Simon Harris is new Taoiseach in the Republic of Ireland; Drew Harris is the Garda Commissioner and Chris Heaton-Harris is the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

I am surprised that Jamie ‘the sleuth’ Bryson has not yet unearthed a sinister interpretation of the increasing frequency with which this surname is popping up in the circles of ‘cross-border contamination’ of the Union of 1801.

Could Eoghan Harris, the veteran journalist and leading member of Sinn Féin in the 1960’s, possibly have been surreptitiously implementing his ‘stages theory of reunification’ for Ireland all these years without anyone catching on?

Wikipedia, the font of all online wisdom, would indicate that on the island of Ireland the name is largely but not wholly associated with the Ulster Plantation, and the translation to English of the nearest sounding Irish surnames, particular that of the O’Hearchadh clan in Mayo.

I wouldn’t want to be adding to conspiracy theories but the name effectively means ‘Sons / descendants/ followers of Harry. I’m open to blaming the USA influence on the lad. Maybe somebody should alert Chicken-Licken to go and warn the King. Apologies in advance for the upset this levity has undoubtedly caused those who feel obliged to be offended by it.

On a more serious and sombre note, Simon Harris is new Taoiseach in the Republic of Ireland and will lead Fine Gael into the forthcoming election.

The somewhat cruel comment from the would-be Taoiseach, Mary Lou McDonald was that he had "failed his way to the top". 

What it lacked in graciousness was balanced by accuracy. The new Taoiseach has been around some time but has few concrete successes to shout about. There will certainly be no love lost between these two ambitious leaders either before or after the general election, regardless of which side of Dáil Eireann they each find themselves.

There is an Irish proverb which translates literally to English as "breeding comes out through the eye of a cat".

More colloquially, we say in English "breeding will out". 

In December 1922, the pro-treaty Government forces surprised eight anti-treaty men in a hideout.

There was no exchange of fire. They beat one of the men to death where they found him. The other seven were arrested, detained in the Curragh camp and executed a week later.

The new government had instituted Martial Law, including the death penalty for anyone found in possession of weapons. One of those executed was 24-year-old James McDonald.

He was a great-uncle of Mary Lou McDonald.

Simon Harris’ great-uncle was a local Fine Gael politician.

One of the new youngest leader’s first claimed objectives as Taoiseach–to-be was a determination "to take back our flag".

This was not a reference to replacing the Union Jack with the Tricolour but to wresting the National Flag from Republicans.

The veteran republican, Tommy McKearney, whose maternal ancestors have a long anti-treaty Republican pedigree responded at an Easter Sunday Commemoration to the somewhat histrionic rhetoric of the Fine Gael Leader.

He publicly reminded him of what would now be described as the war crimes of the Free State government and suggested it would be more fitting for Fine Gael to "take it down from the mast". 

This was a direct reference to the politics of the post-treaty civil war and the ballad of that time: ‘Take it down from the mast, Irish Traitors. It’s the flag we Republicans claim. It can never belong to Free Staters for ye brought on it nothing but shame." 

There is an historic discord in the DNA of the politics of Simon and Mary Lou that may be deeper than their respective current finesse. Both dallied for a very short period in Fianna Fail before returning to their respective political roots.

We will see when the chips are down if indeed, political instinct proves the proverb to be true.


To entirely misquote my hero, William Shakespeare, there are more things between Irish nationalists, socialists and republicans than are dreamt of in Unionist philosophy.

The political reunification of Ireland as an all-Island independent state will happen. There is no significant body of opinion within or beyond these Islands that is in denial of this, except for an unknown percentage of the Northern Unionist Community.

What is unchartered territory is the time frame in which this will happen, the circumstances, the nature of the new entity, the (non-monetary) price to be paid on the journey, and who will pay dearest.

The economics will follow the political path whatever that is. It was ever thus throughout history.

Difficult as it is for Unionists to accept, the key battle lines will not be between Irish Nationalism and British Unionism as either are currently and crudely defined.

The battle has begun already and the fault lines along which it is being, and will be intensely fought, within Nationalism can already be seen to affect the dynamic of all of the political parties on the island whose aspiration includes an end to partition and reunification a single political/administrative/economic State.

The impact is greatest in the South at present. The emergence of the right wing conservative Aontú from the wide political church of what was Provisional Sinn Féin puts pressure on that party not to move too far ahead of its original base in following the more central and left-of-centre politics of the membership which originated in other social democratic parties in the South or from the SDLP in the North.

Nonetheless on the periphery are republicans and socialists whose philosophy is anti-imperialist, not nationalist. I count myself within this more radical grouping who share core principals of the internationalism of commonality of equality of class and human rights rather than individual privileges of ‘national cultures and kinship’ to the exclusion of equality of right of others ‘not of the nation/blood’.

In determining the shape of a future all-Island State the existing Republic will find Northern non-Unionists and non-nationalist republicans and socialists across the whole island will want a different Ireland. 

Sinn Féin currently leads on the only National Question in town-reunification. But we are already at the crossroads and it needs to decide very soon if it intends to turns left or right in order to form a government.