What is a “shared island” ....
and is a border poll the answer?
25 July 2020
The new programme for government for the three party coalition in Dublin includes a commitment to a ‘shared island’. The proposals include a new unit within the Taoiseach’s office which will work towards; ‘consensus on a shared island’, a strategic review of the British-Irish relationship, the consolidation of North-South co-operation, strengthening of ‘Strand 3’ institutions like the BritishIrish Intergovernmental Council and a deepening of Ireland’s relationships with the devolved governments of Wales and Scotland. If you haven't heard of these its because they are meaningless prinkles designed to decorate the renewed partition of Ireland contained in the Good Friday Agreement (GFA).
At the same time the nationalist SDLP is to create a forum "to discuss future constitutional arrangements on the island of Ireland". This 'New Ireland Commission' will involve a panel of “elders … experienced people who have contributed to building a new Ireland based on mutual respect and agreement over a long period of time.”
What does this mean? Not a rapprochement with unionism! In 2018, Leo Varadkar was praised for appointing Armagh farmer and politician Ian Marshall to the Seanad – the first unionist to be represented there since the 1930s, but in the scramble to share out positions and patronage today between three parties both unionists and northern nationalists were pushed to one side.
What the proposals are about is making it absolutely clear that, whatever a "shared Ireland" is, it's not a United Ireland. Sinn Fein propaganda around a border poll is to be firmly suppressed.
Not surprisingly Sinn Fein, supported by People before Profit, are denouncing this suppression of democratic rights. Sinn Fein MP Francie Molloy went as far as to say that Irish nationalists had been 'sold a pup' and that the GFA was a con job - a statement hastily withdrawn when he was warned that this amounted to an endorsement of the rejection of the agreement by republican critics.
Molloy in turn came under attack. His critics pointed out that the GFA did not contain a commitment to a United Ireland nor did it contain a guarantee that there would be a border poll. It merely invested the British with the power to call such a poll if they felt like it and even then it would be restricted to the North. The members of the Southern state would not be consulted. As Francie Molloy was one of the chief negotiators of the agreement it was difficult to see how he had missed this.
It's clear that someone is being sold a pup, someone is being conned, but the victims seem more and more to be Sinn Fein's supporters!
The political frenzy around a 'shared' Ireland is based on a glaring reality. Joint membership of the European Union has hidden the land border in Ireland and, when Brexit arrives, it will become much more visible. Irish capitalism is reacting by taking the issue off the table and replacing it with 'shared Ireland' ideology - this is what led to a recent attempt to celebrate the imperialist "Black and Tan" forces. Sinn Fein are hyping up the bluster around an imaginary provision in the GFA. They are having internal problems over their abstention on resolutions opposing the extradition of republican Liam Campbell to Lithuania. In addition the announcement that those driving into the 36 county state from the North will shortly be required to produce a green card makes nonsense of their united Ireland claims.
The main success of Sinn Fein lies in the issue of irish unity being transformed into a slogan rather than a policy. As a slogan it can be reduced by them and by the majority of left groups to an aspiration by nationalists with limited impact on day to day life.
What if we replace the phrase "United Ireland" with the phrase "An Irish Democracy"? That immediately throws into relief the nature of the Stormont assembly and the Dail, accentuated by the forced coalition of the main capitalist parties and the lack of a convincing political opposition.
It's true that an Irish Democracy would not resolve the struggles of the working class, but it would provide an immensely better environment in which workers could unite and express their interests, as evidenced by the long struggle by the British and their unionist and gombeen nationalist allies to drown that struggle in rivers of blood.
Of course, to achieve that we are not talking about a border poll any more, we are talking about a workers revolution!.