Investing €500 million smackers for building ‘connections and trust between the two jurisdictions’ in the meantime
ESSENTIALLY, a ‘border poll’ is a referendum on Irish re-unification but as far as temporary Taoiseach, Mickey Martin, is concerned, there’ll be no ‘border poll’ for at least the next five years.
Instead, he intends pumping €500 millions of our hard-earned cash into North-South ‘infrastructure initiatives,’ which he defines as ‘connections and trusts between the traditions on the island of Ireland.’ He didn’t explain and, like any smart politico, left the statement hanging in the air as a mystifying conundrum.
And, should we be concerned at all that lovely dosh sliding into Loyalist pockets? Of course not! Mickey promises that it will be ‘ring fenced’!
He didn’t explain that one either but, when his extraordinary generosity is taken in conjunction with the North’s recent Cash for Ash scandal, then the Plain People of Ireland have a right to be concerned.
Probably the smartest get-rich-quick-scheme in Europe since the days of Charles Ponzi, the Cash for Ash scandal, or ‘Renewable Heat Incentive,’ encouraged businesses and homeowners to switch from oil or gas to more environmentally-friendly heating methods, such as wood pellet boilers!
The cost to Northern taxpayers? A trifling £460 million, possibly more.
Generous to a fault!
The scheme lasted from 2012 to 2015 and encouraged businesses and individuals to participate but, within a year, whistle-blowers were warning that the project was deeply flawed.
Buildings were using more energy than ever before thanks to the huge subsidies companies were getting for using wood pellet boilers.
To complicate matters further, proper cost controls were not introduced. Result? Like something from ‘Mad Magazine’, the cost of the pellet boiler plan spiralled wildly out of control because the subsidies paid to companies were not capped.
Proper cost controls were not introduced nor were there demands to shut down the project. Consequently, buildings were heated on an all-year-round basis, and windows and doors were kept open.
In short, the more heat generated from the pellets, the higher the subsidy the boiler-owner received. Businesses, unable to believe their eyes at Stormont generosity, raked-in hundreds of thousands of pounds.
But, even though the Six County Government knew about the rip-off, it was reluctant to introduce proper cost controls, or shut down the project. Eventually, as with all good things, the wood pellet project came to an end, but the irony is that the politicos behind the fiasco will be the same people to advise Mickey as to where he should invest our €500 million smackers for building ‘connections and trust between the two jurisdictions’!
Not even Groucho Marx could invent such a scenario!
Indeed the difference in Mickey’s policy attitude towards Unionists and Nationalists is quite striking. As regards the Unionists, you suffocate ’em with kindness but, with Sinn Féin, well, it’s an ‘over-focussed’ and ‘divisive’ party with its demand for a poll on Irish unity and you make sure to keep that lot at arm’s length.
For its part, Sinn Féin argues that a united Ireland is essential to the prosperity of all our people and, according to the party’s Chief Whip and TD for Donegal, Pádraig MacLochlainn, ‘the demand for Irish unity has been growing steadily over the last number of years and SF has been pressing the Irish government to begin meaningful engagement with the British government to arrange a date for a referendum on Irish unity within the next five years.’
MacLochlainn makes this pertinent observation: ‘By refusing to plan for unity, the Taoiseach is abdicating his responsibility as head of government. Those that press Mr Martin’s view are acting foolishly and are not protecting or respecting any section of our people –unionist, nationalist or otherwise.’
Interesting too that senior Fianna Fáil TDs, such as Jim O’Callaghan, Eamon Ó Cuív and Barry Cowen continue to defend the argument that re-unification should remain at the centre of Fianna Fáil values, a position that increasingly threatens to put Mickey out on a limb.
Referendum on unity?
Barry Cowen wants a Border poll by 2028, the 30th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, which established the principle that ‘Northern Ireland would only remain part of the United Kingdom for as long as a majority of people in Northern Ireland so wished it.’
Times have changed since 1998. EU membership and Brexit have enhanced the appeal of a united Ireland. However, even if a majority in the Twenty-Six Counties is in favour of unification, consent to pursue such a course of action in the North is predicated on a referendum.
Although the South is not required to hold a referendum on unification, it is likely that a demand in the 26-Counties would be made for such a procedure and that it should run concurrently with the referendum in the North.
Of course the pivotal question will be the nature of the outcome should a majority North and South vote for unification.
Interestingly, in September 2019, a former deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, Lord Ashcroft, conducted a poll in the North as to how the people would vote if there were a border poll in the immediate future. (Since the 2010 United Kingdom general election, he has conducted several independent public polls relating to British political issues).
He discovered that 45% of those surveyed in the North wanted to remain in the UK, while 46% declared they would be happy to be part of the Republic of Ireland. According to the pollster, when extraneous factors were taken into consideration, this meant that 51% were for unification and 49% against.
Covid and Catholics!
Of course, his Lordship, being a decent man, may not have been aware of the vigour with which Northern politicos express themselves, even when dealing with non-political topics such as the Covid-19 crisis.
Last month, Six Counties Agriculture minister, Edwin Poots, declared that Covid-19 was ‘more rife in nationalist areas than in unionist areas by a factor of six to one.’
The North’s health minister, Robin Swann, and its chief medical officer, Dr Michael McBride, vehemently rejected the notion that the spread of Covid-19 had anything to do with political affiliations or religion.
Minister Swann said: ‘Something we don’t do is ask anybody who’s contracted Covid-19 their political or religious affiliations. Our nursing staff, our doctors, our hospital porters don’t care what religion or political affiliation their patients have, nor does Covid. It’s an equal opportunities killer.’
Poots’ comment, however, as nationalist publications pointed out, was a seedy echo of the practice of referring to the Catholic population as ‘diseased,’ or the daubing of the word ‘infested’ on the windows of forcibly-evicted Catholics.