Why is Nationalism not interested in unionists?

As a Slugger pairing with Tommy McKearney’s piece in Daily Ireland yesterday, Trevor Ringland had this letter in the Irish News last Friday, which seems to be covering similar ground, but from another angle. In it he questions Republicanism’s past methods for unifying the island, and asks to what extent they have Unionists in mind in their vision for a unified future.

By Trevor Ringland

PATRICK Murphy (August 20) in his article entitled ‘Unionists need to address some searching questions’ argued that, while it might not seem obvious at times, the moderates have won the argument within.

Sharing of power/responsibility in government is no longer an issue nor is the working of properly constitutional cross-border bodies. That some leading unionists have taken over 30 years to buy into those core principles is a matter of regret.

The problems of Ireland can be put down in simple terms to two flawed ideologies: a Britishness in Northern Ireland that did not include those who saw themselves as Irish; and an Irishness which could not accommodate those on the island who saw themselves as British. Partition happened because the people were already divided and the fault for that lies on both sides.

In 1998 the people on the island of Ireland voted in support of unity of the people over and above the concept of unity of two parts of the island. Patrick Murphy might reflect on the fact that a majority of unionists voted for the agreement in that referendum. Further, he does us all disservice by failing to pose the same question to the republican and nationalist communities.

Many of the issues we face are problems for democracy, not merely a unionist concern.

The question many from my community want to ask is: are you going to engage constructively to make Northern Ireland work for the benefit of all, as a means of promoting a United Ireland in preference to remaining part of the United Kingdom? Or not?
I have often remarked to my friends in the Republic of Ireland that the biggest mistake they ever made about uniting Ireland was that they never asked the people they want to unite with – over one million unionists who are not going away. In fact I said worse than that – the only method used to persuade the unionists of the benefits of a united Ireland was the bomb and the bullet.

Who ever created a relationship with their partner by threatening the parents, shooting the brothers and sisters and bombing the family home?

In discussions over the proposed equality agenda with nationalist and republican politicians at different times, two in particular I asked: “What definition of Irish are you using and does it include me?”

I pointed out that my definition of Britishness included them – reflecting its main constituent elements of English, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish among the many other groups in an increasingly complex identity. Both promised an answer but many years later I am still waiting for it.

Most of us in moderate unionism expected that the outworking of the agreement would create a competitive battle for hearts and minds, one that would allow us to create partnerships and build relationships and through that to pursue our respective constitutional goals. We expected to create a peaceful and stable part of the world for the benefit of ourselves and our children.

What better tribute to those who lost their lives and suffered so much than to build a shared society and a shared Ireland to bring closer the relationships on these islands to ensure that such conflict never happens again.

Idealistic but a better option than any offered by those who promote driving the British out or a Protestant state for a Protestant people.

A shared future is the only way forward and through the consent principle we have created a basis for constitutional stability or a means by which the constitutional position could change.

Realistically, would any nationalist or republican want constitutional change without the consent of the vast majority of unionists? I am not sure there are many in the Republic of Ireland who would.

So stereo-type unionism, put it down if you wish, but don’t fail to recognise the changes in thinking that have gone on in unionism.

What Gerry Fitt argued for in the 1970s was right for unionism then but it is also right for nationalism and republicanism now.

If we are forever to be kept apart by the promotion of exclusive visions of Britishness and Irishness then we will not be able to produce a stable society here.

It is for politicians to take responsibility and share it in a manner that makes Northern Ireland a better place for all.
Promotion of inclusive concepts of unionism and nationalism create a basis on which relationships and a shared future can be soundly built. Those in unionism who won the argument over that inclusive concept will continue to make it and challengethose who undermine it.

However, republicanism and nationalism face their own searching questions. Not least, where are they going and precisely what kind of future do they want with their unionist friends and neighbours?

First published in the Irish News on Friday 2nd September

  • The Beach Tree

    Mick

    You know, looking through your stuff and the rest of this debate, I’m beginning to feel a little picked on….

    hmmm.

  • Mick Fealty

    If it’s flawless and incontrovertable, it is also generalised and unfalsifiable. Amd to that extent it’s almost entirely content free!

    It’s not against Slugger’s rules of civility. By no means. But, however eloquently expressed, it simply adds up to a repetitive reassertion of an opinion – not an argument.

    I hope I’ve got my point across? Otherwise, I’m afraid I don’t have the time to push this one to the end.

  • Mick Fealty

    You’ve said that before when we have talked. Usually, I make my point and then back off. This time however I felt I owed you a longer, more detailed explaination of the wider point.

    I’ve really not intended to pick on you in anyway. Honestly. I apologise if that’s the way I’ve come across.

  • Mark Baxter

    The Beach Tree

    Like any other british national living abroad, but with special protections by dint of your birth on the island. Is your culture and heritage that weak? The Irish national culture survived a lot worse.

    So what would these special protections be? As for my culture and heritage, I’ve never considered them weak, are you saying they’ll stay the same in a UI?

    British Nationals living in a different EU state. Lots do it already.

    They do so through their own choice by moving abroad and so on, what are republicans and nationalists going to do to persuade us to make that kind of break?

    Well, it was good enough for nationalists in Northern Ireland all those years, wasn’t it, and you still expect our community to put up with it indefinately, and yet god forbid the shoes on the other foot.

    No need for mopery. If that time ever comes when the shoe is on the other foot, unionists will have to accept the democratic wishes of the majority. There’s also the fact that it may not be indefinitely, it could be never.

    Mark, frankly your position is basically hypocitical.

    How’s it hypocritical? You don’t even know my position? I was just trying to engage and find out what common ground there is and what reassurances and incentives unionists are being given to seriously consider a UI?

    For what it’s worth, we’re perfectly happy to accept your nationality. We just won’t accept your overlordship. Not least because when the boot was on the other foot, your community acted abominably.

    I’m in my early twenties, how am I responsible for the actions of politicians I had no abilty to vote for? I’m not gonna get involved in whatboutery on the conduct of either community, but you’re not going to win many supporters if you plan to lecture and patronise them.

  • The Beach Tree

    Mick

    I’m sorry, but I cannot for the life of me see the logic of your position.

    A point was made by an opponant, pure opinion, no backup at all. I believed the point was false and set out to prove it as best I could.

    I countered, quite obviously, with my own opinion, but with factual reasons for that opinion, based on incontrovertable history, that explained why that opinion is likely to be closer to the truth.

    You say it’s generalised – I made mention of at least two very time and place specific events (the arming of the Home Rule campaign, and the founding of the Irish Volunteers)- nothing general about them. And I made use of an unavoidable and very specific argument (the cause of something cannot logically come after it)

    That’s what debate is, Mick.

    How is my post, which makes a logical argument based ON CONTENT (the aforemention stated facts) MORE objectionable than the poster I was arguing with who made out no facts at all? The mid boggles.

    One is tempted to ask what could I have possibly done differently.

    One is more than tempted to ask how my posts are in any way inferior to any others on the whole bloody site.

    it simply adds up to a repetitive reassertion of an opinion – not an argument

    Not only do I find this blatently untrue (see above), I find it personally offensive.

    I must say, Mick, I’m starting to get not a little frustrated (to put it mildly) with what I consider a deeply unfair attack, both on me and the argument I made.

    If you wish me to vacate the site, have the honesty to say so, and I will of course accede to the request. It’s your ball, and you can play with it as you wish.

    But my input deserved better treatment than this.

  • The Beach Tree

    Mark

    (in what may be my last post given the weather ;-))

    So what would these special protections be? As for my culture and heritage, I’ve never considered them weak, are you saying they’ll stay the same in a UI?

    I don’t know what the protections would be, your community hasn’t really bothered to engage us to tell us yet – though you mentioned disliking the Articles 2 and 3 and the RC bit of the constittion – we got rid of that, see? I’d assume we’d negotiate it, hopefully in a peaceful and generous atmosphere.

    British Nationals living in a different EU state. Lots do it already.

    They do so through their own choice by moving abroad and so on, what are republicans and nationalists going to do to persuade us to make that kind of break?

    Many british nationals abroad were stranded there by the end of colonialism, Mark. It’s far from unique.

    Assuming that most unionists cannot be persuaded (and that’s what i’m hearing) we’d have to do our best in those circumstances to be fair using our best lights.

    No need for mopery. If that time ever comes when the shoe is on the other foot, unionists will have to accept the democratic wishes of the majority. There’s also the fact that it may not be indefinitely, it could be never.

    Eureka – that’s all I’m asking for! I’m quite content to never see UI if the majority never favour it, despite my distrust of the whole NI concept. If Unionists accept it peacefully, even protest it peacefully, I’ll be on the barricade protecting their right to do so!

    There is one thing I won’t so, one thing alone. i won’t be bullied into never having UI, even if ‘we’ ‘win’ the vote simply by the threat of unionist violence.

    How’s it hypocritical? You don’t even know my position? I was just trying to engage and find out what common ground there is and what reassurances and incentives unionists are being given to seriously consider a UI?

    Hey, i’m sorry to offend – personally, i think we’re all hypocritical at times, its the human condition. I do not mean the offence I’ve caused with that word – I’ll replace it with inconsistent, ok?

    You seem to fear how British citizens will function outside the UK, yet that’s exactly how Irish citizens in Northern Ireland have had to fare. That was my point.

    I’m in my early twenties, how am I responsible for the actions of politicians I had no abilty to vote for? I’m not gonna get involved in whatboutery on the conduct of either community, but you’re not going to win many supporters if you plan to lecture and patronise them..

    My point is not personal blame – it is that we have a long history of not trusting your community, for valid reasons, and the behaviour since 1998 seems to be part of the same old pattern.

  • lib2016

    The Beach Tree

    Just like to thank you for putting certain points better than I ever could, though I still maintain that unionism will end with a whimper rather sooner than many of it’s adherents like to believe.

    This board has often been dominated by unionists. It would seem from looking at all the new blogs that they really are individualiists after all! 😉

  • Democratic

    Hi Beach Tree,
    I know you are taking a bit of flak at the moment and I hope you do not leave the debate. (I don’t think the moderator suggested that for a moment) I also appreciate the time that goes into composing these posts but I remain unsatisfied with your response – can I perhaps clarify? I and another poster had given full attention to anyone who would detail to us how Nationalists were reaching out to Unionists to re-evaluate their thinking – you then responded and basically told us that Protestants or Unionists will not listen to any reason because (a)this happened in the past or that happened in the past right back to 1912 and far beyond and (b) some bigoted morons in the “bible belt” are burning out their neighbours of late. Your generalisms towards Protestants/Unionists are both extremely unsound and irritating but I respect your honesty in sharing them. Again I feel that for all your posts and time you have spent you could have answered the original question in one sentence. Nationalists are doing nothing to reach out to Unionists because we feel that there is no point – and as one of those offending Protestant Unionists all I can do is offer to listen and consider any sound reasoning on the matter from Nationalism – the rest is up to you and yours – just please don’t tell me that as a Unionist I wouldn’t listen anyway so why bother based on experiences of old.

  • Mick Fealty

    [Mick leaves forum]

  • irishman

    Democratic

    Interesting to read your observations. As a Sinn Fein member, I feel the need to be quite frank here. I see our objectives at the moment (short-term) in the north to be two-fold: firstly, to continue the process of legitimising the Irish nationalist culture and identity in the north to attain a parity with unionism which should address the historical grievance lingering since partition.

    Secondly, we have begun an engagement with unionists to at least open dialogue channels and try to reach some tentative understandings. But i must say to you that I don’t buy into this notion- for even a second- that we should judge everything we do by how unionists are going to perceive it.

    The nature of this dialogue with unionists should not be misunderstood. Against the tide of opinion, I have begun to query why we even bother inviting unionists to speak at political debates and gatherings held in nationalist areas for the simple reason that I believe unionists treat these occasions as an opportunity to ‘tell’ nationalists what they have to do to please unionists.

    All understandable, but in the absence of any reciprocation from unionist communities, I fear we are buying into the notion that we somehow have to prove ourselves to unionists, who remain the ‘hard-done by’ community.

    That may sound depressing to you, but I fear something must be done to compel unionists to meet us half way.

  • The Beach Tree

    I seem to be becoming a bit of a lightning rod at present, loved or loathed. Not my intention. Disappointed that Mick has essentially left the discussion without accepting the validity of my complaints about my treatment. Still, there you have it…

    Democratic

    Thanks for your post, it was very generous given the admittedly pretty doctrinaire line I have begun to take.

    When I talk about what ‘unionism’ did or ‘unionists’ did, the animus is not personal – i’m thinking more about focus and target groups, message management and directed persuasion.

    In my opinion the group of non-sectarian, liberal, open minded unionists on the issue is small and declining. It pains me that this is so, because it need not have been. i could not possibly claim they do not exist at all. but given that all political persuasion at this level is a blunt exercise, I genuinely wonder what the point of an attempt of such persuasion would be. I’ve too much respect for some unionists to believe they can be bought off with sweeties.

    You personally may be willing to listen. Whether or not you are willing to listen, you appear sincere decent and reasonable (i entirely concede that reasonable unionists may not wish to listen, indeed, I think there are many more ‘reasonable’ unionists than ‘persuadable’ unionists if that make sense)

    However it’s hard to get past the clear success of the DUP and hardline elements in the UUP as barometers of unionist attitudes. Its hard to overlook UVF activities when ‘our’ side seem to be taking the risks for peace.

    However, I take you at your word and apologise for my ‘generalism’.

    What would i offer personally.

    1. A genuine chance for conflict to end, in a pluralist state without the history of anger and hatred.

    2. Genuine consideration given to symbols – a new flag, anthem, etc.

    3. Strong and official East-West bodies, with the intention of eventually achieving something in the line of the Nordic Council.

    4 recognition of the british minority guaranteed through representation in the Seanad, federal structures replicating the GFA provisions for the Northern Part of Ireland and maybe the continuation of the Northen Ireland football team 😉

    5. Irish membership of the commonwealth.

    6. the issue of continuing British nationality for you and your descendants would be a matter for HMG government, but I would be willing to lobby them strongly to continue it. I believe such lobbying could indeed be successful.

    7. The choice of Dublin and Belfast as joint capitals – or Amrmagh as a capital, with Dublin for Leinster and Belfast for Ulster.

    These may well seem twee, but operating from a base of ignorance and some hostility, i can’t imagine other things unless i’m told. So tell em.

  • Democratic

    Hi Beach Tree and Irishman
    Thanks for your response(s) I would hope that perhaps this thread may become less depressing yet. I sense a sort of tired dejection regarding your opinion of Unionists and the same old spiels and attitudes etc, on reading your posts I can understand why from your own respective points of view. Firstly I myself don’t believe that there will ever be any “civil war” scenario even within a theoretical United Ireland – despite what the the more hardliners and cynics may be saying on this thread – I do not believe that there would be any kind of widespread violence much more than is really happening at the moment (no comfort for those with their new fire blankets I realise – however) I am sure that the usual suspects in violent Loyalism would be up to their usual antics as ever (and there are a fair number I suppose)- but widespread violent uprising by Protestants against the state in the 21st century – I doubt it – I hold my own view that violent Republicanism was always wrong as do many Unionists – I would never countenance becoming some kind of distorted Unionist reflection of that ethos under any circumstances and would guess and hope that the average modern day to day Unionist would feel the same. This isn’t the 60’s anymore or 1912 or even 1690 – contrary to popular Nationalist belief we do all know that very well and whats more the majority I believe are happy with that. Perhaps I am an optimist by nature but I find it infinitely more rewarding than the cynicism so prevalent on this thread.
    Beach Tree if I may I found the tone of your last post much more palatable and very agreeable in content – you offer some good suggestions none of which I would dismiss out of hand (special brownie points for the continued existence of our beloved NI football team being taken into consideration on a bit of a childish personal note) You see for the many reasonable Protestants that talk about the (to me)admittedly pretty much inevitable United Ireland subject it is not the theories of how it may encompass us that are the problem it is the trust issue (after the last 30 years it is pretty much non-existent from our point of view as well) and the guarantees of practical physical implementation of the terms agreed (which I suppose are impossible to make anyway if there is no trust) But please do not have us all down for pistols at dawn because I do believe that we could reach an eventual accord even I suppose under the banner of an agreed form of United Ireland if and when it becomes the wish of the 50 plus 1 percent majority.

  • DK

    TBT

    I have been off the thread for a few hours and hence the lack of response to your earlier posts. Given how the thread has progressed, I will limit my reference back to previous points.

    On the paranoid front and the subsequent debate with Mick on facts versus opinion:

    There are and have been two sides, us and them, catholic and protestant, ever since the plantation if not the reformation. History put the protestants of the early days as planters, agents of the colonial power, whatever. You know what I mean. The subsequent contraction of colonialism resulted in the protestant descendants being in a defensive position, trying to maintain their position as a minority within an island and against the objectives of the “other side”, who quite frankly did display a slavish adherence to the bidding of their church, the very thing that defines the two sides.

    This is all history that you know. The point is that the clear identification of two sides and the historical positioning of those sides is the foundation of the paranoid mindset. 1912 was a point in history when the positions of each side was challenged. The result was the formation of NI, which for protestants seemed to be an escape route from losing.

    Since the formation of NI there has never been any serious attempt by Nationalists to persuade NI protestants of the benefit of UI. There has never been any attempt to build a common identity and destroy the two tribe mentality, the origin of the problems.

    Your contention that there was 50 yrs of limited activity” does not equate to persuasion. Telling someone that your only going to slap them now and again rather that a sustained full scale assault is just not a great marketing ploy. In the context of our history the paranoid mindset of unionism is inevitable and not a genetic trait.

    The energy and drive of the RM is very impressive. To sustain the campaign of violence over such a long period and to build the most dynamic political organistaion on the island, at the same time, requires huge effort, skill and planning. If the RM would make the same effort to persuade protestants to adopt a common vision of one society within a UI then I suggest that they may be surprised by the response.

    Obviously it would take years to get a critical mass over the line given the history. You were prepared to commit thirty odd yrs to the latest IRA campaign. Why not try the persuasion route.

    Republicans have never made any serious effort towards persuasion. You have dismissed those like me as an irrelevant if well meaning group within the greater irreconciliable mass of bigots.

    Your contention is that the votes for the DUP prove the validity of your stance. Once someone declares a position at the ballot box then they are written off as not open to persuasion. Those who don’t vote are written off as complicit with DUP voters. Those who vote for other Unionist minded parties are written off as just polite irreconciliable bigots. In short, if who show any signs that you are a unionist, then you are a bigot and not open to persuasion. Only those who positively vote for non unionist parties can be considered open to persuasion to abandon unionism. That seems to be your position.

    I put it to you that you have elected to abandon the route of persuasion based on a prejudice opinion of your neighbours, and the comfort of remaining in the “us and them” world. People can change their minds, even people who vote DUP and certainly those who don’t vote.

    You are so certain that your stereotype fits all you couldn’t be bothered testing it before embarking on a strategy which can only lead to greater division.

    How hard would it be for the RM to organise a poll across the spectrum of the protestant community? Find out what they really think.

    The riches political machine on the island would rather stick to the safety of their stereotypes. You wouldn’t want to start questioning something that you have spent so much effort creating, at least in your own minds.

    The bottom line is that you are wrong. I actually know better than you. I am from that community.

  • The Beach Tree

    DK and Democratic

    Two very interesting posts, deserving of more attention than I can give at this hour – please forgive if me if i make my main reply in the morning.

    But just as whistle wetters –

    thanks Democratic, I think we may have got somewhere. I in no way demand to win the UI argument. I totally accept it may never happen, and I can live with that. And Personally, as i come from Anglo-Irish and Gaelic Stock – i’ve no desire for an apocolypse – just lately I’ve felt it was inevitable – you’re reasonable and generous posting has renewed a small flame of hope, which i hope to fan tomorrow. Good night, chuck.

    DK

    I’m not a part of the republican movement. I’m a constitutional nationalist. And I never committed a day to a cam paign never mind thrity years. But both you and DK have hit on something in that many nationalists are frankly fed up with unionism. Not scared, or even angry. just frankly fed up.

    I don’t believe all unionists are bigots – but I do think political unionist circles are dreadfully short of progressive, non-bigotted leaders, and unionism needs one – it needs a charasmatic who is not a demagogue.

    I’m sure parts of the UUP vote are progressive. I’m sure many non-voting unionists are progressive. I have to maintain my stance on the DUP voters though – they ain’t stupid, they know what the voted for, and that is implaccible hostility, now and evermore.

    On the paranoia point, i disagree but I respect the argument you make, and the history you raise ; it is enlightening, and I’m grateful for it.

    And to be quite clear, I’m well aware that the RM campaign made persuasion infintely more difficult, and essentially lengthened unionisms ‘trust’ period. And I blame the RM for it, rest assured.

    Some unionists are in the bunker and want to stay there, some are willing to look over the parapet.

    it’s christmas and we have a football. But were open to persuasion if other convival games can be discussed.

    Of the (twee) list I game Democratic, did any of them sound interesting to you? Was there any obviously missing items?

  • DK

    TBT

    thanks for your positive response. I think that this has been a useful discussion and counters the negative view expressed about the comments section on the site.

    There are indeed serious issues within unionism in terms of sectarian baggage and a lack of leadership. Ironically, whilst nationalism continues to demonise us it becomes harder to get a focus on self analysis and internal criticism. The focus becomes defence and justifying positions. It is the “us and them” thing again.

    Usually the most informative debates are within unionism in the absence of nationalism. That allows people to open up and challenge our own community positions.

    If nationalism were to adopt positive language toward unionism, it makes it a lot easier for the progressive elements to challenge our own. We saw flickers of that during the run up to the GFA when the atmosphere, (far from perfect but an improvement on the past), enabled people from some of the hardest backgrounds challenge the old assumptions. I witnessed members of the PUP tearing into Paisley because of his intransigence.

    Things have slipped since then. However, I honestly believe there is always an opportunity to transform the situation. Nationalism may be fed up with unionism and I can understand some of the frustration. However you have a vested interest in doing what you can to create the environment which will encourage unionism to look at itself and see the glaring faults. Language is critically important to creating that atmosphere. The power of language is greater than all the IRA guns. Actions matter also. Nationalism should continue to reign in the morons who will look for any excuse for offence and the subsequent riot.

    Your (twee) list seems reasonable to me. I would be interested. There are a few additions that I could make but don’t have time just now. Hopefully we can expand that discussion later.

  • abucs

    I would add that Republicanism and Nationalism are only now in a position to effectively persuade a section of the Unionist community regarding future constitutional arrangements because the greater part of that community are no longer in total control of the present constitutional arrangements.

  • Ling

    Would a United Ireland that as a whole was closer to Britain than the Republic, along the lines the Beach Tree stated above, be palatable to Unionists and Nationalists?

    How much of a difference would it make as so much of this is related to identity, neither side wants the others identity foisted upon them.

    How would the rest of Britain and Ireland like any restructuring of how the two fit together. the Nordic Council example is all well and good, but would Britain be willing to engage in such a thing for the sake of the relatively small number of people for who’s sakes it would be for? How would the ROI respond to the idea in terms of sovereignty and general historic gubbins.

    Generally, yes as said above the Irish like Britain and the Brits like Ireland and in quite a lot of real terms the countries are *far* more integrated than most people would tend to admit (to me anyway, and culturaly at least). Go from Ireland to Wales to England to France to Italy and the difference between countries that are truely foreign to eachother becomes a little more apparant.

    I do think that if a United Ireland is ever to happen and is ever worth having then a redefinition of what Ireland along the lines of what Beach Tree said above will have to be part of that. Without that all you’ll have is Northern Ireland all over again.

    You can’t expect to alienate 3/4 million of the islands population and declare them foreign to the land where they and a large part of their family tree were born.

    Whether it’s a federal Ireland with green and orange states under one governing body, an independant united Ireland rejoined to the commonwealth with concessions to the unionist populations, Ireland rejoining the United Kingdom (hey it’d be a united Ireland :P), Ireland and Britain becoming some new bi-island partnership, whatever… It’ll need to be a land that everyone is happy to live in and like it or lump it that means everyone, which means it has to represent everyone.

  • Henry94

    Loyalists have been blocking the Springfield Road during the morning and evening rush hours in protest at the ruling, while unionist politicians have also been unsuccessfully trying to get the re-routing overturned.

    A recent upsurge in loyalist paramilitary activity has led to fears that they may use the matter to orchestrate street clashes tomorrow.

    Speaking after a meeting with Northern Secretary Peter Hain yesterday, UUP leader Reg Empey said the British Government would be to blame if the march descended into violence.

    This is the leader of the so-called moderate unionist party.

  • Democratic

    Cheers Henry94, kill an potentially interesting debate before it develops why don’t you.
    Couldn’t that have been be discussed on another thread.

  • IJP

    The Beach Tree

    If the alternative is remaining within the UK despite having the majority in NI

    Why on earth should that be the alternative?

    If a United Ireland is such a good idea, why not sell it through force of argument rather than force of weaponry?

    To play the numbers game is pure, straight-out sectarianism. And, by the way, it won’t ever get you a United Ireland.

  • IJP

    Henry

    The fact there is no such thing as a ‘moderate Unionist party’ currently is taken as read.

    Are you suggesting Nationalist intransigence has nothing to do with the near disappearance from the politics (even from voting) of moderate Unionists?

  • Henry94

    IJP

    Do you think it is anything less than a disgrace that an alleged democratic politican would give a pardon in advance to loyalist violence by blaming the British government for it?

    I think you need to comment on that before raising any other issue. Because it goes right to the heart of the issue of the unionist attitude to violence.

  • Democratic

    Henry94 if I may,
    Any citizen is responsible for their own actions where violence is concerned – no-one can say otherwise nor attach the blame for ramifications to the government or anyone else – You are quite right Reg Empey has it wrong on this occasion regarding possible violence – unfortunately he isn’t the first to make such soundbites either on both sides as you well know.

  • George

    Having read over these posts I would just like to add a couple of points.

    On persuading unionism, we can only persuade NI Protestants to stop being unionists or those of British culture to stop being unionists.

    We cannot persuade unionists to accept a UI becuase they would no longer be unionists. There can’t be 20% unionist block in a UI. There can be a 20% British block.

    So how do we persuade NI Protestants and British people that living in Ireland is nothing to worry about?

    By continuing to do what we are doing now, only better, that’s how.

    Nothing we say matters and only time will tell if what we are doing will ever persuade unionism but it may persuade people.

    The people of the Irish Republic are content with the state they are constantly building on.

    Each day they wake up and discuss and cajole and try to convince each other of something because the overwhelming majority are all pulling in the same direction.

    Like any state there are those who are excluded but there are those working to end that. Will they succeed? Who knows but many are trying. On the whole, it is a typical western European democracy and economy.

    Unionists want cast-iron guarantees that their culture will be secure but they wouldn’t and don’t believe us anyway.

    Every Irish politician FF, FG, Labour, Green etc will guarantee their security. The ones other than SF, the ones who have 161 out of 166 seats in the Irish parliament.

    Doesn’t matter to unionism. Our word means nothing. They ask but really there is nothing they want except for us to go away.

    Many if not most Irish people realise that now and that is why they aren’t interested in persuading.

    If we gave a constitutional guarantee, which the Irish people would give in a heartbeat, would that be enough for the unionist people? No.

    Why? Because they simply don’t believe in the integrity of the Irish state or the Irish people and never have.

    Our constitution isn’t worth the paper it’s written on to unionists but to us it is the heart of our state.

    Will they ever accept that we have integrity? That is for them to answer not us. And I would hope I don’t get the stock “maybe you could show some integrity” as answer.

    On violence, I ask what happens theoretically if 60% of the NI electorate vote for a UI but 2/3rds of unionists vote no and promise insurrection?

    Do we ignore the mandate of the majority or do we tackle the violence of the minority?

    What do unionists expect the British and Irish governments to do if unionism rejects the integrity of the Irish people and rejects the mandate.

    Do they face down the unionist insurgents or do they accept they are right to fight with every last breath against an Irish Republic.

    What do the majority in NI do if their mandate is ignored? Do they cow to unionist violence?

    Unionists won’t be bullied into a united Ireland but do they expect the Irish people to allow themselves to be bullied out of one?

    I asked this before. If the 50+1 happens, do unionists think they can shoot and bomb their way back into the United Kingdom?

    Is the “protection” and “preservation” of unionist culture in Northern Ireland worth the ejection of over half its population from the new reduced state not to mention its probable removal from the union itself.

    What kind of culture is that and how can it reconcile itself with those who aren’t unionist?

    Is that the bottom line of unionism?

  • Democratic

    Hi George,
    I disagree about the line you are drawing under “Unionists” – To me there are 2 distinct sorts – Those who are Unionist with the heart and their emotions (perhaps better described as Loyalists in my opinion) and those who are Unionist through their head and logic – there are as many of the latter than the former in my opinion and those are the audience you should wish to reach out to and convince with argument and reasoned debate – and we can do no more than listen without prejudice (if that is at all possible) I hope than the generalisms and depressing tone of this discussion does not return after we were going somewhere better.

  • George

    Is the solemn word of the Irish people good enough for you Democratic?

    If yes, then my cloud of gloom has lifted.

    Because the people of the Irish Republic don’t have an interest in stopping the NI Protestant people from celebrating their British culture.

    They don’t have an interest in seeing the Protestant communities disintegrate.

    They don’t have an interest in isolating, humiliating or defeating.

    It saddens me to think that there are hundreds of thousands of people on this island who think they do.

    Their interests are the same basic ones as yours and in a united Ireland they would no longer be mutually exclusive.

    To me as somebody living in the Irish Republic, that’s as plain as the nose on my face. I don’t know how I can persuade you that I really do have a nose other than saying trust me.

    Do you trust the integrity of the Irish people and their ability to protect and consider you one of “their own”, to be defended and cherished whatever the cost, or not?

    If yes, ask and we shall give with all our heart.

    But to be able to ask this question in a way to get the answer they want, unionists must first consider us one of their own.

  • Fraggle

    Democratic, the ‘head and logic’ unionists are misguided.

    That the republic now has better roads than the north has begun to be commonly accepted. However, a lot of people are still under the impression that the taxes are sky high in the republic, that benefit payments are lower and so on.

    Unless these ‘head and logic’ unionists are emplyed in a pointless, pen-pushing civil-service job, thye are misguided.

  • Democratic

    Hi George,
    I am optimistic by nature and as such – yes – I believe that you are indeed sincere in your line of thinking – I believe you have a “nose” as it were. Widespread trust is a commodity in short supply in NI, time, goodwill and positive deeds are the only things that could possibly change that and we must all meet each other in the middle for that to happen.
    The thinking Unionist community does indeed have to look at itself and were it is headed (as do we all) and we all have some very blunt questions to ask ourselves – I personally do my best not to shirk them and by extension my own responibilty for doing the best thing for myself, family and wider community. Thanks for your reply

  • Democratic

    Sorry Fraggle,
    I don’t see the correlation – my point remains – it is however possible for logical Unionists to be mis-informed or mis-guided – I agree there – and Nationalists on these type of sites are in a good position to dispel any myths like those you highlight.

  • BogExile

    unionists must first consider us one of their own.

    Somewhat ironic if you look at ‘Ourselves alone’ physicaal force republicanism.

    As long as militant physical force replblicanism is seen to be in the driving seat for the journey to reunification the road will be extremely long and littered with corpses.

    If constitutional nationalism refound it balls, seperated its thesis from republican fascism and gave a genuinely clear lead in a vision for a secular, federal model with very substantial autonomy for the north and minority rights enshrined even i might be interested…

  • George

    Bogexile,
    militant republicanism isn’t in the driving seat, it just shouts loudest.

    If you call Sinn Fein 2005 “militant republicanism”, which would probably offend militant republicans, then how is 5 seats out of 166 in the Irish parliament the driving seat for you.

    The Irish people are not SF, are certainly not the IRA and even more certainly aren’t militant republicans.

    It is the Irish people who unionists would be uniting with, not the IRA.

    Call us the bogeymen and tar us all as IRA men if you want to stop addressing the realities of Ireland 2005 but you won’t change these realities.

    There aren’t 4 million goosestepping, Irish-speaking RA heads south of the border waiting to pounce on defenceless Ulster.

    Our concerns are boring, everyday ones. Defeating unionists isn’t on the radar.

    The unifier of the Irish people is the Irish Republic. It is to this Republic that the overwhelming majority of the Irish people ally themselves.

    If you can’t or won’t deal with us, you can’t and won’t deal with the majority of the Irish people.

    Unionists must believe us to be their equal, our state worthy of respect, our leaders people of integrity (okay maybe I’m stretching it), our courts to be trusted, our laws and flag to be respected.

    Or else unionists can continue to paint us as some kind of beasts, waiting for our chance to be unleashed.

    Have a nice weekend all.

  • DK

    George,

    again I have been offline for a while. There appears to have been some further positive debate between yourself and Democratic.

    There is one distinction that I think needs to be rectified. You continually refer to the Irish people and the unionists, as if both are mutually exclusive. I actually take that as an insult and an indication that in a unified state I would be a guest of the “Irish people” in your terms.

    Let me put you straight on this point. I am as Irish as you are and always have been. I was born and bred on the island of Ireland as were my ancestors going back into the mists of time. The political arrangement in the part of Ireland that I grew up in, may differ from the part you grew up in. That in no way denies me of my Irish identity. My wife is Scottish and British. I am Irish and British. That is not a problem for me. It seems to be for you.

    Having said all that, I am quite happy to consider a different political arrangement if it can offer a benefit. The benefit that I am looking for is a more wholesome society that can pull in one direction as one people. A UI may offer that. I don’t know. My experience of those that expouse such an ideal has not been positive. Apart from the violence directed against my community over the last thirty years, there appears to be an sustained desire to demonise my community and describe us in terms that are alien to your sense of Irishness.

    You are correct to point out the contradiction of the label unionist and the concept of persuasion to a UI, which by logic demands that unionists become non unionists, For that very reason, I try hard to take care on any of my posts to refer to the protestant community in NI, which to a large degree equates to the same population. However it leaves open the option to select different political arrangements without sacrifice of the essence of our identity.

    I am quite happy to consider a scenario where I live within a unified state on the island, whilst retaining some link to our close friends in Britain and maintaining my protestant identity.

  • DK

    George,

    again I have been offline for a while. There appears to have been some further positive debate between yourself and Democratic.

    There is one distinction that I think needs to be rectified. You continually refer to the Irish people and the unionists, as if both are mutually exclusive. I actually take that as an insult and an indication that in a unified state I would be a guest of the “Irish people” in your terms.

    Let me put you straight on this point. I am as Irish as you are and always have been. I was born and bred on the island of Ireland as were my ancestors going back into the mists of time. The political arrangement in the part of Ireland that I grew up in, may differ from the part you grew up in. That in no way denies me of my Irish identity. My wife is Scottish and British. I am Irish and British. That is not a problem for me. It seems to be for you.

    Having said all that, I am quite happy to consider a different political arrangement if it can offer a benefit. The benefit that I am looking for is a more wholesome society that can pull in one direction as one people. A UI may offer that. I don’t know. My experience of those that expouse such an ideal has not been positive. Apart from the violence directed against my community over the last thirty years, there appears to be an sustained desire to demonise my community and describe us in terms that are alien to your sense of Irishness.

    You are correct to point out the contradiction of the label unionist and the concept of persuasion to a UI, which by logic demands that unionists become non unionists, For that very reason, I try hard to take care on any of my posts to refer to the protestant community in NI, which to a large degree equates to the same population. However it leaves open the option to select different political arrangements without sacrifice of the essence of our identity.

    I am quite happy to consider a scenario where I live within a unified state on the island, whilst retaining some link to our close friends in Britain and maintaining my protestant identity.

  • maca

    DK
    “You continually refer to the Irish people and the unionists, as if both are mutually exclusive. I actually take that as an insult and an indication that in a unified state I would be a guest of the “Irish people” in your terms.”

    If I may but in. Identities on this island are fucking confusing. Sometimes it’s just a lot easier in discussions to refer to people in very general terms.
    Btw, notice how NI Irish[& not British] are always referred to as either nationalst or republican. Is offence intended?

    Anyway, to add to the debate on trust & the treatment of ‘protestants/those of British persuasion’ in a UI, we rarely refer to those of such persuasion who already live in the Irish state. There are 300,000+ [off the top of my head] British people living in the Irish state at present. How are these people treated? Are they burned out of their homes? Are they heckled on the streets or spat at? No they are not. They are treated just like the rest of us. So why would Northern British be treated any differently than mainland British?
    Personally I don’t see why NI Brits think they would suffer in a UI. It’s not going to be a Sinn Féin UI, it’s going to be like the Republic is now but with some changes to better reflect the identity of our expanded [note: not new] British minority.

  • barnshee

    Henry
    “Do you think it is anything less than a disgrace that an alleged democratic politican would give a pardon in advance to loyalist violence by blaming the British government for it?”

    Poor Reg trying to out Paisley- Paisley how low can you go

  • Henry94

    And it has come to pass. Let’s hear Sir Reg blame the British government now that it is clear the preperations for the onslaught against the PNSI were underway before he even met the Sec of State on the issue.

    Clearly unionism can’t move without its extremist wings say so. The implications for the process are unaviodable. We need to start thinking about Joint Authority now.

  • fair_deal

    We need to start thinking about Joint Authority now.

    Hmmm thats going to lead to peace love and harmony

  • Tim Roll-Pickering

    Poor Reg trying to out Paisley- Paisley how low can you go

    Am I the only one who initially misread that and thought that Reg hs something that proves the similarities between Paul Berry and Ian Paisley at that age are not just one way? 😉

    On a rather more serious point, what influence would the Unionist parties (or whatever they may rename themselves) have within a 32 county Dail? Could they conceivably have the balance of power more often than not?

  • lib2016

    They would have a relatively large voice in the most dynamic economy in Europe. Republicans would have to bend over to welcome them or be discredited forever.

    Why else do you think that powersharing etc is an absolute necessity in nationalist controlled areas? It’s because republicans have realised that the right thing to do is to do the right thing!

    Aside from the fact that we are such nice people(?) nationalists of all parties would HAVE to woo post-unionism, whatever form it takes, and the PR system would help them to achieve maximum representation.

  • darthrumsfeld

    OK George, I’ll play your game.

    What are you offering me -as a Unionist- to persuade me to accept the constitutional change you advocate AND ( this bit being a dealbreaker from the outset)to incorporate my identity in the constitutional, social and cultural fabric of your state- as opposed to the worthless suggestion that I can still have a British identity in private, behind closed doors, with othe consenting adults ?

  • Henry94

    darthrumsfeld

    If I may intrude

    to incorporate my identity in the constitutional, social and cultural fabric of your state

    There are three issue there and the constituitional is probably the easiest so let’s look at that first. What should a constitution say about identity? Little enough I suggest. We’ll need a flag of course and an anthem and they will need to be something we can all live with. We will need to agree the details. It is not for nationalists to tell unionists what the flag will be. It’s as much your decision as ours.

    There will be the issue of participation in government but the offer of five seats out of fifteen reserved for unionists has long been on the table.

    The social and cultural fabric of a society are shaped less by governments than by citizens. It is ironic that Bertie Ahern recently had an American expert at a conference talking about the dearth of social capital as a problem. Ireland contains two organisations which embody the idea of social capital, the GAA and the OO. Both could be a huge asset to the nation if they had the leadership and the imagination to define themselves properly. The GAA is a lot farther down that road in my view. But it has yet to fully embrace its proper (non-political) role.

    The Orange Order will change or die irrespective of the constitutional situation.

  • Ling

    It’s a pity the ROI flag has come to hold such negative connotations to the unionist population, I rather like it as a flag and it stands for something good…

    The national anthem would have to go though, and I think even if NI remains NI, that bloody song should go anyway, it’s a horrible load of outdated waffle.

    There seems to be a rather large misunderstanding of identity politics here from a lot of the UI advocates with all the silly “You’d remain British, you’d jsut be now a foreigner in the home of you and however many generations of your family”. That attitude really displays no respect to the NI Unionists and is basically asking them to give up their home. Not a persuasive argument.

    I’ve said it before, if a UI is to come about, what Ireland is is going to have to be redefined to something where the Unionist population are happy to be. I don’t hold much faith in that actually happening, but really that’s what needs to happen.

    There are many possible steps tha tcould be taken, but you’d have to ask yourselves whether the rest of the populations of the two islands are willing to make any sacrafices or changes to their countries to accomodate the population of Norhtern Ireland?

  • Ling

    Actually, out of curiosity, how would the Unionists feel about an Ireland that was part of the UK but totally independant in terms of government? Opinions towards that (from a unionist point of view, I think nationalist attitudes would be quite predictable, though it is what Sinn Fein actually wanted about 100 years ago) could be quite revealing I think…

  • slug

    Ling – as a unionist I am not interested in trying to change the ROI. The ROI is a really successful country as it is – one I admire – and I would never want to impose something on them. For me the key thing is to get NI to work. There is really no possibility of a UI – there is just not the support for it in NI – and I like the idea of a self governing NI within the UK. That is what we must build towards

  • Alex

    What sort of special constitutional arrangement might make the nut? Could we design a position for NI that would make it part of the ROI but also with a meaningfully different character? I’m thinking along the lines of 1) a condominium? 2) representation in both London and Dublin with a quasi-independent status? Choice of UK, ROI or dual nationality?

    The only way around mutually exclusive claims is to render the border irrelevant.

  • Ling

    slug

    That’s kinda what I thought. Fair enough. Not that I actually thought that making Ireland a single country again would actually solve any real problems that exist on the ground. Co-operation between the two parts of the island could certainly be a hell of a lot better though. Just thought I’d ask the question to get some perspective. Any other Unionists care to comment?

  • Brian Boru

    [I]If constitutional nationalism refound it balls, seperated its thesis from republican fascism and gave a genuinely clear lead in a vision for a secular, federal model with very substantial autonomy for the north and minority rights enshrined even i might be interested…[/I]

    To the user who said this, I would reply that both in 1914 (John Redmond) and 1921 (Michael Collins) Nationalist Ireland offered Unionists a federal system where there would be a Six County parliament under a Dublin government, sortof like the arrangement Scotland has now with Westminster. Your side said no. As far as I am concerned the offer still stands, although I would probably insist that since the demographics of much of NI are now so different, with 4 Catholic counties with %’s from 58% (Fermanagh, Armagh and Derry) to 70% (Tyrone), that the borders of such a constituent Northern state within an All-Ireland federation should be changed to reflect this. I am particularly motivated in this regard by the terrible damage Co.Donegal has suffered economically by being turned into such a peripheral location in the Irish state at present, with an unemployment rate of 17% – more than 4 times the national average. Clearly partition has played a role in this.

    The Constitution of a Federal Republic of Ireland could give important veto powers over constitutional changes to the Northern Assembly/people. At present in the South, the constitution is changed by referendum. A certain weighted vote could be required in both states of the federation to change the constitution in future. Also, students in the Northern zone would be given a choice as to whether to learn Irish or not.

    It is complete nonsense to suggest that the Unionists would be persecuted or disappear as a minority in a hypothetical United Ireland. In the last 2 census, the Protestant population has increased, and is expected to continue to increase. The decline of the Southern Protestant population until 1994 (it has risen since then) needs to be seen in a number of contexts, namely:

    A: Intermarriage with Catholics. Most Southern Protestants married Catholics, with the children being brought up as Catholics under a Catholic Church rule called the Ne Temere Decree, which was ended in the 1970’s. Even after the 70’s the Republic remained a socially conservative Catholic country until the liberal 1990’s, after which mixed marriage couples started to ignore the traditional outlook on this matter.

    B: Many Unionists in border areas found it convenient to move to Northern Ireland as it was just across the border and this would allow them to continue living in Ireland while living in a British state. Most were not driven out but as with any conflict situation there were some sectarian clashes in the 20’s. Historically this sort of thing happens in the immediate aftermath of a war, and certainly many Catholics were also driven out of NI.

    C: Economic migration. Until relatively recently, the South was the poor part of the island, and hundreds of thousands – both Catholic and Protestants – moved to the UK (including NI) or the US etc. to look for work. It would be naieve to assume that none of these economic migrants were Protestants.

    D: High Catholic birth-rates. During the 1970’s the Catholic Church’s ban on contraception meant that the average Irish family was 7 children. These higher birth-rates on their own would make the Protestant % of the Southern population go down and serve to exaggerate the decline in Southern numbers.

    E: The factors that caused the Protestant population to decline in the past no longer apply, as the South is now a secular, liberal society which has shaken off the political influence of the Catholic Church. Evidence supporting this is the failure to pass a constitutional amendment in a referendum which would have tightened up anti-abortion laws, as well as the passing of an amendment legalising divorce, and the decriminalisation of homosexuality (1994) and the removal in 1981 of the references to the “special place” of the Catholic Church as “the religion of the majority”.