EMMA de Souza is a formidable young woman. She put the fear of God – or at least the fear of litigation – into the British Home Secretary when she sued to assert that she was an Irish citizen and thus entitled to benefit from the EU’s family reunion rights.
 
The British Home Secretary was forced to concede to her argument and Emma’s American husband Jake was able to remain in the UK. Her energy and tenacity had been rewarded.

 

But she doesn’t confine her campaigning to personal matters. She has recently trashed the reputation of the present Dublin Government and other governments before them for their failure to follow through on the idea of a ‘shared island’. She highlights some uncomfortable truths.
 
When the north was dragged out of the EU by Britain, Leo Varadkar nominated northern unionist Ian Marshall to the Seanad – but today Marshall’s time is up and he is not a senator. When the EU awarded two more seats in Brussels to the South,  the Dublin Government didn’t even think of passing those two seats to the north, thus leaving the North without a voice in Europe.
 
Faced with this, the Dublin Government could, if they wished, allocate three or more Seanad seats to the North. But of course in the name of not upsetting unionism, they don’t want to destabilise the present cosy system.

De Souza reels off the broken promises. Remember the talk about Northern representatives in the EU parliament?  That’s what it amounted to – just talk. Remember the talk of allowing speaking rights in the Dáil and Seanad for northern politicians? Once again, hot air. And that marvellous talk about allowing Irish people in the North and those abroad to vote in the presidential campaign – ah sure that was only chat, you can forget about that possibility too.

Why are Dublin politicians afraid to make changes in the form of Northern representatives having speaking rights in the south, and on committees in Dublin and Brussels? For the same reason that Dublin likes to paint ‘up there’ as a place apart: let’s have nothing that would upset the cosy consensus in the south.
 
De Souza argues that setting up citizens’ assemblies on the climate crisis, on health, on infrastructure, assemblies which operated on an all-island basis  – this wide range of matters would require cooperation on isssues that concern everyone, north and south, and would point the way to greater co-operation on other matters that were of shared concern.  As for the fact that nearly half the south’s population has never set foot in the north, free cross-border travel by train and bus, or at least significantly reduced costs, would be good for tourism and good for expanding the mind of inward-looking southerners.
 
De Souza’s voice is both critical and creative, she speaks out strongly against the fake nationalism of southern parties and she points to specific things that could be done that would break down ignorance and insulation.
 
We are in pressing need of more such voices. If you caught Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald’s address to the Australian National Press Club recently, you’ll have heard how a border poll is  targeted to happen before the end of this decade. Instead of misleading opinion polls asking the absurd question “How would you vote if there was a border poll tomorrow?” Dublin political parties and everyone else need reminding that preparation for that poll is absolutely vital.  No good saying we’re too busy struggling with Covid and Brexit and a recession. There’s always a pious reason for postponing worthwhile things. It’s high time the Dublin government gave its toe a rest and stopped its forever can-kicking.
 
Emma de Souza: Ireland needs more with your determination to speak truth to power