Are Unionists as strategically unthinking as ever?

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Who decided that McGuninness would meet the Queen?

According to an especially shrill Alex Kane op ed, “They had no choice in the matter”.

Look, I assume the Queen had a say in this meeting but who had the final say on whether McGuinness would meet her? McGuinness and Sinn Fein did. Yet from Alex Kane’s boyish response you’d think Nationalists are dancing to a unionist flute.

The reality of the Queen-McGuinness meeting, like all significant political developments in Ireland since 1985’s Anglo-Irish Agreement (the one exception, to some extent, being 2006’s St Andrews Agreement) is that unionists are unable to escape the observer’s posture. Just as Alex Kane looks on now.

The tone and substance of Kane’s article unintentionally captures Unionists’ relative power loss very well. Unionists continue as political actors caught in a permanent state of reaction.

Historically the reactions have ranged from mostly panicked and hysterical to Kane’s gleeful gracelessness; always responsive, never agenda-setting.

Some strategy.

Kane delights in an alleged “utter, utter defeat” for Nationalists, going on to claim that “unionism is stronger today than it has ever been.”

C’mon Alex. From a one party state to being barred from ordering a wallpaper change at Stormont without Nationalists’ sign-off, you know that while the union is (only) as secure as the desire of a majority’s votes, unionists have never been less autonomous and northern nationalists have never had so much power.

This is why the Queen, if she’s coming to Belfast, whatever her personal feelings, must meet the McGuinness. Northern Nationalists have real power now and its limited in potential only by the strength of its arguments. Arguments it can remake, reconsider and re-adjust again and again and again.

Far from 2012 being little different than 1952 as Kane absurdly suggests, today has new rules folks.

With the gun largely removed from Irish politics the end game is based on who can be the least threatening to the other rather than the most.

This is how persuasion works. To get a flavor of Unionists’ fitness for the challenge, sample Kane’s reaction to northern nationalisms’ s leading figure’s forthcoming meeting with the Queen:

“And Martin, bless him, is still one of her citizens and subjects. Three cheers, say I!”

Petty, spiteful, clumsy, provocative; Kane literally cheers a perceived humiliation for nationalists.

How foolish. How short-sighted.

With the ROI’s collapse into chaos and the rise of equality in the north, the case for Irish unification needs to be remade for many nominal nationalists, never mind unionists and the ‘depends on the grocery bills’ rest/most. No doubt about that. But Unionists are blowing a golden moment to act.  They could secure their constitutional preferences by embracing a place not just for their imagined hoards of closet Catholic unionists but for nationalists.

While Kane’s attitude is a little depressing and boring, Nationalists should be releived by it. Given every other contemporary challenge to a building a “united Ireland”, Kane’s contentment with sleepily cheering the imagined humiliations of his neighbours indicates that in the battle for the ideas that will make the future, Kane, for all his hot air, ain’t building any headwind.

And if he can’t in this climate, he never will.

  • http://joeharron@yahoo.com joeCanuck

    Ruarai,
    Have to agree with a lot of that. It’s almost as if Kane was intending to challenge/goad McGuiness into saying “Well, if that’s the way most unionists perceive it, meeting is off since I will be ill that day”.

  • http://joeharron@yahoo.com joeCanuck

    From the BBC, “Martin McGuinness has said when he shakes the hand of the Queen he will be symbolically shaking the hand of every unionist in Northern Ireland.”
    Will Alex accept the hand?

  • alan56

    A very interesting explanation of SF’s latest strategic ‘victory’.

  • http://andrewg.wordpress.com Andrew Gallagher

    Unionism is, almost by definition, a reactive ideology. Whether liberal or statist, what unifies all Unionist politicians is the desire to maintain the constitutional status quo. Before 1969 that status quo was the de-facto one party state. Now it is devolved power-sharing within the UK. If that were to change in the future, you can be sure that unionists will fight just as hard to defend the new status quo as they did to defend the current one and the one before that.

  • Dewi

    I must admit this summer Ive felt so sorry for Liz…an elderly lady having to put up with this shit at her age…..give a girl a break…

  • http://joeharron@yahoo.com joeCanuck

    Yes, Dewi. She must have been scratching her head this morning after reading her (complimentary) copy of the Newsletter.

  • Toastedpuffin

    I love it when Nationalists offer Unionists advice on how to succeed. A delightful mix of the specious and the ironic.

    I’ve not been much of a fan of Alex Kane, but his latest offering seems to have had the effect of a strong purge on a weak Nationalist constitution, leaving the latter feeling very sorry for itself.

  • BluesJazz

    The ‘shaking the hand of every unionist’ is pure Blairite bollocks. Did Jonathan Powell write that for him? She’s had to meet quite a few unsavoury characters with blood on their hands. Including a certain unionist cheerleader for violence.

    She would far rather be going to Ballydoyle in Tipperary and visiting Aidan O Brien than putting up with all the crap here. Oddly I get the feeling the Queen prefers Ireland (Republic of….) to NI.

  • gary oh

    The thing is the queen meets who the prime minister tells her to meet. I really don’t think she has a say in the matter.

  • http://www.openunionism.com oneill

    Look, I assume the Queen had a say in this meeting but who had the final say on whether McGuinness would meet her

    The “soft” nationalist/catholic electorate that don’t vote are the ones who have had the final say on the meeting not MMcG- moving away from Sinn Fein’s crude ” Brits Out” posture is essential if SF are to have any chance of increasing their present vote.

    So… to that extent, Alex Kane is right; Republicans haven’t succeeded in bombing Northern Ireland into their version of a “United” Ireland, they haven’t also succeeded in insulting it into one. They are now trying to moderate their language and approach which is *progress* but I am not sure republicans attempting to be nicer to prods is the kind of progress which can be necessarily defined as SF “calling the tune”. It would be interesting to ask some of their voters in Short Strand or say Portadown their opinion on that one.

    No doubt about that. But Unionists are blowing a golden moment to act. They could secure their constitutional preferences by embracing a place not just for their imagined hoards of closet Catholic unionists but for nationalists.

    Alex has had two recurring themes in his articles over the last 6 months or so- the first, the defeat of Irish republicanism, the second the further consolidation of the sectarian divide here. I think he has been too optimistic in the first theme and too pessimistic in the second.

    NI forever being part of the Union is not a “written in stone” default status simply because the present leadership of SF are not capable of delivering us out of the UK. It needs to be worked at and how that can be achieved would be the next logical step following on Alex’s first theme. Is a permanently split society, his second theme, a positive or negative in the consolidation of the Union?
    It would be good to see him moving out of the comfort-zone and telling the News Letter readers perhaps something that they may not want to hear (eg the Union of the future may be solid but also may not be one that their grandparents in 1952 would recognise).

  • gary oh

    U get d feelin dat most mainland brits prefer ROI to NI. I think they miss us and want us back.

  • Alias

    “C’mon Alex. From a one party state to being barred from ordering a wallpaper change at Stormont without Nationalists’ sign-off, you know that while the union is (only) as secure as the desire of a majority’s votes, unionists have never been less autonomous and northern nationalists have never had so much power.”

    I doubt Bobby Sands went to his grave so that Marty could choose the wallpaper at Stormont.

    Securing the other tribe’s recognition of the legitimacy of the Principle of Consent, formerly dismissed as the Unionist Veto, was Trimble’s greatest achievement. Admittedly, it was also the primary objective to the British state so he had a little help along the way.

    The Shinners might like to pretend that the Principle of Consent was a nationalist advance when the reality is it is was the constitutional position since the Government of Ireland Act 1920, the Ireland Act 1949, and the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973 before being re-stated in the Northern Ireland Act 1998.

    I thought it was a great article from Kane but then I’m not a Shinner or a peace-processor.

  • Dewi

    And O Neill;
    3) What would be the Unionist approach to a nationalist led Stormont?

  • http://www.thedissenter.co.uk thedissenter

    Kane seems to have hit a nerve. While technically of course SF could have said no, politically it would have been a disaster. Hooked, lined up and sunk.

  • http://joeharron@yahoo.com joeCanuck

    Kane seems to have hit a nerve.

    Well, it was a deliberate, provocative, wind-up. But, as Ruarai asks, what has it gained him?

  • Toastedpuffin

    “what has it gained him?”

    The satisfaction of telling the truth that none dare speak for fear of the Republican reaction? I must admit, it’s more of a concern to me how this plays in the minds of those Republicans blessed with particularly low foreheads. Is it better to let things lie or to state what (to me) is the bleedin obvious with regards to what the Republican Movement actually signed up to and face the consequences?

  • Ruarai

    Alias,

    “Securing the other tribe’s recognition of the legitimacy of the Principle of Consent, formerly dismissed as the Unionist Veto, was Trimble’s greatest achievement”.

    I’m not trying to be patronising here but this displays a lack of knowlegde of the most basics of Northern Ireland politics in the 70s, 80s and 90s.

    The Nationalist community pre-GFA voted in every single election in majority numbers for the SDLP, the party that advocated for a settlement based on the principle of consent. (Sinn Fein lost, lost and lost again to the SDLP on this point.)

    During the same period, right up to 1998 there were furious diasgreements in the UUP, never mind the “broader Unionist family” – as they presented themselves – as to whether this principle should simply mean a permanent unionist veto or whether they’d put NI in the hands of amajority of its people, irrespective of what they majority might ultimately vote for.

    (In fairness to the anti-GFAs UUPers, the logic of their definition of consent as meaning only their own consent, i.e. a unionist veto, was more consistent with logic that justified NI’s very foundation.)

    Trimble’s victory was in being the Unionist leader that persuaded “his tribe” of Hume’s logic. 30 years later than necessary. All moot now perhaps, but worth remembering anyway.

  • Mac

    “While technically of course SF could have said no”

    Said no to who? Last week forums and talk radio shows were awash with unionist voices that the topic for discussion should not be whether or not this is a big ask for SF. But rather the real question was ‘who asked them?”, followed by ‘I didn’t ask them!’, ‘no-one asked them!’, ‘this is more SF theatrics!’, ‘never mind asking Marty if it’s ok, has anyone asked her majesty!!!??’ etc etc.

    This week it’s ‘we made you an offer you couldn’t refuse’.

    Please.

  • Mike the First

    Ruari

    Can you explain why you substituted “Nationalists” for Kane’s talk of Sinn Fein?

    What was your agenda in doing this?

  • vanhelsing

    For a précis of Kanes article see the dissenters 2 lines on the subject above. Spot on. Ruari you can dress a pig up not to look like a pig, but it’s still a pig. The SF press office is in Campbellian over drive- tell us anything:)

    Fair play to HM and grudgingly to MMg. I don’t presume to know the pysche of Irish Republicans but I seriously never thought I’d live to see the day that one greets HM at Stormont. But if i was to guess at how they are feeling, I would live it to Hannibal Lecter who once said ‘it’s a little like sucking on a greasy penny’ – priceless.

  • vanhelsing

    Sorry not at Stormont. Sentiment still stands.

  • Michael Shilliday

    You assume that the Queen had a say in the meeting, but also MUST meet McGuinness. Mutually exclusive propositions make for smart analysis.

  • http://WindowsIDHotmail danielsmoran

    When all is said and done[and we will be], The Queen is essentially a civil servant who does the bidding of her elected government, it’s pragmatically favoured by most people in Britain as being no more expensive than having a president, but there’s no real identity with it, whatever went on over the diamond jubilee. I think Alex kane ‘doth protest too much’.

  • http://WindowsIDHotmail danielsmoran

    Andrew gallagher. I was just about to post something similar, and you got there first. Kane is right about one thing in that this gesture proves nothing because those on the unionist establishment side [as opposed to loyalists]who accept his gesture, are doing so from a position of their superiority complex. They pocket that and discount it, giving no credit because of those who offer it, and by extension their voters, since they don’t accept the mandate given to Marty or SF while calling themselves democrats.
    I recall seeing on the BBC NI version of Reeling in the Years/Rock n Roll Years, [PopGoes NI], Terence O’Neill in a speech criticising Paisley for threatening ‘our democracy’ up to 1969. He kept a straight face throughout. Belongs on the stage.

  • TheUnicorn

    Maybe whilst Martin is shaking her hand he could persuade her, with a little tickle perhaps, to remove the London from Derry, stopping that embarrassing rubbish once and for all!

  • Alias

    Ruarai, you’re confusing the SDLP’s constitutional nationalism with the Shinner’s republicanism. As Gerry Adams pointed out, the SDLP supported the British constitution which asserted that his tribe had no right to Irish national self-determination within its sovereign territory, and rejected the Irish constitution which declared the opposite to be the case. This is why the SDLP were de-politicized cultural nationalists and why the Shinners are now the same.

    “No Irish nationalist could support any treaty which institutionalizes British government claims to a part of Irish national territory. Indeed, the term – ‘constitutional nationalism’- used by Mr.Mallon (SDLP) and his colleagues to describe their political philosophy is a contradiction in terms. The only constitutional nationalist in Ireland today is Sean McBride. He puts his nationalism within a framework of Irish constitutionality. Mr. Mallon, however, puts his within the framework of British constitutionality. Irish nationalism within British constitutionality is a contradiction in terms.” – Gerry Adams, The Politics of Irish Freedom, 1986. (As Dixie Elliot pointed out, that quote was deleted from subsequent editions of Gerry’s book to spare his blushes.)

    A nationalist is anyone who claims a right to national self-determination – a right that can only be exercised within a sovereign nation-state.

    Using puppets which the British state and others – and indeed the puppet itself – call nationalist does not a nationalist make. You seem to think, as you are led to think, that a policy must be nationalist policy if a so-called nationalist promotes it.

    The Unionist Veto was rebranded as the Principle of Consent. What was promoted by the SDLP was previously overwhelmingly rejected by nationalist Ireland, with Dáil Éireann making a cross-party declaration opposing the Ireland Act 1949 as a consolidation of partition:

    “Dáil Éireann,

    SOLEMNLY RE-ASSERTING the indefeasible right of the Irish nation to the unity and integrity of the national territory,

    RE-AFFIRMING the sovereign right of the people of Ireland to choose its own form of Government and, through its democratic institutions, to decide all questions of national policy, free from outside interference,

    REPUDIATING the claim of the British Parliament to enact legislation affecting Ireland’s territorial integrity in violation of those rights, and

    PLEDGING the determination of the Irish people to continue the struggle against the unjust and unnatural partition of our country until it is brought to a successful conclusion;

    PLACES ON RECORD its indignant protest against the introduction in the British Parliament of legislation purporting to endorse and continue the existing partition of Ireland, and

    CALLS UPON the British Government and people to end the present occupation of our six north-eastern counties, and thereby enable the unity of Ireland to be restored and the age-long differences between the two nations brought to an end.”

    http://historical-debates.oireachtas.ie/D/0115/D.0115.194905100042.html

    If that sounds like a nationalist position it is because it is a nationalist position.

    Let’s look at the Unionist Veto as it is set down in the Ireland Act 1949:

    It is hereby declared that Northern Ireland remains part of His Majesty’s dominions and of the United Kingdom and it is hereby affirmed that in no event will Northern Ireland or any part thereof cease to be part of His Majesty’s dominions without the consent of the Parliament of Northern Ireland.

    Now let’s look at it in the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973:

    It is hereby declared that Northern Ireland remains part of Her Majesty’s dominions and of the United Kingdom, and it is hereby affirmed that in no event will Northern Ireland or any part of it cease to be part of Her Majesty’s dominions and of the United Kingdom without the consent of the majority of the people of Northern Ireland voting in a poll held for the purposes of this section in accordance with Schedule 1 to this Act.

    And finally as it is set down in the Northern Ireland Act 1998:

    It is hereby declared that Northern Ireland in its entirety remains part of the United Kingdom and shall not cease to be so without the consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland voting in a poll held for the purposes of this section in accordance with Schedule 1.

    The Unionist Veto does not and never did apply to the internal administration of British rule, such as Marty having a veto over the wallpaper at Stormont or any policy, so it is utter nonsense to claim that the veto no longer applies because Marty can no pick the curtains, etc.

  • Ruarai

    Michael Shilliday 11.09pm

    “You assume that the Queen had a say in the meeting, but also MUST meet McGuinness. Mutually exclusive propositions make for smart analysis.”

    Put the thinking cap on Mick. I said she had “a say” – I didn’t say her say counted for anything.

    Ultimately the Queen is all crown and no cattle.

    I’m sure, for example, she had “a say” in jubilee celebrations. Things like what to wear, maybe what time to see the big boats and so on. Had she said, “Gents, y’know, I’m just not feeling this whole jubilee thing, I’d rather a few weeks in the Canaries”, you well know how much her say would have had sway.

  • Ruarai

    Alias,

    “Ruarai, you’re confusing the SDLP’s constitutional nationalism with the Shinner’s republicanism.”

    So confused in fact that I injected the distinction into the comments, following your flat out falsehood about “the other tribe”.

    No harm, but the rest of your post isn’t worthy of a GCSE politics paper.

  • Alias

    I think it is you, my little oscillating munckin, who will get the D- minus when you present your paper claiming that the Unionist Veto was/is a fundamental nationalist principle and that, therefore, it’s entrenchment in the GFA was a victory for nationalism rather than for unionism.

    As David Trimble pointed out at the time, “These talks are about the principle of consent and the reality that the Union will continue for as long as that is the wish of the greater number of the people in Northern Ireland. Consent is the fundamental bedrock of the talks; a reality accepted by both Governments and all the parties at the talks, with the exception of Sinn Fein-IRA. The constitutional future of Northern Ireland is entirely a matter for the people of Northern Ireland and must be fully respected by Sinn Fein-IRA, constitutional Nationalists and the Irish Government.”

  • Ruarai

    Oh dear Alias, looks like you missed the memo.

    1. Here’s the thing chico, there is no Unionist veto – there’s a majority based consent principle which is not necessarily the same thing.

    2. If you doubt that the majority supported Nationalist party from Sunningdale through GFA advocated for and was consistently endorsed in its advocacy for the principle of consent (which includes the consent of the 26 for any new arrangement that would fundamentally affect them), simply run along to the Linen Hall, nip onto Lexus Nexus or ask someone who watched a single John Hume speech ever.

    You must be the only person with an interest in Irish politics who missed Hume’s STS. But I guess the last laugh is his. Asked why he used such a pedagogical speaking style, he replied that he’d keep saying the same thing until the message was so ingrained that the man in the street was saying his words back to him.

    Well done Alias.

  • Mister_Joe

    ruarai,

    That’s a point well worth hammering home for those of limited understanding or those who deliberately try to confuse the issue. There is no constitutional veto; only a de facto veto so long as a majority of the population wish the union to remain, as confirmed in a referendum.

  • Alias

    Okay, Ruarai, let’s give your Propeller Beanie Hat another spin and see if it registers this time.

    Your claim is that that the Unionist Veto must be a nationalist position because a post-nationalist proffered it as a policy circa 50 years after the British state introduced it.

    Now renaming the Unionist Veto as the Principle of Consent (and elevating it to the status of a principle, no less) doesn’t really have any material effect since, contrary to your lies a few posts above, it always applied to the people of Northern ireland and not just to unionists. Unless, of course, you have some hidden document which declares that only unionists would be allowed to vote in a constitutional poll? Since I suspect you do not have such a document, it’s easy enough to declare horsehit on your part.

    Now it seems to be this line that your knucklehead took particular exception to:

    “Securing the other tribe’s recognition of the legitimacy of the Principle of Consent, formerly dismissed as the Unionist Veto, was Trimble’s greatest achievement.”

    And yet Trimble has stated the importance of the Unionist Veto as:

    “These talks were about the principle of consent and the reality that the Union will continue for as long as that is the wish of the greater number of the people in Northern Ireland. We have been prepared to take on board the concerns of those within Northern Ireland who do not share our philosophy in order to produce a settlement which is fair and just for all the people of Northern Ireland without sacrificing our principles. In order to reach a settlement, the SDLP and the Irish Government have had to lower their horizons. As we expected Sinn Fein showed no evidence of compromise at the Talks. As both Governments and all the political parades at Stormont, with the exception of Sinn Fein, admitted, the settlement arising out of this process is a partitionist one based on the principle of consent. The Britishness of the Unionist community in Northern Ireland, which lies at the heart of the matter, has been recognised by all of constitutional nationalism. It is for the people of Northern Ireland to determine the constitutional future of Northern Ireland.

    We have sought and secured a permanent settlement, not agree to a temporary transitional arrangement. More than that we have copper-fastened partition. The Union is secure.”

    He is correct that it is a “permanent settlement” and that its permanence is predicated on his securing universal acceptance of the Unionist Veto/principle of consent.

    You see, my little dazed mongoose, the post-nationalists formally declared that their former right to self-determination was thereafter to be regarded as an aspiration and was no longer to be regarded as a right. This was a profound shift since a right is something that a person is entitled to whereas an aspiration is not. It is the formal rejection of their former national rights and their full conversion into cultural ‘nationalists’ within a fully legitimised British state.

    Nobody on the international stage will stand behind an aspiration or promote it so, alas, that is the end of demanding unity as a right. Indeed, the post-nationalists in NI no longer even assert that as a right, and the Irish have given up on it entirely. You will never again hear Dáil Éireann making a cross-party declaration such as the one quoted above because there is no longer any right to be so asserted.

    What Trimble did consolidate the constitutional position of NI by locking it into the UK. Prior to the Unionist Veto being entrenched into the GFA and its associated treaty, the British Irish Agreement, the UK and the Irish governments could at any time have done a deal which saw the Unionist Veto being overturned. Admittedly, there was little likelihood of that occuring but that is beside the point. Since there is now zero prospect of unity occuring, the post-nationalists have an extended opportunity to accept the status quo and to settle down as British citizens with a set of rights that come from international and EU law (having bugger all to do with the GFA) and they are taking full advantage of that opportunity as studies show ever-decreasing support for unity aspirations.

    Now, to refresh on what the Unionist Veto is:


    Let’s look at the Unionist Veto as it is set down in the Ireland Act 1949:

    It is hereby declared that Northern Ireland remains part of His Majesty’s dominions and of the United Kingdom and it is hereby affirmed that in no event will Northern Ireland or any part thereof cease to be part of His Majesty’s dominions without the consent of the Parliament of Northern Ireland.

    Now let’s look at it in the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973:

    It is hereby declared that Northern Ireland remains part of Her Majesty’s dominions and of the United Kingdom, and it is hereby affirmed that in no event will Northern Ireland or any part of it cease to be part of Her Majesty’s dominions and of the United Kingdom without the consent of the majority of the people of Northern Ireland voting in a poll held for the purposes of this section in accordance with Schedule 1 to this Act.

    And finally as it is set down in the Northern Ireland Act 1998:

    It is hereby declared that Northern Ireland in its entirety remains part of the United Kingdom and shall not cease to be so without the consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland voting in a poll held for the purposes of this section in accordance with Schedule 1.

    If you give said Propeller Beanie Hat another spin you might just observe that there is not, contrary to your fibbing, anything in the Veto to allow unionists to determine if “this principle should simply mean a permanent unionist veto or whether they’d put NI in the hands of amajority of its people.”

  • Mister_Joe

    the UK and the Irish governments could at any time have done a deal which saw the Unionist Veto being overturned.

    And that is still the case. The GFA is a treaty between the two governments and there is nothing that can prevent the pair of them abrogating that treaty if they so wish.

  • Alias

    Joe, why are you hiding your yellow card by using a sockpuppet? Wear it as a barge of honour, not something to be ducked by nick-switching.

    Once you have conceded the principle, old boy, it’s game over.

  • Mister_Joe

    Alias,

    I really don’t have to explain but I will for others. I had a near death experience 6 weeks ago and as a result changed my moniker (Mick knows the details). A problem arose with my new name a couple of days ago, after many posts, which Mick fixed but a few hours ago and I have gone back to it. No hiding.

  • dwatch

    I would certainly agree, the GFA is not hard fastened in stone.
    But in the present economic climate I doupt if Dáil Éireann would want any more involvment with Northern Ireland, especially if an increase of civil unrest would cost them a single Euro.

  • Mister_Joe

    Was simply Mister Joe for a while and I have no problem with Pete transferring the yellow card.

  • DoppiaVu

    “…Kane’s attitude is a little depressing and boring…”

    Don’t you love it when someone finds something soooo boring that they have to write a lengthy post about it?

    “Historically the reactions have ranged from mostly panicked and hysterical”

    Pot, kettle

  • aquifer

    Great analysis offered to Unionists by a (presumed) Nationalist and no consultancy fee asked for!

    Don’t worry Rauri, Unionist antipathy to abstraction (not much thought or discussion needed when you had big orange gangs including judges and almost all the guns) will ensure your sound advice is ignored.

    Soon the Unionist mind huddle will be relieved by an annual splash of colour and a breath of fresh air sometime soon on a street (too) near (to) you.

    Do you also do weather forecasts?

  • Mike the First

    Ruari

    “I’m not trying to be patronising here but this displays a lack of knowlegde of the most basics of Northern Ireland politics in the 70s, 80s and 90s.”

    Actually, it’s you who gets the basics wrong, as I will now discuss…

    “The Nationalist community pre-GFA voted in every single election in majority numbers for the SDLP, the party that advocated for a settlement based on the principle of consent. (Sinn Fein lost, lost and lost again to the SDLP on this point.)”

    The SDLP did talk about supporting the principle of consent, but they alternated this with a proposal that it be removed (have you ever read “The Uncivil Wars”?) and often deliberately blurred it by talking about the need for agreement from unionists as well as others on the island, rather than the consent of the people of Northern Ireland.

    “During the same period, right up to 1998 there were furious diasgreements in the UUP, never mind the “broader Unionist family” – as they presented themselves – as to whether this principle should simply mean a permanent unionist veto or whether they’d put NI in the hands of amajority of its people, irrespective of what they majority might ultimately vote for. ”

    Can you give us a source for this claim? Unionists demanded repeatedly that all parties should accept the right of the people of NI to decide the constitutional future of NI. SF explicitly rejected this and called it a unionist veto (then flipped in 1998). The SDLP were the ones who were inconsistent, supporting the principle while also blurring it to talk about the consent of unionists and agreement among the peoples of the island, and at times explicitly calling for the principle to be abrogated.

  • http://www.openunionism.com oneill

    Dewi

    3) What would be the Unionist approach to a nationalist led Stormont

    and, thinking about it a bit further…

    4. What would be the Unionist parties’ reaction to the (likely) demographic change reflected in the next census figures?

    A nationalist majority at Stormont and a (nominally at least) Catholic majority population in NI needn’t weaken the Union but they would present a challenge to the pro-Union parties here.
    Both scenarios are viable possibilities within the medium term and would present a good base for an article by Alex rather than him simply presenting the rather obvious situation we find ourselves in at the moment.

  • OneNI

    To return to thread it is incredible that the leadership of unionism has been so unstrategic in its thinking – particualrly in comparsion to violent irish nationalism of SF – and yet unionism per se is so strong that it has clearly defeated irish nationalism

  • dwatch

    Under the present D’Hondt style government a republican/nationalist led Stormont could only happen if SDLP lose half (approx) their MLA seats to SF and DUP lose a fifth (approx) of their seats to the UUP at next election.

  • Drumlins Rock

    I’m not sure where Ruiri is going on this, come to think of it i’m not that sure where Alex is coming from with his article, I don’t think either of them reflect a significant Unionist viewpoint in this instance, most people of course don’t really care, those who do the vast majority see the Marty meet as a side show distracting from the real visit, a minority still feel strongly she shouldn’t meet him, a wry smile is the closest to the misplaced triumphalism that is suggested here.

    Have a good day, enjoy the visit!

  • http://andrewg.wordpress.com Andrew Gallagher

    OneNI,

    Because there is no ultimate victory or defeat in politics. What seems like a strategic victory now may come in time to be seen as merely a tactical one on the road to a strategic defeat. It all depends on the timescales you are considering.

    daniel,

    They pocket that and discount it, giving no credit because of those who offer it, and by extension their voters, since they don’t accept the mandate given to Marty or SF while calling themselves democrats.

    True, but that cuts both ways. What we have in NI is a mutual lack of understanding of where themmuns are coming from.

  • Alias

    Joe, I’m sorry to hear that all was not well with you. However, I was merely poking you in good humour and could care less about card transfers.

  • Alias

    “But in the present economic climate I doupt if Dáil Éireann would want any more involvment with Northern Ireland, especially if an increase of civil unrest would cost them a single Euro.”

    That’s true but it was also the default position when Ieland was awash with cash during the ‘Celtic Tiger’ era. Support was based on the former rights agenda with unity seen as the required outcome only if an internal settlement could not be reached. With the post-nationalists giving up their former right to national self-determination and with all other rights being equal, there is no interest in NI anymore.

    That is why the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mary Robinson, can say without hesitation or political contradiction that the constitutional issue “isn’t on the agenda” and “doesn’t need to be on the agenda”.

    But you confirm that it isn’t a ‘right’ above when you recognise that it is conditional on economics. Rights, by default, are not conditional. They are something that you are entitled to without qualification.

    There isn’t any UN High Commissioner for Aspirations.

  • Ruarai

    Mike the First,

    source on disagreements in UUP, etc: Dean Goodson’s Himself Alone Trimble bio was good on this point about negotiating vs. refusing to even countenance any terms upon which N.I’s ‘right to exist’ should even be on the table. As I recall, the old-timers – probably the Willie Ross and Willie Thompson guys, but worth a reread – were opposed to countenancing NI’s ‘right to exist’ (my paraphrasing) being on the table.

    It’s a shame that a thread about the future is now all about the past but, I guess, it’s great that the argument is over who wants to be more associated with consent based politics. I’ll take that.

    As the original post suggests, since consent rather than corection or ‘special status’ is now the name of the game, the game is now about persuasion; force or argument rather than Third Forces, Special Forces or any other type forces.

    And, as such, Kane’s article, in my view, is on a hiding to nothing. I think he can do better.

  • Alex Kane

    DR (re 11.16am):

    Hope all well.

    I don’t ever claim to represent or reflect any Unionist viewpoint. My view is just that—my view.

    Ruarai ( re 2.28pm):

    Hi,

    My gut view on all of this is that SF are somewhere they don’t want to be and never expected to be. Shaking the Queen’s hand (let alone meeting her in the first place) comes with the territory of the office now occupied by McGuinness. So the fact that they still made such a song and dance about something which seemed, to me at least, to be inevitable, has to tell you something.

    The other reality is that the PIRA spent a very considerable period trying to bomb NI out of the United Kingdom: and Martin McGuinness was a key player in that terrorist campaign. So—again just as I see it—the fact that he is now serving in a devolved government within the UK and is required to meet the Queen in her capacity as Head of State of the UK also has to tell you something.

    What it tells me is that the PIRA lost. It also tells me that SF could probably have been in this position at least 20 or so years ago had they abandoned the terrroism and stood down PIRA and the Army Council and fully enaged with the political/electoral process at the time of the Prior Assembly.

    And yes, I do accept (and have written about it on many occasions) that unionists could have moved a lot quicker, too, to adapt to new realities and inevitabilities.

    Maybe you are right: perhaps I could ‘do better,’—-yet I still hold to the view that SF has been wrongfooted and trapped over the past few years and I make no apology for saying so in what is,after all, no more than the personal views of one columnist.

    Regards,

    Alex.

  • Alias

    “As the original post suggests, since consent rather than corection or ‘special status’ is now the name of the game, the game is now about persuasion; force or argument rather than Third Forces, Special Forces or any other type forces.” – Raurai

    That is more of your faulty logic leading you to conclude that rejecting the legitimacy of NI’s separate right to self-determination is the same as support violence. Although in fairness, it’s not your logic – you’re just regurgitating propaganda that others have fed to you for the express purpose of ‘peace-processing.’

    The alternative to accepting the legitimacy of NI’s separate right to self-determination is not to accept it. This was the position of actual constitutional nationalists (not the post-nationalists led by Mr Hume).

    It’s a very poor starting point for any ‘nationalist’ in any subsequent constitutional debate when he must start from the premise that he has no inalienable right to national self-determination as this right properly belongs to the other nation and not to his, which has forfeited its right to national self-determination.

    That’s sinking your own boat before you board it.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Doing good Alex, got a ticket for tomorrow, online like the rest btw!

    Obviously no two viewpoints are identical, however I have seen a few people express similar views on facebook, a few more express the view HM should not meet him, and a few more don’t like the fact it has become the focus of the visit. I would be in the third group.

    For some reason Ruair seems to take your view as the main one, in an vain attempt to spin the whole thing as one more step to a United Ireland, the reality is a bit different!

  • Mike the First

    Ruairi

    I still find your implication rather bizarre (I don’t have Godson’s book to hand unfortunately – must search for where I put it!).

    Acceptance by all parties of the principle of consent was the fundamental goal that David Trimble put front and centre in the UUP strategy for the 1996-98 talks.

    http://www.davidtrimble.org/speeches_toraiseup18.htm

    “Furthermore, our strategy was based on three key propositions. The first was that the principle of consent should govern the future of Northern Ireland and its relationships with the Republic. ”

    Frank Millar’s book on Trimble contains a discussion of the principle, and what Chekhov (late of this parish) has referred to as: “the extent of Trimble’s achievement in enshrining that principle in an agreement to which all main sections within nationalist Ireland eventually subscribed”.

    http://threethousandversts.blogspot.co.uk/2008/05/david-trimble-and-principle-of-consent.html

  • Alias

    Alex, I wouldn’t pay any heed to demands that you censor your views or ameliorate them in favour of adopting some bizarre role as a persuader for the status quo.

    One of the interesting dynamics of the ‘peace process’ is that is turns otherwise honourable people into unmitigated liars, with the ‘nationalists’ in particular believing that they must proffer a bogus narrative to their own tribe as an acceptable alternative to telling the truth as they actually see it.

    Why do they take on the role of serial liars so freely? Because they are led to believe that the truth is irresponsible and best suppressed, and therefore they see their own deceit as the morally correct option.

    Now I wouldn’t credit unionism with making serial liars out of nationalists but there is a quicker hand in play…

  • Mike the First

    By the time of going into those talks, the SDLP had committed much more fully to supporting the principle of consent, but previously they were much more woolly on it, and at times downright opposed it.

    John Hume in “The Uncivil Wars”, 1983 (referring to the principle of consent as “the guarantee” :

    “If one is to break down the sectarianism, one has to remove that guarantee, leave people standing on their own two feet, allow them to define their relationships with other people.”

    “British policy should be: “There are no guarantees for any section of this community any more. Our policy, the reason we are here, is to promote the coming together of the people of this island in a manner and form they can both agree to.” The British should join the ranks of the persuaders.”

    “There’s been a great deal of political argument over the word consent. Conor Cruise O’Brien says consent means the right to say no. That’s clever but it doesn’t get us any further ahead. What I’m saying – and mean by consent – is that if we are going to get the Irish problem solved, then there are two traditions in Ireland, broadly speaking, and you’ve got to get both sides of them to sit down. And to hammer out an agreement that broadly speaking both traditions will accept”.

  • Barnshee

    “Look, I assume the Queen had a say in this meeting but who had the final say on whether McGuinness would meet her”

    Hardly –HRH will toe the political line required by HMG that is what is expected -personally setting aside any desire to boot martie where it hurts.

    The Royal visit –(and its reception ) to the ROI wrong footed SF they are now playing catch up. Try to spin it any other way and SF just look silly. gerry even forgot to call her Lizzie Windsor

    So two people who would probably prefer to avoid each other will “meet” “to cement the peace process”.

    PS we have had the outworkings of the care of “all the children ” and “respect” provided by republicans over the last, (say) 100 years Stick where the sun don`t shine

  • dwatch

    HM The Queen is doing what her government wishes for her to do. She could always refuse using Royal Prerogative if she wished to do so. Likewise The Deputy First Minister for NI Martin McGuninness is doing what his party SF want him to do. Did SF not have a vote in Dublin recently in favour of meeting and shaking the hand of The Queen? The handshake is a political handshake on behalf of the peace process.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Alex, you seem to sort of vacillate between being positive and constructive, to essentially heaping scorn on the present incumbents for the way they have managed to successfully create stable government and stable institutions. It makes for a bit of a Jekyll/Hyde experience in my view.

    Some republicans may have been taken by surprise over the Queen thing but I doubt many. Over the past 20-25 years or so they have witnessed a steady rolling back of all of the orthodox republican policies, always done and presented as being from a position of strength. I’d say the decision of the IRA to completely disarm itself and (more or less) disband was a far more powerful and divisive one for them than the question of shaking someone’s hand, especially given that it is SF themselves who have historically placed so much emphasis on the willingness of other people to shake hands with them. (do you remember the continuous complaints from SF during the talks process in the 1990s about how Trimble would not shake Adams’ hand; and subsequently how the same complaint was applied to Paisley and then Robinson?).

    If I wanted to find people who had real problems with all this I’d be looking among unionist ranks. It can’t have been easy for a certain category of unionist to watch the Queen speaking Irish and laying a wreath at the Garden of Remembrance. I think it is that act which has compelled SF to change their own position more than anything else.

    Aside from this, I guess it is probably a good thing that unionists are embracing the idea that co-operation and agreement, rather than banning, boycotting and so on, has put SF on the back foot, even if it often does sound a bit like strained wishful thinking. I hope that we can move further, though, so that we all get to the point where we no longer feel compelled to desperately search for a way to eke out victories from our opponents and try to take positive gestures at face value.

  • Comrade Stalin

    dwatch,

    Royal Prerogative powers are exercised by the Prime Minister. The Queen is little more than a hereditary civil servant who is exceptionally well paid. Like any other civil servant, she follows orders – she does not give them.

  • dwatch

    Comrade Stalin,

    The “Royal Prerogative is the term given to the formal powers of the Crown within the executive process of British politics. The Royal Prerogative are the powers of the Crown and are part of common law. “http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/royal_prerogative.htm

    “Constitutional monarchy (or limited monarchy) is a form of government in which a monarch acts as head of state within the parameters of a constitution, whether it be a written, uncodified, or blended constitution………..Contemporary constitutional monarchies include the United Kingdom and Commonwealth realms, Belgium, Bhutan, Bahrain, Cambodia, Canada, Denmark, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Liechtenstein, Lesotho, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Monaco, Morocco, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Swaziland, Sweden, and Thailand. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constitutional_monarchy

  • dwatch
  • Comrade Stalin

    dwatch, Lord knows what master plan led you to quote me the definition of what a constitutional monarchy is, but nonetheless I repeat – Royal Prerogative powers are exercised by the Prime Minister.

  • neutralist

    ”U get d feelin dat most mainland brits prefer ROI to NI. I think they miss us and want us back.”

    Conor Cruise O’Brien recounted the comment of an Oxbridge-type English companion on crossing the border from NI to the ROI in the 1950’s:

    ”It feels like coming home”.

  • http://andrewg.wordpress.com Andrew Gallagher

    neutralist,

    ”It feels like coming home”

    They eat black pudding down here and all.