Sir, – Recent letters on the notion of “shared islands” (John Wilson Foster, October 27th and A Leavy, October 28th) have used Micheál Martin’s revival of the “shared island” policy to trigger another sectarian blame game, thus missing the chance to consider how, at an institutional level at least, sharing this and these islands could be re-imagined.
From the height of the Troubles in the mid-1980s, I remember the utopian brainwave of the late Hugh Sacker (of Knockandarragh), who proposed a confederation of “the Isles of Man”. This went beyond the (subsequent) UK devolution model and proposed a loosely federal structure “in these isles” (including Northern Ireland and the Republic), replacing centralised government from Westminster with a new federal capital of “these isles” in the least significant and least troubled island, the Isle of Man.
While Westminster would be reduced to an English assembly, the new Isle of Man authority would act as a co-ordinating, oversight and arbitration body in which all the federal states (including Northern Ireland and the Republic) would be represented.
Of course, Westminster is scarcely ready to relinquish its hold on centralising powers, nor are those nationalists with a dream of a united Ireland likely to swallow the idea of the “Isles of Man” whole – any more than feminist discourse analysts might chew on it.
Yet now, in this era of an increasingly disunited UK and, thanks to Brexit, of a new “Irish border problem”, the “Isles of Man” focus could at least be a reminder of the need for wider and longer-term reflection on how to share “these islands”. Yours, etc,
Stillorgan, Co Dublin.