I SUSPECT there are a few people out there who were lighting candles that the Ireland’s Future event in the 3Arena  last Saturday would fail.
 
The starting point for failure would be a smaller crowd than anticipated. The Irish Times on Friday noted that the 3Arena had capacity to hold 9,000. A statement of fact – or a high bar so that anything less might look like failure. What’s that – only 5,000?  Huh!
 
Another point of attack, compliments of the Alliance Party, would be that the event was a celebration of the notion of a united Ireland. Except it wasn’t. We had speakers pointing up the difficulties, the weaknesses in the case for a united Ireland, as well as arguing for the benefits it would offer.
 
To diverge for a moment: what did you make of (relatively) young Kyle Paisley’s apparently pro-united Ireland talk last week? He seemed to be predicting that a united Ireland was on its way. Another notable shoulder being applied to the united Ireland bandwagon?  Mmm, maybe. But what about his reference to ‘the emerald isle’. Straight out of the nineteenth century – cue Moore’s Melodies and languid pipe music. So did Kyle use the term deliberately to hint at a UI as a pipe dream? Only Kyle knows that. But up to now, the Paisley family haven’t been exactly cheerleaders for a united Ireland, have they?
 
But back to Saturday – what if anything did it achieve? Several things.
 
One is that it has heightened public awareness of the width and depth of support  for a united Ireland. Jimmy Nesbitt isn’t the most political of animals, but he got the keynote speech because he’s one of the best-known actors in Britain and Ireland, and he comes from a unionist background. To have him as a central jewel on the crown of the event was a shrewd achievement  by the organisers.
 
In some ways, Saturday in the 3Arena was like the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games.  All those fireworks and dancers and music aren’t really necessary but they can be like the school bell: they call all viewers to attention.  

 

And it achieved that, even though RTÉ pushed it well down the list in its TV news on Saturday evening. The event also made clear the challenge.
 
Jim O’Callaghan TD, the man with his eye on Micheál Martin’s job, warned that strong guarantees would be needed for those ambivalent about unity. Fine Gael TD Neale Richmond declared that ‘Brits Out’ would need to be changed to ‘Brits In’.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, meanwhile, warned that the conditions are currently not right for a border poll.
 
Not exactly a litany of speakers ‘celebrating’ the idea of a united Ireland. Check it out, Naomi. You’ll have to think up a better excuse next time.
 
But let’s keep in mind some strong possibilities.

Within two years, the bookies are convinced that there’ll be a Sinn Féin Taoiseach in Dublin and a Sinn Féin First Minister in Stormont. Once that happens, the pace will quicken considerably. Will we have the courage to seize the moment, present a thought-out plan for a new Ireland and then insist that it be put to the people of Ireland for the final decision?
 
That greatest of Englishmen, William Shakespeare, as so often supplies the perfect advice... 
 
There is a tide in the affairs of men,
Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.
Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows and in miseries. 
On such a full sea are we now afloat.
And we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.