Why are softer political attitudes failing to transform the political landscape?

Two overviews in the Irish Times share the analysis that while the old identity issues will probably be  with us always, much of the old animosity is subsiding. It’s always risky when a journalist relies on the feeling in his waters to make a case but Gerry Moriarty ‘s claim rings true, that..

… while these degrees of separation probably always will be with us, the place doesn’t seem as bitter any more. The shades of orange and green seem more muted. There are differences of identity but some cross-fertilisation too: people can hold to their nationalist or unionist convictions but at times stand comfortably in the other’s space or in shared spaces.

Peter Shirlow , demographer extraordinaire faces the future with confidence and hope, without quite knowing what answers it may hold to the old question, naturally.

There are simply more shared global-like lifestyles. Social mobility has been the revolution that has changed lifestyles and thus attitudes more than the use of arms and the rhetoric of sectarian diatribe. Its fundamental force lies in the capacity to subvert loyalty to the highest bidder.

We await the latest results from the 2011 census but the data from the 2001 census suggested that demographic parity between Catholics and Protestants would come about 2035. Obviously, the constitutional position will be asserted through the principle of consent and demographic shifts. But I doubt a small Catholic majority will be the sudden end game for Northern Ireland as some unionists have learned that Catholic inclusion attenuates Northern nationalists’ sense of Irishness.

Moreover, they have also concluded, somewhat late in the day, that the Republic and its citizens are not hastily demanding a nation once again. Peter Robinson has probably recognised the need to keep “Catholics on board” as the only way to perpetuate the life of Northern Ireland. Some sections of the nationalist community see unification as an aspiration, but they also sense that it may affect their collective wallets. The collapse of the Celtic Tiger has definitely concentrated unification-driven mindsets.

Clearly, the unionist community is for sharing power but not for shifting regarding unification, whether small “u” unionist or otherwise. The big problem for those who want unification is how to stimulate the type of desire that once existed.

It is of course possible to argue that once parity is reached, a united Ireland becomes naturally more viable even to the large minority whose unionism is soft. The initiative passes to unity. That is surely what Martin McGuinness and Sinn Fein are banking on and accounts for their strategically conciliatory attitude to unionism – still well ahead in emotional intelligence to the DUP’s corresponding stance.

I’d enter one cautious caveat to the cautious optimism and one question which has not yet been satisfactorily answered.  The question is, why is such consistent showing of softer political attitudes not reflected in voting intention and the political system, beyond a decline in voting itself? Many in the divided majority of unionists and nationalists combined still seems psychologically in thrall to a considerable extent to their respective extremists, whatever they tell pollsters repeatedly.  Others may be satisfied that their party champions are doing just enough to reach out to the other side, thank you, while protecting their backs and biding their time.

My caveat comes from my generation’s experience. In the 1960s with Vatican 2, watery O’Neillism and a comprehensive welfare state in being,  much of the middle class ( at least) were beginning to take it for granted that all this sectarian stuff was gently fading away, without knowing how or where it would end up. We should not take atmospheric improvements for granted this time.  Slugger comment should lead by example.

  • FuturePhysicist

    The question is, why is such consistent showing of softer political attitudes not reflected in voting intention and the political system, beyond a decline in voting itself? Many in the divided majority of unionists and nationalists combined still seems psychologically in thrall to a considerable extent to their respective extremists, whatever they tell pollsters repeatedly.

    My own opinion is that while the stance of the DUP and Sinn Féin may have softened, many local journalists are stuck with the old extremism. Many of the critics of the voters and advocates for change seem more viced with their own narcissism of a politics in their own image even mor than Sinn Féin and the DUP have ever been.

    Sinn Féin and the DUP, second and first are the will of the people willing to vote in present circumstances. New parties aren’t wanted enough to be made. Slugger is merely a voice crying out in its own wilderness leading no one anywhere. Non voting is a criticism of the system, but one that cannot change it.

    I really doubt Slugger will get the West Belfast Catholic to reach out to the East Belfast Protestant. More work is done bringing Nationalists and Unionists together under nightclub lights, university bedrooms and workplace banter than could ever be achieved on this forum.

  • Professor Yattle

    Yet here you are, endlessly.

  • Barnshee

    “naturally more viable even to the large minority whose unionism is soft.”

    The only things soft are the heads of people who think there is such a thing as soft unionism

  • DC

    In a quick answer to your headline, it is probably something along the lines of people now accepting democracy because they no longer believe in politics.

    Basicially, indifference and being seen to be able to moderate is different than holding views deep down knowing that feck all can be done about them.

    Take immigration or leaving Europe, or not wanting SF/IRA types in government, plus add into the mix all form of creeping unaccountable systems of governance, think commissions to EU legislation to NATO and on to capitalism itself, the most accountable beast of all. Nothing can be done it would seem without causing too much upset and battles and harming others in the process.

    Death of the ability to exercise and effect your opinions by a thousand cuts.

  • Mick Fealty


    “Slugger comment should lead by example”… what had you in mind when you say this?

    For my own part, I don’t think anything can be taken for granted. I’ve just come back from a conference in Tunisia, in which the British Council brought together elements of civil society from a range of north African countries, from non revolutionary to post revolutionary.

    There are some significant differences between the two categories, but all agree (more or less) that there is a problem with civil society getting stuck in vertical relationships with government and a severe shortage of horizontal relations, ie where people discuss and come to conclusions that are significantly different to those arrived by government.

    Where I see a problem (though it is not yet as important as it might become), is the locking out of opposition from the democratic institutions. I think we can all calculate that so long as people are happy to live, by and large, in peace, that it will not prove as fatal as the complacency of NI society before 1968/9.

    In putting together a piece on Paisley back in 2007 for Prospect Magazine, I was struck by some of the contemporary accounts of the rise of Ian Paisley through the 50s and 60s. For all the talk and debates in Stormont, it was clear no one was listening to them… They had become irrelevant to the politics of the day..

    We all have a view on how it arrived at that pass, but that is the danger we have going forward, however unseeable it may seem right now…

    That’s not to say the working up of stronger horizontal lines of communication is not essential.

  • Greenflag

    ‘Many in the divided majority of unionists and nationalists combined still seems psychologically in thrall to a considerable extent to their respective extremists,’

    I’d question the use of the word ‘extremist’ to describe either SF or the DUP . If either party was removed from it’s current environment and transferred to the UK mainland they would (outside of the constitutional issue ) fit within the spectrum of political opinion . So much so that probably a majority of members within both NI parties could redistribute themselves among Labour , Conservatives and Liberal Dems without too much ‘ideological ‘ misgivings. The same goes for the UUP,SDLP and AP and GP .It’s the NI political environment /history/cultural conditioning /religiosity etc etc which has enabled both SF and the DUP to be ‘classified ‘ as extremists .

    ‘In the 1960s with Vatican 2, watery O’Neillism and a comprehensive welfare state in being, much of the middle class ( at least) were beginning to take it for granted that all this sectarian stuff was gently fading away, without knowing how or where it would end up. ‘

    True and then that ‘black swan ‘ came from nowhere according to some – it was inevitable -according to others , and the province erupted in a decades long waste of life and property and political progress .

    Which is a reminder that nothing should be taken for granted in the current NI situation . But I believe NI has moved on -even if at times it seems to hurtle back to the past as in the recent murder of Mr Black .

    It’s about time the old animosities subsided . They never were productive of anything but death and destruction . Northern Ireland’s fault lines lie somewhere on the spectrum from Hatfield McCoy mindless tribalism to Balkan ethnic cleansing . I read that in 2003 some sixty descendants of the Hatfields & McCoys finally signed a truce . (took a mere 150 years ? ) The Balkan states are being absorbed into the EU gradually with some already well integrated and others lining up . So NI has to have hope .

    Northern Ireland is fortunate that it has two neighbours -the larger of which it is a constituent part and which in economic and political terms is large enough to ‘carry ‘ NI until the province is capable of carrying itself .

    And it’s neighbour with whom it shares a land border has more than enough issues on it’s plate to keep it busy for another couple of decades by which time the ‘tribes ‘ in NI will have moved so far beyond any possibility of another bout of troubles that notwithstanding any demographic changes in the interim – will result in a conflict free resolution of the national question -assuming of course it becomes an issue at that time .

  • FuturePhysicist


    I’m not here with any delusions that I’m uniting anybody. Online forums simply keep people apart by their nature.

  • FuturePhysicist

    I’d question the use of the word ‘extremist’ to describe either SF or the DUP . If either party was removed from it’s current environment and transferred to the UK mainland they would (outside of the constitutional issue ) fit within the spectrum of political opinion . So much so that probably a majority of members within both NI parties could redistribute themselves among Labour , Conservatives and Liberal Dems without too much ‘ideological ‘ misgivings. The same goes for the UUP,SDLP and AP and GP .It’s the NI political environment /history/cultural conditioning /religiosity etc etc which has enabled both SF and the DUP to be ‘classified ‘ as extremists .

    It’s worth remembering the reason why the Britian has Conservatives, Labour and Liberals was only because of the legacy of the civil war and sectarianism where Established Protestants of the Conservatives couldn’t get on with the Dissident Protestants of the Liberals and Labour and had very little to do with left-right democratic politics system which had emerged in France. The Republic’s System is based on Civil War politics too.

  • Mick Fealty


    You’re somewhat exaggerating the effects of online forums, surely?

    In any case, I’d distinguish between pluralism and ‘bringing people together’.

    People come together in common political cause, so it stands to reason that that is in and of itself divisive. But you can choose to draw back into a party only bubble and engage only with people with whom you agree, and refuse to engage with those you don’t.

    Neither can be reasonably described as ‘coming together’.

    It’s always been my view that the fact that you engage with people you don’t agree with should not weaken or compromise your views, rather it ought to make them stronger and more robust since you get an opportunity to have challenged your own weak or spongey thinking.

  • Count Eric Bisto von Granules

    If / when the census shows a CNR majority, will it trigger ‘softer’ nationalists to be more vocal in their support of what are seen as CNR issues at a local level? Are there CNs (no R this time) who take a pragmatic view about flag flying, road signs, Irish language etc currently. Insomuch as they think ‘we are not in the majority, its a democracy, we are happy to park aspirations for these policies now.’

    Will those same people be as acquiescent to current unionist policy in these areas if the census shows the CNRs to be in the majority? Will this radicalise them in their approach to changing the society they live in at a local level and will this change the political landscape at Stormont level?

  • The headline of this thread implies a question about future normal politics. In the body of the post, the discussion is about the future evolution of Republicanism and Unionism. They are not quite the same subject.

    A lot of water has passed under the bridge since the 1960s. There has been a raft of human rights and civil rights laws passed. Society has become less religious and more secular. Education in schools is better informed. We have a police force which is owned by by communities. The language of hatred and incitement to violence has largely left the political arena. A person growing up in Northern Ireland today (with a declining number of enclaves excepted) is much more likely to be tolerant of a person growing up with a separate communal identity.

    To answer the headline question, “Why have softer political attitudes not transformed the political landscape”

    When it comes to comparing timelines of comparing softer political attitudes with political changes, the latter tends to lag behind the other except on rare occasions when politicians lead the changes. That is otherwise known as statesmanship. There is no sign of that here in Northern Ireland.

    Furthermore, softer political attitudes will need to be much more potent before they start to drive the political changes. That will eventually come in the form of people changing their traditional voting habits from community block to non-designated moderate party. I think it will be at least another 10 years before that starts to happen.

  • FuturePhysicist

    Necessity brings people together Mick, not opinions.

  • Red Lion

    Imo a large part of it comes down to the choice that is given to the electorate (and particularl. the unionist) to select from.

    Give the people a genuine liberal unionist party to vote for, and a substantial portion of the electorate will get this project off the ground. Something in the mold of John McCallister type politics. Alliance don’t cut it i believe, as their view on the constitutional position is too muddy/not well known enough.

    So liberal unionists don’t vote, make do with UUP or a small number with DUP, and the small but increasing Catholicnominal union vote has nowhere to go.

    The same old big house soundbytes of the DUP put off a moderating vote in nationalism.

    Its up to this unionism to make the jump into genuine liberal politics, and give a voice to unionism that already exists, can grow genuinely across traditional electorates, we’re just waiting for that spark, if it ever comes.

  • IJP

    Red Lion

    Your obsession about the constitutional question is not widely shared. There is simply no reason for a pro-Union Liberal not to vote Alliance.

    My phraseology is deliberate, of course, and that is the point. You can be Liberal, or you can be capital-U Unionist, but you can’t be both.

  • Perhaps the World of Politics has not caught up with the Real World.
    But beneath the optics………as evidenced at Stormont today……there is a very real animosity…..which I suspect will be getting worse over the next two years as Cuts bite deeper, as people become more alienated and quite possibly because politicians WANT out of Office.
    My growing feeling is that within two years the Executive and/or Assembly will implode and that will surely lead to five or more years of stagnation leading to instability leading to new negotiations in 10/12 years.
    There is just too much animosity. And ncreasingly difficult to contain and smile away.

  • Red Lion

    IJP, I’m not obsessed with the constitutional question – you have me wrong, I’m quite at ease with it. Thats why im a liberal unionist.

    But I am obsessed at how that union works day to day, and how it looks like to those looking in from outside, and with how the DUP continually abuse it and make it look like angry, old and reactive, and with how it should be able to transcend NI tribalism if championed by the right people.

    There is a reason for a pro-Union liberal not to vote Alliance – David Ford ‘agnostic on the union’ and Niomi Long ‘I am not a unionist i am not a republican’. These are unrealistic positions as to my mind it is the union that makes NI function day to day, thats the secure starting point and then liberal principles flow from that.

  • weidm7

    In a similar vein to Red Lion, I’d love to see a liberal, anti-sectarian nationalist party, or at least one which didn’t have the unionist undertones of Alliance. SF and the SDLP are too green and SF have their past, although there is often good words coming from both parties, I don’t think they’d ever appeal to floating voters / moderate unionists or those who are neutral on the union. For me, it’s all about attracting Protestant votes, this is the only way to secure a proper United Ireland.

  • Brian Walker

    Mick asked what I meant by:
    “We should not take atmospheric improvements for granted this time. Slugger comment should lead by example.”
    Simply the familiar point, to debate constructively and with decorum, like most have in this thread, rather than crude whataboutery, knee jerk silly cynicism and tiresome point scoring, which this kind of post might attract.

    Greeenflag, I meant the demons and fears behind the DUP and SF, not the parties in their present state when I wrote: “Many in the divided majority of unionists and nationalists combined still seems psychologically in thrall to a considerable extent to their respective extremists.”

    Yes today is different from the 1960s if only because of intervening 40 years. But as memories of the Troubles convert further into legend and inherited memory, we can’t take the gains for granted.

    And don’t write off the 1960s. In some ways the immediate pre-Troubles was far more stimulating than the guarded mediocrity of today. University on full grants and the rising expectation of most if not all, of a decent job. The rise of young Catholic professionals that gave rise to a genuinely exciting if genuinely unrepresentative civil rights movement. (Btw who remembers Eamonn McCann as the presiding genius of Queens’ Literific Soc? In many ways he’s there still, bless him). Just the time to take on institutional discrimination. Cross community debates on Vatican 2, local versions of Philip Larkin’s invention of sex, taking on attempts to remove a contraceptive machine from Queens’ Union, supporting Republican Clubs as a human right, school and uni attacks on crude Paisleyite fundamentalism the real enemy, all had great buzz.

    Stormont debates barely figured Mick, the place usually sat for less than 2 full days a week. Does that sound familiar? At least Paisley’s scurrility gave us a thrill as it was so crude, before we jeered back. We didn’t quite notice that the establishment was shaking to the core and rightly fearing supercession.

    And then look what happened.

    But the Troubles are not an argument against having a go at demolishing a moribund system.

    Better though to change incrementally with our eyes open, this time.

    When do we start?

  • DC

    Basically what Red Lion is saying is that if you don’t know how you are constituted or deny knowing or refusing to accept it how do you intend to pull the levers of power and make governance work.

    If Alliance isn’t cultural unionist nor cultural republican then I guess that would be something slightly different and worth explaining.

  • The answer to the question posed in the headline is:
    Not enough time has yet passed from the “dreadful days” and there will be no great improvement until those with blood on their hands, on both sides, have left the scene.

  • Red Lion

    And Joe, it is up to the middle ground to get together, be clearly identifiable and coherent and different from them (not try to outgreen or outblue them on certain issues), and hasten their departure.

    DC, thats basically it. The union exists but it is being defined by the DUP, and thats not a very pretty union (which in turn suits SF who, like DUP, thrive off a polarised society and polarised union).
    Instead, acknowledge the union is the the foundation and cornerstone of civic life in NI, no need to go mental about it, reform the concept of union to something diverse and liberal akin to the union that exists across the water, and that trully transcends tribalism, in word and in action, and go and get on with good goverment.

    Now, instead of being embarrassed about the union and allowing the DUP a free run, if Alliance actually got hold of this union and championed it to their liberal liking, then we might see a reforming political landscape in NI. The chance to vote for a fresh explicitly pro-union party who behave the polar oppposite views on what the union should look like from the DUP, I believe would have union voters coming from all quarters, including giving a home to the small Catholic pro union vote. This in turn lets nationalists feel like they don’t have to vote SF to counter balance the barking dogs of the DUP, and move their vote to the SDLP.

    Now just imagine an expicitly pro-union Alliance Partyor alternate liberal union party in power sharing coalition with SDLP. Only then would we get good government and the future would be bright.

    To this end I truelly believe the catalyst for change can only come from the liberal end of unionism standing up and being counted, and seeing the massively bigger picture than what the DUP are capable of. But what sort of a catalyst will spark this catalyst??

    Becoming a truelly liberal union, in line with general mainstream British values instead of the DUP insular parochial view, is the only place left for the Union to go. Which politicians are going to take it there to meet with the substantial NI citizens whose lives are already lived daily in this space???

  • ayeYerMa

    It cannot happen because the flawed system will not allow it to happen. A system based upon the notion of a balance between an ideology which wishes to maintain the state and its stability, and to one which wishes to destroy and destabilise the state means that this tug-of-war will endlessly choke the system, preventing the state from ever having preactical governance.

  • “once parity is reached, a united Ireland becomes naturally more viable”

    Does it? In light of our history, this looks like no-man’s land – a very dangerous territory to occupy.

    I’m a year or two older than Brian; I was at QUB from ’62 to ’66 – like Vatican 2, a narrow window of relative liberalism. The earlier troubles had just fizzled out and the new ones were still in the incubation stage. I didn’t get caught-up in the street theatre associated with Paisley and Hume; indeed I didn’t much involve myself in political analysis until the early ’90s; I was too busy having great crack in what might loosely be referred to as ecumenical activities.

    Anyone who has read A T Q Stewart’s book “The Narrow Ground” will realise that over the past century and a half – and perhaps longer – this theatre moves on to stoning and eventually to guns. His book came too late for the politically wet-behind-the-ears students of the ’60s.

  • Day 2 of the week-long series on Northern Ireland is online. I’m not sure I would have great confidence in the judgement of a banker; I’m a little surprised that the reference to salmon farming ignored pollution; I wasn’t convinced I was reading an independent opinion piece.

  • Not only would some of the above commenters not vote for the old enemy (fair enough), but they wouldn’t vote for Alliance or any non-tribal party because they refuse to utter the required shibboleth. “Normal politics” is being proposed as a cheap trick to steal some of themmun’s votes, so as to further the real agenda of propping up the tribal cause.

    Let me ask weidm7 and red lion one question – if I could guarantee you, with overwhelming evidence, that the sectarian problems of Northern Ireland could be made to go away if you let the other lot have their constitutional preference, would you take it?

  • FuturePhysicist

    Neither can be reasonably described as ‘coming together’.

    Erm,…That may be a job for online dating rather than online forums, even then prepare to be disappointed.


  • Greenflag

    ‘ then look what happened.’

    The 60’s could have gone either way . It was’nt inevitable that NI would descend into bloody mayhem and a waste of decades . At some point perhaps in the late 50’s or early 60’s there was a fork in the road which could have been taken and the ‘troubles ‘ could have been bypassed .

    But then Ireland and no less Northern Ireland were not exactly outward looking polities at that time .They were both socieities where elected politicians looked behind their shoulders every which way they could before moving an inch forward . There were a few who tried -Captain O’Neill , Brian Faulkner from the North and Sean Lemass and Donough O’Malley from the South . But they were to be swamped politically by their more traditional if not reactionary colleagues .

    ‘the Troubles are not an argument against having a go at demolishing a moribund system.’

    They’re not per se but the current ‘moribund ‘ system can’t be easily upended and /or reformed . It took 40 years of on off on off negotiations interspersed with decades of political silence to even get this far .

    I sympathise with those who wish for a more open and ‘democratic ‘ Northern Ireland . I’m not convinced it’s politically possible at this time .

    Still it was a bit of jolt to read of the FM and DFM’s jaunt to China to promote NI business .

    Now there’s a state (China ) with 1.4 billion people NOT 1.7 million which has at least something in common with Northern Ireland -i.e they also have NO political opposition and are in fact a one party state of a kind which makes the pre 1972 Stormont set up look like a ‘model democracy ‘

    I wonder if either Peter or Martin gave even a peremptory glance at the lack of Chinese ‘democracy ‘ or were they like most western visitors simply gobsmacked by the huge efforts made to lift hundreds of millions out of poverty over the past couple of decades ?

    It was not so long ago -54 years in fact that China was undergoing self made horrors under Mao Tse Tungs ‘Great Leap Forward ‘ which caused the deaths of some 36 million of it’s people.

    For 10 years, journalist Yang Jinsheng secretly collected official evidence about the terrible famine in China a half-century ago. In his chilling book Tombstone — which is banned in his homeland — Yang estimates that 36 million people died of starvation and other causes during the famine, even as grain exports continued.


  • “in the late 50′s or early 60′s there was a fork in the road which could have been taken and the ‘troubles ‘ could have been bypassed.”

    GF, those were the years of the previous Troubles; they were also the years when militant and armchair socialists dreamt up the notion of using rights issues to sweep away the political establishments in Belfast and Dublin.

  • Greenflag

    Nevin @ 20 November 2012 at 2:05 pm

    ‘those were the years of the previous Troubles;’

    I had’nt forgotten -total casualties over a 4 year period – 17 dead ( 6 RUC and 11 IRA) and some 500 interned in total on both sides of the border – compared to 4,000 dead and several thousand interned over a 35 year period .
    Perhaps I should have stated the early to mid 50’s or the mid 60’s . I still believe in retrospect that a dollop of enlightenment in their own self interest back at that time would have helped the Unionist Government and it’s supporters to have avoided the much worse by far later troubles .

  • GF, have you still not grasped the significance of the socialist intervention? Had Dublin not done a runner things might have been different. Stormont couldn’t deliver a 32 county socialist republic.

  • JoeBryce

    GF’s contributions more and more echo my own thoughts.

    We need, unfortunately, to wait for the irridentism that murders prison officers to die out completely, but when it does, and it must, then I think the scale of political change that has been taking place quietly, underground, will become apparent.

  • Greenflag

    Nevin ,

    ‘Stormont couldn’t deliver a 32 county socialist republic.’

    True -But the then Republic had even less ‘socialist ‘ potential . If I recall correctly 1969 was to be the year of Labour . The “Seventies will be Socialist ‘was the Labour catch call . FF branded Labour as ‘communist ‘ and Labour returned to the Dail minus one seat -FF held even and FG won 4 .

    ‘have you still not grasped the significance of the socialist intervention?’

    Obviously not . If there was one it was so far beneath the surface that it could only have significance if it attracted the kind of overreaction which it obviously did in NI . Realistically the Irish electorate in 1969 neither North nor South were ‘ripe ‘ for red revolution – Quite the contrary .

    As you can see today -the then ‘Communist ‘ Labour Party is now in comfortable coalition with a party (FG ) that held a soft spot for Mussolini back in the 1930’s and turned more than a blind eye to ensuring that Oswald Mosley the British Fascist Leader of the 1930’s was more than welcome to come and go as he pleased in Ireland while he was persona non grata in the UK .

    But then as Macchiavelli said ‘Our political enemies of today may be our friends tomorrow and vice versa or versa vice ‘

    Despite ATQ’s Stewart’s narrow ground I would be somewhat more positive about a peaceful future for Northern Ireland .

    The way forward is not to allow too much of the negativity yesterday’s NI or anywhere else use up too much of today’s thinking and and grasping for a better future .

    The ‘past’ can be a prison only if we want it to be one .

  • “If there was one it was so far beneath the surface”

    Not that far. Desmond Greaves and the formation of NICRA

    From the second link and a little bit deeper:

    At a deeper level the split [in the IRA] was the result of a decision by the Dublin Government to deliberately destroy what they saw as a developing revolutionary movement which threatened their control and stability. Recently released state documents confirms the above, and I personally at the time was approached by elements of Fianna Fail seeking my allegiance.

    On the other side of the coin you had the Paisleyites …

    When it came to clearing the streets in Derry in October 1968 there are echoes of Dublin 1966:

    Dr. O’Connell: Does the Minister agree that this baton-swinging democracy serves as a showpiece as suggested by the Taoiseach, when we have disturbances like this provoked by the police?

    Mr. B. Lenihan: The Deputy and certain other members of his Party appear to want to bring parliamentary democracy in Ireland into a state of anarchy in which anything might happen. .. 11 May 1966, Dáil questions

  • Greenflag

    Nevin ,

    Echoes about sums it up . I would’nt doubt police provocation either North or South . Provocation is /was always a tool of the ‘establishment ‘ British or Irish or anywhere else. . IIRC the 1798 Revolution was ‘provoked ‘ by numerous culls of suspected UI men and sympathisers in the year previous .

    The 1969 election in the Republic gave 85% of votes cast to FF + FG and while the Labour Party of the time could be called socialist in theory -in practice the then Irish Labour Party could have fit into the ‘Wet ‘ faction in the British Conservatives .

    Northern Ireland was much more prone to ‘subversion ‘ but only from one side of the sectarian fence and then only from a tiny minority which in hindsight became a force due to overeaction on the part of the NI authorities and the loyalist paisleyites of the time .

    Thats how I see it. Should never have happened but then neither should WW1 and had that been avoided there’d have been no WW2 and we’d have avoided the Arab Israeli wars etc etc etc and 100 million people would have lived and their descendants would be alive today .

  • GF, the ‘state of anarchy’ was confined to Northern Ireland. Events might have turned out differently if Belfast and Dublin had stood together as they had done during the earlier subversive campaign.

  • The new Northern Ireland Part IV: sectarianism

    I don’t think that Gerry Moriarty has spotted the connection between sectarianism and the constitutional question or the tussle between Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness for the position of First Minister. The softening of tone and the respective ‘reaching out’ language IMO is aimed at attracting voters to switch from the UUP-APNI-SDLP spectrum to the DUP and to SF.

  • Greenflag

    Nevin ,

    ‘Events might have turned out differently if Belfast and Dublin had stood together as they had done during the earlier subversive campaign.’

    Perhaps . Why they did’nt has as much to do with what was happening in NI in the mid to late sixties as with generational change going on within FF during that decade 1959-1969 .

    De Valera and Lemass were in power during the earlier 58-61 troubles and they were largely ‘conditioned ‘ by their WW2/Emergency experience . They had ‘survived ‘WW2 with the state intact by ensuring that IRA elements were interned ( some were hanged ) during the Emergency . Fear of a British invasion was always there and there’s no doubt that in extremis Britain would have had no choice but to invade -certainly in the event of a German diversionary invasion. As an aside the ‘economic and social ‘performance of both Northern and Southern states in the period 1920 to the outbreak of WW2 had been nothing to write home about -and whether either or both would survive WW2 was never certain .

    By the mid 1960’s Dev’s era had passed and FF were in the throes of an internal party struggle between the old guard traditionalists and the modernists . Among the former were Aiken , McEntee and others while Lemass despite his Tanaiste role was not much ‘loved’ by the rank and file traditionalists .

    The later troubles from 1968 onward hit the TV screens and world news in a way that the earlier troubles had’nt . That I believe put the Republic’s government into a bind and was why the Haughey /Blaney/Boland faction were almost able to topple Jack Lynch for being too soft on the NI issue . In addition the thousands of refugees streaming south and the TV screens showing RUC /B Specials / Loyalist mobs etc on the rampage put the Republic’s government into a position where it could NOT be seen to be supportive of the NI Government which was even then under increasing pressure from extremist elements in it’s jurisdiction.

    As you say ‘might ‘ . Most people in the Republic in 1958-1962 were almost completely oblivious of conditions in Northern Ireland between the communities . By 1969 that had changed dramatically . That in itself would have put any Dublin Govt of the time into an invidious position .

  • GF, the threat to Belfast and Dublin was there post-1962. Where were the cameras in Dublin in 1966 when the Garda cleared the streets? Dublin wasn’t so much in a bind as protecting its own institutions irrespective of the fate of folks in Northern Ireland. The removal of the socialist leadership from the IRA removed the threat to Dublin institutions; it also left us with the Provos.