15 June 2006 Edition
Mitchell McLaughlin Column
The failure of partition
The evidence of partition's failure is mounting. Hardly a week passes without some industrialist, economist, politician or entrepreneur making a keynote address extolling the virtues of all-Ireland economics and infrastructural development. Promoting an all-Ireland approach in areas such as health care, education, transport, environment and energy is also an increasingly frequent occurrence.
But the logic of where this is leading does not seem to be grasped by the two governments. While plans are being laid for all-Ireland development of every other aspect of life here there does not seem to be any parallel planning by the governments for the all-Ireland political structures required to underpin this.
Partition has failed nationalists and republicans. It has failed the people of the 26 counties, inhibiting the achievement of full economic, political and development potential.
Within the North the large, traditionally unionist dominated industries have disappeared. Unionist working class communities are ravaged by unemployment and educational underachievement. The assurance of privilege and preferential treatment of the old order do not apply in the changing economic and political climate. Discrimination in the workplace is being challenged and replaced by an equality agenda.
So, even in Unionist rationale, Partition has failed. How can any unionist leader argue that British rule is of economic advantage to any section of the community? The Northern economy is unsustainable without the rest of the island. While there are major societal problems to be addressed in the 26 counties, not least the widening gap between rich and poor, the economy is predicted to continue to grow. But in the North a continuing litany of job losses, a weak private sector and a dependency upon public sector employment is pushing the economy into significant crisis. While the Six county economy is squeezed we have the continued scandal of unaccountable British Ministers with no affinity to any part of this country making swingeing cuts in education, imposing massive rates hikes and water taxes while overseeing falling incomes in agriculture and elsewhere. Surely even the DUP can recognise that the best people to make decisions affecting the lives of people in the North are people who live here.
Sinn Féin will not be deflected from efforts to build a better future for all the people of Ireland. Those stalling on engagement will eventually realise that the one thing they can't stop is change. It will continue anyway and the best option is for unionists and the rest of us to collectively manage the change for the betterment of all of society.
We are determined to deepen our engagement and develop our understanding of unionists. I would appeal to those progressive elements in unionism to adopt a similar approach to republicanism if we are to become partners in conflict resolution.
The peaceful and stable co-existence of our children and future generations demands that we do no less.