Daily Archives: June 25, 2016

1984 clock moves back to 23 June 1983

I set the time on my 1984 clock initially at 1st July 1983:

https://timeguide.wordpress.com/2016/02/01/inspired-by-the-doomsday-clock-the-1984-clock-is-at-july-1st-1983/

I think our recent referendum in the UK exposed a few of the nastier processes that were leading people to censor discussion of sensitive issues such as immigration, and the increasing contempt of some leaders for ordinary people. It also made many people more aware of the division caused by name-calling that fed self-censorship and I believe some learning from that will foster kinder future campaigns and more open discussion. People will have learned that name-calling and no-platforming areas of discussion is counterproductive. Freedom of speech is a little healthier today than a few days ago.

Brexit wasn’t about 1984 but the campaigning increased awareness in people of how leaders behave, the increased engagement in democracy, erosion of barriers to discussion and especially the potential consequences if you don’t bother to vote. Regardless of the outcome, which I think is wonderful in any case, it has increased resilience of the UK against the forces of 1984. It has also caused similar ripples in other countries that will bring increased awareness of dark forces.

In recognition of that, setting it back a week to not-entirely-coincidentally the day of the referendum seems appropriate.

The 1984 clock now shows 23 June 1983.

Calls for a United Ireland should wait a while

At the height of The Troubles, the North and South were very different places. Religion was important, economies performed differently, and attitudes to life were different between the communities. As religion became less important and as the EU started to dominate, as people aged and as economies converged, difference have become a lot less. Apart from ancestry and memories, there isn’t anywhere near as much difference now. There has never been a better time for nationalists to demand a vote on a United Ireland because the opposition to it right at the moment is probably the lowest it has ever been. Most (55%) of people in the North wanted to stay in the EU, so that offsets some of the opposition to becoming part of Ireland instead of staying in a Brexit UK. For some people, especially the young, the old emotions that drove the Troubles are quite alien and Brexit could be a strong deciding factor. Many remainers have already applied for Irish passports. If a United Ireland vote were to be magically organised within a few days or weeks, (the Ukraine managed to organise a referendum in two weeks) then with today’s demographics and circumstances, it is not unimaginable that it could win.

However, not everyone is young or such a remainer that they’d rather leave the UK and stay part of the EU. Many people still feel pain from the Troubles or the same loyalties and though both sides have admirably set aside old grievances to live together in peace with one another, that doesn’t mean those grievances have vanished. People are still not all the same, they are simply managing to negotiate and compromise instead of fighting, to live in peace better. Very many of the Unionist population would still find the idea of leaving the UK and joining with the South intolerable, regardless of the EU, and forcing a vote could well re-ignite tensions. Needlessly.

Of course nationalist want a United Ireland, but it would be far better for everyone to avoid pushing such a vote yet. The Troubles were not fun for anyone, and the peace that has been established is surely worth far more even to Nationalists than getting a United Ireland a few years earlier by hurrying to capitalise on a short term turbulence during Brexit.

A few years down the road, it is highly likely that economic performance of the UK and the South will have diverged a little, but not much. It is also likely that most all the advantages offered by EU membership will have been retained. Even if it still exists, the EU will be less significant because other countries may have left, new trade agreements will have formed, and sensible negotiation of trade and movement among friends will ensure a perfectly civilized and amicable Europe. The United States of Europe idea will certainly have been long buried.

Also, in a few years time, old emotions will have had a few more years to evaporate. Many of the old will have gone to their graves in peace, young kids will be young adults. Peace and living together in harmony will have had a few more years of being the norm, and will be far more resilient. It will be a better time then to consider asking again for a vote.

Even though I lived in Belfast all the way through the Troubles, I have no axe to grind at all on which way that vote should go. I don’t even care whether Northern Ireland stays in the UK or not. It matters to some but the chances of Nationalists finally getting their way are more likely to increase than decrease over the next few years. Sure, there is strong temptation to hurry to strike while the iron is so obviously hot, but it would be wiser for them to wait just a few more years for everyone’s benefit.

Putting a hypothetical but feasible date on it, surely it’s better to aim for a peaceful United Ireland in 2025 than risk a return to violence and bad relations just to get there a little quicker?