Belfast Telegraph

Nationalists must articulate a future that’s all-inclusive

By Chris Donnelly

The border question will not be going away any time soon. Pretending otherwise is to reside in a state of denial.

Irish nationalism may have finally found its place in the northern sun, but its new-found contentedness, borne of the peace process era, has bred complacency.

The challenge facing Irish nationalism today is to present a coherent vision for the future which begins to strike a chord with some within the broad unionist community and others from the small but growing non-aligned section in our society.

The dawn of the present era of shared governance within Northern Ireland has presented nationalists with the opportunity to lay claim to the progressive position on the ideological spectrum, connecting with traditionally non-nationalists by providing a voice and vision which is all-inclusive, articulate and in touch with modern political trends from our hinterland political cultures in the rest of Ireland, Britain and beyond.

But on its own that is not enough. Winning the argument over bread and butter matters must be matched with a game-changing strategy aimed at unlocking the potential for traditionally non-nationalists to cast their vote for Irish nationalist parties without being off-put by border considerations.

Unlike previous strategies aimed at securing precisely such an outcome, this must not involve demoting and suppressing the Irish nationalist vision or identity for fear of alienating support.

On the contrary, what is required is for nationalism to articulate and begin to create the shared and equal society which openly and willingly accommodates the distinctive and shared aspects to our identities, whilst developing and implementing cogent policies and strategies capable of proving that an |all-Ireland future can be constructed which makes tangible differences to the lives of all of the island’s inhabitants.

Part of this will entail passing the torch onto a new generation of elected representatives and |officials, better equipped and skilled in the policies that must come to define Irish nationalism as we move inexorably beyond the shadow of the Troubles.

In itself, that will pose a tremendous challenge to political parties not known for encouraging and promoting new talent over veterans seasoned through the conflict era.

Chris Donnelly is a blogger and former Sinn Fein council candidate

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