“The most successful Union in history would be broken apart.” Major and Blair’s message from Magee in Derry

Derry was an interesting venue to chose for two former prime ministers to defend the Union against the threat of Brexit.  In one sense it was powerful symbolism to see them together, as the Guardian says.

– Snap verdict: Of all the Remain media events we’ve seen, that was probably one of the most effective. Sir John Major and Tony Blair may seem like figures from the distant past, but in 1997 around three quarters of the British electorate voted for parties led by either one or other of them. People generally like seeing political opponents come together.

But Northern Ireland and Ireland are peripheral to the main arguments  (even though TB’s mother was born and reared only 60 miles from where he was speaking).  To chose anywhere in Northern Ireland over Scotland as the venue to warn against the breakup of the Union might seem perverse.  But to present the case for the Union in Scotland would have cut across the Remain argument championed by the SNP and could have actually harmed the cause. So Scotland was out.

So why not England itself?  Well, Tony is toxic over Iraq and much else and John has lost the lost the above-the-battle appeal of a former PM due to his violent attacks on the Leave side in his own party.

So that left Northern Ireland, the scene of some of their greatest triumphs where neither party nor either former prime minister is particularly controversial . Both of them were careful not to be specific about  threats to the peace process. It was more about going back to the border and the effects on the common travel area, the spectre of tariffs and the threat to  foreign direct investment – (to the UK; so maybe all the more of it for the Republic?) .

It was also that Brexit would start a bout of referendum fever, beginning with a demand for a second referendum in Scotland. Sinn Fein could hardly stand idly by and would have to join the referendum club. That  would have an unsettling effect on the unionist/nationalist relationship. Both of them put it less specifically.

Major. I believe it would be an historic mistake to do anything that has any risk of destabilising the complicated and multi-layered constitutional settlement that underpins stability in Northern Ireland” he said. Mr Major warned that the “wrong outcome on June 23rd could “tear apart” the UK. “If we throw the pieces of the constitutional jigsaw up in to the air, no one can be certain where they might land.”

Blair. Mr Blair hit out at the Leave campaign, claiming it puts an “ideological fixation” with Brexit ahead of the damage it would cause. “I say, don’t take a punt on these people. Don’t let them take risks with Northern Ireland’s future. Don’t let them undermine our United Kingdom.

“We understand that, although today Northern Ireland is more stable and more prosperous than ever, that stability is poised on carefully constructed foundations.

“And so we are naturally concerned at the prospect of anything that could put those foundations at risk.”

One of them might have acknowledged that any change from Union to Irish unity would also  be ultimately decided by referendums. But these  would be held at our pace and under our own conditions in this island and not as a response mainly to pockets of English nationalism.

The referendum is the best example since the Sunningdale agreement of a GB agenda running directly counter to NI interests. Once again,  unionists are on the other side.

 DUP MP Nigel Dodds “Surely this is the most irresponsible talk that can be perpetuated in terms of Northern Ireland – very dangerous, destabilising and it should not be happening,”

Thankfully, the outcome for our internal affairs is likely to be different this time.

While the two former PMs chose not  to make any soothing references to nationalist opinion, this was an appeal on behalf of the Union that nationalists are unlikely  to denounce – and not only because nationalism opposes Brexit in the interest of both parts of Ireland. Major’s and Blair’s version of the modern Union is one they can live with.  That is one measure of how far we have come. I

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  • Kevin Breslin

    I would like Irish unity without pesky customs points between islands, bars on free movement, overzealous border controls, cuts to farming subsidies, drops in cross island academic partnerships with and without our continental neighbours, barriers to moving manufacturing parts around the continent and undermining the sort of multiculturalism that allows people to be Irish or British or anything else if they choose to be, but learn and experience from fellow Europeans and a growing world that Europe opens us to, including the refugees from Africa and the Levant.

    We can argue over the viability of alternative states to the status quo another day.

    If people who support the Union don’t want that in the political union that makes up the United Kingdom under the principle of consent, then they have the prerogative to vote to leave the EU.

  • chrisjones2

    Great. All you have to do then is convince Irish voters to rejoin the UK. After all the Scots did just that in 1707

  • Kevin Breslin

    I’m not convince that voting against the European Union is going to benefit any of those causes. People are free to create their own three stranded relationship within Northern Ireland, across the island of Ireland and across the islands of Britain and Ireland and their surrounding islands.

    If people want an all-Ireland solidarity movement against the European Union, or a movement for some British and Irish unified country again by all means build one, but respect the consent of the Irish people to vote against these aims too.

    I would rather encourage British people to think of the value of the Digital Single Market and Scientific co-operation across several central EU bodies on the UK’s shores and outside of them within the EU, that will be possible within the EU, rather than verbal promises and the auction politics about migration control, trade, economic growth on demand and extra public spending which are likely to be broken soon after the referendum result is passed.

  • chrisjones2

    I am utterly swayed by the sage words of one ex PM who brought us to the brink of collapse and another who lied and lied and took us to war precipitating many of the issues we see today

  • ted hagan

    Your are speaking in riddles, can you not say what you mean ?

  • Kevin Breslin

    It’s clearly unfair, Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and George Galloway should’ve decided to go to Northern Ireland in tandem and have the chance to discourage voters on the Leave camp too.

  • ted hagan

    I don’t like Tony Blair but I must confess he still as that extra something, that little bit of charisma.
    Bit like Nigel Dodds, in fact.

  • chrisjones2

    ………………….something of the night perhaps?

  • chrisjones2
  • Declan Doyle

    …and it’s coming to an end it would seem.

  • terence patrick hewett

    The UK was successful but the arteries were clogging up in the 1850’s and it had a massive thrombosis in 1922 and it has been on life support ever since.

    Regardless of the result of the referendum, federation or something else is on the cards.

    The Constitutional Reform Group’s Draft Act of Union is coming out in July. One of the options is a federal solution which if Brexit comes off will have to be presented to the UK very quickly indeed. Fundamental constitutional reform is inevitable.

    These two Prime Ministers are not defending the Union: they are pallbearers.

    http://www.constitutionreformgroup.co.uk/the-herald-new-act-of-union-planned-to-kill-off-independence/

  • chrisjones2

    whoo whoo ..scary biscuits for Unionists ….vote remain or the bogey man will get you – in this case the green bogeyman

  • chrisjones2

    Not according to the referendum thingy.

    Well even if it is we bought them out of bankruptcy in 1707 so if they do it all again they will be on their own next time. And wee Nicola willnae seem sae popular when they have to pay for education, police and the health service themselves

  • terence patrick hewett

    If it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well
    It were done quickly: if the assassination
    Could trammel up the consequence, and catch
    With his surcease success; that but this blow
    Might be the be-all and the end-all here,
    But here, upon this bank and shoal of time,
    We’ld jump the life to come. But in these cases
    We still have judgment here; that we but teach
    Bloody instructions, which, being taught, return
    To plague the inventor: this even-handed justice
    commends the ingredients of our poison’d chalice….”

    My vote is in the post.

  • Kevin Breslin

    English seems to have caught the Scottish fever of doing dodgy Panama business.

  • Ernekid

    The most successful Union in history?

    What about the Penal Laws, the Irish Famine, the highland clearances, the Irish war of independence, the Troubles, the decimation of Welsh mining and Scottish industry under Thatcher, the erosion of Scottish, Irish and Welsh language and culture.

    Doesn’t seem like much of a success to me.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I think the Norway-Denmark union outlasts the England-Scotland one.

  • Scots Anorak

    Consider two possible scenarios for a post-Brexit, post-Scottish referendum on Irish unity.

    In the first, those Catholics who according to opinion polls apparently do not welcome Irish unity, either immediately or at all, put their money where their mouth is and vote to remain part of the UK. Nationalist politics is severely humbled by the result, and some influential mainstream Republicans switch their loyalty to the dissidents, who slowly build up support based on a border campaign and the inevitable mutual injustices that result. The situation is exacerbated by the disappearance of Peace money and CAP subsidies, and by a more general period of austerity extended by the economic shock to the UK of Brexit.

    In the second scenario, as happened in Scotland, the referendum takes on a dynamic of its own. Annoyed at what they see as the extreme statements of certain Unionists, Catholics vote broadly on community lines. The differential turnout from which Unionists have benefited in recent years evaporates, and they manage only a narrow victory. As the UK Government had arranged the referendum for the same day as an Assembly election, however, Sinn Féin is now the largest party. Unionists refuse point-blank to make the office of First Minister a joint one, or to offer Nationalists any meaningful policy concession to acquiesce in a change to the voting rules, and a political vacuum ensues. Sinn Féin is wholly focussed on the next referendum and, contrary to recent experience, makes no attempt to negotiate a return to power-sharing. Street disturbances and paramilitary activity escalate.

  • Roger

    Yes, Scots might not like her spending their own oil money instead of sending subsidies to London….

  • Roger

    “People are free to create their own three stranded relationship within Northern Ireland, across the island of Ireland and across the islands of Britain and Ireland and their surrounding islands.”

    Apparently RTE isn’t so free for one. Apparently, it was more or less obliged to contract around EuroCup matches such that it can’t broadcast them from Ireland into Northern Ireland. Either that or they wouldn’t be able to broadcast them anywhere.

  • terence patrick hewett

    You missed out an awful lot Erne: slavery, genocide, continent-wide land theft drug-peddling, piracy and much else: this is from which the modern world as we know it emerged. But – But: we transmitted the dreadful seed of liberty with it “of the people, by the people and for the people” So on that level – yes it was a success.

  • Scots Anorak

    Ordinary Scots weren’t actually asked if they wanted the Union in 1707. More or less unelected Scottish *law-makers* were asked, and to be fair there was an element of genuine negotiation (resulting in protected status for Scots law and education, and Presbyterian religion, as well as, of course, a financial settlement). However, in the end the vote was won only by the threat of invasion and large-scale bribery. The Scots booed the arrival of English gold ostensibly to compensate Scotland for accepting a share of England’s national debt (as it happened, much of that gold was destined for shareholders in the bankrupt Company of Scotland, many of whom happened to be the same parliamentarians being asked to vote on Union).

  • ted hagan

    Cheeky boy eh.

    Brink of collapse? Explain.

  • terence patrick hewett

    Or: everyone just shrugs their shoulders and goes home to watch the telly!

  • Dominic Hendron

    This whole debate has got people asking questions about Europe and if the remain side wins it could be beneficial in making people think about what kind of union they want and become more involved making Europe work for ordinary people, more accountable. Better at being Europeans.

  • terence patrick hewett

    The failed 1690’s Scottish colonisation scheme of the Isthmus of Panama on the Gulf of Darién which bankrupted Scotland was an attempt by the Kingdom of Scotland to become a world trading nation and was the driver for the 1707 Acts of Union. The Scottish landed aristocracy and mercantile class saw that their best chance of being part of a major trading power would be to share in the growth of the English Empire and that Scotland’s future would lie in Union. Scotland joined with England to create the British Empire with which both countries will always be associated.

    While slavery was never legal in GB (see the Somerset case
    1772), it was the basis of the North Atlantic economy, with New England providing the goods and services for the American tobacco and West Indian sugar plantations: we the British fuelling the whole lot by operating the Golden Triangle which was finally run through companies in London and Liverpool: the Scots dominating the slave plantations of the West Indies but also heavily investing in the Triangle from companies in London.

    The unpleasant truth is that Scots dominated the West Indian slave plantations:

    “ Well-known Scottish sugar planters were Archibald Campbell, John Cunninghame, George Malcolm, Lewis Hutchinson (the so-called “mad-Master of Edinburgh Castle”), James Dawkins (Dawkins Caymanas), James Ewing (Ewing’s Caymanas) and James Wedderburn.”

    The lovely Naomi and the athletic Sol are not called Campbell for no reason at all.

    Holier than thou piety is always amusing.

  • Scots Anorak

    Not sure what, if anything, in that contradicts what I wrote, or what might have merited the charge of holier than thou piety. Your man said that the Scots voted to rejoin the UK (the “rejoin” was wrong too, of course). The fact is that they didn’t. The point about slavery is true but of doubtful relevance unless one practises point-scoring at any cost.

  • terence patrick hewett

    Just having a wee bit of a laugh: James Dawkins was of course a direct descendent of one Richard whom we all know and love.

    The prospect of the dreaded Dawkins strutting around his plantation lecturing the poor souls on the merits of atheism whilst exercising his Droit du seigneur is a fantasy which always warms a cold night of the soul.

  • Old Mortality

    Admittedly, it wasn’t as much fun if you were Irish but then when has being Irish ever been fun unless living outside the country. The last couple of decades in the Republic have been something of an aberration from the historical norm.

  • chrisjones2

    It may have passed you by but most children now can read write and are healthy. Many lead well fed well employed useful lives. Many go to university. If they want to learn Irish Ulster Scots or Polish they can do so

  • chrisjones2
  • terence patrick hewett

    It was Winston Churchill during his sojourn as a journalist and spy during the Anglo-South African War who observed that he once met that rarest of creatures: a teetotaller.

    That rare flower: A European I venture to suggest is very much the same.

  • Pasty

    Was this actually thought out ? on the one side they told Unionists that a vote to leave would mean Border Checks and a hard fixed Border put back into place – Is this not what they yearn for from the past?
    and on the other side they told Nationalists that a vote to leave could mean the end of the UK ?
    Are those two effects not playing to people who do not want or cannot move forward into a more peaceful and joint future? and at the same time the message delivered by 2 people who they want people to trust, one of which said there was weapons of mass destruction to start a war and the other who said we don’t talk to the IRA while talking to the IRA, not that that was a bad thing – unless you are a Unionist.

  • terence patrick hewett

    Oh Kev! I don’t think that any of the four nations can teach the others lessons in skulduggery for we were all up to our necks in piracy and worse.

  • Croiteir

    WE? Who is this we business?

  • Dominic Hendron

    I wonder do Africans say the same thing when we talk about them. Maybe they’re more evolved than we are with our tribal differences. It’s at the least a good idea in a world short of them

  • terence patrick hewett

    Care must be taken with definatives when approaching ancient societies like ours (both Afcat and Euro) since any such nomenclatures either may not have existed or if they did exist carry very different meanings today: Africa is one such. The word “Africa” has a complex Semitic/Graeco-Latin etymology which says a great deal about where the power of ideas lay and is very much open to debate.

    To the Latin and Pharaonic civilisations, Africa referred to their particular spheres of intellectual influence; not specifically excluding the hinterland but not paying much attention to it either. The system of Egyptian hieroglyphics is of course very ancient but it did not seem to penetrate south; nor did any southern philosophy influence the north over much. The Carthaginians spoke Punic, a variety of Phoenician and their empire was spread over both Africa and Europe (another word best avoided). The languages of Greek, Coptic and its derivative old Nubian amongst others were used but all these civilisations regarded themselves as part of the “known world” (oikoumene) of which the African hinterland was not a part.

    History is a dangerous business.

    I have learnt two African languages and trying to imagine what it is to be African is like trying to imagine what it is to be Japanese on the basis of a three-week holiday: A good start is Credo Mutwa: but many would not agree.

  • Dominic Hendron

    Very illuminating

  • terence patrick hewett

    Sorry Dom: I really did not aswer yr question because I could not answer it. The countries of the African continent are not inferior or superior to us: we are just as tribal and just as violent: it is just that we are a little bit more organised: we can build walls to stop each other from tearing out each other’s liver and lights.

    I really do think that Steven Speilberg’s film 2001 got it right when the proto-erectus after beating the brains out of the opposing tribal chief, tossed his weapon into the air and it turned into a space station. We are all very basic.

    Which is why I am a Catholic: because I think we are better than that.

  • ted hagan

    Cue Enya lament.

  • ted hagan

    Surely you don’t still watch the telly? So yesterday, man.

  • murdockp

    is the peoples Republic of China being dismantled then?

  • murdockp

    it may have passed you by but these benefits to the wider population in both GB and ireland only came about when the union stopped it’s expansionist policy.

  • ted hagan

    Blair was the mastermind behind the peace process. John Major helped instigate it with Albert Reynolds. Major’s term in office was dogged by the euro sceptics but he left the British economy in a pretty sound state. Perhaps you could explain your points rather than sending references.

  • Croiteir

    Playing the Orange card still has not passed out of fashion by foreign politicians.

  • woodysj

    Don’t mean to be pedantic but Stanley Kubrick directed 2001 not Spielberg.

  • chrisjones2

    1870 for education?

    Water reform?

    Sewerage?

  • chrisjones2

    To be accurate Thatcher kicked it off, Major consolidated it and Blair was there to claim the glory

    Sorry I assumed you could read. You seem to have forgotten Black Friday and the damage done to the economy

  • chrisjones2

    Yes …the UK Bought it out of bankruptcy. And those wicked English Far better then on your argument to have let it go and slide into penury with the people starving

  • chrisjones2

    We in the rest of the United KIngdon

  • chrisjones2

    Is it their oil money or the Hebrides’s

    Loved the referendum where when some locals voiced that question they were told by the SNP they had NO RIGHT to self determination

  • ted hagan

    As I said, Major left the economy in pretty good shape and is pretty well regarded as a Tory elder statesman. And I don’t think there’s really any call to be ignorant.

  • Croiteir

    In other words the English and Welsh as we, well the Irish, were not part of the United Kingdom in 1707, so we, the Irish, were not. However we did bail them out in the ’70’s when the IMF had to save the UK from economic collapse.

  • Croiteir

    Scotland was not bankrupted at the time of the union- this is just simply untrue.

  • Declan Doyle

    ” children now can read write and are healthy. Many lead well fed well employed useful lives. Many go to university. If they want to learn Irish Ulster Scots or Polish they can do so”

    Do u think millions had to be oppressed or murdered in order to deliver thus?

  • Croiteir

    No it did not, Scotland was not bankrupt.

  • Croiteir

    Only due to the innovations in education promoted by the Americans, Prussians and others in Europe. And you can learn languages at any university in Europe – hardly a thing to be crowing as an advantage above other nations.

  • terence patrick hewett

    Never owned a TV.

  • terence patrick hewett

    OOPS! I won’t correct it because that really deserves to be jumped on.

  • Roger

    Well, so far the UK government hasn’t come along and passed a Government of Scotland Act partitioning Scotland up into different jurisdictions. Isn’t that what triggers a right to self determination?
    So aren’t the SNP right?

  • terence patrick hewett

    A small point: 71% of the bets made have gone on brexit but 75% of the money has gone on remain. If brexit comes off the bookies get to pay out all their small customers and scalp all the big players. The bookies could not be gaming us…..could they?

  • chrisjones2

    It was a very good thing if you were a Unionist because it brought the IRA to the realisation that they were wrong and had utterly failed

  • chrisjones2

    Where were the millions murdered then?

    Why dont you go back to the Black Death, Viking Invasion , etc etc

  • chrisjones2

    I know …..we are so oppressed

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Thank you Ted, until you’d mentioned Nigel and I could see you were simply being ironic, I was becoming quite concerned.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    In a Poker Game what is the value off that Orange Card Now ? I thought it had lost its status as an Ace along time ago to only a “duck egg old two” Maybe others think it is still “The Joker” outside in the Pack ? #Trump

  • Reader

    Roger: Isn’t that what triggers a right to self determination?
    The Scots don’t seem to be anything like so divided as we were, which is the real issue. Why are you so keen to blame the neighbours over our own domestic estrangement?
    However, if the Scots were ever to become so divided as us, it wouldn’t be the responsibility of Westminster to prevent a divorce.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Who’s would it be then?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Chris, you really do need to read some Irish history…….

    You don’t need to even go back beyond the signature Tudor conquest, or an Gorta Mór, here’s a few for starters, locally, and within living memory of people still alive in the 1980s:

    Wilson, Tim, “‘The most terrible assassination that has yet stained the name of Belfast’: the McMahon murders in context”, Irish Historical Studies (2010), vol 37:145, pp. 83-106.

  • Anglo-Irish

    Really?

    I spent all my childhood summers in Ireland and have nothing but good memories of the people and places.

    Fun is definitely a word that I would use to describe the experience.

    I also lived there in the early 60s and attended two schools one national and one technical.

    My memories go back over 60 years and I still visit family every year, it’ll be twice this year as unfortunately I’ve already attended a cousins funeral in April.

    in my experience it has generally been more fun in Ireland than in England as the sense of humour is virtually always apparent there.

    Mind you perhaps it’s different in other parts of the country?

  • terence patrick hewett

    Dead right Croit! The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was formed by the inclusion of the Kingdom of Ireland by the Act of Union 1800; the Kingdom of Ireland having been created by Proclamation of Henry VIII (whom we all know and love!). The title “King of Ireland” was created by an act of the Irish Parliament in 1541, replacing the Lordship of Ireland, which had existed since 1171, with the Kingdom of Ireland. The Crown of Ireland Act 1542 established “Personal Union” between the English and Irish crowns.

  • chrisjones2

    Spielberg????????

    …..where is a thigh bone when you need one!!

  • terence patrick hewett

    Yes Chris I am really ashamed since one of my all time favourites is Thackeray’s Barry Lyndon, the book and the film by!!!! Stanley Kubrick!!!! Patrick Magee was superb. So by all means give me a good kicking: I deserve it.

  • Roger

    I’m just sticking to objective fact. That is what triggered the right of self-determination, is it not? I don’t know where blame comes into it.

  • Old Mortality

    I used the word fun figuratively. What I meant that life was generally much less pleasant in material terms for Irish people who remained in the country. Of course some Irish people were always better off than others so perhaps you were fortunate in your family connections. And of course, as I pointed out, you live outside Ireland. Why would that be, I wonder.

  • Old Mortality

    No Chris, I think it’s more a case of the Irish not being a very lucky people, contrary to popular belief. For most of the life of the Irish state their ‘freedom’ must have been little consolation for their material misery. Or perhaps not, since so many of them fled the country.

  • Anglo-Irish

    Life wasn’t all that wonderful in material terms for working class people in England either at the time.

    Growing up I saw no real advantage to either group, just differences which were interesting to me.

    City versus country, both have pros and cons when compared but I certainly didn’t think that life on a small family farm in East Clare was in any way inferior to a small terrace house in Sheffield.

    I most definitely was fortunate in my family connections, but not in any materialistic way, my English father was a lorry driver and my mother came from a small farm which couldn’t support her and her five siblings so they needed to look elsewhere for a living.

    As to why I live outside Ireland, possibly because I was born in Sheffield and married a Sheffield girl?

    There are two places in this world that I consider home, County Clare and Sheffield, and I would happily live in either but would always feel the need to visit the other on a regular basis.

  • terence patrick hewett

    Sh*t Chris I never saw that one: the thigh bone of a complete ass! 10/10

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I used to be involved in TV for decades, but have not had a set myself since 1995. It’s like the old saw about the butcher never eating his own sausages, as he does, after all, know just what types of offal has been used in making them.

    I’d read your comment as a parallel sentiment to Yeats “stay at home/and drink your beer/and let your neighbour vote” lines.

  • terence patrick hewett

    And what rough beast the whining school-boy with his satchel
    His hour come round at last with shining morning face
    Creeping like a snail slouches towards Bethlehem
    Unwillingly to school . To be born.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    AE once introduced my then teenage grandfather to Yeats, and they had a nodding acquaintance thereafter. He began buying Yeats as his work was published, something I’m very grateful for today. And so by my own teens I knew great swathes of Yeats by heart because I’d heard it so often, including an interim “Lake Isle of Innisfree” in alexandrines, all very Paul Verlaine!!!

    I must pass on your “Second Coming” at the next seance in which I contact Yeats!

  • Sir Rantsalot

    Blair and Major are both attendees at Bilderberg, along with many other remainers from the world of politics such as Dave. If you’re not familiar, Bilderberg is perhaps THE elite grouping that controls the world. Heads of state, royalty, the rich of the rich etc, all consider themselves lucky to get an invite to be told what to do for the next year or so by the elite. Funny enough, Bilderberg is happening right now in Dresden. The usual total blackout on controlled MSM applies of course. I’m sure they are a bit annoyed that their single EU state plan looks like its going out the window 🙂
    Any chance of a slugger article on the hysterical pro remain statements and each persons influence by Bilderberg or other such groups?