It’s the first week of August and we’re in the midst of the media silly season when hard news and policy direction is in short supply.
Indeed, like the westerly winds, it gives some an opportunity to fly political ‘kites’, to float ideas that in the normal course would be booted into the long grass, and generally to give airtime to pet ideas and theories that have limited chance of gaining any traction.
It would be easy, from a unionist point of view, to look at the report published by Senator Mark Daly in that context.
I know Mark, he is a very bright and able politician, but even he knows the collection of ‘evidence’ produced, the recommendations made and the contrived logic within the report is at best a narrow nationalist pastiche that has no chance whatsoever of producing a reasoned argument for unity.
For a start, all post Brexit options for the Republic need to be sketched out.
Indeed, a spectrum of outcomes from Daly’s narrow report, to special status for the Irish Republic, to a closer federal arrangement with the United Kingdom, all these outcomes should have been considered.
If it is time for ‘Blue Skies’ thinking, which I believe it is, then a senator of Mark’s ability should be tasking his committee colleagues to look at all issues.
In the move post-Brexit to an ever closer European Union, I would have assumed that much discussion in Dublin would be more focused on the end of Irish neutrality, the harmonisation of business taxation across the EU, and the move away from the ‘Atlantic’ approach that has brought so much FDI to the Republic.
It is time for the Republic’s political leadership, from all parties, to realise that Brexit is just part of a rapidly changing international system; what is needed across all of these islands is a serious discussion of what the future may entail.
Pulling out a badly articulated and evidenced trope about the only option being some form of united Ireland without considering all of the other options is indeed, a classic example of the ‘silly season’.
The Republic of Ireland deserves much better thinking; especially as it is facing an equally uncertain future.
• Dr Steve Aiken OBE MLA, UUP Chief Whip and Brexit spokesperson