Sinn Fein’s attempts to confront the chaos of Brexit are still too hung up on the dubious appeal of constitutional change

  •  Two cheers for Sinn Fein for at least  having a go where others fear to tread,  in exposing their ideas in progress to the deep uncertainties of Brexit. In this document, if responding to the confusion of Brexit were not enough, the party is delivering a mixed revisionist  message that is caught between its roots and its avowed direction of travel.

To start with, the basic premise  of the paper in the foreword is debatable. It is indeed hard to see a single advantage for Ireland north and south in Brexit.  Unionists and nationalists basically agree on that, unionists more tacitly. So no, it isn’t a given that Brexit will undermine the GFA. Arguably the needs of the all-island economy and British-Irish trading and other relations will strengthen it.

The basic ambiguity of the GFA remains, that is, whether it is a temporary accommodation or a final settlement.  But in this paper, Sinn Fein seems bent on superseding  the structures of the Agreement to road test the viability of the unity scenario that Brexit has suddenly  opened up – that unionists whose consent for unity is required, will come to accept that unity within the EU is preferable to sticking with Brexit Britain. All nationalists should start preparing for the day now. Should they really? If taken at face value, this demarche would risk the hard won stability in which they have invested a great deal.

The  latest case for unity is presented only in headline terms.  Crucially much of it  can be achieved without constitutional unity in any case. It can be done through the unrealised potential of the GFA, which transforms unity from an article of blind faith  into a popular decision, rather than the Irish equivalent of the Scottish “Claim of Right.” based on  particular  view of history. Dissident republicans have noticed the demotion.

The economic case is simply bolted on when arguably in the context of “Brexit changes everything” it should be central. While the document recognises diverse political identity, is still overwhelmingly front-loaded with the process of constitutional change. Despite giving an impression of  innovation, the proposal of a federal state is not new  and would be in any case the minimal concession to unionists implied in the GFA.

Rather than blocking powers for unionists SF would better employed spelling out the division  of powers between Dublin and Belfast. For instance, could the North keep Catholic schools while the South  continues to put the squeeze on  church schools? The North has health funded directly from taxation while the South’s system is insurance-based . Should they be reconciled?. It isn’t good enough to stick the label of “harmonisation” over things and hope for the best.

The economic alternative to Brexit  is unconvincing. A dispassionate reading of the section “Unaffordably myth” concludes that it chips at the figures, but fails to make its own case.

The claim that unity would increase growth may be argued under ideal circumstances. But the model quoted assumes that the Republic can afford most of the current British subvention however calculated, even though part of the British subsidy would continue.  Such affordability is not generally accepted and SF know it. There is little  in any of this  to benefit the south. This version of unity is now  a mainly northern dream, strangely divorced from Sinn Fein’s political concentration on the Republic.

The sally into history is dubious. Undeniably partition harmed the island economy but the inheritance of Griffith’s autarky and Dev’s “trade war” caused great self harm to the southern state.

The main problem is that while Brexit  is creating political ferment in Ireland, everything depends (a) on the final terms and (b) the future of British-Irish and north-south cooperation whatever the final terms reached. There is every argument for enhancing the latter. Confusing  cooperation  with  a unity agenda now  will only hamper  cooperation’s  progress.

From the point of view of their own aspirations, The Time therefore is precisely not Now for the Republic’s parties to adopt this programme. Formal diplomacy and other contacts should surely now develop  (a) the specific arguments for both parts of the island for close association with the single market and (b) the all-island and British-Irish mitigations for the final result.

SF may wish to steal a march again on their  rivals but are unlikely to succeed with this approach, however emollient they think they are to unionists. No clear dynamic exists to justify the tone of urgency. “Peace” rapidly becomes a static state, not a platform for further change.   Too much depends on events beyond their control.

To be fair, the document, although it is still too self- referential is the latest sign that Sinn Fein are learning to play to other scenarios. But they still have some way to go – particularly with economic and social arguments even though they are trying harder than some others. Although superficially an asset, their left populism is more of a long term handicap than an advantage.

Sinn Fein need to develop civic nationalism further– that is, the appeal of the economic and social case on the Scottish model, and give it priority over the over-familiar constitutional case. This may require a new generation of leadership.  There are risks in that too, as the traditional USP of Sinn Fein will have lost its old edge.

Surprisingly perhaps the document has attracted little attention from the rest of the commentariat. It reads as if the Uncomfortable Conversations series has been uncomfortably pressed into service as an improvised strategy for dealing with Brexit and is mainly designed for internal consumption.   I wonder how much the rank and file and supporters are impressed. Instead of wooing unionists towards unity, the demands for delivery in government are growing louder.

And the thought  may be dawning that Brexit makes radical constitutional  scenarios for Scotland as well as Ireland more complicated  than attractive.

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  • Kevin Breslin

    Here was me thinking Brexit was a constitutional change.

    Let’s get back to the issue of Brexit, and let’s put the shoe on the other foot… what are unionists offering in terms of mitigation to stop Sinn Féin from highlighting issues and indeed uncertainties that arise from Brexit?

    It is a bit hypocritical to uncertainty as a shield to defend Brexit, while attacking Irish nationalists for saying uncertainties around Irish unity are indefensible.

    Sinn Féin can be Brexitsceptic, that probably gives them some common ground with the majority of people who voted Remain.

    Does Brexit make the option of Irish unity more feasible…

    It probably does in small measures anyway …

    * These will open up problems around the free movement of freight and people
    * Border controls are going to have to be brought in at our expense and inconvenience.
    * There is no migration problem in Northern Ireland, but there could be overboard policing of this measure at our expense and inconvenience.
    * There is a strong possibility of tariffs and a certainty of customs controls between neighbouring villages, and there could be overboard policing of this measure at our expense and inconvenience.
    * There is no security over whether farmers will be subsidized in a post-Brexit UK or be able to export to their nearest markets.
    * There is no clarity about what the UK even wants from the EU and the unintended consequences it will have on the border.
    * The block grant is going to be cut, and corporation tax lowered to an all Irish level.

    Brexit will change more things in Northern Ireland that did not vote for it, than in England which did. It is effectively a Direct Rule policy.

    I didn’t expect Brexit to change Sinn Féin, nor the SDLP or Alliance of anyone else into a pragmatic Leaver, if anything the behaviour of those and that side have only strengthen resolve.

    I can get why this policy will spur on Irish nationalists who would want Irish unity soon, and there is nothing wrong with that. These feelings are real for many people in border regions who are represented by Sinn Féin.

    The only significant thing that mainstream unionism in the form of the DUP seem to have been offering is signing Irish passport forms and showing their ignorance of basic international trade law.

    Ask a DUP or TUV or Eurosceptic UUP or Lexiteer what is the advantage to Northern Ireland in scrapping the European Communities Act or trading on World Trade Organisation terms or having customs checks and tariff delays on freight and they pretty much have nothing to offer.

    It was just one big expensive flag protest.

  • file

    Given that subsidies to farmers were mentioned, could you (or someone) please outline the rationale for subsidies to farmers please? I do not get it, and neither do other trades: eg plumbers do not get a subsidy. What is so special about farmers that makes them think other tax payers should be giving them money to let them continue in an unprofitable business?

  • Brian Walker

    No don’t let’s go back to Brexit alone. We are dealing with Sinn Fein’s paper here not wandering all over the place…

  • Kevin Breslin

    Plumbers are not at the means of production of water, as far as I’m concerned they are in a service sector comparable to food producers …it is very clear Water production is very much subsidized by the state, but unlike food it’s not really exported.

    The answer is ultimately Food Security … the only nation in Europe that doesn’t subsidize food production is the Vatican City State.

  • Declan Doyle

    In fairness to Kev Brian, you dis the wandering and he is merely responding. You’ll have my own view on your OP later, bet your excited now 😉

  • johnny lately
  • NMS

    Apart from the fantasy economics, there is also the more dangerous fantasies around the “Irish Nation” & the “Irish Diaspora”. The abuse of statistics of course continues, quoting figures for the number of “Irish?” (those born on the island of Ireland per the Provos*) people in England in 2001 (page 11), without any clarification as to whether they even regard themselves as Irish. Many of course may feel that their place of birth is irrelevant as did the most famous Meath man of all Arthur Wellesley. There are far more up to date figures available from https://www.ons.gov.uk, but they of course would not fit the case.

    There is also the modern make up of the Irish population (i.e. those who live in the State called Ireland). A quick look at Table 11 of the CSO’s recent release of Vital Statistics for Q2 2016, shows a continuing trend of over 20% of births from outside Ireland or the UK. The Provos’* document makes no mention of whether the views of the very large number of taxpayers in Ireland who happen not to be Irish citizens are to be considered or ignored. So while the Provos* wish to ” involve the Irish
    Diaspora”, i.e the Trump voting racist types of the US white working class, who happen to have an Irish great granny, the views of Irish taxpayers, who happen to have been born elsewhere are of no consequence.

    The departure of the UK from the EU raises many questions as to whether the Good Friday Agreement is inimical to EU treaties and it is to be hoped that it will be challenged at a European level without delay. The granting of rights to non-EU nationals, while denying them to EU nationals within Ireland will surely be found to contrary to EU law.

    The document reads as a desperate effort by the Provos* to find alternative sources of subsidy after EU departure. The UK Government’s financial position is likely to lead to substantial reductions in subsidy, leaving UKNI high and very dry. There is no desire from Irish taxpayers to pick up the tab for malingerers on the other side of the Border. We have enough of our own, thank you!

    * I use the term “Provo”, because if I remember correctly, Sinn Féin changed its name to The Workers’ Party. Perhaps they should be referred to as “the party which currently calls itself Sinn Féin?

  • Jollyraj

    Yep. Bang on the money. Plumbing and farming are hardly like for like.

  • Surveyor

    Any mention of what Arlene is doing about it Brian? You know the leader of the party which was a major advocate of Brexit? Apart from writing a wee letter to Theresa May I can’t think of anything she’s done.

  • Katyusha

    The abuse of statistics of course continues, quoting figures for the number of “Irish?” (those born on the island of Ireland per the Provos*) people in England in 2001 (page 11), without any clarification as to whether they even regard themselves as Irish.

    Well, yes. Of course. How else would you measure it?
    In any case, all of this “regarding yourself” as a citizen of a nation has limited applicability. It only works in the very narrow legal framework over contested claims to citizenship between Britain and Ireland. If I were to move to America and “consider myself” American, I don’t suddenly shed my Irish citizenship and gain American citizenship. If people do wish to renounce their Irish citizenship, they should contact the Department of Foreign Affairs, who have a formal process in place for doing so.

    The Provos’* document makes no mention of whether the views of the very large number of taxpayers in Ireland who happen not to be Irish citizens are to be considered or ignored

    Well, yes, that’s the way it works. To take another example, I’m a taxpayer in Germany and not a German citizen. I don’t get to vote. I don’t have a say in the political future of the country. Tough.

    The document reads as a desperate effort by the Provos* to find alternative sources of subsidy after EU departure. The UK Government’s financial position is likely to lead to substantial reductions in subsidy, leaving UKNI high and very dry. There is no desire from Irish taxpayers to pick up the tab for malingerers on the other side of the Border. We have enough of our own, thank you!

    I think you would find that the Provos* would rather not be dependent on subsidy from the UK. And the fact is that if the “UKNI” was left high and dry, it would be a substantial boost to their support both for unity and socialism. Nevertheless, the fact remains that currently the North cannot support itself. Reunification would cost money,although much less than the bank guarantee. German reunification did not come for free – I personally am paying the “solidarity surcharge” used to fund the costs of German reunification. However, the unification of the country is something that was worth paying for. We’ve come to a sorry state of affairs if the patriots of generations past were willing to lay down their lives for Irish freedom, but the present generation isn’t willing to contribute a little of their paycheque.

    * I use the term “Provo”, because if I remember correctly, Sinn Féin changed its name to The Workers’ Party. Perhaps they should be referred to as “the party which currently calls itself Sinn Féin?

    Now this is odd. There are four or five different political parties claiming lineage from the original Sinn Féin. Is there some reason why you choose to anoint the Stickies as the only true torch-bearers?

  • Brian Walker

    Still wandering… this is about Sinn Fein

  • Brian Walker

    Phew!

  • Brian Walker

    Phew squared…

  • Declan Doyle

    Brian thanks for this OP, you raise some interesting questions along with some irrelevant ones. The title gives away your position before even getting to the text.”…dubious appeal of constitutional change”, nothing dubious about its appeal if you are one of the 30 percent in the North or 67% in the South who currently support it.

    Commentators are divided on Brexits effect on the GFA, You could be correct in that it will have little or no insurmountable negative consequences, but that remains to be seen. So, let’s assume you are accurate in your assertions.

    Your third paragraph is pretty shocking to be honest. There is nothing ambiguous about the status of the GFA in the context of how the future might play out constitutionally, to even hint that there is could be seen as disingenuous at best, or a dangerous cynical lie at worst. There is, and never was anything final about the GFA settlement in terms of the constitutional arrangement. In fact nowhere in the agreement will you find the words Final Settlement in that context. If everything was finally settled there would be no need for the consent principle and there would be no need to allow so much space for constitutional aspirations. To date, those who have over the years tried to manufacture a ‘final’, settlement definition of the agreement are those who wish to row back on, or unravel crucial elements of the agreement; the very elements that secured peace.

    Unionist consent to unity is the ideal solution, but it is not required under the terms of the GFA. Consent applies in terms of the will of the majority of those eligible to vote in NI. That majority can be made-up of people across all communities.

    The economic case is impossible to formulate currently given the insecurities of Brexit but mostly because of the lack of forensic detail regarding the north’s fiscal deficit. The 10billion figure thrown about simply cannot be substantiated. And apparently the UK, one of the most technologically advanced countries on the planet cannot devise a system which clarifies the issue? If the 10 billion was even close to accurate, you can bet Unionism would have a penny by penny breakdown to wave in the face of SF, so let’s leave it simply bolted on for now until clever heads manage to lift the covers.

    Regarding affordability; no it’s not generally accepted but again, who has looked close enough? The Dublin government certainly has not, probably because they too believe the 10bn figure to be dubious? Regarding the island economy and the potential for growth into the future, you just need to do a compare and contrast between where the north was in comparison to the Free State in 1922 and where both are now. The north went from hero to zero whilst attached to Britain, the Free State went from zero to hero whilst Independent.

    Now this line does not make sense “Confusing cooperation with a unity agenda now will only hamper cooperation’s progress.” You seem to be saying that calling for Irish Unity will divisively damage the chances of cooperation in the current climate ? The GFA protects British Irish cooperation regardless of the constitutional issue and regardless of any future outcome. There exist no obstacles to devising a plan for unity while at the same time dealing with the realities on the ground as they exist. Britain’s final Brexit plan might kill the current momentum for Unity, or it might inspire it. Either way, an international agreement protects both sides in both scenarios. I agree that Dublin should focus on managing the environment created by Britain’s decision to leave but it’s hard to prepare for mitigations when the end result is so far away and frustratingly unclear. For that very reason we can see that both FF and FG are keeping one eye on Brexit and the other on Irish Unity, with FF promising a cocument within 12 months. Whatever about Dublin being unprepared for the Brexit vote, they simply cannot be unprepared for a surge towards Unity should it materialise.
    Where Unity is concerned, SF stole that march decades ago as FF and FG ignored the North. SF has always been ‘avowed’ as u put it yourself. To not follow through when a door is unexpectedly opened would be politically negligent on their part. But you are absolutely right when you say events are beyond their control. However, events have got them this far in a very short space of time and while uncontrollable events are beyond them, it seems uncontrollable events are also their best friend at the moment.
    “Left Populism” is a weak dig if you don’t mind me saying. You can only call SF policies populist if you define populism in the the most conveniently narrowest of terms. It’s commonly a misused term these days to try pin a badge of Peronist recklessness on an opponent. A glance at SF’s pre – budget and manifesto submissions in the South over recent years (set against the backdrop of catastrophic centre right failings) will show the party has long left its purist socialist agenda behind and has shifted comfortably into the space of social democracy; even if the party do not realise this themselves.
    With the centre ground losing territory to the left in the free state,SF are busy preparing Mary Lou and Doherty et al. to take over at the most opportune moment and usher in the civic nationalism you correctly identify as an essential component in the building blocks of Ireland’s future . It is they who are shaping SF trajectory at the moment and not Adams and Mc Guinness, something that most commentators are surprisingly unaware of, or deliberately ignore. The rank and file have been discussing this for a year now, all across the country in every cumann and are to the best of my knowledge fully on board. If SF are going to shed any skin because of this trajectory, it’s certainly not visible as of yet. The document has been well covered by RTE, Irish Times, Online Sites and in other forums. But you are correct, it has not ignited the pages of our trusted defenders of truth and justice in INM yet, nor is not likely to do.
    As much as SF might want to stick this together themselves they need input from outside sources, input which is unlikely to be forthcoming. Instead they need to fish, and as I have said before, this document is a well structured net, pulling in reactive Ideas and suggestions from various sources which will be invaluable in crafting future ideas and initiatives, far more valuable than any commentary their sensationalist opponents might proffer.
    Brian, your subtext seems to be that SF should stop banging on about Irsh Unity. That has never been an option for them and it certainly isn’t now as the Brexit horse has left the barn door open. The SDLP, FF and FG are a bit behind, but they will catch up, they can’t afford not to. the only way to stop this slow but steady roll is if Brexit actually throws up a stunning deal not yet imaginable or if Unionism steps up with its own proposals, a third way if you like which genuinely puts the constitutional issue to bed, they have time to do it, but how much time they have is another unknown.

  • Brian Walker

    Thanks for a thoughtful reply Declan. Yes I am certainly saying that a unity strategy now would get in the way of cooperation .It would be seen as opportunist.
    Retaining the aspiration which the main Dublin parties are careful to do is a quite different matter. Brexit may be a total disaster that one day may fundamentally change the political climate or a workable solution may be found. But we won’t know that for some time.
    Offering a solution to an undefined problem is to Say the least, premature.

    In the meantime trying to supersede established relationships would be counterproductive and reduce confidence just at a time when it’s most needed.This is not about making arguments it’s about real politics. All other parties know that and Sinn Fein probably know it too.
    I know this argument is obvious but I believe it.

  • file

    Thanks for the details of the subsidies. What i want to address is the rationale for subsidies in the first place. Who cares if all farmers here go out of business because it is unprofitable? There will still be food to buy in the supermarkets. We do not need to have the food we eat produced here – especially if we have to pay for both its production and then pay to buy it as a finished product. Food Security is a term that make sense only in times of old-fashioned wars, which no longer occur. Why do we subsidise farmers is the question, not how do we subsidise them.

  • Jollyraj

    “Why do we subsidise (local) farmers is the question, not how do we subsidise them.”

    There are many reasons why, all of which deserve more detail than I’ve time for today.

    To reduce the ‘carbon footprint’ effect of importing food from all over the world when it can be produced at home, for one thing.

    To prevent spiralling unemployment, for another. Not just the farmers, but all of the suppliers that exist around that – cattle markets, tractor/machinery dealers, dealers of fertilizer and animal feeds, veterinarians (to an extent, obviously they’d still bw needed to treat pets, but clearly we’d need less of them) – What is your thinking on providing jobs for all of the above, post-agriculture?

    To invest in one’s own economy, rather than sending money out of the country which will never return. Money used to subsidize local farmers may get spent and respent and respent within the country, so there is a ‘multiplier’ effect. Many third world countries are trapped in such a spiral.

    Because food produced on massive CAFO-style operations in places like the US (where animals have to be routinely drenched with antibiotics to keep them alive long enough to reach slaughtering age – the effects of which are passed down the foid chain) is certainly less healthy than that which we could produce on smaller farms here. Thus, greater long haul costs of an unhealthy population requiring ever more (expensive) medical treatment to prop it up. There’s also the ethical side of that, if you like.

    Because it incentivizes maintainance of a beautiful countryside – which in turn benefits tourism.

    These simply aren’t relevant considerations in your random example of subsidizing plumbers.

  • the moviegoer

    “The basic ambiguity of the GFA remains, that is, whether it is a temporary accommodation or a final settlement.”

    “that unionists whose consent for unity is required”

    “the proposal of a federal state is not new and would be in any case the minimal concession to unionists implied in the GFA.”

    “SF would better employed spelling out the division of powers between Dublin and Belfast.”

    These are all pretty massive assumptions about what unification would entail. From my understanding of the GFA, and I admit I may be wrong in this, there is no need for unionist consent for constitutional change, simply a majority vote. If unionist consent is required, effectively a unionist veto, then somebody needs to tell nationalists because I don’t think they read that paragraph.

    Likewise, how is the inevitability of a federal arrangement implied in the GFA, let alone the continuation in perpetuity of the current power-sharing set-up?

    The fact SF have only considered a federal arrangement as one of several proposals in this document suggests they do not consider it inevitable or desirable at all. I suspect this document is not really about wooing unionists as much as it is about capitalizing on the extra grievance that Brexit heaped upon “lapsed nationalists” or indifferent Catholics and winning them back over to the idea. From SF’s own perspective it is perfectly timed but it is such a vague, wishy-washy aspirational document it shows up the weaknesses of the party as a political force.

    At this stage nationalists have given up on wooing unionists and are just waiting for the demographics to change. The problem from a unionist perspective is that it can’t even enter the discussion about a UI without it sounding like conceding defeat but the danger is that they will leave it too late to enter the discussion and will have to decide what they want a UI to look like in a very short space of time. By then nationalists may not have that much incentive to be accommodating. Do the DUP and UUP have secret dossiers on what they would argue for in a UI?

    The questions SF or any other nationalist outlining a UI proposal should be answering are these:
    Will there be a federal arrangement?
    Will the boundaries of a northern parliament be the current boundary of NI?
    Will a northern parliament be a power-sharing parliament as currently stands or a normal majority-rule parliament? (If the latter, would a minority unionist bloc even wish to maintain a northern parliament?)

    The biggest question of course is what do unionists want a UI to look like but we probably won’t hear that until after the vote is in. The fallout will make the Brexit discussions seem like a masterclass in diplomacy.

  • file

    Thanks Jollyraj – look forget about the plumbers. It used to be economically viable to produce linen here; it no longer is so it doesn’t happen. Currently it is not economically viable to produce food here (without massive subsidies), so it should not be happening. Free market and all that. Some points: a) most food produced here is exported, thus adding to carbon footprint (not that I care about carbon footprints anyway); b) most farmers around me are already employed outside of farming – farming is a part-time operation for them, as is collecting subsidies for NOT farming. If we are paying farmers, and subsidiaries of farmers, just to keep them off the dole queue, then we could continue to pay them but make them do something useful like repairing pavements or replacing broken streetlights. c) All government spending can produce multiplier effects – give the money to plumbers (sorry) and they will spend it too; d) food produced here is more healthy? Really? Have you seen the latest obesity figures for Ireland? Have you heard of the Foot & Mouth crisis?; e) farmers have about as much interest in maintaining a beautiful countryside as I have in carbon footprints. When they are not emptying their slurry out os season over fields about to be rained on which then carries it into the water system, they just empty it straight into rivers and loughs. Farmers are paid money NOT to farm their land – do you know of any other job where you are paid NOT to do it? Your ‘beautiful countryside’ is not going to disappear overnight if we tax payers stop paying money to farmers.

  • Brian Walker

    Brexit opens up the huge question of replacing farm subsidies with a cheap food policy. It means that CAP subsidies will end and won’t be replaced by UK support after 2020. NI farm produce exports and integrated milk production will be hard hit in the North. So far we have heard no answers to the question.

  • Brian Walker

    Unionist consent is currently majority consent at the moment.. that may change but why quibble. I’ve gone through the paper and commented on it section by section, not dealt with the random notions you’ve brought up.

  • billypilgrim1

    “What is so special about farmers”

    As mentioned above, the fundamental answer is food security.

    But specifically in Ireland, north and south, it’s the quality of our agribusiness sector which makes it a no-brainer for government to support it. Agricultural subsidies are about pump-priming an industry which is highly dynamic and positive for the economy as a whole.

    You really need to get past the simplistic Thatcherite notion that there’s something inherently wrong with subsidy. Subsidy is a vital tool in any government’s toolbox.

    “Food Security is a term that make sense only in times of old-fashioned wars, which no longer occur.”

    This is exactly the sort of sheltered naivete that policymakers do not have the luxury of indulging in.

  • billypilgrim1

    “it is not economically viable to produce food here (without massive subsidies), so it should not be happening.”

    I know this statement seems to you like simple common sense, but it’s actually hard-core fanaticism; an extremist, fundamentalist parroting of the false gospel of Friedman, that has been wrecking economies and societies for the past forty years.

  • billypilgrim1

    Why quibble?

    Because it’s an absolutely massive difference.

    Unionists are only the largest minority now, they’re no longer the majority.

    It’s not a quibble. Your statement about unionist consent is totally wrong, and in a very important way.

  • billypilgrim1

    The UK state is engaging in an historic act of self-harm. We in Ireland, north and south, who did not consent to this, are going to suffer the consequences more than anyone.

    This is precisely the time to press the no-brainer case for reunification; and to point out to the nay-sayers that they are selfishly selling-out their children’s futures.

  • Backbencher

    ‘The UK state is engaging in an historic act of self-harm’, I know billypilgrim you are not good when it comes to facts but what is your foundation for such a claim?

    ‘This is precisely the time to press the no-brainer case for reunification’, Ok convince me, why should I, as someone who sees themselves as British opt for reunification?

  • the moviegoer

    I believe next year it’s estimated Catholics will outnumber Protestants in NI for the first time and in 2023 the electorate will be majority Catholic.

    Now you may argue that a lot of Catholics currently do not want a UI but once the demographic switch happens you are talking about a paradigm shift in psychology. With the actual possibility of electoral victory for the first time, Catholics en masse will vote for a UI. Republicans at that stage won’t need to convince PULs of anything and won’t bother. They only need to convince CNRs and that argument is not going to be about the economy or “civic nationalism”, it will be a Brexit-style emotional argument along the lines of “800 years are enough” or “taking back control”.

    The whole “civic nationalism” thing is a red herring really. Unionists will never be convinced by any economic or social argument put forward by nationalists, that’s clear as day, so appealing to their own constituency is the key for them and the economic and social thing will have a part to play but in reality a border poll will be fought on emotional, historical lines – “Do you want your grandchildren to know you had a chance at a UI after 800 years and blew it?”, that kind of thing. People will not be voting in this poll on pragmatic, economic grounds. It will be a pretty tasteless affair no doubt all round.

    If you believe this is quibbling or random notions I suggest you, and perhaps unionists in general, are in denial and will be caught off guard much like the UK government has been about Brexit.

    “I’ve gone through the paper and commented on it section by section, not dealt with the random notions you’ve brought up”

    But you haven’t dealt with the elephant in the room – neither has SF. Will there be a federal NI? Will it maintain the current 6-county boundary? Will it be powersharing executive? Until those questions are answered questions about control of schools etc. is moot.

    If you think the default setting of nationalists post-UI is to maintain a powersharing executive in NI much the same as now I believe you are very wrong. You are taking for granted something that is not a given.
    If the DUP and UUP don’t have contingency plans for a UI then they are abdicating responsibility for their constituency and unionists should be worried about that.

  • Declan Doyle

    Why not?

  • Backbencher

    I usually give that type of answer when I haven’t got much of an argument!

  • Declan Doyle

    No, I am genuinely interested. What in your view would be so bad about living in a United Ireland with a new stronger British/ Irish connection and institutions enshrined in law to maintain and protect the British identity of the Minority? I would genuinely like to consider your objections objectively.

  • billypilgrim1

    “Ok convince me, why should I, as someone who sees themselves as British opt for reunification?”

    1. To better yourself.

    2. For the sake of your children and grandchildren.

  • Backbencher

    I grew up in a working class housing estate with parents who taught me to work hard (and don’t expect the state to do for you what you can do for yourself – but that’s another topic). The British state enabled me to go to university and ultimately be blessed with a decent job and the fruits that flow from that. Better myself in a United Ireland? I doubt it.

    As for my children and grandchildren, see point above.

    However, just to be clear this is not about financial well being (although you may have meant more than that). I want to remain part of Britain because I am British. My feelings lie towards the history and traditions of Britain not Ireland. Sometimes I get the impression that Nationalists/Republicans think we are just misguided Irish and with a bit of ‘education’ we will return to the fold. Now I know I was born on the island of Ireland and that makes me Irish, but only in the sense that I am Irish/British in the same way as if born in England I would be English/British.

  • Backbencher

    Declan – I would have thought the job of work would have been with those seeking to change the status quo, nevertheless I will take you as genuine.

    As mentioned in reply above, the primary reason I would not embrace a UI is because I am British, I quite simply want to remain part of the nation which I feel affinity to.

    But to answer your particular point, I don’t believe the British identity of the minority would be protected. I have raised it before I will raise it again – if nationalist/republicans can’t permit a 15 minute Orange parade in the rural villages of Northern Ireland, parades which are mostly church going older men accompanied by accordion or pipe bands (many of which are children), then how can I have any faith they would be in anyway interested in protecting my British identity? The parading issues of Belfast are a different issue and should not be confused with the rural parades I refer to.

  • AntrimGael

    Sports Personality of the Year doesn’t think so. Neither does Teresa May and her Brexit cabinet who don’t even acknowledge ‘the British presence’ here as Unionists like to call themselves. REAL British people see Unionists as Irish, Paddies to be more exact. Just ask anyone who served in the British Forces. EVERYONE from the island of Ireland, North or South, got the nickname Mick or Paddy and British military people don’t see the difference. I give you one of the bravest most decorated soldiers in WWII…..from Newtownards….Blair PADDY Mayne. I rest my case!.

  • file

    Do you live in the countryside at all billy? I do, but I am not a farmer, and I witness some of them do massive damage to the countryside, and get paid for it. As you say, subsidy is an important tool for a government – why use the tool almost exclusively for one sector? I am much more Kenysian than Friedman; like I view the excessive number of people employed int he civil service and local politics here as a government subsidy to keep people off the dole and to produce multiplier effects. I just do not want massive amounts of my tax money given to farmers.

  • Backbencher

    Calling a Welshman Taffy, or a Scot, Jock, doesn’t make them any less British, similarly calling me Paddy. The army guys might call their comrades Paddy but I bet they still see them as British.

    As for Sports Personality of the Year, in percentage terms we have done very well over the years.

    Despite your wishful thinking, I am British, and there are 100,000s of others like me.

  • John Collins

    I do not often agree with up JR, but that is one superb presentation on why farmer supports should be continued.

  • Declan Doyle

    I understand your affinity with Britain, I just do not understand how that affinity is so avowed when the feeling is not reciprocated.

    the vast majority of the 3000 parades go unnoticed. there are a handful which are disputed and need to be resolved; but the fact that the overwhelming majority do not have to put up with rejection would suggest that there is plenty of room for manouvre. Just talk and come to a deal, its that simple.

    Orange culture and identity in the main is rejected in Britain. However in a united Ireland context it can be protected constitutonally.

  • Paddy Reilly

    Why should you opt for reunification? Well, quite clearly you won’t so it is pointless trying to convince you. The problem is that quite a lot of others will opt for it.

    Census results show that the Catholic population between 2001 and 2011 grew from 737,412 to 817,385, a total of 79,973. This implies a Catholic population which grows by 7,997 per annum. The Protestant population however declined in the same 10 year period from 895,377 to 875,717. This gives them an annual shrinkage of 1,966. Assuming similar growth over the last six years, one would expect the populations to have developed as follows:-

    Year*Protestant****Catholic
    2011***875717****817385
    2012***873751****825382
    2013***871785****833379
    2014***869819****841376
    2015***867853****849373
    2016***865887****857370
    2017***863921****865369

    The precise moment of changeover from Protestant majority to Catholic majority is December 2016. Sound familiar?

    Now obviously this does not mean there will be a United Ireland tomorrow, or next year or the year after. But one’s experience with constituencies is that when they start to show a Catholic majority in the census it won’t be too long before they register a Nationalist one in the polls. The entity known as Northern Ireland is vulnerable to takeover by people who don’t think it should continue to exist.

    If you go to South Africa, there are people who are clearly Zulu, clearly Xhosa, clearly Boer and clearly British cultured. But they all have South African nationality. The tendency is for geographical borders eventually to prevail over ethnic ones.

  • Katyusha

    The British state enabled me to go to university and ultimately be blessed with a decent job and the fruits that flow from that. Better myself in a United Ireland? I doubt it.

    The statement “The British state enabled me to go to University” is highly suspect. Maybe you did avail of state-funded education, but tuition fees in British universities today can be up to £9,250/year.

    But secondly, it suggests that you wouldn’t have been able to go to university if not for the British state, when in reality you could probably have gone to university in any country in Western Europe. In the RoI, tuition fees are paid by the state, and the annual “admin charge” of €3k (£2.5k – it was increased substantially following the ’08 crash) is much lower than the cost of studying in the UK. The only part of the UK that offers comparable support to its students is Scotland, and even then, only to Scottish, or other EU (but not UK) students. Westminster’s support for higher education for the less well off is tenuous, to say the least.

    And as for having a decent job and the fruits that flow from that, you only need to compare how the Irish economy performs compared to NI. In NI even being a teacher or a civil servant is considered a “decent job”. We don’t have the economy to take advantage of the skills and qualifications of our citizens, which is one reason why so many people leave.

    As for my children and grandchildren, see point above.

    Indeed, see point above. As John Hume said, they can’t eat a flag.

    However, just to be clear this is not about financial well being (although you may have meant more than that). I want to remain part of Britain because I am British. My feelings lie towards the history and traditions of Britain not Ireland. Sometimes I get the impression that Nationalists/Republicans think we are just misguided Irish and with a bit of ‘education’ we will return to the fold. Now I know I was born on the island of Ireland and that makes me Irish, but only in the sense that I am Irish/British in the same way as if born in England I would be English/British.

    It’s not only some Nationalists/Republicans who think like that; it’s a pretty widespread view in GB as well. In any case, it’s not like you would or could lose one iota of your British identity in a UI. If you are Irish/British when you live within the UK, what would stop you being Irish/British outside of the UK?

    There were plenty of “British” (not sure if they’d have used the term compared to “Anglo-Irish” in the Republic as well, in its formative years. Ulster unionism isn’t even the only identity group in Ireland with British roots,( somehow, Ulster Unionists contrive a narrative in which being part of one wave of migration set them apart from all of the other waves of people that reached Ireland’s shores before or since. I also find “My feelings lie towards the history and traditions of Britain not Ireland”, somewhat amusing, as if the history of the two nations are separate and not inexorably intertwined.

    Nevertheless, if people vote unionist for purely nationalistic reasons, nothing can convince them to vote otherwise. They can’t be expected to. However the allegiances that people cling to will become less and less relevant in a UI, just as British loyalism declined in the Free State, in Canada, in New Zealand with the passage of time. Being able to manage your own affairs rather than have them decided in a faraway parliament by parties that no-one voted for has its benefits.

  • NMS

    To take the last point first, I think the use of the moniker “Sinn Féin” is whether by the Provos or any one of the other groups who use it, is a false attempt to give themselves a patina of historical connection, no more, no less. Those in the Workers’ Party at the time recognised that and deposited the title in the dustbin of history.

    To move onwards, “the patriots of former generations”, or as Samuel Johnson more succinctly put it when describing patriotism as, “the last refuge of the scoundrel”. Who is or was a patriot, depends on your historical perspective. For example in 1798 was it the “Boys of Wexford” rampaging and murdering the Protestant townspeople of New Ross by burning them to death at Scullabogue or the (Irish speaking) North Cork Militia who “pacified” them at Oulart?

    You raise a valid point in relation to a “solidarity” levy. But there is no willingness to pay such a levy in Ireland. If it is the view of the majority by way of a referendum to accept political union at the massive financial cost, then so be it. Unlike the Provos, I believe in democracy. A discussion about how to absorb 3% of the UK’s national debt, UKNI’s share, would be interesting. As would the cost of the occupational pensions, redundancy and other related costs to the bloated structures, which the GFA has encouraged.

    The position of EU nationals in Ireland is relevant, because one group of foreigners are allowed a vote, those from the UK. Let us have equality of treatment, that is all. The preferential treatment of UKs, (or discrimination against EU nationals) I am sure will be a matter for consideration at European level post Uk-exit.

    Finally, I think you make a very important point. You are correct, being “a citizen of a nation has limited applicability”, but the whole attempt by the Provos and others is to ignore this and drag us back, to the 19th century, where their thinking is lodged.

    While you refer to those who have left Ireland, who of course do retain citizenship, the Provo document wanders into the mists of distant history, referring to those who have tenuous links.

  • John Collins

    As regards your first paragraph above, I was raised in the ROI and identify with every syllable of it.In short I was in a state where I had access to a good education,all the way to MA level, and all I had to do was work hard and I could advance in life every bit as much as if I was in the UK.

  • Katyusha

    But to answer your particular point, I don’t believe the British identity of the minority would be protected. I have raised it before I will raise it again – if nationalist/republicans can’t permit a 15 minute Orange parade in the rural villages of Northern Ireland, parades which are mostly church going older men accompanied by accordion or pipe bands (many of which are children), then how can I have any faith they would be in anyway interested in protecting my British identity?

    1) Where is this intolerance you refer to? The vast majority of Orange parades in rural areas pass off without incident or protest. When I was young, sure you’d hear that people were annoyed that the town was closed for business for a day, and the overtones of the organisation, but I never once heard anyone raise protest against their neighbours or suggest they shouldn’t be allowed to march.

    2) Given that membership of the OO has declined so rapidly and only represents a tiny sliver of the population in NI, I’d suggest that it’s dangerous to conflate Orange culture and Britishness. There are are plenty of British people in NI who have and want nothing to do with the OO.
    Assumption of the OO as a part of British identity is tenous as well. Its support is limited to Ireland, parts of Scotland with close links to NI, and a few English cities with large Irish populations. It doesn’t have any purchase in mainstream British culture. In fact it’s a distinctly Irish institution. The fact that it’s diametrically opposed to Catholicism and Republicanism doesn’t change that.

  • Skibo

    BB one simple advantage no fees for University. Not sure if you have left University recently with your Student loan or if you are more than happy for your children and grand-children to do so.
    As for your Britishness, are you first generation, second or third generation Irish/ British? Anything more and your history is Irish. That will not affect your feeling of British but how long do you keep ignoring your own roots and strive to be something else?

  • Skibo

    NMS Sinn Fein is the name of the political party that did most to achieve the level of independence Ireland now cherishes. Many parties within Ireland lay claim as its fore father, much like the majority of religions look to Abraham. problem is Sinn Fein supported physical force and as parties moved away from this, the name was replaced. the present Sinn Fein do not seem to have rebuked their violent past so succinctly as the rest.
    Take care with raising past atrocities as they can normally come back to bite you. Patriotism is something brandished about to explain the reasons for such atrocities. Unionism is as much a patriotism as Irishness and has a history as littered with such atrocities.
    Samuel Johnston, why did he refer to Patriotism. As a scholar he would have known little about sacrifices of Patriots. His rights were earned by the sacrifices of others. Some say he was actually referring to false patriotism and not patriotism itself.
    The issue of Ireland’s position within the EU and that of the UK is that Ireland had a referendum on each of the treaties that happened during her membership. The UK merely required an adoption by Westminster.

  • Skibo

    Brian, Unionist consent is not majority consent. That implies that all Unionism must consent and is not fact. A minority of those currently considered Unionists and the majority of Nationalism is what is required.
    The issue of Unionist consent is more about how peaceful the change will be.
    MG has asked more pertinent questions of the federal arrangement and should be discussed at length.

  • Skibo

    Brian, opportunism is what brought NI into existence. Why quibble about it being part of it’s endgame too?
    Planing for the eventual reunification if Ireland is real politics. Anything else is merely housekeeping.

  • Skibo

    Hold the front pages ” Sinn Fein’s main policy is reunification of Ireland”
    Good job you told us that, I just wasn’t sure!

  • Backbencher

    I don’t believe a unification vote will be a simple sectarian headcount as you suggest. I suspect a considerable percentage of Catholic folk will vote for the status quo.

    You suggest ‘geographical borders eventually to prevail over ethnic ones’ – try telling that to the people of the Balkans.

  • billypilgrim1

    The title is hilarious.

    Basically it translates as: Sinn Féin STILL want a united Ireland!

    Any updates, Brian, on the question of the Pope’s religion? Or indeed on the defecatory habits of bears?

  • Backbencher

    Is anyone seriously suggesting I would be better off in a UI than being part of Britain? (even if I save a few grand on tuition fees). If that is the case I must have a word with a few of my colleagues who come from the Republic and continual complain.

    “My feelings lie towards the history and traditions of Britain not Ireland”, somewhat amusing, as if the history of the two nations are separate and not inexorably intertwined.

    Maybe better explained by way of examples, I believe the Glorious Revolution was indeed glorious, I believe Cromwell on balance was a positive, the Easter rising was treachery, the Irish neutrality in WW2 was despicable, need I go on.

  • Backbencher

    ‘Where is this intolerance you refer to?’
    Try, Bellaghy, Dunloy, Mountfield, Pomeroy, Newtownbutler etc

    ‘represents a tiny sliver of the population in NI’
    Have you been to a Twelfth of July? 10,000s of participants and 100,000s attending to spectate. In the rural community which I am familiar with the vast majority of Protestant people turn out.

    ‘In fact it’s a distinctly Irish institution’
    I don’t on the whole disagree with that but that does not make it any less British, it is an activity/institution which is heavily supported by the British people of Northern Ireland (the Irish British), it celebrates the British Constitutional settlement, it supports the monarchy, etc.

  • AntrimGael

    Remember Ali G’s interview with Sammy Wilson in Belfast.

    Ali G: So is you Irish?
    Sammy: No I am British.
    Ali G: So is you here on holiday?

    I know it was a comic skit but still bang on the money. People over in Britain do NOT recognise Unionists as British. I have read a few British soldier’s accounts of their time here during the conflict and they did NOT identify with Unionists or Loyalists in any way whatsoever. The British Army always had a large element of English Catholics, particularly at commissioned ranks, and they despised the raw sectarianism and rabid bigotry of Unionism/Loyalism.

  • Paddy Reilly

    Why am I not surprised? As one of the few advocates of perhaps the last organisation on God’s earth that delights in pissing off Catholics qua Catholics, you believe that you can deal out sectarianism and yet those on the receiving end will be able to transcend this archaic way of thinking. Typically, the bully thinks he has the loyalty of those he bullies.

  • NMS

    Surely part of the UK? Britain + Northern Ireland = UK

  • NMS

    Skibo – I fully agree with you, the Provos are attempting to link themselves with historical movements, though completely unconnected to it.

    You are correct also that unionists seem themselves as patriotic, but I am not sure I understand what Irishness means, in the context you used it. To go back to my 1798 example, on one side there was the “Irish” speaking a version of Norman English & on the Crown side the North Cork Militia happily conversing in Erse. Irishness is in the eyes of the beholder.

    The rounding up and toasting of the Protestant women and children of New Ross was just one more atrocity airbrushed from history, which all sides do.

    However I think we will let the good Dr. Johnson speak for himself. Surely someone who serves his community & State well is a true patriot, bearing arms may or may not be part of that.

    I am not sure I understand your last point. How the UK manages its internal affairs is primarily a matter for the UK. The departure of the UK from the EU & the Irish economic relationship with it will be decided by reference to EU Treaty, because as you correctly note, that is where the Irish have placed their trust.

  • NMS

    Brian, on a minor note, I am advised by a former sub-editor, that one always refers to the Jewish Diaspora with a capital “D”, but when using the term in any other context, one uses a small “d”. It appears the Provos need a trained copywriter, too.

  • Skibo

    You may agree with what you think I said but I do not remember saying it. The Provos can show direct lineage back to the Sinn Fein of old. There are others who still hold the belief that they have the right to bear arms against a foreign foe who also hold that link. It is their belief that the use of violence is needed that I disagree with.
    If you can accept Unionism as patriotic then you should have no problem with accepting Irishness as patriotic as the two are mirror images of their respective political beliefs.
    I have read extracts as well of rebels burned in barrels of tar and the locals were not allowed to close their windows to keep the stench out. Our shared history is littered with such atrocities. To mention one is to ignore another.
    Dr Johnston on patriots “A patriot is necessarily and invariably a lover of the people.” The question will always be, who is the patriot and who is the oppressor.
    The issue of how Ireland and the UK membership of the EU differ is important. Ireland has to have a referendum on the acceptance of all new treaties. In that way the people always consider the process as their own.
    The UK refer all treaties to Westminster and ignore the thought of the people. Thus the people believe they have no ownership of the process. Probably why the English believe that the EU is not democratic, forgetting their parliament is their tool for democracy within the EU. That was all.

  • Katyusha

    Is anyone seriously suggesting I would be better off in a UI than being part of Britain? (even if I save a few grand on tuition fees). If that is the case I must have a word with a few of my colleagues who come from the Republic and continual complain.

    There isn’t really any doubt that we would be better off in a UI. Average disposable income in the RoI is around twice that in the North. Partition was a disaster for the NI economy, all told.

    Of course your colleagues complain. If they’re Irish, complaining about all the minor things in life is a national sport. GB is pretty good at it too.

    Maybe better explained by way of examples, I believe the Glorious Revolution was indeed glorious, I believe Cromwell on balance was a positive, the Easter rising was treachery, the Irish neutrality in WW2 was despicable, need I go on.

    No sir, that will do. Ha. I have to admire the mental gymanastics of someone who can contrive to support both the monarchy and republicanism, especially the explicitly militant from that Cromwell exercised. As for WW2,Ireland was in no position to fight. It had just been smashed by the War of Independence and especially the Civil War. What material aid could it have provided, apart from setting itself up as a target? What Ireland could provide were men and logistical support, which they did. There were plenty of Irish soldiers fighting in the British Army, and still are. Is their service all for nought?

    You might have a point about the Easter Rising had Westminster not blocked the passage of Home Rule for over thirty years. Ireland had tried to achieve democratic reform within the UK only to find their overwhelming democratic wishes to be subverted. If the UK Govt. had any intention of governing for all its citizens, Ireland would still be part of the UK in all likelihood.

  • NMS

    Perhaps using Orwell’s distinction between patriotism being the love of one’s country and nationalism being the hatred of others, makes more sense?

    Provos claiming direct lineage is similar to the bastard cousin twice removed arriving for the reading of the will. Perhaps we need a modern version of the North Cork Militia to pacify those who continue to commit crimes in the name of others? I would draw the real roots of the Provos from the more sectarian agrarian outrages of the Whiteboys etc. Similarly with the Loyalists. The Provos have just given it a political veneer.

    The late Hugo Young, wrote a book, “This Blessed Plot: Britain and Europe from Churchill to Blair” ISBN 0-333-57992-5, published back in 1998 where he discussed the UK relationship with the various European entities over the years. I think you would enjoy it, in the way it discusses the grudging manner the UK consistently approach the “European question”. Had Mr Cameron bothered to read it, he might have approached the issue more carefully.

    I agree with you that Irish people accepted the “European ideal” much more rapidly & completely than the UK. I would suggest that being part of something bigger involved cutting the umbilical cord with the UK, both Britain & Northern Ireland.

    Proportionately Ireland has absorbed far more European migrants than the UK, without any of the issues or tensions seen in the UK. This has changed Ireland far more than most in Northern Ireland understand. My son, a national school teacher, is quick to point out that there are far more boys in his class who are familiar with Manila and Warsaw than Belfast.

    The country has changed since 1972, when of course the Provos opposed EEC membership, let alone 1922. The Reichsbürgerbewegung movement wishes to return Germany to its old pre 1939-45 borders. The Provos and others wish to go back even further.

  • billypilgrim1

    Your parents sound like great people. You seem like a decent spud yourself, though perhaps a little hidebound.

    The British state may have “enabled” you to go to university, but it won’t enable your children. It’ll rinse them for at least £30k in debt, which they’ll be paying off into middle age. This debt will seriously damage their life chances, forcing them into the first mediocre career track that comes along, rather than experimenting and taking risks in their youth. This is what the UK state will do to your children.

    The Irish state pays for its students’ tuition. It merits the description of a state that “enables” people to go to university. The UK doesn’t.

    “…and ultimately be blessed with a decent job and the fruits that flow from that.”

    If you live in Northern Ireland, then whatever your job is, you’re probably getting paid little more than half what you’d be getting paid for doing the same job south of the border.

    Your British nationalism is an act of selfishness. You are hurting your children and grandchildren.

    “Better myself in a United Ireland? I doubt it.”

    It would be a major breakthrough if you did indeed have the wisdom to experience some doubt.

  • billypilgrim1

    “Is anyone seriously suggesting I would be better off in a UI than being part of Britain?”

    Well, obviously the answer is that yes, everyone is telling you that. It’s measurable, objective fact that you would be very substantially better off in material terms.

    I would add that even the huge material benefit would be overshadowed by the psychological benefit, but I think it would be impossible to persuade you of this. However, when you DO experience that great unburdening, you can come back and tell me I was right.

    The question is, if you could be persuaded that you and your children would be better off in a UI, would that matter to you?

  • Skibo

    I would agree with Orwell but would point out that love of ones country is a terrible thing. It banishes feelings and permits actions that a person would not countenance in general life. Soldiers are conditioned to take life yet after war are returned to the street and expected to act as nothing happened.
    I do not agree with you on your analogy of the Provos. Sinn Fein of old led the fight for independence for Ireland from British rule. Sinn Fein of today still hold the belief that Ireland is better as an independent united state free from British interference. They hold a political outlook and not just a protection of one small area of society as in the case of the Whiteboys.
    Ireland has become more multicultural but I see that as a strength not as a weakness. NI has a fair share of immigrants also but in general you find it in confined areas. Again i believe it to be a strength.
    Sinn Fein has adjusted their position on the EU and now see it as positive but I would suggest they would strenuously petition against further amalgamation into an EU super state as most Irish would.
    Difference in what the Reichsbürgerbewegung movement want and what Sinn Fein want is SF want the oppressor to return to his own country and leave those on the island of Ireland to govern themselves.

  • Backbencher

    Billypilgrim – can I ask which country you live in? You’ll probably answer Ireland, so I’ll rephrase that, on which side of the border do you live?

  • Backbencher

    Just because you kept repeating something doesn’t make it true, who ‘delights in pissing off Catholics qua Catholics’? I don’t delight in annoying Catholics and I don’t know any Orangemen who do (there may be a few in some urban areas but this is more to do with a carryover from the Troubles and social issues). Just because you don’t make the effort to see beyond the tabloid headlines generated by a small % of poorly behaved parades in a few urban areas doesn’t mean the organisation is sectarian. Just because a few GAA clubs were linked with the IRA doesn’t make the whole organisation terrorists.

  • billypilgrim1

    North of the border. But yes, my country is Ireland.

    Of what relevance is that to objective reality?

  • Backbencher

    Regarding the Ali G skit, I must say, it was quite funny.

    I find all the commons about the British not reciprocating our desire to be part of the Union a little odd, almost 100 years after the formation of NI and I know of no push to move us out.

  • Backbencher

    No mental gymnastics required, both were opposing the power of an absolute monarchy and about giving power to parliament (didn’t quite work for Cromwell).

    ‘What Ireland could provide were men and logistical support, which they did’ – Yes men volunteered, much to their credit, care to remind us how the Irish state treated them?

  • NMS

    “Oppressor” this is a very strange word to use, because as we both know, the issue of consent is guaranteed within the GFA. The “oppressors” were born and live within Northern Ireland. Are you proposing ethnic cleansing, because as Newton Emerson so accurately pointed out recently in the Irish Times, this is a clear strand of thought within an element of Provo supporters.

    The German Reichsbürgers are calling for the return of the lost territories, all of which had German majority populations, until 1939-45. At one level, a more reasonable claim than the mythical Irish State, in that it at least existed at one time.

    The main strands of Sinn Féin post 1916, i.e. the IRB in drag is perhaps a better way to look at them, split into what is now a) Fine Gael (the majority), b) Fianna Fáil (the majority of what was left) c) various other groups, the majority of which ended up as WP. I think my bastard cousin analogy still stands. The Provos are effectively a Northern movement, which spread southwards.

    You remain pre-occupied, fixated even with issues of patriotism around blood sacrifice, patriotism is not a terrible thing, rather nationalist fervour is the most dangerous disease.

    I agree the Provos have changed their views on the EU, but it is very unclear why or the role they wish to play within it.

    On the issue of migrants, they have changed Ireland, I can’t comment so clearly about UKNI. However, their presence also makes “unity” far less likely. The first 30 odd years of membership coincided with violence in the North, those in Ireland accepted a European ideal and turned their back on destructive militaristic nationalism. Which brings me neatly back to Orwell!

  • Paddy Reilly

    People are such moaning minnies, aren’t they? It’s a common phenomenon. I mean 95% of IRA bomb attempts led to no loss of life whatever, and yet people wanted to ban the whole organisation, just because of the activities of a disorganised minority who couldn’t get their warnings out on time.

  • billypilgrim1

    “that does not make it any less British”

    What does make it rather less British is the fact that it is almost entirely absent from, and almost universally despised in Britain itself.

    It’s an Ulster thing, not a British thing, if you’re honest.

  • Skibo

    NMS I refer to the SOS and Westminster power base as the oppressor. I have no issue with those who have made NI their home. They have as much right as I to stay here. They are Irish if they were born here. They can also be British due to the protracted British colonial rule in Ireland for over 800 years.
    You are correct, there are elements within republicanism who will still spout “Brits go home” and mean Unionists. There are also Loyalists who continually spout “if you want your tricolour head south”. Are they any more acceptable?
    I accept your analogy of the German Reichsbürgers and raise you what happened in Crimea. The majority of residents look to Russia yet Britain, for one demand Russia pull back. Perhaps they could navel gaze and use the same criteria and pull out of Ireland.
    Again the analogy of “in drag” to insult. There has been one consistency through the whole period of British rule in Ireland, that is Irish rebellion. No mater how many times defeated, it has risen again. I for one would like to see the gun permanently removed from the Irish question.
    I believe the Protestant Reformation Church look at themselves as being the true descendants of the Church of Christ yet they were a break away from the Catholic Church. Does that make them the bastard cousins to the Catholic Church using your hypothesis?
    The Provos dis not start in the north. They were part of the movement known as the IRA. The split happened because those within the IRA did not believe enough was done to protect the Catholic homes burned by Loyalists in Belfast. I believe Rauri O Bradaigh was the main leader, not a northerner but the majority of the Northern movement went for the more militant group.
    I agree Nationalist fervour is a very dangerous thing and I believe it is the British Nationalist fervour that is bringing the present crisis to a head.
    Irish Nationalism will embrace all who live in and look towards the island of Ireland. They are accepting of the European entrants to the extent that Ireland has accepted the third greatest percentage of immigrants in Europe.

    Change in attitude to the EU has all to do with economics.

    Migration to Ireland will not have a detrimental effect in the reunification programme. The migrants are EU citizens and will want to make sure they are safe from Britain negotiating away their position in the six counties.
    As for the connection of EU membership and the violence in NI, the violence came first. Membership came in 1973. The fact that Britain and Ireland were both members of the Eu assisted in the negotiations of the GFA and their assistance with peace money has helped keep the programme on track.
    Is one mans patriot another mans nationalist? Again depends on perspective.
    Remember your previous reference of Dr Johnston, his reference to scoundrels and patriotism had more to do with protecting Britain’s empire building in the Americas than it had to do with peoples rights. Seemed everyone was a scoundrel unless he wore Union jack britches!

  • Skibo

    bakbencher, I need to correct one thing in your description of the Orange Institution. It does not unconditionally support the Monarchy. It supports a Protestant Monarchy and would have no succour with a Catholic representative for the post.

  • Backbencher

    You comment is so obtuse it merits little by way of response, you belittle yourself.

    If you want to be serious, provide evidence that the Orange as an organisation ‘delights in pissing off Catholics’.

  • Paddy Reilly

    Might this not be a (no doubt wholly unforeseen) consequence of wanting to put marches through “Bellaghy, Dunloy, Mountfield, Pomeroy, Newtownbutler”?

  • Backbencher

    I find it interesting that I am told, living in the south is so much better financially, and then discover you choose to live in Northern Ireland

  • Backbencher

    Blind to your own bigotry; what would be wrong with a lawful and legal organisation walking through their local village? Why would this be ‘pissing off Catholics’?
    Are your telling me that only people who share the same views as the frontagers can walk/march along the public road?
    Are you telling me that people with a different view are not welcome?
    Are you telling me that people that express a culture different to your own are to be excluded?
    Have you ever stopped to think that maybe it is your narrow minded bigotry that is the problem?

  • AntrimGael

    Maybe it’s the UVF/UDA men who walk as ‘brethren’? Maybe it’s the UDA/UVF bands who stop outside churches and play sectarian, bigoted songs? Maybe it’s the Shankill Butchers who act as Orange Order stewards on marches? Maybe it’s the banners praising Loyalist terrorists and the KKK? Maybe it’s the parade that lauds Brian Robinson, a UVF murderer? Maybe it’s the 5 finger salute by Orange Order members outside Sean Graham’s bookies on the Ormeau Road? Maybe it’s the Quinn children murdered in their beds because of Orange ‘culture?

  • Paddy Reilly

    What would be wrong with a lawful and legal organisation walking through their local village? Why would this be ‘pissing off Catholics’?

    Try asking the villagers. Apparently their objections are responsible for this ban. Certainly not mine. I had never even heard of Mountfield. Apparently it has a population of 252.

    The practice of marching through the streets, in uniform or matching coloured shirts, was rightly perceived to be an incipient Fascist threat by His Majesty’s Government and outlawed by the Public Order Act of 1936. Apparently this is still in force, and Jayda Fransen of the Britain First movement was convicted of doing so last month! So your description ‘lawful organisation’ is only because the Act was not extended to Northern Ireland.

  • billypilgrim1

    It’s my home.

    Like most people, there’s more to my life than the politics of the society in which I live.

    Your argument is illiterate fleggerism. One of the weakest I’ve ever seen on Slugger.

  • Paddy Reilly

    I should emphasize that it is not only Catholics who object to the antics of the OO. In Southport, in Merseyside, the Orangemen’s day is under fire from local traders who have no connection with Catholicism:-

    http://www.southportvisiter.co.uk/news/southport-news/time-give-orange-lodge-marching-7452931

    The reason is it takes an entire day’s trade away from everyone who is not selling alcohol.

    A similar, but more restrained view comes from an Atheist former Edinburgh resident. He puts his finger on the problem: “The “walk” was more like an army of occupation, which is pretty much what the Orange Order is, or used to be, all about”.

    http://www.heraldscotland.com/opinion/13411394.I_have_no_time_for_the_Orange_Order_but_banning_its_festival_is_not_the_right_response/

  • John Collins

    And did the NI state treat Catholic war hero’s, even a VC Winner.
    Dev rightly stated that when big countries fought, only those countries had any say in what happened when the war ended. Ironically Churchill himself found this out himself at Yalta when Roosevelt and Stalin split up the spoils and left WC an isolated figure.

  • John Collins

    NMS
    Please leave Arthur Wellesley out of this. He was in fact a very proud Irishman, who supported RCE and freely conceded that without RC Irish soldiers valour he would never have whipped Napoleon”s butt.
    His magnificent memorial in the Pheonir Park has much iconography which bears witness to his support of and work for Ireland.
    And finally he never made the ‘ born in a stable’ comment. This was wrongly attributed to him by his political opponent O’Connell.
    As regards your malingerers comment, any first world country which gives full time carers a miserly €89 a week should be heartily ashamed of themselves. They get over twice in the ROI.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    “Glorious Revolution was indeed glorious”

    Especially for bankers, merchants and stockbrokers.

  • Backbencher

    I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and put that last little rant down to you having a bad morning at work.

    You obviously don’t understand how the majority of Unionist people think, maybe I shouldn’t expect you to, I probably don’t have a great grasp of how republicans think.

    The bottom line is British people in Northern Ireland are philosophically British and want to be part of Britain, call it ‘illiterate fleggerism’ if you will, but your failure to grasp this point, in some way explains why republicans thought it a good idea to run a 30 year campaign of murder and mayhem.

  • Backbencher

    So Rep Ireland would only fight the evil of Hitler if they could get their hands on the spoils and a seat at the top table? Thankfully other smaller nations didn’t take that selfish view.

    Developing your logic, Ireland would have liked an Empire but weren’t military strong enough to achieve it! After all that criticism of the British; ‘dog in a manger’ comes to mind

  • Backbencher

    I h

  • Backbencher

    What are the grounds for objection in these rural villages where behaviour or drunkenness are not an issue, nobody seems to be able to tell me. In the absence of a viable explanation I can see no other reason, other than bigotry.

    I am not across the Public Order act of 1936, but even a moments thought or a cursory checking of the facts would flag up (no pun intended) the nonsense of this point – you are evidently wrong given there are numerous Orange parades in England and Scotland.

    Just to be accurate, the Orange Order have no requirement to wear watching shirts, they wear a sash, which could be equated to a ribbon or any other badge of support for a cause. I always find it ironic that men in suits are deemed so offensive, yet many of the offended will happily cheer on a balaclava bedecked paramilitary parade.

  • Backbencher

    I have no time for poorly behaved or drunken parades, however this is limited to a minuscule percentage of parades and is largely a reflection of social issues in urban areas.

    It is inappropriate and portrays a laziness of thought to tar the entire organisation with this brush.

  • Paddy Reilly

    No, not wrong: the POA of 1936 is used selectively by the authorities: quote from Wikipedia :

    “The Act was used extensively against IRA and Sinn Féin demonstrations in the 1970s, though the Act does not extend to Northern Ireland. In November 1974, 12 people were each fined the maximum £50 under the Act for wearing black berets at Speakers’ Corner during a Sinn Féin anti-internment rally.[7]”

  • Paddy Reilly

    Yes, as I have already said “I mean 95% of IRA bomb attempts led to no loss of life whatever, and yet people wanted to ban the whole organisation, just because of the activities of a disorganised minority who couldn’t get their warnings out on time.”

    It is inappropriate and portrays a laziness of thought to tar the entire organisation with this brush.

  • John Collins

    You did not comment on the treatment of NI RC VC winners
    Poland, a smaller country,lost more people per capita than any country in WW 2 look at way it fared after, deserted by all the larger countries.
    One should add that the GB Government showed its well admired respect for the freedom of small nations by sending the Black and Tans into Southern Ireland during the WOI to frustrate the will of the majority.

  • Backbencher

    As mentioned above I (and 99% of Orangemen) have no time for the antics you mention above, however it is a minuscule percentage of parades. I wish the leadership would do more to address the small number of issues that do occur. In some defence of the hierarchy, I believe there are complications around the structure of the organisation, private lodges are in many ways autonomous.

    That said, the issue of bad behaviour is a smoke screen. In the rural villages that I have mentioned, behaviour is not an issue. I am aware of the make up of some of these parades and it consists of an accordion or pipe band (with a large percentage of children) followed by maybe 20 Orangemen dressed in suits as they parade to a church service.

    My view of this is that it is not the parade itself that is offensive but rather the different religious belief of the participants.

    I’ll leave it for all to judge who is the intolerant one

  • Backbencher

    As stated before your comment is so obtuse it merits little by way of response, I’ll leave the readers to judge.

    Just in case you are blindingly naive; the IRA sole purpose was to kill, maim and destroy, that’s why they were called terrorists.

  • AntrimGael

    I would agree with you that in many rural areas there is probably not the same degree of tension and deliberate antagonism from Orange Lodges towards their Catholic neighbours, though I stand to be corrected by those Nationalists and Republicans who live there. HOWEVER in Belfast it is a fact that the Catholic community don’t see any difference whatsoever between the Orange Order and Loyalist paramilitaries; they are really one and the same in Belfast as far as we are concerned; the facts on the ground speak for themselves.

  • Paddy Reilly

    the IRA sole purpose was to kill, maim and destroy

    If so, why did they give warnings? In Western Europe, there a lot of peripheral separatist type people who let off bombs to draw attention to their cause: it may be traditional to call these people terrorists: others call them Freedom Fighters. It’s only when the Mad Muslims start bombing that we realise what can be done by people whose aim is purely to kill, maim and destroy.

    191 dead in the 2004 Madrid Train Bombing. 130 dead in Paris in 2015. It’s so easy to kill vast numbers of people. But it is very hard to let off bombs and not kill anyone, ever.

    So I would propose a bargain. The IRA agree not to let off any bombs unless cleared to do so by the Orange Order. The Orange Order agree not to have any marches unless cleared by the IRA, or if they cannot be found, by the Sinn Féin leadership. You have to admit that you get the better deal.

    In effect the GFA covered this, but its implementation is patchy in some instances, and you seem to want to tear up the agreement with respect to “Bellaghy, Dunloy, Mountfield, Pomeroy, and Newtownbutler”.

  • John Collins

    Well Spain, Portugal and Switzerland stayed and the U.S. entered when they were attacked by the Japanese.
    As Henry Kissinger said in nations should only involve themselves in wars for reasons of self interest and not on moral grounds.
    Anyway GB invaded about seventy different counties in their time and I AM sure all of those were not in response to some moral imperative.

  • Backbencher

    That sounds like a Yes

  • Backbencher

    We really have hit rock bottom here.

    ‘If so, why did they give warnings?’ – The republicans give warnings when blowing up towns in order to avoid killing those which they deemed sympathetic. In the cases were no republicans were likely to be in danger no warning was given, have you heard of the Enniskillen Poppy Day bomb, Shankill Bomb, Droppin Well etc.

    With regard to the ‘peripheral separatist type people’ you mention, do you deem them terrorists or freedom fighters?

    Given this debate started out around the subject of reaching out to Unionists, your comments represent a powerful reminder why Unionists should never countenance a United Ireland. You make my case for me.

  • Paddy Reilly

    This debate did not start out around the subject of reaching out to Unionists. You demanded to be convinced of the merits of Unification, purely as a means of wasting time. It’s not like you are the first such timewaster in the 96 years of the Six County state: you don’t have to have original ideas to be a Unionist.

    Unsurprisingly you refuse to be convinced. The idea of ‘reaching out to Unionists’ is founded on a logical absurdity. If they are truly Unionists they are not up for convincing, or at least this is not yet an apposite moment to do so. It would be a mistake to parachute into Germany in 1941 and start arguing that Nazism is evil: you would find your rhetorical powers totally inadequate. But by the end of 1945 you might make some progress. In fact, I am told that by 1946 there were no Nazis in Germany and never had been.

    So for the moment the aim is for the largest parties in Ireland, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, to find common ground with Alliance voters in East Belfast and the moderate, anti-Brexit tendency in North Down. Sinn Féin should not be a part of this process, they function as a red flag to a bull, and the Orange Order and many like them would only be trying to wreck it.

    The definition of ‘terrorist’ is subject to infinite variation and expansion due to the structure of police detention laws, which allow for much longer and more effective detention where persons accused of ‘terrorism’ are concerned. It is already being expanded to include organising political demonstrations: there is no reason why it could not be redefined to include membership of the Orange Order, if that involves participation in external marching.

    Similarly what constitutes ‘political uniforms’ to be prosecuted under the Public Order Act of 1936 is entirely up to the Police’s discretion, and has been held to cover black berets at an Anti-Internment demo but not so far the very fetching collarettes of Orangemen and uniforms of the bandsmen who follow them. This is because it fits in with the public order requirements of the British State. But when the boot is on the other foot, such decisions will obviously be reversed.

    So you have bear in mind that you may, yourself, be eligible for prosecution under the Prevention of Terrorism Act in less than a decade. The process of decolonisation is, on the whole, a just one, or at least that is what the decolonised, who constitute the majority of the World’s nations, think. But that doesn’t mean that it will appear as such to the Orange Order and the former Flag Brigade in a United Ireland. A little adaptability is called for: if the White South Africans could do it, so can you.