If I ever considered there being a purpose to my brief involvement in politics it was to see an improvement in Anglo-Irish relations because I surmised that coming from an Anglo-Irish background my very participation would send a signal that Southern Irish Protestants with dual citizenship were welcome in the Republic. Being on the receiving end of a fair amount of abuse in earlier years, I reckoned that sentiment had some validity.
Imagine then my joy in recent years when the relationship between our two islands started to flourish. The Good Friday Agreement seemed to provide a foundation for improved relationships. Then along comes Brexit, the wrecking ball, and Anglo-Irish relations have soured. Within this context there has been another slightly disturbing development. Criticising the Taoiseach’s approach to the Backstop is somehow unpatriotic. This is dangerous nonsense. For some time I have been arguing in this column that the Taoiseach’s and the Tánaiste’s stance on the Backstop was too strident. Anyone with a modicum of understanding about the Border would know it was going to present a problem for the British. Unfortunately Varadkar and Coveney have rowed so far up this river they have made it very hard for themselves to row back. However, the consequences for this island, North and South, of a crash-out Brexit are too damaging to contemplate and it is utterly irresponsible not to examine ways of averting this calamity. I have come to the conclusion that the Confidence and Supply Agreement between Fianna Fail and Fine Gael could be central to all of this. After all Micheal Martin’s chief reason for standing behind the increasingly unpopular Blue Shirts is to get through Brexit. Hence the somewhat hysterical reaction to Fianna Fail T.D. Timmy Dooley’s tweet criticising how the Taoiseach has handled Anglo-Irish relations. Now here’s the rub. We all have skin in the game. If you are involved in agriculture a crash-out could be catastrophic. It will have widespread and damaging effects throughout our economy. If the government is mishandling the situation somebody needs to shout out about it. Is it not ironic that during this critical period in the Republic’s and the U.K.’s history neither country has their parliament sitting and in both cases with Prime Ministers neither of which have faced the electorate. Good Heavens you could even go so far to say that we need general elections in both jurisdictions so there are proper mandates for whatever conclusion is arrived at to sort out this mess. How’s that as food for thought on a Bank Holiday weekend.
In conclusion, above all else we must be able to have an open mature debate about these issues. Having some sort of omerta around Brexit is deeply unhealthy. Above all else we need a deal.