Letter: Wishing away the debate on Ireland’s future will not work

Your columnist Ruth Dudley Edwards stated that, at a recent symposium hosted by the Irish Government’s Shared Island Unit, Ireland’s Future called on the Irish Government to hold a citizen’s assembly on unity and this was responded to negatively by Minister Simon Coveney TD.

Thursday, 29th April 2021, 11:03 am
Updated Thursday, 29th April 2021, 11:09 am
Simon Coveney speaking at Stormont in 2019.

As the person who put the question to Minister Coveney, I wish to request that the News Letter corrects the record because that is not what I said.

The question I put was: “Will the government consider establishing an all-island citizens assembly which would have a mandate to identify and propose areas of work, research and investment that can advance the shared island agenda?”

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Letter to the editor

Given that minister Coveney’s response is provided in quotes, I must assume the online recording of the meeting was accessed, therefore there is no excuse for this inaccuracy. Accuracy matters because the actual question put is a much broader question than your columnist states.

It also matters because I agree with Simon Coveney that “any assembly on the future of Ireland would have to be genuinely open”.

This sentiment has been echoed in recent days by Neale Richmond TD who stated: “Regardless of whether one supports a united Ireland or not, it cannot be denied that enhanced cooperation is to everyone’s benefit.”

He further said that a citizen’s assembly should be established in order to shape what a new Ireland will look like, and that it should report to a parliamentary committee composed of representatives from the Assembly, Oireachtas and Westminster.

For your columnist to suggest there is no common ground between Ireland’s Future and government parties in the Republic of Ireland does a disservice to Unionism.

The political and social landscape of this island has changed dramatically in the past decade.

Civic dialogue and a citizens’ assembly have the potential to provide spaces for issues-based discussions and agreement about the future in a way that party politics can’t.

It creates a space for Unionism and grassroots Loyalism to make a case for what it does want, rather than what it doesn’t. That is what Ireland’s Future is seeking to advance.

Pretending the debate isn’t already happening isn’t going to make it go away.

Patricia MacBride, Board member Ireland’s Future, (a group set up to consider ‘the viability of new constitutional arrangements on the Island’)

——— ———

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this story on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our advertisers — and consequently the revenue we receive — we are more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription.

Subscribe to newsletter.co.uk and enjoy unlimited access to the best Northern Ireland and UK news and information online and on our app. With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit https://www.newsletter.co.uk/subscriptions now to sign up.

Our journalism costs money and we rely on advertising, print and digital revenues to help to support them. By supporting us, we are able to support you in providing trusted, fact-checked content for this website.

Alistair Bushe

Editor