Home Rule for Ireland is now only months away.
With the Scots voting to stay in the Union, Brit Prime Minister Dave Cameron will have to cough up all the cash concessions he promised them if they gave the two fingers to Big Alex Salmond’s independence campaign.
Let’s face reality, if the SNP had won, like Ireland, there would have been partition in Scotland with parts of the staunchly Scottish Presbyterian Highlands and Islands wanting to remain in the UK.
And in spite of the Yes defeat, Irish nationalists will benefit. The referendum debate has boosted the campaign for another border poll, especially as the – albeit slow – economic recovery continues in the Republic.
Likewise, Cameron cannot – in the teeth of this No victory – divest new and far-reaching tax powers to the Scottish Parliament and not give the same powers to a Northern Assembly, even if the latter is on the brink of collapse over expected hard-hitting welfare reform cuts.
If Cameron’s Home Rule package is good enough for the Scots, it should also be good enough for the Northern Irish parties. It could well be the deal breaker which keeps the DUP and Sinn Fein from forcing a collapse of Stormont and the return of Direct Rule from Westminster to the North.
Perhaps this is what DUP Northern First Minister Peter Robinson wants? After all, with Westminster, Dail and Stormont elections on the horizons in the next two years, what party wants to be blamed for the welfare reform cuts?
A Scottish-style Home Rule package for Stormont would also boost the cross-border bodies and the British-Irish institutions, effectively rubbing out the Irish border and creating a Dail/Stormont Home Rule political settlement in Ireland.
Sinn Fein’s real aim is to become a minority government partner in the next Dail with either Fianna Fail or Fine Gael as the senior partner.
To achieve this, it must prove to the Southern electorate that Sinn Fein is merely more than a Hard Left, anti-austerity party.
Keeping Stormont afloat against the wishes of the DUP would be one way that Sinn Fein could prove that it is politically mature enough to warrant the trust of the Southern voters.
The DUP seems determined to sink Stormont and impose Direct Rule because it knows the Shinners won’t take their Commons seats.
Irish Home Rule using the cross-border bodies would considerably strengthen Sinn Fein’s hand at establishing an all-island political structure.
The Achilles Heel in the whole process is that the narrowness of the No victory in Scotland might scare Northern Unionists into creating an electoral pact.
What happens if Unionists start using the Home Rule cross-border bodies to nudge the Republic into a Commonwealth coalition?
Sinn Fein needs to box very clever in the coming months. The key hurdle republicans must clear is – can Sinn Fein persuade the Brits to implement welfare reform, whilst keeping Stormont at the same time?
A huge pitfall for Sinn Fein is that if Stormont is suspended, when it is re-instated the Irish Home Rule package will be overtly Unionist, giving the DUP an effective voice in the running of the South.
Now that Scotland is still in the Union, could Northern Unionists plot to get the South back in a new Union? Don’t titter, Irish politics is the art of the impossible!
This article first appeared in the Irish Daily Star on 22nd September 2014