It is a proposal that, if endorsed by the governments of the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland, might finally bring about the true reconciliation of the political, religious, cultural and industrial traditions of our 12 million strong people.
The proposal for the setting up a confederation (or even a more formal federation) of the three political entities is not rooted in some misty-eyed dream of a ‘celtic’ counterbalance to the political dominance of England within what was, in former times United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland but, rather, it is a practical suggestion on how best to secure long-term peace and prosperity on the north-west fringe of the European Union in a post-independence scenario.
Such a confederation would have a quarter of the population of these islands and would make up some half of its land mass. From an economic standpoint, a union of three states with a combined population of some 12 million people would have considerable clout. The current situation where the three governments compete with each other for foreign investment is, self-evidently, in no one country’s best interests.
Furthermore, the recent travails Ireland has endured demonstrate all too clearly the fragility of the economic independence of small nations (albeit badly managed ones) where they find themselves at the mercy of troikas which are far more concerned with the stability of the big economic powerhouses in Europe and further afield than with effecting a swift recovery in the countries they are charged to ‘help’.
Working together, a union of the three states could, in time, become an economic powerhouse in its own right. This is not fanciful. The region has vast natural resources in oil, wind and wave power and it has highly fertile lands and seas that have already spawned a world-class, multi-billion euro/pound food-based economy.
The confederation of three states proposed would provide ‘the best of all worlds’ for all the traditions. For Irish nationalists, the crown finally gone and a union of north and south, of Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter, in the true republican tradition of Wolfe Tone. For the Unionists of the north, a new union where their future would be secure in a confederation where those with a Protestant identity would comprise slightly more than half the population. Yes, they would lose the link with the London but, in a United Kingdom now shorn of 50% of its 1801 landmass and where they find themselves even more marginalised and less influential, how could they ever feel secure?
A No vote in will make the case for a confederation largely redundant but we live in a time of change when the concept of independent ‘nation states’ has become something of a nonsense anyway.