Great honour to be here with the President of OgraFianna Fail.
In Kerry we talk about the weather a lot because we get so much of it, and sometimes the weather defies logic. My mother had us working on the farm and despite suggesting she call a halt to the work due to a ferocious rainfall she said we would continue and she described the rain as follows:
“Heavy but not wet.”
Only in Kerry could you have dry rain. But Kerry is not the only place that defies logic. During a conversation with Sean, a Republican from Tyrone, he said he would not vote in favour of a united Ireland citing the advantage of the status quo and the north staying in the United Kingdom.
Only in Tyrone could you have a Republican in favour of the United Kingdom.
I am in favour of a unifying Ireland,
I am in favour not because of what happened in the past,
I am in favour of a united Ireland because it has potential and will ensure a better future for all the people on this island.
I am a Fianna Fail member of the Foreign Affairs Committee and as a party we were asked to submit for the government, the White Paper on Foreign affairs.
I proposed the following as part of our submission “Fianna Fail believes it is imperative that there is active engagement with Britain as well as with our EU partners and the United States on working towards achieving the reunification of Ireland.”
The key position and core aim of the party is the achievement of a united Ireland.
“As a party we believe in the stable, peaceful and prosperous reunification of Ireland and its people.”
And remember it is people we are trying to unite not just land.
There are those who in the past have talk about the united Ireland as a numbers game of a simple religious head count. This is not the case anymore. This morning I want to touch on:
•The changing demographic
•Ipad and I-Ism
•The issues around unifying Ireland
When Carson and Craig were devising the northern State, they did a head count. That is the basis of the 6 counties, and it is the reason why Donegal, Monaghan and Cavan were left out. When Carson and Craig did a head count using the 1911 census:
Ulster: 9 counties – 675,000 Catholic, 838,000 Protestants and 69,000 Other, leaving only majority of 163,000.
‘Not enough’, said Carson and Craig, ‘lets leave out three counties’, they said.
6 counties – 430,000 Catholics, 768,000 Protestants and 52,000 Other. Majority of 337,889.
‘That will do’, they said, ‘good for 100 years’, they said, ‘we will be grand’ they said.
And they were right just a little over 100 years.
So let us do the crude number count as done my James Craig and Edward Carson when drawing up the North as of today
The figures for March 2011 show 817,385 Catholics ,875,717 Protestants and 117,761 other. In the 6 counties of North of Ireland there is a Protestant majority of 58,332. If Carson and Craig had held on to Cavan, Monaghan, Donegal what would their head count look.
1,070,026 Catholics, 888,521 Protestants, and 147,119 Other a catholic majority of 181,505. If that had happened, if they had tried to hold all 9 counties would Ulster still be part of the U.K.
•Belfast and Derry are now Catholic-majority cities.
•The 2011 census placed Protestant population at 53.1 percent and Catholic population at 43.8 percent.
•There is currently a Catholic majority in primary, secondary and third level.
•The Northern Ireland Department of Education figures for 2010/2011 year showed 163,693 Catholics and 120,415 Protestants in Northern primary and secondary schools.
•Queen’s University reports 8,710 Catholics and 6,740 Protestants.
•A majority of the population under 35 is Catholic.
When will there be a parity of number between the two communities in the north?
By some figures it will be late 2016.
So these are the raw numbers as Carson and Craig would look at them, but the numbers do not tell the full story.
It is appropriate to quote Prime Minister Disraeli, who came up with the most famous of all when it comes to statistics, “There are lies, dame lies and statistics.”
Maybe Mark Twain would be equally appropriate, “Facts are stubborn things, but statistics are pliable.”
There is the issue of other statistics, the statistic most favoured by politicians which are of course Opinion Polls. The opinion polls are telling us that many in the Catholic community are not in favour of a united Ireland. Why is this happening?
Guidi Marks, the head of the Birthright Foundation, had an interesting take on the age we are in,
•There is an argument that in the age that the seen the death of communism, the death of socialism, the death of nationals and the economic collapse has seen the death of capitalism……….. I-ism is the new creed, that the individual is now paramount.
•Therefore people will vote only based on their own economic interests. This is certainly an argument why so many in the Catholic community who would traditionally vote for a United Ireland would vote for the status quo.
Polling in Scotland on the issue of independence would support this argument, that we are in the age of I-ism, where newspapers tell us with screaming headlines that if they had to pay 400 pounds extra in tax, they would not vote for independence, “for the price of an Ipad, most Scotts would vote against freedom.”
Proof of individualism or I-ism is seen in a poll in the BelfastTelegraph from September showed that just 3.8 percent in favour of a united Ireland.
However Polling in Seanad showed 70% infavour of abolition of Seanad in April 2013. Getting rid of politician, how could the referendum be lost. But the referendum was lost, why? By virtue of the argument made by those who were in favour of retaining it and reforming it? The same reason many like of Sean from Tyrone,though Catholic and Republicans and others will currently not vote for a united Ireland is because the case has not been made for it and they would be worse off in many areas, no better in some, and only a little better off in a few areas.
This is what we who are in favour of a united Ireland are tasked with. We are tasked with making the case for a unified Ireland. But we are tasked with a much bigger and greater challenge, we must help creating , South of the border a country where Sean and all the Sean and maybe even the Ians would vote for a unified Ireland.
We need to start a discussion on the issues surrounding unifying Ireland.
An independent commission made up of experts on all the issue should be convened to do an analysis on the North remaining in the Kingdom and a similar honest assessment of it rejoining the republic.
The man who once was the richest man on Earth, Andrew Canegie said, “a poor man learns from his own mistakes, a rich man learns from others.”
We should ask our European colleagues, the Germans of what their experiences were, what they would do differently, if they had it all over again. Remember they had no time to plan, since the wall fell, there has been a United Germany. We have time.
The challenge in the south is greater than we realize. We need to create a society and a county where we can improve the lives of all the people living on this island.
We must talk about and work towards the Island not as it is today but how we want it to be in the future and we must strive to make a better country for all on this Island.
We must work towards ensure that in terms of education, employment, health, housing, those in the south and those in the north would be better off voting for change than the status quo.
Whether you believe in the United Kingdom or a United Ireland it is simple good government to plan for a United Ireland even If it may be a long way in the future.
Finally, John F Kennedy, when he was closing his address to the Dail and Senate in 1963 said, “I believe profoundly in the future and that this is an isle of destiny and that destiny will be glorious and that when our Hour has come we will have something to give to the world.”
Ladies and gentlemen, this island has given a lot to the world but the best days are ahead. By working together, I believe we can ensure a better future for all the people on this island.