Danny Morrison: A united Ireland by 2016 is impossible

Danny Morrison (right) with Gerry Adams in 1984 when the IRA campaign was still raging
Danny Morrison (right) with Gerry Adams in 1984 when the IRA campaign was still raging

The veteran republican who articulated the ‘ballot box and Armalite’ strategy has said that it is “impossible” to have a united Ireland by next year – as once suggested by Gerry Adams.

Danny Morrison, Sinn Fein’s former PR man, famously told the party’s 1981 Ard Fheis: “Who here really believes we can win the war through the ballot box? But will anyone here object if, with a ballot paper in this hand and an Armalite in the other, we take power in Ireland?”

After that strategy had given way to an IRA ceasefire and the Belfast Agreement, Gerry Adams predicted to US supporters in 2000 that there could be a united Ireland by 2016 – the symbolic centenary of partition,

That aim was endorsed two years later by Martin McGuinness, who said: “Certainly it is our view that it can be accomplished over a short period. Gerry Adams has said 2016 and I think that is achievable.”

But as 2016 looms nearer with no moves whatsoever towards even a referendum on Irish unity, Mr Morrison conceded that the original goal was now impossible.

He told BBC Radio Ulster’s Good Morning Ulster programme that a united Ireland had to make “social, economic and political sense”.

When it was put to Mr Morrison that at present it does not make economic sense, he said: “No, it would be impossible currently to unite Ireland, but there’s much more to be done.

“For example, we can pool resources, we can attempt to do the kind of harmonisation which was included in the Good Friday Agreement with all-Ireland bodies and cross-border bodies – there’s a lot of work that has to be done and a lot of persuasion that has to be done.”

Mr Morrison, who is now a writer, went on: “Partition has done so much damage, both to the psyche of people on both sides of the border ... we’ve got two different social and economic [situations], we’ve got a different currency, different rules, different laws, so that’s going to take a considerable amount of time to harmonise.”

And, speaking on the Nolan Show, Mr Morrison also rejected claims that the IRA had been defeated, saying that the group had several aims, some of which it had secured.

But Ulster Unionist councillor and former Royal Irish Regiment officer Doug Beattie said: “Are you telling me that the IRA’s aims were for Martin McGuinness to gorge himself with the Queen at banquets?”

Mr Morrison also said that he believes that Stormont will have collapsed by September or October. He said it was “within the gift” of the Government to give Stormont more money.

But Mr Beattie said that he believed there would be “the last-minute fudge” which has emerged numerous times over recent years when Stormont was supposedly on the brink of collapse.