Dublin coalition aims to neutralize Sinn Fein by stealing most of its policies

Posted By: April 18, 2020

Newton Emerson. Irish News. Belfast. Saturday, April 18, 2020

In some welcome good news, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have ended the 98-year-long Irish civil war by proposing their first formal coalition. This aims to neutralize Sinn Féin by stealing most of its policies, which should give the SDLP a grim chuckle.

Among those policies, Sinn Féin’s planned united Ireland unit within the Department of the Taoiseach becomes a “united island” unit – a semantic distinction that feels like it could become enormously significant over the coming years.

The basis of this unit’s work, at least initially, would be developing the north-south and east-west institutions of the Good Friday Agreement and implementing the New Decade, New Approach Stormont deal, which commits the Republic to investing in cross-border infrastructure.

The coalition proposal says nothing about planning an all-Ireland state, let alone holding a border poll. It contains only one idea that might fire the public imagination to a similar extent: a high-speed rail link between Belfast, Dublin, and Cork, although as in the Stormont deal, this is only to be “examined”.

If this becomes the acid test of the united island concept, Sinn Féin will have no problem reclaiming the agenda. Building Dublin’s 17-mile Metro-North line is currently projected to take 26 years from proposal to delivery. The united island line would take 428 years to build at the same speed – or four more civil wars.