A magazine described as one of the English language’s most influential publications has dedicated its latest issue to the debate around Irish unity.
In the wake of last weekend’s Sinn Féin surge in the 26 County general election, this week’s edition of The Economist asks on its cover: “A United Ireland – could it really happen?”
The main article inside notes how the Fianna Fáil-Fine Gael duopoly was “smashed apart” as Sinn Féin took the largest share of first-preference votes at the polls.
The article notes how Sinn Féin’s left-wing platform and plans to tackle the crises in health and housing has led to its electoral success.
“Scottish independence has grabbed headlines since Brexit, but it is time to recognise the chances of a different secession from the United Kingdom,” the leader says.
“Sinn Féin’s success at the election is just the latest reason to think that a united Ireland within a decade or so is a real -- and growing -- possibility.”
A cascade of debate, fuelled by Brexit and other factors including Sinn Féin’s election success, have led many to conclude for the first time that events are now moving swiftly toward Irish unity and Scottish independence.
Dominic Lawson at the Sunday Times has said that the current Tory government under Boris Johnson is drifting away from Ireland. He said it had been noted that Sinn Féin’s candidates in the general election even outpolled the leaders of the two traditional parties, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, Leo Varadkar and Micheal Martin, in their own constituencies.
“This was an astounding result, and since (unlike the two parties that had ruled Ireland since independence) Sinn Féin actively campaigns for cross-border plebiscites for a united Ireland, it is unsurprising the unionists are even more than usually spooked.”
Mr Lawson added that the Tory government has actually been hinting at its approval of a united Ireland for many years. He said: “On one occasion, a Tory secretary of state for the province blurted out the truth to a newspaper — though not in this country.
“In April 1993 Sir Patrick Mayhew gave a remarkable interview to Die Zeit, in which he told the German paper: “The province costs £3bn a year. £3bn for a million and a half people! For us there is no strategic or economic interest at stake ... The quest for a united Ireland is perfectly legitimate — but without the use of violence.
“People think we don’t want to let Northern Ireland [leave] the United Kingdom. If I’m completely honest [we’d do it] with pleasure.”
Mr Lawson added that Mr Johnson’s treatment of the north of Ireland during Brexit negotiations -- creating a customs border in the Irish Sea -- had revealed the government’s true feelings towards Ireland.