Brexit’s Challenges & Opportunities for Irish Nationalists

Ahead of Saturday’s Lighthouse Indian Summer School in Killough, I have an article in today’s Irish News examining the challenges and opportunities that Brexit presents for Irish nationalism in the short and long term.

I’ve always thought that the developing European identity in the latter quarter of the 20th century helped Irish nationalists cope with the differing challenges and experiences faced in both jurisdictions on the island. Part of me admires the self-confidence of the British in taking Brexit’s leap into the unknown, though I do believe that Irish nationalism has an opportunity to shape a vision of an inclusive Ireland comfortable as a full member of an evolving European Union that will contrast with Britain’s decision to stand apart, a point I make in the concluding paragraph:

In the longer term, Brexit presents an unexpected opportunity for many in nationalist Ireland to develop a vision of an Ireland embracing an interdependent role and future amongst European peoples, in contrast to a unionist vision of a United Kingdom increasingly standing apart from its European neighbours. That is a challenge which must form a part of the discussion about what form Irish unity can and will take as we move beyond aspirational politics.

Read the whole piece here.

The Summer School will include a panel discussion with prominent elected representatives from Sinn Fein (Matt Carthy MEP), Fianna Fail (Darragh O’Brien TD) and the SDLP (Claire Hanna MLA) on the theme of Nationalism after Brexit. It will commence at 11am at Killough Youth and Community Hall. All are welcome to attend.

 

  • Brendan Heading

    I think that paragraph is a pretty good summary Chris.

    The opportunity which is presented to nationalists has a lot to do with the extent to which the status quo is affected by brexit. Sticking with the union is, for most people, the safe option. It has to become unsafe before significant numbers of people will change their position, and I’m not convinced that this has really happened yet.

    The financial markets have mostly recovered since the referendum; reflecting perhaps that the main source of instability was the uncertainty over who would take charge of the UK government. Theresa May’s election has done a lot to reassure things. That said, before long, she’s going to have to put her cards on the table.

  • terence patrick hewett

    It is all part of the great game that the 4 nations play with each other: Flanders and Swan: “A Song of Patriotic Prejudice”

    Flanders and Donald Swann: “A Song of Patriotic Prejudice” got deleted from the Speccie website. I suppose it was the quote from the song:

    “It’s knowing you’re foreign that’s driving you mad” That did it.

    But it really illustrates how ignorant the current crop magazinoes are: The clue is in the last line of the song:

    “And the flower of England is Donald and Me”

    Donald Swann was of Welsh and Russian antecedents: Michael Flanders was of Irish and English ancestry. The audience of course knew this. The f*cking illiterates of the Spectator apparently did not.

    And for all the smug: Tom Lehrer’s the Old Dope Peddler:

  • Old Mortality

    ‘I’ve always thought that the developing European identity in the latter quarter of the 20th century helped Irish nationalists cope with the differing challenges and experiences faced in both jurisdictions on the island.’
    Did ‘the developing European identity’ amount to anything more than successfully rattling the begging bowl. Nationalist hysteria over Brexit seems to be animated exclusively by the potential loss of Euro-largesse although SF are clearly delighted at the opportunity to revive the unity debate.

  • chrisjones2

    So “Nationalists” are trying to see a United Ireland as part of a developing European Superstate where it will have less say and less identity and less control of their own destiny.

    Am I missing something or are they?

  • Anglo-Irish

    ” Part of me admires the self confidence of the British taking the Brexit leap into the unknown “.

    Nothing whatsoever to do with self confidence, a protest vote that most of us can sympathize with ( although disagreeing with the vote ) against the current political situation.

    The Uk is now in a position in which it has no plan for, and no idea as to how it will turn out.

  • Anglo-Irish

    No they aren’t, yes you are, membership of the EU is by agreement, and it can be ended by a national vote at any time, as has just been demonstrated.

    Membership of the UK on the other hand was originally imposed by force and has been maintained by force ever since.

    See the difference there?

  • Brendan Heading

    If they press ahead and trigger article 50 at the start of next year that should kick things off properly.

    It is interesting that the markets have substantially recovered (although the value of the £ hasn’t – quite) and seem relatively stable having priced in the government’s commitment to invoking Art 50 early next year. This could mean a number of things, but it’s most likely that the markets expect a soft brexit with free trade substantially intact.

    *if* there is a soft brexit, and most things continue the way they have been for the past number of decades, it will be more or less business as usual.

    Regarding the possibility of other trade deals, I expect that at some point the officials and civil servants are going to bring Boris and co in for a little chat about the facts of life, such as about how you can’t simply sign a bit of paper that overcomes the 9000 mile distance between the UK and some of the countries it wishes to trade freely with.

    I can see that chat is going to have to extend to this side of the Irish Sea as well; I heard Alistair Ross opining on Nolan last Monday that brexit would mean that the regional government could simply resume state aid as and when it liked. Nobody seems to have told Alistair that wide-ranging trade deals, especially with large economic powers, will almost certainly include provisions to discourage state spending and state aid to private sector firms.

  • Brendan Heading

    I was with you in the first paragraph, but then you went back in time. Scotland almost left the UK via a democratic vote, and there is an international treaty under which the UK is bound to allow NI to leave, if it wishes.

  • AntrimGael

    Sadly I don’t believe the current, pathetic crop of Republican/Nationalist ‘politicians’ are capable or have the intelligence to formulate any Brexit policy or plan.

  • Roger

    safely enjoying poverty…

  • Kevin Breslin

    Oh please, if it wasn’t for the Irish voting twice on Lisbon, you and I would be conscripted for emergency customs control as the UK would be kicked out of the EU like Algeria and any attempt to manage the transition would be panicked and unmanaged.

  • NotNowJohnny

    You could always set out here what you think would be a credible Brexit policy or plan. Those RepublicanNationalist politicians which you refer to could then pick it up and run with it.

  • NotNowJohnny

    I’m not sure that the first part of your paragraph 2 is historically correct. But I’m happy to be proved wrong in that.

  • Slater

    Ireland was lucky in that it was allowed to join the EC with the claim to the six counties intact which of course was entirely at odds with why the original six countries set up the community.
    That indicated the country’s cynicism about European unity. You can have it as long as we get to rearrange the internal frontiers. (Ireland has interests as well as Britain although that is hard to conceptualise for Republicans).
    The downside to the EU was always closer economic unity and all that entails, especially by way of open-door immigration.
    That radical demographic change is here to stay and means Ireland is no longer an aggressively nationalist political entity as 20% of its population are baffled by the concept and the rest increasingly so.
    The path for Sinn Fein to adopt if it wants to see unity has to be to become the island’s UK Independence Party, and more, and try to stop the repopulation of the island with aliens.
    ‘No New Plantation’ could be the slogan.

  • Anglo-Irish

    How does that change what I posted?

    The reason that NI is currently in the UK is historical isn’t it?

    I was simply pointing out that EU membership was voluntary whilst UK membership wasn’t.

    Yes it has now been agreed that Ireland will reunite once a referendum votes for it, but until that time the British army is still in NI.

  • Katyusha

    Ireland is no longer an aggressively nationalist political entity as 20% of its population are baffled

    Where do you get that from? If it counts for anything, the now three main parties in Ireland all represent various shades of Irish nationalism. Nationalism would seem to be much stronger in Ireland than in most western European countries. When I start to see “No love for a nation” graffitti on walls in Ireland like I do in Germany, then maybe I could believe Ireland is becoming alienated from nationalism. We’re a long way off from that.

    If you mean 20% of the population were born overseas, that does not mean they do not understand nationalism. There are nationalist currents and undercurrents amongst all peoples.

    The path for Sinn Fein to adopt if it wants to see unity has to be to become the island’s UK Independence Party, and more, and try to stop the repopulation of the island with aliens.

    Nonsense. There’s no market for this kind of right-wing populism in Ireland.
    Look at how “Identity Ireland” did at the last election – stood one candidate, collected a total of 183 votes. Less – much less – than 1% of the vote share in a single constituency. A complete failure.
    One thing I am actually proud of Ireland for is that there is no traction for fascism or right-wing populism.

  • Anglo-Irish

    Yes, you have a point in that historically the UK came about technically after the act of Union.

    But then ask yourself this question, what would have been the outcome of a refusal to join and a demand for self determination?

    Membership by force may well have played its part at that stage wouldn’t you agree?

  • Tochais Siorai

    Well, there wasn’t a lot of difference between being a puppet colony controlled by Britain and actually being part of the UK.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Well there’s clearly no faulting what has been offered as an alternative.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/de39ff33e1397c48f2906bd92f95bfa8c0a52623c8b43b0071bcb647ca388aff.png

    From:-
    https://tompride.wordpress.com/2016/09/18/the-complete-theresa-may-guide-to-the-meaning-of-brexit/guide-to-brexit/

    I’ll assume that you feel there will be a sort of major display of national British unity akin to Mandella or Tito’s rule over their nation states with vision like this?

  • Roger

    4 nations. Is UKNI a nation?

  • Roger

    Last para. Not yet. Ireland still has a way to go to be as mixed as UK. I don’t think there’s any less racism etc in Ireland.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Ireland was lucky in that it was allowed to join the EC with the claim to the six counties intact which of course was entirely at odds with why the original six countries set up the community.

    A fair point, but Flemish nationalism existed in Belgium as an original member, and West Germany did change its internal borders to form a unified Germany.

    The downside to the EU was always closer economic unity and all that entails, especially by way of open-door immigration.

    Schengen nations have to patrol their external borders, and because of non-Schengen nations like Albania, Montenegro, Macedonia, Serbia and Bulgaria that refugees and migrants are trapped in Greece, with the preferred solution of the hyper-concerned right being imprisonment, deportation or death.

    So I do not get this open door migration nonsense, UK and Ireland control their own borders their own way, they just don’t police 26 different nationalities any different than those 26 nations police British and Irish migrants and travelers.

    The path for Sinn Fein to adopt if it wants to see unity has to be to become the island’s UK Independence Party, and more, and try to stop the re-population of the island with aliens.

    Ireland is a nation with an aging population and a declining population with no net migration people go in and people go out. There is no net migration on the island of Ireland, we pretty much take people in, because people go out.

    UKIP is a complete misnomer … Independence means taking responsibility for your own actions and boosting your own self-discipline and self-reliance. UKIP stands for none of these things.

    it’s really the United Kingdom “Responsibility Avoidance” Party … or UKRAP. And your great solution to the Irish economy is an Irish Community Responsibility Avoidance Party … do I really need to spell it out for you?

    Emancipation to UKIP/Irish Dissidents means waving Union Flags/Irish Eurosceptics around with a neo-paganist belief it’s going to channel the spirits of nations past.

    I don’t share their vision of a risk-free isolationist vision of a nation of pub philosophers.

    I’d rather heed the words of Eammon De Valera

    “The economic and social problems would tend to become, like the military situation, more and more difficult as time went on and we became more and more isolated.”

    Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/e/eamondeval355740.html

  • billypilgrim1

    Indeed. Nothing has actually happened yet, this is still the phoney war period.

    And even at that, without anything having happened, the pound has lost 15% of its value.

    The EU will make an example of Britain. It has to, if it values its own self-preservation.

  • billypilgrim1

    “Is UKNI a nation?”

    It’s not even a thing.

  • billypilgrim1

    “Did ‘the developing European identity’ amount to anything more than successfully rattling the begging bowl.”

    Actually, yes. Quite a lot more.

  • billypilgrim1

    You said:

    “Membership of the UK on the other hand was originally imposed by force and has been maintained by force ever since.”

    Membership of the UK was achieved via an act of monumental political corruption (the bribery of Irish parliamentarians was on such a scale that you’d need a heart of stone not to laugh) coming in the wake of the military crushing of an independence-seeking insurrection.

    All of which was merely translating Ireland from a puppet state into an internal colony. I think it’s fair enough to call that ‘imposed by force’.

  • billypilgrim1

    I actually think Slater has the semblance of a point here. I understand of course why one would bridle at the UKIP reference, but I do think that internationally, the tide of public opinion is turning against the kind of large-scale immigration and open borders we have seen for the past twenty years, and everywhere you look, political establishments that are wedded to these policies are getting smashed.

    This is the defining political issue of the age, and all parties would do well to think about the side they’re on – and whether they want to be on the side that gets swept away.

  • billypilgrim1

    “There is no net migration on the island of Ireland, we pretty much take people in, because people go out.”

    Wouldn’t it be logical, and tend more towards general happiness, if we could stop people going out, and therefore didn’t need to take people in? Wouldn’t it be better to stanch the bleeding of emigration, rather than be dependent in transfusions of new blood?

  • Kevin Breslin

    Oh yes hold people hostage in Ireland/Northern Ireland against their will, people will love that.

    By all means if you fall on hard times join the Live Register in the South, or claim Jobseekers in the North, we’ll give you a chance when we get around to it.

    Who’s building the co-operatives? Where’s the industrialists who are building the communities? Where are the jobs? Where are the entrepreneurs?

    It’s all good to have a “Make Irish, Buy Irish, Work Irish” attitude of self-sufficient isolationism…

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p0111rdh

    … it’s a different thing to make it happen.

    I’ll bring up Luke Ming Flanagan’s qualms about isolationists, because it’s not simply a Europhile issue.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a5cfa926bf21565c1d4abcbd702b5c768a320d72a3deab502f0dc728fc008e16.png

    It’s hypocritical to bring up migrants going to this country, when we still see migration as part of our identity and indeed part of our culture too.

  • billypilgrim1

    Jesus, I’m not talking about stopping people going anywhere. I’m talking about ensuring there are enough opportunities here that our young people only leave if they want to, not because they have to.

    Emigration is a huge part of our history – but it’s usually understood as a tragedy. I’ve SEEN the youngsters sitting in Terminal 2 and crying bitter tears about the lack of opportunity at home. It breaks my heart.

  • Kevin Breslin

    No I get you mean deter emigration, but at the same time since the Free state brought in Erwin Schrodinger … we’ve always had economic and political migrants too.

  • Brendan Heading

    How does that change what I posted?

    You said :

    Membership of the UK on the other hand was originally imposed by force

    which is fine, but then you went on :

    and has been maintained by force ever since.

    This is categorically false.

  • Brendan Heading

    I agree that the EU will take a hard line; it can do no other. The unknown is how the UK will respond to this. That response will determine how well NI does at the end of it all. It is impossible to predict with any kind of accuracy what way this will all go.

  • NotNowJohnny

    You’re asking me to speculate here on how events might have proceeded 200 years ago.

    While recognising the difficulty in that, I don’t think the United Kingdon of Great Britain and Ireland would have come about by force had the Irish Parliament not given its consent. I just don’t see how the Irish parliament could have be forced to consent militarily. It’s important to remember that TWO acts of Union were required, one in each jurisdiction. As to the question of a refusal to join, this actually happened in 1799 and the response of the British government wasn’t to use military action.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    You have to look at the situation on the ground in Ireland at that moment. The 1798 Rebellion had just been put down, with great brutality. There was smoldering unrest still evedent, held down by matrial law. The autonomy gained in the Constitution of 1782 had been compromised by the “need” to bring in English military expertese to supress the rebellion, and this compromised any affirmation of the right to independence with the sarcastic retort, “just as long as you do not have to protect yourselves.” Even so,as you say “consent” was not forthcoming to Union in 1799, and so the Irish Parliament were told to go away and think again, as with many European referenda recently when the people similarly “get it wrong.” There were other ways of forcing consent beside military action, for example the blatent bribery of the MPs which was as much of a major factor as with the Union with Scotland a century before, but with the country under matrial law and curfew, even the threat of military compulsion was hardly absent. No, the Act of Union was not some passionate general urge for becoming one with Britain, and was bitterly opposed at a grass roots level, particularly by the naissant Loyal Orange Institution!

  • NotNowJohnny

    I’m not sure what your point is here. Bribery of the Irish MPs does not amount to the use of force. The issue was would the use of force have been inevitable had the Irish Parliament not consented? I don’t think anyone is suggesting that the Acts (there were two) of Union were some passionate general urge for becoming one with Britain or that they weren’t opposed at a grass roots level.

  • hotdogx

    Chris, you make a good point, how this pans out could have deep implicications for us here, but what if the eu would financially assist an Irish reunification?
    The Germans have already gone through this before and understand the complications involved. The biggest impediment to a UI is the size of the NI public sector. There is no real difference between six of the counties of ulster and six of the counties of Munster apart from the economy.
    The Eu could play one of two cards, one will favor unionism and IRISH eurosceptics by imposing unwanted constraints on us and ignoring our wishes showing us that Europe is diluting our sovereignty and the second could favour nationalism and reunification by becoming supporters of the Irish in Europe making us stronger boosting our confidence and investing in Ireland.
    The Eu may become the power behind any reunifation. Things will have to get bad in NI, first of all Eu funding will be terminated. Loyal to the half crown and not the crown!
    We need to assert ourselves more in Brussels

  • Anglo-Irish

    In what way?

    Up until the GFA there was no mechanism to bring about a UI democratically, any attempt to bring about a United Ireland by non democratic means would have met with military force.

    Whilst there is now a method agreed to bring about a UI it still requires a British political decision to allow a referendum to take place.

    In the meantime any dissidents getting impatient with the delay will still be opposed by force.

    I understand where you’re coming from ( or at least I think I do ) in that the GFA has changed the situation, but British security forces are still present in NI to ensure the status quo for the present.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    NNJ, I’d think my point is perfectly clear! The very fact that this was being debated and passed in a country under martial law where the army was controlled by the Westminster Parliament pretty much says everything. That and the massive amount of bribery employed, which is a kind of “force” or compulsion in itself, in that it is used to coerce peoples behaviour in a manner which interferes with objective free choice. The point I’m making is that the Act of Union cannot in any meaningful way be considered as in any sense “free choice”, especially as it was finally passed under the shadow of its rejection in 1799.

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