Seven more years

Mary McAleese has been returned unopposed as Irish President for a second term. While some are still smarting from the lack of support for a challenger, the stampede by local politicians to congratulate the Belfast born lawyer seems to be led by David Ervine!?

Update Irish Eagle has an interesting take on the lack of opposition.

Further Update More congratulations have appeared.. still looks like Ervine got there first though.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Good post Davidbrew. You’re probably right too – McCracken and Paisley would have been political allies had they lived in the same era – though as you rightly point out, neither would have approved of the other’s social life.

    Indeed the United Irishmen were radicals rather than nationalists. In fact they are the common thread of history that the binds the communities we nominally refer to as `unionist’ and `nationalist’. They were radical presbyterians with hard tongues and two fingers for the pope as well as the queen. God bless ’em. If only they had succeeded!

    They were also republicans who believed that Ireland’s emancipation was worth fighting and dying for – as long as it was the right kind of Ireland. In this they were a challenge both to the British imperial presence manifested in the Anglo-Irish ascendancy, as well as the mainly Catholic population. In a nation divided on the question of to whom we should tug our forelocks, how inspirational were these catholics, protestants and dissenters who declined to tug their forelocks at anyone.

    I think their ideas, laid out so long ago, remain the ideas that will finally bring us back together. I find the presbyterian radicals within the broad unionist family fascinating. Again you’re quite right Davidbrew when you say that during the 19th century, union with Britain had replaced the republican fervour of the 1780s and 90s as the more progressive force in Ireland. Certainly the pro-independence movement wasn’t going anywhere.

    In fact it could be argued that the radical presbyterians of Antrim and north Down have been the more able to go with the progressive trends than any other section of Irish life, hence their conversion from republicanism to unionism – it was smart and from their point of view, progressive.

    As someone who supports Irish unity, this gives me great hope – because I believe that the progressive trend today is towards unity, a relationship with Britain of unprecedented closeness and the embrace of a European destiny. Ironically it may turn out that the alleged hardliners of the DUP are more open to ideas of radical change than the moderates of unionism’s nominal centre.

  • Davros

    George posts :

    Davros,
    I disagree with what you say about lip service and partition. I disagree absolutely with your using some survey that shows significant numbers of Roman Catholics would rather be part of the UK than have unification. The last election results completely rubbish these surveys.

    George

    1)it wasn’t me who wrote or posted the remarks about politicians in the ROI.

    2)Did I miss something George ? Did more than 40% of the electorate (those with a vote) actually CAST their votes for Pro Unification parties ?

    The last election did NOT in ANY way show that ALL
    Roman Catholics want Unification of Ireland. Far from it.

  • Davros

    “Ulster’s protestants are not the descendents of immigrants. They are the descendents of settlers, sent here long ago out of political expediency.”

    Were the Normans welcomed ? No
    Were the Vikings welcomed ? No

    Were the Varous groups of ‘Celtic’ invaders who arrived over hundreds of years taking unoccupied lands and territories ? No.

    Does the reason the Ulster Scots arrived here make any difference ? Surely What’s at issue is that they came. If WHY they came is why they should be treated as outsiders, then should we differentiate between those who came fleeing Famine, discrimination, oppression and desperate poverty and those who settled because of Land Grants for military service ? You might think it’s a bit far-fetched but it’s how the Irish-Americans justify their ancestors’ participation in 19th Century land-grabbing and events that were at least as bad and arguably worse than what happened in 17th Century Ireland.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Good post from Billy Pilgrim at 04:41 PM.

    Re: your Paisley/ United Irish point.

    This is something I find interesting, but I find it hard to reconcile the DUP leader’s hatred of Catholicism – which has often translated into sectarian bigotry – with the fundamental opposition to sectarianism from McCracken etc.

    The comparison also points to the single biggest contradiction within unionism – that historically, while unionists do not trust their own government (often with good reason), they cling to it for dear life.

    Why do such ‘radicals’ depend on the British establishment for their raison d’etre?

    Davidbrew

    I know that David Rose tried this ‘UVF are the new United Irish’ thing a couple of years ago. I didn’t buy it then, and I don’t buy it now!

    It seemed that in their rush to try and claim some non-sectarian historical or moral authority, they had conveniently forgotten about a wee thing called ‘Orangism’ that many in the PUP and UVF are involved with. Oh, and a sectarian murder campaign. And, and, and…

    This seems incompatible with the beliefs of the United Irishmen, given the differences between those who wanted equality between Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter, and an organisation set up to keep the latter two in their place.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Good post from Billy Pilgrim at 04:41 PM.

    Re: your Paisley/ United Irish point.

    This is something I find interesting, but I find it hard to reconcile the DUP leader’s hatred of Catholicism – which has often translated into sectarian bigotry – with the fundamental opposition to sectarianism from McCracken etc.

    The comparison also points to the single biggest contradiction within unionism – that historically, while unionists do not trust their own government (often with good reason), they cling to it for dear life.

    Why do such ‘radicals’ depend on the British establishment for their raison d’etre?

    Davidbrew

    I know that David Rose tried this ‘UVF are the new United Irish’ thing a couple of years ago. I didn’t buy it then, and I don’t buy it now!

    It seemed that in their rush to try and claim some non-sectarian historical or moral authority, they had conveniently forgotten about a wee thing called ‘Orangism’ that many in the PUP and UVF are involved with. Oh, and a sectarian murder campaign. And, and, and…

    This seems incompatible with the beliefs of the United Irishmen, given the differences between those who wanted equality between Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter, and an organisation set up to keep the latter two in their place.

  • Davros

    Was there a 20th century equivalent of the “Dissenters” Gonzo ?

  • Belfast Gonzo

    In 1798, the Dissenter was neither Catholic nor Anglican, so generally meant Presbyterian. Today the tribes are demarcated in political terms, and Presbyterians, Anglicans, Methodists, Baptists are generally lumped together under the Protestant banner.

    I can think of a few smaller parties that refuse to be labelled ‘unionist’ or ‘nationalist’… APNI, Workers, Women’s Coalition and the various socialist parties.

    What do you think yourself?

  • Belfast Gonzo

    In 1798, the Dissenters were those who were neither Protestant nor Catholic; mainly Presbyterians.

    Today, the tribes are demarcated along political rather than religious lines, and Presbyterians are regarded as Protestants alongside the established Anglican church.

    So if today’s camps are regarded as British ‘unionist’ and Irish ‘nationalist’, then surely today’s Dissenters are those who refuse to be labelled as such – which would mean the smaller ‘non-confessional’ parties like Alliance, the Workers Party, Women’s Coalition, and the various socialist parties.

    What do you think yourself?

  • peteb

    I don’t think there’s a banner wide enough for all those on your list to shelter under, Gonzo :o)

  • Davros

    “In 1798, the Dissenters were those who were neither Protestant nor Catholic; mainly Presbyterians.”

    Hmmm …not how I read it Gonzo. The dissenters were protestants who refused to acknowledge the (considerably greater in those days )authority of the “Established” Church which we would know as the Anglicans.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Sorry about that double post. Thought I’d lost the first one, but it came back. Weird Typekey…

    Davros: The ‘Protestant dissenters’ you refer to were Presbyterians, but they weren’t regarded as proper Prods by Anglicans back then, suffering some discrimination, though not as bad as that suffered by Catholics.

    Today, as I indicated, Presbyterians would be regarded by all as Prods. Hey, maybe they regarded themselves as Prods back then, but if it wasn’t recognised by the Establishment, it didn’t mean much.

    I think you are imposing a modern meaning on a historic description. But maybe it WAS valid then – I just don’t think so.

    But I’m sure someone with better history behind them will correct me if I’m wrong…

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Sorry about that double post. Thought I’d lost the first one, but it came back. Weird Typekey…

    Davros: The ‘Protestant dissenters’ you refer to were Presbyterians, but they weren’t regarded as proper Prods by Anglicans back then, suffering some discrimination, though not as bad as that suffered by Catholics.

    Today, as I indicated, Presbyterians would be regarded by all as Prods. Hey, maybe they regarded themselves as Prods back then, but if it wasn’t recognised by the Establishment, it didn’t mean much.

    I think you are imposing a modern meaning on a historic description. But maybe it WAS valid then – I just don’t think so.

    But I’m sure someone with better history behind them will correct me if I’m wrong…

  • Davros

    I think what it boils down to Gonzo is that I’m saying that things have changed so much that I don’t think we can draw a huge amount of relevence from attitudes of 1798 today.

    Interesting Historical note – some of the penal laws were relaxed on Roman Catholics sooner than on the dissenters. Marriage by a priest ( of Rome said he sounding positively Paisleyite) was recognised in law several years earlier than marriage by a Presbyterian minister.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Davros.

    Re settler/immigrant issue.

    I hope you won’t mind my saying that I think you’re being a little obtuse. Where Ulster’s protestants differ from Vikings, Normans and everyone else who has come to these shores over the millennia is that their original purpose in coming here – ie to ensure English/British/Crown rule in Ireland – is still relevant today.

    Now if the redheads of Ireland were to claim Mayo for Denmark, or if those with Fitz as a prefix to their name tried to claim Waterford for Normandy, you’d have a point. It doesn’t matter that Ulster’s protestants were not the only people who arrived on these shores with swords drawn and conquest in mind. What matters is that today, they are the only ones left who still carry out the function of settlers and who insist on sovereignty in Ireland of a non-Irish state.

    When the time comes that protestants of Ulster take their rightful and long-reserved place among the peoples of Ireland – and when the time comes when they feel they can – then they will cease to be a settler people. Until then though, they remain a people apart in Ireland. It is a tragedy for every person on the island that this is so, but there you have it.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Davros.

    “Does the reason the Ulster Scots arrived here make any difference? Surely what’s at issue is that they came.”

    Absolutely agree. Why they came here is completely irrelevant. It’s good that they are here. What IS relevant though is how the arrival of their ancestors informs today’s Ulster protestants. They SHOULDN’T be a settler people any more, but they are, still looking back across the water from whence they came almost half a millennium ago, still looking towards their fellow Irish with fear and loathing. Ulster’s protestants shouldn’t, but they still act like a settler people, still resistant to the reality that they are now part of the fabric of Ireland.

    “If WHY they came is why they should be treated as outsiders,”

    Here we have a difference of perspective. From a nationalist perspective I would argue that the rest of the people of Ireland have been begging – BEGGING – Ulster’s protestants to come in out of the cold for a long, long time now. From where I’m standing it seems to me like the refusal on the part of Ulster’s protestants to find equilibrium with the Irish landscape, and to forge a common cause with with their fellow Irish is an article of faith.

    Or if you like: they choose exclusion.

    Re Irish in America.

    What’s relevant is how this all affects today. The awful thing about the US genocide of native Americans is that it was so near total as to be irreversible. Even more extreme was when the British removed the Tasmanian race from the face of the earth. They ensured that, no matter how criminal was the original settlement of Tasmania. it could never be undone.

    Luckily the Irish people were never wiped from the earth. An independent and unified Ireland today is not only a viable option – it is by any rational evaluation of circumstances the most progressive and desirable option. It is also the step we could take that would allow us to put ancient history where is belongs – in the background. Then it wouldn’t matter where any of us came from.

    We have in our reach the solution that would make all our wretched, bloody and inglorious history irrelevant. And the irony is that those most opposed to it are the very people who hold the key in their hands.

    Which is what set me off thinking about those radical presbyterians in Antrim and their proven ability to see which way the wind is blowing.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Billy Pilgrim

    There are still a few Presbyterian radicals from Antrim (and elsewhere), such as Dr John Robb of the New Ireland Group. This may be of interest to you:

    http://www.nireland.com/group/index.html

  • Christopher Daigle

    As much as I think that Mary McAleese has been a progressive influence on Irish politics, I think that in a parliamentary democracy the office of president is a waste of time, money, and talent. It should be abolished.