Both Unionist parties have tough lessons ahead

Alex Kane argues that the problem for Unionism is not so much the differences between the two main parties, so much as its failure to galvanise its own vote. Whilst he readily admits his own party (UUP) has some fundamental challenges ahead, he also beleives that the DUP has yet to truly shoulder the responsibilities of leadership against an unpredictable opponent (namely the Republican movement).

By Alex Kane

It has not been the easiest of weeks for the Ulster Unionist Party and I’m sure that David Trimble would echo Hamlet’s lament; “When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions”. Almost everything that the party has tried to do in terms of policy and presentation has been overshadowed by unwelcome headline-catching distractions. And, as is often the case in these circumstances, the events are beyond the control of either the party leader or the campaign directors.

For the first time, too, the UUP is being challenged for every Parliamentary seat by the DUP, and, if the bookmakers and political pundits are even reasonably accurate, then no UUP seat can be considered safe. Perhaps the most honest (albeit indiscreet) comment of all was from David McNarry: “But the upside is that the bookies are really saying we have one almost definite seat, but three remaining constituencies where it is too close to call and we are in with a strong shout of all three”.

In essence, though, what is the difference between the UUP and the DUP? Neither of them has delivered a stable and sustainable form of devolution. Neither of them has been able to persuade the IRA to disarm, disband and disappear. Neither of them has been able to convince the SDLP to support the idea of a voluntary coalition, which excludes Sinn Fein. Neither of them has been able to pressurise the British and Irish governments to face down Adams and McGuinness and move on without them.

In terms of their respective manifestoes you could hardly push a bus ticket in the gap between their policies on most issues. Indeed, as far as the socio/economic agenda is concerned, you would be hard pushed to spot any differences at all.

So what, exactly, is the difference? From the UUP’s point of view there was a willingness to take huge political and electoral risks for the sake of securing devolved government–a willingness that was not demonstrated by the DUP. That’s not to say that the DUP hasn’t shifted its position very substantially since the 1997/98 period, but it clearly hasn’t shifted to the extent that it will be prepared to take risks if it is successful on May 6.

In other words, voting for the DUP may amount to voting for continuing stalemate. Now, I can accept that for many unionists stalemate may well be preferable to Sinn Fein returning to government. But stalemate is actually bad for unionism, for it encourages policy initiatives from Downing Street and the NIO and, as we know only too well, those sorts of initiatives are rarely unionist-friendly. The blunt fact of the matter is that a vote for the DUP, while it may be a vote for no government with Sinn Fein, is not a guarantee of something better.

That said, what does a vote for the UUP get you? It has torn itself apart in what I have always believed to be a genuine and necessary effort to deliver democracy and promote the Union. Someone had to make that effort, for it wasn’t being made by successive British governments and it certainly wasn’t being made by other pro-Union parties. But there is no point in even trying to deny the fact that the UUP has precious little to show for all of its efforts.

And there, in a nutshell, is the dilemma facing the unionist voter at this election: voting for the DUP, which can’t guarantee delivery, or voting for the UUP, which took huge risks for an Agreement which appears to be flat-lining.

The temptation for many will be to stay at home. That would be a huge mistake. I have said it before, and I am going to say it again; it is vital that the unionist turnout is high and it is equally vital that the pro-Union vote is seen to be significantly larger than the nationalist vote. The gap between the two has been narrowing in the past decade, a fact that has been politically and psychologically useful for Sinn Fein in particular.

Whatever the result on May 6, and irrespective of whether or not the DUP sweeps all before it, the reality remains the same, namely, that unionism needs a long term gameplan. Stalemate is not an option. Running an empty Stormont is not an option. Trying to reopen negotiations with the IRA is not an option. Unionists continuing to knock six bells out of each other is not an option.

When the electoral dust settles, both the DUP and UUP will have huge tasks ahead of them. The UUP will have to rebuild and re-connect. And the DUP will learn pretty quickly that the price to pay for being the majority voice of unionism is greater than it could ever have imagined. I suspect it will be quite some time until the fat lady finally sings.

First published in The Newsletter, Saturday 23rd April 2005

  • Tom the Trad

    ‘Alex Kane: My Part in David Trimble’s Downfall’, volume I: ‘He listened to me’, volume II: ‘he didn’t listen to me’ . . . Alex Kane has been wrong about just everything he’s offered an opinion on, and in his own small way, has helped Trimble and co destroy the UUP. If there’s nothing else to look forward to in the coming ascendancy of the Solitary Unionist Party (leader-elect P Robinson, esq, suprising deputy – Donaldson), it’s that at least Kane won’t be in a position to help wreck that.

  • aquifer

    Given that they were never going to vote for cross-community power sharing christmas, wringing the political necks of some fractious stringy old orange turkeys would be no loss, and could perk up the garden centre vote.

    A new NIO initiative is more likely though. Just right. Though they set up the vote for the GFA this does not mean they can ignore the result while the other green gobblers strut around waiting for their next bucket.

  • George

    Agree fully with Alex on one thing, that continued direct rule is the worst thing for unionism and Northern Ireland as a whole.

    For example, Jim Wells of the DUP said this week on BBC Newsline that the reason his party didn’t make an issue about the water infrastructure crisis in Northern Ireland before was that nobody knew about the Northern Ireland Office’s investment deficit in infrastructure over the last 3 decades of direct rule.

    Why did nobody know? Nobody was told by the NIO!

    According to Wells it appears there was no information available on how much the NIO was underinvesting in NI’s infrastructure and obviously none of the NI MPs sitting like lemmings in Westminster were told anything either. But they all shuffle up to the royally assented trough on a regular basis regardless.

    Or as the DUP puts it in its current manifesto: “The amount of time at Westminster devoted to Northern Ireland or other business of specific relevance to Northern Ireland is relatively limited.”

    First time I’ve heard that “relatively limited” equates with “keeping in the dark”.

    From what I can see, unionism’s game plan to date has been “what we have we hold” but as the water charges fiasco has shown, unionism and the people of NI as a whole, are actually holding nothing of value under direct rule.

    Death of the union by a thousand NIO cuts.

  • pakman

    George

    I am sympathetic to your points but having experienced “inclusive” government I believe that direct rule is the second worst thing for unionism, the worst being Minister McGuinness and his balaclavaed friends back in power.

  • fair_deal

    Alex is returning to familiar ground with themes he has persistently raised. I get the sense he’s held back somewhat because the election is on.

    I do dislike the stuff the long-term strategy stuff. I have heard this persistently, and while I wholeheartedly agree, I’d rather move the debate on to what should be in the strategy.

  • George

    Pakman,
    I take your point and fully understand that many/most unionists find themselves between a rock and a hard place – unanswerable direct rule or devolved government with SF.

    But unionism also finds itself in the unfortunate position of having to prove that Northern Ireland works and is not the failed political entity many nationalists think/want to believe it is, a view which is only strengthened by indefinite unanswerable direct rule by the NIO.

    Unanswerable direct rule plays into Sinn Fein’s hands in the long term, in my view. Stormont collapsing again is hardly a concern for them.

    The options? There are 4 I can think of off the top of my head:

    Voluntary coalition excluding SF
    Joint authority
    Direct Rule
    Independence

    As long as SF are the largest nationalist party it’s not possible to have a voluntary coalition which excludes them.

    Unionist outrage will ensure that there will be no joint authority. I also don’t see how two unanswerable governments ruling NI would be better than one.

    So it looks like direct rule for the forseeable future because even if the Provos do stand down this year, unionism has realised it hasn’t the stomach to deal with Republicans. I don’t mean that to mean unionism is weak (many would take it as a strength), just that this seems to be the case.

    Independence is a non-runner simply because NI doesn’t have the economic power and I can’t see the British stumping up when they have no idea where that project could end up.
    They want NI to be stable in the UK or stable in a united Ireland.

  • Henry94

    There is also the option of a united Ireland with Sinn Fein excluded from power by the FF/UUP/FG/DUP/PD majority.

    Stability. Growth. Power.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Pakman

    “I believe that direct rule is the second worst thing for unionism, the worst being Minister McGuinness and his balaclavaed friends back in power.”

    I think a point worth making though, is that as ministers Martin McGuinness and Bairbre De Brun weren’t THAT bad. I know MMcG got a lot of stick over the 11 plus, but it was a reasonable and popular decision. Sammy Wilson did his best, but unionism wasn’t able to make a sectarian issue out of it. BdB got a lot of stick over centralising maternity services to the Royal, but again this wasn’t a completely unreasonable move – it’s simply a far superior hospital to the City, even if it is in the west.

    So your choice of words was inaccurate when you said direct rule was “second worst thing for unionism”. Devolution, with the Shinners inside the tent gives unionism more of a fighting chance politically in the long term than direct rule. What you really mean is that direct rule is more palatable for unionists – which is a completely different thing.

    Codliver oil is unpalatable, but it’s good for you. Kane is right: Trimble had the balls to man up (as my old GAA coach used to put it) and swallow the bitter pill in the best interests of his people. Trouble is, unionism didn’t. Instead unionism has succumbed to the charms of the party that tells them there doesn’t need to be any pain, and that all they have to do is sit tight. (The old Molyneaux policy.)

    But the reality is that all the drift is in one direction – unification. I would rather have a real debate on the future – a debate among adults.

    Unfortunately the infantilisation of politics here continues.

  • fair_deal

    BP

    “Instead unionism has succumbed to the charms of the party that tells them there doesn’t need to be any pain, and that all they have to do is sit tight. “

    I think you are falling into the clssic misjudgement of where the DUP are at – they will deal but they are tougher negotiators than the UUP.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Fair deal

    Perhaps I haven’t been paying close enough attention, but in what way have the DUP been preparing their constituency for a deal? And I mean a deal – which means gains and losses – as opposed to a victory?

    To these ears, the DUP are promising victory. They are promising that all the pain caused by the GFA can somehow be undone. That the RUC will come back (see 50/50). That demilitarisation can be forestalled. That republicans can be kept in their ghettoes and away from influence.

    None of these things are possible. Now, I may be wrong, and it may be the case that the DUP will be prepared to do a deal. However, I have not seen any evidence that they are prepared to make any significant concessions. If they aren’t prepared to do a deal under any terms but their own, then they ain’t actually prepared to deal at all. (Give and take – that’s what a deal is.)

    If they do actually do a deal, then I would be concerned at the fact that their grassroots have not been given fair warning at this stage. The DUP are promising that by sheer resolution alone, the croppies will lie down and take what they’re given.

    But the croppies won’t lie down. The DUP’s resolution is matched by Sinn Fein’s, but their negotiating skills certainly aren’t as fire-tested as their opponents’ are.

    So the DUP cannot get everything they want, and I don’t think they are prepared to settle for less. Even if the party is, their people aren’t. There can’t be an executive without the largest nationalist party – if the DUP stick to their current policy, that means there won’t be an executive, period. They have left themselves precious little wriggle-room, particularly for a party that prides itself on its straight talking.

    “they will deal but they are tougher negotiators than the UUP.”

    Tougher in the sense that they are perhaps more sanguine about walking away from the table without a deal. But their real strength is in their childishness and anti-intellectualism. For the DUP, the fires of anti-republican hatred are far more important than unionism’s future. Trimble concluded an imperfect deal because, after a lot of thought, his intellect told him that it was in the long-term interest of his people. Peace, prosperity and stability were more important than RUC uniforms, prison camps and notions of ethnic superiority that had long been superceded by reality anyway.

    In short, he decided that it was time unionism grew up.

    Initially it seemed that unionism might rise to the challenge. The continued existence of the IRA is very substantially to blame for many of the problems we have seen over the last few years.

    But the biggest problem has been the DUP, roaring Iago-like into the ear of unionism, constantly calling for a return to infantilism. The DUP are not prepared to accept peace, prosperity and stability at the price of Protestant ascendancy. In fact, it’s hard to see what price they are prepared to pay.

    They eschew intellectualism, they eschew maturity, they eschew long-term strategy. (They overlook the fact that Northern Ireland’s Protestants are no longer in a position where they can maintain their ascendancy anyway.)

    The DUP tells unionism that it can have it all, without pain. They offer the comfort of noise. `In ignorance is strength’ could be their motto. Fear and loathing of all things Catholic and Irish are their USPs. (Though a good line in spotting traitors and conspiracies is also welcomed.)

    Their coming victory is further evidence that unionism is incapable of accepting nationalists as equals. We see it in the local councils. We saw it for decades when the SDLP were shut out. We see it today with Sinn Fein. If Fianna Fail organised in the north and won a nationalist majority, the refusal would remain.

    Perhaps I will be proved wrong in the coming years, but I doubt it. There won’t be an executive and any movement here will be imposed from without. Unionism will kick and scream all the way.

  • fair_deal

    BP

    Apologies for the brevity in my reply to your serious and substandial post, although some of it is a further expansion of the classic misunderstanding of the DUP and a representation of the Unionist community that is more to do with 1950/60’s Unionism than where it is today.

    Preparation for a deal

    1. Look at the speeches the DUP leadership gave in their conference before the Assembly election 2003. In which they specifically mentioned issues like prisoners and the RUC. 50/50 is not about rbinging back the RUC but ending rel
    2. In the Assembly 2003 they specifically sought a mandate to negotiate and outlined the issues they wanted addressed. Issues that were on the whole a realistic agenda.
    3. At the rallies the DUP organised after Donaldson’s defection speakers told their audiences to be prepared for tough decisions.
    4. Since the Assembly election the DUP put forward two sets of proposals that were broadly seen as positive.
    5. They engaged positively in the talks and in the statements have made it clear they will continue to engage.

  • davidbrew

    Having been in the rooms when the negotiations took place BP, I have a little better insight into what actually motivated the UUP, and frankly I didn’t detect too much intellectual rationalising. I did see confusion, panic not to be blamed, and self interest (Who said “This is my last chance”?).

    Some of your criticisms of Unionism generally though exaggerated, are fair, but it’s the UUP which can be blamed for the childish belief that their would be no pain. Remember all the lies at the time of the referendum? When the No campaign told the people the price we would have to pay, we were sneered at.

    It’s because Ulster Unionism wasn’t prepared for the new political dispensation it created that Unionist voters have turned their backs on Trimbleism. Even Alliance was prepared to be more hard headed in its post-Agreement politics. Trimble- if sincerely committed to the Agreement- had a choice of forming a new centre grouping with Hume/Mallon the weemins coalition, davy Dictionary, and Alliance. He could have broken up his party and started from scratch with the Gimp,Dermot,Ken and other New Irelanders. The UUP would have imploded much sooner, and pro Agreement centrism might have won 2/3 0f the seats in 2001 , and a working majority in 2003Assembly. Bye bye orangeism, so long the movement of Carson and Craig, cheerio most of your grass roots membership -especially in the rurual areas. Hello peerages all round, statues in Helen’s Bay, book deals with Mercier. But all we got was a snivelling denial when everything went wrong- “It’s not my fault, honest”. All predictable, all inevitable, given the leadership Ulster Unionism followed.

    if the DUP deal, they will have to be straight with their voters, or lose the main advantage they currently hold in the minds of Unionist voters-trust.

  • George

    I have to say I think a lot of what Billy Pilgrim says makes sense, especially about DUP unionism not preparing its people for the future (Paisley insulting Ahern last week for example despite the Irish Republic accounting for 25% of NI’s manufacturing exports and his party looking for more business). You don’t abuse your best customer.

    Unionism has to find peace and acceptance with all the people of this island and it has to find it soon. The “Sinn Fein (we ourselves)” attitude prevalent in unionism, namely “don’t interfere in the internal affairs of Northern Ireland” will be its downfall.

    This island is big enough for two tribes existing in mutual harmony and serving each other’s interests but it most certainly isn’t big enough for two tribes, living socially, culturally, politically and economically totally separate from each other.

    One tribe will eventually grind the other one down or assimilate it (50-100 years) and it is easy to see which tribe is being ground down at the moment (assimilation comes later) and unionism as an ideology has not been able and will not be able to stop it.

    Northern Protestantism is shrinking by the year, already down to 16% of the island population despite the cunning plan called partition and in two decades this will be less than 10%.

    Northern Protestants need to find their peace with the rest of the island rather than blindly defending the union regardless of what such a union entails for all this island’s population. I have faith they eventually will, maybe not in my lifetime.

    My own view is that Irish unionism as an ideology died in 1922 when the British took their flag down from what today is called Collins Barracks in Dublin and left, never to return.

    What we see today is the death throes of hundreds of years of British rule on this island – hence the current unionist obsession with declaring oneself to be British.

    It may take a further century for it to recede completely but recede it will.

    The 20th century saw unionists no longer in control of the island, no longer in control of the island’s economy, no longer in control of the island’s people and no longer in control of the island’s wealth. It’s more of the same in the 21st century I’m afraid.

    For me, the border is just a 21st century Pale except this time the wealth and stability is outside it.

  • The Watchman

    Alex may be anti-Trimble but he is locked in a Trimble-ite mindset that has been politically ruinous so far and which still might remove his party altogether from the Commons.

    Trimble’s strategic error was to believe that the IRA could be induced through power or respectability to renounce its revolutionary mindset. On that basis, he bet his party’s future on the IRA winding down and becoming democratic like everyone else. When it became clear that the IRA, whatever other transition it was making, had simply redefined its armalite/ballot box strategy, Trimble first tried to ignore it and then, when Jeffrey kept spoiling his Saturday lie-ins, was pushed into various sanctions which simply exposed his own lack of judgment. The UUP has been undone because of its leader’s wild penchant for risk-taking. If the party is going to have a future, those who inherit the post 5 May debris are going to have to understand why all this has happened.

    Alex is right to say that there are huge challenges ahead for the DUP. But the fact is that a well-led UUP would have made a whole lot more hay out of the last round of talks which the DUP did not handle well. Trimble is the best leader the DUP could have.

    Lastly, there is some poetic justice in all the problems that the UUP is having in Alex’s South Belfast backyard. Alex, if you want to know why your party has a death wish, you only have to see that your Association picked the Gimp when the DUP had promised the UUP an unconditional free run if you had chosen one of the other candidates. On such things seats and, for that matter whole Associations, are lost.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Watchman

    Re South Belfast.

    I can understand why the UUP picked McGimpsey – even aside from the fact that he is by far the most high-profile and electorally-proven unionist in the constituency. Quite simply, it would have been intolerable for the UUP to have had to okay their candidate with the DUP. It’s a tough call, but on balance I reckon they were wise to conclude that it’s better to be in control of their own party and run the risk of losing than to give the DUP a veto on their internal selection process – even if conceding that veto meant certain victory.

    What do you think?

  • George

    Watchman,
    why do you believe that the GFA and Trimble’s support for the GFA was on the basis that the IRA could be induced by power rather than the obvious, which is that an agreed constitutional settlement between orange and green would isolate the IRA and Sinn Fein while shoring up constitutional nationalism and the SDLP?

    He didn’t take risks to share power with SF, he took risks to stop SF’s rise and part of that risk was a willingness to share power with the SDLP in the hope that this party would show constitutional nationalism’s backbone. It didn’t.

  • Dessertspoon

    Whatever else you can say about Trimble and I don’t think there is much left (see above) at least he did try. I heard Seamus Mallon’s rage the other day and I couldn’t help thinking why didn’t he say this before now?? Why didn’t he try harder when he was DFM. It all seems like too little too late. I can’t see much of a future if the DUP and SF do as well as they hope at the election. Even if the IRA do what they should have done YEARS ago and feck off big Ian still won’t deal. Click Here
    No light at the end of this interimable tunnel.

    But I hope I’m wrong. So here’s to the triumph of hope over expectation.

  • barnshee

    “But the reality is that all the drift is in one direction – unification. I would rather have a real debate on the future – a debate among adults”

    The one real drift- both in population movement and -intention is towards a repartition with Israeli style borders and population resettlement
    The protestant is wakening up to the fact that only a separate protestant state will secure their future thus the rise of the DUP -if the DUP fail to deliver they will in turn be repaced in the same way as the OUP has been.

  • barnshee

    “I heard Seamus Mallon’s rage the other day and I couldn’t help thinking why didn’t he say this before now?? Why didn’t he try harder when he was DFM”

    Ha ha ha ha joy joy joy as SF lite aka SDLP are consigned to the dustbin of history Mallon sinmply jumped before he was pushed (out by SF)

  • George

    Barnshee,
    when you say population resettlement I assume you mean forced population resettlement.

    So I know for future reference where would you redraw the border? Would the Irish Republic get Armagh for example. Very important as the Ecclesiastical capital you know and it now has a Catholic majority.

    Which counties of Ulster would be jettisoned this time around and would all Catholics have to be driven out from the remaining ones?

    Would it be a case of grabbing and holding as much as possible and do you expect the British Army to do the ethnic cleansing for you?

    Do you expect the rest of the island to sit idly by while this happens?

    You should read about the ancient Irish Epic the Tain, where the king of Connacht delays and delays fighting the armies of Ulster until two huge forces are gathered.

    Why? Because in Irish history there have never been major conflicts because the tribes involved knew if they fought major battles involving all their forces and lost they would be exterminated from the face of the earth. The two armies didn’t engage.

    If you believe Northern Protestants are going to be the first to break this tradition and win, then I fear it will be Barnshee Protestant and yours on the boat east rather Sean Catholic and his on the road south.

    Also, you do realise you are putting out the exact trotskyist Socialist Worker Movement line on what will happen in Northern Ireland in the middle to long term except they mention it in horror while you seem to be looking forward to it.

    They say that Northern Protestants will never accept unification and will simply boycott any election or referendum they think they’ll lose.

    Hardly democratic but I feel it is possible what they say and you appear to be hoping for.

  • Davros

    You should read about the ancient Irish Epic the Tain, where the king of Connacht delays and delays fighting the armies of Ulster until two huge forces are gathered.

    Why ? It’s a work of fiction. As real as the Chronicles of Narnia. Jeepers, no wonder this place is a mess when people’s politics are based on
    dodgy history and twisted “faction” such as the writings of Leon Uris.

  • George

    Davros,
    sometimes people tell stories to get a message across. Try and use your imagination. Now back to the message in a even more simplified form.

    Do you agree that there has not been a situation on this island where the complete amassed armies of two tribes have faced off against each other where one has been totally destroyed but rather our island’s history is of small to medium skirmishes and low intensity warfare?

    Do you also agree that if Northern Protestants pushed for total war with the rest of the island’s population with the objective of clearing every last Catholic out of Ulster (as Barnshee appears to be hoping for) this would be a first in this island’s history and would result in the annihilation of one of the two sides?

  • George

    Well Barnshee,
    I take by your silence that the population resettlement and partition you advocate would be forced.

    May I remind you that you as a unionist are actively calling for ethnic cleansing, which does not necessarily mean simply killing groups of people, but can include the use of coercive methods for driving people out of a territory.

    Simply killing them would be genocide. Would genocide be your preferred option if possible?

    Any chance you can tell me where you envisage this new border of yours?

  • Davros

    Davros,
    sometimes people tell stories to get a message across.

    That’s called propaganda George.

    Do you accept that The Tain is myth/fiction and that it is wrong to present it as a historical record for political or any other purpose ?

  • Davros

    May I remind you that you as a unionist are actively calling for ethnic cleansing, which does not necessarily mean simply killing groups of people, but can include the use of coercive methods for driving people out of a territory.

    as opposed to “Brits out” ?

  • George

    Davros,
    I like to call them parables myself but maybe my upbringing was different to yours.

    Of course I accept the Tain is a legend and cannot be taken as fact. I suppose you are now going to call me dishonest for not categorically stating that this Epic was not fact. I recommended Barnshee read it so I think he would have figured that out for himself.

    Any chance you could be kind enough to answer the two questions I posed or am I going to have to endure one of your bigger smokescreens to defend Barnshee’s plea for ethnic cleansing as the solution to the “Irish problem”.

    As for “Brits Out” I believe you are being dishonest as you know that relates to the British soldiers rather than the majority population of Northern Ireland.

    Didn’t Gerry Adams say in 1995 tat “the loyalists are Irish” so even he considers unionists part of his tribe.

  • Davros

    The cat’s well and truly out of the bag when you are reduced to quoting Gerry Adams George 😉

    Your two questions are so ridiculous that they don’t merit consideration.

  • George

    Davros,
    I’ll wait on an answer from Barnshee about the ethnic cleansing seeing as you are obviously intent solely on obfuscation.

    Unless of course you want to engage honestly rather than resort to the usual patronising tones.

    As you have no interest in even answering a simple question would you at least condemn Barnshee’s comments about what he calls “repartition” or if you are unable to push yourself that far would you perhaps even distance yourself from them?

  • PCK

    Could you resume the debate prior to the point where Davros interrupted with his infantile comments.

  • Davros

    George – no need to have a tantrum because I pointed out that your beloved tain is as real as the Chronicles of Narnia. I think Barnshee is talking offensive and dangerous nonsense – On a par with your claim that Irish people have a responsibility to maintain the irish language – but that doesn’t give you license to use equally spurious arguments to rebutt his case.

    PCK – it’s hardly infantile to point out that someone is misrepresenting a work of fiction as
    factual in an argument. George should be able to demolish Barnshee’s argument honestly.

  • barnshee

    George
    Recognise reality -the two communities in NI are further apart than ever . The marriage via the GFA has failed –divorce is the logical solution. If the Czechs and the Slovaks can part without the loss of a single life surely the Irish and British can separate in N Ireland??

    Repartition would leave minorities “stranded” on the “wrong” side of any new frontier. Movement would be voluntary though’ given precedent, protestants would be foolish to remain in the new ROI. Since both “sides” would be involved both governments could fund and desired “repartition”

    The protestant view of the republic as a best ambivalent, the notion that the Dublin/Monaghan bombs in the words of Danny Morrison “put manners” on the republic is held and the shocking events ARE regarded by some as a deserved partial payback for the Republics support for the IRA.

    Catholic murder gangs and their SF supporters have criminalized the catholic community in the eyes of the Protestant. (SF support at 50% + = 1 catholic in 2 supports murder of protestants)

    The coming election will underline the degree to which the protestant has moved away from the catholic. Commentators continually make the mistake in assuming that Paisley leads protestant opinion– wrong he merely reflects it-on this occasion he may even be a little behind.

    I do not think you understand the degree to which the catholic community were “drinking in the last chance saloon” with the advent of GFA.
    An opportunity lost

    Reform the boundary commission -begin the process of giving as many people as much as possible of what they want. It is Republican “imperialism” to deny the protestant his wish for separation.

  • George

    Davros,
    I don’t believe using words like tantrum add anything to the debate but instead are merely gratuitous insults. Your comments should stand on their own merit, no need to disparage and abuse me.

    I completely refute your Narnia analogy as a mere attempt at a smokescreen to cover up Barnshee’s comments.

    I believe it is safe to assume Barnshee as a true blue Ulsterman was fully aware that Cuchulann and the Tain were mythical.

  • George

    Barnshee,
    I fully agree that the two communities in NI are further apart than ever at the moment. However, I don’t know if that automatically means the GFA has failed. Maybe it’s a case of both communities knowing the constitutional issue has been parked and now they are both vying for control of the small pie that is NI.

    You can’t compare the Czechs and Slovaks because there was no population resettlements involved, voluntary or otherwise. It was an amicable split.

    Greece and Turkey a century ago would be more accurate and that has hardly led to a final peace.

    You mention voluntary movements but what happens if nobody wants to move? Why should the Irish state indulge and even financially support ethnic cleansing on this island. I know I wouldn’t support such a move.

    I’ll skip over your remark about precedents and Protestants, criminalised Catholic communities and Dublin/Monaghan as we’ll end up nowhere.

    “The coming election will underline the degree to which the protestant has moved away from the catholic.”

    I would say this will underline the degree to which the Northern Protestant has moved away from the Northern Catholic, Southern Catholic, Southern Protestant and Southern Dissenter.

    Northern Protestants have already moved so far away from Southern Protestants that they hardly recognise each other. I get the impression you are unfamiliar with southern Protestantism and Irish Protestantism.

    “Commentators continually make the mistake in assuming that Paisley leads protestant opinion– wrong he merely reflects it-on this occasion he may even be a little behind.”
    You could very well be right but just as Paisley can’t deliver, the Protestant people won’t be able to achieve their goals if they involve total confrontation with the rest of the people on this island.

    “I do not think you understand the degree to which the catholic community were “drinking in the last chance saloon” with the advent of GFA.
    An opportunity lost”

    I take it you mean in the eyes of the northern Protestant community – that they deserved nothing, not even the GFA. This gives the impression it is for the Protestants to decide what the Catholics should and shouldn’t get.

    “Reform the boundary commission”

    Where do you envisage this new border? How big is the Ulster Protestant homeland going to be?

    What support do you envisage receiving from the British if the Irish don’t bite?

    Finally, would you countenance violence to achieve your goals if the Irish and British governments as well as the Irish minority in Northern Ireland said no deal?

    Off now but will check up tomorrow.

  • Davros

    Considering you came out with this

    am I going to have to endure one of your bigger smokescreens to defend Barnshee’s plea

    tantrum was milder than you deserved George. it’s not the first time I have had to pull you up for being dishonest in your debating.

    I completely refute your Narnia analogy

    So now you are back to claiming that the Tain is Factual ? Why not just admit that you were wrong and move on ?

    Best wishes,
    Davros 🙂

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Och Davros, let it go ffs.

    George has a point: I’ve just recently seen Hotel Rwanda (written and directed by a Belfast man) and found it terrifying. It showed the Rwandan genocide more clearly and humanly and horrifyingly than any news report. It became clear how such a thing could happen. (And came after a tantalisingly close peace deal between Hutu and Tutsi slipped away.)

    Barnshee is advocating something similar. Now, frankly I wouldn’t expect any better from Barnshee, and I absolutely reject his implication that his opinions are reflective of significant numbers of Ulster Protestants.

    But Davros – you would do better get stuck in to the invocations of ethnic cleansing (at best) and genocide (at worst) coming from your fellow unionist, rather than arguing over the merits of the Tain as an historical source.

    SO Barnshee: if there were to be a redrawing of the border, where would it be?

    (Incidentally I would point out that I am passionately opposed to even the countenancing of another partition. The first partition was a failure of intellect, courage, decency and maturity. A second repartition would be the same only infinitely moreso.)

    But if there were to be a new border? I’d say the following areas should be ceded to the Republic.

    All points west of the Bann. The constituency of South Down. The southern half of the Ards peninsula. The northern shore of Lough Neagh. A narrow but contiguous strip from the southern shores of Lough Neagh to Belfast, with the west, southwest and northwest of the city coming under Irish sovereignty. Rathlin Island. The northeast coast of Antrim, from Ballycastle to Glenarm. (Not contiguous, I know, but let that be Dublin’s problem.) Belfast city centre to be an international zone.

    North Down and most of Co Antrim, made contiguous through east Belfast could stay in the UK.

    Does this seem a fair repartition to you?

    Good luck with the new state lads.

  • barnshee

    Billy
    “All points west of the Bann. The constituency of South Down. The southern half of the Ards peninsula. The northern shore of Lough Neagh. A narrow but contiguous strip from the southern shores of Lough Neagh to Belfast, with the west, southwest and northwest of the city coming under Irish sovereignty. Rathlin Island. The northeast coast of Antrim, from Ballycastle to Glenarm. (Not contiguous, I know, but let that be Dublin’s problem.) Belfast city centre to be an international zone.”

    A good opening position –what about agreed population movement as well ? Try for natural barriers(rivers etc) . Sound man– a bit of give and take here and there — some population movement and we are there!.

    The ulster prod seeks only that which is his by right– Freedom from catholic republican ireland and her murder gangs of whatever hue.
    Please explain why he is not entitled to the separate state he wishs.

  • Davros

    Billy – I’m a pedant. I want to see Barnshee’s rubbish destroyed. But destroyed with decent arguments rather than misrepresentations.

    I hold no truck with Barnshee’s views, but he is after all, IMO, only an “honest” mirror image of George.

    Rwanda ? Let’s not complicate the issue of religion be starting on THAT one. it’s an open goal for people like Barnshee.

    As an aside though – I have an article that raises unsettling implications for those who feel that we should stress our similarites. “The narcissism of Minor differences”. I’ll e mail you a copy if you like.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Barnshee

    “The ulster prod seeks only that which is his by right– Freedom from catholic republican ireland and her murder gangs of whatever hue.”

    It’s not an either/or proposition. Has it ever occurred to you that the Ulster Prod’s most likely means of achieving political, civil and religious freedom, self-determination and security is by wholeheartedly taking his place as part of an Irish state?

    Conversely, the Ulster Prod has been continually hamstrung by his boycott of the rest of the people with whom he shares this land. I mean, has the Ulster Protestant’s experience since partition been a happy one? Partition has meant pariah-hood, war and brutalisation for the UP.

    Now, I don’t expect you to agree, but just think about it.

  • barnshee

    “Northern Protestants have already moved so far away from Southern Protestants that they hardly recognise each other. I get the impression you are unfamiliar with southern Protestantism and Irish Protestantism.”

    The Southern Prod Some (4% of the ROI at the last count) is an cowed heads down irrelevance of no significance to anyone in Ireland north or south a situation you might say brought about by you state– its a little late to have any consideration for them–they have no clout politically As a descendant on both sides from Cork and Ballina prods their experiences are well known to me.

    “I take it you mean in the eyes of the northern Protestant community – that they deserved nothing, not even the GFA. This gives the impression it is for the Protestants to decide what the Catholics should and shouldn’t get”

    The GFA created a brief window of opportunity and an enormously positive momentum for a move to peace -( my own family were divided near enough 50/50 pro and anti GFA )The opportunity lost has “proved” the anti GFA faction right. There is no security for the prod alongside the catholic (and vice versa?) Let us separate in a divorce as amicably a possible

    “Where do you envisage this new border? How big is the Ulster Protestant homeland going to be?

    What support do you envisage receiving from the British if the Irish don’t bite?

    Finally, would you countenance violence to achieve your goals if the Irish and British governments as well as the Irish minority in Northern Ireland said no deal”

    The repartion already exists in on two levels

    1 where it matters most -in the hearts and minds

    2 De Facto– Gregory Campbell will run away with East Londonderry -why- 17,00 prods driven out of Derry since 1868 -many settling in E Londonderry carrying their bitterness with them. The inevitable “balkanisation” NI will continue to drive the rival communities apart– recognise reality -divorce with dignity now.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Davros

    Ah, I was talking about the film. I don’t think we’ll ever see anything like that here, Buiochas le Dia, but only because so few people give credence to talk of repartition. If, God forbid, substantial numbers of people started thinking it might be a good idea, then it might actually find itself on the agenda. If that happened, massive-scale bloodshed couldn’t be ruled out. But I think we are a long, long way from that, and there are a helluva lot of variables between now and then, thank God.

    I found this part of the film fascinating: did you know there actually is absolutely no cultural, ethnic, religious or national difference between Hutus and Tutsis? The division was an entirely arbitrary one, created by the Belgians as a means of establishing a colonial ruling class. There isn’t even any such thing as a Hutu or a Tutsi – but a million people died because enough people THOUGHT there was.

    Now, I don’t mean to be alarmist, and I think that the chances of anything like that happening here are extremely remote, but I don’t think it’s a coincidence that a filmmaker from Norn Iron felt drawn to the theme.

  • Davros

    did you know there actually is absolutely no cultural, ethnic, religious or national difference between Hutus and Tutsis?

    That’s not quite correct Billy, depending on how one defines culture and ethnicity. And the scary thing is that it was the erosion of the differences between the two groups that helped lead to the slaughter.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Davros.

    Point taken. I should have said that at the time the Belgians created the Hutu and Tutsi casts, there was no cultural or ethnic difference between Hutus and Tutsis. They chose the taller, lighter-skinned, better-looking Rwandans, called them Tutsis and gave them the keys.

    I suppose over the course of a century of privilege, the socio-economic cultures of the castes diverged, and a century of intermarriage would have created a travesty of ethnic difference.

    God, you’re such a pedant! It would kill you to preface a post with “I know what you mean, but…”.

  • Davros

    Even then Billy, there were two groups, one settled and one nomadic. It’s a Cain and Abel tale.

    God, you’re such a pedant!

    It’s the jesuit in me 🙂

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Ah but, as Philip Gourevitch writes:

    “Because of all this mixing, ethnographers and historians have lately come to agree that Hutus and Tutsis cannot properly be called distinct ethnic groups.”

    “The next time you hear a story reporting on ‘the age-old animosity between the Tutsi and Hutu ethnic groups,’ remember that until 1959 there had never been systematic political violence recorded between Hutus and Tutsis – anywhere”.

    (God bless Google.)

  • Davros

    On the other hand from European Journal of Social Theory 1(1): 33—56,

    “It would be incorrect to argue on the basis of this increasing mixture and overlapping of Tutsi and Hutu that the categories ‘Tutsi’ and ‘Hutu’ are not indigenous concepts, but categories ‘invented’ by the former (Belgian) colonial authorities and imposed on the Rwandese population. Prunier observes:

    Just as the ‘different race hypothesis’ has caused much crankish writing during the past hundred years, some modern authors have gone to great length in the other direction to try to refute this theory and to prove that Tutsi and Hutu belonged to the same basic racial stock . . . Sober critics pointed out that this ‘anti-racist’ interpretation ended up being exceedingly racist. (1995: 16—17n.)”

  • Billy Pilgrim

    What do you say we park this one? I’m no expert on Rwanda and am prepared to admit I can take this one no further. Interesting stuff though.

  • Davros

    Sure Billy, it’s close to siesta time anyway and after a huge sausage soda I’m getting drowsy. Would you like me to e amil you a copy of the article ? It is fascinating and looks at quite a few other problems as well as Rwanda.

  • George

    Barnshee,
    Could you tell me where you envisage this new border being drawn? You are for repartition so you must have an idea in your head where this new border would go.

    “The Southern Prod Some (4% of the ROI at the last count) is an cowed heads down irrelevance of no significance to anyone in Ireland north or south a situation you might say brought about by you state– its a little late to have any consideration for them–they have no clout politically As a descendant on both sides from Cork and Ballina prods their experiences are well known to me.”

    As I said you don’t know much about southern Protestantism. There are no cowed heads unless you consider Protestants controlling 60% of the Republic’s wealth in 1960 cowed. I’d call it cushioned myself. Protestants are a real catch for your average southern transubstantiater.

    You mention the idea of divorce because the GFA failed. Who gets what and who pays for the process? I’d love to know where you see this new border and who you think will pay for all this.

    Northern protestants are no longer in control of the island economy, they make up just 16% of the island population and with current population trends will be less than 10% in 20 years time.

    You mention the Protestant experience in the City of Derry, which last time I looked was in Northern Ireland, proof if proof was needed that partition hasn’t worked for Protestants.

    The only part of the island where Protestantism is growing is south of the border. Irish Unionism is dead here but Irish Protestantism is alive and well.

    Also, why don’t you mention the drop of 50,000 to 24,000 in the number of working class Protestants in Belfast’s Shankill area.

    These people have been treated with contempt by generations of unionists and are up there as the most shat on of anyone in Northern Ireland.

    Seeing as nobody gives a toss about these people and they are considered mere Protestant detritus, come Ireland’s armageddon, could an exception be made so they could be resettled down south too because they deserve a break.