Ben Lowry: Unionists are too polite to say ‘get lost’ in the endless calls to debate a New Ireland

Lord Eames, former Church of Ireland Primate, in discussion with Brian Rowan for the BBC about a New Ireland. The subtitled words are part of his response to being asked whether the Union is safe.
Lord Eames, former Church of Ireland Primate, in discussion with Brian Rowan for the BBC about a New Ireland. The subtitled words are part of his response to being asked whether the Union is safe.
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Here is a view you didn’t hear on BBC Newsline last night.

As part of its series on 25 years since the IRA ceasefire, there was a discussion about a ‘New Ireland’.

Lord Eames was asked about his views on that debate by Brian Rowan, and talked good naturedly about wanting to know more about what it might mean (it was only a short clip of him so he might have said much more on the topic).

Then Denis Bradley and the former Downing Street press officer Tom Kelly were asked about the debate by Donna Traynor.

There seemed to be an assumption that there needed to be a discussion about a ‘new Ireland’.

A view you did not hear was one I suspect many unionists, even formerly moderate ones, would want (but be too polite) to say: ‘Get lost’.

I used to think that the Republic had changed radically, and on social and religious issues it has done. But Brexit has shown that its ancient grievance about Britain is still alive.

Of course it is reasonable for the Irish to be furious about Brexit. As it happens I always thought Brexit fraught with perils for unionists.

But the prevailing high mindedness in Dublin, the complete lack of empathy with the confusions and struggles of its neighbour on a complex issue, Europe, that has caused plenty of confusion and ambivalence in Ireland too, the almost unison reaction of its media, which cheer leads its government (in contrast to the plurality of voices that you always get in the UK), has reminded some of us that we want nothing to do with Irish unity.

Yet there are endless references to a ‘new Ireland’ debate.

Note that unionists and mainland Britons never harry Irish nationalists into participating in a ‘new UK’ debate, perhaps on what a post Brexit Britain might look like.

It would be a stupid thing to try to impose such a debate on nationalists. So can nationalist Ireland please realise the same in reverse?

Unionists do not want to give cover for ‘new’ packaging of an old idea, the unification of Ireland.

• Ben Lowry (@BenLowry2) is News Letter deputy editor

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