Debating a united Ireland


Sir, – The resistance in some quarters to any discussion of reunification is entirely understandable. The Northern state is clearly dysfunctional and consequently both its economy and political institutions are dysfunctional.

This situation is almost entirely the responsibility of the two main parties here who benefit from the politics of clientelism and have no incentive to move beyond the stagnant sectarianism that sustains their preeminence. Embracing this failed entity is admittedly a less than attractive proposition for many people.

There are, however, some grounds for optimism. A growing number of voters in the North choose not to identify as either nationalist or unionist and wish to see progressive policies on issues such as the climate emergency, homelessness, comprehensive health care provision, employment rights and the refugee crisis. At present the two main parties are in a position to easily co-opt or crush the raising of these issues as it suits them.

There are accordingly a significant number of people who prefer not to vote rather than endorse any form of sectarian politics. There is nonetheless a steadily growing desire to widen the parameters of political debate and to have a greater choice of options available to both new and currently disillusioned voters.

There is a diminishing expectation that this can happen within the confines of the Northern state.

An honest, genuinely participative debate on reunification now offers the only credible route to a political realignment on this island with the potential to create new social and economic structures reflective of a modern, outward looking European democracy. It is in the interests of everyone on this island that we strengthen participation in the democratic process by enabling that debate to take place. – Yours, etc,




Sir, – Following partition, unionist politicians had a chance to reach out and include the minority in the new Northern Ireland but instead they immediately embarked on a path of exclusion and discrimination which no other part of the United Kingdom would have tolerated. Westminster and Dublin showed complete indifference and allowed them to dig in.

The winds of change which swept the western world in the late sixties only reinforced the mindset and 30 years of mindless bloodletting followed.

Coerced into an accommodation, unionism then spawned the now totally myopic DUP.

As Brexit-wracked England is surely on course to scupper the union anyway, perhaps it is time for Northern unionists to seriously consider a devolved status in a mature New Ireland, where they will be treated with the respect, freedom and tolerance they just were not able to accord to others during those sad lost decades. – Yours, etc,



Co Dublin.