The republican party Fianna Fáil is working on a 12-point plan to prepare Ireland for reunification if a future referendum should make such an historic move possible.
The party leader, Micheál Martin, says he believes a united Ireland is a distinct possibility in his lifetime but a huge amount of work is needed to make it happen. He said it would mean strengthening economic, political and educational links between the Republic and Northern Ireland.
Reunification has been a lifelong goal of Fianna Fáil and other nationalist parties including Sinn Féin. It has been brought into the spotlight over the last year because of the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union. Although a majority of people in the UK voted to leave, there was a substantial majority in Northern Ireland in favour of remaining.
This has opened the possibility that people in the North may decide in the future that they would be better off in a united Ireland, especially if the UK’s decision to leave the EU brings about the economic hardships that many predict.
The UK decision to leave the EU also raises the possibility of a hard border between the Republic and the North, which many fear could hurt trade and even lead to sectarian tensions.
Although support for a united Ireland is still uncertain, even in the Republic where voters are concerned about the potential cost of absorbing the North after reunification, Fianna Fáil believes public opinion could shift dramatically in the coming years.
The party is now working on a white paper to identify issues that need to be tackled to prepare the ground and to outline possible ways forward should the mood on both sides of the border swing towards reunification at some point in the future.
It has identified 12 building blocks needed to develop and improve cross border relationships. These include such things as a common enterprise agency to pool resources to attract foreign investment, harmonising taxes for business and developing a common approach to education.
In an interview in the Irish Times, Mr Martin said the white paper would outline the “nuts and bolts and guiding principles” of a united Ireland.
He said: “I want to pin it on the idea of the blueprint, the idea of what it would look like. To try and identify what we are talking about. Moving well beyond the fourth green field. In other words: what would a united Ireland look like? For example, if there was a referendum and a majority went for a united Ireland, what would happen after?”
The party hopes to publish the white paper before the end of this year.
It comes along with news that Irish people living abroad may be able to vote in Ireland’s presidential election.
Written by Michael Kehoe @michaelcalling