Posted by Niall O'Dowd at 5/5/2009 9:52 PM EDT
Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams will shortly be in America to hear from Irish Americans about how a united Ireland can be achieved.
The party is convening forums in New York and San Francisco and inviting Irish American leaders to attend.
Hopefully the suggestions put forward will be practical ones. We can sing all the rebel ballads we like over here and wrap the green flag around us but it does not make a whit of difference on the ground back in Northern Ireland.
Sinn Fein are nothing but pragmatic and Adams is the best strategic thinker in Ireland. His vision and his discipline in following that vision brought us the Irish peace process more than any other Irish or British figure.
A united Ireland could be a vision too far even for Gerry Adams in the current climate. The only way for it to happen soon is for a majority of the population in Northern Ireland to vote for it and we are a long way off that now.
Even with the nationalist population increasing and clear indications that the peace process is gaining permanence we still need a large group of Unionists to come over to that Adams vision.
It is hard to see that happening absent a major move on the nationalist side such as Ireland accepting membership in the Commonwealth.
But the stumbling block will also be the people of the Irish Republic. Short of a major sea change it is highly unlikely that the issue will be of sufficient importance in their lives to focus real attention on it.
With an economic calamity likely to last for a few years at least, the process of survival will be uppermost in their minds--not great constitutional questions.
Adams will be aware of all that and I assume he will adopt his tactics accordingly. I'll bet he's thinking in small incremental steps, such as those he carried out so masterfully to bring about the peace process. The visit to America to plant the seed is just one of those
We have come a long way in a very short time. Sinn Fein are in government in Northern ireland with the Democratic Unionist Party . Think about that for a moment and imagine making that statement even a decade ago.
Now trace back the steps how that happened and see how incredibly well the process was managed from the Sinn Fein side.
In addition the physical border has essentially disappeared between North and South -- a vital psychological reality. Those are two steps that took place incrementally ove r many years now that they are accomplished they stand out as absolutely major developments.
One New Year's Eve many years ago I sat in a house in west Belfast with a half dozen or so people, working class Republicans all. There was conversation in three languages, Irish, English, French, there was such in depth discussion in all those languages of the issues such as French imperialism in Algeria,and the Boxer rebellion in China that I thought I had wandered into the middle of a Monty Python sketch such was the intellectual firepower.
These were the kind of conversations that were going on all the time for many years and were the kernel of where the Sinn Fein peace strategy arose from.
I suspect they are probably sitting around in those same small rooms nowadays having the same kind of post peace process conversations about how to bring a united Ireland about.
It may not be apparent to the rest of us yet, but I have a feeling it will. When Adams comes to America we may learn the first inklings.