During the years that the Northern Ireland Executive functioned – 2007 – 2016, you would have been hard pressed to find mention of a ‘united Ireland’. Even Sinn Fein had stopped pushing it. The received wisdom was that the Good Friday Agreement had settled the issue for a generation: Northern Ireland would remain part of the UK until such time as a majority decided otherwise.
It appeared Sinn Fein had accepted that concept and under McGuinness’ leadership they diligently worked the agreed institutions.
Many others in Ireland accepted that a united Ireland was now no more than a sentimental pipe dream.
‘As recently as five years ago, people didn’t talk about a ‘united Ireland’ in polite company. Irish politicians rarely bothered to pay lip service to the idea. Guests at university wine receptions scoffed at the concept. Anyone who voiced serious support for an all-island republic was considered a crank or an extremist. No more.’ Daragh Roche, The London Economic.
During this period (2007 – 2016), the DUP believed they had Sinn Fein beaten and cowed. When the Shinners stood for the British national anthem and shook hands with British royalty, the DUP were privately cock a hoop. What they saw was not good manners or political compromise, but the total victory of unionism over republicanism.
This explains the arrogant behaviour of the DUP which ultimately led to the downfall of the agreed Good Friday institutions. All that was needed was something to goad the DUP into behaving so badly that the whole delicate house of cards would crash. The RHI scandal conveniently provided the cattle prod.
Within a matter of months and with McGuinness dead, the understanding about the constitutional position changed. Suddenly the words ‘United Ireland’ were reinserted into the public lexicon. Suddenly a ‘united Ireland’ was ‘inevitable’. The previous understanding about an agreed constitutional position was torn up. It was as if someone had thrown a switch.
Every day now there is some ‘expert’ or pundit talking about the prospect of a united Ireland. It’s grown to a virtual avalanche of comment. Even former unionist champion, Peter Robinson, talks about unionists having to plan for the prospect.
None of this would have been possible if the Executive and Assembly were still functioning with the clearly agreed framework of the Good Friday Agreement. ‘Inevitable’ was not part of the GFA mindset.
Yet more good timing
Added to the mix is of course ‘Brexit’: a new trigger word inserted into the public consciousness to scare the bejaysus out of the people. It is true that Brexit has major implications for the Irish border: an issue that has bedevilled British negotiations with the EU.
There again it was so much more convenient that the Northern Ireland devolved institutions were no longer functioning. They collapsed on cue just before UK-EU negotiations began and just as Northern Ireland became centre stage in British politics.
Imagine for a moment the complications for the British if Northern Ireland still had a First and Deputy First Minister demanding a voice for Northern Ireland at the negotiations and the issues of Brexit being debated and motions passed in the fully functioning assembly.
Cock up or conspiracy?
If you believe the ‘cock up’ theory of history you will see these extreme coincidences that have facilitated both the Brexit negotiations and the development of a major debate on a united Ireland as just more coincidence.
On the other hand you may subscribe to the belief that such extreme coincidences are not credible and no accident, but the result of careful planning.
The bottom line is that Northern Ireland has again lost its representation and has been reduced to its tribal squabbling status, allowing the British to once more ignore local opinion at one of the most crucial periods of its history.
Are we being manipulated?
I am in favour of removing partition in Ireland. It has blighted many Irish lives – Protestant as much as Catholic – for too long. So talk of a united Ireland per se does not upset me. But I don’t like being manipulated by some British Foreign Office geeks and I am becoming increasingly sceptical of the sort of unified Ireland that is being planned for us – given the sources of the planning.
‘Be careful what you wish for’ should be uppermost in the minds of all those who support removing partition. What exactly is being planned here and by whom?
People should at least be aware that they are being manipulated.
I have watched events unfold in these islands for too long not to see patterns and grand strategies at work behind the facade. So I’m not going to pretend that talk of a united Ireland is simply some sort of spontaneous upsurge of public sentiment due to changed circumstances. Things don’t happen like that in these islands. If they did we would live in a much better society than we do.
Events and ‘public opinion’ – especially in Northern Ireland- are carefully controlled. It was after all used by Britain for thirty years as a training ground for its military in counter insurgency. That control did not end with the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.
No idea is allowed to catch hold of the public imagination through the media that isn’t sanctioned by the ruling elite.
Control of media
If you accept that the corporate media throughout these islands is heavily controlled; that this state (the UK) routinely lies to its residents, it fought a long war to prevent a united Ireland and went to enormous lengths to achieve a political settlement within the union, then you must question why the trigger words ‘united Ireland’ have been allowed back into public discourse with such force.
I’m not suggesting that every expert, pundit and journalist is in on the plan. Most are unwitting foils. But the most senior media executives are given the script and told to encourage a certain approach. Key stories are planted in influential places to get the ball rolling. This is very easy to do given that in the UK just five companies dominate 80% of the market share of the print and online news.
Tidal wave of opinion
The foot soldiers of public opinion – the journalists, pundits and ‘experts’ – then simply pick up on what has become a perceived trend. Pretty soon a few isolated pundits evolve into overwhelming wave of ‘public opinion’ and nobody can remember that it all started with just one or two carefully placed media pieces.
Short term memory loss is key to the whole exercise. That’s why the state works so hard to keep us outraged and distracted with mindless garbage and project fear. We are so preoccupied with their latest scams that we don’t see the sequencing of events and forget what was said or done in the recent past.