WE Irish love to talk. Our chattering is so all-pervasive we become conscious of it only when we live in another country where it’s absent. We have, as they say, the gift of the gab.

But there’s a downside to this gift. Sometimes we use talk as a substitute for action. More than one Irish writer has wasted their talent sitting on a barstool talking about the novel s/he’s going to write.

At present, many Irish nationalist politicians are talking about a reunited Ireland. Among the general public, too, you’ll find much discussion of how wise or unwise it would be to hold a border poll. Some opinion polls suggest that many Irish people grow lukewarm when the practicalities of a reunited Ireland are laid out. Others argue for more detailed and practical talk, so that the public can see what concessions and compromises might be involved in creating a new Ireland. 

So is there a way in which talk of a border poll on Irish reunification can be transformed into productive action? The most obvious way is through a citizens’ assembly, where a cross-section of people would meet  and construct a model of what a new Ireland might look like. 

The catch with this is that both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael don’t believe that turkeys should vote for Christmas. This is framed as an anxiety that Northern reconciliation must first happen. The Southern media support them in this. On Monday of this week, a journalist in another Irish newspaper wrote: “For many on the unionist side, demands for a border poll on Irish unity are like political Armalites. Yes, it is a provocation being played up by the DUP to erect a unionist fortress. But a provocation it is. Add in Sinn Féin’s insistence that a 50 per cent plus 1 poll victory would be enough, even if, en bloc, unionists trenchantly opposed unity.”

This strategy is sometimes known as kicking the can down the road. Denying democracy would be another way of putting it.

Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael can be jolted into action if they see  that a majority of Irish people really want a citizens’ assembly. Faced with that, their thinking is almost certain to change. 

How might FF and FG be persuaded that a lot of people want them to act? Well, one of the things which jolted political thinking in 2018 was a published letter with 1,000 signatures calling on the Taoiseach to defend the rights of Irish citizens North of the border.  

A similar strategy in terms of establishing a citizens’ assembly on a new Ireland could be a powerful nudge to action. If they were confronted with thousands of signatures to a document/letter calling on them to establish a citizens’ assembly on Irish unity, big party minds south of the border would be concentrated wonderfully. 

We know that, left to themselves, the main parties in the south will do everything possible to postpone the dark day of a border poll. They’re only human: radical change for many could mean the end of their political career, which is why they’ll try very very hard to avoid it.

So it's up to those of us who believe in a reunited Ireland and the need to prepare for it to put the squeeze on Dublin and London. A public letter demanding that a citizens’ assembly be formed in the near future might well sharpen Dublin/London thinking. There may be other strategies which would be more effective; if there are, let’s hear about them. 

It's time to give our gift of the gab a rest, and instead  take a first determined step to create a new reality.