A UNITED Ireland is just five years away, it has been claimed.
Writing for HuffPost UK, political commentator Kevin Meagher claims growing popularity for Sinn Féin will make it impossible to deny a referendum on the status of Northern Ireland.
“No wonder Gerry Adams feels it’s now safe to retire,” wrote Meagher, who is a former special advisor to Labour Northern Ireland Secretary Shaun Woodward.
Meagher says 2017 will be viewed as the tipping point in relation to the reunification of the island of Ireland.
He describes the last 12 months as a period of fundamental change – accelerated by divisions over Brexit.
He claims Unionism ‘no longer has the numbers to dominate proceedings’ and that British politicans also have their heads stuck in the sand over the issue.
“As soon as it's clear nationalism has the votes, there will have to be a border poll and a majority for Irish unity sees Northern Ireland ceasing to exist,” he says.
Meagher also believes it is entirely feasible that Jeremy Corbyn - who he describes as a long-term Irish republican sympathiser - will become Prime Minister if May’s Government collapse before 2022.
“Last March’s elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly saw Sinn Féin come within 1,100 votes from topping the poll,” he states. “Just thirty odd thousand votes now separate parties committed to remaining in the UK from parties explicitly backing Irish unity.”
Meagher goes on to slam the DUP’s Arlene Foster who he claims is ‘comprehensively out of her depth as the de facto leader of political Unionism.’
“Her party has seen the future. But it isn’t orange,” he adds.
The next scheduled assembly elections in Northern Ireland are due to take place in 2022.
“By then, Sinn Féin will probably be the largest party and, if votes for Irish nationalist parties outweigh those for unionists, it will be impossible to deny a referendum on the North’s constitutional status, as provided for in the Good Friday Agreement,” Meagher says.
He also points to a growing enthusiasm for Irish unity among younger people, citing a recent Lucid Talkpoll that said 56 per cent of 18-44 year olds wanted a united Ireland.
“Even the most objective analyst would now question how and why the place will, or should, endure,” he states.
“The argument for the constitutional status quo hangs by a gossamer thread.”