Friday 28 October 2016

Kenny opens up Pandora's Box on North that could have seismic effect

Published 19/07/2016 | 02:30

Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the MacGill Summer School in Glenties. Photo: North West Newspix
Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the MacGill Summer School in Glenties. Photo: North West Newspix

Taoiseach Enda Kenny chose the picturesque surroundings of Glenties to set in train a process that may eventually lead to one of the most defining moments in Irish history.

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The choice of location is quite fitting given that Donegal shares a border with Derry that, as a result of Brexit, could once again be policed by soldiers in the near future.

Indeed, many of those present for Mr Kenny's speech yesterday in the Highlands Hotel yesterday have told their fears of a return to the dark old days when a hard border was in place.

However, nobody expected Mr Kenny to be so frank about a potential scenario that has now been firmly placed on the political agenda.

Mr Kenny gave no timeframe for any such a referendum and did not say whether two votes would be required - one in each jurisdiction.

In fact, one could easily draw the inference from his remarks that such a process - if it materialises at all - could be five, even 10 years down the line.

If that is the case, he won't be Taoiseach to steer his people towards embracing such an outcome.

While Mr Kenny's choice of location to float the idea of a border poll may have been ideal, the timing of his highly significant remarks will undoubtedly be questioned.

The Taoiseach has now opened a Pandora's Box of potentially seismic consequences for political relationships North and South.

And his decision to compare the prospect of re-unification to the absorption of East Germany into West Germany following the demolition of the Berlin Wall in 1989 is sure to stoke emotions.

Not only has the North's First Minister Arlene Foster already shot down the idea of a referendum to create a 32-county Republic, she has even shot down the idea of a so-called 'All Island forum'.

And any hopes held by nationalists that the new Secretary of State to Northern Ireland would be favourable towards discussing such a proposal were quickly dashed just hours after his appointment.

On the other hand, Mr Kenny is merely reflecting the new reality facing not only Ireland, but Europe as a whole. Nobody anticipated the decision by Britain to leave the EU. But it has shown that all scenarios need to be considered.

His call for the EU to examine the prospect of a border poll in any post-Brexit negotiations can be seen as a warning to London and Berlin that this issue cannot realistically be put on the back burner.

Irish Independent

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