Sinn Fein’s idea of rapprochement “is a brick-cold exercise in reinvention, re-positioning and re-writing of the past”

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Alex Kane has a very spirited piece on Eamonn’s site this evening. Let’s just say he’s rather unimpressed with nationalism’s idea of outreach on the subject of politically unifying the two parts of an island sundered with partition. His core challenge to the lack of thinking within nationalism is here:

We are not talking about the reunification of East and West Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall. This would involve the coming together of two countries on the basis of a vote in Northern Ireland which probably wouldn’t represent much more than half of the electorate.

Why would anyone imagine that the unionists ‘trapped’ in the New Ireland would be sanguine about their fate? Isn’t it very likely that there would be widespread unrest and tension, maybe even the emergence of a new anti-United Ireland terror organisation?

I don’t think that either the SDLP or Sinn Fein has any answers for unionism in a United Ireland: and nor do I think they understand the nature and scale of the change that would follow unification. They don’t understand the economics of unity, which may explain why their arguments are little more than jibber-jabber couched in feel-good cliché.

I have yet to see a clear agenda and methodology for converting two into one. I have yet to hear a pro-United Irelander move beyond the mythology and ballad and onto the much more difficult turf of explaining what a United Ireland would look like; how it would function? how it would be financed? what the currency would be? what the party political make-up would be and so on and so on? Feel free to add your own questions to the list!

He proffers a fairly obvious reason:

I suspect that the SDLP and Sinn Fein have avoided the debate precisely because they don’t know, let alone have the answers. Sinn Fein’s ‘Uniting Ireland’ propaganda is mostly soft-focus, turquoise-tinged baloney. The SDLP have rowed back from anything resembling a coherent argument because they have largely accepted that they are now the very junior partners in this process—so why give any hostages to fortune?

And as for Declan Kearney’s approach about making an approach, he’s unimpressed. Indeed, Kane sees it merely as more of the same winner take all stratagem that animated the IRA’s brutal killing campaign of over thirty years:

…this Uniting Ireland project and making eyes at unionism (albeit just ‘a section’) is a brick-cold exercise in reinvention, re-positioning and re-writing of the past. It’s about convincing unionists, British governments and security services to ‘apologise,’ acknowledge joint culpability, and admit that the root cause of the Troubles is ‘British occupation’ and ‘unionist misrule.’

All I see is a strategy. It’s the ‘war’ by softer tactics and waffle. It’s a propaganda campaign in which every word, statement and sentiment is weighed and measured before being aimed at the intended audiences. It reminds me of Robert Hughes’ comment in The Culture of Complaint: “We want to create a sort of linguistic Lourdes, where evil and misfortune are dispelled by a dip in the waters of euphemism..”

And finally he concludes:

If there is to be genuine reconciliation in Northern Ireland it must be between the people who chose the civilised, lawful way of life. Once you start to build a reconciliation process around the needs and demands of the terrorists and their apologists you simply make a mockery of decency and justice and allow the terrorists to continue to peddle their beliefs, self-justifications and legacy.

Peace and political stability can’t be built on ground which hasn’t yet been vacated by the very terrorists who primed and kept stoking the instability.

I spoke to one practical-minded nationalist today, who anticipated an article being written ten or fifteen or twenty years hence outlining how Sinn Fein had gone the way of every other one of Ireland’s ‘heroic’ nationalist projects (say Dev’s Fianna Fail or even Collins’ Provisional Government) will settle into the pragmatic reality of two nations on one island.

I would not be so bold. But for all that rattling unionist cages every now and then may be good for the flagging moral of the political base, it will not actually bring about Irish nationalism’s stated aim. Such would surely seek an erosion of any need of the two nations on one island approach taken by perfectly sane and rational unionists.

Some statements are not meant to be taken seriously (designed to helpfully self destruct when the expected timespan expires). Others are meant to be taken seriously, but are similarly overtaken by time and unforeseen circumstances.

More than 14 years into the official new settlement, Kane’s question of how two might become one remains as profoundly unanswered now as it was when the ink dried on the Belfast Agreement.

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  • lamhdearg2

    Neil,
    re, your 1:12 the same can be said of an indepentant Ulster, (borders to be confirmed)
    paddy
    “then my only debating tactic is to list how, in a UI, it might, hypothetically, be enforced”
    But you dont do that because
    you” think we are dealing with some fractious youth in a school gang.”,
    which makes me wonder how far you had your head in the sand for the last (depending on your age) years, i remember the recent irish nationalist insurrection and the response of the native Ulster folk, as a bloody mess, a mess that the nation of Britain 50+ million strong and at the time the third biggest economy in the world took 30+ years, to bring under control.

  • dwatch

    “Under the ECHR, it is not possible to compel a section of the populace to uproot and move to a different area.”

    Paddy R, it was possible at one time. See here:
    http://www.rte.ie/player/#v=1145320

  • PaddyReilly

    This thread has been thoroughly amusing, not least to see the “you dolt” insult repeated. I have to admit that I am the dolt to whom these words were spoken. The man who taught me German was a remarkable person, in that he seemed to combine every possible human failing with being a pious Catholic. His similarity to the the erstwhile Fuehrer of the nation whose language he taught, was remarked upon, by all. But he was efficient: the more unpleasant the instructor, the better my results, I’m afraid.

    The strange thing is that the United Ireland I am describing is really just a mirror image of Scotland. In Scotland there is a Presbyterian majority and a Catholic minority. The Catholic minority have no Catholic political parties, no desire for partition, and though largely immigrants, now consider themselves Scottish. Their intermarriage with non-Catholic Scots is constant and increasing: this means that the sectarianism of the past is now largely redundant, and purely an adjunct of soccer hooliganism. When they join the civil service, they are often posted to other parts of Scotland, where Catholics are less common. This highly desirable outcome though, when applied to Ireland, is condemned as Fascism. Curious.

    Kane’s sabre rattling Isn’t it very likely that there would be widespread unrest and tension, maybe even the emergence of a new anti-United Ireland terror organisation? needs a little clarification. What exactly will the NAUITO be trying to achieve? The end of Home Rule altogether? The restoration of 26/6 partition and the suspension of the rule of the majority? Or a repartition? But where? As far as I can tell most Unionist are opposed to repartition, probably because they realise they will lose out. Not having an achievable goal is a grave mistake. But as I have stated, technological advances make successful insurgencies much less likely, and the technology is still advancing.

  • galloglaigh

    lamhdearg2

    Yes but maybe they will take it with them [the techy stuff]

    Are they going on holiday? When the British army were beaten out of the Free State, they left some of their arms with the Irish, and even shipped the Provisional government over aircraft, machine guns, armored cars, small arms and ammunition. So it’s maybe not a good thing to count your chickens and all that!

    Barnshee

    As usual you seem to be unable to answer. The silence is great [smiley inserted] :)

  • Barnshee

    Barnshee

    As usual you seem to be unable to answer. The silence is great [smiley inserted]

    Baffled as what I am to answer You produce a few tame prods from Donegal I assume they do not include the Rankins from ST Johnston who were assulted on their return (in mufti) from the July parades or my own parents “elbowed” out of Letterkenny. That kind of thing tends to influence one .

    Better still take the old coach road from Derry down thro Donegal via Sligo to Galway. Identify and count the Presbyterian and COI churchs on the way and note how they are now almost exclusively Resturants, Public libraries or similar.
    Note in particular the COI in Coug and the mysterious total disappeance of grave markers and the encroachment onto the now even more mysteriously clear site.

    At partition I had relatives /ancestors all across the 26 From Cork to Donegal. Dublin to Sligo Small farmers ,shopkeepers the odd professional.. Without exception they and their descendants live North of the border or in England

    Cherished?? in the new state -my arse- I had relatives “sent for a walk” when the bishop came to bless the “National” school.

    The ROI has airbrused the presence (and removal) of an “inconvenient”sector of its population but then that ws the whole idea

    Report back when you complete your journey,( we can compare notes since you might have missed a few)

  • Barnshee

    “As far as I can tell most Unionist are opposed to repartition”

    Er no willing to sign up to it tomorrow ASAP please

  • Barnshee

    PR
    “When they join the civil service, they are often posted to other parts of Scotland, where Catholics are less common”

    Sadly your Geography teacher was not of the same standard as the German one.Scotland is almost empty north of Perth.

    Civil servants in Scotland are almost entirely concentrated in the Glasgow/East Kilbride/Edinburgh axis within daily travel form either main conurbation (I used to do it). Only Aberdeen has any meaningful Civil service presence . Even Perth and Dundee were covered by Edinburgh

  • Ben Cochrane

    Kane’s sabre rattling Isn’t it very likely that there would be widespread unrest and tension, maybe even the emergence of a new anti-United Ireland terror organisation? needs a little clarification. (Paddy Reilly)

    I took that to mean that Kane was merely suggesting that such an emergence was possible. He is probably right. Given the tendency of terrorist groups to emerge in Ireland at various times why would it be different if there was a vote to take NI out of the UK?

  • galloglaigh

    Ah Barnshee, you spoilt my peace!

    Now… I’ve often drove that road, and asked myself the same question. But, unlike you, I didn’t blame the lack of reformed churches on sectarianism. More to do with a) Location, and b) disestablishment of the COI. You see, that part of Ireland was one affected most by famine in the 1840’s. You know, the time Trevelyan sent all our grain to England, while Irish Protestant and Catholic in that region either starved to death, died of a related disease, or emigrated to England, Australia, and America. Because of the small number of Protestants in that region, their numbers never recovered after the famine. But add to that, the fact that the Catholics in Ireland had to give up 10% of their income to the COI. After disestablishment, that theft of resources stopped, and Protestant churches fell into disrepair.

    As for your ancestors, indeed that might be the case, but as of now, there is no evidence to suggest that the newly formed Provisional government actively sought to discriminate against Protestants, let alone rid Ireland of them. Unlike your kin-folk in the new Northern Ireland government, whose forces, the Anglican Regiment for example, stood on Derry’s walls and fired indiscriminately into the Bogside, killing men, women and children throughout one full Summer. This was replicated across the new state of Northern Ireland. The UVF, the RUC, and the British army were out murdering Catholics, while the Provisional government was interning thousands of republicans in case of any reprisals South of the border.

    That’s the difference between both governments during that period!

    Now, any time you fancy a trip around Northwest Donegal, I’ll be more than welcome to be your guide, in the game of ‘Spot the Prod’!

  • Neil

    I took that to mean that Kane was merely suggesting that such an emergence was possible. He is probably right. Given the tendency of terrorist groups to emerge in Ireland at various times why would it be different if there was a vote to take NI out of the UK?

    Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. We have small terrorist groups now, and by this theory we’d have them again. As a point, it kind of cancels itself out.

  • Barnshee

    “the new Northern government, whose forces, the Anglican Regiment for example, stood on Derry’s walls and fired indiscriminately into the Bogside, killing men, women and children throughout one full Summer”

    er the Anglian regiment did not exist until 1964 from memory don`t see how they could “help” the new N Ireland govt

    The proof of the pudding is in the eating The protestant in the ROI is no more than 2/3% of the population victimised by the Roman catholic church and almost wholly absent in its public sector -a cowed irrelevant rump.

    “the time Trevelyan sent all our grain to England”

    Dreadful –and the Irish merchant class never rack rented anyone or transported and exported food -what a suggestion wash your mouth out -it was all the Brits fault

  • galloglaigh

    Sorry Barnshee

    You’re right, it wasn’t the Anglican Regiment, it was the Dorset Regiment. But in any case, it is well documented that the British army, along with the RUC and the UVF, killed scores of Catholics in Derry in 1920. The local papers of the time give a good insight into state terrorism in Derry, and indeed places like Lisburn, where RUC men heard the church bell, took off his uniform, and went on an anti-Catholic pogrom. Only to return to his station, and put his uniform on again when the flames were filling the Lisburn sky.

    You see, this is well documented. Your claims that the Provisional government in the south did the same don’t stand up to the test. Therein lies the difference. The former is documented, while the latter is not. As has been pointed out, the decline of the Protestant church in the South, has more to do with other socio-political events pre-partition, than sectarianism post-partition. In fact the Provisional government protected Protestant homes and businesses, and interned those who they thought would take reprisals for the northern Protestant attacks on the new Catholic minority.

    The proof in the pudding is the ingredients. I note you have failed to provide any proof, or the slightest notion of evidence. The reason for this is simple, there is none. Opinion and family fables, do not account for the reality in Ireland during the 1920’s!

    and the Irish merchant class never rack rented anyone or transported and exported food

    And what religion did the merchant class usually come from?

    So don’t forget, when you want to take a road-trip, give me a shout. I’ll gladly take you to strong Protestant communities in Northwest Donegal, and I’m sure they’ll make you more than welcome. They might even convince you that there are Protestants in the South, and they are contempt in their Irishness!