Belfast Telegraph

Why the single biggest obstacle to the creation of a 32-county united Ireland is... Gerry Adams

SF president delusional if he thinks unionist majority against unity can be overturned, says Alban Maginness

The greatest obstacle to a united Ireland is Sinn Fein. The more it advocates it, the greater the opposition to the idea is generated within the unionist community. Sinn Fein's capacity is to divide, not unite people. The fact is that the unionist community is frightened of Sinn Fein past, present and to come.

The recent inquest into the cold-blooded execution by the IRA of 10 innocent and unarmed Protestant workmen coming from their work on a minibus at Kingsmill is a vivid reminder - if one was needed - of the ruthless sectarian violence shown by the republican movement to the Protestant community in Co Armagh.

And this is not unique to Armagh, but was carried out in many other parts of the north. The bloody sectarian legacy of the IRA, which Sinn Fein hails as an heroic group of patriots, will always colour the image of the party for the average unionist.

The fact that the newer generation of Sinn Fein representatives, such as Michelle O'Neill, persist in publicly honouring the IRA's 'volunteers' as legitimate freedom fighters is a huge turn-off for most unionists.

It says to unionists that the leopard will never change its spots and that violence, though stopped for the present, could restart in the future, because it was regarded as legitimate in the past.

Gerry Adams called at the weekend for republicans to adopt "a new approach" to "unlock unionist opposition to a new Ireland".

What does he think John Hume and Seamus Mallon were advocating 40 years ago when he and his allies in the IRA were bombing and killing to bring about a British withdrawal in order to achieve a united Ireland?

Does he not realise that there was a consensus by democratic nationalism in Ireland from the 1970s onwards to bring about a united Ireland through democratic and peaceful methods, not the bomb and the bullet?

Through his support for republican violence, that democratic approach was frustrated and seriously undermined.

But not only that; the prospect of a united Ireland was set back for at least two generations by the IRA's divisive campaign of violence.

The genesis of partition was the failure by the people of Ireland to agree as to how Ireland was to be governed.

Hume, the leader of constitutional nationalism and the architect of the Good Friday Agreement, always sought to unite people, not territory, while Adams and the IRA sought to unite territory, not people.

The Good Friday Agreement was an agreement to set aside difference and work in partnership until such time that there could be agreement on a new arrangement in Ireland.

Adams, with his usual pomposity, announced that "a new approach" to unionists is now required by republicans and by nationalists.

Where has the man been living for the past 40 years? It is a self-evident proposition that if people are divided, then a serious engagement is required to work out a democratic solution. But one thing is certain: it does not need him to lead that engagement, for by his very presence he will kill it stone dead.

His address varied between patronising unionists about their contribution to history and menacingly demanding that the Orange Order meet with him.

"It is unacceptable for the Orange (Order) to refuse to meet at leadership level with our leadership," he said.

Surely, it is up to the Orange Order to decide whether or not it is worthwhile to meet with him and his leadership. You can't force people into dialogue.

His prediction that there would be a successful vote to end partition within "a few short years" is as useful as his provocative call for a border poll during the general election, which galvanised the unionist community to come out and vote in increased numbers - 108,000 extra votes since 2015 - for the DUP.

The more talk of a border poll, the more the unionist community becomes defensive and closes down any possibility of serious political dialogue and engagement.

In any event, the general election metamorphosed into an unofficial border poll, which gave unionism a majority of at least 45,000. Adams is delusional if he thinks that the general election results, which showed a unionist majority against unity, can be "unlocked" - to use his unfortunate turn of phrase - in "a few short years".

A united Ireland, ideally, should come about as a result of democratic change. The only way that can be achieved is through rational democratic persuasion and the development of partnership politics.

Only a successful, sustained power-sharing government can deliver the necessary internal goodwill and reconciliation that will provide the bedrock for a united Ireland by uniting people in the north.

If this has to take another generation or so, it is worth the wait.

Belfast Telegraph

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