An Ireland for All

A Letter From Ireland

a Chara,

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, though I’m not always sure. When elected two years ago, Sinn Féin First Minister Michelle O’Neill declared her intention to be a “First Minister for All”. She has stood over that promise both in office and when the institutions were suspended.

Michelle has reached out a hand of friendship to all, without favor. She is proud to be an Irish Republican while acknowledging differences and respecting the view of those opposed to Irish Unity. The future is in the hands of the people to be expressed in Unity referendums north and south. It is the people who count. It is their choice that must be respected.

One hundred miles down the road, the new Taoiseach Simon Harris last week declared his intention to be a “Taoiseach for All”. It would appear that Simon is a pale comparison to Michelle.

Eyebrows were raised this week when the “Taoiseach for All” declared that, “Probably people of my generation are familiar now with London, and Berlin, and Paris than they might be with Belfast or Derry”.

This betrays the new Taoiseach’s worldview more than the reality. Travel and tourism from the South to the North far outstrips travel to London, Paris, and Berlin combined. Every weekend Belfast and Derry are full of Southern-registered cars. Many swear that Belfast has the best bars, restaurants, and clubs than overpriced Dublin. Derry borders Donegal and in both counties, people work and live interchangeably at opposite ends of a short road.  

That’s the thing with partition: it worked on some people. They failed to see the north as part of Ireland. Turned their faces away. Thankfully they are a diminishing minority.

The new Taoiseach is in his late 30s, and people of that age are almost a post Good Friday Agreement generation. I would suggest that the Taoiseach is a minority of those. The generation from the border region freely traveled across for work, retail, and leisure. Strangely, a Taoiseach for All appears to generalize from his own limited experiences and bias. Maybe he should get out more.

While the Taoiseach was making his discovery of the land north of the border, I traveled to Belfast for a series of meetings on planning for Irish Unity. This is not an aspiration to be held close and sung about as a distant hope. It is a very real objective and a pathway has been agreed. That pathway is the Good Friday Agreement. To support the Good Friday Agreement is to support the right of the people of Ireland to national self-determination via referendums North and South.

It is past the time for the Irish Government to grasp the opportunity to build a New and United Ireland. It is, after all, the aim of all the major parties in Dublin. Perhaps it is time for a Taoiseach for all who will build an Ireland for All.

Have a great weekend.

Is mise,

Ciarán

Ciarán Quinn is the Sinn Féin Representative to North AmericaEach week he writes a letter from Ireland with news and analysis. It is featured in the weekly Friends of Sinn Féin USA Newsletter. Be sure you are subscribed to stay up to date.