Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Things to Come?

Conradh na Gaeilge, responsible for advocacy since the Ní Chuilín reforms, has been granted the right to take the Executive to court for its failure to implement an Irish-language strategy.

Unionist commentator Newton Emerson has already stated that the organisation should win its case but that it will be an "empty victory", since the Executive can continue blithely to ignore the judgment — as it has done, for example, with regard to a much-heralded but equally absent anti-poverty strategy.

That is of course true, although, as the anti-poverty judgment was only a year ago, we cannot know what future action the courts might take. In particular, the theory of the sovereignty of parliaments applies only to Westminster, so the Executive does not enjoy an absolute right to change its mind or overrule anyone: it, and its individual Ministers, are required to comply.

At the end of the day, it may be Westminster that comes up with the strategy, and the related Act, and a court judgment would certainly make prompt action in that regard more likely were Direct Rule ever to come about again.

That may never happen, but with the latest polls showing that Leave is still in with a chance of winning the Brexit vote, it could be quite soon too, since Brexit will almost certainly lead to chaos and political collapse in Northern Ireland.

As an aside, while the Brexit vote is too close to call at a UK level, in Northern Ireland, the answer will most likely fall in favour of Remain. That is of significance both politically, for obvious reasons, and on a more intrinsic demographic and psephological level, since, as far as the Blether Region is aware, it will be the first time that (in this case, more united) Nationalists have outvoted (in this case, more divided) Unionists on anything. While the late Ian Paisley Senior used to claim that a majority of Unionists had voted against the Good Friday / Belfast Agreement, that was almost certainly bluster on his part, since it would have required an impossibly high percentage of Nationalists to have been in favour.

Even if Brexit does not result in blood on the streets (or border lanes) of Ulster, it is highly likely to give Nationalists a further reason for turning out at election time — and just when they are on the brink of a majority. As such, Brexit could be the shape of things to come.

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