Welcome to a united Ireland, circa 2030

Posted By: August 13, 2018

The Border; gone by 2030?
Deaglán de Bréadún. Irish News. Monday, August 13, 2018 

GOOD morning and welcome to a United Ireland, on this sunlit day in the epoch-making year of 2030.

Now that the results of the long-awaited north-south referendums are in, we need to get used to the idea of the entire island becoming a single state, albeit with a high level of autonomy for what until now we called ‘Northern Ireland.’ It was no easy task getting a majority vote north of the Border, but who would have thought that the real challenge would come on the southern side?

First of all, let’s take our hats off to Eamon de Valera for certain far-sighted elements of the Irish Constitution he brought in, all those years ago in 1937. I am thinking of Article 15, which states that “Provision may . . . be made by law for the creation or recognition of subordinate legislatures and for the powers and functions of these legislatures.”

It turned out to be so simple in the end. All we need to do now is pass a law at Leinster House recognizing the Stormont Assembly as a “subordinate” (in truth, not very much so) legislature. Instead of being associated with Westminster, it is now part of a 32-county state, albeit with significant powers of its own.

Another useful element of the same Article is the provision that the Irish houses of parliament don’t have to sit in Dublin but can meet in another place if they so wish. Let the debate begin: should it be Armagh or Dundalk? Why not both, in turn? Dublin was getting too big anyway, and plans for converting Leinster House on a permanent basis into accommodation for the homeless are already in train.

Then there’s Article 28 which stipulates that the Tánaiste, aka deputy prime minister, “shall also act for or in the place of the Taoiseach during the temporary absence of the Taoiseach.” A solemn agreement was concluded that, in the event of a Yes vote on both sides of the Border, the Tánaiste would in future always come from the unionist tradition, and the Taoiseach would take a sabbatical every year (duration to be agreed) so that the Ulster Tánaiste would be head of the all-island government for that period. Now we just have to find words for “Taoiseach” and “Tánaiste” that Irish-language enthusiasts and unionists can both accept. The civil servants are ransacking their dictionaries of Esperanto, the international auxiliary language.

Some of us are old enough to remember the border poll of March 8, 1973, which was boycotted by nationalists and produced a 98.9 percent vote for remaining in the United Kingdom, but on a turnout of only 58.7 percent. Ahh, but that was before the Good Friday Agreement brought unionists and nationalists together in a power-sharing arrangement.

Then, of course, there was the impact of Brexit. In the same way that the gradual demise of the Soviet Union facilitated the reunification of Germany, the decline of the UK after Brexit set the stage for Irish unity. I recall John Taylor. Otherwise, Lord Kilclooney, telling me once that some people are unionists because of their loyalty to the British Crown but others “have a very strong loyalty to the half-crown” (that’s twelve-and-a-half pence in today’s money.)

Way back in 2016, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. We can see now, in this year of 2030, that it was a bad mistake. Anti-EU campaigners used to say it was “a rich person’s club” but, let’s face it, if you are lucky enough to secure membership of such a body, you don’t lightly give it up.

We won’t go into the saga of economic collapse and isolation the UK has endured in the 14 years since that fateful Brexit vote. A woman called Theresa May was prime minister but was later ousted by a fellow called Gove – or was it, Johnson? It doesn’t matter now really, our British friends have fallen on hard times, and they’re groveling to get back into the EU.

We have secured agreement from the Brussels bureaucrats to let them back in, provided they continue to pay the multimillion block grant to the north of Ireland. That was the sticking-point in the referendum with the southern electorate, who were all in favor of unity provided it didn’t mean a tax surcharge as happened in Germany.

Sinn Féin getting into coalition government in Dublin, way back in – what year was it? – 2019 or 2020, helped put unity on the agenda. It was useful also that the power-sharing executive was re-established in Belfast around the same time. The proposal for a stand-alone Esperanto Act proved the perfect solution. If the chap who invented that language, L.L. Zamenhof, were around today, I’d be saying Gura maith agat or, as he would put it, Dankon!