Irish government completely out of touch with concerns of northern nationalists

Posted By: January 30, 2019

Brian Feeney. Irish News. Belfast.Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Saturday’s Waterfront Hall conference on “Beyond Brexit'” was not only the biggest political event in the north this century; it was the biggest political event for more than a generation.

Around 1,600 people from all nationalist parties on the island, many from no party and some unionists, gave up their Saturday at three weeks notice or less, to listen to speeches and diverse panels discussing the Ireland of the future. Many others watched the live stream on Periscope and thousands watched the replays.

Sadly, analysis of such a huge, visual media-friendly event on local TV was meager, about two minutes on Sunday’s Politics Show and thereafter nothing; what coverage there was, framed in negative terms.

That’s a pity because there were two important messages to take away from the Waterfront Hall. The first is the complete disconnect of the Irish government from the reality of northern nationalism and secondly, the complete disenchantment of nationalists with a Stormont assembly, or as Allison Morris of this parish put it in December, “Nationalists are so over Stormont, all the focus now is on a New Ireland.”

The Irish government sent a minister to make a boilerplate speech that was heard mainly in polite silence because it was so far from addressing the alienation of northern nationalists and their immediate concerns that it was a perfect illustration of the problem in Dublin. Fianna Fáil’s deputy leader made the worst speech of the day; dire, droning on and on, boring, repetitive, addressing the same stale, obsolete points as the government minister. Then of course Fianna Fáil is in cahoots with the government isn’t it, conspiring with Fine Gael to exclude Sinn Féin?

Cutting through their platitudes and padding, they both said the priority is to get an executive up and running and that there can’t be a border poll. Gutless, futile, infuriating. A merry-go-round with the same cheap, run of the mill[stuff] playing endlessly. The speakers from the south were addressing the wrong conference. They would have been applauded at the Conservative party conference because the NIO and British prime minister would have been saying exactly the same.

It has not penetrated the miasma of complacency in Dublin that the Executive has been in crisis since 2012 with interminable talks sessions every autumn since, each leading nowhere. Look, there isn’t going to be an Executive until there’s a new British government and probably not then either. The infuriating aspect is the false equivalence peddled by the Irish government. How about telling the truth for a change?

The reason there’s no Executive is because of the DUP and the British government. Sinn Féin wanted an Executive and agreed to a bad deal with the DUP to get into one and the DUP ratted on it. Sinn Féin leaked the deal, and when nationalists saw how bad it was Sinn Féin realized only then the nationalist electorate was ahead of them in rejection of the notion of an Executive run on the basis of a DUP veto on progress on human rights and nationalist aspirations. The British government, supposed to be “rigorously impartial,” backs the DUP to the hilt in this denial of rights and progress. Here’s the most telling point. The Irish government doesn’t know it was a bad deal and when told, doesn’t understand why it was bad.

Worse, northern nationalists aren’t allowed to propose a border poll if there’s a no-deal Brexit despite that being the only guaranteed route back into the EU. It’s also, as Professor Colin Harvey pointed out on Saturday, “he democratically endorsed constitutional compromise intended to underpin relationships on this island…Are people supposed to pretend there is not an anticipated and agreed solution to a hard border on this island?’ In Harvey’s words, ‘the solution that dare not speak its name?”

A border poll is “toxic, divisive, destabilizing”and worse, even though it’s enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement. However, Brexit is OK to push through, even though a majority here voted decisively against it. Is it not toxic, divisive, destabilizing and worse?

The sad truth is that you’re not allowed to suggest a Border poll, even in the event of a no-deal Brexit, because the Irish government would have a collective nervous breakdown.