U2 lead singer Bono has gained international headlines for comparing moves towards Irish reunification to a marital relationship – and a small frog pond.
The Dublin-born singer, real name Paul Hewson, has previously identified with the normally pro-unionist Fine Gael party.
He became the subject of international ridicule when, performing in 1987 in San Francisco, in he spotted signs with the abbreviation ‘SF’ and attacked fans he believed were expressing support for Sinn Féin.
And despite a song about the Bloody Sunday massacre being a factor in the band’s early success, Bono would typically preface every performance of ‘Sunday, Bloody Sunday’ with the words, ‘this is not a rebel song’ in order to reduce criticism of the British Army.
Interviewed ahead of a three-month residency in Las Vegas, Nevada, Bono’s views appear to have changed. He told Channel 4 News that joining the North of Ireland with the South would be “wonderful” as “this pond is too small for a feud among frogs”.
He also said: “In any marital arrangement, you’d like to think both parties would be attracted to each other – indeed falling in love would be great. We might not be at the falling in love stage, but we’re dating...I think we look more and more attractive to our northern partner.”
But one unionist hardliner was having none of it. Recent election results show unionist voters are now outnumbered by nationalists, but DUP MP Gregory Campbell still refuses to accept the possibility of change.
Writing on Facebook, he asked Bono if he is part of a United Ireland “fantasy world”.
He wrote: “A man of your age should know ‘dating’ is a two way process. It begins when both agree to date, WE DON’T. It goes further when they both agree to take it further, WE DON’T.”
Public debate has been embracing reunification as a way of ending the constant crisis of partition, including from within the unionist community itself.
Right-wing English politician Nigel Farage stated categorically last week that a united Ireland would happen. And the staunchly unionist Daily Telegraph newspaper headlined a recent article as: “The ‘inevitable’ vote on a united Ireland – and what it could mean”.
“The question of Irish unification is moving into the mainstream, 102 years after six counties in Ulster were partitioned,” it declared.
It also noted that in a poll this week, Sinn Féin extended its lead over its rivals in the 26 Counties and remains on course to be comfortably the largest party in the next Irish parliament.
“Brexit has changed everything because it has brought this conversation well beyond our republican base,” Sinn Féin MP John Finucane explained.
“People are no longer looking to London for the future. They very much see themselves as European and they recognise that the South is no longer a jurisdiction to be feared.”