.
But, ironically, that could all sink without trace if Sinn Fein wins the next Dail General Election and forms either a majority government, or coalition of the Left in Leinster House.When the England men’s football team recently went two-nil down to the Germans in the Nations League, it looked like ‘game over’ for the English, but they fought back to gain a three-three draw.
The same situation could be applied to Unionism in its present state. Firstly, it went politically one-nil down when Sinn Fein stole all the limelight during the Period of Mourning and state funeral for the late Queen Elizabeth and the warm handshakes for King Charles during his visit to Northern Ireland.
Then Unionism seemingly went two-nil down with the latest census showing the supposed sectarian headcount now puts Catholics ahead of Protestants in Northern Ireland, prompting yelps from nationalism and republicanism for their much-demanded Border Poll.
But when the electioneering rhetoric is washed out of those cries, a radically different picture emerges. Yes, the opinion polls in the Republic have Sinn Fein odds on to become the largest party in the Dail following the next Southern General Election, possibly with good vote management, even returning with an outright majority rather than having to form a coalition government with Independent TDs or other Left wing TDs.
Sinn Fein could have formed a coalition government after the last Dail General Election in 2020, but the republican movement bosses in the IRA’s ruling Army Council forgot to tell the party to run more candidates.
Indeed, the only way Sinn Fein could be kept out of government was for an historic pact between bitter civil war rivals Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael. No doubt when it comes to the next Dail showdown, the Army Council will not make the same electoral mistake again and will ensure its mouthpiece, Sinn Fein, has sufficient candidates to win that outright majority.
With Sinn Fein currently the largest party in the Northern Ireland Assembly, a Dail victory for the republican movement would leave Sinn Fein potentially in government in both Stormont and Dublin.
But before republicans begin their chant of ‘United Ireland here we come!’, perhaps it would be better for the IRA’s Army Council to consider some hard political realities.
Firstly, Sinn Fein ‘doesn’t do government’. It has always branded itself as a party of protest. The last time Sinn Fein enjoyed all-island electoral success was in 1918 after the bloody Great War ended when it won the vast majority of Commons seats in that year’s Westminster General Election.
But what did Sinn Fein do with this impressive mandate in 1918? Instead of taking seats at Westminster and negotiating for a 32-county democratic socialist republic, it started a war with the British which saw brutality on both sides between the IRA and the British Black and Tans on a scale not seen since Oliver Cromwell’s campaign in the 1640s.
When Sinn Fein eventually got an Anglo-Irish Treaty which partitioned Ireland, but which was approved by the Dail, what happened? Republicans started a civil war amongst themselves which saw more anti-Treaty IRA people executed by the pro-Treaty Free State forces than were killed during the previous War of Independence.
And for decades until 1986, Sinn Fein TDs abstained from taking their seats in the Dail. Not a great record for a party supposedly committed to democratic socialism!
So how can Unionism equalise in this game called Irish Unity? Firstly, the census does not take account of those from the Northern Ireland Catholic population who believe in the Union.
Irish Unity revolves around who pays the bills for a united Ireland. Will Dublin have the finances to pay for a free NHS, a free Fire Service, and especially all the wonderful financial benefits which being a citizen living in the United Kingdom brings?
And what about all those republicans making money from lucrative cross-border smuggling? Where does their empire go if there’s no border?
Republicans will be banking that Irish America, the UK Government and the European Union will all ‘cough up’ the costs of running a united Ireland. But what if the US, UK and EU says ‘No’ to funding Irish Unity? Who will pay the benefits for all the republicans in north and west Belfast?
And now to two-two for Unionism. Economically, Sinn Fein will turn the Republic into a modern day communist East Germany with its Marxist Leninist policies, especially on housing. And we all know how that collapsed.
In short, Sinn Fein in government in the Dail will bankrupt the Republic, sparking another crash in the Celtic Tiger economy - except there will be no more British millions to bail the 26 Counties out like last time.
Northern Sinn Fein at Stormont can scream for British pounds from Westminster to bail out any looney Left policies its implements when and if a power-sharing Executive with the DUP ever returns. Southern Sinn Fein as no such financial comfort blanket in Leinster House.
Being blunt, what will ‘kill off’ the notion of Irish Unity for generations to come is for the Republic to get a ‘good dose’ of Sinn Fein in government in Leinster House.
As the cost of living crisis is proving, money talks. When a Sinn Fein-led government reduces Southern Ireland to a third rate banana republic, Sinn Fein will be crucified by the electorate. Of course, perhaps, the key point is - in any united Ireland, what’s the point in having Sinn Fein?
Likewise, in selling the benefits of the Union and the UK, Unionists could say to the Southern Irish population of the 26 Counties - when Sinn Fein is done wrecking your state, you are welcome back in the Union! Ireland united under the Crown - now that’s a Unionist aspiration worth championing.
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Listen to commentator Dr John Coulter’s programme, Call In Coulter, every Saturday morning around 10.15 am on Belfast’s Christian radio station, Sunshine 1049 FM. Listen online.