A very quick word as my exams start tomorrow. I wanted to mark the visit of Queen Elizabeth to Ireland this coming week. As Republicans many of us may take issue with an accident of birth conferring vast wealth and lifestyle upon a particular individual and family. Also as Irish Republicans we may take issue with the ongoing status of Northern Ireland as part of the ‘United Kingdom’. However in the spirit of ‘friendship amongst nations’, international diplomacy and old-fashioned good manners I believe it is only right to extend the hand of friendship to the head of state of our nearest neighbour. This is a mature reflection on the ‘grown up’ relationship between two countries each of which holds its own separate and equal identity amongst the family of nations.
Notwithstanding all that, it remains my earnest belief that ‘unfinished business’ remains in the North of Ireland. In an ideal world constitutional arrangements to bring about unity and address the situation would be on the agenda for a visit of this kind. I accept of course the realpolitik is that these matters are more for Downing Street than Buckingham Palace at this point. A welcome for the Queen is the mature and right approach. Apart from even the politics of the event, the huge interest and goodwill towards the recent Royal Wedding recently highlighted the positivity that now exists between and across institutions on these islands.
In many ways I respect, even admire the British Empire. Ironically not so much now as when it was at the height of its colonial power. The expansion of its reach across the world. Its engineering and military accomplishments. The system of administration and governance it left in many corners. The system of the common law that is still in place today in most quarters of the English speaking world. Its characters/creations. No friends of Ireland of course, but still characters in their own right. Lord Denning. Lloyd George. Winston Churchill. Montgomery. Sherlock Holmes!
All this being so, it is my belief that there remains a fundamental difficulty with the continuance of partition on this island. This is not about the past but about the future. As constitutional nationalists, it is fundamental that we accept consent and democratic will to be essential provisos to any progression. However we must continue to view the current constitutional position as merely a stepping stone on the road to eventual full unity in name, jurisdiction, territory and peoples. (A nation once again?) In such a scenario we may even all join with our (then) unionist fellow citizens in hanging out our bunting ..