Sinn Féin: “An all-island referendum would have precedence.”

Like BBC NI political editor Mark Devenport I was somewhat puzzled by the Sinn Féin’s Northern Ireland Assembly election manifesto call for a ‘referendum on Irish unity‘.  As Mark Devenport points out

The Sinn Fein manifesto’s mention of a referendum on Irish unity encouraged me to revisit the Good Friday Agreement to check what it said on the matter. The Agreement says the Secretary of State can call a border poll “if at any time it appears likely to him that a majority of those voting would express a wish that Northern Ireland should cease to be part of the United Kingdom and form part of a united Ireland.” Once a poll is held, another cannot be organised for at least seven years. So once they’ve finished criticising him for – in their view – not keeping to pledges on capital spending, Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness will have to do their best to persuade Owen Paterson of the need for a referendum.

Could Sinn Féin actually believe that it is “likely” that “a majority of those voting would express a wish that Northern Ireland should cease to be part of the United Kingdom and form part of a united Ireland” at this point?  Is this more politics of delusion?

Apparently not.  [Just another symptom of political psychosis then? - Ed].  Or constitutional illiteracy… 

As David Gordon reports, Sinn Féin’s John O’Dowd explained on Radio Ulster

Sinn Fein’s John O’Dowd told BBC Radio Ulster that this vote would be on an all-island basis.

Asked if a referendum result for unity would be binding despite the Belfast’s Agreement’s requirement for consent in Northern Ireland, Mr O’Dowd said: “An all-island referendum would have precedence.

“The people of Ireland have a right to choose their own destiny. That is my view.”

He also stated: “Surely the people who live on the island of Ireland have a right to decide the destiny of what political future and make-up the island of Ireland has.”

Leaving aside the fact that following through on that logic would mean the annexation of Northern Ireland by the Republic, a separate state on the island, against the wishes of a majority here.

Such ‘logic’ is also completely contrary to both the spirit and the letter of the 1998 Agreement.

CONSTITUTIONAL ISSUES

1. The participants endorse the commitment made by the British and Irish Governments that, in a new British-Irish Agreement replacing the Anglo-Irish Agreement, they will:

(i) recognise the legitimacy of whatever choice is freely exercised by a majority of the people of Northern Ireland with regard to its status, whether they prefer to continue to support the Union with Great Britain or a sovereign united Ireland;

(ii) recognise that it is for the people of the island of Ireland alone, by agreement between the two parts respectively and without external impediment, to exercise their right of self-determination on the basis of consent, freely and concurrently given, North and South, to bring about a united Ireland, if that is their wish, accepting that this right must be achieved and exercised with and subject to the agreement and consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland; [added emphasis throughout]

(iii) acknowledge that while a substantial section of the people in Northern Ireland share the legitimate wish of a majority of the people of the island of Ireland for a united Ireland, the present wish of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland, freely exercised and legitimate, is to maintain the Union and, accordingly, that Northern Ireland’s status as part of the United Kingdom reflects and relies upon that wish; and that it would be wrong to make any change in the status of Northern Ireland save with the consent of a majority of its people;

(iv) affirm that if, in the future, the people of the island of Ireland exercise their right of self-determination on the basis set out in sections (i) and (ii) above to bring about a united Ireland, it will be a binding obligation on both Governments to introduce and support in their respective Parliaments legislation to give effect to that wish;

Or do Sinn Féin now want to tear up that 1998 Agreement? [added link]

Update  Today’s Irish News notes John O’Dowd’s hasty retreat.

However, speaking to The Irish News last night, Mr O’Dowd moved to clarify his earlier comments.

“Ideally we would like to see an all-Ireland referendum,” he said.

“Every citizen should be equal and so that is Sinn Féin’s preferred position.

“But we will work within the confines of the Good Friday Agreement.”

[Just another symptom of political psychosis then? - Ed].  Indeed.

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  • Brian

    “change (as we’re continuously told by the Republican fanatics) is that Unionists would plump for a re-partition in 2150 (or in whatever centuries away date that these demographics are supposed to change).”

    If people on this island are still very much divided and going nuts over this issue in 2150 than this island is worse than I thought.

    heinz: “As someone pointed out earlier,the Border Poll was in the 1920′s”

    There was nothing democratic about the establishment of the 6 counties. If a county to county referendum was done there would have been a 4 county statelet. What are you referring to?

  • john

    So politico68 I think your analysis answers your own questions. Any repartition in the form of the 1922 partition is daft. Firstly you still have a significant minority in the new Northern Ireland (33% and would be more whenever this partition would take place) but also about 30% of the population been added to the new Republic are going to be Unionist so all in all there is going to be alot of unhappy people!

  • Politico68

    John,

    I agree. In fact the Unionist population is decreasing particularly fast west of the bann. According to the census the overall Unionist population in Fermanagh was 40% but the under 15 cohort was just 35%, Dungannon 38% down to 31%, Armagh 50% down to 45.5%. In the east the overall Nationalist Population is about 31%.However there seems to be steady Growth here; Belfast 47% up to 54%, Ballymoney 32% up to 37%, Banbridge 31% up to 35%.

    In every LG ward the Unionist Poulation is falling while the Nationalist is growing. At the moment it would appear that the overwhelming majority of both communities vote in accordance with their religious background. There is no reason to believe that this will change, certainly not in the short to medium term.

    Political leaders of both Unionism and Nationalism really need to start thinking about the changes ahead and talk sensibly about what arrangements they foresee as being acceptable to both sides. If they wait too long it may result in a sudden rise in tensions and we all know where that can lead.

  • Greenflag

    Henry94,

    ‘They would have to create the problem for which re-partition would be the solution.’

    Precisely . Which is why some amongst that mind set might well be raising an unheard cheer at the mindless idiots who murdered PSNI Constable Kerr presumably in a vain attempt to turn back the clock and restart another generation of mindless and self defeating sectarian conflict. At least in retro looking back at the 1912 -1920 period ‘partitionist ‘ NI unionists could make the claim that Home Rule meant Rome Rule . I don’t think any self respecting Irish Republican or Nationalist in this day and age would deny that 1912-1920 claim by the grandparents and great grandparents of today’s NI unionists . Even today until such time as the RC Church’s role is reformed in ROI either by the State or by the Church itself ‘unionists ‘ can still claim that Rome still rules albeit not as before . We may have laughed at Paisley’s ridiculous antics in the past and yes some were ridiculous -but we don’t laugh or sneer as loud before and many have a new found ‘respect’ for the ‘political preacher’ even those of us without a religious faith. For all his faults old Doc opened quite a few eyes south of the border and north of it too .

  • Greenflag

    politico68,

    ”However I think the Catholic Population is probably about 33% now in 2011.’

    We won’t know until the 2011 census results are out . It might be better to use the term RC by community background as there are many who are republican and nationalist who are secular , agnostic or even atheist -ditto for protestants .

    But you are probably close enough for this upcoming election . What will make any narrowing of the voting bloc narrowing electorally significant will be the respective turnouts of younger (under 25’s) and (over 70’s) voters -the latter being more significant for ‘unionist ‘ bloc voters and the former for ‘non unionist’ bloc voters . The AP turnout vote if it rises significantly will probably mask the narrowing of the communal bloc votes.

    The other point in respect of any putative ‘repartition’ scenario is that of the total 33% RC community background vote in the LG areas you mention probably over half of that number are to be found in North and West Belfast which is why in any future ‘Ultonia’ all of Belfast could not easily be accomodated into such a State. For to do so would merely be to replicate the ‘demography ‘ of the 1920 partitionist solution on the new State which in 1920 was 66% Unionist and 33% non Unionist ? So for practical reasons and for the future stability of any such new state both West and large parts of North and even South Belfast would have to be excluded from the new state to give ‘unionists ‘ a strong majority .

    As I said above it looks like any repartition that would not displace tens of thousands of people from where they presently live is no longer an option and could probably only be implemented if the extremists on both sides ever take control of the streets of NI -And I don’t think that’s even a remote possibility at this time . As long as FM Peter Robinson and DFM Martin McGuinness keep their heads and get through another Assembly term no matter how ineffective or inefficient it is, then by 2016 or 2020 politics in NI may be able to break free of it’s present constraints and all the people on this island can maybe look at a new accomodation which might more concern the economic and political future of this island than it’s past . Speed the day .

    Thats how I see it anyway .

  • Greenflag

    Correction

    ‘It looks like any repartition that would not displace tens of thousands of people from where they presently live is no longer an option ‘

    Should read

    It looks like any repartition that would not displace tens of thousands of people (unionists and non unionists ) from where they presently live in order to provide Unionism with a strong majority (90% )- is no longer an option and would not be economically or political desirable for anybody in NI -imo.

  • ForkHandles

    I see this is another thread for people who think that a person’s religion means they have to think a certain way. Very backward when you consider that the rest of Western Europe moved on from this sort of thing 100s of years ago.
    The really funny thing is that the people who go on about people from a certain religion all having the same point of view, actually think they are being intelligent. They spend a great deal of time typing out a long text argument based on people with X attribute think Y…. Do they not realise that everyone else considers that sort of thinking as stupid?
    Still, the good thing is that Slugger only represents about 20 or so sad warped individuals that the rest of us just laugh at. 

  • PaddyReilly

    There was a time when religious symbols were an important divider and indeed quite recently someone mentioned the DUP canvasser beating a hasty retreat when he spotted the badge on his son’s blazer, but most ethnic or partisan clashes I have heard of recently stem from someone wearing the wrong sporting paraphernalia.

    For simplicity’s sake we talk about Catholic and Protestants, but it may be that the persons concerned have no views on transubstantiation, but feel quite passionate about Celtic or Linfield.

  • Politico68

    Forkhandles,

    The unfortunate reality of Northern Politics is the simple fact that People from a Catholic community background vote nationalist, and those from a Protestant community background vote Unionist. This is obvious when one look at the voting age demographic from both communities. A small percentage from both vot for AP or Greens etc. but it is a very small percentage. It is not about being intelligent, it is simple number crunching and looking ahead in order to try and see off any potential tensions.

    Greenflag,

    You are correct and I think the DUP have seen the writing on the wall in terms of the Unionist voting block and its constant shrinking. Personally i don’t see this a s a hammer to hit over the heads of Unionists or a Golden prize for nationalists, i simply believe that all parties from both communities need to make plans for what kind of NI they want. I believe an autonomous NI within the structure of Joint Authority will probably be the best outcome.

  • Politico68

    When we say Catholic or Protestant I don’t think anybody really means it in the sense of pinning a particular label to any individual. It is more to do with the background and the identity that the person relates to. Its quite possible and very probable that many citizens espouse no particular religious identity yet feel quite attached to social, cultural and political habits of the religious background their family hails from. This is passed down through generations and whilst in the past it has encouraged hatred and rancour, I believe it now offers an opportunity for real debate without fear of violent backlash. I am sure that there are many Protestants who will celebrate the Orange fest this year without having seen the inside of their local chapel for sometime. Equally, many Catholics will insist on communion and confirmation for their children without actively participating in the regular Catholic sacraments themselves. People are becoming more secular, more detached from the convention of Religion but we would be foolish to assume that this means they subsequently de-couple themselves from traditional cultural habits.

  • the future’s bright, the future’s orange

    looks as though u may have to wait for a week or to yet lads?

    http://www.ark.ac.uk/nilt/2007/Political_Attitudes/NIRELND2.html

    %

    to remain part of the United Kingdom with direct rule 11
    to remain part of the United Kingdom with devolved government 55
    or, to reunify with the rest of Ireland? 23
    Independent state 5
    Other answer 1
    Don’t know 5

    oops, or 2009

  • Alias

    Religion isn’t incidental to nationalism in NI. In fact, it’s central to it. The protestants, loyal to the British crown, were planted in Ireland on confiscated land. Naturally, the continued to support the state that granted them privileges at the expense of the Catholics, who were not deemed to be loyal to the British crown. That’s how religion and nationalism became interlinked.

  • Greenflag

    Forkhandles,

    ‘ I see this is another thread for people who think that a person’s religion means they have to think a certain way.’

    Then you might want to visit your eye doctor .Nobody is suggesting other than yourself that because somebody is of one community background or another that therefore they must think in a certain way . How people think is their own business . But we do know from the electoral history of NI and the voting behaviour in elections that there is a very high correlation between community background in NI and which political party people vote for . Which is why any significant reduction in the gap between both main community voting blocs in NI is of interest -at least to those of us who are interested in politics.

    As for it being ‘backward’ well yes in the context of modern European electoral behaviour NI is backward- at least in terms of it’s sectarian voting pattern . Nowhere else in modern Europe can an election result be predicted on the basis of the last census results ‘religious or community background data’ as in NI .

  • Greenflag

    Alias ,

    Full marks for the obvious in your history lesson . Unfortunately those who were around 400 or 100 years ago are not around anymore to be held accountable for their actions or inactions which they have left behind them. In this part of the world we don’t hold the children to account for the sins or otherwise of their fathers at least in law .

  • Charminator

    I’m a bit surprised that this repartition nonsense is actually been taken with any degree of seriousness, never mind the traction it’s getting here. It’s a complete non-runner. As AyeYerMa admitted, it’s a sort of last-chance saloon stunt. For it to progress beyond mere ‘Ulidian’ fantasy, it would need serious backers – first and foremost one of the two governments, since the GFA is an international treaty (as well as the internal strand one North-focused stuff). I can’t envisage any circumstances where the British Govt will create themselves a whole new headache with a “Gibraltar” right on it’s doorstep. It has enough problems with the real Gibraltar on the Med, never mind condemning itself to permanently challenging relations with the rest of Ireland by seeking to reopen the agreed premises of the GFA. That’s the first and biggest obstacle.

    Secondly, the Irish Govt would have to AGREE to new negotiations to amend the GFA. That’s never going to happen.

    All of this should be seen for what it is: fantasy proposals to avoid Irish unity with any quixotic notion that can be raised. There’ll be efforts to include an ‘independent North’ on the list of options when a border poll beckons too – again to reduce the prospects of a 50% +1 for Irish unity. Again, they won’t be entertained.

    It’s a simple question really. Either in the Union or out. It doesn’t need much elaboration beyond that, especially now as the British-Irish approach to it is clearly affirmed in exceptional detail in the GFA.

  • Aontachtach

    Green Flag

    Do you think that the ROI has finally cast of the shackles of Vatican rule? Is it now a truly independent country?

    I have to laugh when Republicans talk about their war of Independence and of how they broke free of Britain, yet they were prepared to let another foreign power (the Vatican) have a serious say in how the country was run. How much clout would you say the Vatican has now over its politician? Would any of the present day politicians from the ROI say they were Catholic first and Irishman second as has been said in the past by some of their predecessors?

  • Greenflag

    Aontachtach,

    ‘Do you think that the ROI has finally cast off the shackles of Vatican rule?’

    Rule -yes . But it’s influence is still waning and it’s power to have any noticeable effect on people’s voting choice is now all but gone .

    As for being a truly ‘independent ‘ country ? Tell me where such an entity exists in these days of international financial anarchy and oligarchic control of the politicians by global financial and multinational corporations ? . Democracy which at once aspired to be government of the people by the people has now effectively become government of the people by the unelected corporations in the interest of the corporations and in particular the big finance houses of Wall Street and the City of London .

    Now here’s a wide awake Englishman who is helping to open the eyes of those who still haven’t grasped that our ‘western governments ‘ are all but powerless in the face of the banksters and international mondey handlers . And no it’s not just about a few ‘dodgy’ tax havens in the Caribbean or Jersey or the Caymans or the Isle of Man. If you can relate Nicholas Shaxon’s remarks in his interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now to Mick Fealty’s closing remarks on his Strategem video piece on the NI economy then you might grasp what’s actually going on not just the NI or ROI or British or EU or American economy but you might begin to see how our elected politicians have over the past several decades legislated effective control over the democratic process to the financial sector corporations

    http://www.democracynow.org/2011/4/15/offshore_banking_and_tax_havens_have

  • joeCanuck

    The future’s bright,

    Interesting link. For those who haven’t followed it, 47% of catholics favour reunification, 39% favour remaining as part of the UK.

  • ayeYerMa

    Greenflag, good to see that you have now moved away from the re-partition position. I too hope for a day when the non-caring atheists/agnostics out-number the religious fanatics in NI. Indeed, Politico68 is also wrong to assume that catholic = nationalist. Back in the 1920s it might have been right for a partition to be done on a religious basis given the amount of people conforming to a religion in those days, but right now the only way to properly create any hypothetical (and undesirable) re-partition would be to base the partition on local results to a border poll.

    Brian also insists: “There was nothing democratic about the establishment of the 6 counties.” If that’s true then there is “nothing democratic about the establishment of the 26 counties” either, nor would there be anything democratic about basing the territory on the geography of an island (as opposed to archipelago or any other geographical feature), nor would actually any country in the world have “anything democratic” about it. Rather, ALL these creations were democratic. As Churchill said, “democracy is the worst system there is apart from all the others”. The creation of self-determination for those in the 6 counties was the only pragmatic way in which the self-determination for those in the 26 could ever have been granted.

  • Charminator

    ayeYerMa,

    “The creation of self-determination for those in the 6 counties was the only pragmatic way in which the self-determination for those in the 26 could ever have been granted.”

    Of course, what you’re completely disregarding is the further creation of self-determination for the people of Tyrone and Fermanagh (clear Nationalist majorities), who never wanted to be part of the Northern statelet. They were forgotten unlike Craig and Co. Self-determination has never completely trumped territorial integrity – it’s a fine balancing act. In this case, the balancing was done with ‘total war’ threatened by the largest Empire the world has ever seen against the likes of “a few hundred scrawls o’ chaps with a couple o’ guns an’ rosary beads”. We’re not talking about legalistic self-determination principles here, we’re talking about a highly mobilised Northern Unionist population, indulged by a powerful imperial government. Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking it’s anything other than that.

  • Charminator

    Aontachtach,

    “Would any of the present day politicians from the ROI say they were Catholic first and Irishman second as has been said in the past by some of their predecessors?”

    You mean, would any of the present day politicians from the North say they were a good, God-fearing Protestant first and an “Ulsterman” second?

    Let’s not go round in circles. Both traditions have their fair share of religious nutcases. Why the difficulties with “sodomites” in the North… can’t quite remember what the good Christian Iris called them? Or Sunday sports? A wee bit of religion infused in politics perhaps in the North too? Or, of course, marry a Catholic and you (or rather “one”) can’t be head of state. The British State has an Established Church, Ireland does not. And for most of British history the influence of that Established Church has been well and truly felt.

  • Charminator

    joeCanuck:

    Strange set of questions don’t you think Joe?

    Why this option?

    “to remain part of the United Kingdom with devolved government.”

    But not this?

    “to become part of Ireland with devolved government.”

    Two UK options, but only one Ireland one? You don’t have to be a psephologist to figure out that might skew results a wee bit.

    If the poll suggests anything – and I’m not sure we can take anything from it – it is that there is an overwhelming desire across both communities for the retention of devolved government.

  • Aontachtach

    Charminator

    “Of course, what you’re completely disregarding is the further creation of self determination for the people of Tyrone and Fermanagh(clear Nationalist majorities), who never wanted to be part of the Northern statelet.” That is very true but there were many Unionists in Tyrone and Fermanagh, who were relieved that they were not abandoned in the Vatican controlled South. Nationalists go on about the “Orange state” and I for one accept that the Unionist Government were unfair and at times unjust in their treatment of Nationalists. I don’t have a problem saying that. But at the same time I am looking for nationalists to take the log out of their own eye and admit that the Unionist slogan of “Home rule is Rome rule” was proven to be correct. I do believe that the South is changing and has changed a lot but so has NI and the Orange Orders influence has gone and thankfully gone for good. Can the South say that the influence of the Vatican has gone for good?

  • Charminator

    Thanks Aontachtach.

    The Anglican Church in Britain has as much influence, institutional and otherwise, as the Catholic Church in Ireland.

    A dominance of the role of Head of State, with important powers if there is a hung Parliament.

    Members of the Upper House of the British Parliament (the Anglican Bishops).

    Those in the North who criticise Ireland’s Catholic influence (and of course we know it existed), need first to take the log out of their own eye. They might start by recognising that for a long period the British State granted the Church of Ireland the role of Established Church in Ireland, something the Irish State never did since independence. You might also want to check the historical archives and see just how much Ireland’s early leaders actually resisted the calls for an enhanced Catholic Church role in the State.

    The North – to my mind now at least – suffers from a much more pervasive hardcore Presbyterian influence – particularly in the context of social mores – than Ireland does today. It is obvious in everything from homosexuality to the role of Sunday. One only had to listen to the First Minister talk of his wife ‘most importantly’ seeking God’s forgiveness. Not exactly a ‘Province’ to feel comfortable in as an atheist.

  • Aontachtach

    Charminator

    Nobody is denying that there is religious nut cases on the Unionist side. But there is this denial from Nationalists that the Republic of Ireland was never a Catholic state for a Catholic people. Nationalists need to hold up their hands and admit this was wrong and at least try to understand why Unionists resisted Home rule.

  • Aontachtach

    Charminator

    Such was the influence of the Vatican was that your most influential politician ever,Eamon Develra intervened and made sure that a Protestant Librarian did not get employed before a Catholic Librarian when he was leader of the country.

  • Charminator

    I’m not going to mention the gardener that got fired from Stormont, or Brookborough’s “wouldn’t have a Catholic about the place” jibe…. Never mind the painting of King William installed in Stormont in the early years before being moth-balled when a sharp-eyed Orange man noticed the Pope in it!

    The point I’m making is simple. There’s a religious influence on these islands. Full stop. Now I’m not into the point-scoring “your lot’s a bigger shower of religious nutters than mine” because frankly it’s a circular argument.

    De Valera could have installed Catholic bishops in the Seanad – like Britain still has. He could have implemented a law which forbade any Head of State but a Catholic one, like Britain’s Act of Settlement still does in reverse. He could even have banned certain religious denominations, like some Nordic countries have done with the Jesuits. Indeed, he could have gone a whole lot further, as the turbulence of the 1930s shows. Let’s not try to apply 21st century vision to a 1930s world Aontachtach.

  • augustiner hell

    Charminator,
    regarding the NILT poll, yes, perhaps ““to become part of Ireland with devolved government.” would have been an interesting option of question but those in favour of such an option could also have voted “other” or “don’t know.”
    Regardless and I admit, surprisingly, it would appear that 39% of polled catholics are not in favour of a UI.

  • Aontachtach

    The Unionist Goverment of NI between 1922 and 71 deserves to be critisised and as I said before I don’t have a problem with that. What Unionists need to hear is some honesty from Nationalists. Nationalists need to accept that their beloved Republic was not as inclusive as they think it was. I do believe both NI and the ROI have changed and thankfully the likes of Bishop McQuaid and Ian Paisley, Develera and Brookeborough are gone forever.

  • Alias

    “Full marks for the obvious in your history lesson . Unfortunately those who were around 400 or 100 years ago are not around anymore to be held accountable for their actions or inactions which they have left behind them. In this part of the world we don’t hold the children to account for the sins or otherwise of their fathers at least in law.” – Greenflag

    Thanks for the full marks but I can’t give you full marks for your comprehension skills. I’m glad that I have very low expectations of you because otherwise I’d be very disappointed right about now.

    Somehow, perhaps because you wouldn’t know up from down if you had three guesses, you seemed to have concluded that my post was a demand to prosecute the Protestant locals for crimes against humanity that were in fact committed by the British crown several centuries ago.

    This, frankly, stunning autistic piece of reasoning has so alarmed you that it has compelled you to flap your arms about and warn others against adopting this sinister plan, fearing great harm would come to humanity from it.

    But let’s look again:

    “Religion isn’t incidental to nationalism in NI. In fact, it’s central to it. The protestants, loyal to the British crown, were planted in Ireland on confiscated land. Naturally, they continued to support the state that granted them privileges at the expense of the Catholics, who were not deemed to be loyal to the British crown. That’s how religion and nationalism became interlinked.”

    It simply explains how religion and nationalism became interlinked, and why it is still interlinked. The overwhelming majority of NI’s protestants are unionists. That hasn’t changed in centuries, and it isn’t going to change anytime soon.

    Now, having read it again, don’t you see that your comment makes about as much sense as a tutu on a pig?

  • Greenflag

    ‘The overwhelming majority of NI’s protestants are unionists’.

    Alias

    You don’t say ? A stunning piece of news . Who on slugger woulda thought it ?

    Religion and nationalism interlinked ? Another stunning piece of news . I’m impressed. Any more wit like that and you’ll qualify as half wit soon enough .

    As for knowing up from down ? Shure the folks from the County Down even wear football supporter hats which state very clearly ‘Up Down’ to remind them that there is no such thing as ‘in between’ when it comes to sport .

    ‘crimes against humanity that were in fact committed by the British crown several centuries ago.’

    I’m not sure they had crimes against ‘humanity’ back then . There was more than some doubt among the ‘ruling’ aristocratic classes of the time and not just the British -whether the mass of the people were even ‘human ‘ which is of course why the imperialist powers could loot and confiscate whole continents in return for coloured baubles and bibles and be oblivious to the consequences .

    Still we must’nt judge the aristocratic rulers of previous centuries by the standards of today

    After all from the Sudan to Syria, from Palestine to Afghanistan, from the Congo to Iran, from Gaza to Darfur , and from Wall St to the City of London and all tax havens in between the corporate oligarchs and new financial imperialists rule the world without a drop of blood being spilt eh ?

  • Greenflag

    AyeYerMa,

    ‘good to see that you have now moved away from the re-partition position.’

    Now ? You are about 2 years behind the times :) but then I see your august contributions have only been enlightening slugger for about a month now so I’ll forgive you your mistiming .

    I should of course qualify my position re ‘repartition ‘ . The first is that demographic changes underway in NI east of the Bann among the under 25’s are such that a ‘really strong ‘unionist ‘majority of the say 85% plus range are or will soon be no longer possible except perhaps in one or two local government areas. So to create a new State which could accommodate a longer term viable and stable ‘unionist ‘ majority would not be possible without the large scale involuntary transfer of people and this would be anathema to all of us who subscribe to democratic principles and the rights of individuals.

    Secondly as long as the current GFA continues to exist then notwithstanding it’s limitations and inefficiencies -any likelihood of a new round of sectarian conflict breaking out is remote.

    Thirdly the world economic situation which is still in flux as regards any new or reformed international monetary system – is such that governments everywhere not just the NI Assembly or the Dail or Westminster are more uncertain than they have been for a generation or more of what lies directly ahead as regards the ‘economic ‘ future and how globalisation will impact their politics.

    Does that make a ‘repartitionist ‘ solution impossible ? In the world of politics -whether national or international -what is for a long period is seen as ‘impossible ‘ sometimes comes to pass with a speed that none expect. Everything seems obvious in hindsight when the answers are known . Which just means that nobody or very few where asking the correct questions before tumultous events overtook them.

    Think of the ‘overnight’ failure of the world’s biggest financial institutions in the Wall St collapse and bail out . Banks that could never fail and had A+++ ratings went belly up. Think of the collapse of the Soviet Empire and German re-unification ? Think of the overnight demise of Fianna Fail from 70 plus seats to 20 . Look at the RC Church .

    There are always some who see ‘tipping ‘ points just ahead but for reasons which are too complex and besides the point for this post – their view is seldom listened to or heeded by those at the top of the political or economic hierarchy .

  • Greenflag

    addendum

    ‘There are always some who see ‘tipping ‘ points just ahead’

    And the much missed ‘Horseman ‘ and his

    http://ulstersdoomed.blogspot.com website

    would be one of those imo.

  • Alias

    Greenflag, thanks for the warning not to ‘punish the childern for the sins of the father.’

    The spurious cliche doesn’t relate to anything I posted of course, but I guess it’s just a Tourette syndrome thing that I really shouldn’t adminish you for?

    Now here’s an equally helpful warning for you: quit dipping every sentence into concentrated Stupid Sauce before serving it.

    Thanks again.

  • Alias

    “Interesting link. For those who haven’t followed it, 47% of catholics favour reunification, 39% favour remaining as part of the UK.” – joeCanuck

    Which, of course, shows that the interlnking of nationalism and religion is weaker among catholics in NI than it is among protestants.

    That’s great news for unionism but does show that improving the status quo, when the status quo is always favoured, isn’t a strategy for anything other than a guarantee of continued British rule.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Going back to Charminator’s point, which has been discussed around elsewhere (v interesting, all): “All of this repartition nonsense is the stuff of fantasy.”
    The stuff of fantasy now can soon become the stuff of relaity, depending on the mood of people on the ground. It seems like fantasy now, but whether it remains so depends on how debates like this grow, or not, in the coming years.
    “The GFA does not countenance it.”
    Absolutely right and this is the strongest argument against it. The GFA is a long-term deal. But on the other hand, experience tells us that previous attempts at once and for all settlements – like 1921 – can last for a long time but after 50 years can look like they need an update. And of course, if there is a nationalist view that it can be seen as a “staging post”, then that can go both ways. If they aren’t happy with the deal, then let’s discuss alternatives. Repartition could be a compromise that comes out of those discussions.
    “It has no basis in any legal text …”
    I’d challenge that. In international law you have treaties but you also have what is called “customary international law”: a set of legal principles derived from how states actually act and justify their actions. It is at least arguable that the principles upon which repartition would be done have been operating in international boundary disputes since Versailles in 1919 and helped set the boundaries for most of mainland Europe. The Boundary Commission of 1925 was one early example of two sides acknowledging the validity of the principle in an Irish context (legally, it doesn’t matter that they didn’t agree on the results).
    “… AND unlike the 1920s, Britain is no longer negotiating with poorly armed rebels with whom they can threaten ‘total war’, but a sovereign republic which will not be budged on the issue.”
    Well, perhaps they should be budged on it. Surely they won’t argue for a new border at the sea creating a minority of 900,000, when a revised land border could produce minorities of say, 700,000? That would be plain irrational, unless their policy is driven by something other than the welfare of the greater number of people. But then that is the logical cul-de-sac Irish nationalism is in.
    “In any event, it is unlikely any British Govt would even have the temerity to raise such a ludicrous notion.”
    This is about the wishes of the people in the area under dispute and they have primacy. National governments should in principle cede to that. But yes, the UK government will not want it.
    “The only folk who will indulge it are hardcore, uncompromising Unionists, who are one step away from armed resistance to democratically expressed change.”
    Well, here’s the thing: there are only two peoples at issue here, unionists and nationalists in Northern Ireland. So if unionists did swing behind it, it would be no use saying it’s “only” unionists – any new deal on the future of Ireland would have to involve us. It’s like saying now that it’s “only” nationalists who want an Irish dimension, so we can ignore it. That argument doesn’t work either way.
    As for the armed resistance, I do hope unionists don’t copy the Republican approach and use such armed resistance. If they did, of course Republicans would be in no position to complain, given their beliefs about the validity of such forms of “political expression”. But regardless of that, there is no reason why the re-drawing of the border could not be done coolly, rationally and democratically, if we want it to be.

  • Greenflag

    mainland ulsterman,

    ‘there are only two peoples at issue here, unionists and nationalists in Northern Ireland.’

    If Northern Ireland was an an island located somewhere near Iceland or in the Meditteranean your point would hold -but alas it is’nt . There is the Republic of Ireland and the British mainland to consider . Neither of these entities wish to return to past conflict and neither do the vast majority of NI people of both communities.

    ‘there is no reason why the re-drawing of the border could not be done coolly, rationally and democratically, if we want it to be.’

    True in theory . In practice getting both sides to agree on any new border line would be impossible without the involvement of a neutral international body such as the UN or EU which could only happen with the permissions of both the British and Irish governments .

    But the main reason why ‘repartition’ is probably no longer possible is because of changing demographics east of the Bann and in Belfast . Based on Horseman’s various county maps of age group percentages it would seem that the only way to carve out a contiguous ‘unionist’ state in NI which would have a large enough unionist majority would be to cede probably half of Belfast to the Republic. IMO it’s too late for ‘repartition ‘ unless it’s created by another bloody conflict with mass evacuations of people across any new putative line . I don’t see any British or Irish government standing idly by in such circumstances -nor do I see any faction within ‘unionism’ having the support to try to implement another unilateral ‘partition’ over the corpses of several thousand or tens of thousands dead .

    In retro the best time for ‘repartition ‘ would have been in 1920 with a 4 county or smaller unit for unionism . Another period might have been the mid 70’s to 80’s but alas that was the period when ‘unionism ‘ decided to talk to itself and the wall and under Jim Molyneux tried to integrate NI into the UK on the Finchley model . Despite growing Scottish and Welsh devolutions -Molyneux- was out of his time and the English would not accept it anyway .

    I’m afraid NI is stuck with what it has for now until such time as circumstances -economic , demographic or political change sufficiently for a new departure/solution to become possible

    ‘any new deal on the future of Ireland would have to involve us (unionists).

    We’ll agree on that much but I would’nt care to predict when that might be . But given political unionism’s track record in political reform as being forever too little and too late as regards it’s relationship with the Irish nationalist and republican communities then it’s probably a safe bet that by the time ‘unionism’ gets to the stage of demanding ‘involvement ‘ it’s influence will have diminished even more .

  • JH

    Lads before you put too much stock in the NILT Survey you might want to also look at the results in support of Sinn Féin and how they compare to the actual share of the vote they get.

    What people do in the polling booth and what they say when we send a stranger to their door to interview them are two very different things.

  • Charminator

    Mainland Ulsterman – thanks for your analysis.

    “But on the other hand, experience tells us that previous attempts at once and for all settlements – like 1921 – can last for a long time but after 50 years can look like they need an update.”

    Yes, they can: mainly due to the different bargaining strengths of the two parties involved. As I explained, the deal was struck under the threat of imperial might with a nascent government: Ireland’s negotiating leaders buckled under threats, but no surprise given the power at Britain’s disposal. When next the matter is raised, no such ‘gunboat diplomacy’ will be a factor. Significantly, it is extremely unlikely any American administration would entertain the remotest possibility of repartition: certainly not when Irish-America weighs in.

    “Surely they won’t argue for a new border at the sea creating a minority of 900,000, when a revised land border could produce minorities of say, 700,000?”

    Yes, any Irish Govt shall. Absolutely nothing less. The North is a cohesive unit – paradoxically the “Our Wee Country” groupies continue to give credence to this notion. As such – and given the explicit language of the GFA – no Irish Govt would ever enter into fresh discussions reviewing this. And, irrespective of customary international law, to change an explicit international text such as the GFA, it takes two to tango. It will be all, or nothing. And as such, will signal a permanent settlement of what both governments have acknowledged as a long-standing thorn in Anglo-Irish relations.

    “This is about the wishes of the people in the area under dispute and they have primacy. National governments should in principle cede to that.”

    Well yes and no. The wishes of the people of the area under dispute (the ENTIRE North) already has primacy under the GFA. However, if people wish to REDEFINE the area under dispute, this is a matter of international relations between the Irish and British Govts. As such, it cannot be redefined at will by either party. So yes the wishes of the people in the area under dispute – the North – do have primacy. Just as they do at present. As you acknowledged, a future British Govt is unlikely to complicate what is a clearly prescribed procedure in the GFA under threats from Unionism.

    “‘Any new deal on the future of Ireland would have to involve us (unionists).”

    Of course. But NOT in changing the rules of the game. The rules of the game in the GFA are clear. Now – if a majority was secured in a border poll – then the arrangements and mechanics of Irish unity (protecting Unionist identity, traditions) would naturally involve deep discussions with Unionism’s leaders. The sort of Ireland we could all together forge would be a matter for discussion, but NOT the rules of the game. They stay as they were finely negotiated and delicately agreed.

    “As for the armed resistance, I do hope unionists don’t copy the Republican approach and use such armed resistance. If they did, of course Republicans would be in no position to complain, given their beliefs about the validity of such forms of “political expression”.”

    There would be great cause for complaint, especially if – after such a border poll in favour of unity – hardcore elements sought to incite civil strife and disregard the democractic process, a process all stakeholders have agreed in advance. “Disloyalists” against both their own government and their future Irish government, as Brookeborough might have put it. Remember, in your use of Republicanism, to not ignore ALL of Republican Ireland. Do not seek to view Republicanism through a SF prism alone.

  • Greenflag

    Alias <

    Tourette's syndrome? stupid sauce ? come on now you can do better than that :) Any more wit like that and you'd be a half wit. I know you're a clever chap on some issues and we agree on much .

  • Greenflag

    JH,

    ‘What people do in the polling booth and what they say when we send a stranger to their door to interview them are two very different things.’

    The short form of the above is

    Never mind what they say just watch what they do .

    The maxim applies everywhere from NI voting booths to ECB ultimatums to banker’s bonuses .

  • grandimarkey

    Mainland Ulsterman

    “But on the other hand, experience tells us that previous attempts at once and for all settlements – like 1921 – can last for a long time but after 50 years can look like they need an update.”

    The main difference between 1921 and 1998 is that in 1921 two of the counties in Northern Ireland voted not to be part of it. This left it open to accusations of unfairness and the need of revision. The 1998 agreement was voted for by the majority of everyone and would not be as easy to revise…

  • joeCanuck

    What people do in the polling booth and what they say when we send a stranger to their door to interview them are two very different things.’

    In principle, I always lie to pollsters and canvassers. Nothing else makes sense.

  • Alias

    Those who claim that the GFA (or, rather, the British Irish Agreement, which is the actual treaty with the GFA being an all-party agreement) is an inviolable bilateral agreement that cannot be unilaterally broken by either contracting party without severe international sanction overlook the fact that it has already been unilaterally broken without severe international sanction – or, indeed, any sanction at all – by the British government when it unilaterally reimposed direct rule in 2002. That occured contrary to the provisions of the treaty. The howls of protest from the Irish government were duly ignored. I didn’t notice any American tanks rolling up to Downing Street or any writs from mythical international courts flying up The Mall. That shows the real ‘respect’ in which the UK actually holds the provisions of the treaty, and shows the treaty to be a worthless document.

    Anyway, back in the real world, the driver of Ireland’s NI policy is the British government. If, at some future point, it decides to dismantle the Union then it will do so in a manner that best serves its own interests, and pay not a bit of heed to (then obselete) unionist sentiments or to the treaty. Unionists, like all dependent social groups, are at the mercy of those with financial means who may or may not continue to indulge their whims depending on the vagaries of the times. As unionists are not self-sufficient, they don’t have any autonomy. Thems the breaks.

    Not that anybody in Ireland, if they’re honest or sane, actually wants to cohabit with them but if their keeper did fling them out of the house then we’d probably work out some arrangement that allowed them to live in the granny flat, so to speak. Like all such abodes, they have their own entrance and you don’t really have to speak to them unless it’s to tell them to turn down the stereo or somesuch.

    So I don’t see any change occuring unless it’s a change that their keeper makes in the context of union dissolution. Then it’s more or less a case of Ireland annexing NI but doing so in a way that grants as much autonomy and as little subvention to that region as possible.

    As Dylan said, “Beyond here lies nothing.”

  • Charminator

    Alias,

    I cannot agree with your comparison of the ‘temporary’ suspension of the Assembly with the much more radical prospect of altering the fundamentals of agreement between Britain and Ireland. The difference in not just one of degree, it is a fundamental difference in nature. You’ll recall, I am sure, that even during suspension, British and Irish civil servants were intensively consulting on what longer-term structure could be laid in place if the local parties could not behave themselves. Thankfully, Plan B was not needed, but it would be fundamentally wrong to assume that tinkering with the mechanical operation of the Assembly in a temporary manner in any way compares to radical surgery on the foundation of the GFA’s arrangements.

    As for much of the rest of your more realpolitik analysis, there is much I agree with, though in a devolved Union where the Scots, for example, are moving more to control their own destiny, I would perhaps be a little less inclined to view the British Govt as the only ‘driver’ in this process.

    I agree entirely regarding the long-term future of Northern devolution. Devolution shall endure irrespective of the constitutional canopy under which it operates, unless a better alternative is presented to Unionism in all-island unification talks (post border poll). Ultimately, that will be a Unionist choice which I would hope Republican Ireland will acknowledge. There are possibilities of ‘reserved seats’ in Dail Eireann and the likes which may have some value, but it is difficult to look beyond the appeal of continuing devolved government for the six counties with little change beyond that.

  • Greenflag

    ‘Unionists, like all dependent social groups, are at the mercy of those with financial means who may or may not continue to indulge their whims depending on the vagaries of the times.’

    So ‘unionists’ join the Greeks, the Portuguese, the Irish , the Icelanders , the Spanish and indeed the USA , UK , and every other dependent country in the world -dependant on the fiat currency of the international bankers and their criminal money laundering depositors -Mexican drug lords and Russian and other mafiosi ? The USA cannot even look beyond September in terms of being able to pay it’s government employees -having just escaped recently from having to close down many of it’s functions -Meanwhile 3.5 trillion dollars are squandered in overseas wars and the American dollar is absolutely dependent on the Chinese and other Asians and the oil rich Saudis continuing to support American borrowing and further indebting the American taxpayers .The fact that some 25 to 28 million Americans are unemployed and some 50 million are without health insurance and the ‘middle class’ is being squeezed dry while the top 1% hold 40% of the wealth of the country and the gap continues to increase not just in the USA but in the UK and elsewhere while the bankers continue to gloat over even larger bonuses -is just a further indication that what used to be called ‘democracy’ is now dead . What we all have is nothing other than rule by the financial sector the same sector that destroyed the world economy through it’s overweening greed aided and abetted by gullible politicians the world over .

    In this scheme of things what happens to the ‘union ‘ is hardly of consequence for it won’t matter which jurisdiction NI is under -as long as the world banking system remains as it is and as long as the rating agencies can continue to mislead and be ‘influenced’ by their ‘bank’ overseers and as long as the ECB and IMF can continue to ‘terrorise’ non compliant so called ‘nations’ then what people in NI and the Republic and the UK will have is effective ‘corporate’ fascism until such time as the neo cons can rip out all remaining ‘rights ‘ of unions and the public services which the vast majority of people everywhere in these islands depend on .

    Realpolitik indeed

    At least one Irish politician is going through the motions of finding the truth

    http://www.rte.ie/news/2011/0425/economy.html

    Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton has said there needs to be a public inquiry into the events that led to the EU/IMF bailout.

    Her comments follow former Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan’s remarks in a BBC radio documentary, that the European Central Bank ‘forced’ Ireland to take the bailout.
    Ms Burton says all those who sat around the Cabinet table of the last government need to come before a Dáil inquiry to answer questions about what happened.
    Three inquiries have been held into the collapse of the banks but Ms Burton says they were all held in private and none dealt with the role of the ECB or the former government.
    She is in favour of an inquiry conducted by a Dáil committee.
    The Government plans to hold a referendum seeking to give the Dáil powers to carry out such an inquiry, and compel witnesses to attend.
    She said if Mr Lenihan was ‘bullied’ by the ECB we should know about it because it is very important to the future of Europe and for the current Government in dealing with the financial mess.

    Irish taxpayers, according to Ms Burton, need to know what happened the night of the bank guarantee and in the weeks running up to the bailout, so that the country can move on.’

  • Brian

    “Brian also insists: “There was nothing democratic about the establishment of the 6 counties.” If that’s true then there is “nothing democratic about the establishment of the 26 counties” either, nor would there be anything democratic about basing the territory on the geography of an island (as opposed to archipelago or any other geographical feature), nor would actually any country in the world have “anything democratic” about it. Rather, ALL these creations were democratic. As Churchill said, “democracy is the worst system there is apart from all the others”. The creation of self-determination for those in the 6 counties was the only pragmatic way in which the self-determination for those in the 26 could ever have been granted.”

    I wasn’t insisting on anything. I was pointing out a fact. There was never any attempt on the British part to have a referendum or county by county vote on Irish independence…it would just embarass them as they would never abide by the outcome. .

    My main point was this….the eventual 6 county state was decided on because that was the biggest amount of land the Unionists could get where they would have a gauranteed majority for the foreseeable future. The whole province of Ulster (9 counties) had a very slight majority of nationalists…In 1920 only 4 counties were majority unionists at the time. The other 2 counties (F and T) were thrown in so that the new NI statelet wouldn’t look so small on a map to those observers in America and across the world who’s opinion the Brits had to think about. That is the reason they were added. I am not making this up. How is that democratic?

    A new territory for the loyal unionists which would be as big as possible while still ensuring their domination and Catholic 2nd class citizenship for generations to come…that was the basis for the 6 county state.

    Some democracy.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    “But on the other hand, experience tells us that previous attempts at once and for all settlements – like 1921 – can last for a long time but after 50 years can look like they need an update.”

    “Ireland’s negotiating leaders buckled under threats, but no surprise given the power at Britain’s disposal.”
    Don’t forget the cultural demographics of the North-East of the island, which was and is the main reason for the border. That will remain the stumbling block for the doomed “united Ireland” project.

    “… no Irish Govt would ever enter into fresh discussions reviewing this.”
    It will make it harder, but who knows what will happen to the behaviour of politicians in the Republic when a vague notion of a united Ireland becomes a clear and present danger. They have form on backing away when presented with unification on a plate (WW2, the Wilson offer of the mid 70s) – and who’s to say it wouldn’t happen again? The reality is, they’d be giving up a cohesive, homogenous country in order to start a potentially disastrous experiment in assimilating a more or less hostile people. Aren’t they going to ask, do we really need this? Can’t we let Britain continue to deal with this god-forsaken region? I think they are very likely to prefer some kind of joint authority with the UK, at least in the medium term, after any ‘yes to unification’ vote in NI, rather than outright sovereignty.
    Repartition is less likely, but if there is a break down of law and order a la 1969, the Irish may look at it as a welcome escape route, if only in private. I stress I’m not wishing that to happen, just pointing out that it’s at least possible that the Loyalist response to the Irish state could mirror the Republican one to the British state. Faced with that, the Irish government could well say, we still want a united Ireland but we can’t impose it on heavily populated hostile areas.

    “… if people wish to REDEFINE the area under dispute, this is a matter of international relations between the Irish and British Govts.”

    Yes, I’d agree they play a role in helping decide where the area under dispute is. And it’s been set as the current Northern Ireland. But Nationalists for a long time did not recognise the six county area as the relevant self-determinative unit. While they had to finally admit they got it wrong in 1998, nationalist discourse – on these pages and elsewhere – still insists Northern Ireland’s borders are arbitrary and were not truly agreed by them. It would be a strange volte face then if Northern Ireland’s 1921 border becomes sacrosanct to nationalists as defining of the self-determinative unit.
    But in theory, if there were consensus about the transfer of some areas to the Republic, there is nothing to stop that happening. This consensus seems unlikely now, but I wonder to what extent minds in London and Dublin on this now have been focussed on this.

    However bad nationalists feel about living in the UK, all were born into the current dispensation, it has not got worse for them constitutionally. What would happen to British people in NI after unification would be of a different order – actually being born and growing up in your homeland only to find it taken over by another (not particularly sympathetic) country. Not to mention the inevitable crowing from nationalists that would ensue. Thinking about it with any kind of focus, with anything other than green-tinted spectacles, shows it will be, at best, a highly volatile situation. I fear that might be putting it mildly.

    “‘Any new deal on the future of Ireland would have to involve us (unionists).”

    “The sort of Ireland we could all together forge would be a matter for discussion, but NOT the rules of the game.”

    But what if we can’t forge an Ireland together? The GFA obliges the British government to do its bit to make a united Ireland happen, in the event of a pro-UI vote in NI. It actually says it will introduce and support legislation to bring it about. Fine, but while that can effect things legally, enforcing that is a different matter. Would this be implemented without unionist consent? We had some taste of that in 1985. OK, Westminster passed it and it held for a few years – but we saw a big revival of Loyalist violence, no reduction of Republican violence and ultimately, no consensual political deal among the people in Northern Ireland. Little wonder it didn’t last.

    We’ve got used to things in NI happening by agreement between the communities. It would be strange if we suddenly started moving into the realm of enforcing the will of one community on the other, just because the majority were a nationalist one. Further, liberal Irish nationalism is now supposed to be about “an agreed Ireland” – agreement between the Ulster British and Irish peoples on arrangements. A majority vote in favour of Irish unity in Northern Ireland would not actually alter the need to find that consensus. The days of majority rule are over – by order of Irish nationalists. So be it.

    So I’m assuming the principle will still be to find consensual arrangement in NI. And who knows, border adjustments could be part of that.

    “There would be great cause for complaint, especially if – after such a border poll in favour of unity – hardcore elements sought to incite civil strife and disregard the democratic process, a process all stakeholders have agreed in advance.”

    Like I said, there could surely be no complaints from Republicans, by which I mean those nationalists who have supported anti-British violence. When they lost poll after poll on Northern Ireland’s sovereignty, they used terrorism to try and by-pass it, so I assume, on their own terms, they must accept Loyalist terror with equanimity. This shows the absurd position they have argued themselves into over the years.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    I am Mr Typo at the moment! Please ignore the repeated quote at the start, as you can see there is no comment on it.

  • Greenflag

    Brian ,

    ‘The whole province of Ulster (9 counties) in 1920 had a very slight majority of nationalists’

    Not true . There was a small majority of unionists about 51% to 49% . There were some ‘unionists ‘ who felt this gave them the right to set up a 9 county Statelet but ‘wiser’ heads prevailed and thus they went for 6 counties which would continue to give ‘unionists’ a strong electoral majority.

    Even so in 1920 only 4 of the 9 counties of Ulster had unionist majorities . Of the remaining 5 two Fermanagh and Tyrone were included in the new NI State against the wishes of the majority of people in each county at the time . IIRC in Fermanagh one of the Brookeborough’s declared that the ‘atmosphere’ was ‘unionist’ and thus the democratic will of the people could safely be ignored .

    Now in 2011 only 2 of the 6 counties of NI have unionist majorities counties Antrim and Down and even in those counties South Down and the Glens of Antrim are majority nationalist areas . The Unionist electoral majority clings on due to it’s age profile and due to the higher densities of population in the east of the province as compared to the west.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Greenflag,
    “There is the Republic of Ireland and the British mainland to consider .”
    Yes but not very much, in terms of drawing the border. It’s really a matter for the people in the areas under dispute. Also, both sides seem broadly relaxed about accepting / letting go territory in Northern Ireland.

    “In practice getting both sides to agree on any new border line would be impossible without the involvement of a neutral international body such as the UN or EU which could only happen with the permissions of both the British and Irish governments .”
    Well, you’d be looking at the ICJ really for the legal expertise on this – but yes, I’m all for internationalising it, we’re only asking for a border based on internationally agreed principles, to minimise the numbers on the “wrong side” of it.

    “But the main reason why ‘repartition’ is probably no longer possible is because of changing demographics east of the Bann and in Belfast .”
    Yes, West Belfast would always be the big problem. But even so, you could massively reduce the numbers on the wrong side of the border by some fairly simple changes. There would be lots of Brits on the wrong side too in W. Londonderry, Tyrone, Fermanagh, so the pain would be shared.

    “In retro the best time for ‘repartition ‘ would have been in 1920 with a 4 county or smaller unit for unionism .”
    I agree and it would have been preferable, really. Or to have just gone with the Boundary Commission changes in 1925 would have been a big improvement.

    “I’m afraid NI is stuck with what it has for now until such time as circumstances -economic , demographic or political change sufficiently for a new departure/solution to become possible”
    For the foreseeable future, you’re probably right.

  • tacapall

    “Like I said, there could surely be no complaints from Republicans, by which I mean those nationalists who have supported anti-British violence. When they lost poll after poll on Northern Ireland’s sovereignty, they used terrorism to try and by-pass it, so I assume, on their own terms, they must accept Loyalist terror with equanimity”.

    Thats a very blinkered view of history you have there mainland, since when has loyalism not used violence against the Irish people.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    tacapall,
    “since when has loyalism not used violence against the Irish people”
    Not sure where you got that from – I wasn’t saying that at all. Of course Loyalism has used violence against the Irish people. I was just pointing out that constitutional nationalists have a firm basis on which to criticise it, but Republicans don’t: as supporters of “armed struggle” as a political strategy, they shot themselves in the foot (and other people in the head) on that topic many times over.

    This isn’t an argument that loyalist violence would be OK, but that Republican attitudes are explained only by the observation that they are thinly veiled Irish ethno-supremacists.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Greenflag
    “The Unionist electoral majority clings on due to it’s age profile and due to the higher densities of population in the east of the province as compared to the west.”

    Population density is kind of important – which is why simply looking at an electoral map of England makes it look more Tory than it is and an electoral map of Northern Ireland looks more nationalist than it is. The thinly populated rural areas give a false impression on these maps of overall electoral strength. Better are the maps – hard to come by – where areas are represented by blobs depending on the numbers of people in them – gives the viewer a much more realistic feel for the reality of the relationship between people and territory.

    You also seem to be treating counties as the only possible unit by which we can navigate a border. It was a mistake to use county boundaries in 1921 and we should let the geo-demographics dictate, not arbitrary lines drawn in the pre-democratic era.

  • JH

    Greenflag:

    The short form of the above is

    Never mind what they say just watch what they do .

    The maxim applies everywhere from NI voting booths to ECB ultimatums to banker’s bonuses .

    I wasn’t necessarily saying that. The NILT is pretty good at showing relative changes in opinion over time – it’s just poor at indicating absolute quantities at any given time.

    IMO A concerted campaign on a green paper could draw up to 40% support first time round and I’d be happy with that.

  • Greenflag

    mainland ulsterman,

    Yes -population density is important but more important is the overall demographic balances and trend . What persuaded me that Ni has gone beyond the probability of a ‘repartitionist’ solution was not the the electoral demographic map but Horseman’s ‘demographics’ by age cohort and community background in those traditional majority ‘unionist’ areas east of the Bann . Formerly say 20 or 30 years ago many of those areas had strong unionist majorities of 80% plus but the demographics of the younger age groups in many of those areas are showing 30% and sometimes up to 40% and more ‘nationalist ‘ community background . So in those cases based on the fact that those under 18 don’t vote the electoral map is in the not too distant future going to be less ‘orange’ particularly under proportional representation .

    As for Belfast -the west is overwhelmingly ‘green’ but North Belfast is almost 50/50 and probably for those under 25 -majority ‘green’ . South Belfast is also trending ‘greener ‘ and what was once a dead certain unionist Westminster seat is now held by the SDLP . Only in East Belfast is the ‘orange’ holding a strong majority . The general perception that Belfast is now becoming a majority ‘nationalist ‘ city is pervasive and will proba

    ‘You also seem to be treating counties as the only possible unit by which we can navigate a border’.

    I’m not . I was merely using the 9 county traditional ulster pre partition map to point out that the demographic balance over the entire 9 county area in 1920 which gave Unionists a small 51% majority at that time with a strong majority in four of those counties has now 90 years later led to a situation where ‘unionism ‘ only has a majority in 2 of Ulster’s traditional counties or in only 2 of Northern Ireland’s present 6 counties . So despite traditionally higher non unionist emigration rates over the past century the trend is clear even if that trend appears to have slowed in the recent decade . We do not know what the impact of new immigrant voting will be in time .

    I agree that in retro using county boundaries in 1920 was a mistake just as it would be a mistake to follow suit today if repartition were ever to become a possibility .

    As of now it’s a dead issue although not interred . it would require some as yet unknown or unforeseen black swan event to bring the subject up on the table and the only people who I can see as doing that are ‘unionists ‘ themselves . but any talk or contemplation of the subject would divide present unionists(some might say they are divided enough already into western and eastern camps with the former seeing themselves as following in the footsteps of former unionists in Donegal, Monaghan and Cavan.

    There seems to be no way that a cohesive area east of the Bann can now be carved into a smaller ‘unionist ‘ state without the uprooting voluntary or unvoluntary of tens of thousands of people across both community backgrounds . I refuse to believe that the broad majority of either community would support any such ‘uprooting ‘

    I found Horseman’s demographic and other analyses very persuasive on the overall issue . So much so that since I became convinced by them I have generally steered away from the ‘repartition’ subject as now being passe, until such time as that black swan event occurs to surprise everybody .But from the here and now no such event looks remotely a possibility in this decade anyway..

  • Greenflag

    BTW ,

    My previous support for a fair and agreed ‘repartition ‘ was based on NI wide demographics which would have enabled such a ‘fair ‘ repartition to take place without the need for anyone of either community having to leave their place of residence simply to make a new ‘unionist ‘ statelet a viable and stable political entity with a less than 15% ‘nationalist ‘ minority . It seems that while that particular demographic might have been possible 30 or 20 years ago it no longer is today .

    In any event whatever the demographic or constitutional outcome the point I wanted to stress is that neither the achievment of a UI or the maintenance of the present Union is worth another life being lost in NI . I trust that message will be heard loud and clear from all the leading politicians of both camps up to and post the election regardless of the result.

  • SK

    Repartition appears to be en vogue these days, particularly amongst unionists who seem to believe that mentioning it now sets it up as a viable “escape route” should unity ever become an imminent prospect.

    Wrong.

    The idea that unionists have some inherent right to simply disregard any border poll that goes against them is absurd. We have been told since Northern Ireland’s inception that it is for the people of the province, as a unit, to decide the fate of the province; you cannot row back on the consent principle simply because it ceases to work in your favour.

    The constitutional dye has been cast. Act like democrats and accept that majority rule applies regardless of who the majority might be.

  • joeCanuck

    SK,

    I think you might be slightly wrong. I believed that the decision lay in the hands of Stormont until the GFA. I could be wrong too though.

  • Greenflag

    SK ,

    ‘A concerted campaign on a green paper could draw up to 40% support first time round and I’d be happy with that.’

    ?? Concerts ? Green Paper ? 40% of what ?

    Elucidate . Mental telepathy doesn’t work

  • Greenflag

    the above was @ JH and not SK

  • SK

    “I think you might be slightly wrong. I believed that the decision lay in the hands of Stormont until the GFA. I could be wrong too though.”

    joecanuck,

    I don’t see how that could be the case, considering Stormont was essentially non-existent after 1972.

    That some unionists reserve the right to simply move the goalposts should democracy ever become inconvenient, demonstrates that they were never really democrats in the first place.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    SK:
    “That some unionists reserve the right to simply move the goalposts should democracy ever become inconvenient, demonstrates that they were never really democrats in the first place.”
    A bit of pot and kettle there? Nationalists argued for a long time that only the whole island could be the self-determinative unit, because they knew they had no democratic argument on an NI basis. Totally bogus argument in international law and the Irish government lawyers conceded that back in the 50s when they looked at putting it forward. I think some even now are still putting it forward! But yes, fair point about goalpost shifting, it is a strong argument against repartition. Though not the end of the story, I suspect.