Inch by inch?

An Irish Times report outlines suggested proposals of a phased process to be put forward by the Irish and British Governments in an attempt to secure agreement between the political parties here.

According to the Times chief political correspondent, Mark Brennock,

The Taoiseach, Mr Ahern, said yesterday the plan would see the Northern Assembly restored first in “shadow” form, with the power-sharing Executive to be functioning by spring. This would be part of a deal involving a permanent end to the IRA’s campaign and the resolution of the decommissioning issue which has plagued the political process.”

That part of the deal has not fundamentally altered since 2002.

The Taoiseach said the elements of a deal had been outlined by Mr Blair in his speech at the Belfast Harbour Masters in October 2002, and had not changed.

First, there had to be a resolution of decommissioning. The independent decommissioning body “would find a satisfactory way of ending the decommissioning argument, either in phases or all together”.

Second, the IRA would have to issue instructions to its people to end the conflict and enter a different mode.

Third, unionists would have to guarantee that if the political institutions were re-established they would be stable, and “they wouldn’t bring them down again”. Finally, issues such as policing, demilitarisation and other matters in the joint declaration by the two governments would be resolved.

If all of these things happened, “we would re-establish the Assembly and the Executive and get ahead with the North/South bodies”, Mr Ahern said.

The Taioseach also repeated the warning that “Waiting until after the Westminster elections, which many expect next May, was “not an acceptable strategy”, however.”

There’s no mention of what might happen if this attempt fails, “They hoped not to have to consider how to proceed if those efforts failed. ‘We are looking at lots of suggestions but it is not the way we want to go.'”

And no mention of a blueprint for joint-rule that Gerry Adams has told the Friends of SF in New York he wants to see (and no mention in this more widely reported speech by Adams of 2016 either)… and unless that first phase resolves the decommissioning issue it’s difficult to see the DUP agreeing to anything else.

Meanwhile General De Chastelain is reported to have departed.. but is due to return at the end of this month… oh.. and, of course, Violence levels ‘still high’.

  • alex s

    Could this be the DUP’s big plan, i.e. see what Tony & Bertie come up with then noisily reject it while staying onboard to protect their voters interests, sounds like the old plan.

  • Davros

    SF have a problem with the GFA- if it is allowed to work properly then it will deliver peace and increased prosperity for the people of NI – that will mean that even more middle-class and affluent working -class Catholics will be less than interested in risking a United Ireland. But they cannot be seen to be obstructing it- they NEED the DUP to be seen to be obstructive so that they can divert any blame from their door. And true to form the DUP seem to be obliging – in part I suspect because of their mindset and in part to keep the even more bigotted members and voters happy.

    It’s a shame. If Unionists could bring themselves to call the republican bluff and demonstrate that NI within the UK as a devolved entity functions well, then the Union is secure for the foreseeable future – until the European Republic is formed.
    Sod the weapons and sod the IRA. One whiff of another Canary Wharf or another Shankill bombing and they know what would happen.

  • Harris

    Davros

    Regarding your first paragraph, which is an interesting secenario, what outcome do you expect? I really can’t see Sinn Fein playing with their constituency to this extent.

    “It’s a shame. If Unionists could bring themselves to call the republican bluff and demonstrate that NI within the UK as a devolved entity functions well, then the Union is secure for the foreseeable future – until the European Republic is formed.”

    But that’s been the problem with unionists all along, they are too stubborn and bigoted not to realize an opportunity when it’s right in front of them.

    “Sod the weapons and sod the IRA. One whiff of another Canary Wharf or another Shankill bombing and they know what would happen.”

    Yes, the IRA know what would happen, but what about the RIRA and CIRA?

  • Davros

    Harris – SF have problems. They are close to peaking in NI. To expand much further in ROI they have to move away from the politics of their core supporters in NI – to attract the sort of people at whom they aim squeaky-cleans like Mary Lou. They survive comfortably at the moment because their weaknesses are sheltered from close scrutiny by the more obvious -and attractive to the media – tensions and problems with Unionists. If we set aside the perceived problems of links to criminality and links to Paramilitarism, their policies will cause them trouble. Look at the Robbie Smyth fuss on Economic Policy as reported in the Sunday Independent.
    To some extent they remind me of the days- before
    Tony Blair got the Upper hand- when they tried riding two horses – policies for core “Old Labour and the Unions” and Policies for Middle England.
    Remember which option got booted into touch!

    Davros:”Sod the weapons and sod the IRA. One whiff of another Canary Wharf or another Shankill bombing and they know what would happen.”

    Yes, the IRA know what would happen, but what about the RIRA and CIRA?

    More of a problem for SF than for the rest of us.
    If and when SF sign up for policing they will be seen to be “betraying” what they themselves still venerate – this idea of a linear and continual resistance to the British In Ireland. It means coming off one of the two horses they are riding.

    Even now SF look bad policing wise. Women are raped, kids abducted and old people attacked and SF are seen to be preferring that these things continue to happen rather than urge co-operation with the Police.
    For me the obvious thing to do would be for SF to announce that in “apolitical” matters ( by their way of thinking)everybody should co-operate with the Police. Sex attacks, abducted kids, beaten pensioners have nothing to do with touchy areas like arms dumps and paramilitary functioning.
    At the moment the most vulnerable people in society suffer while SF are stuck on a point of principle – or if I was being cynical, while SF hold onto another huge point of leverage in extracting concessions.

  • Liam

    Davros

    “SF have a problem with the GFA…”

    Do you need reminding that Sinn Féin are the largest pro-GFA party?

    “It’s a shame. If Unionists could bring themselves to call the republican bluff…”

    Yes, it is a shame. But of course Unionism fears change. Even when that change is progressive, it threatens their very being.

    SF have problems. They are close to peaking in NI.

    That’s a problem? Give me more of those problems any day!!

    If we set aside the perceived problems of links to criminality and links to Paramilitarism, their policies will cause them trouble. Look at the Robbie Smyth fuss on Economic Policy as reported in the Sunday Independent.

    Sinn Féin have been urging discussion of policy for a very long time – so it’s very welcome that the media are finally focussing on policy matters. Very welcome!

    As for the Sunday Independent – well naturally their proprietor, that tax exile multi-billionaire, will continue his rants. In case you haven’t figured by now – he is not interested in an equal society. He greatly fears the rise of Sinn Féin and favours a society where market forces rule and where the privileged are the most protected. He has no interest in a society that is organised for the common good.

    Women are raped, kids abducted and old people attacked and SF are seen to be preferring that these things continue to happen rather than urge co-operation with the Police.

    That’s a shameful thing to say Davros. Do you always have to let your anti-Republican disposition get the better of you? Maybe you should consider the policing issue a little more carefully. Republicans probably want proper policing more than any other section of our community – because we have never had it!!

    How on earth can unionists even dare imagine that an impartial and fair policing service is a ‘concession’.

    It is not a concession, it is a basic civil right – and we will have it!!

  • Davros

    Liam, Liam, Liam –

    D: “SF have a problem with the GFA…”

    Liam Do you need reminding that Sinn Féin are the largest pro-GFA party?

    what a nonsensical reply given to distract from the rest of the sentence.

    D: Women are raped, kids abducted and old people attacked and SF are seen to be preferring that these things continue to happen rather than urge co-operation with the Police.

    Liam: That’s a shameful thing to say Davros.

    Show me proof of a call by a SF official for the people of Derry to assist the PSNI in catching those responsible for the latest sex-attack and I’ll not only Immediately retract, I’ll cast a vote for SF at the next election Liam.

    It’s accurate and it shames your party that they put their political games ahead of the welfare of the most vulnerable in our society.

  • Moderate Unionist

    “It’s a shame. If Unionists could bring themselves to call the republican bluff…”

    Yes, it is a shame. But of course Unionism fears change. Even when that change is progressive, it threatens their very being.

    Wasn’t that the plan behind the GFA?

  • Liam

    It’s accurate and it shames your party that they put their political games ahead of the welfare of the most vulnerable in our society.

    Davros – That is rubbish. But it should shame all of society that a proper fair and impartial police force has never existed in this statelet!!

    Wasn’t that the plan behind the GFA?

    Perhaps the real ‘plan’ behind the GFA was to shore up the ‘middle-ground’?

    Perhaps the 2 govts thought that the SDLP and the UUP would maintain their dominant positions?

    Perhaps the 2 govts failed to predict, or underestimated the rise in popular support for Sinn Féin?

    Perhaps the GFA was merely a statement of ‘good intentions’ by the 2 govts?

    Perhaps they did not really intend to fully honour all of their commitments and obligations?

    Because the reality is that they have still not done so.

    The reality is that it is the british govt and the unionists who are stalling on their obligations and commitments on policing reform.

    So don’t even attempt to blame Sinn Féin for the failures of the British Govt and the Unionists to ‘concede’ proper policing!!

  • Davros

    Davros – That is rubbish. But it should shame all of society that a proper fair and impartial police force has never existed in this statelet!!

    You seem to be conceding two things Liam

    1) the legality of the “statelet”

    2) that SF will let the attacks on the most vulnerable in society continue rather than encourage people to co-operate with the police.

    Shameful.

    You also are very quiet about “peace and increased prosperity for the people of NI – that will mean that even more middle-class and affluent working -class Catholics will be less than interested in risking a United Ireland.”

  • Liam

    Davros

    Do not even attempt to blame Sinn Féin for the complete failure of the british govt to concede proper, fair and impartial policing. Sinn Féin have campaigned and called loudest of all for that. Unionists have resisted it. Why???

    2) that SF will let the attacks on the most vulnerable in society continue rather than encourage people to co-operate with the police.

    This is just another illustration of your mentality, ignoring the real issue. Sinn Féin have no responsibility for those crimes and do not ‘let’ anything happen. The govt has the responsibility to provide all citizens with the best possible police service and one that all citizens can aspire to, respect and have confidence in. The govt has failed miserably on this issue for generations – not Sinn Féin. So please put your prejudices aside just for a while and face that fact!

    You also are very quiet about “peace and increased prosperity for the people of NI – that will mean that even more middle-class and affluent working -class Catholics will be less than interested in risking a United Ireland.”

    We are all interested in peace and prosperity for all of the people, but as for your theory on the outworking of that – it’s your theory. It’s certainly not mine! If it was the case then why is the british government and unionism still resisting the full implementation of the GFA?

    It is their bluff that needs to be called!

  • Davros

    And in the meantime attacks on the vulnerable continue yet SF play politics rather than urging the communities to cooperate with the police. Dress it up all you like Liam, that’s the reality.

  • Davros

    Davros: that SF will let the attacks on the most vulnerable in society continue rather than encourage people to co-operate with the police.

    This is just another illustration of your mentality, ignoring the real issue.

    The real issue is stopping the rapists, child abductors and those who prey on the elderly.
    But this issue shows that SF’s “concern” for the disadvantaged is very, very superficial.

  • Liam

    You’re going round in circles Davros. Do you not even realise what you’re doing? You are allowing the govt off the hook. You are avoiding the fact that we have not got a proper police service. You are completely avoiding the fact that this is a serious civil rights issue. But in your sad little mind SF are responsible for all the wrongs in society. You really need to wake yourself up a little and take off your prejudiced blinkers!

  • Davros

    You are the one using smokescreens Liam.

    Sorry mate. SF are telling people in NI not to cooperate with the Police while rapes, abductions and attacks on the elderly happen. That is FACT and shows SF’s concerns and priorities.

  • jonty

    liam
    what rights do protestant/unionists have under the law, that catholics/nationlaists do not?

  • Davros

    You are allowing the govt off the hook

    You should be more concerned about protecting the vulnerable in society- women, children and Old people than in scoring points off the Government Liam.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Davros

    “peace and increased prosperity for the people of NI – that will mean that even more middle-class and affluent working -class Catholics will be less than interested in risking a United Ireland.”

    I think this proposition is based on an incorrect assumption. You are a unionist Davros, proud to identify yourself as British and keen to see your life as one being played out within the life of the British nation, your politics as being part of the British political scene.

    Which is where we differ.

    You might point to, say, to the emergence of a new entrepreneurial middle class in the English midlands in the 1980s. You might point out how younger voters with greater disposable income than their traditionally Labour-voting parents ever had became loath to risk their relative prosperity by voting Labour, and so backed Thatcher’s revolution instead, going against the political culture in which they were raised.

    Which would indeed be a good point, except that to someone like me, who is not just of Ireland but for Ireland as well, it only goes to show how different Britain and Ireland are, and how ill-fitting British models are when applied to the Irish people.

    If you look at the Irish nationalist community in the north, you will see that my generation (I am 25 by the way) is far more prosperous than previous generations. We now expect to go the university, to own our own house, to join the local golf club, to send our kids to good schools, to drive nice cars and all the rest. Our parents however could hope only for relative success through emigration.

    And yet we are also infinitely more exercised about the idea of a unified Irish state than they ever were. Why? Well, they were born into such wretched conditions that they did not have the confidence to dream that unification might actually be possible. We, on the other hand, are spoilt little rich kids in comparison. Affluence has not blunted our desire for independence – it has emboldened us to demand it.

    (I remember in 1994, just after the broadcasting ban was lifted seeing Martin McGuinness on TV for the first time, talking about how partition and the union had failed, that NI was a failed state. My parents were aghast. “He can’t say that” my mum said, as though she thought the RUC were going to kick the door in at any second. My brother and I however were cheering. We demanded to know why we had never heard this patently obvious fact articulated before on television. My dad told us that when he was our age he knew people that had been locked up for less.)

    You are also ignoring the lessons of history Davros. Middle class might equal complacency in England but not here. The first generation of middle class Catholics in the north was created as a result of Rab Butler’s education reforms in the 1940s. Those kids graduated from university in the 1960s. It was that unprecedented education that allowed that generation to fight for civil rights, pushing for changes to the rotten system that surrounded them. Subsequent generations have banked those gains and then moved on to the next issue, to the point that the demands of the civil rights movement now seem quaintly unambitious. Which of course they were not – it is my generation of nationalists that has become ambitious, and that ambition has been created, not quenched, by affluence and the education – and power – that goes with it. There is no reason to assume that some unspecified future generation of nationalists will conclude that they have achieved enough and become less inclined to push for change this side of a united Ireland – or indeed beyond.

    In Britain “peace and increased prosperity for the people of NI … even more middle-class and affluent working -class” might mean one thing but in Ireland it means something else.

    In Ireland, increased prosperity and more middle class Catholics means more Catholics making a more articulate and more confident call for a united Ireland. It won’t equal more Catholic unionists. In fairness to the old criminals of Stormont, they understood this, so they set about the ruthless undermining of the Catholic population’s economic base. They understood the viciousness required to shore up the union in Ireland and did not flinch from it.

    Your argument betrays the assumption that to nationalists, unification and independence are nothing more than opiates to distract us from the wretchedness of our lives.

    (It is one of a handful of assumptions that unionism clings to in order to explain to itself that section of the population that supports Irish independence. Another of course being that the only reason Irish people would want to be independent is because they hate the British so passionately. Or that they want create a space for a Catholic theocracy. Or that they want to get their revenge on the Prods. Or – and this is my favourite – that they don’t really want a united Ireland at all. As though they are just saying they do out of sheer Rome-inspired badness.)

    All of these frankly crazy assumptions are indicative mainly of the effect on unionism of a century of relentlessly inward-looking debate and echo-chamber philippics dressed up as political discourse. What comes across is that the unionist understanding of nationalism (which to be fair ain’t that hard to understand) is very nearly nil. But I digress.

    In a nutshell, affluence and progress for Catholics in the north will not save the union. In fact, it is bad for the union. Affluent Catholics doesn’t mean unionist Catholics – it means educated, articulate and powerful Catholics. It means the case for Irish independence will become ever more confident, articulate, palatable and realistic.

  • Davros

    You are a unionist Davros, proud to identify yourself as British and keen to see your life as one being played out within the life of the British nation, your politics as being part of the British political scene.

    Erm, no, completely wrong 🙂

    I want a European Republic, of the left, with regionalism. I want to move on beyond nationalism , be it Irish or British.

    That’s one of the problems with the mindset post AIA and GFA. It effectively split us into two camps – Either unionist or nationalist.

    I am obviously, in that context, of the unionist community or tribe. That’s as far as it goes.
    If offered a choice – the union or single Irish nation, I would opt for the former for a variety of reasons. But not because I want the Union to last forever and a day, only because , for me, it is the better option if I HAVE to choose between ONLY those two options.

    Now the second thing – Plenty of RCs already support the Union and supported the Union while NI was at it’s worst. So let’s abandon this ridiculous claim that all RCs are nationalist and are hungering for Irish unification.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Davros.

    Am I completely wrong in saying you see yourself as British? That you see Northern Ireland through a British prism?

    (Your idea of a federal Europe is interesting, though unconvincing. To be honest, I think you are smart enough to see which way the wind is blowing and to perceive that unionism has run out of arguments. I think you would see a united Ireland as a defeat for your tribe and see European federalism as a way to save face for unionism.

    I too think we should enter a European state at some point in the future – but as part of an Irish state. My reason? Because if and when Ireland sends a delegation to negotiate a treaty creating a United States of Europe, a 32 Ireland will send people from Belfast and Derry, Armagh and Fermanagh to the summit to fight our corner. If we’re still in the UK then we’ll probably be left out of the European state altogether – and even if not we’ll be left on the sidelines, waiting to hear what our betters had handed down to us. As usual.)

    Question is: why not a unified Irish state now? Europhile Ireland is far more likely to stay on board the European project that the Little England Europhobes who dominate the UK state.

    “Plenty of RCs already support the Union and supported the Union while NI was at it’s worst.”

    Did their votes reflect this? The fact is that in all previous elections the number of Catholics voting for pro-union candidates has been close to a statistical zero. Throughout the troubles, and today, the figures for Catholics voting for united Ireland parties at elections was in and around the 98% plus mark. I know you will point to opinion polls and surveys, and I do not dismiss them or impugn their value. But nor do I overestimate them.

    I know plenty of Catholics who would speak the ultimate heresy and a) question the wisdom of unification and b) ask whether the status quo was really so bad. The kind of people who might turn up on a survey as a Catholic who supports the union. I have argued this one back and forth more times than enough and can honestly say I have never known any Catholic to admit, even in confidence that they had, or would vote unionist.

    I know voting for a unionist and voting for the union aren’t necessarily the same thing but I would equally argue that it would be unrealistic to expect that large numbers would make this distinction. I’d predict that in a referendum on a UI, the status quo would be lucky to get 1% of the Catholic vote.

    “let’s abandon this ridiculous claim that all RCs are nationalist and are hungering for Irish unification.”

    Okay. As I said above, I’d predict that only about 99% of voters would be prepared to back unification. Of course the fact is, neither of us can prove or disprove this assertion, so taking this argument any further would be futile.

    But I am bound to say: arguing that Catholics aren’t all necessarily nationalist is, in absolute terms, accurate: however, to argue that the voting bloc made up by Catholics is anything other than overwhelmingly, overwhelmingly in favour of a unified Irish state is utterly preposterous.

    (It seems to me you have convinced yourself of this as a result of having had too many assertions go unchallenged. It also seems to be a common unionist fantasy – produced by the echo chamber politics I referred to above.

    I also listed a number of mistaken assumptions that unionists have about northern nationalists – you mistaken assumption of choice seems to be that nationalists are bluffing and don’t really want a united Ireland at all. Sorry to be the one to disabuse you of this fantasy, but there it is.)

  • Davros

    I’ll have to come back to this post later BP as it’s siesta time . It deserves an answer in depth.

    One brief point- You think I have only embraced Yurp because I am jumping ship ? Not so Billy. I came to this over the past few years. I have never been a “Unionist”in the proper sense, and as such that doesn’t really apply to me. I only found out recently, through my studies, that John Hume was talking this way about Europe in the 80’s – does that mean that I should consider it proof that Nationalism is donald-ducked and wants to avoid admitting defeat? 😉

    Our problem is that we have been forced into a mindset where we can only choose between a United Ireland as a sovereign nation OR Union with GB.
    That thinking belongs to mid-20th century and earler. The EEC changed everything.

    Cheers.

  • slackjaw

    Billy P

    ‘Affluent Catholics doesn’t mean unionist Catholics – it means educated, articulate and powerful Catholics.’

    It also means Catholics who know what side their bread is buttered on. This can only mean less Catholics willing to vote for a unified Irish state (if such a moment ever arose) on the basis of the received idea that it is inherently better. I think that there are more Catholics out there than you think who would need some persuading.

    ‘I have never known any Catholic to admit, even in confidence that they had, or would vote unionist.’

    Me neither. But a vote in council, assembly or parliamentary elections for SDLP or Sinn Fein is not the same as a vote for a unified Irish state. Nor does a vote for greater equality for Catholics equate to a vote for a unified Irish state, even if this is something to which the political party of choice aspires.

    Another consideration is that up until now, Unionism has made no recognisable effort to make the case for maintenance of the Union to Northern Catholics. It has never really needed to. I don’t think that one can discard the possibility that in the years leading up to a referendum, efforts to persuade Northern Catholics of the benefits of maintaining the Union would be sharpened.

    ‘to argue that the voting bloc made up by Catholics is anything other than overwhelmingly, overwhelmingly in favour of a unified Irish state is utterly preposterous’

    Not sure about this one. To use GAA-speak, it’s all a matter of how much they want it. They might be overwhelming in number, but this does not mean that their aspirations are overwhelming. For instance, if the opportunity to vote for a unified Irish state ever arose, there is no guarantee that the voting bloc most likely to benefit from this would be Northern Irish Catholics.

    Is there any evidence that we are inherently more altruistic than any other more voting bloc, and thus willing to sacrifice our own interests for the greater good?

    Do you imagine that, in the event of a referendum, the Catholics of the Portadown Road or the Desart in Armagh would be willing to set aside considerations such as free health care on the point of delivery or paying yearly for their child’s schoolbooks? What about their Catholic grammar schools?

    In short, I am not sure all Northern Catholics hold nationalist convictions as deeply as you describe.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Slackjaw

    “It also means Catholics who know what side their bread is buttered on. This can only mean less Catholics willing to vote for a unified Irish state.”

    I absolutely disagree – see above for my reasoning. Not even unionists still think a UI would mean making a transition to a less developed economy. In fact unification would mean the north moving to a superior economic model. So the only economic health warning left about reunification is to make general gestures as to the nebulous and unpredictable nature of change. This health warning will always be a factor to be confronted for anyone, anywhere, who is advocating any kind of change whatsoever. It is a conservative argument against change – but that’s all it is, a single argument.

    On the other hand there are any number of reasonable and doable economic strategies that could be put in place order to limit the wobbling effects of reunification and to allow both the 6 and the 26 – after a decade or so of reform, natch – to soar to economic heights that (with 200 plus years of a track record to point to, it is reasonable to predict) will always remain impossible within the union.

    This doesn’t require one to assume that Irish people on both sides of the border are somehow particularly altruistic – one must only believe they are not be so overly cautious as to turn down the chance of making an investment likely to yield a fabulous return.

    “Another consideration is that up until now, Unionism has made no recognisable effort to make the case for maintenance of the Union to Northern Catholics… (One can’t) discard the possibility that in the years leading up to a referendum, efforts to persuade Northern Catholics of the benefits of maintaining the Union would be sharpened.”

    To be honest, this prospect need not hold any fear for the pro-independence argument. First off: there is no serious rational argument left in favour of the union, only the bizarre 17th century socio-religious tropes that the former settler community keep passing around internally. This strategy is ideal for maintaining the loyalty of the tribe but has never and most likely will never win many converts to the cause.

    Unionism has not convinced any significant number of people outside the small circle of Ulster protestantism of the justice of its cause. It is frequently argued that that community lacks articulacy. I disagree but that is another issue. I do not believe an 11th hour charm offensive by unionists would cause many Catholic voters to come over to their way of thinking. I do not believe unionism has a case to make, but even if it did I have no reason to suspect unionism is capable of making it. It never has before.

    I think the ability to convince Catholics of the benefits of the union lies beyond the ability of the unionist political class, and I see no evidence either presently or in history to suggest otherwise.

    “Do you imagine that, in the event of a referendum, the Catholics of the Portadown Road or the Desart in Armagh would be willing to set aside considerations such as free health care on the point of delivery or paying yearly for their child’s schoolbooks? What about their Catholic grammar schools?”

    (Are you from Armagh too? Good to see a fellow Armachian around here.)

    In a word, yes. Okay, the thrust of this seems to be that it is middle class Catholics that are most likely to see the benefits of the status quo and therefore most likely to vote for no change.

    Okay, let’s take it as axiomatic that working class Catholics are rock solid nationalists, not gonna change. It is these same working class nationalists who would feel the impact most of a change in the provision of services – the middle class will be better able, for example, to make the transition to a partly-privatised health service or pay school fees.

    So let’s look at the middle class. Who are the Catholic middle class in the Desart and the Portadown Road? They’re teachers and doctors and lawyers and bankers and businesspeople. Now, teachers, doctors, lawyers and bankers, are more than most, professions inured from the caprices of the economy. There will still be schools and sick people and and courts and people looking for mortgages in Armagh regardless of whether government is in Dublin, London or Ulan Bataar.

    They will be thinking about services, of course. However they will also think about the substantially higher wages enjoyed by doctors, lawyers and teachers in the south. In elections around the world the electorate has traditionally tended towards the bird in the hand option – so you could expect people to vote themselves a potential wage hike. They won’t like the extra charges, of course. They will however like the idea that their elected representatives might actually be able to do something about it.

    But what about the businesspeople? Well, my family are in business, I know a little about business conditions in the north and I know a fair proportion of the business owners in Armagh. I know a much higher proportion of the Catholic business owners in the town because, well, you know how it is.

    Summing up their thoughts on the border isn’t hard: business would be better if they were operating in the Euro and under the much more liberal Irish laws.

    They can see former ghost towns across the border like Monaghan, Castleblayney, Carrickmacross, Ardee etc flourishing while we stagnate. They know it is entrepreneurial culture that has created this wealth, and that the north does not have any such culture. They know the reasons for this lie in the totalitarian grip exercised on our economy by the military-civil service complex. They see how British models of town planning and business development handed down from above are not suited to provincial Irish towns – so for example we get out-of-town developments that have decimated the town proper and its social scene. Or for example Armagh lost Lennox’s whereas Monaghan kept whaddayacallit, that big Lennox’s style haberdashery in the centre of town? You know the one?

    They see more clearly than most the benefits of having local decision-makers, as they have in the south, instead of powerless lobbyists, which is all we are allowed in the colonial north. They see how a bloated public sector and militarised society rip the heart out of business, out of towns and out of civic life. In the city of Armagh – a place of limitless potential, yet one that is dying a slow and atrophic death – we only have to go ten minutes down the road to see how things should be done. It gets noticed after a while.

    Business people who would be tribally inclined to vote for a united Ireland look at this and only become more inclined in that direction. That inclination in fact grows with their businesses, especially if they trade cross-border, and realise that that is where the big bucks are. You believe such people would be wary of unification? You couldn’t be more wrong. In fact I’d say it’s protestant business people that nationalism should be looking to talk turkey with.

    “In short, I am not sure all Northern Catholics hold nationalist convictions as deeply as you describe.”

    Point is, unification offers a tremendous opportunity for Irish people north and south. More than any other class of people it is Irish nationalists who appreciate this, and the closer you get to the border, the more obvious is this reality. Furthermore, the union is slowly killing us all. As I’ve argued previously, unionism is the heroin of ideologies, and NI is an economic smack addict.

    The proposal of a sensible political and economic model would galvanise the natural tribal instincts of Catholics and this would, I believe, be sufficient to ensure that the Catholic vote in favour of reunification would be very nearly statistically unanimous.

    “For instance, if the opportunity to vote for a unified Irish state ever arose, there is no guarantee that the voting bloc most likely to benefit from this would be Northern Irish Catholics.”

    Indeed I have long argued that Ulster’s protestants would be the greatest beneficiaries.

  • Davros

    BP: ‘I have never known any Catholic to admit, even in confidence that they had, or would vote unionist.’

    SJ: Me either

    I think you should both accept that Sir John Gorman votes UUP. And that RC members of the APNI vote Unionist as APNI supports the Union with GB.

    People keep saying that members of my community are in denial. Well, here’s a case where your side of the fence is in denial 😉 There are substantial numbers of RCs in NI who support the union.
    But think about it – some , undertandably, don’t actually vote Unionist – they abstain. I cannot bring myself to vote for a Unionist party. Those who do actually vote Unionist – would YOU shout it from the roof-tops if you lived in West Belfast or Fermanagh ?

  • JD

    Davros: “I think you should both accept that Sir John Gorman votes UUP. And that RC members of the APNI vote Unionist as APNI supports the Union with GB.”

    They both admitted that a small proportion would vote unionist.

    You move from offering one voter, to asserting that a “substantial” number of catholics vote unionist. Proof?

    You identify as a member of the unionist “tribe” (what does “tribe” mean here?), and yet you say you don’t vote unionist. Who do you vote for then?

    And what about the members of the protestant community that would vote nationalist? Protestantism has a long, rich history in nationalist/ republican traditions.

  • Davros

    JD, please don’t try and muddy the waters here.
    I’m interested in what two serious and honest contributors have to say.

  • JD

    I’m asking you to back up what you have asserted.

  • JD

    I also reject your implication that I am not interested in what is being said.

    I meant to add that Billy Pilgrim’s optimism is absolutely refreshing, and beautifully stated.

    Bravo!

  • Davros

    and I’m pointing out that after your dishonest and disruptive behaviour elswhere I won’t be engaging with you.

  • JD

    Fair enough.

    I’ll just point out that my so-called “dishonesty and disruption” had to do with my asking you for proof that Stevens exonerated the UDR of all guilt in collusion.

    And I’m still waiting.

    Don’t bother responding then.

    I’d rather hear from Billy anyway.

  • Davros

    I’ll just point out that my so-called “dishonesty and disruption” had to do with my asking you for proof that Stevens exonerated the UDR of all guilt in collusion.

    a claim I never made … that was the dishonesty!

  • JD

    Rubbish. And if you truly believe that the UDR was not exonerated of guilt by Stevens, then why on earth were you arguing with me?

    Your hairsplitting tried to put all guilt for collusion onto the members of the UDR, and claim that the organisation itself was somehow exonerated by Stevens. I asked you to back that statement up, and you didn’t.

    Someone’s being dishonest alright.

    Anyway, back to Billy (hopefully).

  • Davros

    Please stop misrepresenting my posts JD.

  • JD

    I am not misrepresenting your posts.

    But I would like this silliness to stop.

    Back to Billy et al.

  • slackjaw

    Hi Billy

    It is a shame indeed that Armagh lost Lennox’s. I wonder what they did with Humpy when they closed.

    ‘“It also means Catholics who know what side their bread is buttered on. This can only mean less Catholics willing to vote for a unified Irish state.”
    I absolutely disagree etc.’

    You quoted me out of context there. I said that it would mean less Catholics willing to vote for a unified Irish state on the basis of a received idea that it was inherently better.

    Anyway.

    There’s a difference between convincing me of the case for a UI, and convincing me that all NI Catholics will make surefire UI voters.

    I have no reason to doubt that, presented with cohesive arguments for a unified Irish state, and given similar economic circumstances to those today both north and south of the border, that a whopping majority of NI Catholics would turn out in favour of a UI referendum.

    But a referendum isn’t going to happen anytime soon, and there is no guarantee that, in the event of a referendum, economic circumstances would be similar. My doubts concern the extent of the political will among Northern Catholics to bring about and vote for a referendum.

    I don’t see affluent middle class Northern Catholics as any less susceptible to the comforts of the familiar than any other voting group, and a sustained period of economic growth in Northern Ireland, combined with a properly functioning regional assembly, could be sufficient to engender a sufficient level of apathy so as to move the case for a unified Irish state way down the list of priorities for many NI Catholics. Economic smack it may be, but if it’s good shit, enough people will be inclined to hang around for more.

    I still think that the opinions of some Catholics, at least a significant minority, can be swayed to maintain the status quo. (Of course, the status quo I am referring to would be in the context of an endgame for the GFA – in such a context, a vote against unified Irish state need not necessarily be a conservative vote against change) You point out that there is no serious rational argument left in favour of the union. If this is the case, then I ask you: if the majority of NI Protestants can vote irrationally, can you really discount the possibility that a significant minority of NI Catholics might do the same?

    Some potential ‘irrational reasons’:

    -The aforementioned public services concerns.
    -Economic benefits arising as a direct result of the continued existence of the border. In the last 10 years, has the border been a help, or a hindrance, to the prosperity around South Armagh?
    -Allegiance to Ulster/NI first, Dublin second. A properly functioning regional assembly (OK, this one is a long shot) may render some Catholics less likely to entertain the need for Dublin.

    ‘Point is, unification offers a tremendous opportunity for Irish people north and south.’

    Do you think (I’m wondering out loud here, rather than implying a truth) that NI Catholics really worry about whether or not it is a tremendous opportunity for those south of the border?

    Two other questions:

    When? How?

    Davros:

    ‘BP: ‘I have never known any Catholic to admit, even in confidence that they had, or would vote unionist.’

    SJ: Me either

    I think you should both accept that Sir John Gorman votes UUP. And that RC members of the APNI vote Unionist as APNI supports the Union with GB.’

    Can’t speak for Billy, but I was only referring to the Catholics I know. I don’t know any that vote Unionist. Hell, I don’t even know any that vote APNI! I have no problem accepting that some Catholics vote for the parties you mention.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Ah, Gorman, the token taig of unionism.

    Only messing, Undoubtedly an impressive man with a very distinguished career behind him – and on the one occasion I met him I found him to be a very pleasant and agreeable man. He reminded me a bit of the doddery old Colonel from Fawlty Towers, but I suppose age will catch up with most of us in the end. Sorry, again. I don’t want to come across as disrespectful to a man who, whatever his politics or faith, has achieved so much in his life.

    That said, I think there is too much made of his Catholicism. He is in no sense of the Irish nationalist community, and in no way can his background be confused with his co-religionists in the northern nationalist community. The fact that he is a Catholic and from Northern Ireland is a quirky little asterisk, nothing more.

    I believe his childhood was spent variously in Millisle and Omagh, while he was schooled in the decidedly non-Catholic Portora Royal in Enniskillen. His father was an old RIC man who came north after partition to join the RUC while his mum was a west Cork unionist. So to be fair, it is Gorman’s Catholicism that is out of the ordinary – his unionism is completely predictable, given his background.

    Still, an impressive and likeable man who has achieved much, though not much of weather vane for northern nationalism I’m afraid. I mean, when Basil Brooke talked about not having a papist about the place and James Craig talked about a protestant parliament for a protestant people, it’s fair to assume Gorman never thought this had anything to do with him. That’s an extraordinary degree of disconnect from his co-religionists.

    In short, he’s a Catholic unionist, but he’s not a nationalist-unionist, if you know what I mean.

    (And as for the Alliance, well, we all hate them, don’t we?)

  • Davros

    James Craig talked about a protestant parliament for a protestant people,

    Tsk, Tsk- we have been over this!
    But maybe you missed it Billy ?

    ” When in 1932 Northern Ireland’s first prime minister,
    “>James Craig, remarked that he was glad to preside over a Protestant parliament and a Protestant state , he was speaking in response to the claim by Éamon de Valera, then prime minister in the south, that Ireland was a Catholic state. Craig argued that while the government of southern Ireland should be carried on along lines which were appropriate to its Catholic majority, it was surely right that the government of Northern Ireland be conducted in a manner appropriate to its Protestant majority. “

    of COURSE nationalists cannot be Unionists !
    The Point is that by no means are ALL RCs nationalists ! And if you want to know why those that support the Union keep their heads down, remember what happened to Roman Catholics deemed traitors by the IRA.

  • Davros

    “(And as for the Alliance, well, we all hate them, don’t we?)”

    No comment, but reading the UUP vs DUP threads would almost convince me that it’s time I voted SF !

  • Davros

    whoops :

    James Craig

  • Billy Pilgrim

    No Davros, I’m just making the point that regardless of context, and whatever DeValera had said the previous week, and however reasonable Craig’s “PP for a PP” actually were really, it was a statement that sent a chill down the spines of Catholics in NI that frankly, is still central to our perception of the state to this day.

    My point is that this is how Catholics felt about Craig’s statement, yet John Gorman obviously felt differently. He sided with the establishment because he was of the establishment – notwithstanding his Catholicism.

    “of COURSE nationalists cannot be Unionists!”

    You have missed my point. Which was that Gorman, notwithstanding the fact that he was a Catholic and born here, was no more of the Catholic/nationalist bloc here than any other unionist.

    Or in short: he may be a unionist who happens to be Catholic, but he doesn’t really count as an example for the point you are making. Like most other people in NI, he was born into a consitiutional preference and has stayed there.

    “And if you want to know why those that support the Union keep their heads down, remember what happened to Roman Catholics deemed traitors by the IRA.”

    You’re gesturing wildly here. I must add another line to my list of the reasons nationalists want a UI, according to unionism. (“They’re being intimidated into it by the shadowy, ethereal ‘Ra.”)

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Slackjaw.

    Ah, Humpy. Happy days.

  • Davros

    it was a statement that sent a chill down the spines of Catholics in NI that frankly, is still central to our perception of the state to this day.

    And most important of all,it was a statement that was never said!

    Think of it Billy. Central to the perception of NI in the Republic is a statement that was never actually said.

  • Davros

    You’re gesturing wildly here.

    Nope. I’m going on the words of Gerry himself who said that neither Nationalists Nor Republicans could join or support the Police.

    I’m going on things like

    THE report claiming two-thirds of Catholics are afraid to join Northern Ireland’s new police force for fear of being attacked is alarming.

  • alex s

    Billy Pilgrim is correct to say about John Gorman “I think there is too much made of his Catholicism” having met the man on a number of ocassions I don’t remember him making much of it either, except he found Ian Paisley’s claim the when he (Gorman) charged the German tank he was doing it for Pope not Queen

  • Davros

    alex s – John Gorman was used as an example , who would be known to a lot of people on both sides of the border, to disprove the myth that support for the union with GB is an exclusively protestant phenomenon.

  • Gerry O’Sullivan

    Davros

    John Gorman was used as an example , who would be known to a lot of people on both sides of the border, to disprove the myth that support for the union with GB is an exclusively protestant phenomenon.

    Maybe he’s a “Protestant Catholic”, as has been discussed on the Catholics dominate low pay jobs in Royal Victoria thread 😉

  • Davros

    Don’t you start LOL 😉

  • JD

    But truly what difference is there between saying “a protestant parliament and a protestant state” and “a protestant state for a protestant people”?

    Who voted for that state in gerrymandered constituencies?

    It’s splitting hairs.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Davros.

    What exactly did he say then? Did he say `Protestant state’ rather than `people’? Big deal. You’re denying the significance of one of the most significant statements ever made by a unionist leader.

    Do you accept my point that while Gorman may be a Catholic he is not in any sense from the nationalist community? He’s no defector – he’s from a strongly unionist, security forces, big house background. His Catholicism and unionism is about as significant as that of Ian Duncan Smith – ie it’s meaningless.

  • Davros

    Billy, I’m not sure what you are on about to be honest 🙂

    Yes, there is a HUGE difference between what he said and what he is perceived to have said.
    One is a statement of reality and fact.It was a state with a protestant majority and whose laws reflected the protestant ethos eg on divorce.

    The other, which he didn’t say, would have been a
    declaration that there was no place for RCs in NI, which was palpably nonsense.

    And I don’t accept your point about Gorman. We are discussing whether there are RCs in favour of the union. There are. You seem to be saying that there are no nationalists in favour of the Union, which is self-evident.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    “One is a statement of reality and fact.It was a state with a protestant majority and whose laws reflected the protestant ethos eg on divorce.”

    – Seriously mate, doesn’t it strike you that this is far too benign an interpretation?

    “The other, which he didn’t say, would have been a declaration that there was no place for RCs in NI, WHICH IS PALPABLY NONSENSE.” (My emphasis.)

    Surely you cannot be serious about this? I know you know better. You know as well as I do that the `no fenians about the place’ was explicit government policy, that it was a goal to which successive unionist governments worked.

    Craig’s statement didn’t cause Catholics to suddenly turn around and decide that actually the state was very much in the business of their oppression – it only underlined what they already knew from bitter experience.

    As with the Lurgan/Craigavon thing Davros, you are stalling on points of procedure when there is a massive elephant in the room that needs to be pointed to with some urgency. You are in churlish form today.

  • Davros

    We’ll have to disagree on all this Billy 🙂
    You have your version of history from which you are scared to budge.

    If there was to be no place in NI for RCs as an official policy how come they were not only not expelled but their numbers steadily rose ?
    Possibly you can explain away the attempt via the Craig-Collins Pact (Irish News Yesterday) to bring RCs into the B Specials ?

    “Dan Dempsey was appointed by Michael
    Collins to the ‘Belfast Catholic Recruiting
    Committee’, set up under the Craig-Collins Pact
    of March 1922 to attract Belfast Catholics into
    the B Specials.”

    I’m in an excellent mood today.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Davros.

    Glad you’re in good form. You’re right – we’ll have to disagree. When you start defending the Stormont junta and illustrating its fairness to Catholics by pointing out that it didn’t actually expel the Catholic population, I realise that we are heading into falling-out territory.

    Which I would regret terribly, so we’d better just leave it.