I watched the results of yesterday’s Northern Irish election with some trepidation. For the first time, Unionists no longer hold the majority of seats at Stormont. In fact, the Irish terrorists’ preferred party, er, I mean, Sinn Féin were returned to Stormont with 27 members giving Irish Nationalist parties a total of 39 seats. Unionist parties were returned with 40 members. There has been some talk of an All-Ireland referendum on a united Ireland — Sinn Féin have, predictably, said that the results significantly increase the chances of this.
Whether or not this comes to pass is a different matter. The Republic of Ireland is constitutionally obliged to seek to expand its domain over all 32 traditional countries on the island. Realistically, this isn’t in Dublin’s best interest. Northern Ireland requires a great deal of financial support — support that is a burden on the United Kingdom’s vastly larger economy. The Republic of Ireland, economically vulnerable despite its tremendous growth in recent decades can ill afford a restless Ulster. Or, for that matter, a peaceful Ulster. The amount of support the Province requires would break Dublin financially. Nor is what passes for peace in the Province necessarily guaranteed. As sympathetic as I am to the Orangemen I am not so intellectually dishonest as to think that only Catholics contributed to the Troubles. So long as there is little interruption in Ireland, be it a hard border or trade complications, there is unlikely to be any serious shift in sentiment concerning Northern Ireland’s current political status. The EU has made it very clear that the last thing it wants to see is a hard border.
I very much doubt that all too much will come out of this. At best 20-22pc of voters in Northern Ireland actually support a united Ireland. Even in largely Catholic counties only a minority actually support this. Politics in Ulster are sectarian. As Scotland has shown, voting for a nationalist party doesn’t necessarily mean that one actually supports its constitutional aims. Arlene Foster made two terrible blunders that cost her dearly. The first was her involvement in the catastrophic Renewable Heat Incentive. £490,000,000 is a great burden to place on Ulster taxpayers. This hurt economically vulnerable voters hardest and they’re overwhelmingly Catholic. The second terrible blunder is that she was far too antagonistic. Since 2007 the DUP and Sinn Féin have shared power. Both sides need to behave reasonably and avoid antagonising each other. Those who seek and hold power must look beyond their personal preferences and private hatreds — however justified.