Unionism must not retreat

Trevor Ringland argues that the Republican movement may well have unified the people of Ireland in ways it had not intended, and provided a bottom line for further movement forward, for Nationalism and Unionism.

As one door closes another one opens. Someone said that often we then spend too much time looking back at the closed door. Do not get me wrong the Agreement is not dead but it is in cold storage. For how long will depend on Nationalism/Republicanism. For now, as a Society, we should recognise the massive achievements over the last few years and build upon them.

However, as another door has opened and we should move through it as quickly as possible. In 1998 the people of Ireland placed unity of the people above unity of the two countries. A greater prize and creating a battle for hearts and minds and so a basis through which Unionism and Nationalism could use the same methods albeit to achieve different goals: one seeking to create an inclusive Ireland; the other an inclusive Northern Ireland. The result, if we grab this opportunity, is we all work to make this place better for ourselves and our children.

The biggest mistake Unionism could make is to retreat back into itself. It is a “long peace” and it should actively promote an inclusive Northern Ireland and work with those Nationalists and Republicans who are committed to basic democratic principles. At all times the door should also be kept open to the others who will eventually come to realise that if they wish to play an active role in politics then they have to abide by the same rules as everyone else.

In a strange way Irish Nationalism now has the opportunity to “unite the people of Ireland”. The challenge to their leadership is to have the courage to support basic democratic principles, only excluding those, who by their actions exclude themselves.

As to our Assembly, the opportunity for it will come round again because we should realise that in this modern world it is absolutely vital that we take greater control over our own affairs.

In the interim we need local input into decisions to enable us to deal with the many issues that face our Society whether they be social, economic or otherwise. So whatever structure we devise let it be as meaningful as possible so that politics can continue to develop in Northern Ireland.

To the Republican movement, you may well have succeeded in uniting the people of Ireland but in a way you probably never expected.

Finally 9/11 meant that the world would never tolerate those who tried to further their political aims through the use of violence. What happened in the Tsunami disaster put our own problems into perspective and certainly brought home to me how privileged we are to live in Northern Ireland/North of Ireland.

  • smcgiff

    I can’t argue with that.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    ‘To the Republican movement, you may well have succeeded in uniting the people of Ireland but in a way you probably never expected.’

    I seem to have read that hackneyed piece of gibberish for decades now. Notice to Trevor, your party is facing obliteration within a year, get your own house in order before the lectures.

  • alex s

    Notice to Trevor, your party is facing obliteration within a year, get your own house in order before the lectures.

    Posted by: Pat Mc Larnon

    Pat, this piece had nothing to do with party politics, read it again and grow up!

  • David Vance

    Not often I would ever agree with Pat, but he is right here.

    With the best will in the world, Trevor comments are little more than unexpurgated Cunnigham House projectile vomit inducing nonsense. Is he even a Unionist with this banal talk of “the people of Ireland”? What people are they, exactly? This happy-clappy weak as ditch-water unionism may get hearts racing in some circles, but I have to be brutally honest and say that the with Trevor and his exciting new friends like Basil McCrea, the May election should truly see Pat’s forecast come true as the UUP becomes an endangered species.(BTW Pat – just to let you know I disagree with everything else you say!)

  • cg

    “The biggest mistake Unionism could make is to retreat back into itself. It is a “long peace” and it should actively promote an inclusive Northern Ireland and work with those Nationalists and Republicans who are committed to basic democratic principles. At all times the door should also be kept open to the others who will eventually come to realise that if they wish to play an active role in politics then they have to abide by the same rules as everyone else.

    In a strange way Irish Nationalism now has the opportunity to “unite the people of Ireland”. The challenge to their leadership is to have the courage to support basic democratic principles, only excluding those, who by their actions exclude themselves.”

    Basically Trevor is asking for the exclusion of Sinn Fein.

    His evidence to support exclusion, none.

    He wants the sdlp to go along with unionism and form a government without Sinn Fein.

    Will the sdlp attempt this? Who knows?

    If they did are there consequences? Complete annihilation at the next elections

    BTW Trevor “In a strange way Irish Nationalism now has the opportunity to “unite the people of Ireland”. The challenge to their leadership”

    The leaders of Nationalism are Sinn Fein and by asking for their exclusion you are basically asking for the majority of nationalists to be excluded.

    What a pathetic piece of drivel written by a man who has gone delusional at the thought of his party being destroyed in May.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    Alex S.

    ‘Pat, this piece had nothing to do with party politics, read it again and grow up!’

    It has everthing to do with party politics.

  • alex s

    David, reference your comments about Lagan Valley UUP candidate Basil McCrea, his chances have been helped by the realisation by the voters of Lagan Valley that wee Jeff was prepared to back an agreement that in the UUP he would have fought tooth and nail against and without so much as a murmur of dissent.

  • alex s

    Pat, Sinn Fein aren’t in the position they’re in because of party politics, its morality and reality!

  • Roger W. Christ XVII

    “Basically Trevor is asking for the exclusion of Sinn Fein.”

    cg I hate to break it to you, but pretty much everyone including the Irish government is asking that, and Brian Feeney wrote an article suggesting that if they did he could hardly complain. The SDLP are the only people who haven’t come down firmly on it.

    Sinn Fein can’t be excluded if it breaks it’s links with the IRA. What’s so hard about doing this ?

  • cg

    Roger
    What’s so hard about producing evidence for the alleged involvement of the IRA?

  • Visioner

    The leaders of Nationalism are Sinn Fein and by asking for their exclusion you are basically asking for the majority of nationalists to be excluded.

    So by people voting Sinn Fein, they support terror and criminallity?

    Using a mandate as an excuse, does not excuse you from illegal activities.

    I thought the IRA were at peace?

    you are basically asking for the majority of nationalists to be excluded.

    Its great the way you can twist things around! And Sinn Fein are so good at it.

    Good luck!

  • alex s

    cg, what about the Dublin Sinn Fein worker doing time for IRA membership?

  • alex s

    Visioner is correct, a mandate isn’t a blank cheque

  • cg

    Visioner

    “Using a mandate as an excuse, does not excuse you from illegal activities”

    What illegal activities? Do you have proof of any Sinn Fein illegal activity?

    “I thought the IRA were at peace?”

    They are

    When did they last shoot a brit or plant a bomb?

    “Its great the way you can twist things around”

    No, it’s great the way certain Unionists can twist thing’s like proof around to suit their own perverted logic

  • Davros

    When did they last shoot a brit or plant a bomb?

    That’s it ? So if they shot a Loyalist or a Dissident, that wouldn’t be a breach of the ceasefire ?

  • cg

    I merely asked for evidence of where they have breached the terms of their ceasefire?

  • Davros

    I merely asked for evidence of where they have breached the terms of their ceasefire?

    I thought the ceasefire went further than desisting from shooting brits and planting bombs ? It may be nit-picking, but the way you phrased it would seem to imply that the ceasefire only precludes shooting brits and planting bombs.
    ( davrospaininthear*e)

  • IJP

    What’s so hard about producing evidence for the alleged involvement of the IRA?

    Never mind that for now, why not answer Roger’s question?

  • cg

    IJP
    Obviously by refusing to acknowledge my question means you can’t prove anything.

    But I will answer Rogers’s question

    “Sinn Fein can’t be excluded if it breaks it’s links with the IRA. What’s so hard about doing this ?”

    Some of the posters have suggested that Sinn Fein should be excluded if they don’t have links and now you are suggesting they should if they have links…Phew, Make up your minds

    Sinn Fein and the IRA are separate organisations, they have different constitutions. They do have the same goal but to suggest that Sinn Fein controls the Ra is absurd.

    Sinn Fein, some members, have the ability to talk with the IRA and persuade them and I believe Sinn Fein will do all that they can on this issue. Martin McGuinness has said he spoke to the IRA and they said they didn’t do it and that’s good enough for me.

    ……………………………………………………………………………………………
    Davros

    “but the way you phrased it would seem to imply that the ceasefire only precludes shooting brits and planting bombs.”

    If you took it that way Davros I apologise as this was not my intention. All I was doing was showing that the IRA has desisted in activities that they used to do pre-ceasefire. The terms of the IRA’s ceasefire are of course a matter of public record.

    “davrospaininthear*e”

    LOL I wouldn’t like to comment 😉

  • davidbrew

    Unionism isn’t going to retreat Trevor- that’s why it’s ditching the serial surrenderers of the UUP.

    In fact whether by luck or judgment the opportunity now exists to screw SF to the wall. They can’t convincingly ride two horses much longer, for even though the demonised “securocrats” would probably happily turn a blind eye, Bertie can’t. In fact all other parties can now force them to accept that they have to accept democracy means losing sometimes. And that doesn’t mean reheating a hypothermic old Agreement. It means taking the acceptable bits out and working with the openminded and generous spirited approach recommended by Trevor to cannabalise them with the bits Unionism needs inserted. Nooone (except the same old Trimble fanatics) will ever make the mistake again of taking hits to encourage the Shinners to become housetrained. Now its their turn.

    They can never go back to the old style terrorism without forfeiting the political standing foolishly thrust on them by London, Dublin, and New York. And now they’re so totally behind the 8 ball that they’ll find it hard to knock off the ciggies in a corner shop, because as Martin said last night ” How can I prove they didn’t do it?”. Well Marty, the best way is to keep your members cleaner than the choirboys in the Sistine Chapel- and let’s see how long they can keep up that act- it’s one thing to stop the punishment beatings when Clinton’s in town- it’s quite another to tell the volunteers they’re going to have to climb lamp posts in Dungiven to put up election posters for Francie Brolly as the means of getting a United Ireland in return for no more than a few grubby Northern Bank £20s which can’t be spent after Easter.

    They used to say “The King is dead. Long live the King” to demonstrate that although everything had changed, conversely there was still continuity. The task is to be able to say “the Agreement is dead. Long live the Agreement”.

  • Visioner

    Martin McGuinness has said he spoke to the IRA and they said they didn’t do it and that’s good enough for me.

    He didn’t have to go to far away from Sinn Fein HQ’s!

    When did they last shoot a brit or plant a bomb?

    Oh, so if they don’t do any of that they are at ‘peace’. The terms of their ceasefire mean alot more than that. e.g. being involved in criminality. Includes gun running – Florida, Intelligence gathering – Castlereagh, Stormont Gate (as it has become to be known), training – the Columbia 3 – cg, what where they doing out their? They were members of your Party and the IRA.

    cg, if Sinn Fein is not the IRA and is not linked, why are so many members of your Party ex-IRA members and many of which have convictions – North and South of the border.

    Why does Sinn Fein if it is a democratic Party, stand up for the IRA and their terrorist/criminal activities past and present?

    If you want evidence ask Hugh Orde, Paul Murphy and even Bertie Ahern and his Garda.

  • IJP

    Obviously by refusing to acknowledge my question means you can’t prove anything.

    Nonsense. If the evidence is good enough for the Government of Ireland, it’s good enough for me.

    You still haven’t answered mine, though.

    SF is directly linked to the IRA. At the end of every process it says it has to talk to the IRA. The fact is if you’re voting SF you’re voting for the IRA having a direct input on the political process. So to rephrase my question:

    Why not break the link? If the IRA’s a separate organization, why does it not stand for election separately?

  • IJP

    Oh, and kindly define ‘brit‘.

  • George

    Visioner,
    it would not be “his Garda” as this means a single police officer.

    Tt would be his “An Garda Síochána” (the force itself) or his “Gardaí” (plural).

  • davidbrew

    “brit”= anyone shot by the provos-i.e. policeman, soldier, Orangeman, Protestant, builder, contractor, census collector, baby, pensioner etc etc…otherwise the vast majority of IRA killings were mistakes or criminal acts- and we couldn’t have that, could we?

  • cg

    IJP

    “cg, if Sinn Fein is not the IRA and is not linked, why are so many members of your Party ex-IRA members and many of which have convictions”

    Sinn Fein and the IRA have similar goals (i.e. UI) these men and women you refer to have decided to go down the political route in order to achieve a UI.

    Seems simple and clear to me

    “Why does Sinn Fein if it is a democratic Party, stand up for the IRA and their terrorist/criminal activities past and present?”

    Republicans will not be told who they can support and who they can’t. You believe the IRA’s past activities to be terrorist/criminal activities, I don’t and have no problem in saying I supported the IRA and believe now, as most republicans do, that there is no need for violence as a UI can be achieved through politics.

    “Why not break the link? If the IRA’s a separate organization, why does it not stand for election separately?”

    What link? The IRA doesn’t stand for election because firstly it supports Sinn Fein and secondly they are an ARMY and armies don’t stand for election.

    “Oh, and kindly define ‘brit'”

    British army

    “brit”= anyone shot by the provos-i.e. policeman, soldier, Orangeman, Protestant, builder, contractor, census collector, baby, pensioner etc etc…otherwise the vast majority of IRA killings were mistakes or criminal acts- and we couldn’t have that, could we?”

    Around my part of the country we refer to the British army as Brits. My reference, brits, for those of you who genuinely thought I meant your average Joe blogg British person, I apologise

    That said I am pretty sure Brewster knew what I meant and is just being his usual self.

    Hope that clarifies things

  • Gay

    ‘Nonsense. If the evidence is good enough for the Government of Ireland, it’s good enough for me.’

    What evidence? They believed the PSNI Chief Constable’s word. British policemen haven’t always been honest or accurate in their opinions. Tony Blair is hardly proven to have good judgment on deciding if an opinion from a security source is true.

    Evidence is needed when those presenting it have a treack record in presenting lies to the public (WMD) and belong to an establishment willing to gaol the innocent for political purposes.

  • Ringo

    cg –

    I don’t and have no problem in saying I supported the IRA and believe now, as most republicans do, that there is no need for violence as a UI can be achieved through politics.

    as a matter of interest – do you reserve the right to use violence to get a UI if at some point it became impossible to achieve through political means?

  • cg

    Ringo

    I don’t believe that can happen so it really isn’t an issue for me.

  • IJP

    Gay

    The Chief Constable has evidence. The Government of Ireland, indeed all of Nationalist Ireland except SF, has accepted his opinion based on that evidence. It’s certainly a lot more persuasive than the word of a fully-armed terrorist organization.

    If we did not have a major political party linked directly to such a mafia grouping, we could have a police service accountable to all the community who would then be able to access and present information directly rather than rely on intelligence. The fact we do not have that is primarily the fault of the criminal/terrorist organizations who have no interest in such an outcome, because it would cost them control of their ‘territory’. It is unacceptable to have a political party at the heart of the process basing its decisions on the will of one such organization.

    That is the problem, and all the Nationalist parties represented in either jurisdiction on the island except SF accept it.

    So no more blame-game. Ireland will only be free when all of its territory is administered by democrats and the mafia is removed from the equation.

  • Christopher Stalford

    “At all times the door should also be kept open to the others who will eventually come to realise that if they wish to play an active role in politics then they have to abide by the same rules as everyone else.”

    I agree entirely. The difficulty that Trevor has is that he is a member of a party and supported a leader who opened the door before any such committment to play by the rules was given, not once, not twice, but thrice.

    And what’s with all this “people of Ireland” guff?

  • Christopher Stalford

    As things stand, the door remains firmly shut, and will remain so.

  • Visioner

    Sinn Fein and the IRA have similar goals (i.e. UI) these men and women you refer to have decided to go down the political route in order to achieve a UI.

    Hmm, and thats why the IRA remain active and Sinn Fein continue to support them.

  • ShayPaul

    Ringo

    As a matter of interest – do you reserve the right to use violence to stop a UI if at some point it became impossible to stop through political means?

  • JD

    Sinn Fein can’t be excluded if it breaks it’s links with the IRA. What’s so hard about doing this ?

    On the contrary, it seems that they fear being excluded if and when they break their links with the IRA. There’s a sort of drumbeat which says that, “If SF can’t control the IRA, then why not talk to the organ-grinder instead of the monkey?” This demand by whoever makes it ensures (and, in a way, insists) that SF have links with the IRA. It should be obvious: the IRA are leverage SF cannot do without. I believe they have been painted into that corner.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    The task is to be able to say “the Agreement is dead. Long live the Agreement”.

    That’s an interesting play on words David…

  • davidbrew

    Around my part of the country we refer to the British army as Brits. My reference, brits, for those of you who genuinely thought I meant your average Joe blogg British person, I apologise

    Apology refused-since your leaders couldn’t apologise for all the average Joe Bloggs British person they killed down the years, they obviously didn’t make your distinguish. Perhaps you’d like to do so on their behalf? Without any whataboutery, was it wrong to kill all the other victims- Protestant, Roman Catholic, Jew, Moslem and Hindu (yes they’ve killed them all) male and female, young, old, mentally handicapped?

    Even one sincere word of embarassment would be 100 times more than McGuinness’ “they weren’t criminals” drivel

  • IJP

    cg

    Apology accepted in my case, since you defined your term.

    However, there are 1,000,000 ‘Brits’ on this island. The Agreement, which your party claims to support, talks of mutual respect. That’s two-way.

    Referring specifically to, for example, military and police as ‘Brits’ shows people’s inability to base their political plans on reality, preferring instead to prefer that those 1,000,000 people are merely ‘misguided Irish people’.

    ‘Brits’ refers by any objective definition to 1,000,000 people on this island. It refers to people whose British identity your party is bound to respect. It is time your party and movement dealt with that.

  • Roger W. Christ XVII


    Sinn Fein and the IRA are separate organisations, they have different constitutions. They do have the same goal but to suggest that Sinn Fein controls the Ra is absurd.

    Cool. Then let’s hear a repudiation of “armalite and ballot box”. Let’s hear Sinn Fein saying that the war is permanently over, that the IRA is redundant and should disband forthwith, and that attempting to effect political change in Ireland using violence at any point in the future would be wrong. They’re different organizations so surely these are logical outcomes of the “peace strategy” ?

    If you don’t think the IRA disband, if you think that violence should be used in Ireland in the future to make political change, and if you don’t think the war is over you need to be clear about that, so that people can make an assessment of whether they want to partner with you to work with the people of Ireland in the future.

  • Roger W. Christ XVII

    Stalford, the DUP were about to sign a deal that would not have provided for the IRA’s exclusion had it been in place when the robbery took place. You didn’t care about the IRA’s criminality, only about your precious photos.

    Let’s have a look at some more of Gaskin’s comments.

    I merely asked for evidence of where they have breached the terms of their ceasefire?

    The terms of the IRA’s “ceasefire” are unilateral and have never been agreed with any of the other parties in Northern Ireland, so discussing whether they have broken them on their own terms or not is a descent into irrelevancy. The important question to consider is whether or not the people of Ireland, North and South, consider that they are committed to peaceful and democratic means. Their failure to endorse paragraph 13 of the joint declaration, the ongoing punishment attacks as well as continuous criminal outrages stretching from the Adare post office robbery in ’96 (which would not have counted as a breach of the IRA’s ceasefire even if the IRA had maintained it’s 1994 ceasefire at the time) through to the Makro robbery, through now to the Northern Bank robbery suggests that they are not.

    If the IRA are not committed to peace and Sinn Fein are, there’s a clear schism which the republican movement needs to address.

    I don’t and have no problem in saying I supported the IRA

    Your use of the past tense could mean either that you don’t support the IRA anymore, or (more likely) you supported them when they were not on ceasefire. You mentioned in another post that you were 20, this means you’d have been 10 when the IRA ceasefire was declared. Do you consider that your political views have advanced since then ?

    The IRA doesn’t stand for election because firstly it supports Sinn Fein

    Apparently not if the widely-held rumours about who was responsible for the bank robbery are true.

    Although Sinn Fein certainly supports the IRA since it is trying to get their prisoners out of jail who were imprisoned for robbery and shooting an Irish police officer. Are the Gardai a legitimate target ? If so did the IRA conduct a court-martial ?

    and secondly they are an ARMY and armies don’t stand for election.

    The republican movement (pretty much a euphemism for the IRA) considers itself to be the Provisional Government of Ireland acting on the mandate of the 1918 General Election in Ireland. When does the IRA’s mandate expire and how is it renewed ?

  • davidbrew

    Further to IJP’s excellent post about mutual respect, perhaps the Shiiners could tell us what happened to the unit being commanded(oops sorry headed up) by Alex Maskey to “reach out” to Unionists last year? Remember how he was going on an intensive study of Unionist issues to find out what made them tick , and to build bridges, after his Remembrance Day Wriggle Out?

    So he had a cup of tea and ham sandwich with Ken Newell- oh well that’s obviously enough then.

  • lo_rre

    Have to agree with Trevor Ringland. We! (that means all who want democracy without terrorism or raiding banks) have to hang in there. Sinn/Fein were given a number of years to clean up their act after the good friday agreement was signed. They failed miserably. Now doors in the South of Ireland and even the US are closing rapidly after this big bank job. “President Bush seems to be rowing in behind Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern in blaming the IRA and Sinn Fein for last month’s multi-million-pound bank robbery in Belfast.”

    Sinn Fein’s visas may be in jeopardy

    http://www.irishecho.com/newspaper/story.cfm?id=15872

    lo_rre