CLARE TD Cathal Crowe has said he feels the Government is taking the wrong option by sending representatives to this Thursday’s interdenominational church service in Armagh, marking the partition of Ireland, writes Owen Ryan.
The decision of President Michael D Higgins not to attend was criticised in some quarters, but opinion polls indicated broad popular support for his decision.
On Thursday the Irish Government will be represented at the event by Simon Coveney and Jack Chambers, but Deputy Crowe said he felt the President had taken the right approach.
“I wouldn’t for a moment be telling party members what they should or shouldn’t do, but I myself would have quite strong opinions on it, they’re personally held opinions.
“I think that partition has had a devastating impact on the whole island and I think Brexit has augmented the divisions once more. I think we shouldn’t be attending any sort of a service like that.
“I fully supported the stance taken by President Higgins and I think overall that should have been the position of Government. But, like 18 months ago when I took the RIC stand, I’m not going to tell others what I should or shouldn’t attend.”
Deputy Crowe would be seen as being on the green wing of Fianna Fáil, given his decision not to attend an RIC commemoration in 2020, while he was serving as Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council. At the time his decision proved quite popular and gave an important boost to what turned out to be a successful general election campaign for him.
This week he said a number of members of Fianna Fáil have been in touch with him about the Armagh service, and there are differing views within the party.
“A lot of members would have been in contact with me. Some would have offered the justification that this comes under the remit of reconciliation and it’s a mature way of approaching the centenary of partition.
“I would hold a different view. From early on I think there was an error made in how this event was organised, advertised and notified to others. I think President Higgins had the right read of it.”
With the possibility of a future border poll being debated on both sides of the border, Deputy Crowe said that there is a need for more dialogue about the future.
“I don’t have a head in the sand approach to this, nor did I have one when it came to the RIC commemoration. We have a Shared Island unit now operating out of the Department of the Taoiseach.
“There’s a huge amount of dialogue to happen, and it should be about putting the next layer on the Good Friday Agreement and in my view that involves ramping up dialogue about unification.
“I’d have made that point to the Taoiseach and colleagues, it’s my bedrock political belief that we should be moving towards a united Ireland.
“It has probably been accelerated by the happenings of the last number of years. It has to be done in a very respectful fashion, but it’s my belief that the planned event in the north was just a shade off being celebratory and I certainly don’t see anything positive in partition.”
He added, “I think we’ve looked at unification through the long lens for too long, we’ve kind of been obsessive about governance, flags, anthems.
“Some people will look at it through the nationalist/unionist lens but in 2021 there are other metrics we need to look at. I think we need to look at how economic alignment will benefit us, with Brexit we need to look at how we work as a bloc with the EU and United States. We need to look at alignment of health and judicial systems. “
If partition does end, he feels a federal system could be the next step.
“It probably will involve a federal State for a number of years, where you have two forms of Government but slowly working towards one form of Government, I think that’s probably the mature way forward.