Despite the Haass setback we are not the prisoners of the past but masters of our own fate

The issues of the Haass process are only the tip of the iceberg. Indeed it might be said that the talks were unlikely to succeed without rigorous challenge and examination of the beliefs and assumptions the parties brought to the table.  Behind the tortuous details of flags, parades and the past are the competing narratives which need to be challenged and explored before we can reach the point of agreement of how to live with them.  Beyond the groves of academe and the broadsheet press this process has barely begun.

The great incentive is the message is that we are not the helpless prisoners of our own fate. We can change it. There’s no point in pinning all the blame on politicians. “The fault dear Brutus lies not in the stars but in ourselves.” We must surely liberate ourselves from the bonds of the past by looking to an obviously more hopeful future.  But equally obviously the past cannot be airbrushed out.

One useful step would be to adopt a structured exploration of the past before reaching the point of solutions. This is where the approach of the Arkiv group of historians and others could make a contribution, regardless of what happens to the Haass process.. Historians and other experts can explain how the history, memory and the power of ideas affect actions and are not imply rooted in human nature.  We need to dig out those ideas and assumptions – loathed and cherished – and take a long hard look at them.

There is no better time than the present as the decade of commemoration hits 2014 and the moment a century ago is recalled when civil war in Ireland may have been averted only by the outbreak of a far greater conflict. The academics of different disciplines and outlooks would probably need their own mini-Hass process  to agree on an approach. There’ll be much to discuss over the year on Haass, hope and history. Here I want to concentrate on the approach of a great historian of the impact of nationalism.

Eric Hobsbawm died just over a year ago.  He remained a Marxist and indeed a CP member to the end, while admitting ruefully the full extent of defeat of the system.   While ideology gave a cutting edge to his analysis Hobsbawm also  transcended it. The following extracts from his book of essays On History were written 20 years ago when the breakup of Yugoslavia was in full spate. Today he would not be short of fresh cases. Our own set of competing nationalisms in our little patch of narrow ground straddles the era. A question for later: might we be reaching the point where the ground is becoming so narrow that nobody will soon be able to stand on it? In the meantime, let’s hear from Hobsbawm.

On History From chap 1 Inside and outside history

History is the raw material for nationalist or ethnic or fundamentalist ideologies as poppies are the raw material for heroin addiction.. I used to think that the profession of historian   unlike that say of nuclear physics could at least do no harm. Now I know it can. Our studies can turn into bomb factories like the workshops in which the IRA had learned to transform chemical fertilizer into an explosive. This date of affairs affects historians in two ways. We have a responsibility to historical facts in general and for criticising the politico-ideological abuse of history in particular.

Few of the ideologies of intolerance are based on simple lies or fictions.. The most usual ideological abuse of history is based on anachronism rather than lies..  Myths and invention are essential to the politics of identity .. They are historians’ concerns because the people who formulate such myths are educated people, school teachers, professors (not many I hope) journalists and radio and television producers. Make no mistake about it. History is not ancestral memory or collective tradition. It is what people learned from priests schoolteachers,( the compilers of articles and broadcasters). It is very important for historians to stand aside from the passions of identity politics – even if we feel them also.  After all we are human beings too. Now we have mythological or nationalist history being criticised from within…

About half a century after most of Ireland won its independence, Irish history both in the Republic and in the North is passing through a period of great brilliance because it has succeeded in liberating itself. This is still a matter which  has political implications and risks. The history that is written today breaks with the old tradition which stretches from the Fenians to the IRA still fighting in the name  of the old myths with guns and bombs. But the fact that a new generation has grown up  which can stand back from the passions of the great traumatic and formative moments of their countries’ history is a sign of hope for historians.

Professor Eric Hobsbawm accepts the Medlicott Medal at the Annual Dinner of the Historical Association in Cambridge, April 1999

The idea that nationalist convictions of the political kind are, as it were, inborn and instinctive—for instance the belief that what all Basques want is to secede from Spain and France and the creation of a sovereign territory that belongs exclusively to a Basque “nation”—has no historical basis. It cannot be derived from the feeling, which may well be wired into all social animals, that we all distinguish between an in-group to which we belong, and the others—between “us” and “them”. It has to be acquired. This is where the historians come in and those who teach history or use historical material in the mass media. For it is through the printed word and the image that ideas and ideologies are spread from the minorities among whom they arise to the mass of people, even though the most powerful medium for fixing them in their mind may be in combination with music—as in hymns and national anthems. And, in a world which, for the first time in history will be predominantly literate in a few more decades, the school, and especially the primary school, will be the main medium by or through which, as the Jesuits recognised during the Counter-Reformation, the basic ideas of most people will be acquired before they start looking at the internet.

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  • Mc Slaggart

    “There’s no point in pinning all the blame on politicians. ”

    In this case its just the unionist ones who are to blame.

    I find myself in the strange position of feeling sorry for them. They are of the Wilde school of politics “Those who try to lead the people can only do so by following the mob”

  • WindsorRocker

    McSlaggart,

    Until you know the detail you can’t blame anyone.
    Your response smacks of blaming “themmuns”.

  • Delphin

    Nationalism is a mater of belief not rationality. Just as the emergence of science did not change people’s faith in their god, the study of history will not stop those of faith being bigots.
    This not to say that challenging the creation myths of Orange and Green would not be a good idea, I just don’t think it will change much. There are none so blind that will not see.

  • Brian Walker

    good point delphin,

    “This not to say that challenging the creation myths of Orange and Green would not be a good idea, I just don’t think it will change much. There are none so blind that will not see.”

    But it gives those who want to do a deal some good arguments,

    Terrorism pure and simple? Or terrorism against a background of communal violence, military occupation and a discriminatory regime without a firm enough basis of consent?

    What for example might this discussion conclude?

  • Chris Donnelly

    Interesting, Brian.

    But part of the problem of relying on historians is that even they aren’t in the same place.

    Nationalist Ireland might be half a century into a process of self-examination, but the Unionist North has yet to really even begin that process.

    And, as another process collapses as a result of political unionism setting its face against the wind, it really isn’t divisions over the past that are at the core of our difficulties, but rather an inability to accept the need for a more equal present and future between our traditions as the very premise for a stable society.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Brian,
    Military “occupation”? Really?

  • streetlegal

    As anticipated the DUP talked it out and will continue to refuse to conclude any new agreements with Sinn Fein. This is the electoral card they have chosen to play in advance of the 2014 and 2015 elections. The lack of agreement will give the DUP a free hand to indulge in sectarian politics of the lowest kind.

    Of course Provisional Sinn Fein also now has its card to play. British Intelligence reports expect that the Stormont Executive will now become increasingly stagnant and unworkable through lack of cohesion. In such a worsening political scenario it is likely that English commissioner be required to take over public administration in Northern Ireland.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Chris,
    So can you point to the passages that unionists ought to have accepted? Or any passages at all? I know it’s tempting to pass judgment but we have nothing but hearsay so far to pass judgment on. But I’m getting from your post that you’ve decided it’s all unionists’ fault anyway.

  • BetsyGray

    Its not a case of who’s to blame…….and what spin will be played out….it seems to me that from the start… the instruction from the OFMDFM to sort this out was but only a shot in the dark to calm the nerves of the fleggers and scorn the dissies… and buy time till the next elections…(steady the boat if you will)……anything positive that came out of it, will be a starter point next time round…roll on Haass-2…with both government inputs…..with big sticks…….thus till then…Happy New Year…!…

  • cynic2

    “the Unionist North has yet to really even begin that process.”

    Still …its 20 yers ahead of Republicanism who haven’t even realised yet how many of ‘their’ community in de Nurth don’t accept the core element of their theology and how many in the south would run a mile from reunification…because of Republicanism not Unionism

  • cynic2

    So what is suggested is that , all along, for the process to succeed it was the Unionist who had to make the main concessions? Until we see the detail how do we know?

  • Comrade Stalin

    I would actually agree with McSlaggart.

    Sinn Féin published their proposals. I would disagree with much of it, but they’re there.

    The DUP did not publish any of their proposals. Is this because they did not have any, or is it because they do not want to be seen to be proposing compromises ?

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Before we blame unionists for “following the mob” we might reflect on the fact unionists are having to effectively negotiate with the IRA about how we deal with the damage wrought by the IRA’s “armed struggle”. We are having to talk to them because a number of people on the other side – would you call them a mob? – have taken an extreme position and voted former IRA leaders into office. So please, enough talk of the “loyalist mob” being the issue here.

    The loyalist mob has, to be fair, generally either voted for the non-violent parties, or more usually, declined to vote at all. If everyone had voted as responsibly, dare I say the negotiations – and civilised politics generally – would have had a better chance of success? Voting for extremist parties is the elephant in the room. But of course voters are beyond criticism …

    We kidded ourselves on in the noughties that the polarisation of the vote towards the DUP and SF was the best way to get stability. And maybe it was, for a time. But the issues facing us now about longer term legacy issues and community relations are not the stuff those guys can give leadership on. We need a resurgence of the progressive centre at this stage. I’d like to see the UUP, SDLP and Alliance prioritise finding a common way forward, owning the progressive territory and putting that to the electorate. If done with confidence, the electoral results might surprise people.

  • Mc Slaggart

    @Mainland Ulsterman

    Do you think that the troubles was all about the IRA? If that is the case why did the Unionists object to the possibility that ex security forces could be arrested?

    “the Guardian has been told that the Ulster Unionists objected to the new policing-the-past unit because ex members of the security forces could be arrested over incidents in the Troubles as well as loyalist and republican paramilitaries. ”
    http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/dec/24/northern-ireland-peace-process-talks-end-in-deadlock-after-seven-hours

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    McSlaggart,
    I think it was mainly about the IRA, yes.

  • Mc Slaggart

    Delphin

    “Nationalism is a mater of belief not rationality.”

    As a human we only have consensus reality. We do not agreed upon the nature of knowledge. For example I do not know of anyone who has only the one vision of “Nationalism” ie only Irish/British and nothing else.

  • Mc Slaggart

    Mainland Ulsterman

    “I think it was mainly about the IRA, yes.”

    Unionism brought the gun into the democratic process.

    Unionism ran the state of “Northern Ireland” in such a way it ended up putting its own citizens into prison without trial.

    Unionism created the modern IRA because of its inability to accept the reality of the situation in which it found itself.

  • Reader

    McSlaggart: If that is the case why did the Unionists object to the possibility that ex security forces could be arrested?
    Your evidence being a sloppily worded, sloppily reported leak to the Guardian by an unnamed source.
    I expect the parties will put out their own issues with the various drafts in due course. We can pick through the stated reasons and guess at the real reasons at that point.

  • Brian Walker

    Guys
    Speculation is natural but let’s wait to hear from the parties and read the document(s) before match commentating on the blame game eh?

  • 241934 john brennan

    The failure of the Haass talks is well illustrated by an Ian Knox cartoon in today’s Irish News. Megan and Richard boarding a plane –Megan asking, ‘Did we sell it?’ Richard replying, ‘Just get on the plane.’ In the background there are 3 cars parked alongside each other in the Long Stay car park, with the number plates FLAGS, PAST and PARADING.

    An excellent cartoon, but also parked in our local political Long Stay Park are 3 older but also treasured stationary cars marked, 1690, 1916 and 1998.

    If we had some decent political mechanics, the logical thing to do would be to first start work on the 1998 model, and get that up and running. So far, our politicians have spent 16 years tinkering with it, without ever actually road testing the original model.

    Meanwhile, we wait, and we wait, and we wait, and we go nowhere – except for the 50% of the electorate who occasionally go to the polls to vote either for or against a particular flag. So our well paid politicians have a vested interest in attracting votes, and keeping their salaries and perks, by simply waving sectarian flags, falsifying the past and promoting parades – all substitutes for bread and butter politics.
    So we mugs are all destined to remain stuck in the Long Stay Car Park – and pay through our noses for the privilege of doing so.

  • sean treacy

    Arkiv can make no credible contribution to dealing with the past.They are fatally compromised by the fact that some of their members belonged to”the biggest lie in the history of Irish politics” and therefore could not be let near anything resembling “truth recovery”.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Mainland Ulsterman :

    Balls.

    The remit of the talks was about flags, emblems and the past. The IRA are only relevant to one out of those three; and even then they’re only a part player (a major part nonetheless).

    There is absolutely no reason why significant progress could not be made on any of these three with a minimum of concessions to the unionist position. Don’t make excuses for the abject failure of political unionism.

  • http://www.selfhatinggentile.blogger.com tmitch57

    “Nationalist Ireland might be half a century into a process of self-examination, but the Unionist North has yet to really even begin that process.”

    @Chris Donnelly,

    The reexamination of the historical record and collective myths is mainly taking place in the hinterlands of the two sides: the Republic for the nationalists and in Britain for the unionists. But even then I wouldn’t be too congratulatory, Tim Pat Coogan seems fairly stuck in the old tradition even if he champions Michael Collins over De Valera. They are assisted by some in the North as well such as Brian or Henry Patterson. It took Germany until the 1960s before it could deal critically with World War I. They had to wait until the issue had cooled down and ceased to be the material of everyday politics. Wait until all the main figures of The Troubles have retired from the political stage before expecting a more realistic history. Trimble, Paisley, and Faulkner have all gone but Robinson remains on the unionist side. On the nationalist side the main SDLP figures have gone but the Shinner establishment remains in place.

  • tacapall

    “The loyalist mob has, to be fair, generally either voted for the non-violent parties, or more usually, declined to vote at all. If everyone had voted as responsibly, dare I say the negotiations – and civilised politics generally – would have had a better chance of success”

    Its not surprising MU you conviently turned a blind eye to the fact that the a large section of the unionist community voted for the most sectarian party in Ireland, neither did they care that the DUP has over the years jumped in and out of bed with loyalist terrorists including advising them not to call a ceasefire when they were murdering innocent catholics. You also conviently forget it was the DUP who formed the terrorist group the Third force who along with the UDA and UVF imported hundreds of weapons into this country that were later used to murder innocent citizens of this state.

    Wee Jamie the UVF skiprat was able to tweet that there would be no agreement hours before the final session even started. He was obviously well informed.

  • SK

    MU,

    “we have nothing but hearsay so far to pass judgment on. But I’m getting from your post that you’ve decided it’s all unionists’ fault anyway.”

    Meanwhile, on another thread:

    ““SF is the main barrier to progress here ”

    So is it “let’s not apportion blame”, or is it “let’s blame the shinners”? I’m getting dizzy watching the goalposts move here.

    “I think it was mainly about the IRA, yes”

    Right. So the promised land of a “shared future” is apparently predicated upon nationalists essentially going cap in hand to the Prods and apologising for starting all the trouble.

    You illustrate nicely the fact that it isn’t the gulf between nationalists and unionists that needs to be bridged; rather, it’s the gulf between unionists and reality

  • sectarianheadcount

    2014: the 94th year of the failed political entity that is Northern Ireland. Happy New Year folks.

  • ayeYerMa

    SK, that sounds about right. It is truly and utterly vile that the latest major IRA campaign / violent nationalist uprising has become known as “The Troubles”. It’s time that more Unionists started boycotting that phrase entirely.

  • David Crookes

    “Wee Jamie the UVF skiprat was able to tweet that there would be no agreement hours before the final session even started. He was obviously well informed.”

    If you’re right, tacapall, things are pretty sinister.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    CS,
    I was responding to the specific question from McSlaggart, “Do you think that the troubles was all about the IRA”. In saying it was mainly about the IRA I was answering that question and also referring to that strand of the Haass talks.

    I wasn’t suggesting there are no issues around flags and parades or that quite so much of the work falls to Republicans on those issues (though they do have quite a lot of work to do, having marched their troops to the top of the hill on a false premise over parades in particular – that somehow taking offence is of equal value with toleration – when really, the former is to be minimised and the latter maximised, in any pluralist society.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    SK,
    “SF is the main barrier to progress here”
    Are you seriously denying that? Of course Shinners – meaning the Republican Movement as a whole – takes most of the blame for us being where we are, as a society traumatised by violence and struggling with its legacy, because it was mainly Republican violence and it was largely their decision to launch a terror campaign against the people. Whatever the inequities of the period of devolved government, they did not justify the loss of one life, let alone thousands. And all in the name of a united Ireland they now admit can only happen by the freely given consent of the NI electorate. So yes, it keeps coming back to those clowns. That’s not to say other parties didn’t do awful things too, including state forces. I support the Haass approach of generally focussing on illegality whatever, the source and of course Loyalism has a lot to answer for. Illegal actions by state forces are also very serious. So I’m not glossing over those. I emphasise Republican issues here as it seems so many others posting treat them as players on a similar level to the security forces, which as has been established, wasn’t the case.

    More specifically in my post, I was referring to dealing with the past – and I wasn’t just talking about this particular Haass process. Republican omertà and, when they do testify, unreliable testimony (Bloody Sunday Inquiry, Smithwick etc) is patently the biggest barrier to (1) getting the full facts on the Troubles, which remember consisted mainly of Republican activity; and (2) helping people come to terms with what happened.

    Without them, any baring of the soul will give a uselessly one-sided picture. Republicans show every sign of seeking to make the security forces jump off the cliff first on full truth recovery, then stay standing on the cliff top themselves smiling and waving. This should on no account be allowed to happen. They took the lead in the Troubles and now they need to take the lead in telling the truth about it. If they take part genuinely and fully, this can also be done by the other actors, particularly the Loyalist paramilitaries who were the second most lethal protagonists. But nothing is going to happen without a sea change in attitudes to the past from the Republican Movement, from adolescent denial and blame to grown-up truth and taking responsibility.

    “So the promised land of a “shared future” is apparently predicated upon nationalists essentially going cap in hand to the Prods and apologising for starting all the trouble.”
    It’s not about *starting* all the trouble – you can argue the toss over the initial breakdown of 1969 – it’s about carrying most of it out after the IRA Army Council decision in January 1970. And it’s not all nationalists, just Republicans and those who supported what they did. And they need to go cap in hand not just to Prods but to all the people who opposed them and to everyone who suffered because of their stupid terror campaign, many of the bravest of whom were Catholics. I fully support Loyalists doing the same and indeed all other people responsible for illegal violence doing the same. But obviously the Republicans are the big one here, not just because of their coming up with the brilliant idea of shooting and bombing their way to a united Ireland but because their political representatives occupy important places today and so have a double effect – the very presence of former terrorist leaders in post-Troubles politics poisons community relations in a way other parties simply do not, no matter how annoying some of those other parties may be to each other. SF always were a case apart and until they sever ties with the IRA campaigns entirely, most of us will continue to treat them as such.

  • Mc Slaggart

    Mainland Ulsterman

    “mainly about the IRA”

    What I find shocking is that you think that is true.

    On the issue of parades and flags Republicans are culturally predisposed to support them and its the mild mannered nationalists who have had enough of bands and the OO.

    Your “taking offence is of equal value with toleration” has made me angry. Do you recall the unionists complaints of Republicans marching in Castlederg. Loyalist bands march in the town virtually every week over the summer.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    tacapall,
    I’m obviously not a DUP supporter but you can’t equate the DUP with SF on violence – really, that’s a bit beneath the level of debate on here.

    And while there are sectarian people who vote DUP, for all its ills I’d save “the most sectarian party in Ireland” for the one with the murderous “Brits Out” campaign, “legitimate targets”, Ireland for the Irish, “false consciousness” etc. I think that one’s been put to bed. It’s important to apply the same standards to all parties, regardless of their political stripe.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    McSlaggart

    “What I find shocking is that you think that is true.”
    If you look outside the Republican community, you’ll find most people think it is true, because it is true. Look at the facts on CAIN, where the stats on who did what in the Troubles are gathered. This isn’t a matter for debate or opinion – it’s a factual statement and the facts are there for all to see. I should add, if you lived in NI at the time you’ll have kind of noticed it too.

    Why are so angered by the statement that tolerance should be given more weight than taking offence? It’s not to say it’s always wrong to take offence – and I gave the example of a band beating its drum louder outside a chapel as an example of something I think it’s reasonable to be offended by. But you can’t just decide you are offended by something and therefore it must stop. There has to be a test. And I’m saying for a tolerant, pluralist society, the bar should be as high as possible. Good community relations are more likely to come from developing our tolerance of things we don’t like than developing ever more sensitive levels of distaste.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    … and on the Castlederg situation, I think it is more than reasonable to be offended by terrorist organisations marching and such marches should be banned. I know in Latvia they let Waffen SS veterans march, but I don’t think it’s an example to follow. The Haass document was clear these kind of organisations should not be part of public marches. I’m assuming all parties agreed with that bit, it’s a no-brainer really, but we shall see …

  • Mc Slaggart

    Mainland Ulsterman

    ” reasonable to be offended by terrorist organisations marching”

    Now sf get around 50% of the votes in west Tyrone?

    If your objection is that they are proud to be associated with the IRA and thus should not be allowed to march then the same should apply to Unionist/Orange/Band parades.

  • tacapall

    “I’m obviously not a DUP supporter but you can’t equate the DUP with SF on violence – really, that’s a bit beneath the level of debate on here”

    MU you certainly wear blinkers when it comes to remembering all the actors in the past conflict I can understand someone from your background brushing under the carpet what you would define minor transgressions of your own tribe but those on the recieving end see otherwise. Those who roll the snowballs for others to throw are no different than those who pull the strings of those who pull the trigger and advising terrorists not to call a ceasefire when they were murdering innocent victims on a daily basis can be construed as supporting the actions of loyalist paramilitaries. You also brush under the carpet the DUPs role in the formation of a private army that were complicit in bringing hundreds of weapons into this country that were used to murder innocent citizens. Im sure its beneath you to admit that there were actually Catholic and nationalist victims or that people born on the island of Ireland are Irish but please dont pretend that you look at the past with an unbaised opinion.

  • Mc Slaggart

    @ Mainland Ulsterman

    The UDA alone at its peak had forty thousand members (1).

    If the Protestant population of northern Ireland at the time was say 800 000 that would give you a ratio of 800 000/40 000

    800/40

    80/4

    20:1

    That would mean that every 5th Protestant at the time was in the UDA.
    1:

    http://www.theguardian.com/theobserver/2003/oct/05/features.magazine7

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    McSlaggart,
    “If your objection is that they are proud to be associated with the IRA and thus should not be allowed to march then the same should apply to Unionist/Orange/Band parades.”
    You mean surely the same should apply to UVF or UFF parades – if so, yes the same should apply, they are all a disgrace. The IRA are not the equivalent of the Orange Order though, clearly.

    On UDA membership, I’m no expert but as far as I know, yes it was huge initially – reflecting its origins in local neighbourhood groups set up to ‘protect’ Protestant areas amidst the breakdown of security in many parts of Greater Belfast. However, the mass membership was one thing, UFF membership quite another, which was much smaller. Mass active UDA membership fell away quite sharply (through inactivity)after the first few years. See Steve Bruce’s the Red Hand on that. But I think that early mass membership was part of why the UDA remained unproscribed for so long (which was a mistake).

  • tacapall

    MU strangely enough you have no problems making no distinction between the PIRA and Sinn Fein yet you somehow see a difference between a UDA member and a UFF member even though everyone it seems except you knows one was a cover name for the other.

  • Mc Slaggart

    Mainland Ulsterman

    “The IRA are not the equivalent of the Orange Order though, clearly.”

    SF is.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    SF and the IRA are part of the same organisation though of course. The OO for all its many ills has never had a terrorist wing, let alone one that killed thousands.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    On the UFF thing, the set of people active in UFF action is a small subset of the set of people in the UDA – that was my only point. So yes in many ways I agree the UDA is a kind of Sinn Fein equivalent (mass membership, unconvincingly distance themselves from actual crimes while simultaneously supporting them) and the UFF the equivalent of the IRA. But of course they are not mirror images; and the UDA despite McMichael’s occasional efforts were never really as much of a political party as SF. But then again SF have more in common with the UDA in many ways than with a normal political party. Hey ho.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Tacapall,
    “Those who roll the snowballs for others to throw are no different than those who pull the strings of (sic?) those who pull the trigger.”
    Is this a way of saying we were all guilty for being there? Or people who were angry with the terrorists but took part in no revenge are just the same as the terrorists? That’s surely not what you mean, that would make no sense at all.

    “Im sure its beneath you to admit that there were actually Catholic and nationalist victims or that people born on the island of Ireland are Irish but please dont pretend that you look at the past with an unbaised opinion.”
    Let’s unpack that:
    (1) at no point have I suggested there were not a large number of Catholic and nationalist victims
    (2) No, people born on the island of Ireland are not necessarily Irish – they can be if they so choose, or equally they can choose to be British. That right is enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement.
    (3) I don’t pretend to be unbiased. We are all the products of our genes and our individual environments and upbringings. I use the moniker I do on here partly to make it clear upfront I come from a unionist perspective and I make no bones about that. But I am also very serious about seeking to be objective in my analysis of the Troubles. I’m seeking the best explanation for what happened and I don’t think if I assumed (as some do) a ‘half-way between the extremes must be about right’ stance that would get me any closer to the truth.

    Sometimes one side does have a stronger case and stronger arguments – not a monopoly on suffering, or exclusive possession of the moral high ground, but nonetheless something more logical, fair, principled and consistent. I do think if you try to be rigorously fair, you end up with something very close to the moderate unionist position on N Ireland. If I thought it were otherwise I would have no hesitation in arguing so.

    You have to face up to the fact that people take issue with Republican analysis not because they are unionists necessarily but because Republican analysis is so thin, self-contradictory and flawed – and it is put forward by people unwilling to engage with the full picture of the Troubles, as the response to my attempts to get the Sutton Index of Deaths more to the forefront of debate shows.

    But yes, part of what I seek to do in this forum is to redress the balance of debate, to bring more critical focus onto Republicanism. But bear in mind if I were on a unionist forum I might be highlighting other points – and when I’m with unionist friends I tend to be on the getalongerist side of the argument. I come at Republicanism not from a conservative or right wing perspective but as someone who supports socially progressive politics and sits broadly on the left. And that leads me to be even harder on it than some others might be.

  • tacapall

    ““Those who roll the snowballs for others to throw are no different than those who pull the strings of (sic?) those who pull the trigger.”

    Being a pacifist thats my way of explaining the difference in my eyes between the DUP and Sinn Fein. No-one can deny the DUP have numerous times rolled the snowballs for loyalist paramilitaries to throw then claimed ignorance when they hit the target. Sinn Fein on the other hand have people that pulled the strings of those who pulled the triggers both actions led to loss of life but somehow along the way people like yourself came along and decided that one action was morally inferior to the other. Not in my eyes.

    “(2) No, people born on the island of Ireland are not necessarily Irish – they can be if they so choose, or equally they can choose to be British. That right is enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement”

    All children born in Ireland are Irish only those born in the six British controlled counties can opt to be British.

    I make no apologies for being a republican, I care nothing about religion as Im an atheist. I have no problem with the English, Scottish or Welsh people but I do have a problem with the idea of privileged birth, I object to the idea of a monarchy, that in a modern world there is still a place for princes and princessess, lords and ladies, barons and baronesses thats hans christian andersen stuff to me as ridiculous as the idea of the immaculate conception, nothing but parasites wanting a head start in life that their not entitled to. We are all born equal and if we are not all born equal then I want no part of your system of democracy for it leads nowhere but injustice, tyranny and inequality.

    The Irish people have no problems with Britain its the monarchy thats the problem, Ireland belongs to the Irish people not the Queen of England and we are quite capable of conducting our own affairs without inteference from Westminister. We only demand the right to choose our own destiny and if that destiny is some sort of link or union with Britain then so be it but there is no room for a monarchy in Ireland.

  • Mc Slaggart

    Mainland Ulsterman

    “The OO for all its many ills has never had a terrorist wing”

    Can i check the records of its meeting to see if this is true or not?

    With them allowing members who they knew to be in organisation such as the UDA they had more “terrorists” in their ranks than sf.

  • Mc Slaggart

    Mainland Ulsterman

    I think you are hung up on the effectiveness of the IRA.

    Now Unionism long ago set the principle “ULSTER WILL FIGHT”.

  • Submariner

    The OO for all its many ills has never had a terrorist wing, let alone one that killed thousands.

    The OO may not have an actual terrorist wing but it had and does have loyalist terrorists within its ranks including leading members of the UVF and UDA as well as members of the Shankill Butchers. It refuses to expel them and continues to hire bands with paramilitary links. You are burying your head in the sand again MU

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Submariner,
    I have seen bands with paramilitary links at Orange parades and it is a disgrace. I think that’s something there will be clear resolution about if and when the Haass talks ever produce anything on parades. I can only imagine how it must feel as a Catholic having to watch that.

    The OO (again just to point out, I am no fan) has had terrorists in its ranks but I think its attitude towards these people when this has been revealed has been very consistently to condemn and expel them. Correct me if I’m wrong on that.

    Its main links with Loyalist terror are that both groups are pro-Union and represent parts of the same community. But they are about as linked as the Catholic Church and the IRA. Yes almost IRA member has been Catholic, some priests have been terrorists and the Church may even have given succour to some terrorists, but it doesn’t mean the Catholic Church has a paramilitary wing or is somehow on a par with the IRA or UVF.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    sorry, “almost every IRA member” is what I meant

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Tacapall,
    Well, we have little to argue about as I’m a republican too – but a British republican. I want to see the end of the royal family and private schools and I see the Conservative Party as the fons et origo of a lot of what’s wrong with my country. But my country is the UK.

    “All children born in Ireland are Irish” – well only in a geographical sense, not in terms of country. In terms of national allegiance, they are not ‘born’ anything – they grow into people who are able to choose their own national identity and many of them will choose not to be Irish in that sense but British. This is the most basic of human rights – to be who you want to be and be accepted for that. This is where Irish Republicanism’s claims to be progressive and liberating are shown to be false – it is illiberal, domineering and oppressive.

  • tacapall

    MU your still trying to flog a dead horse – All children born in Ireland are Irish only those children born in the British controlled six counties can opt to be British children born in the 26 Irish controlled counties are Irish they do not have the option to be British.

    “This is the most basic of human rights – to be who you want to be and be accepted for that – This is where Irish Republicanism’s claims to be progressive and liberating are shown to be false”

    Are Scottish people Scottish or British – Do they even have a choice ?

    I and im sure the majority of Irish people couldn’t give two hoots if their fellow citizens wished to identify themselves as British, theres lots of different cultures living among us in Ireland and nobody except those with a British identity have a problem with it.