Conversations about Irish unity moving from the kitchens to the public arena

From the start of this first event in a series of public debates on the prospect of Irish unity, Senator Frances Black, chair of the event held on Saturday at a hotel in Cork City, drew up the stand of the organization of which she is a member of the board of directors and which hosts the events. “Ireland’s Future was created to promote debate and discussion about the future of Ireland, including the possibility of new constitutional arrangements on the island. “Ireland’s Future is not a political party and is not affiliated with any political party and we welcome the participation of people from all political persuasions. It was important for Senator Black to make this statement at the start of the meeting as it set the tone for a surprisingly broad discussion on the general subject of Ireland’s future and what it might entail and how it might come about. unwind. Surprising in that he did not take the traditional path of previous discussions on the subject of Irish unity, discussions that could have ended with punches or a chorus song on a few Republican hymns. And while the conference room on the first floor of the Clayton Hotel in Cork was full, while adhering to COVID restrictions, with around 100 people in attendance, the audience weren’t limited to those in the room as it was broadcast in live on social media and, at the time of writing, the event had garnered over 10,000 views. There were Republican TDs – Cork East Fianna Fáil TD James O’Connor was among the panel guests while in the audience were Sinn Féin TDs Donncha Ó Laoghaire and Thomas Gould. Both SF TDs made contributions from the floor, with MP O’Laoghaire saying what a united Ireland would be like should be radically different from what currently exists, while Thomas Gould made no apologies for his aspirations as a socialist republic from 32 counties, but observed that in the interest of deepening the discussion and allowing the free flow of ideas, it would be better for him to withdraw from the debate. In his contribution, James O’Connor endorsed the question put to him by the President that the Irish government should conduct research on issues such as an island-wide health service and its cost, as well as similar research on other pressing issues such as education and housing. Senator Black’s preface to this question was that the UK Brexit referendum had been a lesson in the need to fully inform the public of the repercussions of what would come from a referendum on the new constitutional arrangements in Ireland. “From the perspective of looking at this issue, a New Ireland or a United Ireland, I think we have to accept that this will take many years of research, analysis, looking at many sectors of our economy, societal issues, looking at the conflict over several generations. He mentioned a possible two-state solution that has been made at the international level and the challenges of integration. “The creation of the shared island unit within the Taoiseach Department has been important. “This is about stepping up activity in the north and south to increase interaction between all the different communities, whatever their political position on the issue of a united Ireland.” Its major point was to reiterate its call for the creation of a government department or at least a ministry of state to coordinate the necessary research on issues surrounding unity. He also stressed the need to start preparations and research already as it was not excluded that a border survey sooner than we think, especially if the British government, frightened by the continued quest for independence in the north from the English border to Scotland, could call for an earlier poll that we would be ready for it. Coming from a staunch Protestant and Unionist background from east Belfast, Ireland’s first Baptist woman Minister, Reverend Karen Sethuraman, stressed that she was not speaking on behalf of trade unionists at Saturday’s event. “Simply because they have their own voice,” she said. “The reality is that this is already our home, we are not going to move to a new island.” Reverend Sethuraman said it would come as no surprise to anyone to hear that if trade unionists were asked if they wanted to join a united Ireland, their answer would be no. “They want to be part of the UK and, in fact, it’s okay. “I think our role is to continually extend the hand of welcome, compassion and grace and the desire to have dialogue and conversation. “Where we find common ground is that we all agree that a border survey will eventually take place, whether it’s five years, ten years, 20 years. “This is where we will have this in common with trade unionists and politicians.” Comments in the media have always been of trade unionists preparing for a border poll and the Reverend. Sethurama spoke of the efforts of some parties and groups to sell their vision of the Union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. She referenced an Ulster Unionist Party hashtag, #UnionofPeople or social media accounts for loyalist women, Her Loyal Voice and a trade union blog, Uniting the UK. “The commonality and the meeting place is the invitation to present what is best for us in the future because the people will decide.” While the image of an ongoing tribal war was a widespread perception given the daily feuds between rival political parties, Reverend Sethuraman spoke of the research she had undertaken, albeit limited to a group of around 100 young people from all walks of life participating in a leadership course, to Find out what their answers were to a series of questions about what could be done to improve people’s lives, what they thought their future held in store and the message that they would send to politicians. The responses surprised her as the young people spoke about the need for a real effort for people to befriend people because we are all just humans. “We have to recognize the difference, including new people,” said Colin, 13. ” Why ? Because we all belong. “Why can’t we be more tolerant – surely there is room for all of us,” said James, 15. “I want to grow up never having to face the bigotry and danger my parents faced when they were my age.” 15-year-old Caoimhe said. One of the “new people” mentioned by Colin was next to speak. Oluwaseun Ola is a single asylum-seeker mother and spokesperson for those like her who benefit from direct assistance. Currently entering a master’s degree, Oluwa stressed that she, like other asylum seekers, was not in Ireland not to contribute. “We did not cross seven seas and seven continents to live in direct supply centers,” she said. “We want to see a united Ireland, a better Ireland too.” She pointed to the people from Direct Provision who were now prominent in organizations like RTÉ and others who were making a contribution. The direct delivery system in Ireland was one of the many things that Oluwa said could use fixing in a better Ireland and she compared them to mother and baby houses where people were being pushed behind walls “out of the way.” seen “. Comedian Tadhg Hickey has expressed his belief that northern nationalists feel hurt, if not angry, for the way they have been treated. “It is incumbent on the South to reach out to the nationalists of the North and accept that we have drawn the drawbridge as we continue to build our ‘dancing at the crossroads’ state.” Laura Harmon, from Múscraí Gaeltacht, is now executive director of the Irish Council of International Students, but she was on Saturday’s panel due to her involvement in referendum campaigns to ensure marriage equality and the repeal of the Eighth Amendment . “Both were pretty difficult conversations and obviously would have been discussed for many years and in particular the Eight Amendment, it had been going on for decades and was very difficult for people on both sides of the debate. “I think the Citizens’ Assembly played a very important role in these two discussions. “A lot of people have perhaps said that they are not rejecting the box of politics by delaying the process.” Based on this experience, Laura was keen to support the idea of ​​a citizens’ assembly from across the island to discuss the way forward for the unity discussion. The conference then expanded to include speakers from the room, one of whom was UCC religion teacher Amanullah De Sondy, a Glasgow-born Muslim who has now lived in Ireland for a few years but has still the feeling that he is not considered Irish. He referred to a speech given by Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon during an independence referendum in Glasgow in 2020. “The #Scotland we seek is open, welcoming, #diverse and #inclusive and no conservatives will never be allowed to change that. “He doubted any Irish politician would speak in those emphatic terms and asked what it meant to be Irish. The question was a question people left the meeting with. It was a good start for one. long-awaited conversation.

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