'Stupid' struggle?

In Tuesday’s Guardian, Lionel Shriver claims that “throughout the whole melee, whether Ireland was united never mattered very much, and really doesn’t matter now”. Not for the first time, she’s trying to prick our “collective vanity”. By regularly writing about us in international newspapers.

  • levee

    It was a self-important piece of writing by Shriver, but the point you quote is fair enough.

    Although die-hard Republicans would complain of 30 years of British oppression, that’s just not true these days. Opportunities are there for Catholics and Protestants alike and it’s up to individuals to sieze them.

    The United Ireland debate has always been emotive, never pracitcal. For instance, I wonder whether a single mother with several children would be better-off in a United Ireland or United Kingdom. Is anyone aware of any research on this?

  • Fanny

    No – although there’s no doubt that the country which can dump NI’s single mums onto another country will benefit enormously.

  • Aaron

    Levee, you make valid points. My main argument with Shriver would be the idea that something emotive “doesn’t matter”.

  • Upsidedown

    Shriver seems to be a bit of a wannabe contraversionalist, first with her novel and now with her column. Whilst I haven’t had a chance to read the book yet, out of the five or six (maybe less, though it feels like more…)columns that I’ve read of hers in the Guardian, two have been broadly about NI – even the one she wrote about the 07-07 bombs in London! – but no matter what the topic the tone is always the same (shrill)

  • looking in

    “stupid argument”

    … how much money has UK spent here and in England in last 30 yrs dealing with the fall out and recently the £0.6 – 1.0 Bn caused at Bishopsgate in ’97 and political impetus engendered.

    vanity – fair enought, but it is unworthy to say it didn’t matter

  • serak

    She makes some very arrogant assertions and yes, she tries to be controversial. It is not only naive to say that Ireland being united never mattered and still doesn’t matter, but it’s plain wrong.

  • Levitas

    It matters if you happen to be Irish and have an ounce of pride in your nations right to take its rightful place as a nation amongst the other sovereign nations of the world….so I guess for him/her it won’t matter, but then again who gives a toss about yet another pseudo-intellectual journos opinion?

  • aquifer

    It takes an outsider to see things afresh.

    Self-absorbed, brutal, vain bullies dishonouring their causes.

    I apologise for ceasing to notice.

    Aaron. Deciding that something emotive must matter is an invitation to fascism. The local version is airtime terrorism, where people’s innards are scattered about to signify that some political cause is important. Its a rare political cause that is that important in this day and age and in this corner of the developed world, and a cause that is promoted in this way when other options are open is disgraced, and may well be in decline.

  • BogExile

    Quite right Aquifer,

    It’s funny how a bit of accurate caricature which dares to undermine the ludicrous and destructive theory of physical force republicanism can generate such definsiveness. Don’t throw the Dolly out of the pram, boys, because your squalid, nasty, graceless little war is actually seen by an American coimmentator as irrelevant and stupid. That’s how most people with an ounce of morality view it.

  • serak

    It’s easy to argue that the troubles were unnecessary and stupid. The same can be said about the majority of wars. But I’d love to see her argue that Ireland being united doesn’t matter and never did.

  • Fishfiss

    I hear that recently a senior SF person, possibly McLaughlin, came close to saying that the provos were essentially an armed civil rights organization, it may have been on RTE – does anyoe have chaper and verse on that interview ?

  • The Beach Tree

    Fishfiss

    I know that Eamonn McCann recently said that the IRA campaign was not about reunification but about “gaining civil rights by other means” – i.e that it’s main role was to make impossible a return to the pre-1968 set up.

    In that limited objective, they might even be able to claim some success.

  • printemps

    I generally like Shriver’s articles, although she can be shrill. Shriver is paid by the Guardian to be controversial, not to be winsome, so that’s hardly a valid criticism of her pieces. However, I think she does make the point about collective vanity quite well. One of the downsides of the end of the Troubles is that no one much cares anymore – it’s largely irrelevant to vast swathes of people living here, so why should it matter to those outside NI?

    The problem is that is continues to affect so many people who can’t, or haven’t, moved on from the bad old days.

  • The Beach Tree

    printemps

    A little behind the times, maybe 🙂

    you should be l’été by now.

    I’ll get my coat.

  • Paul

    I thought Shiver’s piece was spot-on. She didn’t say that re-unification didn’t matter, just that it didn’t matter that much. If Eamonn McCann and Mitchel McLaughlin are trying to argue that the IRA’s campaign was primarily about civil rights they are trying to rewrite history. As Shiver and many others have pointed out, in terms of the things that matter to ordinary people the major civil rights victories were won by 1971, before the IRA’s campaign really got going. We will probably hear more of this lying nonsense from now on. The alternative for Sinn Fein is to admit that their “armed struggle” has been an abject failure as regards their real objective of terrorising unionists into a united Ireland. Much better to try and claim as your own gains won by other people by other methods.

  • Biffo

    Paul

    “As Shiver and many others have pointed out, in terms of the things that matter to ordinary people the major civil rights victories were won by 1971”

    Absolutely right Paul. By 1971 there only a couple of minor issues left – like imprisonment without trial and the continued existence of the “one-party” Stormont regime, not to mention the summary execution of people marching to protest about those minor issues.

    We are lucky to have well-informed historians like yourself to protect us from republican propaganda.

  • Biffo

    Fishfiss

    “I hear that recently a senior SF person, possibly McLaughlin, came close to saying that the provos were essentially an armed civil rights organization, it may have been on RTE – does anyoe have chaper and verse on that interview ?”

    Interesting. If true, McLaughlin’s opinion is basically converging with unionist opinion which has always maintained that the mid-1960’s civil rights association were basically armed republicans.

    One man – one vote, only the IRA could come up with a slogan like that.

  • Biffo

    If Shriver thinks communal violence in Northern Ireland was “stupid”. What does she think of the thousands killed in communal violence in Kashmir? Possibly “incredibly dumb”.

  • Fishfiss

    Biffo

    I think there’s an as yet silent recognition that what many volunteers were ultimately motivated by, was not ‘freeing Ireland’, but rather getting the army out of the country and getting the oppressive RUC off their backs and some socio-economic justice within the state; which is logical anyway as if these conditions had pertained pre-1968 there would not have been a Provisional IRA, leastways not a popular one capable and willing to sustain a prolonged campaign. Which is not to say that NICRA was a provo front or even inspired by republican ideals, we all now know that wasn’t true. It’s now a view held only by opportunist revisionist unionists who deny that NI was ever unjust towards non-unionists.

  • Jo

    Richard English makes the point that the cr movement was actually instigated and organised by republicans and that there was a larger scale of IRA involvement than might have been previously thought.
    Thats not to say that the ulterior aim was always to use violence, although the PD march in Jan 69 was deliberately provocative and there was armed protection for the marchers in south Derry (see Bernadetee’s book)

  • Dandyman

    The funny thing is that when you meet people from the mainland of Britain – especially English people – under the age of 30 you discover that a lot of them don’t even realise that Northern Ireland is still part of the UK, couldn’t point out Belfast on a map, and have no idea what the hell the NI ‘problems’ are about.

  • Marker

    Fishfiss,

    I was an IRA volunteer, my motivations in joining were to do with the reality of oppression outside my front door. The British army on my street, the constant blanket raids and brutal arrests, the ever present harassment, beatings and torture of relatives and friends by the RUC.

    My political and revolutionary education came later, my understanding that it was more than ridding our streets of the British army and RUC. If we were to truely have freedom we needed to be involved in creating a new Ireland were injustices at a macro level can be tackled for all citizens and were the aspirations of the 1916 proclaimation could be turned into reality.

  • rab

    If we were to truely have freedom we needed to be involved in creating a new Ireland were injustices at a macro level can be tackled for all citizens and were the aspirations of the 1916 proclaimation could be turned into reality.

    And you ended up with the GFA, lol.

  • lib2016

    ‘And you ended up with the GFA,lol.’

    No, we began with the GFA. Not freedom but the means to gain freedom.

  • Eamonn Ó Gallachoír

    A Chara
    Untill all Of Britains Terrorist occupiers are gone from our land and our Nation returned to its Freedom we will all be working overtime
    Tiocfaidh ár lá, Éire Amach

  • Fanny

    Ha – you boys wouldn’t know a day’s work if it jumped up and bit you on the arse.

  • DK

    Marker and friends,

    Bizaar logic. Did you ever stop to think that the the main contributing factor to troops on the street, quasi military policing, raids etc etc, (as you perceived), was the campaign of murder and destruction being waged by the IRA, on society? Apparently not. You decided to take part in it. Consequently the rest of us suffer even more because of your inability to join the dots together.

    Happily the mist seems to be clearing from your collective minds and guess what? All the things that prompted you to embark on a life dedicated to taking life, are fading away. Don’t try picking incidents up to try and prove different. Things have demonstrably changed and you know it.

    They will continue to change for the better. A major step will be if we can get the same mists to lift from the moronic purveyors of death on the loyalist side.

    Now of course you original mists have been replaced by different barriers to sight; political ideology. Now there is something worth killing for. An administration in Dublin, rather than London. Green and yellow telefon boxes. Just think of the joy of it. You could wake up in the morning, salute the new flag of the 32 county state, (whatever that looks like), have breakfast and …..! And what? Won’t it make your heart sing to have killed and bombed for that?

    Step back again, look at life, join some dots together!

  • IJP

    Marker

    While I believe your motivations were misguided (and resulted in unnecessary death and injury to friends and family of mine for a start), I welcome you very much to this forum.

    It’s a cliché but it’s true – dialogue in any form, uncomfortable though the outcome may be for some of us on occasions, is essential to a fair and free future, and indeed to eventually agreeing what ‘fair and free’ means.

    Dandyman

    And I’ve met people from Austria who don’t realize Ireland is an independent state. And people from the Irish Republic who don’t realize the rugby team is all-Ireland.

    What’s your point?

    Lib2016

    ‘Freedom’ from whom? to do what?

    Define ‘freedom’.

    Eamon

    Thanks for that helpful intervention.

  • lib2016

    IJP

    May I suggest that instead of playing wordgames you should spend your pocketmoney on a dictionary. SHEESH!

  • lib2016

    …or you could just ask the Colombia Three. 😉

  • Paul Carten

    I stand corrected Biffo,I think though that the issues you mentioned were history a couple of years after 1971. I’m not an historian, perhaps you can inform me exactly what the following 30 years of murder and misery were in aid of, if not forcing Prods into a united Ireland.

  • Paul

    I stand corrected Biffo,I think though that the issues you mentioned were history a couple of years after 1971 and it is quite possible that that could have been achieved by peaceful means. I’m not an historian, perhaps you can inform me exactly what the following 25 years of murder and misery were in aid of, if not forcing Prods into a united Ireland.

  • Paul

    Paul

    Accuracy is a good thing.

    “I’m not an historian, perhaps you can inform me exactly what the following 25 years of murder and misery were in aid of, if not forcing Prods into a united Ireland.”

    Are you suggesting that the UDA and the UVF killed 1,000 people, and intimidated thousands of others out of their homes, in order to force Prods into a united Ireland?

    Are you trying to rewrite history?

    If you really don’t know what went on over those years get a copy of David McKittrick’s book “Making Sense of the Troubles”.

    But please don’t come off with that bullshit that only protestants suffered and only republicans are guilty.

    Have you a sensible question you want to ask me?

  • IJP

    Lib

    It was a simple enough question but I’ll rephrase – in what way precisely are people in the RoI ‘free’ and people in NI ‘not free’?

    Paul

    You are entirely correct to raise Loyalist violence.

    However, listening to the IRA and its friends, you would think that only Republicans had suffered. Yet, for the past 30 years, they have caused most of the suffering. It is time so-called ‘Republicans’ recognized that fact and faced up to the need to make amends fast, rather than constantly playing the victim. They could start by returning to the true, enlightened roots of real Irish Republicanism.

  • Lorre

    “It is time so-called ‘Republicans’ recognized that fact and faced up to the need to make amends fast, rather than constantly playing the victim”

    Play acting 2nd class victimhood against protestant domination by those from West Belfast or from the Bogside in Derry has been a constant Catholic obsession which has been exploited by SF for generations.

    How come similar poor Catholics living in areas of Dublin Cork or Limerick with high unemployment and high petty crime may also feel 2nd class citizens . But they can hardly blame it on protestant domination.

    One question they need to ask themselves Would the standard of living get any better for Catholics in West belfast or the Bogside if they lived in a United ireland?

  • Biffo

    IJP

    “..It is time so-called ‘Republicans’ recognized that fact and faced up to the need to make amends fast, rather than constantly playing the victim…”

    That goes for unionists as well. Interesting to hear the DUP blame heavyhanded policing (though there can never be an excuse) for the trouble in north Belfast this week.

    Can we expect the DUP to criticise the police the next time there’s rioting in a nationalist area of north Belfast.

    Of course we can’t because violence that emanates from loyalists has be understood in it’s proper context and treated differently from nationalist violence.

    You say that “..for the past 30 years they have caused most of the suffering. It is time so-called ‘Republicans’ recognized that fact and faced up to the need to make amends fast..”

    You are apportioning blame and you are quite correct, republicans caused 57% of the suffering and they should make amends.

    But what about the other 43% of the suffering. Do we accept that while never excusable it was understandable.

    Unionists deliberately choose to ignore the 43% of suffering that wasn’t caused by republicans.

    If I killed 57 people without good cause and you killed 43 without good cause is the onus solely on me to change my ways because I caused most of the fatalities?

    Amends need to be made, as you say, but it is a bit cheeky to say that only republicans are required to do it.

    Paisley was outraged that there was no apology or humility from the IRA in their last statement.

    Will the elected leader of unionism be apologising for the sectarian shit-stirring he has engaged in since the 1960’s?

  • Pacart

    Paul, an audit conducted by the NUU a couple of years ago revealed that not only had the PIRA killed more people than anyone else, they killed more Catholics than anyone else and in fact killed more Republicans than anyone else!Little wonder people get so pissed off at Sinn Fein’s whining, hypocritical victimhood. Also, people, on this site, will obviously talk about PIRA violence more than loyalist violence because the site is not chocablock with apologists for loyalist violence. As regards rewriting history this appears to be a major project now for Sinn Fein.

  • IJP

    Biffo

    But with respect, your response illustrates my point.

    Although you are quite right, when are Nationalists going to stop saying ‘But that goes for Unionists as well’? Because the only response that gets is ‘Ay, but that goes for Nationalists as well’.

    When is Irish Nationalism actually going to get on with addressing the suffering that those within Irish Nationalism caused? When are they going to stop playing ‘perpetual victim’ and start thinking seriously about the prominent role people within their communities played in this ‘stupid struggle’? When are they going to stop saying ‘we’ll offer you the hand of friendship, provided you accept our world view’ and start seriously thinking about the legitimacy of their own and others’ world views?

    In short, when are we going to stop hearing ‘ay, but themmuns do it as well’ and start hearing ‘you know, what we did was wrong, no excuses’?

    (Self-evidently that goes for Unionists as well).

  • lib2016

    I’m an Irish citizen living in Ireland but I’m not free to take part in electing an Irish government, not to mention the constant petty harassment I’ve had to put up with from a foreign army for the last thirty odd years, nor the sectarian militia who harassed me and my community before that.

    The good thing is that the list of stupid humiliations imposed on me and the rest of the nationalist population by the British and Unionist tradition on this island has ensured that that tradition cannot appeal to most people on this island.

    ‘A long peace’ is the blueprint for a successful unionist political revival but republicans never had to worry. Unionists chose Paisleyism instead.

  • IJP

    Lib

    Thanks for the response.

    However, in fact you are a Republic of Ireland citizen living within the UK, a situation set out in the Agreement, which also enables you to take part in elections in the UK (including voting for parties which wish to take you out of the UK). So you are entirely free democratically.

    The harassment from the Army was unacceptable, but again that Army is not in fact ‘foreign’. It is the UK Army on UK soil – again, a situation set out under the Agreement. Recent moves have seen a) significant reduction in UK Army troop numbers in this area of the UK; and b) the development of a fully accountable police service. So again, in terms of security forces, you are entirely free (in fact more so than you would be in the Republic or Great Britain, which have less advanced modes of appeal and censor).

    Your second paragraph is entirely correct. But again unapologetic Irish Nationalism seeking to impose its world view (often inaccurate, as per ‘foreign army’) isn’t going to appeal to the whole island either. Many from the British tradition have been humiliated and made to suffer by those claiming to represent Irish Nationalism too. The Agreement promises full and mutual respect for those traditions and ends any prospect of domination by one of the other – it’s about time both sides stopped attempting it. So you are entirely free culturally too.

    Your last paragraph is also spot on. Unionists continue to vote for parties which seek that domination, rather than those which seek to work for genuine inclusion and fairness based on that mutual respect I’ve just mentioned. However, Republicans have plenty to worry about, not least their own complete failure to make Irish Nationalism appeal to all but the most minute minority outside the Catholic tradition. But at least we’re free to choose.

    So, in fact, you are entirely free – to participate in elections, to choose your representatives, to appeal against abuses by the security forces, and to participate in your culture.

    In terms of Equality, Human Rights, Ombudsmen to cover everything from police to government conduct, and many other things Northern Ireland is in fact the most advanced country legislatively anywhere in the world. However, for as long as sectarianism along the lines of ‘it was all themmuns not us’ns’ continues, those advances will appear only in theory not in reality. It is the scourge of sectarianism that means no one in NI is truly ‘free’.

  • Biffo

    IJP

    “When is Irish Nationalism actually going to get on with addressing the suffering that those within Irish Nationalism caused? When are they going to stop playing ‘perpetual victim’ and start thinking seriously about the prominent role people within their communities played in this ‘stupid struggle’?”

    Probably when unionism is ready to admit and accept responsibility for the prominent role played by members of it’s community in this ‘stupid struggle’ and the suffering they caused over the last 4 decades.