Who really wants a united Ireland?

Malachi O’Doherty was on Talk Back this morning. He argues that a lot of nationalist hankering is based on a vague feeling of wanting to be somewhere other than where they are. You can listen to the man himself, or read his text below:

By Malachi O’Doherty

When the SDLP and Sinn Fein represent the unification of Ireland as a
core fundamental aim, are they really speaking for the most urgent
desire of the people who vote for them, or is this hankering for Irish unity in the hearts of nationalist people not more like an aspiration they would really prefer to indefinitely put off?

Certainly, if a referendum was held tomorrow and there seemed the remotest prospect of it being carried, it would be a rare eejit who
would vote for it, for higher taxes, medical cards and Fianna Fail perpetually in government; though Fianna Fail would ever afterwards be on the lookout for a Northern coalition partner to keep them in power.

I suspect that the yearning for a united Ireland is best enjoyed as an unfulfilled romantic notion, the way Irish America indulges it, without ever having to worry about living in it.

Like a lot of people in Northern Ireland, I have a great love for Donegal. From I was a child, I have been aware of a strange sense of
relaxation felt on crossing the border. It was the freer air, I supposed.

Behind you, in the black North, were B specials and rain spattered gable murals of William of Orange; in front of you, the fragrance of the burning turf and your first glass of beer in a seaside hotel overlooking a sun dappled bay.

And there was a little more to that sense of freedom; we believed that the Garda Siochana were a lax lot who would allow the the pubs to stay open all night long.

Just a few years ago, I was in a bar in Rosnowlagh on Good Friday, when drink could not be served, by law. We made our own arrangement with the waiter of course. As the night wore on the crowd behind a curtain grew larger and more animated. I asked the waiter to explain to me how all those people were able to get a drink.

“A sure, they are the ones from the Passion play up at the Friary”, he said. “We make an exception for them.”

That’s what I like about Donegal, a very flexible reading of the rules. It adds charm to a place you want to visit; it’s not what you want at home.

I think people imagine that if we one day have a united Ireland – and I doubt very much we will – you will be able to feel the fresh breeze off the hills of Donegal balmily lifting our spirits in the backstreets and housing estates of West Belfast.

In fact, a rainy day on the Falls will still just be a rainy day on the Falls. Our councillors will still be dull, unimaginative local people, most of them men who can rarely find their way from one end of a spoken sentence to another.

Already, the fantasy that we can be a one island jurisdiction clutters our politics and our civic life. Many local arts projects which have just learnt that their money has been brutally slashed by the Arts Council — or the Airts Cooncil o Norlain Airland, as it is happy to be called.

Those groups that have been cut are waiting to see which groups south of the border have benefited at their expense.

This is the height of petty crossbordery, that publishers down there can dip into our resources, and we can dip into theirs and all of us can spend twice as much time filling in enormous forms, to placate twice as many bureaucrats.

That’s what you get imagining that we are one when we are not.

You don’t have to be a sullen Unionist to see the nonsense of that. And you don’t have to be a nationalist to love the heft and roar of the Atlantic swell and to wish the odd time that it was on your doorstep.

The trouble is, it’s not.

  • slug9987

    Not sure this was worth reading. Superficial.

  • spirit-level

    Until SF/IRA prove themselves worthy of a UI,
    by their actions;
    I vote to keep the Union; and I’m a life long supporter of a UI.
    Shows you how pissed off I am with my so called republican brethren.


  • Alan2

    I liked this. I know what he means when he describes Donegal.

  • beano

    I liked it too – but then again I would 😉 Seems a bit unlikely that many nationalists will buy into it though. I’m more interested in spirit-level’s comments 😮

  • spirit-level

    Who really wants a united Ireland?
    The murderers of Robert McCartney tarred and feathered,with signed confessions round their necks,handcuffed to the lampost outside Belfast’s main Nick. Together with a letter from P.O’Neill outling the immediate disbandment of the IRA.
    That’ll get the UI bus rolling.

  • Ringo

    excellent spirit-level!

    for a second there I thought ulsterman was taking leave of his senses! 😉

  • Mario

    Certainly not the point of view of the Nationalists I have met over the years. Mr. O’Doherty always tries to be the pragmatist, the so called sane voice. At times he succeeds. Others, one can almost hear the voice of the little boy who use to get beat up by catholic bullies in the falls.

  • maca

    Interesting, no idea if he is right or not but interesting anyway.

    Donegal – wind, rain, more wind, more rain, girls with the cutest accent, even more rain.

  • factfinder

    I was in Donegal once when the rain stopped for about ten minutes for the sun to come out. I took off my coat and then got drenched, but the wind helped to dry me out.

  • Henry94

    The striking thing is not so much that OÂ’DochertyÂ’s view of the south is so out of date as to be laughable but that this man qualifies as a serious commentator in the north.

    The argument he makes most eloquently in not the one he intended. Rather is his contribution an example of how badly we need to broaden our context. The union isnÂ’t working for us not only at the economic and political levels but at the intellectual level either.

  • Ireland Today

    The trouble with Malachi’s piece and with Lord Kilclooney and all unionist dreams is that they forget one thing: their precious union is entirely dependent on the will of the British people.

    The British people have no love for any part of Ireland. They know that Ireland, north or south, is not British even if the unionists don’t.

    The British agreed to pay the unionists’ bills only because they feared igniting their past own religious wars. But that fear grows less day by day.

    Some future Chancellor of the Exchequer, maybe even Gordon Brown, will repeat what Harold Wilson said “who do those spongers think they are?”

    The fact is that unionism is based on spongerism and unsustainable.

    Mark Durkan’s piece is more to the point than Malachi’s, who really is a closet unionist.

  • Billy Pilgrim


    “Mr. O’Doherty always tries to be the pragmatist, the so called sane voice.”

    Nah. O’Doherty’s work could more reasonably be described as the hubris of the defector. His opinions are basically indistinguishable from those of any other hardline unionist. He comes from the broad nationalist tradition, from which he has detached himself. Fair enough – we’d be better off if there were more fence-jumpers.

    However O’Doherty does not write his dispatches back to the nationalist community, offering advice or the kind of enlightenment that led him to Damascus.

    No. O’Doherty writes for a unionist audience about the thoughts and feelings of the nationalist community, about which he has written with unrelenting scorn and contempt for decades.

    Undoubtedly a conspicuously intelligent man, but undone by his equal measures of vanity and self-loathing. No wonder unionists love him!

  • Mick Fealty

    “OÂ’Docherty’s….” That’ll be the Scottish end of the family. O’Doherty’s the more common spelling in the Derry/Donegal area.

    I can’t answer for Malachi, but I think the piece was intended to be a gentle pastiche.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Ireland Today

    “Malachi… is really is a closet unionist.”

    Closet? He’s explicitly pro union.

  • Mario

    “His opinions are basically indistinguishable from those of any other hardline unionist.”

    Do you really believe this? I, agree with your point that he is not writing as a member of the Nationalist community, but rather somebody who feels more enlightened, and is not respectful of the community’s views. He seems to be a man, who is more respectful of the Unionist views. I see him more as a moderate Unionist, but I can not help, but see a bit of resentment in his writings, but I will have to disagree with you, I do not see him as a hardline Unionist. I enjoyed the passages I read from I was a teenage Catholic. There is certainly no indication there that he is a hardliner He makes some valid points at times. But this piece just feels like resentment to me.

  • factfinder

    One good product of a united Ireland is that we won’t have to listen to Malachi o’D again as he will not have anything else to write about.

  • slug9987

    Ireland Today I think its true that the UK government will seek to reduce the costs of NI by making it more efficient, and that Brown will seek to do this in due course. However a lot of the transfer from GB to NI is due to the principle of equality of tax and benefit that I would not envisage being changed while NI is in the union. Interestingly this principle meant that an unintended effect of Chancellor Brown’s Budget of 17th March was to increase the transfers from GB to NI in a fairly substantial way. This is because the Budget increased the thresholds of income tax and household stamp duty in a way that benefit NI people disproportionately – their incomes are lower and their house prices are lower so this takes more people out of tax in NI than elsewhere.

  • spirit-level

    cheers at first site you would think it was 😉

  • Ireland Today


    As everybody is asking for the evidence these days, what machinery is currently in place for a member of the public like me to get my hands on some hard facts on the balance of payments between NI and Westminster?

    Are you saying that Belfast is no different to Bristol in the matter of public finances? That all the transfer is accounted for by the principle of equality of tax and benefits?

    I am genuinely interested, not trying to score points for a UI.

  • vespasian


    The trouble with Malachi’s piece and with Lord Kilclooney and all unionist dreams is that they forget one thing: their precious union is entirely dependent on the will of the British people.

    You and many others miss the fact that the people born in Northern Ireland are British just as those in Wales, Scotland or England. They may decide that they don’t want to be British of course.

    You miss the point that the GFA underscored in an International agreement the right of the people of NI to stay as part of the UK until a majority decides not to, so your statement is absolute rubbish. The only will that matters is that of the majority people of NI you may not like it but that is the way it is. It is what SF/IRA and the SDLP signed up for (or not as the case may be).

  • IJP


    It is commonly assumed: a) that people in GB don’t want us; and b) NI costs a lot. These have become oft-repeated mantras but they are not, in fact, true.

    Firstly, the attitude in GB is one of mass indifference. They really don’t mind (or, frankly, even know) either way. But among those who do care, there are plenty who positively prefer NI within the Union. There is general ridicule of Unionist representatives, but this is not the same as opposition to the Union.

    Secondly, the cost, in terms of the overall UK budget, is frankly peanuts. Don’t forget, £2000 per capita in NI is still less than £60 per capita in GB. In basic financial terms, it is quite correct to say that Scotland, Wales and most English regions cost Southeast England far more. But nation-states are not formed on such bases anyway.

    The real issue for the UK Government is one of international credibility. You can’t lecture on Kosovo or Iraq or Zimbabwe if you have civil conflict in your own country or even on your own doorstep. Hence its imperative is to ‘get rid of the NI problem’ – that may mean, but does not necessarily mean, ‘getting rid of NI itself’.

  • Ireland Today


    “The only will that matters is that of the majority people of NI.”

    The “majority of people in northern Ireland” do not have sovereignty. The majority of people in the UK have that.

    That is why they need to have the facts about the so-called “transfer of payments”. I would call it a subsidy but never mind, you call it what you want, I just want to know how much it is.

    So I still await Slugs response or perhaps you can defend your position by telling me how I can “get my hands on some hard facts on the balance of payments between NI and Westminster”. I suspect you already have that information.

    I take it you didn’t like the “spongers” remark (hence the testy “absolute rubbish” bit) then the way to prevent such accusations from others and me in the future is to publicly provide the hard facts about the “transfers” between NI and Westminster. Simple really. Or is it a big state secret?

  • Ireland Today

    Thanks IJP:

    But I still need numbers. I live in California and we, every citizen, knows exactly how much we contribute to Uncle Sam and how much we get back. Incidentally we (California) “give” far more than we “get”, yet we have the same Senate representation as Rhode Island. So I am not holding the USA up as a model in this regard, in other areas, yes. But we make a conscious decision to stay part of the US.

    It is the “mass indifference” in GB that interests me. That is not the case in California because we have access to the figures. It comes up all the time. I suspect it would in GB too if it were known. In fact we use it to get a lot of things we lobby for. That’s politics.

    BTW John Taylor, as he then was, was quoting £3,000 per capita back in the 80’s as his argument against a UI. I remember wondering at the time, what in the world do NI do with it all!

    So come on guys, less rhetoric and more figures.

  • aquifer

    Religious apartheid in schools and the rest could cost 30% extra. Its interesting to see what communitarian scotland does with it’s subvention, paying university fees and care fees for the elderly it seems.

    The mind may be playing tricks on nationalists though. The Ireland of summer childhoods may be gone. Less poverty, less piety and less specifically irish culture. More materialism and some thatcherist attitudes to match.

  • DXI

    Despite Donegal I still favour a United Ireland. And if we can put up with Cork we can put up with anybody.

  • IJP


    I didn’t realize you were all the way over there.

    Sorry to give a politician’s answer, but it really isn’t that straightforward in the UK. The UK is a centralized state, despite the currently devolved structure, therefore the concept of shifting a bulk of money from region to region is just not the same. Nor can you brutally just define ‘how much’ a region ‘costs’.

    So let’s say NI ‘costs’ £2.5bn a year (that’s my informed estimate of NI public spending minus NI contribution in tax). But does it contribute in other ways (through, for example, ‘giving up’ its proportionately more of its proportionately higher university-educated population, providing cultural input, or whatever)? Or indeed does it take out in other ways (e.g. increased security expenditure, even in GB)? Then, like I say, Scotland would, overall, ‘cost’ considerably more – yet probably also contribute far more across all fields of UK society from scientists to politicians to footballers (at least until recently).

    I’m instinctively pro-American in many ways, but one thing I dislike is the obsession over there with money and statistics. Not everything can be conveniently ‘financially costed’.

    Have a search through http://www.statistics.gov.uk for the best that can be done in the UK.

  • vespasian

    ‘The “majority of people in Northern Ireland” do not have sovereignty. The majority of people in the UK have that.’

    Yes, and in the GFA they passed the decision on the future of NI to the democratic majority vote of the people in Northern Ireland. A decision which was also ratified by the Government of the RoI and the major political parties of NI.

    Northern Ireland will stay within the UK until a majority of the people voting there decide to change its status to something different.

    So your statement is absolute rubbish!Please do try to get your facts straight before pontificating.

  • Ireland Today

    Yes Vespasian, you’re British all right!

    “So your statement is absolute rubbish! Please do try to get your facts straight before pontificating” is sooooooooooo British.

    Anyway, check the (unwritten) constitution (fundamental laws and principles) of your country (not Ulster) starting with the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and you will find the most fundamental principal of all: The Supremacy of Parliament.

    No British Parliament can bind future British Parliaments (not even for a day). The British Parliament could vote itself out of existence tomorrow or the next day if it so wished. It is totally supreme every time it sits. ItÂ’s your constitution mate, not mine. The so-called Irish Parliament in College Green Dublin (also founded on the principles of 1688) did exactly that in 1800 (suitably bribed of course).

    So your sooooooo Britishness is entirely at the mercy of the Westminster Parliament, and every other one of your so-called rights and privileges. Being soooooo British IÂ’m surprised it took a yank like me to tell you that.

    Therefore your Belfast Agreement is worthless until a future British Parliament deigns to grant you your most humble request. ThatÂ’s what I was trying to tell you in my earlier post.

    The British Parliament could renege on the promise they made to you in the GFA as they did to every other colonial people they abandoned.

    That’s why we got rid of mad George and all that supremacy of parliament stuff. We set up a thing called a republic, you might have heard of one, where “we the people” are sovereign.

    The southern Irish chappies did that too you know. How jolly clever of them. In a republic we write down the initial powers we are prepared to give to our elected representatives who must then “refer” back to us in a “referendum” before they can exceed those powers. No so in jolly old blighty I’m afraid. You might want to look into that republican thing to correct that. Ta ta.

  • maca

    “Yes, and in the GFA they passed the decision on the future of NI to the democratic majority vote of the people in Northern Ireland”

    General questions: Many ppl maintain that the GFA is dead (yet fall back on it when it suits them ;)). What is the current situation, if no parties support it or if a new agreement is found does the GFA become void or will it always be binding? What if one side, as IT sez, reneges on the agreement, what’s the response?

  • Ireland Today

    Good questions maca.

    The point I was trying to drive through that unionist skull is the old “if they’ll do it with you, they’ll do it to you”. This usually is said in the context of a lover cheating, but it is exactly the relationship of vespasian to his British masters.

    When a republic signs a treaty with a non-republic (I’ll be nice) only the republic is bound.

    The British Parliament can tear up the whole GFA anytime they wish while the Irish people have changed their Constution.

    I pointed that out at the time in 1998 and here we are, Brits like vespasian are cherrypicking it.

    I guess that’s why they don’t want to be a republic and why I would live nowhere else.

    You know where you stand with a republic (if you can read).

  • fair_deal

    Ireland Today

    The Irish Constitution is essentially the British constitutional model codified (with a President instead of a monarch).

  • smcgiff

    ‘Despite Donegal I still favour a United Ireland. And if we can put up with Cork we can put up with anybody.’

    Heck, ye can just transfer your inferiority complex of Londoners to Corkonians!

  • beano

    “The British Parliament can tear up the whole GFA anytime they wish while the Irish people have changed their Constution.”

    And like they changed it, the Irish people can change it back (assuming your worry that The British Parliament actually would tear the GFA up), should they so choose.

  • factfinder

    There is nothing wrong with cork people, didn’t they invent that thing that keeps the wine fresh in the bottle(the cork).

  • mnob

    Ireland today despite your trying to drill into our thick skulls what our identity is you make no progress because this is not a logical argument.

    The British parliament is *our* parliament we don’t see it as a seperate identity (in the way that you do). To us it is not the British Government or the British parliament but *the* government and *the* parliament.

    So yes the administration of this part of the British Isles is at the whim of the ‘british parliament’ but this is no different to a Londoner. …. and anyway is our citizenship not at the whim of the eurocracts these days.

    The best way to influence people is to understand them. You continually show no understanding of our views and feelings.

  • factfinder

    Regarding the heading of the thread, Malachi O’D seems to say that he enjoys himself accross the border because of the brutal regime he leaves behind in the 6 counties, implying that the more brutal the regime the better the weekend break. Perhaps the Donegal Tourist Board can arange for the PSNI to chase you along the border roads even firing some shots for the excitement so that you will relax even more in the safety of the Donegal pubs.

  • slackjaw

    the more brutal the regime the better the weekend break.


  • Occasional Commenter

    It’s a bit simplistic to say that taxes are higher in the Republic. The tax burden there is the lowest in Europe.

    Maybe corporation taxes are lower, allowing much higher salaries to be paid? Gordon Brown could scrap income tax tomorrow by hiking up corporation tax, VAT et cetera, but would the average worker be better off?

    There are a lot of things wrong with the Republic and with the UK, but you can’t say the Republic is over burdened with tax.

  • Occasional Commenter

    I’ve done some research to back up my claim that Malachi is wrong about tax in Ireland:

    In Ireland, corporation tax is usually 10%, in the UK it’s usually 30%.

    As far as I can see the income tax rates are similar in both jurisdictions. The top rate in ROI may be 42%, but isn’t the UK rate now 41% thanks to National Insurance? The difference in corporation tax more than cancels out that difference.

    Also, it’s fairer to tax individuals than companies. Income tax can be tailored to hit the well off with higher rates – corporation taxes just gouge money indiscriminately from all parts of the economy including those that provide jobs and services for the less well off.

    And neither the UK nor Ireland can preach about public services either.

  • Mick Fealty

    Malachi sent us this response by email:

    The self loathing charge is a favourite of Shinners against me. I would like to have someone cite an example of it in my writing or behaviour. Actually, I love myself to bits and that is the charge my friends are more likely to level against me.

  • peteb

    Actually, I love myself to bits and that is the charge my friends are more likely to level against me


    Great response, Malachi.

  • Belfast Gonzo


  • Billy Pilgrim

    “The self loathing charge is a favourite of Shinners against me. I would like to have someone cite an example of it in my writing or behaviour. Actually, I love myself to bits and that is the charge my friends are more likely to level against me.”

    Given that I mentioned Malachi’s `self-loathing’, I suppose I should point out that I am in no way a shinner. I have never voted Sinn Fein and don’t intend to any time soon. I’m sure it would be easier for Malachi to box all his critics as violent subversives but I assure you, I am neither.

    I seem to recall a column Malachi wrote within the last year where he referred to his own father as as ignorant and, I believe, illiterate. There aren’t many of us whose intellects tower to such heights that we would write such things for public consumption about our own parents, even if they were true.

    Malachi’s vanity is in his belief that he is anything other than what Malcolm X used to call a “house nigger”. His self-loathing is revealed not by the fact that he has become a unionist – that’s fair enough. No: his self-loathing is in the fact that he has made a career out of pouring scorn and overt contempt on to the northern nationalist community – from which, for better or worse, he comes.

    Ultimately I believe it is impossible to be a defector without being touched by self-loathing. (And by defector I don’t mean just someone who switches sides; a defector is more than that. A defector is someone who switches sides and then condemns everything he used to be.)

  • Mario

    I am neither a member of SF or NI/British, Im an Argentino of NI ancestry.

    I said that I read in Mr O’s writing some pain, some resentment towards what he perceived to be tribalism in his community and he wrote something about it in I was a teenage Catholic, the bullyed boy who gets back at those who bullyed him. He certainly can not denny that he writes for a Unionist audience, but I dont consider him a hardline unionist and he is one of NI’s best commentators.

    I think the term “house nigger” as used by Malcom X does not apply,I think Billy is a bit harsh with him.

  • Mario

    I am neither a member of SF or NI/British, Im an Argentino of NI ancestry.

    I said that I read in Mr O’s writing some pain, some resentment towards what he perceived to be tribalism in his community and he wrote something about it in I was a teenage Catholic, the bullyed boy who gets back at those who bullyed him. He certainly can not denny that he writes for a Unionist audience, but I dont consider him a hardline unionist and he is one of NI’s best commentators.

    I think the term “house nigger” as used by Malcom X does not apply here,Malcom was using it in the context of slavery and how this particular african american used it as a form of survival, Malcom used it harshly at first when he was with the Nation of Islam and Elijah Muhamad’s people, but in his later writings he explained the meaning behind the term which was first used by W E B Dubois the black american intellectual. I think Billy is a bit harsh with him and sense some resentment in his writing as well.

  • IJP


    You raise a v important point about the death (or otherwise) of the Agreement.

    The Agreement is an international accord between two sovereign governments. As such, it stands. Therefore NI in its entirety is a legitimate jurisdiction, its citizens are entitled to UK or Irish citizenship/identity, political prisoners were released, the police was reformed, and so on and so on. These are real things, they happened, they are happening, they are cast in stone. So the Agreement will never be dead unless it is specifically replaced.

    However, some of the institutions to be set up under the Agreement do seem to be dead, as the means of setting them up and/or the trust required to do so simply doesn’t work. These are aspects of the Agreement which require reform.

    ‘Reform is the only legitimate pro-Agreement position’, to quote someone very important…

  • vespasian


    The GFA is much wider than the UK and Ireland it is an INTERNATIONAL agreement that can only be changed with the consent of all parties. That was it’s strong point everyone agreed to live with it.

    Do try a little harder.

  • maca

    Thanks IJP, Vespasian, that’s clear.

  • Ireland Today


    In the interest of “trying a little harder” I will quote here from a piece I wrote for an American publication 6 months ago:

    “Joint Authority is just another name for power sharing at the national government level (British and Irish) after power sharing at the devolved level (Stormont) has failed.

    A fundamental principal of the British Constitution is the supremacy of Parliament. It could theoretically order the Monarch to sign his/her own death warrant or simply (and more humanely) pass an Act to abolish the Monarchy and require the Monarch to sign it.

    It has the unfettered authority to govern Northern Ireland any way it sees fit, including relinquishing its right to govern it at all. The Good Friday Agreement has not diminished that right in any way because the British Parliament did not relinquish any of its authority with regard to Northern Ireland and the Irish Government fully accepts that authority.
    If the British Government were to grant the Irish Government a de facto right of joint governance in Northern Ireland it could do so without reference to the people of Ireland north or south as described in Article 1 of the Good Friday Agreement. That Article refers only to the establishment of a “sovereign united Ireland”. In other words joint authority would not constitute a united Ireland and therefore be fully compatible with the Agreement.
    With Strand 1 of the Agreement failing (the reason doesn’t matter) it could be argued that Joint Authority has become an imperative if the two Governments are to achieve the primary objective of the Agreement viz. power-sharing between Unionist and Nationalists.

    The two Governments would be sharing power on behalf of the two communities, simply raising the concept of power sharing to a higher level.

    Direct rule from Westminster alone does not achieve power-sharing as the Unionist community has a built-in advantage. Direct rule by both Westminster and Dublin is the answer. All other aspects of the Agreement would function as written.”

    Your point “the GFA is much wider than the UK and Ireland it is an INTERNATIONAL agreement that can only be changed with the consent of all parties. That was it’s strong point everyone agreed to live with it” only strenthens my argument: Joint Rule is the ONLY solution, before AND after a united Ireland.

    I hope I am trying hard enough for you.

  • vespasian


    You just don’t understand do you?

    Because you wrote it doesn’t mean it is correct, that is YOUR interpretation of the GFA and the British Constitutional position.

    Joint rule is NOT an option unless agreed by ALL parites to the agreement.

  • Clady Cowboy

    I do, i want a united Ireland!

  • PaddyCanuck

    Me too!!

    I would move back! (any waverers out there I hope this does not influence your opinion!).

  • IJP

    vespasian et al,

    Joint authority isn’t an option at all. The practicalities of it make it impossible. The nearest you could get to joint authority is, er, what we have now…

  • Ireland Today


    You remind me of something Bruce Morrison told me during the lead up to the GFA; he said the Brits reserve the right to reinterpret anything they say, even right after the said. He said they were like “greased pigs”. He said they were the most infuriating lot he ever had to deal with. And he did a good deal of the groundwork for Mitchell.

    I think I know what he meant.

  • Clady Cowboy

    Well that’s a 100% mandate in favour of a United Ireland. Wahey!

    Poll count:2

  • Fobo

    “Joint Rule is the ONLY solution, before AND after a united Ireland.”

    I’m going to benevolent and assume you believe in democracy. If so can you explain to me why a foreign country should have a say in the governance of my country? Would you accept Mexico having a say in the affairs of California? Furthermore why should my hard earned taxes, and that of my fellow citizens, be spent by a state which is totally unaccountable to me?

  • slackjaw

    Billy Pilgrim

    As ever, a very interesting post. As Mario is the only person to answer you thus far, I wonder if your opinion of Malachi OÂ’Doherty is widespread among Northern nationalists?

    The charges you level at him go to the heart of what it means to be a Northern nationalist, and what it means to support a United Ireland.

    The self-loathing bit: unfortunately, it is nigh on impossible to tell if someone loathes himself or not unless he tells you. I could tell you that you loathe yourself, but I’d have to project my own idea of my self onto your words to do so. And that’s where the problem is. You may refer to Malachi O’Doherty as a self-loather, but in so doing you impose on a person (I presume) you do not know your own view of who Malachi O’Doherty should be. He is a nationalist, therefore he should think like this. It ‘s a debilitating, constricting effect of a Northern nationalist consciousness.

    Behind that is something even more constricting and reductive: he can declare himself to be whatever he likes, but in the end, he will never be anything more than a member of the Northern nationalist community. – ‘from which, for better or worse, he comes’, as you put it. And what goes for him goes for any of us. Northern nationalism as original sin.

    (You’re in good company though – charges of ‘guilty Prod’ and ‘self-hating Jew’ are variations on a

    I suppose the next question should be: if he doesn’t loathe himself, surely he loathes ‘the Northern nationalist community’? You describe him as ‘pouring scorn and overt contempt’ on this community – I propose that any community that is worth anything should be able to withstand and tolerate strong voices from within that pour scorn and overt contempt. If it cannot, it is not a true community, at least not in any positive sense of the word.

    You may counter that it is not the ‘pouring scorn and contempt’ per se, but the way he does it: writing for a unionist newspaper, for a mainly unionist readership (although the Tele was always bought in our house, unlike the News Letter) and showing us all up to be pig ignorant and illiterate. In doing so, he reinforces to unionist readers the idea that nationalists, Catholics, ach sure they’re all fur coat and no knickers. Venal and feckless. The unionists go to bed happy that they’re doing the right thing to keep the taigs in their place. Or something like that. The Catholic columnist as unionist minstrel and dancing bear, propping up the myth of the lazy native. It’s all bollix, of course.

    If nationalists still lived in a state of systematic and widespread oppression, your branding of him as a ‘house nigger’ may have some currency. But they don’t. True, social injustice and sectarianism persist, and the NI economy is crappy enough, but nationalists are no longer disproportionate victims of this. The Northern nationalist community as oppressed minority no longer exists in brute reality. And that’s where the difficulty lies for those who aspire to a United Ireland. How do you maintain the momentum for unification when so many of its supposed supporters are more concerned with home improvements, Hyundai Santa Fes and Comic Relief Fame Academy than with social justice, the legacy of partition or the Bolkestein directive?

    I sense that for those who actively want a United Ireland, in the most common sense of the term i.e. a unified Irish state free from British rule, the Northern nationalist community must be maintained. Yet once you remove discrimination and the threat of British state and loyalist paramilitary violence, Northern nationalist community cohesion is threatened.

    The response so far to the challenge presented by greater prosperity, from ardent Northern nationalists, has been to sustain seductive, and immensely productive, narratives of the benighted people suffering under evils of partition and British state oppression. How? By essentializing the differences between Catholic and Protestant, unionist and nationalist. Part of this entails branding dissenters as heretics, Judases, Uncle Toms and House Niggers. Other narratives, other voices that describe Northern Catholic experience must be excluded or discredited.

    (Few campaigners for a United Ireland ever seem to get the point that to essentialize the differences between Catholic and Protestant, unionist and nationalist, is to accept the consequences of colonial rule. But thatÂ’s another dayÂ’s discussion.)

    So writers like Malachi O’Doherty get it in the neck, because they are an indigestible reminder that Northern Catholics are not a homogeneous huddled mass struggling to throw off the yoke of British misrule. Not because of the ideas they express, but because the ideas are theirs. Because their right to express them is conferred, and ultimately withdrawn, by ‘the Northern nationalist community’. Labelling him as a ‘defector’, you perpetuate the fence, the two sides, disunity. And as for writing about his parents: surely any half-decent writer is obliged to deal with uncomfortable truths?

    The most popular form of campaign for a United Ireland is riddled with paradox. To unite, division must continue. To be free, Irish people you must retain provincial, sectarian labels and speak according to the labels you wear. Until Ireland is united, nothing else is appropriate. Permission is required to narrate, to try to tell the truth.

    There are plenty of barn rooves and gable walls in rural Ulster with ‘The Kingdom of God is Close At Hand’ painted on it. Some Christians see the Kingdom of God as what happens after Judgement Day. Others see it as something to be created in the here and now. I’m sure there’s a secular lesson there for self-appointed Northern nationalists who yearn for a United Ireland.

    Happy Easter.

  • Ringo

    excellent post, slackjaw!

  • smcgiff

    Just wait for the McCreevey Directive! Accountants will rule the world I tell thee!!

  • Mario

    great post slackjaw.

  • JD

    Nice post, slackjaw.

    I’d agree that it is getting harder to toe the “oppressed Catholic minority” line now. In fact I think Billy’s other posts have consistently sang the tune of a rise in Catholic prosperity and self-confidence under the conditions brought about by the GFA. The rise in prosperity does, as you suggest, make some people focus on trivial and selfish things (that seems to be how the market derives much of its “stability”). On the other hand, progress makes some others hungry for more. I suspect Billy falls into this latter category (No doubt he’ll correct me if I’m wrong).

    There remains much to be done in NI. For years, the statelet has been steeped in a culture that thought nothing of using its power and trappings to divide: you say so yourself: the legacy of colonial tagging is legible everywhere. To such an extent that a lot of people cannot identify with it. It is not surprising that the colonial project set the tone for the fight against it. That has long been a problem.

    I for one would like to see a broader conception of what it is to be Irish–but I would like it to be possible in a more inclusive Ireland, not the UK. I think that republicanism can learn from the inclusiveness of the UK (which is, of course, itself derived from a colonial past, so it could not simply be the same). But that is some time away yet. For the moment, I think there has to be genuine compromise: a regional NI that is neither what unionists nor republicans want. One in which a non-exclusive politics can function.

    After a few years of such stability, who knows what leaps of the political imagination will be possible?

  • IJP

    Sounds like good sense to me, JD.

  • Alin o’treasaigh

    I think theres hope for our island , or country. The people of our land are realising a true fact. ireland is irish always has been and always will be and as aproud irish protestant im am proud to call myself irish. To much propiganda about rome rule etc. is broadcsted in the north to ensure the control of a forign government over your country. Yes its your country, imagine the power we have as one nation as part of europe. Imagine the power of your representitives in an irish parlement compaired with that of the british who still believe that we have just cows and sheep here. If you feel british irish people welcome you to this land and invite you to take part in its government. You are irish now of british ancestry, when you go to england they call you paddy, because you speak with an irish accent.Dont listen to haitred as this is the past. Britain is going nowere ireland is going places and with you we can go further. Come south of the border and see your country for it is your country of whitch you shoud be proud and you have the right here as protestant catholic or otherwise to take part in the government of this island. The people of this island want us to live in peace together. The queen is my leader of faith as she is for all irish protestants but not the leader of my country. liberators who formed our free state guarantee equal rights to all people of british decent. It is your constitution as an irish citizen and you have the power to rewrite it. The lord helps those who helps them selves so for gods sake and the peoples sake help yourselves, help us all and unite toigether in a new free country! No troubles no hatred just unity feedom and prosperity.

  • Davros

    ireland is irish always has been and always will be

    That’s meaningless nonsense. The rest of your post isn’t a lot better.

  • beano @ Everything Ulster

    Is he taking the piss?

  • Davros

    If he’s from Ireland – definitely. If from across the pond possibly not 😉

  • Lydia Murphy


    I work on the Wide Angle with Karen Coleman on NewsTalk106. We are having a discussion this Sunday, 14th August, about a united Ireland, and whether or not its something people in the Republic really want? At the moment we’re trying to track down someone from the Republic who is against re-unification. If anyone fits the bill and might be interested in contributing can they give me a buzz on 01 644 5110 or drop me an email. Many Thanks, Lydia.

  • smcgiff

    ‘At the moment we’re trying to track down someone from the Republic who is against re-unification.’


    Your chance to shine!!! 🙂

  • smcgiff

    By the way, when you say ‘RE’-unification.

    You’ll have to get past that obstacle first.

  • Gerry O’Sullivan


    At the moment we’re trying to track down someone from the Republic who is against re-unification.

    Just give the Sunday Independent a call. You’ll have your pick there.

    Brendan O’Connor being the latest

  • smcgiff

    I thought Brendan was taking the P*ss at first, especially with the below claim…

    ‘but he’s (Bertie) still a shrewd operator and if he wants a United Ireland, he’ll get it, even if none of the rest of us wants it.’

    … but further on, he did list the concerns of many ROI citizens, even if he did put them across in his own brand of humour (Which I apologise now for being an admirer of).

    As for myself, who would like to see a UI, I would have to agree with him that I’ve probably more in common with the average Londoner than the average Londonderry citizen (I’ve certainly met and socialised with more Londoners).

  • Macswiney

    Well done Malachi. Twenty years in journalism have resulted in you writing the exact same article as you wrote 20 years ago. Insular anti-republican drivel with a mind-boggingly laughable array of facts to support your case. “Higher taxes and medical cards” is the entire sum of your detailed and critical analysis of the core issue that has divided the nation for decades and longer. This could have been written by a first year pupil at any secondary school. (on second thoughts that is doing them a dis-service).

  • slug

    “Most of all a certain, all-too-common breed of delinquent Northerner lacks any moral compass. They believe that anger is legitimately expressed through violence. But, more fundamentally, they believe that without admitting they did anything wrong, and without saying sorry, they can get redemption.

    This is what has poisoned their ‘State’, and fundamentally the people of this State do not want that cancer to enter our body politic, until the delinquents and recidivists have shown they have grown up and learned some coping and social skills. “

    Interesting analysis.

  • dubliner

    I would be against a united Ireland because it would bring Sinn Feins criminality right into our government.

  • smcgiff

    ‘criminality right into our government.’

    Too bloody, right! We’ve enough as it is!

  • Nordie


    “he did list the concerns of many ROI citizens, even if he did put them across in his own brand of humour (Which I apologise now for being an admirer of)”

    Was that humour? I’m not familiar with his usual style or tone but there was nothing really funny here.

    For the uninitiated he comes across as a rather smallminded bigot.

    If it’s an accurate reflection of southern attitudes then I have to say us “Northies” would fit in perfectly and he has a lot more in common with us and our attitudes than he realises.

  • dubliner

    criminality, bigotry, whining, self righteousness, sponging.

    Nah nordie. Can do without.

  • Nordie


    “criminality, bigotry, whining, self righteousness, sponging.

    Nah nordie. Can do without.”

    Already got mate, and, ironically, you’re making my point for me.

    What do you have down south? Gangland killings, bent cops, racism problems, endless corruption, holding out the begging bowl for the EU structural funds.

    Ardal O’Hanlon summed it up for me in an interview on Parkinson. They were discussing the new phenomonen of Racism In Ireland. O’Hanlon told Parkie that it wasn’t a new phenomonen at all, Irish people were always like that, but before it might not have been foreigners you hated, it only needed to be someone from a different town.

    And that’s the essence of that article, it’s a stereotype and a figure of fun – the “bitter northerner” and it’s no more true or accurate than the “thick paddy” – but as long as it makes you feel superior

    Gerry O’Sullivan

    Thanks for the link

  • dubliner

    No you’re not presuading me that we are ‘as bad as you’. The sectarianism, hatred, whining, self-regardingness, crime, etc., is to me a peculiarly northern trait. (And it’s a black economic hole we in the south are better off without). You ditched SDLP decency for SF criminality. I can do without any more SF people in the Dail. The SDLP would have been welcome but not Sinn Fein criminality.


  • ashe

    ‘Brown envelopes’

  • Nordie


    “No you’re not presuading me..”

    I wasn’t trying to persuade you, I was just giving my thoughts.

    You’ve got a superiority complex, I’ve learnt to recognise that condition and it’s definately not amenable to reason.

    There’s plenty like you up here though. If you ever came here, you could be sure that there will be people who will automatically look down their nose as soon as they hear your accent.

    I don’t know what point you are trying to make but if you don’t want Sinn Fein in the Dail don’t vote for them.

    “.it’s a black economic hole.”. You’ve also got loads of black economy crime and gangsterism with southern criminal gangs exporting drugs and effluent and anything else you care to mention up here. It’s big business for your crime bosses down there and a pain in the ass for people up here.

  • foreign correspondent

    ´´Plus ça change, plus c´est la meme merde de toujours.´´
    -Slightly adapted French aphorism

  • dubliner

    NOrdie. No superiority complex. The point I am making is that we are a success. We in our Dail can do without (are frankly far better off without) the nasty ethnic and criminal politicians that ‘nordies’ elect. A united Ireland would contaminate our politics because the ethnic stirrers of criminal Sinn Fein or sectarian DUP would have a big influence when it comes to forming governments. I am happy without that, without the nasty etnnic stirring, and without the economic cost. Hardly an unreasonabe position.

  • Tom Griffin

    There’s no doubt the O’Connor article reflects the attitudes of a lot of people in the Republic.

    It’s certainly prejudiced, but I think there’s a kernel of truth in it, and it’s this, that the north could never have the kind of dependency relationship with the Republic that it has with Britain. If there’s ever to be a united Ireland, the north has to become a functioning democracy.

    Where he’s unjust is in reducing the problems of a society to the psychology of individuals.

  • Macswiney

    Mr McDowell must value your vote Dubliner. Give him our regards…

    PS The 10 or 11% of the vote that Sinn Fein have been mandated for is clearly all too much for you. Prepare yourself for further gains…