Féile an Phobail – An Overview, Part 2

Part 2 – A snapshot of some other events at Féile which were relevant to the Unity debate.

By Gerry Adams

IRELAND’S FUTURE There was standing room only for the first discussion at Féile which saw Ireland’s Future outline their roadmap to a Border Poll 2030. The process of change is now underway which has been recently witnessed in demographic and electoral changes. Panelist Brian Feeney said, “We will need a referendum on a new, all island constitution that is appropriate for modern times and for the future.”

HOW TO WIN A REFERENDUM Essential campaigning lessons for the evolving island-wide reflections were discussed by Colin Harvey & Ailbhe Smyth, a lifelong campaigner for social and political change. Ailbhe said, “Reunification creates huge opportunities for us to remake and reshape this island. We would be betraying everyone who shares this island by not making the effort to better people’s lives and to build a brighter future for all.”

CAN THE CASE FOR THE UNION BE MADE? A panel of unionists set out their case for the Union and also considered how this can be achieved in the context of Brexit, unionist fragmentation and the growing arguments for unity. At this event former president of the Ulster Farmers Union & former Seanadóir Ian Marshall said, “Political unionism has damaged the union monumentally. If the union is fit for purpose and is the right call, the union will sell itself.” Writer and political commentator Sarah Creighton also said “There is a serious challenge for unionism going ahead. We cannot just go out and sell the status quo. It has to be more than that.”

THE ROLE OF THE EU IN PLANNING FOR IRISH UNITY A packed room came together to hear Colin Harvey and Martina Anderson set out the case for why and how the EU should become an advocate for Irish reunification, and support the planning for constitutional change in Ireland. Both speakers believed that the EU has a role in explaining clearly and dispassionately what the consequences are for a reunified Ireland as a member state of the European Union. A document was launched in Europe earlier this year and is available here.

IRISH UNITY- WHAT WE KNOW NOW & WHAT WE NEED TO KNOW Leading economist, Seamus McGuinness from the ESRI, talked about the stark contrasts North and South in living standards, education, health and economic growth. The economic argument for Irish unity is more clear than ever. He said, “Reunification should not be about taking a low productivity north & subsuming it into the Republic. There is no reason why Belfast can’t be as productive as Dublin. The level of duplication of services on this island simply does not make sense. We need to start planning for how services would look in the case of unity, and a citizens assembly is crucial in that process.”

THE DISUNITED KINGDOM Jonathan Evershed from Plaid Cymru reflected on how relationships between Britain, Ireland and Europe have been disrupted by the ongoing consequences of Brexit. He considered the significance of movements for reunification and the possibility of a more progressive relationship between these islands. He said, “The Union has given English political culture and history a warped sense of itself. Brexit is now quickly unveiling how warped that really is. We need to end the Union for the good of everyone who lives on these islands.”

THE GHOST LIMB Claire Mitchell, Linda Ervine and Rev. Karen Sethuraman told their stories in Claire’s recent book, The Ghost Limb: Alternative Protestants and the Spirit of 1798, stories often excluded from the mainstream narrative. At this event they explored cultural, political and social change amongst northern Protestants and argued that alternative Protestant traditions are thriving and are beginning to find their voice. Claire Mitchell said, “Dissent is not only ok, but makes things interesting. We really are part of one another.”

MEDIA IN A UNITED IRELAND Dr Richard Gallagher talked to Amanda Ferguson about the Irish media postpartition & answered questions on what happens to the BBC and what challenges face RTÉ post partition. He also put a focus on how unionists will be represented in this new media landscape.

Read Part 1 of the review here.