In October the Taoiseach, Micheál Martin, launched his Shared Island Unit, with the declared aim of building harmonious relations on the island of Ireland. In November Boris Johnson launched his Union Unit which is tasked with building harmonious relations within the UK. In December (although few people noticed), Sir Keir Starmer announced a new constitutional commission to deliver ‘the boldest devolution project in a generation’.

The reasons behind these three initiatives are
distinct, but related. In Dublin there is increasing
apprehension about the call for a referendum on the
border; in London there is increasing apprehension,
shared by Conservatives and Labour alike, about the
call for a referendum on Scottish independence.
Given that they are all running on parallel tracks it
is curious how each initiative fails to acknowledge
the others. For instance, the Shared Island
document has a section which lists the challenges to
good relations in Ireland, and while no-one would
deny that Brexit and climate change deserve their