#AE16 A 5% drop for nationalist parties on an increased overall turnout suggests it’s time for a serious rethink

Chris Donnelly nailed it on one of the primary emerging themes during BBCNI’s coverage at the Belfast Count Centre yesterday. A 5% drop in Nationalist turnout in an election which actually saw overall turnout rise should trigger a profound review in both main parties.

True it has probably been ill served by the false cover its been given over much of the last ten years out of legislate concern for maintaining a hard won peace.
But in the process it has become highly risk averse and hypersensitive to external criticism and, unlike unionism – for whom the media has never knowingly spared the rod –  it has struggled to adapt to new circumstances. 
That has left it abjectly reliant on the increasingly spare fruits from a Peace Process™ which is little more than a stagnant and managed stalemate. A stalemate from which it lacks the courage (or the vision) to break free.

Comforting itself with such odious and deeply sectarian myths like ‘the Catholic birth rate will one day deliver a United Ireland without us ever having to lift a finger’ northern nationalism has become an idea without substance, leaving the parties little choice but to cannibalise each other to disguise the outward signs of its long decline.

Ten years ago, according to Sinn Fein, 2016 was to be the year of unification. Today that has become little more than a palimpsest overwritten with vague new slogans which in turn will be erased and updated with yet more ‘polite and meaningless’ slogans.

Far from staging a rising vote levels argue strongly that there’s been a long falling away of sentiment since those tumultuous days of the early peace process.
Nationalist voters aren’t stupid, and their parties shouldn’t continue to behave as though their only business was to keep them awake by spinning implausibly tall tales about when and how a United Ireland might happen.

The starkest warning yesterday was the election of Gerry Carroll and Eamonn Mc Cann (political anti hero par excellence). The people who have driven them to such stark and emphatic victories (despite McCann’s abiding personal instinct to do almost everything he can, not to get elected) once supported SF when it was deeply unpopular (and deeply uncool).

They’ve done so by going back to a tried and tested Marxian recipe of rooting their politics in an unsentimental understanding of material reality of real voter’s lives in the poorest parts of Derry and West Belfast.

The SDLP on the other hand needs to confront the cruel reality that for much of its existence it largely existed only inside the head of John Hume. Unlike Paisley’s DUP there was no Peter Robinson to give it structure, form and narrative content. 
At least it has sloughed off that babyboomer generation who climbed into public office and promptly pulled up the ladder. In doing so they choked off their supply of mid level aspirational  activists that every party needs in order to regenerate (and re-imagine) its future with the generation of voters.

As a result it has got smaller and has taken more than a few bruises the head. That’s the cumulative effect of persistently walking into solid political walls. That should tell them to stop almost everything they’ve been doing up to now and just look for the door.
Given the DUP and Sinn Fein have been planning to stitch them up with their own PfG  they should probably withdraw to the opposition benches whether or not they are entitled to a Ministerial seat. In the short term withdrawal of cover for SF (who’ve barely contributed to the policy content of that stitch up) is justification enough for hitting the opposition benches.

(Incidentally, if they do become part of the official opposition they should stubbornly insist that SF move to the same side of the chamber as the DUP and take their proper place beside the Speaker. The ‘naughty corner’ is no place from which any serious political party should seek to hold power to account.)

From there they’ll have the space to get their heads around the reality of their much reduced status within the political life of NI. Wilderness and the contemplation failure can make or break a political project. After today they have three years take their future (if they even have one) in their own hands.

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  • MainlandUlsterman

    Apparently it’s GNP per capita or GNI you need to look at with the Republic due to the skewing effect of big corporates artificially headquartering there for tax (which bumps up GDP a lot for Ireland and other tax havens, not reflecting the actual economy there): http://blogs.ft.com/ftdata/2015/05/13/ireland-is-the-wealthiest-economy-in-europe-or-not/
    On GNI, Ireland and UK are pretty similar at the moment, UK just ahead:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GNI_(PPP)_per_capita
    But look I’m no economist and only note that both economies got badly hit in the crash, Ireland to the point where they needed a bail-out, UK not so bad as that but still a disaster, and both are working their way back now on still shaky ground.

    In the UK we’ve really suffered from having Osborne in charge rather than Darling, which meant we lost at least two years’ recovery time and we’re recovering in way too consumer-led a way, racking up household debt again, when we should have been doing some proper Keynesian investing-to-grow. We’re not in a good place at all. But I wouldn’t be convinced Ireland is Ok either, particularly with the whole housing crash there, which has profound effects on people’s lives and the choices they are left with. We have our own housing crisis – appalling and chronic – but I’d probably take it over the negative equity trap so many people in the Republic are stuck in, to be honest.

    Not doing down the Republic, I want it to do well for their own sakes as well as ours, but the idea that the Republic is an economic rock will take quite a while to restore. So much of the previous success was built on sand, it turned out.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    so that’s the plan for us after ‘unity’ – we’ll be encouraged to leave?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    It’s UK, of which we are a part, we are not ruled by outsiders. “Until recently” – you say recently but I’m 46 and we’re talking about electoral boundaries that happened at a local council level that was dealt with around when I was born, no? Unless you’re talking about the intimidation of the Protestant population out of the city, which is a bit more recent but I don’t think can be blamed on Lord Sauron in Westminster.

    You didn’t answer my point on the future Dublin-ruled NI scenario – can you convince me it’s not going to upset the balance between the communities we currently enjoy? As I said, their presence in the mix would not be the mirror image of the Westminster government’s given that they are largely an Irish nationalist country with much closer ties emotionally, culturally, politically and ethnically to the C/N/R population in NI than the UK has with P/U/L people, the UK being a much looser and more diverse as well as much bigger country. It would be an utterly different scenario and I think nationalists need to convince the rest of us the future all-Ireland state would be able to be a fair arbiter of ethnic quarrels in NI.

  • kensei

    Yes and no. Those corporations still pay tax which produces revenue which can be used. But GNI is probably more reflective day to day. Ireland is still slightly ahead, but it’s not omg better. It’s worth bearing in mind that NI is not the UK, and I think it’d be the lowest region if Ireland was one unit.

    Everywhere is shaky, and if there is another recession we are all buggered. The bailout was really more about the Euro than anything, Ireland had no option to print it’s own bonds like the UK any more. Its doing about as well as could be hoped, given the circumstances.

    The UK definitely did better on employment, Irish unemployment was catastrophic. But it maybe came at a cost of a slower pick up.

    Ireland’s the success wasn’t built on sand. Rich countries tend to stay rich and Ireland is now most definitely rich. If it gets even a fraction ahead of growth than NI in the UK, that’ll add up in the long run. But the cost might be deeper recessions and more sensitivity to the global market. It’s a fair debate in whether its better or not.

  • Tochais Siorai

    True. As did the South Ulster dialects.

  • Sir Rantsalot

    Ahh, the good old days!

  • Tochais Siorai

    When did Jim O Callaghan play for Ireland?

  • Tochais Siorai

    Bit of a stretch there. The Anglo-Irish of the 26c were / are mostly descended from people who came over in the 17th century, more likely than not the beneficiaries of Cromwellian land confiscations whereas Strongbow was Norman and is generally identified with the Old English / Hiberno-Norman tradition who remained Catholic, and in many cases, Hiberniores Hibernis Ipsis or if you prefer, nios gealaí ná na Gaeil féin.

    There’s a bit of Strongbow DNA in most people on the island as was demonstrated in a DCU study a decade or so ago although far less amongst those of us who are mostly descended from those who came over as part of the Ulster Plantation.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    a fair enough summary
    Don’t under-estimate how tied up with the British economy the Irish one still is, we’re massively Ireland’s most important market and Ireland is also a surprisingly big market for us too. Like the EU relationships writ large, Ireland and the UK succeed together and we fail together. We’re not so much competing as on the same team. This is why NI switching sovereignty is never really going to be an economic question (and I don’t think it ever really was – even in the days when the Republic was the Mexico to our USA, UK sovereignty was more about heart, not (just) head. The economics just provided an ex post facto justification for what people already wanted for reasons of cultural and national affiliation).

  • kensei

    When the Tiger was in full swing, you got the odd murmurings of admiration for business quarters regardless of background.

    If people feel that their lot would be noticeably better under Irish sovereignty rather British, that they’d be paid a good bit better, pay less tax, or their kids would get free tuition while they are paying through the nose and their parents better looked after at least some people who wouldn’t have considered it will. But it needs to be clear cut, and that’s a tough bar as Western economies are usually different trade offs.

    It’s probably not enough on it’s own, but it’s definitely a necessary condition. And its much better the Republic is a strong economy and not a poor one, like pre-1990s.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    yes – just remember that everything you feel towards your country, in its entirety and complexity and depth, is felt by NI British people towards ours. Don’t imagine it as some kind of rational weighing up of pros and cons any more than the South seceding from the UK was. There are economic aspects to it of course but I’m sure you’ll agree, as the persistence of Irish nationalism in NI shows, that people don’t always choose the country that will make them richest, they choose the country for which they feel belonging.

    In a lot of senses it’s not even really a ‘choice’ at all, it’s part of who you are. It’s more a lifelong relationship you have that you develop an opinion on and feelings about. It’s more like family than anything else – most people stick with their families and just accept them as part of their lives, while some people do reject their families. But that is really what Irish nationalism seeks to do, ask people to break these ‘family’ bonds and become voluntary adoptees into a another family. Some people do develop big problems with their own family and choose to walk away. But I think these bonds are too strong and too positive for people on the whole, to expect many people to want to do that, in favour of a new family into whose bosom they may not be wholeheartedly welcomed.

    Unionism is winning right now because it doesn’t seek to convert or proselytise people away from their culture. It’s not trying to make people British, it just wants (viz-a-viz people of an Irish cultural background) to make them feel comfortable in a UK setting, not change how they see themselves. The nationalist project is by its nature more invasive and less accepting – it requires one people to adopt the identity and belonging of another, their own. There is a chauvinism in that. Therein lies its biggest weakness.

  • kensei

    I think that last statement I’d wishful thinking

    I get it. But the fact is that however strongly you or I feel, there’s a lot of people who don’t care, or who care a little but care about their tax bill or public services or whatever more. And to be honest, they are probably the final arbitrators.

    I don’t think Nationalism is asking people to give up being British. Certainly the brand I ascribe too wouldn’t. The jurisdiction would change, not the people, and in some ways they’d be freer to express themselves when culture becomes less a marker of conflict. The fundamentals is that government closer to the people – and republican government at that – should be better government regardless of who you areband what your identity is. I’d like us to move away from culture and more back to that.

  • John Collins

    Well Derry got no substantial airport, no University no motorway or indeed no major investment into it until rrecently, unlike Limerick, a city with the same population in 1922, did under native rule. If you think this neglect of Derry had nothing to do with the fact that the majority of the population were RC you are living in cloud cuckoo land.
    I would say also MU that the emphasis on Catholicism, or indeed the power of the Church, are no longer major features of ROI society and the recent result of the SSM Referendum confirms that. I would in fact say that NI now have much more in common with the ROI that you seem to think.
    Having said that I think a UI is a very long way off and can only eve, if ever, be achieved by peaceful means. The modern day SF have nothing to offer in this regard and never had.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Yet Irish Republicanism is very closely bound up with a very emotionally-driven, romantic idea of Irish identity. It’s going to have to completely reinvent itself.

    I’m not against republics, I’m a British republican, but I think Irish nationalism and Irish republicanism are bound up with a particular kind of Irish national identity, which it would be hard for unionists to ever feel comfortable with. That Irish identity is built around a particular self-exculpating worldview particular to a certain section of C/N/R people, characterised by the scapegoating of the British people on the island, usually depicted as the fons et origo of all Ireland’s woes. It may or may not be right (well, it isn’t) but either way it’s not a recipe for building a new nation together. It feels a lot more like just a brutish push for ethnic domination. Until nationalism works out a better and more positive narrative about its relationship with unionists, it can only be seen that way.

  • kensei

    There always needs to be room for that romantic Irish identity, the language and the culture. It’s too important to too many people to be otherwise. It’s also very Widening needs to occur to include others.

    That’s very much been happening in the Republic over the last quarter of century. Lots of immigrants in even surprising places that have fitted in and enriched the culture. That is less true in the North, but while everyone talks about Unionist being in the bunker they miss Nationalism is defensive too. Regardless of whether we were the most oppressed slaves ever or not, for a long time we’ve have to fight to express our identity, or get funding or whatever. It makes you chippy, and a bit self obsessed. Some.confidence is a good thing.

    Bill Clinton said everything good about America could fix everything bad. That’s how I feel about Irish Republicanism. Just need to find our better angels.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    It was a city of 50,000 people at the end of the day, even now it’s only about 85,000 – and quite geographically isolated. The supposed bias against Derry was never quite as bad as all that – read Tom Wilson’s book “Ulster: Conflict and Consent”, he was the Oxford and Glasgow University economist who advised on some of the investment policy in the 60s. Referring to Bradley, Hewitt and Jefferson’s review for the FEA in the early 80s, he points out Catholic areas more generally were under-invested in 1949-64, but got way more funding than Protestant areas 1964-81 and taking the period as a whole, the figures for Protestant and Catholic areas are almost exactly matched.

    As for East/West (again looking 1949-81):
    East, with 70.5 per cent of pop got 72.3 per cent of sponsored employment, a location index of 1.03. West got 0.93, so it did do worse there; but bear in mind the figure for (mainly Protestant) Belfast urban area in this period was 0.71. Londonderry got 1.93. The FEA report concluded:
    “the geographical distribution of Government sponsored employment in the Province has not conferred any particular advantage on different religious groups.”
    Prof Wilson goes on to say: “The widely held belief that Londonderry was the victim of sectarian discrimination in industrial promotion cannot be sustained.”

  • MainlandUlsterman

    hope you find them 🙂
    you’re better than you used to be at least

  • Declan Doyle

    There may not be grounds now, but there could be grounds within six weeks

  • cu chulainn

    The ROI has grown faster than the UK in the 60s, the 70s, the 80s, the 90s, the 00s, the 10s, and probably will in the 20s as well. I suppose it would have been even further ahead if it had grown faster in the 50s as well, but that doesn’t really change the point.

  • cu chulainn

    The UK and ROI GNP was fairly similar in 2013, but a gap has opened since then. The point is though that the UKs GNP is in England and even then in the SE of England, all of its peripheral parts are less, as it is a state run for the benefit of English people.

    This shows GDP and so isn’t quite spot on, but you get idea
    http://cdn-01.independent.ie/incoming/article34694705.ece/bae09/BINARY/SINDO-DOB-graph-8-May-2016.jpg

  • cu chulainn

    And the Isle of Mann is enclosed by the Irish Sea and so is Irish. Don’t be immature.

  • Roger

    Unionists and Nats unite for a United Ireland in view of confirmed Brexit

    Nice idea. But pie in the sky. The Unionists are with the UK come yea or nay.

  • Declan Doyle

    Some time the sentimental argument has to give way to logic, do not underestimate the ability of Unionism to think logically when and if that time comes.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    a bit puerile, no?
    If you’re trying to make some spurious “ROI is better than the UK” case, really save it for the playground. I get that you love the place and think it’s great. Fine. And you don’t like the UK. Fine. Each to his own.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    “See, you just can’t bring yourself to say it’ll probably be ok.”
    I can’t because I’m not at all sure it would be. I genuinely think it would be a dangerous experiment. To use the dodgy second hand car jargon, it would be a kind of cut-and-shut nation*.
    http://www.perrys.co.uk/car-news/buyers-guides/guide-checking-a-car-for-signs-of-cut-and-shut/

  • Croiteir

    You are correct – we need leadership and something to fight for – making Northern Ireland work is weak, it smacks of supine weakness, the cowardly pleading of the victim to his tormentor, if you stop I will do as you are told. Stuff that. Give me something to incite me to the barricade or else I will think that you are only going through the motions. I want a fight a day at Stormont, I want the unionists to be discomfited, I want the fleggers on the streets. If they aren’t we are failing and I will not be voting for cowards to get their nest feathered.

  • Esmee Phillips

    No, the Isle of Man (sic) is Manx and also British (and European), just as the Irish are also British and European. We all have multiple identities. The fates of the Irish and English parts of the British Isles have been inextricably plaited together over the centuries. No amount of bloviation and cultural apartheid can alter that.

    With the decline of the Dev-ist outlook and the Church’s influence, the southern Irish are growing more anglicised. That is why ‘Irish unity’ is a dead duck.

    Don’t be ungeographical.

  • John Collins

    ‘Only 50,000 of population’, well Limerick had exactly the same population in 1922 and it has about 9 times more third level students there today. Coleraine, the town in which the second University in Ulster was put in place had only a population of 10,000 where the university was constructed there.. In fact every other city in this island of a similar size or larger has had a full blown university for decades. Members of the P/U/L Community can come on here and huff and puff as much as they like, but there there was absolutely no justification for overlooking Derry/Londonderry as the venue for a university.
    You put much emphasis on a report above. I would be more sceptical. It always depends on who commissioned a report and what result they wanted from it.
    It seems to make no allowance for any investment, both private and public, that was put into Belfast, in the years immediately before 1922 and also highlights the fact that underinvestment in Derry was a problem until 1964, a few tears before the troubles started.
    Are you seriously trying to convince us that the case for the construction of an airport in Derry to cater for transatlantic flights was not mooted in the late thirties/early forties. Derry/Londonderry was the most westerly city in the UK. Remember how Tom Elliott made so much of winning back the FST seat at Westminster for Unionism,because ‘it was the most westerly constituency in Great Britain’. Derry was ideally placed for the construction of such a facility and located in British territory, but the major airport, for transatlantic traffic in this island, was built at Shannon, in the impoverished Republic instead. Derry was about the same distance from Gander, the NA terminus, yet no attempt was made, by the richest administration in the World,to built the facility there. I think Professor Wilson may have fine academic credentials but I strongly dispute his conclusions in these matters, because the evidence simply does not support his findings.
    The fact that there is no motorway into Derry, even today. does nothing the dispel the idea that Professor Wilson is talking nonsense

  • Skibo

    Croiter do you want a solution or are you just fixated on the next battle. The slogan for the next election is “prepare for unification”. There needs to be an agreed plan as to how to achieve a UI, what it will look like politically ( two parliaments or one or federal Ireland with a Ulster, East and West super councils)
    We need agreement on health, education and the economy.
    I think we all agree the inflated public sector in the north needs to be reduced. This can happen over a five year time frame with the assistance of the British Government.
    Just for starters!

  • John Collins

    Just like Home Rule would have been for Ireland, if we were ever given it, long ago.

  • John Collins

    How could the South afford to pay NI OAPS £60 a week more than they get in NI, as things stand now. Those on Social Welfare Benefits also are much better looked after in the South

  • John Collins

    I thought there were 3 Kingdoms

  • Roger

    I’d rather we start referring to “Home Rule” as “devolved powers”. It wouldn’t be a very historically correct approach. But it would help clarify what it meant. One often hears people talk of “HR” as if it were envisaged as independence. It like UKNI’s current devolved powers were more akin to a glorified county council.

  • Roger

    If we think about Ireland in the period from say, 1930 until 1960, what’s your first general impressions? Mine are of a populace stagnating along, its youth taking the boat and its leaders stuck in the past. That’s just my imprecise summary of a three decade period.

    During all that time, no movement got underway seeking Ireland’s re-integration in to the UK. Nor, I think, was there much questioning at the time about the merits of Ireland’s secession.

    UKNI is nowhere near as bad as Ireland was in that period. I don’t think the gap between Ireland and the UK will ever diverge as much as the gap that emerged between Ireland and the UK during the three decades I mentioned.

    I’m one for empirical evidence when one can find it. I think the Ireland chapter here is maybe as close as we will get and gives a useful steer on future Unionist outlook. I don’t share your view.

  • Declan Doyle

    For sure, if absolute irrefutable evidence was produced that showed Northern Ireland would sink beneath the waves and its populace drown in horrendous and painful circumstances if a UI was not delivered; the majority of Unionist would still say NO SURRENDER. But it only takes a small minority to tilt the balance.

  • Roger

    if ever there’s a border vote, it won’t take sinking beneath waves…just concern over the pension I paid into all those years…

    Scotland.

  • Declan Doyle

    Your pension is safe as it is paid and remains the responsibility of the British government to honour.

  • Superfluous

    Well, I’ve never voted Sinn Fein. I am one of those rare ‘nationalists’ who maybe swings economically to the ‘right’, although in less simplistic terms I’d very much prefer to claim allegiance to the classical liberal tradition.

  • kensei

    Which is simply prejudice you need to get over. While occasionally I see something like polls on Brexit and think God, themmums are weird by and large we aren’t that different. Conservative Ulster Protestants probably resemble Conservative Irish Catholics more than anyone else on these islands, and left leaning metropolitan social attitudes are left leaning metropolitan social attitudes wherever you go.

    Plus Protestants and particularly Ulster Protestants have had an outsized influence on Irish Nationalism and Republicanism from Tone to Bulmer Hobson. Those are not necessarily typical, but they have had very important influence. The almost complete disconnection since partition has been very much more to Nationalism’s detriment than anyone else’s.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    it’s no more prejudice than your guess that it would be a roaring success. None of us have a crystal ball but we do all have to come to judgments about what future direction we favour. Nothing prejudiced about coming to educated and reasoned conclusions on that – even if they differ from your own. I think you’ll find a lot more people in NI share my view than yours on this one, so if you want to win them over, you need to put forward persuasive arguments. Writing them off as just ‘prejudiced’ (whatever that means in this context) won’t, I wouldn’t have thought, get you very far. But by all means keep trying, it’s your call really how you want to try and turn things around.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    was, I think he’s long dead

  • MainlandUlsterman

    but he did show, didn’t he, that investment in the West of the Province was stepped up considerably in the 60s overall.

    The whole region has long suffered natural disadvantages through geography, and while there were periods in the middle of the last century when Stormont policies made things worse, serious attempts to help the West of the Province economically go back 50+ years now and started in the Pre-Troubles Stormont era. Governments cannot magic up sustainable economic development everywhere, it would be great if they could.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Yes, like we were saying, it’s GNP per capita that economists tend to use for Ireland, because of the corporate tax avoiding aspect – the GDP includes loads of economic activity that has nothing to do with Ireland except its use as a tax haven. GNP apparently is a better measure of the real economy there. Ireland’s contribution to the EU budget for example is tied to its GNP, not its GDP (most other countries used GDP, Ireland is exceptional): http://www.independent.ie/opinion/columnists/brendan-keenan/gdp-or-gnp-its-an-ecumenical-matter-29297060.html
    GNP in Ireland is about 20 per cent lower than its GDP.

  • Croiteir

    Boom – right there – you do not care. This is narcissistic bunch of self important privileged and pompous generation that exists. The sense of self entitlement, the lack of empathy, the individualism is obnoxious. The fact that you cannot see those problems you describe as all society’s problems is startling, what right have you to claim them as your own generations? Disgusting attitude.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    the BBC / RTE poll in Nov 2015 had it lower. From the BBC website:
    “In the Republic of Ireland, 36% of people told the survey they want a united Ireland in the short to medium term.
    There is a significant increase when the aspiration is put in a long term context, with 66% backing a united Ireland within their lifetime.”
    So most in the Republic would like it in the distant future but not in the foreseeable future, to summarise.
    Pesky facts or bitter hate-filled analysis?
    Esme may have used hyperbole in saying “hardly anybody” but is surely right to point out it’s only a minority down there who want a united Ireland any time soon.

  • kensei

    There is a difference between “This is my preference” or “I think X would be better” and “X would be a complete disaster. ” or “this is dangerous”. I think the number of people that believe the latter are much less than those that believe the former.

    I don’t know if a UI would a roaring success, but there is a floor on how bad it would be. As I said, successful Western European country. I think the current arrangement is suboptimal, but there is a floor on how bad it will get.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    well, I definitely think it would be dangerous. That means there is a serious risk of trouble, not that it will definitely happen or even probably happen. But certainly replaces the stability and relative peace we have now for something at best experimental. It’s moot point anyway, people aren’t voting for it any time soon. You have plenty of time to develop your vision and seek to persuade people to swap what they have now for it.

  • Roger

    I think that’s what one calls naive. Pensions aren’t simple things. There’s plenty of ways to skin a pension.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    it’s inter-community relations and the security situation I would be most worried about. When one side has the upper hand and the other side feels put upon and with nothing to lose, those tend to be the conditions in which conflict thrives. The floor could be really quite bad. I think we’ve already lived through too much sectarian violence to be quite so casual about keeping the peaceful balance in future.

  • kensei

    The security situation could deteriorate in present arrangements via a number of roots. It’s arguably already bad if you live in Ardoyne or the Shankill.

    But I think Nationalism in a UI could and would be a lot more generous than you think. There’d be a big outpouring of flag waving, but I think that there’d be a lot of thought about people being comfortable in new arrangements.

    It changes the context of things too. Orange marches are a lot less triumphalist when you’ve basically one. There’d be less anger and less fear.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    maybe … but maybe not. We don’t know. But we have to say there is a big risk.

    I used to help out occasionally with my old research agency’s “future scoping” team. They didn’t try to predict the future, their service was to log the main possibilities and broadly chart (1) their chances of happening and (2) the chances of big negative consequences if they did. We might argue here about whether a serious public order breakdown post-united Ireland is a 10 per cent chance, nearer a 25 per cent chance, or even a probability. I’m not sure where my guess is, maybe closer to 40-50 per cent. All you can really do in the present is log the risk, talk to experts about their best guess on its chances of happening and consequences if it did.

    All I’m saying here is, it is clearly some kind of risk – that doesn’t mean you say no to it for that reason, but you have to take it into account. The argument I make is that we are swapping a situation with a fairly small risk for one with a bigger risk. I think it’s hard to make the case that the GFA arrangements come with a bigger risk of sectarian public order breakdown than that we would face in the no doubt highly emotionally charged setting of NI leaving the UK.

  • John Collins

    MU
    You you make good points, but I wouldl say that both the Unionist and the GB Governments could have killed off a lot of Nationalists complaints of discrimination if they had instituted the schemes I mentioned above earlier and yes I do agree good attempts at rectifying the situation have been put in place since

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I agree – it seems a lot of the policy up until the 60s was unenlightened to say the least. Had there been a decent social democratic government in place in Stormont instead of a small-state, non-interventionist, largely conservative one, a lot of the problems of disparity in regional development could have been ameliorated, though probably not solved. Stubborn Conservative belief in individuals pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps (whatever bootstraps are) and the state doing as little as possible can be OK in favourable conditions but f***ing useless the rest of the time.

    Tory fixation with self-help and small-state-ism remains a big problem in the wider UK today. The market is all, in that worldview – which is a narrow, shallowly materialistic and socially unaware one. And it doesn’t work! One great thing about the post-GFA era is that we’re unlikely to get such a minimalist right-wing approach to government again for quite a while.

  • John Collins

    Well said and all very true. Slan