By Edward Maxwell
It is, of course, important to dig a little deeper into the remarks and question whether this is an off the cuff remark, or a Irish Government position.
If it is the former then Unionism collectively, supported by the British Government, should lobby to bring the Irish Government to a policy position of stating that 70% (or more) would be required for constitutional change in relation to Northern Ireland.
If it is the later then Unionism should broadly adopt the Irish Government policy in the current talks and set it is a pre-condition for forming an Executive. Such a situation would provide a unique opportunity for Unionism to articulate a position which is supported by both the British and Irish Government and thus leaves Sinn Fein almost completely isolated. It is of course Sinn Fein that regularly demand the involvement of the Irish Government. It is significant therefore that Leo Varadkar has dealt a major blow to Sinn Fein’s agitation for constitutional and cultural supremacy for their republican dogma.
The intervention has further provided an ideal method to roll back elements of the Belfast Agreement and ensure there is no return to the status quo in terms of the trajectory of the political process.
Sinn Fein collapsed the institutions with the mantra of ‘no return to the status quo’. This must cut both ways. Unionism can use the current political context to not only demolish mandatory coalition and thus remove Sinn Fein’s undemocratic veto, but also capitalise on the Irish intervention by demanding legislative change that would reflect the need for 70% +- both in Northern Ireland the Republic- for there to be any constitutional change.
It is clear that the Irish Government are not enamoured by Sinn Fein’s continued cultural and constitutional agitation and they have accordingly sought to hold out an olive branch to Unionism.
This intervention may, of course, be a pre cursor to an Irish Government position that Northern Ireland should stay in the single market. This unacceptable proposal can be easily dismissed by the British Government.
Once mandatory coalition is removed and the threshold for constitutional change- which effectively means the threshold for a United Ireland- rises to 70% then the knot that holds together the Belfast Agreement begins to unravel.