In the September issue of the Dublin Review of Books, Emmet O’Connor describes my book United Nation – the case for integrating Ireland as a “little Panglossian”, with “excessive length” and a “Pollyanna character”.
Unfortunately, he misrepresented the fundamental thesis, and much of the content, of the work. It is based on a premise that there is a real prospect of a united Ireland based on long-term economic, political, social and demographic trends. It confirms that the internationally ratified and legally binding Good Friday Agreement sets out a path towards unity referendums and examines the unfolding debate against the background of Brexit and the Covid-19 crisis.
United Nation is based on detailed research and interviews with dozens of people who have the insight and experience to envisage an all-island economy, education and health systems, constitutional change and future political structures, policing and security, international relations, identities and culture.
O’Connor does not name or quote any of these contributors, who include President Higgins, Dr Gabriel Scally, Professor Dermot Walsh, Paula Meehan, writer Brian Keenan, Linda Ervine, Ian Marshall, Mary Lou McDonald and a host of others.
He states that “it is doubtful if the BA [Belfast/Good Friday Agreement] can be a vehicle for unity”, thus dismissing a central premise of the book and current realities. Instead, he devotes much of his (2,000-word) review to his own critique of the Agreement which, however, is not the subject of my text.
He eventually accepts that a “border poll will not be passed without major preparatory work”, which is a recurring theme in the book. It reminds me of the reply to the tourist asking for directions and told: “I wouldn’t start from here to get there.”
We are making some changes at the drb. From 2023 we will publish three times a year. The reduced frequency means we will be concentrating on our core activity, the long-form review essay. The first of the three issues to be published next year will appear in February. Blogs will continue to appear between issues. We wish our readers and contributors a very happy Christmas.