When we were teenagers, a dyslexic friend of mine, who was exempt from studying Irish in school, started using the slogan “tiocfaidh ár lá”. When I asked him what it meant, he said “Up the IRA.” To this day he’s still slagged off for it, though he wasn’t exactly wrong. The meaning of those four syllables, “our day will come,” is synonymous with dissident Republicanism, but also speaks to the innate hope among many for a united Ireland, not through violence, but through choice.
Last year, Mary Lou McDonald ended her first speech as the leader of Sinn Féin with an unscripted tiocfaidh ár lá. While allegations of IRA involvement plagued her predecessor, she promoted herself as part of a new generation: a Dublin woman with no involvement in the conflict. In that spirit, she is now calling for a border poll, claiming a referendum on a united Ireland is inevitable in the case of a no-deal Brexit.
British politicians have already admitted as much; Theresa May last month warned MPs that crashing out of the EU would risk a border poll and pose a real threat to the “precious union”. Even before Brexit, Jeremy Corbyn told the New Statesman in 2015 that he supported aspirations for a united Ireland. While Taoiseach Leo Varadkar accused Sinn Féin of being “disruptive” for pushing the issue of reunification, he was quick to remind people recently that his party, Fine Gael, is the “united Ireland Party.”
But what would unity really mean in Ireland today – and what is at stake? [Continue reading…]