By Brian Feeney (for the Irish News)
It’s tempting but foolhardy to make predictions in the first days of a new year.
Nevertheless, it’s natural to look forward, so prognosis is a better word than prediction.
Prognosis is a prediction of the probable course and likely outcome of a disease – something that’s more likely to happen than not – in this case the disease that is politics here.
Let’s begin with what we know is supposed to happen.
On December 15 Micheál Martin will hand over the role of Taoiseach to Leo Varadkar. Good riddance. Martin has been hopeless for politics here as well as for the rest of the island.
A noted ditherer and prevaricator, he failed to seize the moment offered by Brexit to embrace the new political realities of inevitable constitutional change.
He’s a man who knows his limitations so he shied away from the big picture, hid in the meaningless claptrap of his small potatoes ‘Shared Island’ which he knew unionists would resolutely ignore.
So Tweedledee will replace Tweedledum to the intense irritation of a growing number of voters in the south who are becoming increasingly incensed at the very obvious unprincipled efforts of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael to exclude Sinn Féin from government.
Can that last until 2025? The longer it goes on the more likely it is that, as one commentator wrote last week, the electorate, young voters in particular, will give them “an almighty wallop”.
The latest polls show that for the first time SF has gained the support of a sizeable portion of middle-class voters in the south, but more importantly now has a whopping 47 per cent of voters aged 25-34.
As the date for the handover to Varadkar approaches, turmoil in Fianna Fáil will grow at the prospect of another two years of a Fine Gael Taoiseach.
Although he will deny it, Martin will have to resign as FF leader; the party will not let him lead it into another election. His opponents are already ‘on manoeuvres’.
In the meantime Martin will continue to ignore the north and stupidly attack the representatives of the majority of northern nationalists.
As things stand, it looks as if SF is on course to become the most popular party north and south after the assembly elections in May.
The ethnic electoral imperative here will turn the elections into a ‘mano a mano’ contest between SF and the hopelessly divided DUP. With any luck the DUP will refuse to operate an executive with Michelle O’Neill as First Minister, thereby allowing unionists to continue to prove conclusively that this place is, and always has been, a failed political entity.
Unionists’ bad faith, bad behaviour and seditious lawlessness demonstrate the truth of Enoch Powell’s conclusion that there is no halfway house between full integration into the UK and a united Ireland.
The first is out of the question after the Good Friday Agreement (especially now with the Irish Sea border hah!) so a united Ireland is inevitable. Unionists know this, which is why their politics are never anything but denial and refusal of any change whatsoever for fear it might advance the evil day.
This chronic nervousness is exemplified by the thankfully much-diminished, discredited and threadbare Orange Order complaining that the British government didn’t celebrate the centenary of partition ‘properly’.
They obviously don’t realise this place is the misbegotten offspring of Conservative and unionist sedition and that ‘celebrating partition’ – an oxymoron – would only confirm partition as the cause of the economic decline of north-east Ireland from most prosperous to economic basket case.
That’s another reality unionists refuse to accept. They refuse because the economic and political failure of this place consign it to the same status the former French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin ascribed to Israel – “a parenthesis in history”.
The north may receive billions each year in the much-hyped British block grant, but its disappearance is inevitable. 2022 brings it one year closer.