Heaney, a short afterword: “wasn’t it the job of the poet to roar in indignation?”

…surely every dweller in the country must hope that the governments involved in its governance can devise institutions which will allow that partition to become a bit more like the net on a tennis court, a demarcation allowing for agile give-and-take, for encounter and contending, prefiguring a future where the vitality that flowed in the beginning from those bracing words “enemy” and “allies” might finally derive from a less binary and altogether less binding vocabulary.

Seamus Heaney’s Nobel Speech, 1995

I guess we all fancy our chances of pulling off a decent farewell for such a renowned figure as Heaney the Poet. But few this week few have pulled it off as well as Jenny McCartney in The Spectator.

After those blue, pungently gestetnered sheets of Digging and Blackberry Picking in Primary school, his work often got a little too cryptic for this particular bear of little brain to follow his every word.

We read him at first, because we had to. Which is, kind of, where Jenny starts…

The one and only time I met Seamus Heaney, in 2007, he was making tea in the kitchen of his Dublin home when he asked — more modestly regretful than coy — ‘Did you have to do the poems at school?’

She talks about the way his broader influence at first did little to unpick or get beyond the stereotype of the thick bigoted Prod…

Heaney mattered, and the business of culture — who had one, who allegedly didn’t — was used in Northern Ireland as a kind of feverish proxy war. In any case, his wider poetry could not be dismissed. People always grabbed for ‘Digging’, but I was most moved by ‘Mid-Term Break’ (reprinted on this page), about the sudden death of his younger brother when he was 14. Its final line, ‘A four foot box, a foot for every year’, could break a reader’s heart in nine plain words.

Yet ‘Punishment’, from the 1975 volume North, left me unsettled too. The poem dealt with Heaney’s feelings when looking at the corpse of a murdered adulteress hauled from a bog, comparing it to the Catholic girls tarred and feathered by the IRA for going out with British soldiers. ‘I who have stood dumb/ when your betraying sisters/ cauled in tar/ wept by the railings/ who would connive/ in civilised outrage/ yet understand the exact/ and tribal, intimate revenge.’ It felt as if the real emotion lay in the silent understanding, rather than the veneer of outrage. At such cruelties — I couldn’t stop thinking of their poor damaged skin — wasn’t it the job of the poet to roar in indignation?

My own indignation had been delayed: by the time I was reading these poems they were already old. Heaney had long left Northern Ireland — in 1972, he and his family departed for Wicklow, and later Dublin — and the brutal lunacy had stayed in Northern Ireland. I think Heaney went away primarily to stay sane, to prevent his keen poetic instinct from being buffeted and corrupted by rage and malice. He valued harmony and courtesy, and Northern Irish politics offered neither. Away, his generous spirit expanded.

More personally…

A staunch nationalist, he was no friend to the Provisional IRA: its strident fanaticism ran counter to his instinct for sympathy. His eye couldn’t miss the IRA’s horrors, and his 1995 Nobel lecture dealt profoundly with the stultifying effect of political violence. A snapshot of the early times: in 1974, the IRA one morning murdered at breakfast a QC friend of Heaney’s called Martin McBirney, a Protestant magistrate and left-leaning Belfast literary figure. Five minutes later, it also murdered a senior Catholic judge called Rory Conaghan, in front of his young daughter.

Heaney’s dear friend Michael Longley wrote a shocked, short poem about McBirney called ‘The Civil Servant’, describing how his clever, talented friend had been cooking an Ulster fry when ‘a bullet entered his mouth and pierced his skull/ The books he had read, the music he could play’. The Ulster poets did what they could in the midst of carnage: reeling, they wrapped words around the dead, and bore them into memory.

An awareness of threat quietly resonated with me: my father was a lawyer and involved in unionist politics, both areas in which the IRA retained an active interest. In the midst of a happy childhood, one could never be entirely free of the small stomach-knot of unease: nausea at the sectarian murders of the loyalist paramilitaries, and apprehension over what the IRA might be planning next.[Emphasis added]

And  finishes…

The Czech author Milan Kundera once wrote of the ‘poetic memory’, an area of the brain which records ‘everything that charms and touches us.’ He spoke of its power in the context of romantic love, but I think it also applies to places. Northern Ireland — its customs, people and pain — was imprinted on Heaney’s poetic memory; in a much less productive sense, it has lodged in mine. He acted as a safe-house for our words — the lively dialect one locks away when one comes to England — and a careful trapper of detail: bread, sweets, place names.

You see as friends get older how they draw together, keenly aware that only their dwindling group holds these memories in common. I came to feel that about Heaney, who was three decades older and whom I knew mainly through his published writing. There was an inexplicable loneliness when he died, the sense of an end to a long conversation, of remembered passions fading. It is good still to have the poems. It all mattered so much, you see, and he understood its weight.[emphasis added]


  • Alias

    “..who would connive/ in civilised outrage/ yet understand the exact/ and tribal, intimate revenge…”

    And that’s a human flaw of which the middle classes of both tribes were guilty. Heaney as human rather than saint.

  • Kevsterino

    I think Heaney kept a lot of ears open because he was honest about his feelings.

  • Mick Fealty

    I think the opposite Kev. It was not his feelings that mattered, but the honesty with which he rendered the human and flawed life around him… It’s what I think Jenny gets at here:

    …what impressed me, when I met Heaney six years ago, was that he had never stopped considering and investigating both himself and the country he was born into, never grown rigid. His element was earth, both literally and metaphorically, and he loved to dredge things from the mud to the light, inhaling their secret scent. I read ‘Punishment’ differently now with that understanding: he was tugging the unspeakable truth out of himself, and squinting at it. It didn’t much matter that I didn’t like what I saw. Indeed, disliking it was possibly the point.

  • Kevsterino

    Mick, I agree with you. Perhaps I didn’t write clearly. But the ability to convey what he saw, smelled, and felt from within and from those around him is what made him special. I love the phrase ‘tugging the unspeakable truth out of himself’. Well, he found a way to speak it.

  • “The one and only time I met Seamus Heaney, in 2007”

    and here it is: “Write whatever you like!

  • jagmaster

    Nothing like the death of a renowned literary figure to bring out the pseuds. Google and wikipedia must have taken a hammering this past week in an attempt to find the most obscure Heaney prose.

  • Mick Fealty


  • Mick Fealty


    Dangerous pavements.
    But I face the ice this year
    With my father’s stick.

    [Seeing Things, 1991]

  • SirJohnDill

    A letter/tribute to Seamus Heaney which appeared in both The Irish Times and (shorter version) Belfast Telegraph earlier this week:

    Seamus Heaney crossed the sectarian divide in a still-divided Northern Ireland, or the North of Ireland, as he may have preferred. He was unashamedly nationalist but equally respectful of the unionist tradition.
    He represented the pluralism and inclusion of John Hewitt and others who refused to be simply labeled, and he spurned being used by either side. Thirty four years ago, when I was 27, giving a series of lectures on the Northern conflict at Harvard, he spoke at my final class and did what he was superb at – reciting his poetry. We met several times during that 1978-1979 year when he had taken the chair of poetry.
    We respected one another’s political views because we were tolerant and respectful of the “other” community which we hoped would share a common friendship in the future. Seamus was Irish first, a Northerner second. I was a Northerner first, and, equally, British and Irish.
    He eschewed pressure to take political stances, and rightly so. He let his poetry speak for him.
    Seamus’s great encourager at his publishers, Faber & Faber, was a great Ulsterman, Charles Monteith, Fellow of All Souls at Oxford, formerly wounded in the Irish Guards, and firmly unionist but never sectarian. Other great encouragers and friends of Seamus were Conor Cruise O’Brien and his wife Maire Mac an tSaoi of whom he was fond and with whom we shared a common friendship.
    Seamus’s poetry had a voice representative of his own community; John Hewitt’s likewise. But there were commonalities in their poems which spanned the cultural gap.
    I treasure still my rare signed and annotated copy of Seamus’s elegy to Robert Lowell, also taken from us at a too early age. I had plied him with one too many Bushmills that day in Cambridge, Mass. He wrote: “ Thanks for thehospitality, or should I say, the ‘dose’!”
    Seamus was a man for all seasons. He is a loss to North and South and universally.

    Michael H.C. McDOWELL

    Washington, D.C.

  • March 2011.
    The British-Irish Institute held a day long conference on how the arts community here could make a contribution to make society here better.
    The speakers included Robert Ballagh, Gerry Anderson, Philip Orr, Glenn Patterson and Edna Longley.
    The general view was that it would be dishonest to write to a specific order. The obligation of the artist is to tell the truth…no more no less.
    Heaney did that.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    As Heaney pointed out in one of the pieces about him following his death, he came at things sideways (as the best writers do). He was never going to give a direct ‘response’ to the Troubles because that’s not what poetry is about or for – Heaney’s or anyone else’s. His best work – and I read Heaney poems in school like most, but am by no means an aficionado – doesn’t give you what you thought you wanted, but takes you somewhere else more interesting. I’ve been critical of him in the past for sticking by broadly nationalist assumptions about the island, but ultimately that doesn’t really matter – he was a poet and we can appreciate his writing for the writing, which was inspiring and thrilling. Poets are rarely astute political commentators and he was no exception, but it doesn’t really matter.

    For those interested, the latest Spectator reprints an article he wrote for them in 1966 about Belfast – worth a read. Interesting to get his take on things just as the first rumblings of trouble was starting with the Rising commemorations, Paisley and so on.

    Finally, another reason to respect Heaney: while proudly Irish, where it mattered – that is in the poets and writers who he read and valued – his world was the world of writing in English, from wherever it came. His influences were largely British, for what that label is worth (which in poetic terms is very little) – but he was great precisely because he did not restrict himself to a purely domestic poetic vision. It seems for him, he cared only about the words. To think politically is a kind of death for a poet. I think he did avoid taking on the Troubles head on; but I also think in a sense he had to avoid it.

  • Rory Carr

    There are of course arguments against an artist involving his work in the political dramas of his day. They do however tend to be advanced by those who favour that side of divide which is opposite to the artist’s likely inclination. Which partisanship is why we, in the West, are unlikely to have heard any criticism in this light of the works of Orwell or Solzhenytsin or lesser literary craftsmen like Frederick Forsythe, Tom Clancy or the thousand and one thriller writers advancing US imperialist propaganda for the titillation of the masses. In poetry, Alfred, Lord Tennyson found that the odd outburst of jingoism did him no harm whatsoever, though his compatriot and peer, Alfred, Lord Noyes was shunned (and erased from the Oxford Book of Poetry) after speaking (and writing) in defense of Roger Casement.
    We should however find ourselves fortunate that some artists insisted that their work speak passionately against the political atrocities of their time:



  • Mc Slaggart

    A TUV spokesman declined to comment.


    Sailing to Byzantium
    That is no country for old men. The young
    In one another’s arms, birds in the trees
    – Those dying generations – at their song,
    The salmon‐falls, the mackerel‐crowded seas,
    Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
    Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
    Caught in that sensual music all neglect
    Monuments of unageing intellect.

    An aged man is but a paltry thing,
    A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
    Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
    For every tatter in its mortal dress,
    Nor is there singing school but studying
    Monuments of its own magnificence;
    And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
    To the holy city of Byzantium.

    O sages standing in God’s holy fire
    As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
    Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
    And be the singing‐masters of my soul.
    Consume my heart away; sick with desire
    And fastened to a dying animal
    It knows not what it is; and gather me
    Into the artifice of eternity.

    Once out of nature I shall never take
    My bodily form from any natural thing,
    But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
    Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
    To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
    Or set upon a golden bough to sing
    To lords and ladies of Byzantium
    Of what is past, or passing, or to come.


  • Its odd that Heaney has attracted so much comment. A lot of it from people who have not actually read much poetry.
    Poetry is about words…loud words and soft words.
    And Heaney did “soft” words and was more effective for that.
    The Irish thing hangs over him. It is accepted.
    Less acceptable is the fact that he was an Irish “nationalist” . for some thats unforgivable….more so because he wasnt a loud nationalist.
    The soft nationalism…particuarly that of the 1950s 1060s resonates with many.
    Yet that very softness makes him more effective for nationalists here.
    He didnt “roar” nationalism…thats best reserved for doggerel like the Boys of the Old Brigade…unionists can handle that.
    They have more difficult with soft yet dignified assertions.
    That…. “Be Advised my passports green” is the one single thing that EVERYONE (poetry lover and otherwise) DOES know.
    but it seems a bit rough that his role is judged on little more than a simple statement of fact.
    Would his poetry have been different had his passport been black?
    And yet that wold have alienated as many.
    Sadly the fact is …that nationalists are allowed to be nationalists….as long as they dont say that they are.
    Norn Iron thrives on ambiguity.
    Heaney broke that convention…and a case where the softer word was better than the loud word.

  • Alias

    He wasn’t a nationalist. A nationalist is an advocate for national rights, e.g. the right of a nation to self-determination within a nation state. That is an indispensable part of the definition.

    Heaney was of the class that Hume referred to as being post-nationalist, i.e. those who belonged to a national group which did not reside within a sovereign nation state dedicated to their nation and which did not seek that essential condition of nationalism but rather sought equal rights and ‘parity of esteem’ within the United Kingdom.

    If you doubt that he favoured equal rights over national rights, read his Nobel Prize acceptance speech.

    And, incidentally, his passport wasn’t green: it was burgundy-coloured as an EU citizen (and the same colour as a UK passport). 😉

  • Mick Fealty

    IN 1983, when he wrote “An Open Letter” his passport was most assuredly green, alias.

    I’m not sure exactly when the burgundy EC affair first came in but I think it was a year or two after that.

    In any case, all passports in the EU are issued by the state, not the EU. So, strictly speaking, they are not EU citizens. 🙂

    And whilst we are at it, let’s not reduce each other to a cliche… Here’s David McNarry’s statement at the time…

    “I loved Seamus Heaney’s work and I particularly enjoyed The Peninsula in 1969 and Field Work in 1979. I was deeply sorry to hear the news of the passing of this truly great poet and literary figure. In a sense, his voice will never really be silent as he has left us such a powerful body of work but nonetheless I, like so many others, will miss him and I will mourn his passing.”

    “I want to express my sincere regrets to his family and to let them know how much people valued his voice, his sincerity and Seamus Heaney the man and the poet.”

  • Mick Fealty


    Politicians and political hacks will always seek to colonise great writers like Orwell. But Orwell himself is a sound witness to such colonising processes.

    He starts his essay on English by citing five examples of crap writing, on which he then comments:

    Each of these passages has faults of its own, but, quite apart from avoidable ugliness, two qualities are common to all of them. The first is staleness of imagery; the other is lack of precision. The writer either has a meaning and cannot express it, or he inadvertently says something else, or he is almost indifferent as to whether his words mean anything or not.

    This mixture of vagueness and sheer incompetence is the most marked characteristic of modern English prose, and especially of any kind of political writing. As soon as certain topics are raised, the concrete melts into the abstract and no one seems able to think of turns of speech that are not hackneyed: prose consists less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated hen-house.

    That embarrassing account of the party hack crudely trying to colonise the poet’s work is instructive. Danny was not ‘on the other side’ from Seamus, otherwise the approach would not have been made.

    The poet’s answer was 15 years in the making, and was both devastating and unequivocal. Politics and poetry are up to different games. The poet revealing truth, the politician too often concealing it…

    Orwell, again…

    In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties.

    Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness.

    Defenceless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers.

    People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements.

    Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them. Consider for instance some comfortable English professor defending Russian totalitarianism.

    He cannot say outright, ‘I believe in killing off your opponents when you can get good results by doing so’. Probably, therefore, he will say something like this:

    ‘While freely conceding that the Soviet regime exhibits certain features which the humanitarian may be inclined to deplore, we must, I think, agree that a certain curtailment of the right to political opposition is an unavoidable concomitant of transitional periods, and that the rigors which the Russian people have been called upon to undergo have been amply justified in the sphere of concrete achievement.’

    The inflated style itself is a kind of euphemism. A mass of Latin words falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outline and covering up all the details. The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one’s real and one’s declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink. In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics’. All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia. When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer. [Emphasis added]

    To answer Jenny’s question my own way, it is not the poet’s business to be political but to tell the raw and unvarnished truth.

    And if necessary, be damned for it.

  • Delphin

    Norn Iron thrives on ambiguity; what ever you say, say nothing.
    But unionism thrives on confrontation and fear. As you say fjh many unionists can’t handle the softly spoken truth.

    I returned to a long strand,
    the hammered curve of a bay,   
    and found only the secular
    powers of the Atlantic thundering.

    I faced the unmagical
    invitations of Iceland,
    the pathetic colonies
    of Greenland, and suddenly

    those fabulous raiders,
    those lying in Orkney and Dublin   
    measured against
    their long swords rusting,

    those in the solid
    belly of stone ships,
    those hacked and glinting
    in the gravel of thawed streams

    were ocean-deafened voices
    warning me, lifted again
    in violence and epiphany.
    The longship’s swimming tongue

    was buoyant with hindsight—
    it said Thor’s hammer swung
    to geography and trade,
    thick-witted couplings and revenges,

    the hatreds and behind-backs
    of the althing, lies and women,   
    exhaustions nominated peace,   
    memory incubating the spilled blood.

    It said, ‘Lie down
    in the word-hoard, burrow   
    the coil and gleam
    of your furrowed brain.

    Compose in darkness.   
    Expect aurora borealis   
    in the long foray
    but no cascade of light.

    Keep your eye clear
    as the bleb of the icicle,
    trust the feel of what nubbed treasure   
    your hands have known.’

  • Mick Fealty

    Except that Jenny McC is, ahem, a unionist. Knock yerselves boys… I’m off fer me tae…

  • Alias

    “So, strictly speaking, they are not EU citizens.”

    After the Maastricht Treaty, EU citizenship became an essential condition of national citizenship. You can’t become a British or Irish citizen without also becoming an EU citizen. Unlike British or Irish citizenship, you can’t renounce it. But the EU dictated colour of passports is neither here nor there.

    You don’t become an Irish nationalist by pointing to the colour of your passport – that just works for a categorisation process – so pointing to Heaney pointing to the colour of his passport does not prove the premise. It can be easily refuted by pointing out that many unionists also hold Irish passports.

    On the other hand, pointing out where Heaney promote did the right of the Irish nation in NI to national self-determination would support the premise that he was an Irish nationalist.

    Being Irish is not the same condition as being an Irish nationalist. The separation between national identity and national rights is required by the British state wherein four non-sovereign nations – Irish, English, Welsh, and Scottish – are to share a common sovereign nationality of British. In that expedient, it is acceptable for the four nations to celebrate their national identity but only if that doesn’t lead to a demand for the restoration of their foresaken national rights.

    In that regard Heaney was always a politically safe poet for the British establishment given that he focused on internal reforms within the British constitution to ameliorate the condition of the Irish within the sovereign British state – a process that the British state itself had been involved in since the first collapse of Stormont – rather than focused on the core elements of nationalism such as the right to a sovereign nation state, self-determination, etc..

    There is no shame in being post-nationalist since the integrity of the UK depends on it but it is itself a political act to pretend that such post-nationalists are actually nationalists and to seek to neutralise the promotion of Irish nationalism, as it exists in opposition to the ambition of the British state, by that pretence.

    In reality most of the Irish in NI supported British sovereignty from its foundation – merely becoming confused when the reality of being a non-sovereign nation didn’t pan out as expected.

  • Kevsterino

    Alias, so a person cannot be a nationalist unless a nation-state has already been achieved/instituted?

  • Mick Fealty

    That’s the gist. Alias has the term so tightly bound to the notion of the nation state as legally constituted, no one else can use it, in his view.

    Care to tell him why he’s wrong?

  • Mc Slaggart


    “He wasn’t a nationalist. A nationalist is an advocate for national rights, e.g. the right of a nation to self-determination within a nation state. That is an indispensable part of the definition.”

    The man lived a life and during it he may have been many things. A man is judged by his deeds, not by his words. (I think a Russian Proverb). In his deeds he was Irish. His work was often so very local and personal it ended up being universal.

    In Memoriam M.K.H., 1911-1984
    When all the others were away at Mass
    I was all hers as we peeled potatoes.
    They broke the silence, let fall one by one
    Like solder weeping off the soldering iron:
    Cold comforts set between us, things to share
    Gleaming in a bucket of clean water.
    And again let fall. Little pleasant splashes
    From each other’s work would bring us to our senses.
    So while the parish priest at her bedside
    Went hammer and tongs at the prayers for the dying
    And some were responding and some crying
    I remembered her head bent towards my head,
    Her breath in mine, our fluent dipping knives–
    Never closer the whole rest of our lives.

  • Isn’t the “job” of a poet to write for him or herself what is in their mind, and we are just lucky that many share their thoughts with us.

  • Tir Chonaill Gael

    The way ‘alias’ continues to embarrass himself on this topic is quite something to behold.

  • Kevsterino

    @Mick, what would be the point of telling him why it is wrong? For him, obviously, it is right and I’m not here to change his mind or anybody else’s. It is for him to discover that when he uses words in such an individualistic fashion, his chances of being understood dwindle in proportion.

    @McSlaggart, nail, meet hammer with “His work was often so very local and personal it ended up being universal.” That’s how I see Heaney. Mister Joe also makes the point of the power of the personal. Heaney leaves so much of himself behind, I rank him with Frost (that’s my favorite).

  • Mick Fealty

    Kev, it would be worthwhile for the rest of us though…

  • Delphin

    Alias raises pedantry to an art form, I think it’s rather fine. Calling Seamus Heaney a technician is a stroke of genius.(slugger 30/08/2013@21:25)
    I like Robert Frost too, and that other American, TS Eliot. although he became a Brit. Nationality in my mind is not that important, good art transcends jingoism.

  • Kevsterino

    Mick, as Winston Smith said in 1984, “Tis a wonderful thing, the destruction of words”. Of course, “Newspeak” has had many examples since Orwell gave us that gem. The intentional misuse of words so as to avoid the truth has hazards that should be self-evident. But in an online forum, such as this, once such a misuse is exposed, there is no place else to go with it. I think that what he is aiming for anyway, just end the discussion because nationalism isn’t nationalism. Pity.

    Delphin, Alias’ sense of the word would be ‘anti-pedantry’, insisting upon misuse of a word. ;o)

  • Alias

    “Alias, so a person cannot be a nationalist unless a nation-state has already been achieved/instituted?”

    Where did you get that bizarre notion from? Too much sweet sherry?

    With an entity such as the UK where its four constituent nations are non-sovereign nations all four nations must agree to forsake their national rights as members of those nations in order for the entity to function. In return, they are sovereign under the nationality of British. There is no Northern Irish, Welsh, English or Scottish passport as neither of those regions of the UK are sovereign states.

    Should any of those four constituent nations assert a claim to national rights – as the right to a sovereign nation state, self-determination, etc – then the UK would be threatened by that claim since, as it exists in opposition to the UK, it can only be attained by those nations at the direct expense of the UK’s territorial integrity.

    It is therefore in the national interest of the UK that the nationalism of its four constituent nations is supressed. This doesn’t mean that the nations must be supressed. Indeed, the opposite must occur for the four constituent nations to agree to continue to forego their respective national rights.

    A nationalist is someone who asserts a claim to a set of national rights. The only nationalists in the UK who have obtained a set of national rights are the British nationalists – all nationalists from the four non-sovereign constituent nations are still asserting their respective claims. Those latter non-British nationalists are the minority within the UK.

    The four constituent nations which do not assert a claim to a sovereign nation state and a right to national self-determination are, of course, not nationalists: – they are simply nations who have been depoliticised by the UK in order for the UK to maintain its constitutional integrity. It is also true that may not wish to assert national rights irrespective of such influence (which is quite extensive), such as is the case among the Catholic tribe in Northern Ireland. They voted for a Home Rule solution under John Redmond and for another Home Rule solution in 1998. They may make a strong claim for parity of esteem within the UK via a political process but they most definately depoliticised as a national group.

  • Alias

    To put it in a nutshell:

    A claim to self-determination is inseparable from a claim to a sovereign state which is in turn inseparable from a claim to a territorial mass.

    The problem for the UK is that the ‘territorial mass’ can only come from its land bank.

  • Kevsterino

    Equivocation is not made reality by repeating it, Alias.

  • Mc Slaggart


    How is “Northern Ireland” a nation? Any definition of “nation” that I have come across use the word “common” in its description.

    The people of “Northern Ireland are so divided that the we have 2 first ministers. They have a choice of nationality or even better that the people of the region are unique in the world that they can use 2 passports simultaneously to enter a foreign country.

  • gendjinn

    That’s the gist. Alias has the term so tightly bound to the notion of the nation state as legally constituted, no one else can use it, in his view.

    Care to tell him why he’s wrong?

    Alias claims (in comments on slugger) that Bill Clinton is a Republican and George W. Bush is a Democrat. The lad truly lives lalaland.