Since 1972 the UK Government has spoken of the “Irish dimension” to any “solution” in Northern Ireland; and the Irish Government has acquiesced to the Principle of Consent, effectively placing Northern Ireland within the UK.
What is interesting about this is that no political party has adopted this (UK sovereignty with power-sharing and an Irish dimension) as its preferred constitutional outcome. Indeed, of all candidates standing for election in the history of Northern Ireland, I can think of only one who expressly and overtly supported it as his preferred solution – namely me!
This is part of the problem. Although most people in Northern Ireland are prepared to tolerate this “solution”, at least temporarily, almost no one here actually supports it. This is, partially at least, at the heart of our on-going difficulties – the vast bulk of the population continues to believe that, one day, magically, another “solution” much more to their own liking will become apparent and acceptable to all. At some time, however, we all need to accept this is nonsense – it won’t. What we have now is the answer to the “Constitutional Question”, whether people (really) like it or not.
The reality is the two Governments’ position has not changed in nearly half a century, nor is it likely to. In 1973, 1982, 1993, 1998, 2006 and 2010 they have attempted deals (with wildly varying degrees of success) based on this “solution”. We have now, in 2013, arrived at the position that both Governments take this “solution” as so obviously self-evident, that neither is paying real attention to Northern Ireland at all – which is a sign of progress of sorts, but is not necessarily a good thing.
So is it time a significant bulk of the population were prepared to stand up and say “You know what, this is the solution”? Would that make a significant difference?