by editor | 2nd December 2010 8:56 am
While the crisis gripping Ireland may have rescued Sinn Féin from total irrelevancy in the Republic, the prospect of a united Ireland is more unlikely than ever
There is a great unspoken paradox about the current politico-fiscal crisis gripping the Republic of Ireland. The Irish people’s anger and disillusionment may have thrown a lifeline to Sinn Féin and rescued the party from total irrelevance in the Republic but its united Ireland project is more unrealisable than ever.
Last week Sinn Féin reversed several years of setback in the Irish Republic when its candidate easily won the Donegal South West byelection, thus cutting the present Irish government’s majority in the Dáil to just two seats. Its successful candidate, Pearse Doherty, personifies new hope for Sinn Féin in the Republic.
Doherty is free from the whiff of cordite that swirls around many of the Sinn Féin candidates north and south of the Irish border. He has no past connections with the Provisional IRA or the violence that almost drove Northern Ireland to edge of civil war during the Troubles.
The newly elected TD could fast become the new face of Sinn Féin in the south on television, the arena during in which his boss, Gerry Adams, performed so disastrously during a live party leaders debate on RTE during the last general election.
Adams himself has declared his hand and will seek to regain the Sinn Féin seat in County Louth, which would give him a much higher profile in the Irish Republic’s media over the next few years.
The party will also expect to increase its overall Dáil representation as it hopes to harvest votes from disgruntled Fianna Fáil supporters, who are going to abandon the Soldiers of Destiny in their droves as punishment for Brian Cowen’s mishandling of Ireland’s fiscal woes.
Some commentators on both sides of the Irish Sea have been hyperventilating over Sinn Féin’s fortunes and the possibility that the party could soon be sitting in power on both sides of the border.
Their reductionist thinking concludes that we could, within the next few months, have Martin McGuinness as deputy first minister in Belfast and Adams as a minister is some new “rainbow coalition” in Dublin. No doubt the party would seek to portray such a benign scenario as the first phase in the drive for Irish unity, casting their members as the only people serious about driving forward political and economic fusion on the island.
Even if you set aside the fact that the main opposition party, Fine Gael, will not take Sinn Féin into an alternative government coalition, the above theory is entirely fanciful. And even if you ignore the historic opposition of unionists to a United Ireland, the idea that the north and the south are on an inevitable path towards unity is counterfactual.
While Sinn Féin may exploit the seething discontent with the political establishment and the Irish banking system, the chronic state of the Republic’s finances highlights a gaping and growing faultline on this island.
For the foreseeable future Northern Ireland remains in the sterling currency zone while the Irish Republic is tied for better or for worse into the crisis-ridden euro. Two states with radically different currencies is hardly the recipe for economic and social unity.
Worse still for the “united Ireland now” lobby is the undeniable fact that the Republic is flat broke and would be unable to afford the billions the UK Treasury pumps into Northern Ireland each year.
It is surely a supreme irony that the Irish government, the opposition in the Dáil and the trade unions would dearly love more time to drive down the country’s unprecedented national debt from over 30% today to around 3% of Irish GDP.
The EU has given Dublin the target date of 2014 to reach 3% while Dublin would prefer if that could be two years later – 2016 to be precise: the year the republic will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising.
In 1966 the Irish Republic celebrated the 50th anniversary of the rising at a time when the country was modernising under Seán Lemass and emerging from years of stagnation and economic autarky.
Amid all the new national confidence were the stirrings of a republican renaissance, which was given lethal impetus three years later when sectarian violence erupted in Belfast as the unionist regime reacted with typical obstinacy to the reformist demands of the civil rights movement. The result was three decades of slaughter and destruction.
Fifty years later the Irish Republic will commemorate the rebellion with equal national enthusiasm but with most of its population more concerned with the huge debts bestowed upon the current generation than the imperative of the “dead generations” urging it on to take back the north of Ireland and fulfil its historic mission towards unity.
• Henry McDonald’s new book, co-authored with the late Jack Holland, INLA: Deadly Divisions, is currently on sale and is published by Poolbeg Press
Source URL: https://globalrights.info/2010/12/economy-not-unity-is-irish-priority/
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