A few meaningful words from actor James Nesbitt on future of NI are more thought provoking than two months of Stormont talks – By Brian Rowan

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There is a picture emerging in a jigsaw of commentary about the politics of this place; a commentary that is much more significant and relevant than the farce that passes for and pretends to be a negotiation on Stormont’s hill.

Just look at how twitter came alive to the thinking and words of actor Jimmy Nesbitt in his Irish Times interview with Freya McClements.

Nesbitt argued for new and different language and floated the words of “a new union of Ireland”.

He, like many others, knows the inevitability of a border poll – not the result, but that one will happen.

It is about seeing the road and planning the journey. Others – lacking such vision and talking to themselves in the mirror – will wait until it is too late.

There is a growing mood and an appetite out there that wants to explore what any ‘new Ireland’ might look like; the nuts and bolts and the practicalities of such. How would it work? How it would survive economically? What would it mean?

Think also about other recent comments. A former MI6 Chief speaking of British politics “going through a sort of political nervous breakdown”. David Liddington – the de-facto deputy Prime Minister – warning of the dangers to the union from a no-deal Brexit.

This ‘dis-united kingdom’ has already shown its face. 

Not far down that road that some are seeing much more clearly than others, there is a new debate and a new phase to our politics; a challenge way beyond those talks on the political hill. 

This place has been without government for the past two and a half years; but think about the next few months – Boris, RHI, Brexit and the legacy fallout.


Last Tuesday, Arlene Foster walked Johnson through the pretend Parliament that is Stormont. Does anyone really believe he cares about this place? Boris is about Boris and what works for him. In the here and now of the Westminster numbers game, he needs the DUP. That is the beginning and end of his commitment. It is short-term and anyone who believes differently is short-sighted.

The big identity thoughts and ideas that we are hearing from elsewhere are a long way removed from the attempt within these latest talks at Stormont to bury and hollow out any give on the Irish language.

The conversation on three commissioners – on Identity, Irish Language and Ulster Scots – is to try to take the negotiation away from an Irish Language Act; in the words of one insider, make the Irish Language and Ulster Scots commissioners subservient to the over-arching Identity Commissioner, whose role would include the promotion of Britishness. 

It misses entirely that other big – more significant – conversation and debate that is developing, and of which the Nesbitt interview is a part.

There is talk that the next big push at Stormont to get an agreement will be in the week after the twelfth. 

The “general mood”, one insider tells me, is of “no great expectation”.

“If people don’t believe there’s a chance, they are not going to interrupt their lives to live a lie.”

For Stormont to survive, there are those in that negotiation who are going to have to think outside their narrow frames. This includes the governments. 

A government with numbers and authority at Westminster would have ended this farce long ago. 

There are not many corners to turn before that next big conversation – union or unity and how Stormont fits into a future beyond now. 

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About Author

Brian Rowan

Brian Rowan is a journalist/author. A former BBC correspondent in Belfast, four times he has been a category winner in the Northern Ireland Press and Broadcast Awards. He is the author of several books on the peace process. His latest book (published by Merrion Press) POLITICAL PURGATORY – the battle to save Stormont and the play for a New Ireland is now available at www.merrionpress.ie

1 Comment

  1. Gerry Mander on

    Does ‘da South’ really want 900, 000 aggrieved northern Protestants in their midst… including a loyalist paramilitary infrastructure deeply embedded in criminality…?

    Are they prepared for their standard of living to dip while their taxes go up to pay for reunification?

    How much are they prepared to change the political structures, constitutional relationship with GB (the Commonwealth for example), and overall window dressing of their nation to accommodate ‘da North’ and everything/everyone in it?

    Get back to me when the good folks of Eire can definitively answer those questions as a single voice…

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