Warts and all: Dr. David McCann on Irish unity in the 21st Century

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Hey, this interview is meant to be listened to! I’ve written up some of the highlights below, but the meat of the conversation is in the audio, so load it up, go for a drive, and let me know what you think in the comments section! I’ll look into making mp3 files available in the future—especially if people are interested in Slugger creating a monthly podcast. —Barton 

Belfast at Dawn

 


Surprisingly, there isn’t a lot written about Irish unification. The Good Friday Agreement created a democratic framework within which Nationalist parties could advocate, persuade, and debate the case for Irish unity, yet the main Nationalist parties, North and South, have commissioned very little research on how unification would work or why people should vote for it. I met up with Dr. David McCann—a Nationalist, a member of Fianna Fáil, a fiscal conservative, and a PhD in cross-border Irish politics—to discuss the future direction of Irish Nationalism. By chatting with David, I hoped to push beyond the place where we’re at now: “an awful lot of aspiration, not a lot of detail.”

True to the conservative that he is, David is skeptical of the language of newness. He’s not interested in vague, optimistic visions of a “new Republic” or “new Ireland” or any other kind of panacea that promises to rid the island of all its ills. This is the language that Nationalism has been stuck in for the last fifteen years. Once a movement of ideas, he says, Nationalism has grown lethargic. It’s time for Nationalist parties to pull up seats around a common table and discuss what’s next in the movement for Irish unification.

David believes in a gradual integration of the Republic and Northern Ireland, “warts and all,” and builds his case for unity along economic, democratic, and cultural lines. He is critical of where Northern Ireland is today, firstly, because the public sector is bloated and the region too reliant on subsidies from the British government. Northern Ireland, he argues, remains stuck on the peripheral of an economy structured to benefit the South East of England. “Sure it’s a big economy, but if you’ve got no influence over it’s direction, no real investment in its prosperity, and if that economy isn’t geared toward delivering for your part of the world, then what’s the point? It’s a meaningless membership.” Secondly, Northern Irish MPs have very little influence in a Westminster government. Northern Ireland, he points out, currently has 18 of 650 MPs; but “if the North was part of an all-island situation, the North would make up a quarter to one-third of the Dáil.” Unification can help rebalance the economy and bring influence and accountability to local democracy. “We know what the problem is. A united Ireland will help us deal with it.”

I asked David to name three guiding principles on which Nationalism should structure its future direction. Attempting to find common ground among all parties, left and right, he suggested: raising of living standards; greater sense of hope, reward and opportunity; and self determination.

“People will hear the stories of the South being bankrupt. But overall in most every one of measurable living standards, the South is ahead of the North.” In terms of take-home pay, he notes that in some sectors, workers in the South make up to 60 percent more. “On our doorstep is an entrepreneurial economy” that can help the North rebalance. Unification “would give us the chance to finally, economically, get ourselves into shape.”

For more detail, listen to the podcast!

 

  • Comrade Stalin

    He is critical of where Northern Ireland is today, firstly, because the public sector is bloated and the region too reliant on subsidies from the British government

    A valid concern, but isn’t it also true of large parts of Ireland outside of the Dublin hinterlands ? The success story of the Irish economy is substantially based in or around Dublin’s event horizon.

  • Zeno1

    The problem for Nationalist and Republicans is that a United Ireland would be seen as a victory for the IRA. Around 20 of the top Sinn Fein local politicians are ex IRA and we can see how that is working out with the Unionists.
    The second problem is there is no evidence of any significant demand for a UI. Even at the height of the Celtic Tiger when the economy was in great shape there was no push from Nationalists. You have to ask yourself why? And one answer must surely be that they know the people don’t want it.

  • George

    Not to the same degree. For example, in 2011 the south-west region accounted for 36% of Irish industrial output while Dublin produced 19%. The Cork region also has the highest industrial wages in Ireland.

  • tmitch57

    I think that David has hit the nail on the head as far as the weakness of the nationalist case. The problem is that most nationalists are in favor of a united Ireland because it is a teleological goal lying at the end of their national(ist) narrative, which is, of course, not shared by unionists.

    When the abolitionist movement began in the United States in the 1830s it took a moralistic position on slavery. The abolitionist Liberty Party only received about two percent of the vote in the North in the 1840s. When the Free Soil Party was created in 1848 it switched from moralistic arguments to economic arguments, demonstrating how slavery hurt the economic development of the South and was a threat to the working class in the North. It received between five and ten percent of the vote. When the Republicans came along in the mid-1850s they continued this line of argument paired with traditional Whig economic arguments and did very well in their first national election and swept the North in their second presidential election in the North in 1860.

    If the nationalists want to convince unionists, they must first divorce their arguments for a united Ireland from their national narrative and then start with Alliance supporters who are the non-nationalist sector most susceptible to rational economic arguments. Of course, this will be a major problem because the nationalist parties in NI are the Irish parties most wedded to the traditional Irish national narrative. And Sinn Fein, because of its past (and present), is uniquely positioned as the least credible party to present economic arguments to unionists. So, if nationalists are really serious about an inclusive united Ireland they would have to develop rational economic arguments and find evidence supporting them, Then be ready to sacrifice much of their cultural agenda–such as mandatory Irish language instruction, and then sell it to Alliance supporters and let them serve as the missionaries to the unionists. The parties most likely to be able to accomplish this would be Fine Gael and the Irish Labour Party. They are also, however, the parties least interested in doing it.

  • Red Lion

    Is slugger becoming a vehicle for nationalist David McCann to forward his united Ireland project? Seems to be increasing posts about this on the back of not much happening in the news about the topic.
    Barton has done this post on nothing other than his own desire to push the detail of a united irelandforward – he says this himself here and perhaps this is consistent with him recently joining the SDLP and his own nationalist aspirations.
    For me, I always felt Slugger was more about intelligently reporting and teasing out the news. Barton and David McCann seem to be using it as a platform not to do this, but to push their own agenda.
    As there are more nationalists on here I feel this apparent agenda setting rather than news-discussing is only likely to risk Slugger becoming a more partisan nationalist-agenda site, rather than the fairer reporting and discussion site it has always been, and that would be a shame.

  • Micheàl O Teamhneàn

    I find it difficult to believe that you can object to anyone posting on “nothing other than his own desire to push the detail of a united irelandforward”.His post can undoubtably be viewed as a conduit for stirring a conversation between all readers of all persuasions and is surely a legitimate subject which warrants inclusion as much as any other (after all slugger is largely a forum for political/social discussion).The post illustrates an individual’s opinion just as your commentary in reply does red lion.

  • Nevin

    “I mean republicanism, nationalism were the people that championed more reform and achieved more reform of the Northern Ireland state in three years between ’68 and ’71 than Unionists previous all Unionist governments before had done in the previous fifty and that was because it was the ideology of ideas, the ideology of civil rights, the ideology of equality, fairness, how do we achieve it, how do we do this, and it was a real idea led movement.” .. David @ 14m30s in.

    I understood that the ideas derived mainly from an armchair and militant collective of socialists who were influenced by Desmond Greaves and who decided to initiate NICRA.

    At the 1967 Sinn Fein Ard Fheis, Tomas MacGiolla stated that it was the intention of Sinn Fein to launch a campaign of social agitation north and south, particularly in the area of housing.

    This changes drastically our traditional line of tactics. There are no longer two different types of republicans; physical force men and politicians. We in the Republican Movement must be politically aware of our objectives and must also be prepared to take the appropriate educational, economic, political and finally military action to achieve them .. Sean Garland, Bodenstown, June 1968 [link appears in link above]

    It was hardly surprising that this desire to remove both conservative establishments in Belfast and Dublin should meet with a negative reaction, that Dublin should do a runner, that Hume and the Catholic Church should be wary of NICRA or that hardline Unionists would pay special attention to Garland’s speech.

  • Zig70

    You are over thinking it again. You are Irish because your parents bestowed it on you. Not a lot of point in trying to hit a moving target except for the sake of hot air. The economic argument is a British construct and you wouldn’t get any Englishman saying they should join Germany because they are wealthy. Better to work creating an Ireland we are proud of and let the rest fall into place.

  • Zig70

    History will probably repeat itself with SF agitating but not bringing the majority with them because they are wed’ed to a Irish socialist political entity on a right wing island. Won’t take a lot more shoulder in the South to start the ball down hill.

  • Zeno1

    It’s a good point. But I think the economic argument is based in fact rather than an Englisth invention.

  • Turgon

    I do not wish to be unpleasant or play the man but I agree with Red Lion. This is a rather weak slugger post: Not because of its content. Barton Creeth is a good blogger as is David McCann: they are both assets to slugger. However, a slugger blogger interviewing a slugger blogger smacks of being excessively even ridiculously self referential. That they are both fairly pro nationalist (though more moderate, realistic and analytical than many) makes their interaction and the whole blog into an echo chamber.

    I know it is the slow news season but far better would have been David McCann outlining his own views without Barton interviewing him. The way this has been done does not help slugger’s credibility. Considering it is the silly season a light hearted fun blog would have been better than this. As it is this blog simply reinforces the perception that slugger is almost entirely nationalists talking to one another about nationalism. That has never been entirely fair as an analysis but recently slugger has become more nationalist dominated and this thread is in danger of reinforcing that prejudice.

    Sorry gentleman you may not like that but that is the way it looks. I would not interview a likeminded unionist blogger about his or her unionism: it just seems a bit pointless and silly.

  • Tacapall

    “I asked David to name three guiding principles on which Nationalism
    should structure its future direction. Attempting to find common ground
    among all parties, left and right, he suggested: raising of living
    standards; greater sense of hope, reward and opportunity; and self
    determination”

    Self determination, isn’t that the crux of the Irish problem and what we have been demanding, isn’t that what all those Irish people died for and isn’t that what the British have denied us for almost a thousand years and now some geezers called David McCann and Barton Creeth come along and tells us thats what we need – well Doh ! Cracker Jack pencil for both of ya.

  • Morpheus

    2 for 2. Between this and your extremely harsh comments about The Firemen’s blog last night I think you need reminding of the phrase “if you’ve nothing nice to say…”

  • Michael Henry

    I have no problem with anything you have wrote Zeno 1-but it should be left to the people of Ireland to decide-some might not like the outcome but some are opposed to democracy-

  • Turgon

    Slugger is a blog site which encourages debate. Now if we only said nice things about the blogs that would not be debate. If you actually mean what you have just posted you have misunderstood the nature of slugger.

    In reality of course you do not misunderstand at all: you just do not like what I have written. That is fine and indeed you have not been reticent yourself about attacking blogs and comments. That is just the way slugger and actually real life is.

  • I’m Trending on Twitter

    The Firemen are a spin off from LAD and shouldn’t be on this site.

  • Morpheus

    Yes Slugger encourages debate and you will see that this piece has more than double the views and quadruple the comments of your last effort already so he can’t be doing too much wrong.

    But you are right, I don’t like what you have written just as I didn’t like what you posted last night – I thought it was demeaning and disrespectful and few others would get away with it on here. Those people want to the trouble of compiling and submitting those pieces so in the interests of debate and in keeping with the spirit of Slugger the least you can do is challenge the content instead of taking extremely cheap shots at the authors.

  • Morpheus

    Yes of course they are sweetie

    You get to make those calls do you?

  • I’m Trending on Twitter

    Wise up

  • Morpheus

    Yet another awe inspiring contribution

  • Zeno1

    Hey Mick, looks like you nailed it. Neither the unionists nor the nationalists like this thread.
    THAT’S gotta be good. Well done.

  • Zeno1

    Define “democracy” for me? Do you mean majority rule?

  • Nevin

    “We know what the problem is. A united Ireland will help us deal with it.” .. David

    I thought the problem was a constitutional one between Unionists – who wished NI to remain part of the UK – and Nationalists – who wished NI to become part of a UI.

  • Annie AuldIrn

    I agree, Nevin. But the Unionists face an uphill battle. They may want NI to remain in the UK, but is the corollary true?

  • Tugger

    One in five in West Belfast on sickness benefits. They know what side their bread (British taxpayer-funded, of course) is buttered on.

  • mickfealty

    Any chance of dealing with weakness in the content rather than the concept ?

  • mickfealty

    Then offer us your own thoughts? What does unionism have to do to secure the union?

  • mickfealty

    You’ve said a lot of things I’d agree with zig, but if u look at what the party agreed to get The Lord Mayor of Dublins job next year policy is an endlessly flexible concept in SF. Standing Orders is THE thing.

  • Tacapall

    You just dont get it Tugger do ya, regardless what side of the fence they live on and regardless what passport they carry they’re still citizens of the European Union and therefore still entitled to “Benefits” and they’ll still get those benefits in a United Ireland.

  • Tacapall

    Maybe you could tell us the real cost of the British presence in Ireland Zeno, show us even one single time this entity called the British rules six counties has ever been classed as economically viable. Its not as if Ireland as a single unit has never managed to look after its own affairs that included paying the Sheriff of Nottingham his protection money.

  • Nevin

    That sounds like a topic for another thread, Annie. I was just highlighting David’s Nationalist approach/context/solution to a Unionist-Nationalist problem. It reminded me of the brick wall that John Hume kept banging his head against.

  • Biftergreenthumb

    “If the nationalists want to convince unionists, they must first divorce their arguments for a united Ireland from their national narrative and then start with Alliance supporters who are the non-nationalist sector most susceptible to rational economic arguments.”

    Agree almost completely. As long as the constitutional question is based on identity/cultural issues there is no hope for rational argument on either side. NI21, despite all their problems, represented unionisms attempt to move the argument away from tribal loyalty towards rational/pragmatic considerations. Despite their failure I think something like NI21 is the only way forward for pro-union politics if it is to ever get any moral credibility back and I think nationalism needs to make a similar move away from nationalistic/tribalistic arguments.

    The only point where I would have a slight disagreement with your post is on the narrow focus on economic arguments. Given that if there is a vote for a united Ireland there won’t be an option to rejoin the UK in the future, and given that the economic cycle is one of boom and bust, making a decision that lasts forever based on the ever changing present economic situation isn’t enough to justify a decision one way or the other. Who know’s what the economic situation will be like for the UK or ROI in 10 years or 20 years or 50 years time?

    I personally find arguments based on political influence more compelling:

    “Northern Irish MPs have very little influence in a Westminster government. Northern Ireland, he points out, currently has 18 of 650 MPs; but “if the North was part of an all-island situation, the North would make up a quarter to one-third of the Dáil.””

    Each of us as voters would have more influence over our lives in a united Ireland than we do in the UK. If we could also keep the assembly we’d have even more control. Coming from a unionist background I’d be much more convinced to vote for a UI taking into account these sorts of considerations than I would considering purely economic factors.

  • Nevin

    30m 30s in:

    “Barton: Would dissident republicans, say, in the new state continue a campaign of violence, do you think?

    David: They may try it but those are people who will never be satisfied with anything, so they’re people who want a united Ireland and then when the overwhelming majority don’t vote the way they want they shoot people. Well that’s an interesting loyalty. If they want to commit crimes against their own state forces then that’s an act of treachery, they’re traitors to the Republic that they claim loyalty to.”

    Weren’t the FF founders, in the Irregulars, the dissidents of their day? Is David, an FF member, pinning the treachery label on them?

  • Zeno1

    “We know what the problem is. A united Ireland will help us deal with it.” .. David”

    Anyone who says that doesn’t even know what the problem is. They think it has something to do with a small island being divided in two. The reality is there are two tribes. They have very different constitutional preferences and allegiances. They have different cultures. At the extremist end they are prepared to murder each other to promote their cause.

    Removing the Border will not change anything. It is very naive to think that loyalists will suddenly become Irish Republicans.

  • Morpheus

    The plan was to have a listen for both the strengths and weaknesses this morning Mick, which I did after the car crash which was Nolan…Shinners in the south get Doherty, the ones in the north get McKay. :) I thought Nolan let Campbell of way too much yet again.

    In short I thought the interview was excellent. Excellent questions and excellent responses with views that are broadly in line with my own – the laziness of political nationalism, the need for the debates, the need to ensure that there is not even a whiff of ‘payback’ if a UI ever comes about etc.

    Recorded interviews like this from respected academics and politicians are the way forward – they are so good when in the car, out for a walk etc. Podcasts of big interviews on Nolan or Inside Politics on a Saturday morning while walking the country roads make the miles fly by.

  • Joe_Hoggs

    “Northern Ireland, he argues, remains stuck on the peripheral of an economy structured to benefit the South East of England”.

    Can somebody explain this to me please? I thought it was the SE of England benefiting NI.

  • I’m Trending on Twitter

    And you calling me ‘sweetie’ was likewise ‘awe inspiring’.

  • Morpheus

    You’re welcome

  • barnshee

    “You just dont get it Tugger do ya, regardless what side of the fence they live on and regardless what passport they carry they’re still citizens of the European Union and therefore still entitled to “Benefits” and they’ll still get those benefits in a United Ireland.”

    I struggle to see how the
    “One in five in West Belfast on sickness benefits. They know what side their bread (British taxpayer-funded,”

    would get British taxpayer-funded,” benefits in a UI

  • Anon

    The only thing that would persuade me to vote for a United Ireland would be total
    secularisation of the Republic of Ireland, ie keeping religion and politics separate. For
    far too long the Catholic Church has been inextricably linked to the State, in
    controlling people’s lives and having a place of privilege and authority.
    Though it is not as bad as it used to be, it still has a lot of influence and
    power. One big example is in education. Whilst I respect that it is a basic
    human right to believe in and worship whatever god you want, I don’t think the
    State should pay for it. Schools should be secular and those who wish to send
    their children to faith-based schools should pay for it privately, eg as in France.
    I say this about any religion, not just Catholicism. Religious symbols should
    also be stripped from public buildings and any reference to ‘god’ removed from
    places like courts. Religion should not be imposed on those who are
    non-believers. The ‘level playing field’ should be neutral like the Constitution
    of the USA.

  • Turgon

    The demographics may change to create a united Ireland but convincing or coercing unionists seems to have been a singularly ineffective strategy over decades.

    In terms of persuasion a minority in a province of one state (nationalists in Northern Ireland) are trying to find changes in another sovereign democratic state (the RoI) in order to persuade some of the majority in the province (NI) to support entering a united Ireland. Whilst many / most in the RoI may have a general attachment to the idea of a united Ireland would they be willing to make the radical changes needed to make enough people support a united Ireland?

    Even with changes such as anon suggests below it would be relatively unlikely to persuade many / most unionists to support a united Ireland. Most unionists simply see themselves as British and wish to remain part of the UK.

  • Anon

    Just for info, I am a former Catholic, now atheist/humanist. I feel a mixture of national identities. I voted for the GFA and I am happy for Northern Ireland to remain part of the UK – but if there were to be a vote and a UI was the outcome, I’d be happy to go with that too. But I do feel strongly re secularisation as stated above and also for same in Northern Ireland. In fact, for me, the secularisation issue supercedes the national identity one. My personal aspiration is for people to open their minds to human discovery, science, research and thinking for oneself.

  • Tacapall

    I never said they would Barnshee but they would get benefits in a United Ireland and if they really are pro union Irish folk, if they dont like the United Ireland they live in they can move to Britain with their Irish passports and still avail of the “British taxpayer funded benefits” as a citizen of the EU just like British people can still avail of sick benefits in any United Ireland.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I don’t see how you can prefer NI given that we are outwardly significantly more fruitcakey up here with our religion-interfering-in-the-state stuff than they are in the South.

  • Nevin

    Barton and David, Alex Kane isn’t impressed by ‘whimsy':

    The one big thing that is missing now in Northern Ireland, in the Republic, between Britain and the Republic, and between Belfast and Dublin is a serious, detailed debate about the future. If you want to solve a problem then, at the very least, you need to begin by agreeing the nature of the problem.

  • Zeno1

    Are you saying there was never a time when this place called Northern Ireland was ever financially viable? I’d find that hard to believe, but even if we were financially viable we would still get the Subsidy from our central government under the Barnett Formula. You do realise it is not based on need?

    Is every county in Ireland “financially viable” or do they get money from Dublin?

  • Zeno1

    Good article by Alex Kane. Says it all.

  • Annie AuldIrn

    No, he is asking you to show evidence of a financially viable NI at any time since the statelet was formed.

    And, as you mentioned the Barnett formula, do you think that subsidy will be continued indefinitely? If Scotland secedes there is every possibility that Barnett will be revised, probably downwards, as the British exchequer will lose all that revenue from Scottish oil.

  • tmitch57

    Bitter Green,
    I agree. But it would be even more convincing if the supporters of a UI could float something similar to the Provos’ Eire Nua federal scheme from the early 1970s, without of course mentioning its origins. But the carrot of economic and political arguments will be much more effective when accompanied by the stick of demographic arguments. Expect unionists to be much more interested in rational arguments when it looks like they will become part of a UI in any event.

  • Zeno1

    I don’t have the time to research the economic history of NI, but when we had the Shipyards, Sirroco,Mackies Gallaghers etc etc and were an economy that actually manufactured things I’d say we paid in more that we got out of Britain.

    Scotland won’t leave the UK, so it’s a bit pointless speculating on what might happen if they did. There is nothing to say that the Block Grant will be reduced in the meantime other than by fines over the Welfare cuts shambles.
    You do understand that we would get a Block Grant even if we had a wealthy economy?

    This is a fair description of how it works.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barnett_formula

  • Robin Keogh

    I dont want to be seen as being boringly obvious but a United Ireland will only come about when and if a majority of the folks in NI agree to it. The make up of that majority is irrelevent. A convincing argument has to be made aimed at all citizens for them to consider. If 50% + 1 vote in favour then thats it.

  • Tacapall

    Yes I am saying this entity called the six British controlled counties of Ireland have never been financially viable, it has since its formation always been bankrolled by the British exchequer. Nice sidestep though with the “Is every county in Ireland financially viable or do they get money from Dublin” Is your argument that we should stay subjects of Mrs Windsor rather than Irish citizens based on economics ? IF so then, Fact – Ireland before the Union was forced on us was once a single unit that looked after its own financial affairs and that included the six northern counties now controlled by Britain and which has since 1921 been financially heavily subsidised annually by the British. These counties will never be financially viable to the British put simply we are a piece of land that is strategically important at this point in time, call us Britain’s Cuba if you like and they will pump whatever money is necessary into this part of Ireland until such times as either all us Irish become loyal subjects or that banking cartel operating from the City are gone somewhere else.

  • Biftergreenthumb

    Much as the article criticises the terminology of a ‘new Ireland’ I can’t help but think that this is more palatable to people from Unionist backgrounds than a ‘united Ireland’. I think most people assume that a UI means full integration into the existing Republic. For unionists this means the end of NI and unionist identity as NI becomes absorbed into the ROI. However, a ‘new Ireland’ in which the people of NI had some input in negotiating the new constitutional arrangements and in which Northern Ireland (or Ulster) has its own (federal or devolved) government and regional/provincial identity would make to move toward Irish unity a much more attractive option and one that wouldn’t feel as much like a defeat to unionists as simple integration would.

  • Zeno1

    Yes indeed and if Nationalists could just increase the present numbers in favour of a United Ireland by 100% or so they could win a referendum.

  • Zeno1

    “Yes I am saying this entity called the six British controlled counties of Ireland have never been financially viable,”

    You need to show evidence of that. I’m not saying you are wrong but I think there was a time when NI gave more to the UK than it got back.

    ————-

    “Is your argument that we should stay subjects of Mrs Windsor rather than Irish citizens based on economics ?”

    Personally I don’t feel the need to be a subject of anyone.If people want to go around saluting flags and showing allegiance that’s up to themselves. I was never indoctrinated. I certainly am against UI on economics. No one has, or apparently can show a good economic case for UI. As a socialist I am also against forcing more than half a million unionists to become Irish. So that’s two reasons.

  • Zeno1

    “fruitcakey” What a great word and an accurate description.

  • Nevin

    CS, as ‘fruitcake’ is both a derogatory term for a gay man and a reference to insanity perhaps you should reflect on your choice of terms of endearment.

  • Comrade Stalin

    All true Robert, the problem appears to be that the reunification vote is holed semi-permanently below the 50% waterline.

  • Comrade Stalin

    It is more than obvious what I’m saying from the context.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I agree with you Zeno, at the time of partition I’m sure the British were quite happy to have NI, and it almost certainly sustained itself quite well.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I have no problem with Slugger contributors writing articles promoting their own point of view – in fact I’m pretty sure that’s what almost all of them do, some more subtle than others. I don’t understand why you and others apparently feel so threatened by someone discussing at length what reunification would look like. Use of words such as “agenda” give a conspiratorial edge to what is nothing other than one individual expressing an opinion.

  • Robin Keogh

    At the moment, yes.

  • Robin Keogh

    …or if Unionist numbers reduce by 50% or so…just as good.

  • Zeno1

    Over 45% of the population are neither unionists nor nationalists. Those people appear content with the status quo, so even a 50% drop in unionists will not be enough to achieve a majority. Nationalism need a dramatic improvement in numbers.
    23% is a very long way from 51%

  • Robin Keogh

    Ok well thats that then !

  • Zeno1

    Well done. That is indeed that.

  • Zeno1

    So Paisley was right all along? The Civil Rights Association was just a front for the IRA??

  • Chris Browne

    Ok, I have just listened to this. I’ll be honest up front and say that I do not rate McCann normally. That is my personal opinion. I think he makes a lot of observations and analyses that lack substance and evidence. That may be down to the fact that I disagree with him politically or that his style just doesn’t speak to me. He is clearly a capable individual, but I think something is lacking. However, I think that are quite a few unfair comments here. I don’t believe that either Barton or David are pushing their ‘agenda’ and I am sure they went out to produce something informative, with the best of intentions. There is nothing wrong with two nationalists engaging in a conversation about unification and I think it’s interesting to be able to listen in to that. The problem is that it was not very informative or interesting. That is not an attack on the individuals or their character. Knowing that Slugger doesn’t take well to criticism at times – I will be clear that I am trying my best to comment on the content here and not the knowledge or abilities of either of these two – who I am sure are decent guys.

    The conversation starts out well by analysing some of the economic and political issues. However, I think it is naive to point to our bloated public sector as justification of unity or something that would shrink it. The South would be taking on a huge burden in terms of unemployment, societal problems and educational underachievement and we need to think about the implications of that. The argument cannot be won on this basis alone, nor can it be won by reference to our previous industrial prowess, given that the global economy is a completely different proposition today than it was 100 years ago. There are a lot of assumptions made here with very little economic evidence.

    I also think that they miss out the key element in this whole thing – the role of the UK government. To say that this would be done on anything other than their terms is unrealistic.

    At this point the conversation loses direction. There are interesting perspectives on culture, society and historical precedent – but very little tangible meat on the bones in terms of an argument for Irish unity. It is pointed out that David feels there has been too much aspiration from Republicanism and not enough detail over the years, however that is exactly what we get for the majority of this interview. If not aspiration, then idealism.

    An example of this is the idea that Irish people are innately more decent, charitable and family-oriented than the rest of the UK. These generalisations about our cultures or ‘temperaments’ are no more than personal value judgements, irrelevant to the discussion on Irish unity and downright offensive.

    Being a ‘decent’ people does not make us more viable as a single entity, only economic arguments will and that is what this discussion is lacking. (I am aware of perspectives on the economic questions that David has written in the past, but I am talking about this particular discussion.)

    David clearly has a strong grasp on Irish historical perspectives, and I don’t totally disagree on his ideas on what Republicanism needs to do, but when it comes to the arguments for Irish unity (and analyses of such arguments) – I have yet to see any evidence-based substance I can subscribe to. (I recognise David is not an economist.)

    The idea of this proposed regular podcast is good, and both these guys would clearly be well suited to producing such an item. It is something we are lacking in NI, outside of mainstream media outlets. Perhaps next time Barton could undertake the same conversation with a decent unionist participant.

  • Nevin

    Zeno, the conservative establishment in Dublin was aware of subversive activity but Paisley’s intervention made co-operation between Belfast and Dublin much more difficult.

    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. .. Daíl Éireann, 11 May 1966

  • Anon

    I totally agree Comrade Stalin – religion interferes with the state in Northern Ireland too. The default of state business should be secular but it isn’t – both Protestant and Catholic interference and power is evident in many areas of our lives and this is very frustrating.