In a recent exchange with another poster who has to remain nameless because of OP rules (let’s call him netherlandia), we agreed that FG and SF are the two political parties in the Republic that appear to understand the full implications of Brexit on Irish politics and the Irish economy.
Now, although netherlandia is one of the more articulate posters on the forum (and makes very fine graphs) we would differ on a lot of things, so I found it particularly interesting that we should agree on this, so I thought it might be interesting to tease out the subject here, and maybe pull together various strands of discussion that are happening all over P.ie.
I understand that the two parties have had high level informal talks on how to proceed, and that Kenny’s kite flying exercise last week was part of a process. On the whole, both parties have been taking a sensibly quiet and low-key approach to this knotty set of problems, just getting on with it. It also appears that the emerging SF leadership in the South are somewhat sidelined in this process, with the key relationships being Kenny, Adams and now Michelle O’Neill. Yesterday’s meeting between Kenny and May was in keeping with the low-key approach, but May’s public restatement in Dublin of her continued commitment to the GFA and CTA were significant, not because of her potential influence on how negotiations will pan out, but because of the time and place.
FF have shown very little; lots of fine words, no buttered parsnips. The parties of the Left are conflicted, not really knowing whether or not they hate Brussels more than they hate the Tories. Given the stagnant nature of the political situation in the Republic at the moment, nicely illustrated by the aforementioned graphs, I think we should work on the assumption that the current government will see out much of the two-year Article 50 negotiations, so an understanding of not just the economics but also of the politics will be crucial.
So, what are the political implications?
- Brexit is an opportunity for Dublin and NI Nationalists to build bridges with those within the Unionist community who voted Remain.
- After the Assembly elections, the options pretty much are: a new DUP/SF administration, which seems unlikely but not impossible; direct rule; joint administration.
- Direct rule would be a disaster for NI Remainers of all stripes, and they know it.
- Joint administration may begin to look more appealing as both communities survey the potential damage that Brexit will inflict on their wallets. On the other hand, anything that seems to be a step towards a UI will meet some understandable resistance. Nevertheless, this seems to me to be the least bad option currently on the table for all concerned, apart from the DUP, unless the foolishness of their approach sinks in.
Now, I’m not claiming any special expertise on NI politics, I’m just working from those most old-fashioned of tools, observation and reasoning, and I’m perfectly willing to have my errors pointed out to me in a reasonable fashion. Perhaps one positive benefit of this new understanding might just be that FG and SF supporters on the ground might just drop the old SF/IRS, Blueshirts, West Brit name-calling and get on with the serious business of building consensus on this small island of ours. Even, maybe, on P.ie.