THERE is little doubt that there is something afoot regarding the restoration of devolution, perhaps for the first time since its collapse in February 2022. Yes, I did have to Google the date, and yes, it does seem longer than that.
Like the anticipated wedding of a long-in-the tooth couple, every elbow and raised eyebrow of Jeffrey Donaldson is being scrutinised for clues as to when the big day might be. By some. For many people, though, the air has gone out of the Stormont Confidence balloon and there is little more than passing engagement in the wranglings of Donaldson and his crew of less than merry men and women. That isn’t to say that there is anything less than serious annoyance at the DUP preventing locally accountable government from resuming; there is, but most people have only so much energy for modern day cries of "Never, Never, Never!" This self-care is not to be confused with apathy, though.
The internal solution hasn’t succeeded, with unionism proving itself unwilling and incapable of sharing power. Even if restoration is on the horizon there will be few who feel that it is anything other than time-limited. It’s no coincidence that close to 60 per cent of people want Britain to spell out the conditions for a border poll. The population has moved on in their heads from the DUP’s latest conniptions and making Stormont work despite itself, and the journey is taking them to "What is next?" and that is not Stormont Plus, but rather a new arrangement, consigning our unending political melodrama to where it belongs.
Sinn Fein are riding high in the polls in the Republic and would also be the biggest party at Stormont if the DUP wasn’t continuing its boycott of the Assembly. So how do nationalists want to see us governed while the Stormont impasse continues? pic.twitter.com/N6A9vW4cYi— BBC Newsline (@bbcnewsline) November 9, 2023
Every economic statistic points to the common sense of planning for an all-island arrangement. It would provide political stability and economic coherence. It would also open up potential and opportunity to date unseen on this island. For while the local political landscape is bleak, there are other stories to be told here. How our young population brings consistent hope with their educational achievements, breadth of studies and application to the future. Local businesses have adapted, changed and adapted again in an economic landscape of post-Brexit uncertainty. Our local food and drink continues to be the best in the world. Tourists are landing by the planeload just begging to engage with our geography and culture. I don’t believe in NI plc, never have. I see all of the above either mirroring or part of the same trajectories we see in the South. Only locally we have Westminster dragging us back with English nationalism attempting to reduce our potential.
Far from imagining a Celtic Utopia, our new Republic will begin a new journey of all of our people together, in the EU, and as part of the United Nations. There will be exceptional goodwill towards all of us, especially British citizens whose interests are already the first item on most agendas I have heard or been a part of. And that is encouraging for the future. And informed by recent failures.
Where Stormont failed, with some espousing that one community could look after its own insular backward-looking interests and mould future arrangements around those, a united Ireland will succeed by doing the exact opposite. Forward planning, with inclusivity and human rights protection at the core, is the only way to build.
We just need the date. We can do the rest. Together.