‘The omerta since 1998 has ended.’

The post-Brexit period has witnessed a number of pronouncements on all-Ireland matters which have provoked a range of responses, some more deserving of greater scrutiny than others.

Whilst Sinn Fein representatives have been a consistent voice calling for an Irish unity referendum, before and after Brexit, references to the context within which such a border poll might be called by other nationalists, north and south, has sparked renewed media interest in the topic.

There are a number of good articles worth reading on the theme of a united Ireland in recent days, including this from Newton Emerson (on the idea of a return to an Irish pound) in The Irish Times and another from David McWilliams in the Sunday Business Post.

But Justine McCarthy’s Sunday Times article is perhaps the most interesting because it touches on a subject which, to my mind, will be the most significant in terms of the enduring legacy from the recent upsurge in interest regarding Irish unity that has been prompted by the fallout from Brexit.

In her piece, McCarthy correctly notes that, with the Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin both floating the issue of Irish unity, we have finally moved on from the era in which the objective of Irish nationalists and republicans was an idea that dare not be mentioned by its supporters, apart from the one political party most avowedly dedicated to its achievement, Sinn Fein.

McCarthy suggests that this has been a consequence of a desire to avoid upsetting unionists:

“Probably the biggest factor has been the Republic’s inscrutable silence on the question of a united Ireland. This speak no evil gag, despite the state’s constitutional aspiration for unification, was motivated by the necessity  not to alarm Northern Ireland’s unionist majority. Any collateral offence caused to northerners wishing to belong to an all-island Ireland was deemed to be one of the prices of peace.”

McCarthy is right to highlight the rationale proffered for an approach that remains prevalent within the southern Irish political class. But whilst some may have argued it was necessary in order to bed down political institutions in the immediate post-Agreement era, it nevertheless is reflective of a mentality utterly contrary to the word and spirit of the Good Friday Agreement- and, again, she correctly identifies the ‘collateral offence’ caused to northern nationalists.

As I have written before on this site, Unionist ‘fears’ (or related synonyms like ‘concerns’ and ‘sensitivities’) have for long been employed as a strategy to act as a bulwark against moves to make northern society more equal.

If people have ‘fears’ then, naturally, there is an onus on others to examine if they are indeed causing this condition to arise, acting in an inappropriate manner which has a detrimental effect on others.

The inaccurate and indeed loaded (intentional or otherwise) use of the term to describe unionist attitudes to items for discussion discourages analysis of the motivation of unionist political leaders and puts the onus on others (namely nationalists) to examine if they are acting in a manner which creates or exacerbates unionist ‘fears.’

Stripped back, these fears are, in reality, nothing more or less than mere opposition to ideas articulated by others. Not liking and opposing something is quite different to genuinely fearing it.

Empowered by the prevalence of this assumption, Arlene Foster’s reaction to the twin ideas floated, of an all-Ireland forum to discuss an Irish response to Brexit and the possibility of a border poll at some non-specific time in the future, make sense.

The DUP leader declared the comments to be ‘unhelpful’, stating that they had caused ‘instability’, suggesting the two most senior politicians on the island should avoid airing such notions at Donegal summer schools in the future.

Whilst Arlene Foster, as a determined unionist, would be expected to oppose any campaign for Irish unity, the arrogance behind her comments can only be understood if one accepts as the premise that unionist attitudes should somehow be deemed superior to those of their neighbouring nationalists within the north. Indeed, her comments echoed those of prominent Alliance MLA, Stewart Dickson, who made the extraordinary claim just two months ago that Catholic Archbishop Eamon Martin’s support for a united Ireland, if shared by others in ‘wider society’, could put reconciliation efforts at risk. Incidentally, the same arrogance can be detected in purportedly moderate Unionist Basil McCrea’s ridiculous claim that allowing Irish citizens residing in Northern Ireland to vote for the Irish President would “cause huge problems for us in Northern Ireland” and “unleash unwanted forces..by raising issues of nationality.”

Foster’s sense of entitlement in this regard has been nurtured by the continued prevalence of this mindset, reflected again in former Progressive Democrat frontbencher and one time Minister of State, Liz O’Donnell, who wrote this past week about how bad Mr Taoiseach was for even mentioning a border poll.

In her own words:

“Which makes me gasp at the timing of the Taoiseach’s musings about a border poll on Irish unity as part of the Irish Brexit discussions. Thinking out loud about a poll on Irish reunification at this juncture is not helpful to Anglo-Irish relations. True, a united Ireland remains a legitimate aspiration in our Constitution on the basis of consent. Article 2 Annex A of the Good Friday Agreement states that the Northern Secretary can trigger a poll on the matter “if at any time it appears likely to him/her that a majority of those voting would express a wish that Northern Ireland should cease to be part of the UK and form part of a united Ireland”.

The Taoiseach accepts the conditions for the holding of such a border poll are not in place or even proximate. So why poison the well of goodwill needed with unionists and the British government by bringing this up? We should not take political stability and peace for granted. It is not so long ago that removing the Union flag from Belfast City Hall prompted loyalist riots and sustained street protests. Overreaching by nationalists on issues which touch on sovereignty or allegiance is ill judged. The Government should focus on practical trade and travel issues and a soft border which are essential factors in Anglo-Irish relations post-Brexit and leave constitutional issues alone for now.

It is wrong and provocative to conflate a Remain vote in Northern Ireland with a contingent support for Irish unity. The two issues are totally separate.

Constitutional issues need diplomacy and long lead-in times. Central to the peace process has been a respectful partnership between the two governments as custodians. The new prime minister has stressed her desire to preserve the Union and will not be impressed with a poll on Irish unity being so casually and prematurely thrown into the mix. Touting it was bound to aggravate unionists, particularly after their earlier rejection of an all-island forum on Brexit issues. We know from long experience that unionists are deeply suspicious of creeping cross-border initiatives, however benign.

The northern executive, led by Arlene Foster and Martin McGuinness, needs to work together with the two governments for pragmatic solutions to Brexit challenges and not be distracted by hypothetical and needlessly divisive propositions. Let sleeping dogs lie.”

It is hard to know where to begin with such a statement.

According to the gasping O’Donnell, the Taoiseach “poison(ed) the well of goodwill” by simply referencing the possibility of a border poll at some non-defined point in the future.

Furthermore, her interpretation of the flag dispute is wholly consistent with that element within unionism which continues to resist changes aimed at making Northern Ireland an equal state and society for its peoples.

Incredibly, and without any sense of self-awareness, O’Donnell references British Prime Minister Theresa May’s declaration of support for the Union without at any time seeking to understand that one can not validate such a pronouncement from a British Prime Minister on matters constitutional without also affording an Irish Taoiseach the same right. Following her own logic, O’Donnell should have castigated Theresa May for seeking to strengthen the Union on the basis that it might raise nationalist ‘fears’ in the north.

Justine McCarthy is correct in her claim that a Rubicon has been crossed. One of the legacies of 2016 is likely to be that Irish nationalists finally begin to explore in a substantive manner how the aspiration of Irish unity can be turned into a reality. That won’t mean a border poll any time soon- there is plenty of other work to be done to take Irish unity from an abstract ideal into something tangible, and lessons can be learned from the Scottish experience.  But one of the first battles for Irish unity advocates will be to confront a lingering mindset amongst the southern political class which fails to recognise that, in our new political dispensation, there is no justification for that collateral offence to continue to be caused. In fact, it does more harm than good.



  • grumpy oul man

    The kind of damage done by the unionist neglect and small-scale corruption was bad,


    seriously neglect and small-scale corruption, wow you do need a history lesson.

  • grumpy oul man

    well so much for unionist democracy, and it is nice to know that the paper tiger of the unionist backlash is still alive, but gone are the days when it was able to make the British government jump when it wanted.

  • grumpy oul man

    certainly unionists had very little empathy for them and the protestant population in the south is quite happy and very Irish (Que urban myths about prod genocide down south)

  • grumpy oul man

    “I will take that as a ‘no’then.”
    but he said he did have empathy, but since they were treated fairly by the southern government (some citizens acted like bigoted a%^$holes) unlike the nationalists up Norths treatment by unionists, he doesn’t think the two things are comparable.
    Where did you get the No from?

  • grumpy oul man

    the “Gaffer Tape Squads” have been out for a long time, loyalists (with the silent and sometimes not so silent support of the unionists parties) have been suppressing any prod who is not loyal enough, or have you forget the flegs protests.

  • grumpy oul man

    let us hope he reminds her that the majority here voted to remain in the EU and she is supposed to represent them as well as the minority who supported her view.

  • grumpy oul man

    Nationalists are indeed rejecting the old ways, PBP is a very welcome sign.
    It is to be noted that unionism is still mired in its right wing past with no sign of change.

  • grumpy oul man

    and the state in the north proved (as Carson thought) to be unsustainable, the one down south is doing nicely, didn’t discriminate against its minority, nor did it use killers to keep it minority under control, nor did it descend into disorder when the tensions reached breaking point.
    the republic even taking into account the evils of Catholic church rule was a veritable shrine to democracy compared to what NI became.

  • grumpy oul man

    “Irish nationalism proposes a solution that places more people outside the country of their choice than unionism does.”
    How many unionists ended up living in the south after partition and how many nationalists ended up under British rule in the north after partition.
    Think you got your sums wrong there mate.

  • grumpy oul man

    where is this place called UKNI, does one travel through a wardrobe to get there?

  • grumpy oul man

    ..the Irish state was created after a civil war driven by a factional power grab
    that faction just happened to be the majority but then these people called unionists went to the enemy of their king and got guns of him then they threatened the legal government and made it overturn the results of a election.
    I take it when you say faction what you really mean is is the majority.

  • grumpy oul man

    how long did it take for the murdering to start in the north

  • grumpy oul man

    Roger, I am Irish, i am also a ulster man, and a Antrim man.
    that’s the beauty of being Irish i can be from the north of Ireland and still be Irish,
    I described myself as northern Irish but the key word is Irish.
    Hope that helps.

  • grumpy oul man

    Your 45% percent figure, where is it from?

  • AntrimGael

    Nah, here’s a couple of tickets for Stranraer.

  • AntrimGael

    It also appears now that Sinn Fein has bought into the PSNI/Parades Commission mindset that Republicans outside the Shinners commune are to be banned from Belfast City Centre. For the second year in a row the anti-Internment march is not allowed to enter Belfast City Centre. So much for the equality agenda that has turned full circle and gone back to the days of Loyalist violence, and the threat of it, holding a veto in the North. Now whatever you think of this parade, the fact is that Republicans are once again denied access to Belfast City Centre while Loyalists of all hues, have unlimited access; this sends out a powerful message to the wider Nationalist community that the Orange state STILL pervades.

  • kennedy

    thanks for the response,
    i don’t agree with everything but some things and also if negotiations are to begin the initial postiion of both sides sould be as wide and broad as it could be. People who belive that your response to my onest question cannot or will not comprose. Having said that nationalsit might have equally broad and wide demands–that are unacceptable to unionists.

    …so we set out our broad tables or stalls on both sides and nibble away at them one at a time until both sides achieve consensus.

    then maybe people can focus on housing, health care, nutriton, education, and recreation for all…

    again with respect thanks MU for your kind response.

    agree or not you set out your terms and that is ahelathy beginning that shouldn’t just be cast in the wind … in my humble opinion.

  • Roger

    Not really. I suppose we’re looking to the politics of it all. Do you describe yourself as Northern Irish or northern Irish?

  • Roger

    Well it’s just an abbreviation for United Kingdom, Northern Ireland region. You could probably put a wardrobe in the corner of a border field in Ireland and crawl through into UKNI. But would you want to?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    People are often poor witnesses to their own behaviours though (a social researcher writes!). In working out why people go for a certain view, their self-explanations are of course very interesting and a starting point, but are rarely definitive. It doesn’t make people liars, just human. The economic argument is a valid argument. I just don’t analyse it in the case of the border in Ireland as among the core factors driving choice.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Interesting thoughts. Seems you’re not really up for a united Ireland.

    It’s given away somewhat with “Where is this cultural hostility to British people in Ireland, the Brits and us Irish get on great …” I assume you’re labelling everyone in Ireland as ‘Irish’ and applying ‘British’ only to people in the rest of the UK. Correct me if I’m wrong.

    In terms of cultural hostility to British people in Ireland, you confirm there really is a big issue with that. First you refuse to recognise people indigenous to the island who have a British identity as British; then you characterise them as “anti-Catholic”; then you assume any Orange parade must involve terrorists; and finally you write off the suggestion that Britishness needs to be accommodated in this new Irish-British state as ridiculous because that would make it somehow English.

    The union is safe if that’s your vision of a new shared Ireland. It sounds remarkably like the old not-shared Ireland. Next …

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I agree with a lot of that – those would all be good things to do and would help build cross-community trust and confidence.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Yes, I condemn all of those unequivocally.
    Some of us don’t portray sh** behaviour as excusable. I trust you similarly have no hesitation in condemning nationalist trouble-makers, such as those lending support to the Republican Movement?

  • Jarl Ulfreksfjordr

    ‘Two wrongs make a right’.

    The position of the morally vacuous throughout the ages.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Not really, I have always condemned what he did. I don’t buy that he or any other loyalist in 1966 started the Troubles, which didn’t kick off until 1969; but he certainly played a role in the build up to them.

    I seem to get misread on here quite often as blaming the events of August 1969 entirely on Republicans. I don’t; and I think loyalists played a big role in the civil disorder and the spiral of violence, along with Republicans. Where I think the blame starts to shift much more onto the Republican side is in the emergence of the Provos a few months later and then the decision taken in January 1970 by the PIRA Army Council to take this as an opportunity to launch an offensive to drive N Ireland out of the UK through terrorism. At the same time, Republican violence was emerging as more persistent and more intense than what was happening on the loyalist side. That went on to be the defining pattern right up until 1991 or so. Republican violence was the driving force behind the vast majority of the Troubles; and most of the Troubles consisted of Republican violence. That doesn’t excuse loyalist violence for a second. But let’s not pretend it was 50/50, because it just wasn’t. The “armed struggle” was a Republican idea and a Republican campaign and the various responses to it, moral and immoral, legal and illegal, were on a much smaller scale than the Republican violence itself.

    When understanding what judgments to make about the Troubles, you need to look at all the changes of patterns of violence throughout the Troubles years. I do think nationalism has tried to portray the whole 30 year period as if August 1969 was typical of it; or even 1966, which in most historians’ books was a precursor to “the Troubles” rather than the “start” of them. In reality, the “Troubles” morphed several times over the 1969-98 period; but at almost every stage, Republican violence was dominant.

  • Jarl Ulfreksfjordr

    “or have you forget the flegs protests”. I’m assuming that jumble of words is a question.

    I can’t see the connection between “flegs protests” and a conversation within nationalism about a ‘united’ Ireland. However, as you have brought up the matter, I do recall lots of chat about said protests by nationalists, and others, at the time.

    But that was not the issue at hand. The suggestion being made was that nationalists were stifled in discussing their preferred political outcome on the island by unionist negativity.

    Who’d have thought that those wishing to voice an opinion in support of a ‘UI’ were so tremulous and put off so easily?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    put that on the referendum posters if we ever have one 😉 Winning stuff.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Eh? Not sure what your questions have to do with it …
    It’s pretty simple:
    Solution 1, united Ireland: 900,000 pro-UK people left as a minority in a country not of their choosing (independent Ireland)
    Solution 2, partition: 600,000 pro-Free State left as a minority in a country not of their choosing (UK).
    Clearly Solution 2 is better than Solution 1. That’s end of story really. Partition was not some great injustice and I’m afraid Irish nationalism did its own cause no good with the people it needed to persuade, unionists, by carrying on as if it were. It just made nationalism seem ridiculous. It isn’t entirely ridiculous of course and many good people I like are nationalists. But when it pretends partition was wrong, it just looks silly, self-interested and irrational. It should aspire to be better than that.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    we’re into silly ‘my country’s better than your country’ stuff.

    I hardly think De Valera’s Irish Republic was a shining light of tolerance, pluralism and civil rights. NI wasn’t great either, but let’s not ignore the context – the Republic in those days was not the pleasant land it has since become. It was banning books on a big scale, it gave the Catholic Church a special role in the state, it stayed neutral against Nazi Germany (though I realise the Irish government did help us in some ways on the sly), De Valera defined Irishness in terms of Gaelicism and Catholicism, the place was an economic basket case, the Protestant population was made unwelcome in large parts of the country, their business boycotted; and much of it left. Catholics in NI were better off on average than Catholics in the Republic. Let’s get a bit of perspective here. This wasn’t the choice between dark and light, these were two pretty struggling places, each with deep problems and still to learn of the benefits of pluralism.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    My wife would laugh, she is a historian. I’m not sure she’d see my need as the greater in this conversation.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Had it ever crossed your mind that you might not understand history as well as you think you do …?

  • grumpy oul man

    well you would find very few people who admire the state under Dev, but really NI was not that different (still on the Nazis thing, by the way do you know the words to “the Billy Boys) and still is a basket case which has to be propped up by the English every year, glass houses and stones old man.
    and maybe you would be better off asking a few Catholics if they where better off than Catholics in the republic before you start making wild claims.
    As for
    “This wasn’t the choice between dark and light, these were two pretty
    struggling places, each with deep problems and still to learn of the
    benefits of pluralism. the republic has become a pluralistic modern forward looking society while NI still has politicians who think sectarian marches and big poisonous bonfires are culture!
    I new a few Prods from the North who have made there homes in the republic and they love it, I also know prods whose family’s have lived there for generations and they are content with how things are run.
    so I know unionism likes a good look backwards (1690 and those lads who brought all those German guns in) but comparing the Republic that exists today with Dev’s hellhole is just silly.
    Could you perhaps refer me this systematic campaign against the Prods in the south, try not to count all those who worked for the British establishment and moved to Britain when their Jobs moved there.
    Ireland indeed was (NI still is) a economic basket case when Britain left, it was a economic basket case when |England ruled it and those things don’t change quickly, but you have to admit they have got over very nicely.

  • grumpy oul man

    so let me get this straight you want to get rid of the tricolor because of it connotations but would like the Union flag included in the new flag regardless of it connotations .
    Yea sure , my murdered are less important than your murdered, my memories are less important than yours.
    This bit is really funny,
    formal apology by Irish state for its complicity in anti-Britishness in the past.
    Care to outline when this happened and in this vision of yours will we be getting a apology from Unionists for their Anti Irishness in the past.
    Now these fines for glorifying a terrorist group, will that apply to the UVF or the UDA.
    Aw yes flags you want Irish State building to fly the British Flag (respect my flag while I put another one of yours on the Bonfire) how will the victims of British violence feel about that.
    And Joining the English, Welsh and Scots in a political and economic alliance, there is already one of those called the UK and not only the Irish want out of that.
    The whole oath thing is just childish.
    No problem with OO parades in Dublin but how do you think the relatives of the 40 people killed in the Dublin Monaghan bombing will feel about a group with long and deep links with those who planted the bombs marching down O’Connell st.
    Perhaps those who planted the Shankill bomb should be allowed to march down the Shankill, or are your dead more important than mine.
    I want a UI but not the bigger version of the old NI that you fancy.

  • grumpy oul man

    Nice to know you condemn them completely but can you tell me how every time you go into one of your , the history of the troubles according to MU, speeches you leave them and the effect they had on NI pre Provo’s out of the lesson.
    Seriously i have seen you Jump from the end of the IRA,s pathetic border campaign to the formation of the PIRA with no reference to either the UVF or the OV and the part they played leading up to the troubles.
    Its almost like you think they had no effect on what happened after their murder and bombing campaign.
    I will take you seriously in your claim that you condemn them when i see you fitting them into your history of NI.

  • grumpy oul man

    No you don’t buy it,
    what would a group of sectarian killers and bombers have to do with hardening attitudes among those they are killing.

    But of course the Provo’s started it even if loyalists where killing Catholics and burning people out of their houses before that, and loyalist violence was ongoing at he time, Did in your opinion the organized discrimination of the NI state against Catholics and the violent opposition to change (burntollet anyone) have anything to do with what happened or is that not important or relevant either.

  • grumpy oul man

    70 people at least were killed by UR weapon, hardly a minor incident.
    but sure those dead are not as important as your dead so its just a minor incident.

  • grumpy oul man

    Yes it has and i decided to do a bit of reading, You will no doubt be shocked to learn that your version of history is not one taken seriously by those people whose Job it is to study and teach it,
    by the way when i was trying to convince Abucs of Hitlers right winginess i mentioned the fact that historians disagreed with him he claimed a conspiracy of left wing bulls$%^”ers had taken over history teaching, how do you explain the fact that they overwhelmingly disagree with you.

  • grumpy oul man

    Really your wife’s a historian, and she agrees with you.

    Not a very good historian then, seems she doesn’t know the difference between widespread discrimination in Jobs Housing and infrastructure and ” neglect and small-scale corruption ”
    Has she published anything on the subject, She did her degree in NI history I take it for you to imply some expertise on the subject she would have had to i suppose.
    Would love to read her stuff!

  • Katyusha

    Internment was such a traumatic and pivotal event in Northern Ireland’s history that it is a little surprising – taken at face value – that there is no commemoration actually in the city centre. You would think we could at least manage a collective pledge of “Never again” (and actually forming a commitment to it in the public psyche). If the powers-that-be our disappointed with who is leading the anti-internment events, all they have to do is allow it to celebrated as the part of the fabric of the city which it is. There are disparate privately-organised events because there is a massive void which will only naturally be filled.

    Of course, any knowledge about the structure of our society makes it perfectly clear why some events are not allowed to be commemorated and some stories are not supposed to be heard. That is not a route towards a healthly society.

  • grumpy oul man

    No sir i do not say two wrongs make a right as you well know.
    What i say is that unionists love to make blanket statements about nationlists.
    But seem to not be aware of there long history of piltical violence.
    Murdering policemen was a trend started by unionists.
    Try to remember this.

  • Jarl Ulfreksfjordr

    What you “say” is clearly on the screen for anyone to read.

    “What I say is that unionists love to make blanket statements about nationalists.”

    A ‘blanket-man’ yourself it seems.

  • grumpy oul man

    It is good that what i say is on the screen so all can see that you start by ,the oul violent nationalist line, I merely pointed out that people in glass houses should not throw stones.
    Perhaps a few books on the history of Ireland might help you!

  • Jarl Ulfreksfjordr

    Ha! You are suggesting reading books on Irish history? Seriously you’re beyond parody.

    On the day that the so-called ‘Dáil Éireann’ met for the first time Shinners murdered two police officers at Soloheadbeg in County Tipperary. The timeline and incident I was alluding to in my first post.

    Anyone who actually reads any Irish history, and I’m not referring to the ‘oul comics you obviously gain your ‘insights’ from, would have clearly understood the point.

    However in your rush to get a wee poke in you knee jerked into mentioning the vile and reprehensible murder of Victor Arbuckle. Murdered whilst policing a loyalist riot that occurred as part of protests about disarming the RUC.

    You obviously felt this was important, and felt the need to mitigate the murder of police officers by nationalists, as if loyalist terrorist atrocities somehow diluted violent acts by their nationalist brothers of the gun and bomb.

    Addressing the point made, or if you could bring yourself to it, a simple condemnation of murder would have sufficed; ignoring my post was also an option. It seems all three were beyond you. I can’t say I’m surprised.

  • 1729torus

    I appreciate that this is several days late, but is your reference to “security” an oblique threat of Loyalist terrorism in the event of a United Ireland? Like the ones Mr. Donnelly and several people here complained about?

    I wouldn’t put up with threats of violence if I criticised Islam, so why should I do the same if Unionists use violence to protect “their identity” from scrutiny? And don’t bother with this spiel of “I’m a peaceful guy myself, but my anonymous buddy might do something if he isn’t appeased, so don’t do anything foolish”. It is transparent bullying.

    This violates the GFA, and it would likely be unwise for PUL people to follow through or even continue to employ such rhetoric. Casually threatening people like this tends to make them angry and feel humiliated.

    Unionists often complain that Nationalists only ever see them as an obstacle to be removed. It may not be wise to cultivate an atmosphere where people in general sincerely believe that a Kosovo-style ethnic cleansing is necessary, and a democratic border poll is insufficient since it will always be frustrated by 1912-style threats of violence. (See – 2 can play at this game, and there is a real difference between rogue IRA units murdering innocent people and what the Kosovo Liberation Army did.)

  • grumpy oul man

    I felt it important because of your knee jerk reaction of implying that nationalist somehow react to everything with violence.
    Any discussion involving nationalist triggers this reaction from you, you act as if violence was purely a nationalist thing, hence my point about loyalist /unionist violence!
    However i see you goggled Constable Arbuckle and at least you have learnt something from this debate.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I’ve been more than clear in many posts, I in no way think any violence around such a democratic vote would be justified or necessary. But just because I think it shouldn’t happen and wouldn’t support it, doesn’t mean there won’t be violence there to be dealt with. I would support it being dealt with pretty harshly. But I want to know what the united Irelander view on that is.

    There is another aspect to this which is the compromised position Irish nationalist politics has got itself into over this issue. We were told throughout the 90s by the SDLP and Irish government, as well as SF of course, that if we unionists were serious about wanting IRA violence to stop, SF/IRA had to be part of any deal – their violence meant they had to be part of the solution. I disagreed with that – but we had to wear it because nationalism insisted. So it seems odd if nationalism is now championing a new majority (not consensus) arrangement, in which violent Loyalists would not have to be accommodated. I am in no such tricky bind, because I’ve always insisted on terrorism on both sides being disregarded and its advocates sidelined. I would want that if we ended up in a united Ireland, just as I wanted it in N Ireland.

    I get the argument against bringing this up as a subject – that you see some kind of a threat involved. There is no threat from me, I would in no way want to encourage anything of that sort. All I’m saying is, we both know the kind of people we’re talking about here and they are not like me. If you can tell me you are 100 per cent sure no one will kick off, fine. I’m not sure I find that convincing but fine. But if you do think things might kick off and yet give no thought to how it would be handled, that is highly irresponsible. There are a lot of unanswered questions:
    – who the security forces would be – branded as Irish, Northern Irish, British?
    – would British security forces also be involved, perhaps for a time policing Loyalist paramilitary strongholds?
    – what kind of measures might be involved?
    – would internment be considered if things got bad?
    – would some kind of international force – EU or UN (I guess not NATO) – be a useful strategy?
    – would the Irish army be involved in N Ireland? Would these be troops from the Republic or locally recruited?
    – what measures would be taken to block off Loyalist weapon supplies?
    – if transitional security arrangements were to be needed, how long would they stay in place?
    – would MI5 need to be involved for a time after unity, perhaps 10-20 years?
    – what would the long term security arrangements look like?

    Having security plans is not giving the green light to wrong-doers, it’s a sign of being prepared, being in control and able to create a sense of calm. Not having security plans, or anything to say about security, lest it be taken as a provocation, or admission of weakness, is not just silly but dangerous.

    But I would like to know what reassurance united Irelanders can give to the many people who are scared of the place suffering terrorism again. It just seems naive in the extreme – and irresponsible – to scope out a united Ireland future without going through any negative scenario planning. It’s in political nationalism’s self-interest to have a strong security narrative here. I suspect that being reassured that N Ireland won’t descend into some kind of sectarian meltdown is kind of key to winning over those who currently vote SDLP or SF but who don’t currently lend their support to a united Ireland.

    We have stability at the moment in terms of security – and after what we’ve been through, people value that. I’d suggest, for what it’s worth, it’s something of a human universal. It’s why Corbyn is unelectable in England, people won’t trust him to keep them safe. It’s right at the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – that is, it is foundational. When it’s not there, it becomes Issue No1, as it was in the 70s, 80s and 90s. If I were you, I’d be addressing it, not taking a swipe at people of peace who raise it as a genuine worry.

  • Jarl Ulfreksfjordr

    If you can read back on this thread you will see that I was responding to the argument that violence was somehow excusable because of the imagined future policies of others – ” the Brits had no intention of acceding to the wishes of the Irish people.

    So on a point of nationalist violence I referenced nationalist violence.

    As to your wider accusation, directed personally at me, ok I now understand your discomfort at any mention of violence inspired by Irish nationalism. My advice? Go live under a rock.

  • 1729torus

    The security question will have to be dealt with sooner rather than later so that by the time a border poll happens in 2040, people will have forgotten about it. Bit like making NI financially viable.

    This means an end to the sort of innuendo seen in this post (which I falsely accused you of ). It means an end to Loyalist paramilitaries. It means an end to the fleg riots and so on. An end to “KKKulture”. And everyone must see it happen: on either side of the Border.

    So Martin McGuinness has to use the next 5 years calling out all the things I mentioned. He has to vigorously defend the right to engage in border polls and so on in the name of democracy (might be ironic for a Unionist). He has to call for UVF disarmament (ditto). If some Unionist politician makes vague remarks about “endangering the peace process” or “derailing reconciliation” or even “let’s get along”call them out politely, but audibly (and without any shame!).

    It is extremely fortunate that it is in Unionism’s interest to sort out many of these things themselves so as to avoid alienating the people in Britain and to help attract inward investment to make the place successful. Oh and to avoid offending the nascent non-Prod majority. It is generally unwise to keep poking at people you persecuted in the past when they are waxing and you are waning demographically and politically.

    He needs to win small victories to weaken the paramilitaries. So instead of something like these ridiculous calls for Border polls – call for votes for the Seanad or Presidential elections instead or something. Say that “in the interests of the peace process, it is not necessarily a bad thing that Republicans and other people know that democratic methods can deliver after 20 years of stagnation”. But in a very subtle way so not to alarm people in the south.

    The Loyalists will pick up on the vague threat, and probably do nothing for fear of starting a war they cannot really win. There is enough Protestant emigration as it is, even a potentially pissed off Catholic population will result in an exodus like Kosovo or Chechnya. So they will do nothing, and the polls will go as planned a few years later and nordies will be voting in their Senators.

    And most people will be none the wiser and delighted that the whole thing went off relatively peacefully except for the odd riot. Which will temper their expectations going forward.

    A few rounds of such manoeuvres and a creeping annexation means that by 2040, the fear should be gone.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    we’ll see, Just aware it was supposed to have happened by 2000; then confidently predicted by 2016 … instead support for it trundling along below 20 per cent and with a ceiling of possibly 35 per cent after a campaign if it went well. Nothing inevitable about it. Things change, ideas change.

    The big problem for now for people wanting a united Ireland is that so many Catholics aren’t on board. I think they’d kind of assumed religious identity was definitive of whether you’re pro-united Ireland or not. But religious identity is becoming much, much less of a determinant of politics now – and that trend looks set to grow. That may give hope for nationalism but I’m not so sure … and I think it takes away its previous certainty of eventual triumph.

  • 1729torus

    Kosovo hasn’t joined Greater Albania yet, and they’ve been playing the demographic game so long the place is now 90% Albanian. Anyone who thinks UI is inevitable just off demographics is a moron.

    A UI won’t happen until 2050 at the earliest IMHO for the simple reason the South will just vote “no” in anticipation of a better deal as more Unionists die off, as harsh as that sounds. Why go through the pain of stuff about NATO membership, or a new flag, or a diarchy between the President and the Queen when the issue will become easier in 10 years time? And you won’t have to pay for or share power with as many “themmuns” as before. Again, harsh, but humans are humans.

    As a matter of fact, the best thing Fianna Fáil could do in 2021 if they start running in Assembly elections is to advocate a constitutional amendment banning a border poll until 2040. And concentrate on improving the place. Cross border movements and things like votes for the Seanad would still happen though.

    You’d actually probably strengthen nationalism, in the sense of wanting to absorb NI into the RoI and digest it and make Gaels out of the planters. The South wouldn’t have to make any concessions whatsover on things like Commonwealth membership or so on (I know this is rude, but the Commonwealth is a little off putting for me in light of the Anglo-Irish Treaty and the Empire) to ensure good relations with everyone in NI. This would inevitably bleed north so NI would be “greener” for a given level of CNR (or even “post-nationalist”) population.

    I think many Unionists appreciate that RoI’s influence in NI will naturally grow as their position weakens due to demographics (this is of course separate from small ‘u’ unionism !!). Look at how Trevor Ringland wants RoI to join the Commonwealth.

    One definite effect of demographics is increased alienation from rUK as NI becomes more “foreign”. This will make a UI more likely as love, attention and funding dries up.

    Calls and plans for a UI will become frequent since winning a Border Poll is now possible in theory.

    You will also see more people from a PUL background become assimilated as majority “CNR” places appear. It will be a two way process to some degree though obviously. I expect the bands to basically become trad music groups with drums and costumes once the sectarianism is gone and more catholics join.

    One last thing to bear in mind is that a quasi-federal RoI is probably inevitable regardless of unification. The current arrangements are too clunky and Dublin wants a mayor. And once one place gets it everyone else gets it so politicians don’t have to listen to complaining.TDs will feel the West Lothian question quite quickly too since Dublin is so large relative to the rest of the country.

    There is also the general European trend of disintegration – traditional Irish Nationalism (pure Gaels fighting the Brits) is basically Munster Nationalism writ large. So as Dublin grows bigger and starts celebrating its Anglo-Irish side, you will see a counterreaction in Munster as often happens in Irish history. The traditional solution to economic underdevelopment and alienation in Ireland is devolution, and eventually all the provinces will get it.

    Finally, the question of NI will mean the Republic could end up
    experimenting with devolution to get it right. I suspect the 3 counties in Ulster will be a federal territory directly ruled from Dublin, which will be a federated city in its own right.

    Likewise, a secular constitution will also happen. And it will probably be updated with rights and so on in anticipation of the possibility of a UI, but it probably would have happened anyway. It will probably be revised a few times on an ad hoc basis until a provisional constitution is set up

    So when it comes around in 2050, the question will be whether a greenified NI should join a federal Ireland as a sixth state and merge with the border counties in the process? And NI probably votes in the presidential election, the Seanad, most parties are cross border etc.

    Unification is not inevitable but not particularly implausible either – if the region is financially sound, it could stay in the UK forever in principle I suppose.

    If the UK breaks up, then a UI will happen. I personally think it will, but I don’t think you will agree.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Really interesting musings, enjoyed that.

    Anything could happen … but it’s good to agree that there are no inevitables here.