No health warning with ‘Beyond Brexit’ unity rhetoric

MARK RAINEY was at the Waterfront to hear nationalists discuss their vision for a ‘new Ireland’

Monday, 28th January 2019, 6:00 am
Updated Thursday, 7th February 2019, 7:18 pm
The Beyond Brexit conference programme cover
The Beyond Brexit conference programme cover

There was a carefully stage-managed show of strength by Irish nationalism in Belfast on Saturday in preparation for a 50+1% majority in favour of ‘new Ireland’.

Billed as a ‘discussion’ around Brexit and beyond, in reality the ‘Beyond Brexit The Future of Ireland’ Waterfront gathering was a series of sermons from a number of hand-picked ‘on message’ contributors proposing which rallying calls should replace the previously favoured “Irish unity by 2016”.

Speaker after speaker told the 1,400+ audience that Brexit made unity inevitable, but no one felt it appropriate to flag up the scale of the turmoil that would undoubtedly follow.

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How can that be, in light of what we’ve seen in the aftermath of the Brexit referendum?

All the welcome words about ‘reaching out to unionists’ wouldn’t diminish the magnitude of Northern Ireland leaving the UK with the narrowest of a majority in favour.

Brexit’s most vocal critics have, until the next round of elections anyway, come together to lobby for what would be a constitutional earthquake.

And while there was much talk of honouring the principles of the Good Friday Agreement, Sinn Fein continues to distance itself from the very heart of that much-lauded treaty – a Northern Ireland Executive sitting at Stormont where all political differences would be settled.

Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald helpfully pointed out what the ‘new Ireland’ will look like without actually hinting at who might pay for it all.

Because it won’t come cheap – particularly the promised new all-Ireland national health service, free at point of use for everyone.

If we learn one thing from Brexit, perhaps it should be that everyone thinks long and hard before making any grandiose promises.