Can New Sinn Féin deliver Irish unity?

Paul Doyle, writing in the left Republican Forum Magazine offers a critique of Sinn Féin’s Green Paper for Irish Unity. Apart from its lack of specific economic data, he’s most critical of the strategic use of the Belfast Agreement to bring about political unity of the island as it militates against any viable way to unifying Catholic and Protestant opinion behind that particular option.

By Paul Doyle

The provisional movement has consistently argued that Irish unification can come about within the context of the Belfast Agreement, despite the unionist veto. In its discussion document, A Green Paper on Irish Unity, the New Sinn Féin leadership sets out the various means through which unionist voters can supposedly be talked round into voting themselves out of the union.

One of the central arguments put forward by the New Sinn Féin leadership in its Green Paper is the idea that “a unified, all-Ireland economy holds out substantial potential for sustainable economic growth across the island through the development and coordination of economic planning on an all-Ireland basis”. It argues that the prospect of this economic growth will prompt unionists to look favourably on unification. There are two problems with this.

Firstly, the Green Paper provides no facts or figures. It assumes the dissolution of the border will make economic sense without any econometric or economic data to corroborate this assertion. It totally
ignores the fact that the North drains the British exchequer to the tune of four billion pound sterling per annum – and that’s without a security bill for containing the inevitable disgruntled rump that will emerge from within unionism in the event of unification.

Secondly, the economic argument assumes that unionists can be bought, but there is nothing to suggest that the prospect of economic prosperity will be enough to convince hundreds of thousands of unionists to vote themselves out of the union. Unionism’s attachment to Britain isn’t something that can be bought-off with healthy GNP figures.

The paper also makes the assumption that the ending of the conflict will bring about a softening of attitudes towards the idea of unification among the unionist people. So can this happen? Well, the paper goes on to sum-up the extent to which this has happened so far: “We are almost 12 years on from the public emergence of the Irish Peace Process in the first joint statement by Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams and the then SDLP leader, John Hume, in April 1993. However, the only strand of that process still existing at this time is the IRA cessation of military activities. There is no political process, no dialogue, no negotiation.”

Far from having a moderating effect on unionism, the peace process and the Belfast Agreement are causing unionist opinion to radicalise. The destruction of middle-ground parties such as the Alliance Party and the Women’s Coalition, the near-annihilation of moderate unionist parties, and most obviously the meteoric rise of the DUP, have made this fact painfully clear.

Next, the paper argues that unionism can be convinced that their political aspirations can be catered for in a united Ireland. But this too ignores a crucial fact – the national or political aspirations of the nationalist and unionist communities within Ireland are mutually exclusive in that there cannot be an independent united Ireland while the union with Britain is in place. It is a fundamental fallacy to suggest that there is the prospect of a political solution in which the views of both communities can happily
co-exist. The mutually exclusive nature of the political aspirations of unionists and nationalists means that only one can ever be satisfied at any one time.

The paper also ignores the practical difficulties inherent in the outworking of a political settlement which has an acceptance of the unionist veto as its central tenet. For example, the paper argues: “The Good Friday Agreement created the all-Ireland Ministerial Council and set out areas for all-Ireland development where ministers, North and South, would work in co-operation in education, health, environment, agriculture, transport and tourism”.

It also set up “implementation bodies” with executive functions to implement all-Ireland policies on aspects of Language, Inter-trade, Food Safety, Ireland’s Waterways and Tourism. In each of these areas, progress and programmes of work are being advanced through the implementation bodies.

The issue here is that the DUP with the backing of the unionist electorate are demanding that the North’s relationship with the South be subject to Assembly approval and this, in practice, means it will be subject to unionist and DUP approval. The DUP will then use this control over the North/South relationship to stifle the development of any emerging North/South dynamic.

Next, the paper argues that cross-border cooperation will persuade unionists that unification is in their interests. This is far from a self-evident fact. If cross-border cooperation proves advantageous, surely it is just as likely to convince people living in the North that partition is proving workable as it is to persuade people of the value of dissolving the border?

On a first reading the provisional movement’s A Green Paper on Irish Unity, with its preamble from Gerry Adams stating, “I hope that unionists will be prepared to take part in such a process and put forward their vision for the future and to consider, discuss and engage with the rest of the Irish people about the nature and form a new Ireland will take,” seems blindly optimistic and rather naive.

How could anyone with any knowledge or experience of unionism come to the conclusion that they would be willing to enter negotiations on a British withdrawal while they hold their veto? But a closer examination of the document reveals its true nature. A Green Paper on Irish Unity, much like New Sinn Féin’s latest strategy, is a capitulation dressed up in vagaries and ambiguities presented as a viable strategy. The Green Paper looks at how to achieve a united Ireland in the context of the Belfast Agreement and fundamentally, this is where it falls down.

Only when the Belfast Agreement is removed, along with the unionist veto it is built on, will republican ideals be realised. While unionism gets to decide, there will never, never, never be a united Ireland.

First published in Forum Magazine

  • Young Irelander

    “Next, the paper argues that unionism can be convinced that their political aspirations can be catered for in a united Ireland. But this too ignores a crucial fact – the national or political aspirations of the nationalist and unionist communities within Ireland are mutually exclusive in that there cannot be an independent united Ireland while the union with Britain is in place.”

    I don’t rate Sinn Fein’s Green Paper either but I think Mr Doyle’s comments above are too simplistic. Michael Collins and others like him regarded themselves as Republicans but ended up accepting a Treaty which did not give them a Republic…

  • Young Irelander

    “Next, the paper argues that unionism can be convinced that their political aspirations can be catered for in a united Ireland. But this too ignores a crucial fact – the national or political aspirations of the nationalist and unionist communities within Ireland are mutually exclusive in that there cannot be an independent united Ireland while the union with Britain is in place.”

    I don’t rate Sinn Fein’s Green Paper either but I think Mr Doyle’s comments above are too simplistic. Michael Collins and others like him regarded themselves as Republicans but ended up accepting a Treaty which did not give them a Republic…

  • Young Irelander

    “Next, the paper argues that unionism can be convinced that their political aspirations can be catered for in a united Ireland. But this too ignores a crucial fact – the national or political aspirations of the nationalist and unionist communities within Ireland are mutually exclusive in that there cannot be an independent united Ireland while the union with Britain is in place.”

    I don’t rate Sinn Fein’s Green Paper either but I think Mr Doyle’s comments above are too simplistic. Michael Collins and others like him regarded themselves as Republicans but ended up accepting a Treaty which did not give them a Republic…

  • fair_deal

    Agree it was oversimplistic.

    I read the Green paper twice and there was barely a skeleton in the document never mind any meat. It read simply as a rather badly written PR document trying to show up others for not producing something on the issue.

    I suppose it had some effect in that it guilted the SDLP into producing one even if it was just as poor.

  • Henry94

    Only when the Belfast Agreement is removed, along with the unionist veto it is built on, will republican ideals be realised.

    So we will never rconvince the unionists but we should concentrate on convincing the British to sell them out. He’s a bit coy about we would convince the British.

    Can anyone find a single constructive sentence in the entire article.

  • Ringo

    Michael Collins and others like him regarded themselves as Republicans but ended up accepting a Treaty which did not give them a Republic…

    If you are drawing parallels between Collins settling for less than a Republic and the possibility of Unionists settling for less than the Union, it must be remembered that it is a lot easier to get to where you want to be when you are already there, than when you have to make a journey.

  • Jimmy_Sands

    Henry is right. The principle of consent has been British policy throughout. Decades of terrorism could not shift them. The article blithely assumes that nevertheless they could still be talked (and this may be a charitable interpretation) out of it.

  • Alan

    There is a vast lacuna here that has to be filled by the RM and other nationalists. That lacuna is the shape of a new project to encourage people who are unionists to reconsider their position and then change their minds over the union.

    I have seen no engagement in the practicalities of this project, no objectives, no detailed tasks as to how to even approach the subject. Instead, the issue is presented as how to remove the unionist veto, or how to get others to abandon unionists. What a foolish, fond old con that is.

    They are saying, “we can do nothing, others have to move.” They are celebrating their own inadequacy, lauding their own failure to put thought to the plough, do the work and come up with a policy.

    What coherance can a policy have if it doesn’t face up to the problem it purports to solve?

  • Levitas

    Well not much changed here then- at least the document was produced and it stimulated some debate, it was after all a discussion document. By the way this blog is getting very very predictable, please can I have another red card? ha ha

  • JOHN DOHENY

    What is the argument that the removal of a border will NOT result in a reduction is economic inefficiency? If this was the case then the whole rationale for the INTERREG project within the European Union would be undermined.

    In the past unionism has characterised the Free State as some type of banana republic, unfortunately for them the state’s per capita GDP now exceeds that of Britain.

    This reality is difficult for those who wished that the country would become bankrupted.

    In the face of the economic strength of the South they have now tuened to a new argument that even if the South could afford the North it would not want it.

    Maybe they should test this argument by having an all Ireland referendum on Irish Unity. We could then put their thesis to a real test.

    As in all of this they move the goalposts when the reality hits them.

  • CavanMan

    Can Sinn Fein deliver irish unity?
    In my opinion not a chance, they will always be perceived as terrorists by the unionist community,the SDLP seem the only party likely to persuade members of the unionist community into voting for irish unity.Sinn Fein are a barrier to Irish Unity in my honest opinion, until they disassociate themselves with the IRA.

  • Cahal

    I think we will eventually reach the situation where there is greater then 50% catholic polulation in the North. This will probably coincide with a greater than 50% share of the vote for the SDLP (who will undoubtably be FF by then) and SF.

    HOWEVER I think there will STILL be less than 50% in favor of a united Ireland. A strange situation but none the less very likely IMO. Wouldn’t a lot of (Malone Road type) Catholics be quite comfortable in a (greener) NI where they were the majority? Especially since Catholics are slowly becoming more affluent in all parts of northern society, possibly due to the emphasis on education.

    Just a thought.

  • aquifer

    So its back to the guns then?
    The military defeat of Unionism beckons. not.

    It will be interesting to see what Peter Hain makes of the Unionist and IRA joint ‘vetoes’.

    Could be do a James Bond ‘always call their bluff’

  • Harris

    Henry94

    “So we will never convince the unionists but we should concentrate on convincing the British to sell them out. He’s a bit coy about how we would convince the British.”

    As long as I’ve seen your posts, Henry, You’ve never actually stated what you would consider to be the proper way of convincing anyone. You don’t believe that convincing the Brits is the way to go, and you have never stated how you think unionists should be convinced.

    Are you of the opinion, that the eventual 50+% and the increased nationalist vote will do the trick?

  • Henry94

    Harris

    I actually have a problem with the whole reasoning behind the question. It’s like the people who favour democratic and peaceful means are being asked for assurances that the outcome will be a united Ireland. And the people who are asking reserve the right to opt for violence if they are not happy with the assurances.

    The two points I’d make is that the very nature of democracy is that there are no assured outcomes and secondly that there is no assurace whatsoever that a strategy of violence will produce anything other than misery.

    Some unionists and some republicans appear to believe that republicans should be looking for a few clincher points that will close the sale on unity.

    It’s not like that at all in my view. I think we should simply let nature take its course. For example last week we saw again the prospect of an all-Ireland electricity market. that makes sense and it should happen. There are many other areas where an all-Ireland approach makes sense. Let them happen organicly through the outworking of the agreement and the natural development of business.

    Let the institutions function and let peace reign. I would trust generation raised in that atmosphere to make a wise choice on mere constitutional issues.

    I do believe that peace will undermine and divide unionism not because of anything we do but because of the nature of unionism/orangeism itself. But that’s their problem.

    Our problem is walking away decisively from the idea of armed struggle. It will be the making of us.

  • TAFKABO

    “I do believe that peace will undermine and divide unionism not because of anything we do but because of the nature of unionism/orangeism itself. But that’s their problem.”

    Henry.
    from my perspective, the above paragraph, like Bobby Sands oft quoted phrase “our revenge will be the laughter of our children” betrays the inherrant sickness within the republican mindset, namely, te simple inability to let things go.Always at the back of everything is the need to see Unionism destroy itself.never once any kind of aknowledgement that the future might concievably be a happy place for unionists, after all, how could your kids laugh, knowing that unionists were happy, eh?.

    Once you give up the armed struggle, you may then realise that you still have to get rid of certain begrudging mindsets.

    I’m a unionist, bit I see absolutely no threat in the idea of the border disolving away, as we make practical changes to operate certain things on an all island basis.
    Couldn’t you just be happy with things, rather than trying to find some angle to convince yourself that unionists are always in the process of destroying themselves?

  • Henry94

    TAFKABO

    Bobby Sands was talking about the happiness of all the people of the island. His inspiring phrase was a visionary looking up from his own, and our, immediate struggle to a time when our political problems were over and our children were happy free and playing in peace.

    That you could interpret it as meaning our children would be laughing at your children has made me laugh this morning.

    It is an honour to be misinterpreted in such company because you have missed my point too.

    Believing that unionism will be divided by peace is a political analysis. It was the leader of Unionism at the time who saw the ceasefire as the greatest threat. Unionism unites against the IRA. Take away the IRA then unionism will be free to express itself and its differences.

    never once any kind of acknowledgement that the future might conceivably be a happy place for unionists

    The Buddha teaches, “Life is suffering and all suffering comes from attachment”. Unionism and nationalism are both political attachments and therefore work against human happiness. Those who cling to an attachment will never be happy but those who can abandon their attachment shall be enlightened.

    You are on your way.

    I’m a unionist, bit I see absolutely no threat in the idea of the border dissolving away, as we make practical changes to operate certain things on an all island basis.

    I admire that wise statement. Nationalists should also be wise enough to judge each change on its merits and not see everything in the context of the constitutional question. Because there are some things better done on a British Irish basis too. And some things better done at a European level. We should be relaxed about all of it.

    Nationalism and unionism grew out of political and economic circumstances at a time in history. Their emotional hold over us is not healthy and we should not let them influence us as much as they do.

  • Aaron D

    “Unionists” can be happy whether “unionism” is destroyed or not. If the position of being a unionist becomes irrelevant and no one takes that position anymore then I’m sure the people that were formerly unionists can be happy with whatever they’re doing (as if their happiness were tied to unionism somehow). Being a Unionist doesn’t define you as a person.. its not an ethnicity, its not a religion, its a position on an issue and positions can be changed, just ask those here who would like Unionists to be convinced otherwise, they seem to hold the theory that its just simply a position. And if this is true, then when some one says they wish Unionism to go away, I don’t think they mean the people who espouse the position, just the espousing of the position in general. We don’t need to take it as an affront to a whole community. The community will still exist, your children will still play in the streets, the sun will still shine.

    But I think that the idea of convincing Unionists is a challenging one. The author seems to think that there is much more to going about convincing Unionists of joining the Republic than mere assurances of general prosperity, life, liberty, etc. The only real argument against joining the Republic I could see for Unionists without assuming that they are content with dominating their little statelet is a matter of loss of patriotism for the UK. Could some one shed some light on my ignorance?

  • DK

    The term “Unionist” is inappropriate in the SF article and many of the comments. There is no logic to it’s use in the context of a “United Ireland” Be honest and replace it with “Protestant”.

    As a “Protestant” and current “Unionist”, I can confirm that I, and many others, are open to persuasion to drop the latter term. That has always been the case. The potential has been supressed by the actions of SF/IRA and to a lesser extent the anti British/Northern Protestant, sentiments inherent within the ROI.

    SF/IRA have spent a lifetime killing, bombing and demonising the section of the Irish people that I come from. (For now they appear to have suspended the first two activities.) I do not therefore feel motivated to consider any request that could be portrayed as justifying their particular concept of persuasion. It would be a betrayal of their victims to do so.

    If Nationalists want to persuade Protestant Unionists to become Protestant Nationalists, I strongly suggest that they vote for people like Mark Durken in the North and Michael McDowell in the South. They at least demonstrate a willingness to defend a moral code, required to underpin a healthy society capable of attracting the full spectrum of communities on this island.

    I doubt that the penny will drop for a couple of generations and certainly not before the likes of Adam’s and co have left the stage.

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    ”Sinn Fein are a barrier to Irish Unity in my honest opinion, until they disassociate themselves with the IRA.”

    Once they do so, they will simply become a party of Marxist whingers, regarded as an embaressment by everyone outside their hard-core supporters. Their vote is already peaking in the north and may not have far to go in the south. Would breaking the link with the IRA improve this position or merely render them an irrelevancy?

  • Blackadder

    “I think we will eventually reach the situation where there is greater then 50% catholic polulation in the North. This will probably coincide with a greater than 50% share of the vote for the SDLP (who will undoubtably be FF by then) and SF.”

    I think this situation will probably occur sooner than anyone thinks, certainly the first part. The next census may have startling figures for the Unionist community.

    I also agree though that there is a growing Catholic population who are happy with the status quo, and it depends on SF’s ability to win them over that will decide on whether there will be a majority favouring a UI. People are generally against change, and unless there is a huge case for ending the union, it could be a long time waiting for a UI.

  • Henry94

    DK

    Nationalists in the north voted for the SDLP and power-sharing in 1973 only to have unionists bring it down so we see suggestions that we’re voting for the wrong party as a bit of a try on.

    But I can fully accept that Sinn Fein trying to persuade unionists may at this stage as counter productive as Michael Jackson giving you a list of reasons why he should drive the school bus.

    I think that when the institutions are up and running there needs to be a constructive debate within each community about how our vision includes the other community.

    I think unionists need to think about the role of the orange order and the marching season for example if they want this state to be really inclusive.

  • DK

    I thought we were talking about “Protestants” being persuaded to enter a United Ireland, not power sharing in NI. In reference to 1973, you may or may not remember that SF/IRA were at the height of their killing spree then. Supports my view that any compromise let alone a total jettisoning by “protestants” of their political beliefs has not been encouraged by SF/IRA.

    I am not trying anything on. I am just telling you how it is. Once nationalist feeling is consistent with attitudes expressed by Durken and McDowell then I am happy to explore opportunities for a unified island. Whilst SF/IRA reflect nationalist feeling then don’t bother calling.

    With regards to the Orange order and similar institutions, I would always urge them to concentrate on their faith, (preferably inside a church), and stay out of politics plus areas where they are not wanted.

    The reference to making NI an inclusive state is irrelevant as the discussion is about NI no longer existing as a state.

  • JD

    At last, some rational discussion on the merits or otherwise of re-unification, and some positive suggestions on how to take the debate forward.

  • Cianoc

    Claire O’Halloran’s ‘Partition and the Limits of Irish Nationalism’ exposes the reductionist economic arguement, the assumption that unionists are only motivated by profit and financial self-interest, which ignores emotional and historical factors underpinning unionism. At any rate the failure of the independent financial sector here and Soviet-style dependence on the British exchequer is locking them into the union even further.

  • beano; EverythingUlster.com

    That last comment made me think some…

    Is Sinn Fein’s socialism (ie dependence on the state sector) actually inhibiting their dream of a united Ireland by tying them too closely to the British exchequer??

  • Betty Boo

    If the term “Unionist” will not be used anymore in the future and hopefully all the viable and unviable reasons for the siege mentality are gone, then this could mean that the term “Republican” will be one of history too, when the status of the oppressed fighting for equality is no longer valid.

  • oul dub

    What makes any of you think that a majority of people in the south would want to have a united ireland?
    We’ve spent the last 30 years busily ignoring the north and you’ve by and large left us alone.
    Now that we’re rich, and we wont even give 0.7% of our GNP to the developing world, what makes you think we’ll underwrite the north in the way the London government do?
    This whole discussion is a nonsense designed to put the wind up unionists. A united ireland (politically) isn’t going to happen simply because unionists don’t want it and southerners won’t pay for it.

  • Ringo

    Sinn Fein’s socialism

    Sinn Feins socialism is as dispensible as Fianna Fail’s republicanism – I can’t see them letting it cramp their style.

  • AugustusGloop

    ” think we will eventually reach the situation where there is greater then 50% catholic polulation in the North”

    nationalists have been saying that for decades but the reality is the whole “We’ll outbreed you” argument is no longer relevent as birth rates have slowed, the old stereotypes where all catholics have large numbers of children simply doesn’t happen anymore.

    As Trevor Ringland points out, yous need tp start finding ways other than terrorism of convincing us (the unionist community) that a United Ireland is in our best interests, while you’re at it, you might also like to persuade people in the republic of Ireland that a United Ireland is a good idea, alot of them are highly sceptical about it too.

  • John Joe

    From the South. When a united Ireland is declared i will be so happy. So Oul Dub some people will be delighted.
    No orange parades in my area though.

  • Doreen

    Oul Dub,

    Very well said!

  • JD

    “A united ireland (politically) isn’t going to happen simply because unionists don’t want it and southerners won’t pay for it.”

    Oul Dub

    This argument that everyone in the six counties can only survive if one or other of the two governments has to subsidise there every move, is flawed. The people of the six counties pay taxes, at this present period in time to the British Exchequer, this money is returned to the people of the north via the Barnet Formula by the British Government. We have no real way of assessing if we recieve all this money back.

    However in a re-unified Ireland those taxes would be paid to the Irish Finance Ministry therefore we do not expect the rest the Irish people to pay for our existance, we will do that ourselves.

    Despite this however the re-unification of any country is bound to need alot of resources to ease the process. I am confident, as with the reunification of Germany for example, the European Union and the United Nations could help financially as part of smooth and peaceful process of nation building.

  • Keith M

    JD “The people of the six counties pay taxes, at this present period in time to the British Exchequer, this money is returned to the people of the north via the Barnet Formula by the British Government.”

    Can I suggest you do a little research? There is information widely available on the NET payments that the UK government channels into Northern Ireland. As it happens, there is nothing unusual in this as Wales also gets regional funding. Scotland is harder to call as oil revenue goes straight to the exchequer. If was was to go to Scotland, they would not need transfers from central funding.

    “However in a re-unified Ireland those taxes would be paid to the Irish Finance Ministry therefore we do not expect the rest the Irish people to pay for our existance, we will do that ourselves.”

    When you look at the net transfer to Northern Ireland and then look at the much smaller (about one tenth the size) of the Irish economy, you realise that the circle cannot be squared without either (1) a massive drop in the money being transferred into N.I. (2) a huge increase in tax rates.

    “I am confident, as with the reunification of Germany for example”.

    Here’s the rub. Germany was being re-united (albeit not to its previous borders). It had previously worked as a single independent state and almost everyone in both the FRG and DDR wanted re-unification. Ireland has never been united, so the word “re-unification” (outside of rejoining the UK) is inappropriate. There is obviously little desire in N.I. and (given the economic cost) probably just as little desire in the Republic for unity.

    West Germany was a massivly successful economy before re-unification. Over a decade later, it is STILL paying the price. If anything can be learnt from the German experience, it is to leave well enough alone on this island.

  • Betty Boo

    Just because Ireland hasn’t been a sovereign entity for so long, doesn’t mean it never was.
    In post unification Germany both sides are still paying, a solidarity tax for the West and higher prices for the East.
    “If anything can be learnt from the German experience,”
    1.Don’t lie about the costs of such an enterprise
    2.Don’t push it through in a hurry for the glory of outgoing or any other politicians (laws were broken in Germany just to get it through quick enough)
    3.Don’t leave it to those with the economical and therefore political power because they don’t care about ethnic, moral or laws. That can be changed accordingly

  • DavidH

    John Doheny: What is the argument that the removal of a border will NOT result in a reduction is economic inefficiency? If this was the case then the whole rationale for the INTERREG project within the European Union would be undermined.

    Somehow I suspect you aren’t really suggesting the removal of the border, but instead, shifting it 100 miles North East. So we in Northern Ireland will replace a border cutting us off from 4,000,000 southerners with one cutting us off from 60,000,000 Brits. And what does the INTERREG project say about THAT?

    By the way – what about *really* removing the border? Would that not result in a “reduction in economic inefficiency”?

  • Billy Pilgrim

    It’s certainly true that NI runs up a massive deficit every year – someone has put the figure at £4 billion but I remember Mo Mowlam when she was SoS putting the figure at twice that. However this old argument about NI being too expensive for the Republic to countenance reunification is wilfully simplistic. It’s based on the assumption that Ireland’s six northeastern counties are a colonial possession and that reunification would be nothing more than a changing of imperial master. I accept that a lot of unionists see it that way too – `No Dublin Rule’ is quite clearly the rallying cry of a colonial mindset. Keith M and others are happy to accept this logic and embrace the continued cleaving of the country and unionism for the north because it flatters their intellectual vanity to take up a position so at odds with the instincts of most Irish people.

    But as I said, you have to make a whole raft of highly questionable assumptions before you get to that point.

    We know that the north racks up an unconscionable bill for the British Treasury every year. Unionists in the north and partitionists in the south assume that this must always be the case, that the north is uniquely incapable of wealth creation. This asssumption is false. The north is ther economic basket case it is BECAUSE of partition and the union. Partition has created an unworkable little enclave that has never and will never turn a buck as it is cut off from its natural hinterland. (Someone made the point earlier about being cut off from 60 million people in Britain – sorry, but it’s the Irish Sea that does that, and there’s damn little to be done about it. Political union with Britain has not helped the emergence of economic dynamism in Ireland’s alamo and it never will. Only the opening of the gates will do that.

    By clinging to the union and elevating the sustenance of that pre-ordained political outcome to the at-all-costs priority the economy here has stagnated. For political reasons the British government has propped the place up with an obscenely bloated security aparatus, with all its ancillary spin-offs, and a totalitarian civil service. It’s the classical economic structure of a failing colony. There’s a reason why we have not seen the development of an entrepreneurial culture here comparable to any of the free-market economies. (For example, the one south of Jonesboro.)

    Or in short, here’s why the argument about whether RoI can “afford” the north is flawed: currently Britain has to pay for the upkeep of a failing colony. Reunification would mean the ending of that colonial status and the re-integration of these six counties into their natural economic context. It’s the unnatural separation from the natural hinterland that costs all those billions. End that and, after say a decade of economic normalisation, natch (to be assisted in diminishing contributions by the departing British exchequer).

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Oops, should have said:

    “End that and, after say a decade of economic normalisation, natch (to be assisted in diminishing contributions by the departing British exchequer) the north has the potential to be one of Ireland’s most dynamic centres of wealth creation.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Question is though, how can those of us who are of Ireland and for Ireland persuade our Protestant brothers and sisters in the northeast that forging a new nation together and relying on each other on this island is the way to go?

    (It was an important point made earlier that we shouldn’t talk in terms of unionists. It’s important to remember that we are talking about Irish people, most of whom are Protestants who mostly live in the northeast of Ulster. We have to start thinking in terms of all the people of Ireland as a nation, albeit a divided one. We have to identify our goal as the ending of that division between the people who live here.)

    How do we do that? Certainly economic considerations are a substantial part of the argument. The economic coming-of-age south of the border has done more to hasten reunification than probably anything else. The other great advance in recent years has been the spectacular collapse of the power of the church. These have been important developments, and these days it’s probably fair to say that the old Ulster Protestant fear of Dublin has been greatly eroded.

    But neither a strong economy and secular society are the magic bullet. Reunification will require a new and convincing national narrative. Nationalists need to stop making the argument that Protestants belong to the Irish nation but are in denial. We need instead to talk about a potential nation on this island and we need to convince Ulster’s Protestants that they are absolutely essential to that nation. That they are the Yin without which the Yang is incomplete.

    We also need to start making the argument that whatever about the merits or otherwise of unionism in the past, Ulster’s Protestants are poorly served by unionism in the present and will continue to be in the future. We need to accept that in the past Ulster’s Protestants saw union with Britain as being in their best interests and that a deep emotional attachment exists there. Therefore we need to develop arguments that uncouple that emotional attachment from their political attachment.

    How? Not easy. We need to develop a convincing narrative in which it’s possible to be British as well as Irish, and have an affinity with Britain and British institutions, yet still accept the sheer logic of the people of this island making the decisions that affect this island. It has to be framed in those terms. We need to come up with empirical evidence that, for example, Co Antrim farmers would be better served by 18-odd TDs out of less than 200 than by four MPs out of nearly 700.

    We need also to develop the argument that this island – all of it – is hurt by any part of it being governed from overseas. We have to be careful – it can’t be a bash-the-Brits exercise. We have to argue that it’s no-one’s fault, it’s inherent in the situation. With the best will and intentions in the world, no parliament outside of Ireland will ever be equipped to govern Ireland or any part of it in the best interests of people here – that’s what we need to say. Not that partition and the union are evil, just that they’re not the best choice for us.

    I think the logic behind reunification is overwhelming, but the reality is that pro-unity Ireland has never come up with a convincing narrative. The only time pro-independence Ireland ever produced a compelling narrative was when the United Irishmen talked about `Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter’. And they were mostly Protestants – radical Co Antrim Presbyterians at that!

    When we have our story straight then we’ll have to prepare ourselves for the fact that we’ll have to keep repeating it for a generation or two, but there you have it. Reunification WILL happen but it will be preceded by a long, long debate. To successfully argue for reunification we’ll have to have a coherent and compelling story to tell. That’s the challenge.

    (Incidentally Keith, it’s absolutely accurate to talk about reunification. Ireland was a single political entity until it was partitioned in 1921. It doesn’t matter whether it was sovereign or not. Where once there was no division, now there is one. To bring down that wall would be to reunify. All else is just detail.)

  • Alan McDonald

    To get back to the piece at the head of this thread, Paul Doyle says:
    The mutually exclusive nature of the political aspirations of unionists and nationalists means that only one can ever be satisfied at any one time.

    As an American, I find this zero-sum, contitutional, sovereignty problem to be both useless and insoluble. I am tempted to say a pox on both your houses and to remind you that you can’t eat a flag. But I agree that it is better to debate these issues with a blog on the Internet rather than with bullets in the street.

  • TAFKABO

    It’s only a zero sum game when viewed from our present perspective.

    New realities will come into play once violence, or the threat of violence have been removed from the equation.
    The truth is that nobody knows what and how we will all be thinking in the new paradigm.It is perfectly concievable that present day concepts, such as unionism and republicanism will fade away as fresh realities emerge.
    Perhaps we should accept that we have no power to solve our problems, and even that,as has been suggested, our problems, as they stand, are unsolvable.
    We can, however, create new conditions, in which things can be fixed.

  • Keith M

    Billy P “Incidentally Keith, it’s absolutely accurate to talk about reunification. Ireland was a single political entity until it was partitioned in 1921.”. Do we have to go down this road every so often. The single political entity prior to 1921 with the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. There was one sovreign parliament. If there is to be RE-unification, then the only thing that can be RE-unified is the United Kingdom.

  • Aaron D

    And before that there was an Irish Parliament which would make Ireland a single political entity within the larger framework of the United Kingdom, correct? Wouldn’t that make it accurate to speak of reunification?

  • DK

    Billy P

    You have set out a scenario which appears logical and reasonable. Going back to the origin of this blog, (SF/IRA call for a green paper on unity), I would have to say that the same reasonable argument coming from SF/IRA is of zero interest to me and I imagine the vast majority of Protestants. Never mind the logic and the economic attractions. This is about emotion. I wish you well on your journey, but we are talking generations. The damage wrought by SF/IRA is too great.

  • archie

    The damage inflicted on the catholic/nationalist community by unionism and the unionist peoples support for the paramilitary organisations that exist within their areas is the main reason why a six county solution is unworkable.

  • cladycowboy

    ‘Never mind the logic and the economic attractions. This is about emotion. I wish you well on your journey, but we are talking generations. The damage wrought by SF/IRA is too great.’

    We are progressing in a substantially more peaceful land were we are trying to put hatred behind us. Why would it take generations to heal the wounds? Are the yet unborn to loath Republicanism? Do you intend to inflict your trauma upon your children so they resent Republicanism? This is not the way forward. Just think if 30yrs of PIRA could cause this much harm of Unionist psyche, how much harm has been caused on Nationalists by imperial Britain, oh sorry thats just mopery.

  • Alan McDonald

    DK and cladycowboy:

    You’ve convinced me to go ahead and say it

    a pox on both your houses.

  • DK

    Cladycowboy

    In my experience Nationalists are extremely skilled at highlighting injustices, real or imagined, stretching back for centuries. You have just done so yourself! In the same breath, you castigate me for suggesting that it may take generations for Protestants to forget the 30 years of killings and bombings primarily directed at them by an organisation which represents the majority of the Catholic population in the north and a substantial percentage in the South. (By the way archie, no loyalist paramilitary organisation gets anything like that support).

    If Nationalists truely want Protestants to willingly join a unified state then that state must find a way of recognising the truths as seen from the Northern Protestant perspective.

    We will and we should educate our children about what happened here. We will and we should resist all attempts to write the history of that shameful period as a noble struggle by gallant Gaels against an evil invader. It was a vicous, squalid and murderous sectarian campaign conducted by murderous people. By the same token we should also teach them about the paranoid and bigoted mindset of a Unionist government who openly practiced injustice and encouraged a similar mindset within the population that they controlled, the results of which have caused untold damage.

    It is vitally important to maintain those messages in order that we do not let this happen again. If the Nationalist people insist on writing their history to glorify the murder of their neighbours then we will surely be back here again. It is in the pubs and clubs singing rebel songs, (or for that matter loyalist), that the seeds of future murder are sown, dressed up in a romantic cloak of sacrifice and heroism, far from the reality of limbs being torn from mothers and babies on a busy shopping street.

    In addition, those Protestants, who would consider discussing a unified state, will simply not buy into a nation which ignores their perspective of history whilst promoting a travisty of truth from SF/IRA. Nationalists may find that position unreasonable and decide to ignore it. Alternatively they may decide that they want a unified state with the potential to command the respect of the Protestant population.

    Given the response to my previous blog, I should probably add another generation or two.

  • Henry94

    DK

    That was a positive and welcome contribution. If we look at the issue as moving beyond the tribal mindsets to create a state we can all identify with then it’s a issue both for those who advocate a new all-Ireland state but also for those who advocate the continuation of the six county state.

    I wonder if it wouold be possible to agree a set of principles that should apply in either case.

    By agreeing how we want to be treated if we don’t get our way on the constitutional issue we would also be agreeing how the other side should be treated if we do.

  • Keith M

    Aaron D “Wouldn’t that make it accurate to speak of reunification?”. If people are talking about an Irish parliament under a dual monarchy then yes, but I don’t think that’s what people are talking about.

    The island of Ireland has never been a single independent or sovereign state. The only time that was unification was as a British colony or as part of the UK. If people are talking abour RE-unification, there should tell us which of these two forms of RE-unification they favour.

    If they want to establish a sovereign independent state which covers the island, then it is unification. This is more than semantics.

  • tomasmaguire

    ‘Never mind the logic and the economic attractions. This is about emotion. I wish you well on your journey, but we are talking generations. The damage wrought by SF/IRA is too great.’ Archie

    Until very recently i used to think that the glaring disparity in attitudes towards militant republican activity by the British and unionists themselves and the ongoing background noise of unionist violence against their own and against the nationalist/republican communities, was all some kind of fly British conspiracy in a “four legs good two legs bad sense.”

    Perhaps this conspiracy is at its most stark when we look at the pressing issue of PIRA disbandment and the general question of decommissioning, or the sentencing in the courts or even the McCartney/Dorrian episodes.

    Time and time again the issue of loyalist weapons, and yes Mr Adams even the (conveniently forgotten?) hostile British State Weapons have been appendaged onto the cry for PIRA decommissioning almost as an after thought by public figures and representatives of all political hues.

    It recently occurred to me that the issue isn’t just one of devilish disparity and cunning partisan political posturing in a nod and a wink “sure don’t we all have a common republican enemy” kind of way.

    Neither is it so much an issue of the distortion that Republicans started it all in 1969 and loyalists simply were forced to respond as defenders of the faith and therefore their slaughter and terror somehow isn’t as bad as that of their enemy.

    I suspect that the underlying factor of this disparity is one of contempt and of fear. That the reason militant loyalism is given a ‘by ball’ on decommissioning by the establishment is that given their insidious links with it, the British know that militant unionism/loyalism presently constituted is beneath contempt and therefore in the right circumstances is relatively simple for them to manipulate and contain. As it’s less about ideology and more about gangsterism, reactionism and ‘jackal like’ self gain. For example, even the most ultra pro-brit screws in the Kesh despised the loyalist prisoners, treated them with contempt and generally hated serving on their junkie wings.

    In contrast, militant republicanism has proven to be a much more ideologically based, resilient and often deadly animal altogether. Like the giant Black Bear has it not remained alive against the odds for centuries, sometimes dormant sometimes vibrant and full of life yet it has always evolved by successfully adapting to its changing environment?

    While presently in a slumber, Republican militant ideology still remains a potentially potent threat to be feared by the British. This despite their best efforts to embrace it, redefine it and eventually perhaps kill it with kindness. Some have been seduced by this courtship clearly others have not (ask Hugh Orde who tried to kill him with a remote control bomb last month)

    The flame still burns … for unless the central issue of the national question, the sovereignty of the Irish nation is addressed once and for all, a brief glance at Irish history suggests that someone, somewhere in Ireland will resist militarily the British occupation. Whether that resistance often considered futile or misguided or just plain wrong evolves strategically into another all out campaign or whether its a ‘War of the Flea’… there is no right or wrong as it is a question of personal conscience.

    So while the British bullies can easily put their ‘loyalist toy soldiers’ back into the toy box, putting the Republican volunteer soldiers away is an entirely different thing entirely. Even should PIRA withdraw from the field this summer, the Belfast-centric Sinn Féin leadership know just as the British know, the fundamentals remain unresolved.

    Eventually they will come to realise, whatever the nature of Irish Resistance after centuries of conflict, (and perhaps after getting such a bloody nose in Iraq) that they might just have to begin think ‘outside the box’, put their imperialist past behind them and finally leave the future of Irish Nation to be determined by its people.

  • tomasmaguire

    (Ammendment)

    So while the British bullies can easily put their ‘loyalist toy soldiers’ back into the toy box, putting the Republican volunteer soldiers away is an entirely different thing entirely. Even should PIRA withdraw from the field this summer, the Belfast-centric Sinn Féin leadership know just as the British know, the fundamentals remain unresolved. In this context Sinn féin simply CANNOT deliver on a united Ireland, they can however deliver on an internal, equality based 6 county settlement while holding a united Ireland as an aspiration which looks great on the website and in their shiny brochures.

  • GavBelfast

    Cutting through the wordy prose, your contribution (eulogy?) comes across as exactly the sort of “travisty” that DK was referring to in his/her valuable contribution above.

    Your views they may well be, and you and some others may even believe what you wrote, but don’t expect opponents to be convinced by them.

    There is nothing in what you have said that will have the slightest appeal to Unionists, nor suggest to open-minded Protestants that you are any way serious about genuine new-nation-building.

    Or is it the case that, for all the grand language, the modern republican attitude to those in the ‘other’ community is actually more accurately reflected by the sort of behaviour we saw in north Belfast last night, where republicans don’t want a Prod about the place?

    I am open-minded about an all-Ireland state in the future, and would aspire to be a model citizen of same, but that can’t be one that sees the present-day unionists people as being essentially WRONG, and only nationalists (in the North) as the ones who were WRONGED.

    The litany of contorted faces, twisted bodies and torn limbs inflicted by combatants shames both main ideologies, and demands contrition and humility from both and towards each other.

  • tomasmaguire

    Hi Gavbelfast

    “you talking to me?”

    Travis Bickle (Robert de Nero)
    Taxi Driver

    🙂

  • GavBelfast

    Tomas, it was in direct response to you, yes, but I was going to say what I said anyway.

    “There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home”. (Dorothy (Judy Garland), The Wizard of Oz, 1939)

    😉 😉

  • Alan2

    I can think of quite a few instances where the border actually help trade due to the different VAT and Tax regulations.

    One downer with an All-Ireland supplier of computer games. Electronic Arts has a Uk supplier and an All-Ireland supplier. Being in Northern Ireland we HAVE to buy from the ALL-Ireland supplier the UK supplier will not trade with us. Therefore we have to buy our goods in euros from the South and pay conversion fees making us more expensive than the South and more expensive than Tesco`s and Virgin who being large UK companies buy from the UK supplier and ship to NI.

  • tomasmaguire

    lol very good Gav, are you in show business by any chance 🙂

    My eulogy is just a few thoughts on a Saturday afternoon, there is of course no right or wrong view on the whole sorry mess. I just happen to think that the real power brokers here are the British, not the unionists, not Sinn Féin nor even the 26 county government.

    My piece wasn’t written to persuade anyone of the betters of an 32 county Irish Republic but simply to highlight the disparity in public perception of militancy and a personal view as to why this is so.

    In any conflict it is the power broker (usually those with the biggest guns) who is the body to be persuaded to change and in my view anything else is a waste of time, in the case of the Irish question its pointless trying to persuade a unionist of the value of a united Ireland just as pointless as someone trying to persuade me of the benefits of being part of the British sate.

    When the time comes the British will simply leave by default or design and no consideration will be given to the turmoil they leave behind, in that changed political context we’ll have to work it out ourselves … until then its all smoke and mirrors and treading water and meantime we will each act according to our conscience no?

    For example i wouldn’t have put a foot near Ardoyne last night as I believe its simply a staged pantomime and the sight of ‘Sinn Féin republicans’ hitting and slapping their own community to ‘persuade’ them to behave makes me sick to the stomach. A bully is a bully is a bully !!

    Being a realist, I personally have no doubt persuasion has its place though … for example dropping several a 500 pound bombs on civilians in Iraq as the British did yesterday …. now that’s the kinda persuasion people understand … brute physical force that’s the real power in this mad modern imperialist world … and this ‘affected’ moralising about right and wrong Gav is so redundant and corrupt in this context and in my opinion such a waste of time.

    “You smell that? Do you smell that?… Napalm, son. Nothing else in the world smells like that. I love the smell of napalm in the morning. You know, one time we had a hill bombed, for twelve hours. When it was all over I walked up. We didn’t find one of ’em, not one stinkin’ dink body. The smell, you know that gasoline smell, the whole hill. Smelled like… victory. Someday this war will be over”

    Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore
    Apocalypse Now (1979)

    Tomas

  • Nathan

    The best hope that ‘New’ Sinn Fein has for the delivery of Irish unity, is for Gerry Adams to start considering his own retirement. For alot of unionists, he remains the number one hate figure. You also have the families whose loved ones were lost, and the fact that their bereavement is so hereditary that their sense of hate for this human being automatically passes onto children who have yet to be born. So DK is correct in what he/she has said, the “damage wrought by SF/IRA is too great” and the sores will take many generations to heal.

    The reality also, is that for as long as Adams assumes his life-time position as tribal leader, there will be no gradual takeover of the semi-ruling ard comhairle by those elected representatives from the south who CAN actually work themselves out of paper bags, and act as competent persuaders for a 32-county sovereign state. Bad news for Irish unity all round I say.

  • GavBelfast

    Is Adams’ place at the helm of the Provisional Republican Movement becoming (and gradualy being seen to be becoming) as much a barrier to genuine agreement as is Paisley’s at the helm of the DUP?

    Two local Araft-style leaders, and with the same barriers to progress as a result?

  • mick hall

    gav,

    What do you mean by Arafat style leaders, what you seem to be saying is if a political leader, say Yasser Arafat, will not bend the knee to the diktats of the USA and their clients states; and those who happen to occupy their lands, then somehow they are unfit to lead, no matter if they were elected at the ballot box. There was a time when the average man admired those who stood out against aggressors and those who illegally occupied an-others country,indeed Britain and much of the west went to war over this in 1939-41, now we all seem to need the US governments permission before we side with the oppressed against tyranny.

    What would you prefer arafat to have done, rolled over and signed away his peoples right’s much as Marshall Petain did in WW2. Just because an international bully like the USA says a politician is no good, does not make it so.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Keith M

    At the risk of spelling out the bleeding obvious: the verb `to reunify’ means to bring back together that which was once unified but is presently divided. Clearly Ireland fits that profile. It doesn’t matter whether Ireland was ever sovereign. It doesn’t matter if Ireland reunified as the 51st state of the USA. None of those questions are at stake here. All that is at stake is the question of whether or not Ireland was ever a unified entity, and it is a matter of historical record that it was. End of story. All else is smokescreen.

    So I repeat, it’s absolutely accurate to speak of Irish reunification. You know that yourself, which is why your tangential arguments actually prove only that a reunified and sovereign Ireland would not be a RESTORATION. With that I have no argument. No-one does.

    “There was one sovreign parliament.”

    Irrelevant.

    “If there is to be RE-unification, then the only thing that can be RE-unified is the United Kingdom.”

    Wrong. Earlier you had quite rightly pointed out that when Ireland was last unified it was within the state that was then called the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. See? The clue’s in the title. That state was explicitly made up of two constituent parts. One of those constituent parts is presently divided. If that division were to be ended, it would be the bringing together once more of that which was once whole but is now divided. Now, what is the verb we use to describe this?)

    You then had a rather disingenuous tussle with Aaron D on the issue.

    “If people are talking about an Irish parliament under a dual monarchy then yes, but I don’t think that’s what people are talking about.”

    Again you’re pretending to argue that it wouldn’t be reunification but in fact you’re arguing that it wouldn’t be a restoration. No-one is saying it would be a restoration.

    “The island of Ireland has never been a single independent or sovereign state.”

    Irrelevant to this issue. Independence or sovereignty are red herrings here. If we are to be able to accurately talk about REunification, all that matters is that Ireland was once a single state, and it is a matter of historical record that it was. All other details belong in a whole other debate.

    “The only time that was unification was as a British colony or as part of the UK.”

    Okay, clearly you are aware that Ireland was once unified. Certainly you are aware that at present it is partitioned. (And you’d like to keep it that way, but I digress.) Therefore you cannot logically dispute the correctness of the verb “to reunify” when talking about the removal of the border. Yet you do dispute it.

    “If people are talking abour RE-unification, there should tell us which of these two forms of RE-unification they favour.”

    I should have thought it was painfully obvious that when talking about reunification, “people” mean neither. Why are you playing stupid? Intellectual dishonesty is a weasel’s shield.

    “If they want to establish a sovereign independent state which covers the island, then it is unification.”

    Yes, it’s unification. Because it’s the bringing together of that which was previously united but later divided, then it’s REunification. Because it would be reunification under circumstances different from those that went before, it would be reunification but not restoration.

    But as I keep telling you, no-one is saying it would be a restoration.

    “This is more than semantics.”

    It is entirely semantics. REunification is simply the correct verb to use. You have thrown down all sorts of historical red herrings because you are aware of how important semantics are. If we’re just talking about unification, it’s a bit like talking about European unification. It’s pie in the sky. It’s a merger. It’s a novel idea to be discussed seriously only when it would demonstrably be painless and profitable. Until then it can be definitively ruled out and dismissed from the agenda. (ie forever). It reduces Ireland’s national narrative to the weighing up of pros and cons. It’s rooted in assumptions about the inherent integrity of the existing, partitioned states.

    REunification on the other hand implies that partition is temporary and that the two parts of Ireland are family, not just potential spouses or business partners. That’s why an arch partitionist would take such pains to argue, against all logic, against the correct verb. Because sometimes family isn’t easy. REunification carries implications of responsibility on both sides of the border. You can sleep easy if you turn down a business deal because it doesn’t suit you – but if you turn your back on family, then no-one else has to tell you you’ve lost something of yourself.

    Thankfully the forces ideologically committed to partition in the south are very much in a minority.

    Few people are able to identify with the PD instinct to see the north as nothing more than a neighbour and potential business partner – even though it might be superfically seem in their interests to do so. That to me says something about the Irish people that the Thatcherites don’t understand.

  • DK

    Thomas,

    where do I start? Is there any value in commenting at all? I’ll give it a go. Bullet points are probably the most efficient format given the low probability of anything getting through.

    Unionist leaders have been consistent in their condemnation of loyalist paramilitary groups. The myth of their ambivalence has been promoted by Nationalism, presumably as a smokescreen to hide their ouvert support for the most violent of organisations, SF/IRA.

    SF/IRA attract the spotlight due to their position as potential members of government. You know this.

    As an organisation they are extremely effective at staying centre stage.

    SF/IRA are the only paramilitary group with a capability to give serious concern to both the British and Irish governments. You seem to have grasped that one.

    There are many Protestants who would be open to constructive discussion on the merits of a unified nation. You haven’t a clue about this one.

    Nationalsim as represented by SF/IRA, is not well positioned to hold constructive discussions. The SDLP and Southern parties should lead that charge.

    The greatest contribution SF/IRA could make to unification would be to go away.

    Trying to “work it out ourselves” after a British withdrawal, (presumably without the consent of the British population in the North), will not result in unification. It may result in a single administration in Dublin. It will not be in any sense a unified people or nation. You really should think about this one.

    Can I suggest that you watch less movies. Maybe try and get out more. Perhaps even try to meet some Protestants.

    “You can’t hate men if you know them” – John Steinbeck

  • vespasin

    I like that, The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

    When looked at in that light then re unification wouldn’t be a bad thing.

    It certainly would be the best economic option for the ROI.

  • tomasmaguire

    Dearest Dk,

    Thanks for your response, it shows you care though in truth you lost me here Thomas (I’m Tomas) and here “given the low probability of anything getting through.”

    FYI …

    You talk at me as if I’m a supporter of Sinn Féin/IRA when clearly I am not but your political ‘snow blindness’ (ironically which is what you are accusing me of) wouldn’t allow you to make the distinction in your haste to shotgun blast the page with platitudes, nice one 🙂

    Secondly and I am just loving writing this my mother, all her brothers and sisters and all my cousins in Whitewell, Alliance Avenue and Glengormley are pro-test-ants. This has nothing what so ever to do with religion for me (its our sovereignty stupid) but everything to do with religion for you, now isn’t that interesting? What have you learned from this now DK?

    Never,never,ever make assumptions!!

    Still thanks for the reply … it keeps me sharp

    One last thing … it’s been emotional
    Big Chris (Vinne Jones)
    Lock stock and two smoking barrels (1998)

  • DK

    Tomas,

    not correct. At no time did I make an assumption that you supported SF/IRA. Ironically I had assumed that you are anti-SF/IRA,(at least the leadership), in the mold of what is termed “dissident republican”. That perception, correct or otherwise, had no bearing on the points that I made.

    I simply addressed points that you had raised earlier and highlighted, again, the fact that there remains a potential within the Protestant community to seriously engage in a discussion on unification, (re-unification depending on your view of some of the comms above).

    The reason that I use the label “Protestant” instead of the usual “Unionist”, is because in the context of a discussion about unification, the latter term is not appropriate. The reality is that “Protestant” is a term that pretty much covers the section of society that I am discussing and is a label that one would assume will remain valid in the event of a unified Ireland. I did explain this earlier.

    I agree that we should try to avoid making assumptions.

    Apologies about the Thomas vs Tomas thing. I spotted it just after hitting the button.

    “The greatest illusion about communication is that it has taken place.”
    George Bernard Shaw

  • GavBelfast

    Mick,

    I think Paisley has obviously been a huge impediment to progress here since he came on the scene and Adams is now having much the same effect.

    Their “dear leader” type positions at the helm of their respective organisations might be good for their individual egos but must be unhealthy.

    The comparison with Arafat, and it is probably more fitting for Adams in that Paisley at least doesn’t affect to compromise, just seems appropriate to me. Capriciousness appears to abound with both. Does Adams and in turn his party really want a workable compromise solution that will stick? What role does he/his organisation have in a sustainable period of stability?

    Tomas,

    Yes, it’s unfortunate that the Plantation ever happened, but we are where we are. Doubtless London would be away from here if that was th collective wish. It isn’t, Dublin would be apoplectic at the thought as well, and it is perhaps a credit to London’s conscience and responsibility that there has never really been a serious thought to just name a date and leave Ireland to it.

    I really don’t see how the British (as in the Government) just leaving would aid the sort of healing that is needed here, as was so obviously shown in Ardoyne the other night.

    A sizeable section there (and elsewhere) has as much hate and contempt for the other side as anything you would see in the West Bank. Can people ever live together or even side by side if they feel this way about each other?

    One final quotation: “Republicanism is like a giant octopus speading its testicles across Northern Ireland”.

    (Jonnny McQuade, MP, c1970)

  • Alan McDonald

    This may have been tried before. Given that a lot of time and effort is wasted on semantics, I propose we use new (at least to me) terms for the two sides of this sovereignty issue. The terms are British Nationalist and Irish Nationalist. Everyone else (myself included) can adopt the term Other.

  • tomasmaguire

    Hiya DK,

    This 1)SF/IRA. 2)SF/IRA. 3)SF/IRA. 4)SF/IRA. 5)SF/IRA tended in my mind to colour your latter post, it suggested to me you were trying to tell me something about myself when in fact you were just using me to get a literary slap at them, I feel violated DK.

    And worse again now I find you had ‘labelled’ me a dissident republican (ugghh vomit … the SDLP disagree with the Sinn Féin leadership does that make them dissident socialists? You insult me sir)

    I’m so disappointed, did you learn nothing from my last post about making assumptions? You might have to take that class again 🙂

    Still your tone this time was at least civil and I feel we could do business … as was yours Gav. Thank You !! Now that we are one big happy family lets hit the bar, it is father’s day no less … and sure hasn’t Slugger been a father to us all 🙂

    “A toast to all my friends, all my friends, all my fucking friends” (falls down drunk)

    Henry Chinaski (Mickey Rourke)
    Barfly (1987)

  • barnshee

    “One final quotation: “Republicanism is like a giant octopus speading its testicles across Northern Ireland”.

    (Jonnny McQuade, MP, c1970)

    Good but IMHO not as good as
    “there are people making allegations about me and when I get these alligators..”

    (Jonnny McQuade, MP, c1970)

  • Keith M

    Billy P “At the risk of spelling out the bleeding obvious: the verb `to reunify’ means to bring back together that which was once unified but is presently divided. Clearly Ireland fits that profile.”

    Clearly it doesn’t in the context in which unity is being discussed here. The point remains that the island only existed as a “state” (your word) as (1) a British colony or (2) Part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain & Ireland.

    “Thankfully the forces ideologically committed to partition in the south are very much in a minority.”. Yes the vast majority in this country trust the majority of the people of Northern Ireland to avoid having to face the problem. If it ever came to a point (which it won’t based on the current numbers) that there was a danger of the majority in NI changing their mind, then there would be a huge surge of support for keeping partition, if only for economic reasons.

    You should note that while I support the PDs, their position on partition and mine are very different. I have a job of persuasion to do.

    “That state was explicitly made up of two constituent parts.” Yes, I’d previously explained the dual monarchies came together. Before 1801 because Ireland was a colony and the British sovereign was also Head of State in Ireland.

    It took the British to bring the peoples of Ireland together for the first time in a single political union, for the ease of governence. The peoiple of this island never did this over the centuries before the British came and if that would be the situation again if the UK decided to cut off an integral part of itself.

  • mrdub

    Clearly it doesn’t in the context in which unity is being discussed here. The point remains that the island only existed as a “state” (your word) as (1) a British colony or (2) Part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain & Ireland.

    “Thankfully the forces ideologically committed to partition in the south are very much in a minority.”. Yes the vast majority in this country trust the majority of the people of Northern Ireland to avoid having to face the problem. If it ever came to a point (which it won’t based on the current numbers) that there was a
    danger!!

    of the majority in NI changing their mind, then there would be a huge surge of support for keeping partition, if only for economic reasons.
    (when you would no longer trust the majority)

    (What are you afraid of?? the fact that you might be able to decide something more than the colour of tarmac outside your house scares you) maybe!! All economic reasoning points to a UI

    You should note that while I support the PDs, their position on partition and mine are very different. I have a job of persuasion to do.

    “That state was explicitly made up of two constituent parts.” Yes, I’d previously explained the dual monarchies came together. Before 1801 because Ireland was a colony and the British sovereign was also Head of State in Ireland. (against the xwill of the irish people)
    Where do i start,,,

    It took the British to bring the peoples of Ireland together for the first time in a single political union

    Correct! yes the Irish people united alright thanks to britain, Against their rule and their government in which irish people had no representation.

    , for the ease of governence and conrol of the irish poulation. The peoiple of this island never did this over the centuries before the British came

    You are correct in saying the irish people were never united before under the control of on king it was controlled by a number of gings none of whom ever had full control of the country.

    and if that would be the situation again if the UK decided to cut off an integral part of itself.

    What???

    Maybe yerself and verispan should go to bed with an old 19th century british atlas and have nice dreams of imperialism together, yez could even imagine the sorm troopers im sure, stomping on the irish rebel scum!

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Keith M

    I come back again to this point: you accept that Ireland was once a single entity. Presently it is divided. Therefore it cannot logically be disputed that the correct verb to describe the ending of that division would be `Reunification’. `Unification’ would only be a partially accurate verb to use – not inaccurate but incomplete.

    I said: “the verb `to reunify’ means to bring back together that which was once unified but is presently divided. Clearly Ireland fits that profile.” – to which you replied: “clearly it doesn’t in the context in which unity is being discussed here.”

    Forgive me but I do not understand why the definition of the verb “to reunify” is somehow altered in this context. I mean, you accept that Ireland was once a single entity, and that it presently is not. Perhaps you could enlighten me as to why “reunification” takes on a new meaning where Ireland is concerned?

    You then said: “The point remains that the island only existed as a “state” (your word) as (1) a British colony or (2) Part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain & Ireland.”

    That point is not in dispute, so I will repeat my point, which you have ignored – this is irrelevant. All that matters is that Ireland was previously a single entity. Doesn’t matter if it was united as a hippy commune or a colony of Mars – the only substantive point is that it was a single entity. We know you accept that Ireland WAS a single entity, you say so yourself. (“It took the British to bring the peoples of Ireland together for the first time in a single political union, for the ease of governence. (sic)).

    (We can use the word `state’ if you like but I’d say `entity’ is less problematic?)

    “That state was explicitly made up of two constituent parts.” Yes, I’d previously explained the dual monarchies came together. Before 1801 because Ireland was a colony and the British sovereign was also Head of State in Ireland.”
    So we’re in agreement. I am aware of these historical details which you have so kindly furnished. None of them have anything whatsoever to the point at hand, which you continue to do everything to address. More smokescreens. Why not just admit I’m right, you’re wrong, and save us both a lot of time and effort?

    But in that sentence of course we get to the nub of the issue that is really at stake. You’re a smart guy Keith, an educated guy. You are aware how important language is, which is why you have made this bid to face down the correct verb (REunification). You are well aware that REunification carries all sorts of implications that plain old `unification’ does not.

    So now we’re into a whole other debate. Fair enough. Let’s have that debate. But let’s dispense with this Orwellian nonsense of bending the language to your will and trying to warp the definition of verbs.

    Ireland DID used to be unified and it IS, in the minds of most Irish people, a country and a natural unit. People in the 26 don’t think of Antrim, Armagh, Derry, Down, Fermanagh and Tyrone as being abroad. People there aren’t foreigners. Certainly people are wary of what political reunification might mean, but before we even get to that point, let’s acknowledge that, however much anyone might wish otherwise, most people in Ireland still think of this island as their country.

    Now, you accept that “the forces ideologically committed to partition in the south are very much in a minority” – churlishly perhaps, but you accept it. You put this down to the “vast majority in this country (sic) trust the majority of the people of Northern Ireland to avoid having to face the problem” – by which I take it you mean most people in the Republic are happy to aspire for reunification as long as they’re comfortable in the knowledge that a majority in the north are committed to ensuring they’ll never have to face that prospect.

    In this you may have a point. On the other hand you may be ascribing an excessive degree of cynicism on the people of the 26. Who knows? I don’t, and you don’t either. What we’re dealing in here is conjecture.

    You say: “If it ever came to a point (which it won’t based on the current numbers) that there was a danger of the majority in NI changing their mind, then there would be a huge surge of support for keeping partition, if only for economic reasons.”

    First off, of course it won’t “based on current numbers”. That’s an incredibly mendacious little elbowing manoeuvre. According to “current numbers” we all know there are more Prods than Taigs in the north. But “current numbers” will change, as they always do. NI’s unionist majority will only ever be as strong as the last election, and the long-term trends are such that no-one can know for sure how things will go. There may soon be a nationalist majority, there may never be. I don’t know, and neither do you, so please, less off-the-ball dishonesty about “current numbers”.

    Okay, on your substantive point: “If it ever came to a point that there was a danger of the majority in NI changing their mind, then there would be a huge surge of support for keeping partition, if only for economic reasons.”

    Again, pure conjecture. You may turn out to be right but I doubt it. Not much of an argument, I know, but then I don’t think it’s helpful to take one’s own preferred outcome, look to the future and assert as fact that it could go no other way. You would hope there would be a surge of partitionist feeling, and therefore declare that there would be. I would hope otherwise. I suppose we’ll see.

    But your argument that economic reasons would be the primary factor in the flowering of partitionism I’m not so sure about. There is a compelling economic logic that the partitioning of this small island has been like an economic choking device for both states. Certainly reunification would mean challenges – and I suppose there is always a danger that a rich, comfortable southern Ireland might complacently accept a short-sighted partitionist argument that the headaches just wouldn’t be worth it and we’re doing quite nicely Jack, thank you very much. One would hope a vastly more mature and robust economic argument would come back across the net to deal with that one.

    So what do I think might happen? I think if you look at any country in the world, and even if you look at little old Merc-driving Celtic Tiger Ireland, a national narrative counts for an awful lot. Ireland’s national narrative is about a long and painful but inexorable and incomplete journey towards independence. You are as aware of this as I am, and you hate it. The PDs, elements of Fine Gael, southside Dublin, the national media – these elements of Irish society are deeply embarrassed by, and hate the postcolonial narrowness of that narrative. But you know that in the provincial towns and townlands, in the parochial halls and GAA clubs that are the beating heart of this country, this is the Ireland people are attached to. It’s the Ireland of Fianna Fail and Labour and, more and more, Sinn Fein. Sure, that Ireland has been able to absorb new economic narratives and cosmopolitan narratives, but the old one remains.

    This is the foundation upon which, I would hope, a powerful case FOR reunification will be built, if and when the time comes. The pro-unity lobby aren’t going to be pitching to a hostile public – whereas the partitionist lobby are going to be calling for something that people will hate themselves for voting for. I think a critical mass of people would want to be convinced. A coherent economic case for erasing the border should be straightforward. The greater challenge, I think, would be in minimising any unrest in the northeast. That would be key – no-one wants bombs, or anything less than normality, in Dublin.

    But there is no ideological commitment to partition, no matter how much you might wish there was.

    Just my opinion, but there it is.

    “You should note that while I support the PDs, their position on partition and mine are very different. I have a job of persuasion to do.”

    What is the official PD policy on what we used to call the National Question? Are they nominally pro-unification? (Presumably with half a dozen asterisks.)

    “It took the British to bring the peoples of Ireland together for the first time in a single political union, for the ease of governence. The peoiple of this island never did this over the centuries before the British came and if that would be the situation again if the UK decided to cut off an integral part of itself.

    (“Integral” means essential to completeness, indispensable. Northern Ireland’s position within the UK is based on the consent principle. The UK government has expressed its willingness to jettison the north the day after 50% plus one vote for it. If NI was integral, then it’s leaving the Union would mean the disintegration of the British state. Strange that the British government would be so sanguine. Either that or perhaps they don’t see NI as “integral” to the UK at all? Indeed one might say they’ve gone out of their way to commit themselves to an exit strategy.)

    But I’m digressing again. It’s clear that you would prefer to see the restoration of the UK of GB and Ireland. I’m sure THAT isn’t PD policy. I’m sure you’d agree that such an ideal wouldn’t command much popular support in the Republic. Of course it’s all down to the ignorance of the benighted Irish who didn’t know how good they had it from 1801-1921 and so on.

    For all that, you’d have to say: your opinions and ideals are very much from the margins of Irish life. You admit you’re a minority within a minority party that only actually contests elections in a minority of constituencies. You’re absolutely entitled to your view, and you’re an educated, articulate exponent of those views, so fair play. But if you’re honest, given that there may not be a hundred people in the country who share your views on Irish sovereignty: how likely do you think it is that your conjectures on
    the future direction of the Irish people will turn out to be correct?

  • Alan McDonald

    Billy Pilgrim,

    When you describe the provincial towns and townlands … that are the beating heart of this country, it sounds just like the part of my country that voted for George W Bush last year. Come to think of it, that also sounds like the settler movement in (greater) Israel.

  • martin

    keith M,

    Ireland was a soverign 32 county republic 1919-21

    Could also be argued that it was the same under the confederation ok Kilkenny.although the clergy had to much influence under this so maybe not.

  • JD

    Crap.

    I’m going to have to get a new name now. Leave the site for a couple of days and someone nicks your screen-name.

    *weeps*

  • Keith M

    Billy P : “I come back again to this point: you accept that Ireland was once a single entity.”. I’m talking about a POLITICAL entity. Ireland only existed a a single political entity as part of the greater political entity, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Before that it was treated as a single colony (in the same way that Indian sub-continent was) for ease of governance. One again, if we are talking RE-unification it can only be the United Kingdom that can be RE-unified or Ireland can revert to being a British colony. The first may have an outside chance of happening, the second’s a non-starter.

    I’ll give you an example; you break open an egg and then split the yolk from the white. By putting the yolk and white back together you do not re-unifty the egg. The only way you can do that is to put the white and the yolk back in its shell. Now consider the UK as the shell, the white is the republic of Ireland and the yolk is Northern Ireland. Get my point?

    “Ireland DID used to be unified and it IS, in the minds of most Irish people, a country and a natural unit.” Yes Ireland was politically united (but only as a colony of and a part of the UK), I would argue about the opinion of most Irish people given that they voted for partition on two separate occasions over 70 years apart. As for being a “natural” unit, I assume you mean a unit created by nature or geography. Yes the sea has seen to that, Ireland is a “natural” unit, but so are several islands that are politically divided. I don’t hear anyone calling for the “re-unification” of Hispaniola, based on that “natural” unit.

    “People in the 26 don’t think of Antrim, Armagh, Derry, Down, Fermanagh and Tyrone as being abroad.” Firstly, my country has a name. If you don’t want to use “Ireland” to avoid confusion with the geographic entity, then please use the legally recognised “Republic of Ireland” (or “Republic” for short). “the 26” is simply an out of date piece of nonsense, which makes you look as silly as unionists who insist on using “the free state”. Secondly, I agree that people in this country don’t see Northern Ireland as “abroad”, but neither do they see England, Scotland or Wales as “abroad”. “Abroad” is somewhere you need to show a passport, and where the weaather is generally better than here.

    “NI’s unionist majority will only ever be as strong as the last election, and the long-term trends are such that no-one can know for sure how things will go.”. No, the national question is decided by referendum. Anyone who believes that the support for the DUP+UUP = the number of people who support the union, is living in cloudcuckooland. That’s one of the reasons why I support a referendum as soon as possible.

    “I don’t think it’s helpful to take one’s own preferred outcome, look to the future and assert as fact that it could go no other way.” Isn’t that exactly what republicans have been doing since the IFS left the UK? How many politicians in this country have gone on record saying that we would see a “united Ireland” in their lifetimes? How many are still around? The only one I can think of is David Andrews. Charlie Haughey was even bigger idiot saying (in 1984 IIRC) that there would be a “united Ireland” within a decade. When I talk about “current numbers”, I’m talking about the foreseeable future, say 30 years. The slowing of the birthrate, and the entrenchment of opinion means that any time spent talking about “Northern Ireland” is to use your favourite word, pure “conjecture” and as such it’s not worth spending time on.

    “If NI was integral, then it’s leaving the Union would mean the disintegration of the British state.”. The same of the state is “The United Kingdom of United Kingdom & Northern Ireland”. QED, I believe. Could Great Britain go on? Again we’re dealing in conjecture.

    “It’s clear that you would prefer to see the restoration of the UK of GB and Ireland”, No, I don’t. I’m a republican (in its real sense). I want a federal republic of the islands, with devolved assemblies as exist in Germany with a democratically elected head of state.

    “What is the official PD policy on what we used to call the National Question? Are they nominally pro-unification?”. Yes, for all their “radical or redundant” buzzwords, this is one box that haven’t managed to think their way out of.

    “For all that, you’d have to say: your opinions and ideals are very much from the margins of Irish life.”. In the 1980s I voted for divorce and against the constitutional ban on abortion. I was in a small minority. Also in the 1980s I joined a party which wanted the end of the constitutional claim on Northern Ireland. In the early 1990s I demonstrated in favour of equality for gays and lesbians. I’m used to being an early adaptor.

    “You admit you’re a minority within a minority party that only actually contests elections in a minority of constituencies.” It’s not the number of seats, you contest, it’s the number you win, and more importantly what positions you gain based on those seats. I support a party which has been in power for the majority of its existence and which has re-written the Irish political rule book and has played a major role in transforming this country for the better, a minority maybe, but a very important one.

    “how likely do you think it is that your conjectures on the future direction of the Irish people will turn out to be correct?” If you mean the people of the island, it only matters that the unionist people of Northern Ireland continue to see the benefit of the union. I am so confident in this that I am prepared to reverse the “logic” of generations of Irish politicians and say that I am certain that I will NOT see a “united Ireland” in my lifetime.

    martin, can I suggest that for your next fairytale, you read “Cinderella”, it’s much more realistic and its got a happy ending.

  • martin

    Keith M,

    Cinderella ?

    oh i see selective history—I dont think that bit conforms with my views so ill deny it ever happened is that what your at?

    “The “26” is simply an outdated piece of nonsense which makes you seem as silly as the unionists who use the term Free State.”

    Keith m,
    if you have ever read the 1916 proclaimation you will probably notice it pertains to all 32 counties and says nothing about a 26 county FREAK STATE–

    Northern nationalists also use the term Free State to exibit their contempt for the way they were left out over 80 years ago and betrayed by the south.

    If i do recall correctly there was an all Ireland dail formed in 1919–in 1922 the deputy elected to represent Fermanagh was not allowed into the dail by Freak State partitionists.

    In this day in age we Northern Nationalists use the Term Free State B******S to describe those southerners who make snide remarks to us like-the north should be cut off and left to drown in the sea,.asking us are we members of a paramilitary organisation,wearing our ears off with their worthless solutions to the problem. Telling us that religion doesnt matter down here but still asking what denomination we are any way.

    Both my Grandfathers fought against the british in the war of independence one from the north and one from the south–my northern grandfather received nothing but grief for his part and never had the luxury of living in an Irish Free State thanks to southern traitors.

    Its easy to live on another mans wounds.

    by the way my Southern grandfather told me that after the truce and treaty so many people who cowered when the Tan fight was on and contributed absolutly nothing–cameout and joined the Free State Army-that uniforms couldnt be produced for them fast enough.

    With pride I tell you that he took the anti-free State side and just before he died in 1993 he commented that the way most people turned out in the south after independence- they werent worth the lives and the sacrafices that got the freedom they have today.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Alan

    “When you describe the provincial towns and townlands … that are the beating heart of this country, it sounds just like the part of my country that voted for George W Bush last year. Come to think of it, that also sounds like the settler movement in (greater) Israel.”

    Ah, the Israeli parallel is out of order, but the Bush parallel isn’t. I mean, there’s a middle America, there’s a middle England and yes, there’s a middle Ireland. I didn’t say it was a good thing – or a bad thing – nor did I say that you’re likely to find a particularly impressive political analysis there. But, as in Dubya’s America and Daily Mail England, that’s beside the point. The Republic of Ireland is a democracy and the heartland has the numbers. Keith M mightn’t like it – hell I mightn’t like it, but there it is.

    Keith M

    “I’m talking about a POLITICAL entity.”

    You’re still obfuscating. Yet again I’ll make the point that Ireland used to be a single entity (and I’ll keep making that point ad nauseum). Yet again you come back, throwing in a new adjective as a spoiler when it’s as clear as the nose on your face that REunification is the correct verb and other details belong in another debate. You’re talking about political unity – I’m saying let’s not even get into that yet. I’m talking about unity, and whether Ireland was united as a colony of Mars or as a naturalist holiday camp, it WAS united. Therefore if it were to be united again, it would be REunification. (That’s the third time I have exhaustively made that point and no doubt you will come back a third time with further obfuscation and new spoiling adjectives. It’ll get boring but I hope you will eventually stop arguing with the dictionary and the logic of correct definitions.)

    “Ireland only existed a a single political entity as part of the greater political entity, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Before that it was treated as a single colony (in the same way that Indian sub-continent was) for ease of governance.”

    I’m not even going to argue with that (though I could.) It’s irrelevant.

    “One again, if we are talking RE-unification it can only be the United Kingdom that can be RE-unified or Ireland can revert to being a British colony. The first may have an outside chance of happening, the second’s a non-starter.”

    You think there’s an outside chance of a UK of GB and I Mk II? Well, good luck on your journey is all I can say.

    “I’ll give you an example; you break open an egg and then split the yolk from the white. By putting the yolk and white back together you do not re-unifty the egg. The only way you can do that is to put the white and the yolk back in its shell. Now consider the UK as the shell, the white is the republic of Ireland and the yolk is Northern Ireland. Get my point?”

    I see what you’re trying to say but, if you’ll forgive me, your analogy is mendacious, meaningless drivel. Ireland isn’t an egg, these islands aren’t a shell. I’m not going to get drawn into the trap of meaningless analogy into which unionists habitually withdraw.

    I said: “Ireland DID used to be unified and it IS, in the minds of most Irish people, a country and a natural unit.”

    You said: “Yes Ireland was politically united (but only as a colony of and a part of the UK). So we’re in agreement then. So explain to me again why the definition of “REunification” changes when we’re talking about Ireland?

    “I would argue about the opinion of most Irish people given that they voted for partition on two separate occasions over 70 years apart.”

    Fair point, though I’m sure you’d accept that your minimalist interpretation of these referenda does not even begin to tell the whole story? But we’ll not get bogged down.

    “….Yes the sea has seen to that, Ireland is a “natural” unit, but so are several islands that are politically divided. I don’t hear anyone calling for the “re-unification” of Hispaniola, based on that “natural” unit.”

    Again, mendacious, meaningless drivel. Hispaniola has nothing to do with Ireland. You are surely aware that whatever is the case on Hispaniola, there are plenty of people on THIS island of Ireland who ARE calling for reunification. So clearly drawing an analogy with Hispaniola falls at the very first fence. We live on a partitioned island and most people on it would like, at least theoretically, for that partition to cease. Drawing attention to other islands similarly cursed is meaningless and mendacious. Let’s talk about Ireland and not get sidetracked.

    (Incidentally, can I take it you accept that, for better or worse, the sea HAS made a natural entity out of Ireland? And that, as a natural entity, it’s partitioning is – whatever about the whys and wherefores – an inherently bad thing?)

    “the 26” is simply an out of date piece of nonsense, which makes you look as silly as unionists who insist on using “the free state”.

    All right, all right, no need for a hissy fit. I have no difficulty calling it the Republic – indeed on this thread I have done so. I would not use an inaccurate term like Free State or Eire – “Ireland” – would be inaccurate too. The name of the state was enshrined in the ’37 Constitution, a document that defined the territory of “Ireland” as the island. When articles 2 and 3 changed, article 1 became inaccurate. All of which is by the by, because it simply isn’t in the power of anyone in Dublin or anywhere else to decide that Armagh, Antrim, Tyrone, Down, Derry and Fermanagh are suddenly no longer in “Ireland”. But I’m digressing again.

    “The 26” is a bit problematic, I accept, but it is an accurate shorthand for the Republic. No disrespect intended, I’m not trying to make any particular point. Just varying my terminology for the sake of freshness and striving for clarity. When I say “the 26”, are you in any way confused as to what I’m talking about?

    “I agree that people in this country (sic) don’t see Northern Ireland as “abroad”, but neither do they see England, Scotland or Wales as “abroad”. “Abroad” is somewhere you need to show a passport, and where the weaather is generally better than here.”

    You’re seriously saying that people in, say Westmeath, don’t make any distinction between people in Omagh and in Edinburgh? No difference between Enniskillen and Norwich? Derry and Southampton? Newry and Grimsby? I mean, if you ask someone in, I dunno, Tipperary, what nationality they are, what’ll they say? Irish. Ask the same person what nationality someone in Newry is and they’ll say Irish. Already we have a distinction from Grimsby – and one grounded in simple gut instinct, not political ideology.

    “No, the national question is decided by referendum. Anyone who believes that the support for the DUP+UUP = the number of people who support the union, is living in cloudcuckooland. That’s one of the reasons why I support a referendum as soon as possible.”

    Maybe you’re right, maybe not. I don’t know and neither do you. I too support a referendum – it’s time pro-unity people started focussing their minds and realising what a great opportunity exists for this generation. Then it’s be one referendum every seven years, and we only have to win one.

    I said: “I don’t think it’s helpful to take one’s own preferred outcome, look to the future and assert as fact that it could go no other way.”

    You replied: “Isn’t that exactly what republicans have been doing since the IFS left the UK?”

    That’s a poor response, classic whataboutery. Clearly you have contempt for republicans, yet you use their fantastical mistakes as an alibi for your making the same mistake. Interesting.

    “When I talk about “current numbers”, I’m talking about the foreseeable future, say 30 years. The slowing of the birthrate, and the entrenchment of opinion means that any time spent talking about “Northern Ireland” is to use your favourite word, pure “conjecture” and as such it’s not worth spending time on.”

    You think it’s a waste of time talking about Northern Ireland? You may be right, maybe not. I’m no expert on demography, I suspect you aren’t either, and I suspect we both cling to the demographic evidence that tells us what we want to hear. All I do know for certain is that for every demography expert who says there’ll never be a Catholic majority in the north, there’s another who’ll say it’s only 20 years away. I can’t definitively say it’s inevitable and you can’t definitively say it’ll never happen. So what should the Republic’s political class do? Well, if there’s even a chance of reunification – and there clearly is a chance – then they’d be damned irresponsible if they took their eye off the ball, wouldn’t they? You may wish the six northeastern counties didn’t exist but political leaders have to deal with reality. Therefore they have to spend time talking about Northern Ireland – however much you and indeed they might wish otherwise.

    “The same of the state is “The United Kingdom of United Kingdom & Northern Ireland”. QED, I believe. Could Great Britain go on? Again we’re dealing in conjecture.

    So the state would have to change it’s name. That is not the same thing as being integral to the state. I’ll give you this: the words “Northern Ireland” are an integral part of the official, though rarely used name of the British state. Could Britain soldier on without Northern Ireland? You’re right, it’s conjecture, but my own opinion is that those plucky old Brits might just muddle through somehow, with that extra eight billion a year to soften the blow.

    “I’m a republican (in its real sense). I want a federal republic of the islands, with devolved assemblies as exist in Germany with a democratically elected head of state.”

    So you’re an internationalist, in that you don’t believe in borders? Good. Let’s start locally, with the one on this island. Ah but you’re not an internationalist, just a proponent of a new GB and I state, but this time a Republic. So you’re actually a unionist. Okay. And you advocate the removal of political power from this island. Righto.

    “In the 1980s I voted for divorce and against the constitutional ban on abortion. I was in a small minority. Also in the 1980s I joined a party which wanted the end of the constitutional claim on Northern Ireland. In the early 1990s I demonstrated in favour of equality for gays and lesbians. I’m used to being an early adaptor.”

    Good points. All I can say is I hope you have less success on your latest crusade.

    “It’s not the number of seats, you contest, it’s the number you win, and more importantly what positions you gain based on those seats…”

    You’re right in terms of a general election but we’re talking about a referendum. In a referendum the PDs and other partitionist forces would only be able to put boots on the ground in a minority of areas. In a referendum Dublin South is no longer a constituency in any meaningful sense, it’s simply a geographical area to be covered. Winning a plurality in a general election in Dublin South means Dail representation – in a referendum that plurality is effectively cancelled out by the other side winning a plurality in Cavan-Monaghan. Referenda, crude devices that they are, expose the limitations of the reach of minority parties. However, where a party like SF would have the ancient national narrative to fall back on, the PDs and other partitionists would have to get out there and do some persuading – but the PDs don’t have all that many footsoldiers. So although a party like the PDs can win disproportionate influence through a Dail election, its minority status would exposed at a referendum.

    “I am prepared to reverse the “logic” of generations of Irish politicians and say that I am certain that I will NOT see a “united Ireland” in my lifetime.”

    How old are you?

    Only kidding. I don’t know, you may be right. One thing I’d be confident of though is that when it does happen it will seem to have happened quickly, but historians will retrospectively find evidence that it was inevitable all along. Peter Robinson seen having a pint of Guinness, within three years Ireland is reunited, stuff like that. I have no doubt that we’ll all have a lot of conversations beginning with: “Who would have thought even five years ago…”

    We’ll see. One argument I’d make though, which I’m sure would be close to the heart of a PD, is that for the first time ever it’s possible to make a compelling case that, factoring in a few years of economic restructuring in the north, natch, reunification would be to the substantial economic benefit of both parts of the island. We could never have seriously put forward such a positive economic argument before. Maybe historians will decide this was the decisive macro factor?

  • hotdogx

    Talking about the republic rejoining the uk is a waist of space on this web page and it shows you havent visted the republic or at least know very little about it. Unionism loves to portray the republic as a catholic ruled republican sympathisers state, and i can believe how many of you actuall believe this nonsense and this may be is why unionists have “fears” about an all island state.

    The union hasnt worked for the six counties unionists try every day to find new ways to make a UI seem less appealing and there very quickly running out of ideas!

    By the way keith m, northern ireland resulted from the british/unionists unwillingness to accept the vote of 80% of the irish people for an independant soverign ireland. Thus the 6 northern counties were dragged into this statelet even though 3 of the six counties had an irish majority. The boarder therefore divides the country of ireland, and like all dividing walls of late, it will fall, and after it happens you’ll be wondering why you ever opposed its removal.

  • hotdogx

    Talking about the republic rejoining the uk is a waist of space on this web page and it shows you havent visted the republic or at least know very little about it. Unionism loves to portray the republic as a catholic ruled republican sympathisers state, and i can believe how many of you actuall believe this nonsense and this may be is why unionists have “fears” about an all island state.

    The union hasnt worked for the six counties unionists try every day to find new ways to make a UI seem less appealing and there very quickly running out of ideas!

    By the way keith m, northern ireland resulted from the british/unionists unwillingness to accept the vote of 80% of the irish people for an independant soverign ireland. Thus the 6 northern counties were dragged into this statelet even though 3 of the six counties had an irish majority. The boarder therefore divides the country of ireland, and like all dividing walls of late, it will fall, and after it happens you’ll be wondering why you ever opposed its removal.

  • hotdogx

    Talking about the republic rejoining the uk is a waist of space on this web page and it shows you havent visted the republic or at least know very little about it. Unionism loves to portray the republic as a catholic ruled republican sympathisers state, and i can believe how many of you actuall believe this nonsense and this may be is why unionists have “fears” about an all island state.

    The union hasnt worked for the six counties unionists try every day to find new ways to make a UI seem less appealing and there very quickly running out of ideas!

    By the way keith m, northern ireland resulted from the british/unionists unwillingness to accept the vote of 80% of the irish people for an independant soverign ireland. Thus the 6 northern counties were dragged into this statelet even though 3 of the six counties had an irish majority. The boarder therefore divides the country of ireland, and like all dividing walls of late, it will fall, and after it happens you’ll be wondering why you ever opposed its removal.

  • Mark Baxter

    Hi Billy

    I’ve arrived late into this thread, but I was just wondering what economic steps would need to be taken to integrate NI into a UI? What would a southern government do? And how would this be achievable in the context of the very likely situation where there would be widespread loyalist violence, civil disobedience or even some form of bombing campaign?

    Btw I still believe that we can make NI work but I’d be interested in hearing the details of any economic argument.

  • hotdogx

    Mark,
    why do you think there would be loyalist violence and possibly huge social unrest?

    It wouldn’t achieve anything as northern ireland would cease to exist and it would form part of the rest of ireland making it impossible for it to rejoin the UK. Plus many extremeists say they would leave in the event of a UI.

    No violence occured when the republic broke its ties with the UK, or in donegal where there are unionists today who
    were not included in the northern ireland statelet. If violence did occour both countries uk and ireland would have to deal with it for a time during the takeover which might be over a few years to allow a slow steady change, but after that period
    violence would become an irish issue only with some help possibly from the british

    As regards a takeover plan, the two governments would fund the region for a time before the hand over allowing a slow change which would help things to progess smoothly. What do you think?

  • Fermanagh Young Unionist

    hotdogx,

    “why do you think there would be loyalist violence”

    Well thinking about it in a simplistic way – UI declared resulting in massive anger in previously NI resulting in mass riots and demonstrations resulting in the Irish army being sent up into areas such as Belfast and Antrim resulting in loyalist anger towards the Irish army resulting in the Irish government realising what a cock up the have made for unlike the British they cannot afford to have a large military presence in previously NI.

    The problems may not last as long but the violence would be of greater scale for unlike nationalists in the troubles Loyalists lives would be greatly changed and would feel EXTREMELY threatened by their new Irish leaders.

    “making it impossible for it to rejoin the UK”
    Well the Irish better start saving now for their will be many people who think that it would be possible for the Irish could simply not afford to keep them.

    “Plus many extremeists say they would leave”
    Not all of them then?

    “No violence occured when the republic broke its ties with the UK”
    Thats a weak point for unlike the south there would be a large proportion of the population against the move.

    “or in donegal where there are unionists”
    I think the last figures were 11% while in Antrim the percentage is……?

    “If violence did occour both countries uk and ireland would have to deal with it”
    So pretty much then the British army would be doing the work then? How exactly would that help for loyalists would feel betrayed by the British and threatened by the Irish.

    “the two governments would fund the region”
    What could they do? Pay unionists/loyalists to change their views?

  • elvis

    Alan2
    ‘Electronic Arts has a Uk supplier and an All-Ireland supplier. Being in Northern Ireland we HAVE to buy from the ALL-Ireland supplier the UK supplier will not trade with us. Therefore we have to buy our goods in euros from the South and pay conversion fees making us more expensive than the South and more expensive than Tesco`s and Virgin who being large UK companies buy from the UK supplier and ship to NI.’
    If the above is true you should visit the European Commission office in Belfast and seek help as this is illegal. The UK supplier cannot refuse to supply you – nor incidentally could the Republic of Ireland refuse to supply the UK – Treaty of Rome protects free trade in EU

  • Mark Baxter

    Fair enough hotdog, there may or may not be violence if a UI was announced but thats not really my main point. My point is what are the economic steps the south could or would take to make NI “profitable”. You mentioned the two governments would fund the region, but in what way? Where would the money go? Who would it go to? Is there any guarantee that the Exchequer would fork out millions of pounds to cover this, and if not, is there any international law that could force them to?

  • Paul Doyle

    I wrote the above piece and first of all, cheers for taking the time to read and comment on it.

    Young Ireland

    “I don’t rate Sinn Fein’s Green Paper either but I think Mr Doyle’s comments above are too simplistic.”

    The passage you quoted was fairly simplistic, but also think it was accurate. Do you think what unionists aspire to – to maintain the link with Britain, and what nationalists want – to sever that link, can both be catered for at the same time?

    Fair deal

    “I read the Green paper twice and there was barely a skeleton in the document never mind any meat. It read simply as a rather badly written PR document trying to show up others for not producing something on the issue.”

    I’d go along with that. The whole thing seems seriously half-arsed which is shocking really, considering a united Ireland is supposed to be their core aim.

    Henry94

    “Only when the Belfast Agreement is removed, along with the unionist veto it is built on, will republican ideals be realised.
    So we will never convince the unionists but we should concentrate on convincing the British to sell them out. He’s a bit coy about we would convince the British.”

    Basically yes. I don’t think unionism will be talked into voting themselves out of the union. There’s nothing to suggest they would consider it. A withdrawal can only be affected by either unionism or the British government and of the two, unionism has the strongest level of attachment to the current constitutional position of the North.

    Also, I’m not saying there should be a return to the use of force. At the moment, politics is the only way forward.

    “Can anyone find a single constructive sentence in the entire article.”

    The article was a critique of the Green Paper, not an outline of an alternative route forward so I don’t see that as fair criticism.

    “I actually have a problem with the whole reasoning behind the question. It’s like the people who favour democratic and peaceful means are being asked for assurances that the outcome will be a united Ireland. And the people who are asking reserve the right to opt for violence if they are not happy with the assurances.”

    That’s a misrepresentation of my position. You shouldn’t equate an anti-GFA republican position with a support for violence. There are different peaceful ways of pursuing a united Ireland, I’m simply highlighting the fact that this one is full of holes.

    Alan McDonald

    “To get back to the piece at the head of this thread, Paul Doyle says:

    The mutually exclusive nature of the political aspirations of unionists and nationalists means that only one can ever be satisfied at any one time.

    As an American, I find this zero-sum, contitutional, sovereignty problem to be both useless and insoluble. I am tempted to say a pox on both your houses and to remind you that you can’t eat a flag. But I agree that it is better to debate these issues with a blog on the Internet rather than with bullets in the street”

    The people of Ireland aspire to what they do for good reason. Many nationalists for example feel that after decades of being brutalised discriminated against and murdered in the North, that they will only be afforded permanent protection once they’re returned to a majority in a united Ireland. This is about more than flags.

    Ringo

    “If you are drawing parallels between Collins settling for less than a Republic and the possibility of Unionists settling for less than the Union, it must be remembered that it is a lot easier to get to where you want to be when you are already there, than when you have to make a journey.”

    Well put. As things stand unionism is the winner and with it’s veto in place there’s no incentive for it to budge an inch.

    “The principle of consent has been British policy throughout. Decades of terrorism could not shift them. The article blithely assumes that nevertheless they could still be talked (and this may be a charitable interpretation) out of it”

    I’m not saying it would be easy to get the British government to drop support for the unionist veto, far from it. However, I think it would be far easier than trying to get hundreds of thousands of unionists to vote themselves out of the union. When the DUP tears down the agreement, this will be further evidence that unionism will not work an internal settlement which holds anything for nationalists in terms of their national aspirations. Their refusal to deal, in the right circumstances, could be used as justification for the dropping of consent.

  • Alan McDonald

    Hey, Paul

    My flag-eating comment that you objected to came, I believe, from John Hume. So did the consent principle, or, as you call it, the Unionist veto.

    To paraphrase you, The people of Ireland (both Nationalist and Unionist) aspire to what they do for good reason.