Time to broaden the debate on Irish unity

Sir, – Alex Kane lists his questions about what an all-island Irish state might look like and invites others to do the same ("Unionists need to be ready for eventuality of Border poll", Opinion & Analysis, May 30th).

Mr Kane is right that this conversation cannot be delayed and I agree with his call for “detailed analysis” and that engagement in the debate does not imply a desire for Irish unity.

Ireland’s future is not a binary question of uniting “Irish nationalist” and “British unionist” tribes.

Many people in Northern Ireland identify as neither. And many people who describe themselves as Irish do not identify as nationalists. One in eight people living in Ireland are foreign born, and members of Ireland’s new communities are just as equally Irish as those who identify with Gaelic culture or those whose forbears were Anglo-Irish. And there are plenty of socialists and others who reject the ideology of ethnic nationalism, but who envisage an Irish state based on the logic of an all-Ireland economy and the opportunity of unity to improve people’s welfare. We rightly need to celebrate and preserve our culture and heritage, from all traditions. Irish unity should be built on this rich diversity.


We need to have these conversations in more detail, with greater analysis. That is why I have proposed a new version of the New Ireland Forum of the 1980s. This time such a forum must include unionists and those who are opposed to Irish unity. Even if there was a vote for unity, it is not only important that unionists engage with the Irish unity debate, it is vital that those on the side of unity hear what they have to say. – Yours, etc,


Leader of the Labour Party,

Leinster House,

Dublin 2.

Sir, – Newton Emerson raises several pertinent issues in his article ("The paradox of Alliance's Stormont surge", Opinion & Analysis, May 30th).

Northern Ireland certainly faces major challenges of structures as well as attitudes in our progress to create a less polarised society.

One point of clarification for your readers. While all elected MLAs signing in to the NI Assembly are requested to designate themselves as “Unionist, “Nationalist”, or “Other”, Alliance MLAs in fact sign in as “United Community”.

“United Community” is certainly a clearer description than “Other” in designating the vision and direction of travel of Alliance members. And it’s a prime reason why I joined the Alliance Party. – Yours, etc,



Alliance Party,

Foyle Constituency