Adams in conversation…

Gerry Adams with an unusually lengthy and detailed interview in radical website Bellaciao with economist Paul de Rooij.

On governance:

The un-elected and unaccountable

  • Davros

    For me the most interesting part was

    “the ongoing British claim of jurisdiction over a part of the island”

    Now, to me this shows that Mr Adams has not accepted the Belfast Agreement. Those who signed it were accepting that British Jurisdiction is not “claimed”
    but a reality.

  • peteb

    Given Gerry Adams’ claim that “Next year we [Sinn F

  • yer_man

    “The NIO runs the six-counties almost as a private fiefdom.”
    Yet he sees no problems with devolved Ministers in Northern Ireland running their departments as private fiefdoms with no recourse to the Assembly.

    “those who work within and for the NIO, demonstrate an unapologetic devotion to the unionist cause.”
    Dont think you would get that opinion if you survey any unionists. Also, where exactly is the evidence for this ‘devotion’ of the NIO to unionists?

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    “Yet he sees no problems with devolved Ministers in Northern Ireland running their departments as private fiefdoms with no recourse to the Assembly.”

    But they do have recourse directly to the electorate. Something that cannot be said of Murphy, Spellar et al.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    “I used the occasion to present both leaders with a letter outlining our total opposition to what was then the imminent invasion of Iraq.”

    If it was a very stern letter Bush and Blair probably wondered if it was worth going to all that bother in Baghdad. Having seemingly been told off in advance.

  • yer_man

    Pat
    “But they do have recourse directly to the electorate. Something that cannot be said of Murphy, Spellar et al.”

    Only in so much as it would take an absolute electoral wipeout for any of the parties entitled to Ministries for them to lose their place in an Executive after a future election. That is not a system of accountability and in practice makes them no more vulnerable than any direct rule Minister.

    A system where Government Departments are allocated on a system of proportionality such as d’Hondt means that there must be effective controls put in place. Ministers in other jusidictions are accountable both to the electorate and to their respective Parliament/Assembly. In NI we do not have accountability to the electorate in any meaningful sense and so there must be an effective mechanism within the Assembly if Government is to work in any kind of efficient and effective fashion.

    I agree that Murphy Speller et al arnt accountable to the people of Northern Ireland. However, I dont support replacing unaccountable direct rule Ministers with unaccountable local Ministers.

    It should be remembered that none of the above is in any way a ‘unionist’ position. It is of no particular benefit to one side over another. It simply is an issue of good government. It seems as if unionists arnt the only people who could be accused of trying to put obsticles in the way of finding a deal.

  • Millie

    ‘It should be remembered that none of the above is in any way a ‘unionist’ position. It is of no particular benefit to one side over another. It simply is an issue of good government. It seems as if unionists arnt the only people who could be accused of trying to put obsticles in the way of finding a deal.’

    It would indeed be recognised as good govt if it was a proposal for anywhere else. However, NI is not a democracy, no matter how much you try to dress it up. The DUP’s proposals may be indicative of ‘good govt’ but they cannot work in place like NI because of the state’s inability to deliver democratic majoritarian rule. If you want that you need to go to Britain.

  • George

    Now, to me this shows that Mr Adams has not accepted the Belfast Agreement. Those who signed it were accepting that British Jurisdiction is not “claimed” but a reality.

    I don’t think you can say that Davros. Those who voted for the GFA accepted that British jurisdiction would only be removed if a majority of the people of Northern Ireland wished it so and that it “is for the people of the island of Ireland alone, by agreement between the two parts respectively and without external impediment etc. etc.”

    Nowhere in the document does it state that this “claim” is a “reality”.

    The old Articles 2 and 3 claimed but weren’t reality. The GFA doesn’t claim and is reality.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    Yer_man

    “It should be remembered that none of the above is in any way a ‘unionist’ position. It is of no particular benefit to one side over another. It simply is an issue of good government. It seems as if unionists arnt the only people who could be accused of trying to put obsticles in the way of finding a deal.”

    Changes to how the Ministers operate are supported exclusively by unionist members of the Assembly. Likewise thety are opposed by the two nationalist parties. It could be (and is) argued that demanding these changes is putting innecessary obstacles in the way of finding a real deal.

  • Davros

    George – this part is unequivocal.

    “It is hereby declared that Northern Ireland in its entirety remains part of the United Kingdom “

    And I wasn’t talking about the Referenda – I was talking about whether or not Mr Adams had his fingers crossed while signing upto the Belfast agreement.

  • yer_man

    Pat
    “Changes to how the Ministers operate are supported exclusively by unionist members of the Assembly. Likewise thety are opposed by the two nationalist parties.”

    The fact that something may be supported by unionists and not supported by nationalists doesnt necessarily make that a gain for only the unionist community. If either the nationalist community’s representatives are too stupid or too pig-headed to see the benefits of accountability then that’s up to them. Do you not see any benefit in making unionist ministers accountable? Cutting off your nose to spite your face is the phrase which springs to mind.

    Also, its hardly if the DUP have put forward the proposals for accountability mechanisms with no good reason. There were complaints from both sides that under the Belfast Agreement ministers were able to act as they pleased – thats why the Programme for Government wasnt worth the paper it was written on – Ministers didnt have to take a blind bit of notice of anything decided at an Executive meeting or passed in the Assembly. Now however, simply because it is a DUP proposal its suddenly a stumbling block to progress. As I said before, its not just the DUP who can put forward blocks to progress.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    yer_man,

    “If either the nationalist community’s representatives are too stupid or too pig-headed to see the benefits of accountability then that’s up to them.”

    For accountability read insipid sectarianism and a need to stymie the power of nationalist ministers. Although to put it as, “if you don’t agree with me you are pig headed,” is a truly telling remark.

    It is also telling that unionists, when lecturing on accountability, end up hectoring about the decision to site maternity services at the Royal. The coming together of all shades of unionism to try and prevent the services coming to West Belfast was naked sectarianism that Craig would have been proud of.
    The present situation works, if it is not broke why fix it?

  • willowfield

    Adams has only himself to blame for the unaccountability of direct rule which was caused by the failure of his own “movement” to comply with the conditions for devolution.

  • yer_man

    Pat,
    “For accountability read insipid sectarianism and a need to stymie the power of nationalist ministers.”
    Firstly, why would the DUP feel the need to work against other Ministers in a system which they had given their support for? Would it not be in their interests to make things work. However there is still a need for accountability. You also fail to explain how accountability of unionist Ministers hurts the nationalist community, and after all, in the present circumstances, there will be more unionist Ministers and specifically DUP Ministers.

    “Although to put it as, “if you don’t agree with me you are pig headed,” is a truly telling remark.”
    You misrepresent the sentiments of my commment. However, nationalists have whinged for years about intransigence from unionists – yet it is they who are crying “not an inch” now!

    “It is also telling that unionists, when lecturing on accountability, end up hectoring about the decision to site maternity services at the Royal. The coming together of all shades of unionism to try and prevent the services coming to West Belfast was naked sectarianism that Craig would have been proud of.”

    Firstly, I didnt actually mention that case, but you are correct in that it is one of the many examples out there. This ‘coming together of unionism’ you talk about – would this be the same ‘coming together’ which saw a cross-community vote in the Health Committee in support of maintaining health provision at the Jubiliee? As far as I am aware, the only party which supported the decision within the Health Committee was SF. The SDLP lost their bottle before the Assembly debate and fell in behind SF for the vote (now there’s a surprise) leaving the Jubilee to be backed by DUP, UUP, WC and All (I think – but am open to correction).

    “The present situation works, if it is not broke why fix it?”
    The present system doesnt work. That’s the point. Can you tell me, should one of the DUP Ministers have taken a decision which the Assembly had felt so strongly about that every member, except the DUP members had voted against. What could the Assembly have done about it? You are advocating the continuation of the present system where individual Ministers have absolute power and run their Department as they see fit.

    While you accuse me of reducing any opposition to ‘pig-headedness’ is it not a little easy for you to hid behind the cloak of those nasty sectarian unionists who want to control us? To me the issue of accountability is a bit ironic – if the DUP hadnt proposed it then it really wouldnt surprise me if it wasnt the nationalist parties who were making it an issue in the talks.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    yerman

    In fairness, you know very well what the real issue is here – nationalists don’t trust unionists as far as they can throw them when it comes to governance. History justifies this position. Present unionist posturing justifies this position. Ongoing unionist denial – indeed justification – of past unionist crimes justify this position and ensures that nationalists will not accept government in which unionism exercises more than equal control.

    I agree with Millie’s earlier point – it would be a good idea in a normal and democratic society. Unfortunately we don’t live in a normal and democratic society. We live in a divided society formerly ruled by the marginally larger sectarian bloc – a period of rule for which the phrase `tyranny of the majority’ might have been created.

    Unionism clearly has not faced up to the legacy it created during its period of governance, when the majority so disgraced itself that the removal from that majority the entitlements usually bestowed on majorities in normal and democratic societies became necessary. Unionism needs to understand nationalism’s position: we are dealing with a sectarian bloc that, when in power carried out the systematic execution of injustice as a matter of policy. We are dealing with a sectarian bloc that appears still to be far away from distancing itself from these crimes – indeed that continues, to one extent or another, to vindicate those crimes.

    So it’s frustratingly mendacious for unionists to pretend that NI is unexceptional and that normal democratic rules should apply here – which would in fact mean the deal-breaker that is unionist majority rule. Between 1921-72 unionism ensured that it could never again be taken seriously when discussing democracy. Until the idea of majority rule is as sickening for unionists as it is for nationalists, then unionism has nothing of value to say on the subject of democracy.

    Or in short, unionists are not entitled to be trusted when they call for `accountability’.

    That said, I would be open to ideas as to how ministries can be held accountable in a cross-community way. Any ideas?

  • Mick Fealty

    Pat,

    I’ve read this in many places:

    “For accountability read insipid sectarianism and a need to stymie the power of nationalist ministers”.

    But I’ve yet to see a cool, rational explanation for the extrapolation.

  • chunkyguy

    althogh i do not wish to get involved in some of the deabtes regarding this issue i thought the interview was interesting and certainly learned from it than i have in a lot of other interviews

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    Mick,

    Billy Pilgrim has touched on the issue in his opening paragraph.

    “In fairness, you know very well what the real issue is here – nationalists don’t trust unionists as far as they can throw them when it comes to governance. History justifies this position.”

    The SDLP and especially SF saw the GFA as a historic compromise. From their point of view it was a compromise in which they gave much and in return received assurances on equality and the ring fencing of ministries that would ensure that equality. The protection and independence of those ministries was to guard against some of the points again highlighted in Billy Pilgrims’ piece.
    The belief of both the SDLP and SF is that unionists had to come to terms with sharing power with people who they had (and still do) consider their enemies. There was a fear that unionists would ‘gang up’ to stymie decisions made by SDLP and SF ministers.
    This view was given credence by some commentators who remarked that their was a sizeable section of unionist opinion that was in favour of direct rule simply becuse it kept nationalists out of government. Is this view widespread among the unionist parties on the hill? Block, stymie every decision, hold up progress and strangle the Assembly by inertia. All will lose out but at the end of the day direct rule is better than Fenian rule.

    The three stranded approach also has to be factored into the decisions made by SDLP and SF ministers. There is no doubt that the cross border element is of strategic importance to both parties, especially to SF. Although if any close working relationship develops between the SDLP and one of the 26 county parties then it will play an even greater role in the thinking of the SDLP.
    SF have made it crystal clear that while they are prepared to work the current agreement, it is not the final solution as they see it. They are on record as stating that they want to expand the roles of their ministers. They do have ministers mirror imaged in the Irish Republic. The idea seems to be to have increasing and dependent cooperation between ministers of a similar brief. Unification by stealth if you like. As SF in the long term looks towards power in the 26 counties it is crucial to their project that ministers retain their independence. As stated this may well pan out for the SDLP as well.

    Although touched on occasionally the RVH decision proved to many nationalists that given the opportunity unionist politicians will revert to type and seek to do down nationalist ministers and their decisions. The RVH decision was just too big a target for them to resist. A SF minister and West Belfast, all in one go. It is of course unfair to state that all those who voted for the City site did so on a sectarian basis, but it is remarkable that not one unionist politician concurred with the majority of medical opinion on the RVH site.

    There may come a time when procedural matters for operating ministries may have to change. But given the stop, start history of the Assembly this will only be done after a considerable period of stability and when the bona fides of all concerned have been established. Until then the sectarian legacy of unionist decision making and the current behaviour of certain unionist politicians make significant change, at present, a non starter.

  • Davros

    “That said, I would be open to ideas as to how ministries can be held accountable in a cross-community way. Any ideas? “

    EasyPeasy.

    Enable a system where if enough MLA’s sign a petition to the Speaker, the Minister’s decision has to be debated and face a vote in Stormont.

    Set the figure high enough so that Unionist MLAs on their own cannot force a vote and so that Nationalist MLAs on their own cannot force a vote.
    So, for example if a DUP minister does something unacceptable, it would take more than combined SF and SDLP signatures to call minister to account.
    Likewise if a SF minister did something unacceptable, it would require MORE than the UUP/DUP/APNI/PUP signatures to call minister to account.

    Cross community.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Davros.

    Would you agree that this issue is not sufficiently significant to justify the continued suspension of the Agreement? I mean, what if it’s true that the IRA offered to wind up by Christmas, and the DUP rejected the offer because of THIS? (Seems like a monumental betrayal of the unionist people to me.)

    Isn’t this basically a procedural rather than structural problem that could be ironed out naturally while the assembly is up and running?

  • jesterman

    Gerry Adams still bases everything on the Provisionals being the

  • Davros

    Billy, after the Horlicks that was made of the past sittings, I think it needs to be agreed how it runs before we go any further. Fixing it while it’s up and running ? There’s no hope of that.
    Certainly I favour power-sharing. I don’t favour a system where there is ministerial autonomy – that’s not power-sharing, it’s dictatorship. I don’t trust the DUP in power. I don’t trust the UUP and I don’t trust either the SDLP or SF.

    So what’s wrong with Ministers being called to account as long as it’s sensible ? The system I suggested means that Nationalists couldn’t obstruct Unionist Ministers and more importantly Unionists couldn’t obstruct Nationalist Ministers.

    It’s been claimed that there is a mechanism for accountability at the Ballot box – BUT voters could only shut the stable door AFTER the horse had bolted… and be honest… can you honestly see SF voters penalising SF MLAs for a SF Minister doing something unacceptable to Unionists ? I cannot, any more than I would see DUP voters penalising DUP MLAs for a DUP minister doing something unacceptable to nationalists. And even if they did , the damage would have already been done.

  • George

    “So what’s wrong with Ministers being called to account as long as it’s sensible ?”

    Nothing and in ideal world that would be the case but the problem is there is no guarantee that the sensible thing will be done.

    For many nationalists, Unionism has no history of doing the sensible thing as evidenced by its 51 continuous years in power.

    Why not have a period of “decontamination” (I believe that’s Unionistspeak) where unionism’s democratic credentials can be proven (say 1 term of parliament) and if that works then we can move on to Ministers being accountable to the Assembly.

  • jessop

    Davros

    your suggestion seems very sensible. I cant see why this principle wouldnt be acceptable to all.

    Honest Question: are the DUP looking to implement such a system?
    or are they looking to implement a system whereby unionists could, without nationalist support, veto the decisions of nationalist ministers, effectively returning to unionist majority rule?

  • Davros

    Jessop… there’s one way to find out !

    I think the accountability thing gives all the Wa*kers an excuse to play games.

    IF SF and the SDLP aren’t planning anything outrageous, and I would assume they are not, then why not say to Tony and Bertie … OK, we’ll accept this. Then we can move on.

    This is as much a check on Paisley as on Adams, Trimble as much as Durkan.

  • Davros

    George “there is no guarantee that the sensible thing will be done.”

    the Guarantee would be the system George. UNLESS there was some Cross community support, either from SDLP MLAs or even possibly unhappy SF MLAs , as Long as the figures are set right, there would be no way that Unionists could obstruct a nationalist minister.
    Try these as suggestion:

    to call a nationalist minister’s decision into question a minimum of 70 MLA need sign a petition to speaker.

    to call a Unionist minister’s decision into question a minimum of 50 MLA need to sign a petition to speaker.

    in each case SOME cross community support would be necessary to be successful.

  • jessop

    As I said, I agree with that principle, but I still honestly do not know if that is what the DUP are proposing! The information coming from the negotiations is very vague. If this is what the DUP are proposing, why are SF and SDLP objecting on the basis of unionist majority rule?

  • yer_man

    “Nationalists dont trust Unionists when it comes to Governance”.
    Far be it from me to suggest, but surely a system of accounability would get round some of those problems.

    For years Nationalists (rightly) thought that Unionists would never share power. That has changed – whatever the rights or wrongs of the past, there is no serious unionist party who now advocates majority rule. I dont for one minute see this ‘sizeable section’ of unionist opinion who think that blocking devolution here is a golden ticket to “good old British direct rule”, to use John Taylor speak. If they do, then IMHO they need to go get their bumps felt!

    What do unionists actually succed if they “block, stymie and strangle the Assembly by intertia”. Firstly, why would the DUP or any other unionist fight to bring down an Assembly they had given their support to, particularly in a situation where SF had done the necessaries, and got rid of the guns etc. Do you not remember the article from the Village posted on SoT not so long ago? To paraphrase it was: ‘If we bugger around and bring down an Assembly after supporting a deal, we lose out big time too – we lose power’. Do you seriously think that any party would want to bring down a system of Government which was working, just because they want to ‘annoy the fenians’?

    It was different in the 1998-2003 deal for 2 reasons. Firstly the DUP are openly and actively opposed to the Belfast Agreement and so wanted, during the time of the Assembly, to show its unsuitability and bring about its renegotiation. Secondly, the UUP ran into Government without first getting the necessary democratisation from SF and so always had that albatross around their necks.

    As I have said before, any new deal will not be done (on the DUP’s behalf) unless SF do the necessary business (and the changes are made to the Agreement). That would mean then that there would be no benefit in deliberately messing around and blocking things for the sake of it.

    As far as I was aware also, the DUP were happy to leave it in the hands of the Speaker of the Assembly to decide what accountability issues could be debated in the Assembly – i.e. the Speaker could deny the Assembly the opportunity to debate issues which were brought about just to frustrate nationalist (or unionist) Ministers.

    Pat, you were rather kind to me in your last post. You argue about the unreasonableness of Unionist demands for accountability and then wax lyrical at length about how Nationalist/Republicans needed absolute free reigh in their Ministries so they could harmonise with the RoI and so help develop “Unification by stealth” as you put it. How does that square with the principle of consent? Ministers should be working for the benefit of those they represent, not to achieve political ends through their Departmental responsibilities.

    It seems again as though, while its nationalists who say unionists cant be trusted in government the reality is that nationalists only want government so that they can bash unionists and work us into a united Ireland by stealth! If you want a united Ireland then you have to do it the proper way, convince people through the strength of your arguments and obtain it through a free and fair decision by the people of Northern Ireland, not through the murky dealings of your Ministers.

    “There may come a time when procedural matters for operating ministries may have to change. But given the stop, start history of the Assembly this will only be done after a considerable period of stability and when the bona fides of all concerned have been established.”
    Sounds suspiciously like putting something on the long finger to me. When exactly would this be ok to change? Never sounds like the most likely answer to me. Again, unionists arnt the only people who put obsticles in the way to delay and frustrate!

    “Until then the sectarian legacy of unionist decision making and the current behaviour of certain unionist politicians make significant change, at present, a non starter.”
    Oh please sir, how may we make up for our past wrongdoings? What do you want us to do? Beg?

    There is also a cheek involved in nationalists asking us to indulge them while they get over the terrible actions of unionists. Unionists have said clearly that, providing they embrace democracy and give up terrorism and criminality (not too much to ask is it?) then we are prepared to accept Sinn Fein into Government positions. Now who’s living in the past Pat?

  • Billy Pilgrim

    “Oh please sir, how may we make up for our past wrongdoings? What do you want us to do? Beg?”

    No. Nationalists are entitled to hear senior unionist politicians unequivocally denounce unionist rule between 1921-72. Nationalists are entitled to see unionists adopt and champion the principle of power-sharing.

    Unfortunately the position currently seems to be to at least mitigate – in many cases vindicate – past unionist crimes. This does not inspire confidence that modern-day unionists would be any less vicious towards their nationalist neighbours than their forbears were, GIVEN THE CHANCE. So you can understand why nationalists are so insistent that safeguards be put in place.

    The principle of power-sharing is not a concession to nationalism. It is a concession to reality – yet one that unionism makes only very reluctantly. Everyone is entitled to expect that prospective ministers in a power-sharing executive will actively champion power-sharing, a vocally state their PREFERENCE for power-sharing over majoritarianism.

    For example, if there were a united Ireland, I would champion the ring-fencing of governmental positions for Ulster protestants. If unionists want NI to work they should do likewise.

  • Davros

    Power-sharing should be just that- sharing.
    Not distributing Medieval Fiefdoms of absolute power Billy.

  • yer_man

    “Power-sharing should be just that- sharing.
    Not distributing Medieval Fiefdoms of absolute power Billy.”

    Well said Davros – cant find much to disagree with in that statement.

    Billy
    “Nationalists are entitled to hear senior unionist politicians unequivocally denounce unionist rule between 1921-72.”

    You seriously want unionists to apologise for every single decision taken and everything they did for fifty years? If i was being particularly facetious then I would of course state that it was an Ulster Unionist Government during that time, and as a DUP supporter ask you what else you expect from the UUP but mis-rule? ;-).

    However, no-one is denying that mistakes were made during that period and as I stated, no-one now advocates majority rule as even being a remotely possible system of Government in NI. But to start to ask people to apologise for Governing is absurd. You apologise for mistakes, and while you may think the entire system was a mistake, that is a point of view, not an absolute fact.

    “Unfortunately the position currently seems to be to at least mitigate – in many cases vindicate – past unionist crimes.”

    How exactly, please explain for the hard of thinking such as myself.

    “This does not inspire confidence that modern-day unionists would be any less vicious towards their nationalist neighbours than their forbears were, GIVEN THE CHANCE.”

    And am I not able to say that I firmly believe that given half a chance Sinn Fein/IRA would quite happily continue to murder me and my neighbours in cold blood? However, if they demonstrate a change and embrace democracy then am willing to move on. I personally dont think we will get or should demand, nor do I actually wantm an apology from SF for their past deeds, because meaningless words are just that: words – they mean nothing and it is actions I want to see.

    “For example, if there were a united Ireland, I would champion the ring-fencing of governmental positions for Ulster protestants. If unionists want NI to work they should do likewise.”

    And excuse me for pointing out but a system of Government which allocates Departments on a proportional basis such as d’Hondt actually does ensure that nationalists have guaranteed seats in Government!

    Btw – my politics is determined by my beliefs, not my religeon or denomination, therefore ring-fencing Government seats for ‘Ulster Protestants’ seems a terribly sectarian way of doing things in my mind…..

  • Billy Pilgrim

    BP: “Unfortunately the position currently seems to be to at least mitigate – in many cases vindicate – past unionist crimes.”

    YM: “How exactly, please explain for the hard of thinking such as myself.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    That should have read:

    “In the event of a united IRELAND Ulster protestants should be given the opportunity…”

  • George

    Davros,
    your idea is certainly thought provoking.
    I’ve always had the idea that there is a significant section of unionism that is firmly of the belief that there is a section of the Catholic population of Northern Ireland that can be won over to support the union and thus ensure its survival.
    For many nationalists, such an idea might be considered to be less about accountable government but more about dividing the “pan-nationalist” alliance by ensuring a cosy lifestyle for a minority of Catholics. I think the old phrase was House N……

  • Davros

    George : I’ve always had the idea that there is a significant section of unionism that is firmly of the belief that there is a section of the Catholic population of Northern Ireland that can be won over to support the union and thus ensure its survival.

    Right idea, wrong tense George. There IS a substantial proportion of NI Catholics who DO support the Union. They. like myself, however struggle to support Unionists Partoes and Unionist politicians.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Davros.

    “There IS a substantial proportion of NI Catholics who DO support the Union.”

    I’m not saying you’re right or wrong, but on what basis do you make this claim? I find the baldness of the assertion interesting, particularly given that I have never yet known a Catholic person from NI to express his or her support for the union. Not one. Not saying they don’t exist, I’m just wondering how you can be so confident?

  • yer_man

    Billy
    “This is what I am talking about. Unionism didn

  • Billy Pilgrim

    “Give me instances of this persecution please.”

    In the broadest possible strokes: housing policy; gerrymandered voting; employment policy; the special powers act; the flags and emblems act; repeated use of internment; one party rule which delivered one single non-UU amendment in 50 years of legislation; the bond between government and the Orange Order; the maintenance of standing protestant militias; the economic marginalisation of the west – eg university for Coleraine instead of Derry, motorways to Nowhere rather than Somewhere Nationalist, decimation of railways west of the Bann, the fantasy of Craigavon as the `second city’ etc etc etc.

    No doubt there are many others that could deal with the myriad grievances better than I could. But those are just a taster.

    “setting up a majority rule Government in 1921 doesnt constitute ‘instituting a system of persecution’.”

    My point is that is exactly what it amounted to. Creating conditions in which a critical mass of Catholics would simply leave was an explicit matter of government policy. I can see how this would square with a desire to maintain the union, but doesn’t it strike you that there is/was something fundamentally immoral about such a policy?

    Would you even consider the possibility that the price of the union was the debasement of the moral standing of the unionist people? That the reason unionists are generally held up to odium on the world stage is because you kinda sold your souls for the union?

    I don’t want unionists to grovel at all, you completely misunderstand me. My desire is simply – and I hope you’ll understand this and accept that it is motivated by a genuine desire to see our two great peoples not only live together in peace but to actually come together – to ensure that my children do not grow up in the degrading circumstances that my father was forced to.

    I just want to know that you don’t actually want to do that to my children. Communally speaking, your father did that to my father. I don’t want you to apologise or grovel for past crimes – I just want to know that unionism has put all that behind it. I am entitled to ask.

  • Davros

    Well Billy, Personal experience. I have courted 3 Irish Catholics:) Two were supportive of the union and loathed Unionist Politicians 🙂 The last one was strongly republican and loathed the ROI more than she loathed Unionism !

    There have been surveys in the 90’s that showed considerable support for the union amongst NI RCs.
    There was a survey not that long ago that showed that There still is considerable support.

    Possibly you missed this from August when I was discussing this issue with George ?

    Slightly edited:

    Now, by chance I came across this in the book I am finishing…

    Written by James Anderson, Professor of International Development, Department of Geography,University of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, from p 220,

  • Billy Pilgrim

    All that said, we are in agreement about the sheer practicality of power-sharing and the sheer impracticality of anything else. If only pragmatists like you and I were running the show!

  • Davros

    Some More :

    ARK – a joint social and political initiative by the University of Ulster and Queen’s University – has analysed data collated from the Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey and the Northern Ireland Social Attitudes Survey since 1989 on the attitudes of members of the Church of Ireland, the Presbyterian Church and the Catholic Church to key social issues. #

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Interesting.

    I sometimes think weshould hold a border poll just for the sake of it. It’s such a nebulous subject as things stand. It’d be interesting to see how the respective arguments would play out, and even more interesting to see how much impact a strong campaign one way or the other could have on the supposedly granite prejudices of the sectarian blocs. I have a feeling that if nothing else such a poll would undermine quite a few of the assumptions on which we base our tribal system.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Davros.

    I’d say the most interesting statistic there is the substantial sections in all denominations who classify themselves as neither unionist nor nationalist. It seems that rather than the NI question being all about two monolithic blocs, it’s actually about two blocs with a potentially decisive swing vote in between.

  • Davros

    Billy, It would all depend on how the referendum was
    phrased. Imagine if it was like an A Tangled Web Poll ? 😉

  • Billy Pilgrim

    How about:

    Vote A for the creation of a single Irish state

    Vote B for no change

    Vote C for none of the above

    Then it’d be up to the various advocates to explain why their constitutional preference is/would be so great.

  • Davros

    Billy, alternatively:

    1) United Ireland within next 5 years

    2) United Ireland at some further point in the future, but continuance of Union with GB for now

    3) Continuance of Union with GB for the forseeable future.

    ( and my own choice – ROI and NI merge within a non-sovereign Ireland as part of a larger European State based on regionalism )

  • Ciaran

    BP/Davros,
    Of course the difficulty with these things would be gettin political parties to make an effort at producing the facts/figures to back up their arguments and moving away from the usual vagueness.
    Also the timescale of decisions, ie given that Government Regional Plans may roll-out over a time period greater than 5 yrs, how would it be determined if they would be continued under a new govnt and not be stop start.
    Could a decision be reversed, ie if we vote for a UI and it goes pear-shaped??!!! although of course it wouldn’t:)

  • yer_man

    Billy
    “I just want to know that unionism has put all that behind it. I am entitled to ask.”

    You go over a long list of stuff wanting unionists to walk over hot coals in penance for and then you give us this statement.

    All “that” as you put, it is behind unionism. The world isnt going back to the way it was in the 50’s. For me I would much prefer structures to ensure Government works rather than worthless words which may or may not be sincere anyway.

    Words either arnt going to ‘bring our great peoples together’ either. It is deeds which count and probably most importantly, time. Forcing crocodile tears from either side isnt going to solve a thing. The whole fixation with apology seems to be some kind of stand in for a communty therapy session – it wont actually achieve anything.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Yer man.

    I’m not talking about an apology. Sure who exactly would do the apologising? And on behalf of whom?

    I’m talking about a psychological leap, where unionism is able to embrace the concept of power-sharing not as a necessary evil but as their actively preferred system of government. I’m talking about a psychological leap to the point where it is not necessary for unionists to defend, mitigate or even downplay the sins of the fathers. When I say unionism needs to put 1921-72 behind it, I mean it needs to turn decisively away from the attitudes towards the minority community that led to such a spiteful regime.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Yer man.

    First off I’d just like to thank you very sincerely for the manner in which you have approached this debate. I am aware that we are in the very vexed territory where someone from one tribe is giving his tuppence worth about the other tribe. You have defended your corner coolly and fairly – for that I admire you. (Don’t know if I could match you for that.) You say you are a DUP supporter? In that case my attitude to that party has softened a little during our discussion. Thanks.

    But I have to pick you up on this point:

    “You go over a long list of stuff wanting unionists to walk over hot coals.”

    No I don’t. Seriously, it should be the easiest thing in the world to accept the nature of the Stormont regime. You shouldn’t defend it just because they were prods and you have to stick with the tribe.

    (For example I can accept the arid, oppressive and pretty weird nature of the Irish state up until fairly recently. This was the great experiment in Irish sovereignty – to which I could hardly be more passionately in favour – yet for a long time it was riddled with failures.

    Luckily the southern state didn’t have a very substantial minority population, and that which it had was hardly restive, so it wasn’t necessary – as it was in the north – to institute a specific infrastructure of oppression.

    (Of course the church so oppressed the general swathe of society that governmental oppression was unnecessary. In fact one might facetiously point out that the difference for Catholics north and south was the identity of the oppressor. But I digress.)

    Come on Yer Man, make the leap. You know Stormont rule was bad, very bad. You know that as far as Catholics were concerned, this was the intention. You’ll feel better just to acknowledge this. There’s no way I’d defend DeValera or John Charles McQuaid, or try to mitigate Fethard-on-Sea. Nor should you feel the need to carry around the sins of previous generations of unionists – you should just put that burden down. Castigate your community’s past leaders for their stupidity, insanity and wickedness. It’s so liberating!

  • Billy Pilgrim

    “Luckily the southern state didn’t have a very substantial minority population, and that which it had was hardly restive, so it wasn’t necessary – as it was in the north – to institute a specific infrastructure of oppression.”

    Before I’m picked up on this, what I mean is that the near-homogenous make-up of the southern state as it emerged certainly removed one major challenge that would have/will face any unified state – the large minority population to the northeast.

    In fact it was very unlucky that the new state was partitioned off from that minority but it did remove one pretty big challenge. It also allowed the Catholic church to dominate the almost exclusively Catholic new state.

    Would a 32 county republic have instituted the same kind of infrastructure of oppression to deal with its minority that we saw emerging in the northern enclave? Who knows? Certainly if a Dublin government thought it could have gotten away with it they would have. However I’d say the realities of independence (with no superpower to pick up the tab) would have ensured the intervention of realpolitik and such repression would have been rendered unlikely, to say the least. Especially as the industrial Lagan Valley would probably have been so badly needed as one of the main engines of the new Irish economy.

  • Davros

    “Would a 32 county republic have instituted the same kind of infrastructure of oppression to deal with its minority that we saw emerging in the northern enclave? Who knows? Certainly if a Dublin government thought it could have gotten away with it they would have. However I’d say the realities of independence (with no superpower to pick up the tab) would have ensured the intervention of realpolitik and such repression would have been rendered unlikely, to say the least. Especially as the industrial Lagan Valley would probably have been so badly needed as one of the main engines of the new Irish economy.”

    That rather falls down on this Billy :
    Thoise in Charge weren’t interested in an Industrial Ireland and prosperity came second to their dreams of a Rural Ireland.