Suzanne Harrington: Irish reunification may be looming into view

A bright green Ireland is on the cover of The Economist, with a zip illustrating the border: “A united Ireland — could it really happen?” Crikey. Could it?

Suzanne Harrington: Irish reunification may be looming into view

A bright green Ireland is on the cover of The Economist, with a zip illustrating the border: “A united Ireland — could it really happen?” Crikey. Could it?

The Economist, generally more cautious than a senior citizen at traffic lights on an eight lane highway, seems to think it’s a possibility. But before we start painting the remaining red letterboxes green, it urges restraint: “It would not be an easy process.”

Well, duh. Of course it wouldn’t. But still. Exciting, no?

Could it be that thanks to a 21st century Sinn Féin and their focus on the practical everyday concerns of ordinary people — housing, health care, child care — the longer term goal of reunification may be slowly looming into view?

A green-tinged silver lining within the Brexit cloud of doom?

I never write about Irish politics, for two reasons — I haven’t lived in Ireland since the time of Thatcher, which means my political landscape lies elsewhere.

But mostly it’s because Irish politics have always been so boring; some of the malest, palest and stalest in existence. The most centrist, the least visionary. Hamstrung, dithering, and beholden to the past.

A whole century of two identical parties playing election ping pong every few years, eternally selecting the same man in a different suit.

I remember as a small kid always hearing the same old names: Jack Lynch, Garret Fitzgerald, Charlie Haughey. Never being able to grasp the difference between the two parties whose names sounded almost the same.

I have never voted in Ireland because, even if I had remained a resident, there was never anyone to vote for.

Until now. As England goes to the fascist dogs, rejecting the politics of hope for the politics of hate, Ireland continues on its progressive, meaningful journey away from the past.

Leo Varadkar may have broken the pale stale mould with his brownness, his gayness, his support for women’s reproductive rights, but he is still a D4 centrist, still a neoliberal in a suit, still broadly more of the same.

Mary Lou McDonald is not more of the same. She is socialist, capable, compassionate, fearless. Socialism — ie, socio-economic fairness — is no longer a dirty word, unless it’s your job to prop up the billionaires.

Watching the unfurling of a new Ireland, watching in recent years the country legislate its collective empathy and reject the entrenched, the success of Sinn Féin seems to be the next logical step forward. People remain, post austerity, hungry — angry for change. Could Mary Lou be our next Taoiseach?

Nowadays, when I think of Sinn Féin, I think not of angry men with Belfast accents from the olden days, but of a Cork friend I knew in Eighties London, who always cared deeply about stuff like fairness and justice and freedom.

He now works tirelessly as a Sinn Féin councillor in a tough Dublin neighbourhood. Community, community, community. Ordinary stuff, everyday stuff, supporting and helping and getting things done. The kind of grassroots action so badly needed.

The momentum is building.

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