Nesbitt's open letter to the Taoiseach…

Andrew over at ATW picks up on Dermot Nesbitt’s well argued letter which puts the case as to why the Irish government should not grant speaking rights to any Northern Irish representatives in the Oireachtas.

  • overhere

    So how does he explain Northern Irish people in the Senate and an Irish President (for the second term) from Belfast !! He may have explained it all but am at work so cannot spend all the time reading the article

  • bootman

    “Speaking rights seems an insignificant development, but it is an important litmus test.”

    Well at least he is right with this point. It is indeed a litmus test, are Fianna Fail serious about republicanism and creating a united Ireland or are they just implying rhetoric?

  • middle-class taig

    “well argued”

    oh Mick, give over – it’s neither well argued nor politically sophisticated. It’s political sectarianism wrapped in pseudo-legal nonsense.

    Let’s have a wee fisk at him:

    “To the Irish Government, I say: … Attempting to influence what other States should do was deemed unacceptable.”

    Gormless error number 1. But the Irish government wouldn’t be trying to influence what other States do. It would be doing something itself.

    “How much more important is it that a neighbouring State does not take such responsibility upon itself?”

    Gormless error number 2. An absurd non-sequitur. The Irish government can choose to give speaking rights in the Dail to Martians if it wishes. It has damn all to do with anyone else.

    “Examine the agreement reached between Hungary and Romania on the development of good neighbourliness.”

    Gormless error number 3. Irrelevant. Both have functioning parliaments in which the minorities in question have effective representation.

    “Put simply, the Irish Government would be in breach of its international obligations if it unilaterally succumbed to Sinn Fein’s pressure to allow speaking rights in the Dail.”

    Gormless error number 4. Letting his slip show. The problem here isn’t that there would be any detriment for unionists. It’s that there would be a positive outworking for nationalists. Unionists, even of the most moderate variety, cannot stand to see us get anything we want, particularly where it enhances our participation in Irish society. They would keep daylight off us if they could.

    “The Downing Street Declaration considered how progress could be made in our relationships.”

    Gormless error number 5. That document is twelve years old and doesn’t take into account unionist refusal to allow the establishment and operation of an effective parliament here. Dermot effectively pleads his own bad faith by the back door. Never a winning strategy.

    “[Asbjorn Eide] indicated that such States “must show respect for sovereign equality, territorial integrity and political independence of States” viewing this as a “principle basic to all international instruments in this field”. Non-interference is clear.”

    Gormless error number 6. He doesn’t say why granting speaking rights would constitute interference. He merely assumes it. Intellectually anaemic.

    “[Human rights] are not “a matter for people in individual States to decide” nor should they be “subject to bargaining between the parties.” Not only is non-interference clear but no government has any option in the matter.”

    Gormless error number 7. This is not a human rights issue. This is a matter of political representation. The Irish government must ensure the human rights of all people; it can grant parliamentary speaking rights to anyone it pleases. The only human right Dermot can possibly be pleading here is the unionist human right to be entitled to put the shaft up nationalists. He should have a chat with Dawson and Bobby if he’s going to pursue their strategy.

    “At the time of ratification of the Minority Convention the Irish Government stated: “…it is fitting that Ireland further demonstrates its belief in the Council of Europe and its standard setting work in human rights…” Fine words, but actions must match them. If you join a club, you must abide by the rules.”

    Gormless error number 8. In pleading international law, and doing it ineffectively, Dermot makes it abundantly clear that there would be no basis whatsoever in international law for the Unitied Kingdom to pursue any action to challenge Irish grant of parliamentary speaking rights to elected representative from the North. He throws a lot of punches. Not one of them lands.

    “If this development occurs, it is completely outside international law, against Ireland’s Constitution and makes a mockery of the Irish Government’s commitment to the Council of Europe.”

    Gormless error number 9. Out of the mouths of babes. Dermot is right. It is entirely outside international law. It has nothing whatsoever to do with international law. It is a matter for the domestic law of Ireland only. Just as Zimbabwe can’t complain about the grant to Duncan Fletcher of British “citizenship”, so there would be no grounds for complaint here.

    Gormless error number 10. He twice asserts a breach of the Irish constitution, yet makes no referene to Irish constitutional law.

    “Where next, Taoiseach? This is not just about speaking rights but about the overall attitude of the Irish Government to good neighbourliness.”

    Gormless error number 11. Bet your ass it’s not about speaking rights. It’s about fenians not getting any more concessions. Not only has he let his slip show, he’s actually dropped the slip and is standing buck-ass naked with his zero-sum limpness dangling in public view.

    Gormless error number 12. AND, you can’t start a legal argument, balls it up, then plead the well-known legal principle of “good neighbourliness”. Dermot should stop bleating. It’s embarrassing. Symptomatic of the emasculation unionism has suffered in recent years, mostly at his own hands. [Tries to rid self of image of Ian Paisley naked and alone contemplating his pinking shears]

    “Everyone knows that speaking rights is not the limit of Sinn Fein’s vision for the future.”

    Gormless error number 13. Not smart to give publicity to SF’s vision for the future when nobody else in Irish politics has any vision whatsoever. A few votes for the shinners there, Dermot.

    “I say draw back from this Sinn Fein demand.”

    And that’s about the long and the short of it. “You shouldn’t do this because Sinn Fein want it.” Dog-in-the-manger unionism at its best, and from a supposedly moderate unionist.
    Disgusting interference in the affairs of the Irish republic:-).

    And to read on this wonderful, discerning, sophisticated site this whingy, structureless, anodyne pap being described as “well argued”. Good grief. If I want inane hagiography I’ll go to A Tangled Web.

    Just because a unionist writes a sentence without “no surrender” in it doesn’t mean we need to fall over ourselves to get licking at them. If anything the article proves that concepts of human rights, international law and international comity as as anathema to unionism as the idea of the nationalist community being allowed some share in the functioning of the Irish state.

  • Ringo

    Overhere –

    So how does he explain Northern Irish people in the Senate and an Irish President (for the second term) from Belfast !! He may have explained it all but am at work so cannot spend all the time reading the article

    There is a simple difference – the senators and the President are chosen by the electorate and the elected government of the Republic. MP’s and Northern MEP’s are chosen by an electorate from outside the state.

  • JD

    Following the changes in Articles 2 & 3 of the Irish Constitution the Irish Government are bound to give democratic expression to its citizens north of the border. It was agreed as far back as the signing of the Good Friday Agreement that, at the very least, this would mean speaking rights for northern elected representatives and the right to vote in Presidential elections. These points have already been conceded but have just yet to be enacted it is time the Irish Government rectified that situation.

  • JD

    Article 3 (amended 1999)

    “Institutions with executive powers and functions that are shared between those jurisdictions may be established by their respective responsible authorities for stated purposes and may exercise powers and functions in respect of all or any part of the island.”

  • Mick Fealty

    MCT,

    Whilst I’m very fond you and the laconic, humourous delivery with which you make your posts, but I really would appreciate if you would make your arguments cleanly and strictly to the point.

    If you are confident of your arguments, surely you can lay off with the constant rabbit punching your opponent? It’s against the Queensbury rules. Neither is it condusive to the conduct of a clean intellectual battle!

  • Ringo

    JD

    An agreement made ‘as far back as the signing of the Good Friday Agreement’ cannot have any implications for the constitution. The constitution stands alone, and agreements are irrelevant to contitutional matters.

    If the absence of northern representation is unconstitutional why not take a leaf out of McGimpsey’s book and challenge it in the courts?

  • George

    Against international law to allow Irish citizens, who don’t live within the jurisdiction of the state, to speak in the Irish parliament?

    Against international law to let unionists speak in the Irish parliament?

    Where’s that humdinger of a law written down?

    Seems unbelievable to me as it denies people the right to voice their opinion.

    Does it mean we will be putting out an international arrest warrant for Tony Blair and Bill Clinton, who were both asked to and subsequently did speak in the Irish parliament.

  • peteb

    Bertie Ahern did a much better job of embarrassing Adams over his claim of having been promised speaking rights in the Dail for NI MPs.

    Nesbitt really should just stop trying to resurrect this already buried issue.

  • Keith M

    It’s nice to see what the UUP are thinking about, now that no one gives a damn what they think. Gerry Adams was forced into a very embarrassing climbdown on this issue a few months ago, and it beats me why anyone thinks that this non-issue is of any importance whatsoever.

    However I need to set one poster straight.

    JD “Following the changes in Articles 2 & 3 of the Irish Constitution the Irish Government are bound to give democratic expression to its citizens north of the border.”. No it does not. Read the articles.

    “It was agreed as far back as the signing of the Good Friday Agreement that, at the very least, this would mean speaking rights for northern elected representatives and the right to vote in Presidential elections.”. If it was agreed why was it not stated in the Agreement?

    “These points have already been conceded but have just yet to be enacted it is time the Irish Government rectified that situation.”. The fact that this is NOT in the constitution, NOT in the Agreement and that 7 years on the agreement has fallen apart suggests that the Irish government has nothing whatsoever to “recify”.

  • Jo

    MCT
    Northern Ireland, too, has a “functioning Parliament” which the majority of nationalist elected MPs decide not to attend.

    Parliamentary representation is entirely within the gift of those elected representatives who, for their own archaic reasons, decline to set foot in the Chamber of the Commons, but have no problem occupying offices – ironically, only a few yards away from where their fellow travellers chose to murder another elected Member some while back.

  • Brian Boru

    I would like to grant speaking-rights, but if it’s going to block progress in the North, then I say it’s not worth the bother of granting these rights.

  • Henry94

    I’d be content with all-Ireland representation through the cross-border bodies myself. But if that’s not on then I want to see nothern MPs with the right to address the Dail.

    I think it could only come about when Sinn Fein are in governemnt in the south.

  • middle-class taig

    Jo

    No, sorry, “Northern Ireland” has a non-functioning parliament.

    If you are talking about Westminster, the representation which nationalists and unionists have been able to give their communities there has throughout history proven singularly ineffective.

    In any event, Westminster is unavailable to republicans due to the disgusting monarchist oath. Remove the oath and at least there’s be an argument. I don’t see Nesbitt angling for that.

    Mick

    Tell me what you consider unQueensbury and I’ll desist. Take it offline on email if you wish. I’ve taken a lot of low blows in this ring, and don’t want to be dishing any out.

    I’ve also no desire to put stuff on your site that you’d rather not have there. Although
    “cleanly and strictly to the point” might make for somewhat sterile debate and detract from the site’s “entertainment” value.

  • Henry94

    Indeed if Westminster functions as NI’s Parliament you would wonder why alienation and disenfranchisement is so common in those who are represented there. Maybe they are electing the wrong people.

  • Jo

    MCT:

    Perhaps when Gerry mouths the Oath, he can do whatever it is he does when he says he was never a member of the IRA? 😉

  • Dessertspoon

    I liked your post MCT – you made some excellent points and your follow up abut the ineffectual representation nationalists and unionists give to their communities at Westminster was spot on. I also loved the predictable dig at the monarch and the oath because we all know that all of the MPs currently elected are all proud monarchists don’t we ?!. Of course that strengthens the argument for getting rid of the oath I suppose so what excuse would nationalists use then – but that’s a whole other argument.

    What I really want to know is – do you think that NI MPs should have speaking rights in the Oireachtas? And what do you think it would achieve would they have any more impact down there that then have over there? Personally I don’t think so.

    Finally I hope you don’t find this post too gormless although I must admit I don’t feel too gormful today – bit of a late night.

  • Keith M

    MCT “If you are talking about Westminster, the representation which nationalists and unionists have been able to give their communities there has throughout history proven singularly ineffective.”

    Funny I remember nationalists constantly whinging that unionist were holing the UK government to ransom in the mid 1990s and delaying their precious “peace process”. As for nationalists being ineffective, well its pretty hard to be any but if you don’t turn up. I’m not just talking about SF/IRA here, but Hume and Mallon had two of the worst attendence records in Westminster during the last parliament.

  • Occasional Commentator

    mct said: The Irish government can choose to give speaking rights in the Dail to Martians if it wishes.

    As an aside, I assume that voting rights could only be granted via a referendum, i.e. not the Government’s decision?

    As for speaking rights, who could grant speaking rights? Is it the Government (I hope not), the Oireachtas (i.e. Parliament), or the People? If the Government (i.e. the Cabinet) can grant speaking rights willy nilly I want a constitutional amendment to stop that.

    In my opinion, the Irish constitution should specify that only TDs can speak in debates, and that Oireachtas can invite others to speak, but not during debates.

    And NI MPs should only get speaking rights in debates if a referendum allows it.

  • middle-class taig

    Dessertspoon

    Let me state for the record, that I think of you as someone of the highest gorm. I doubt that even a late night with the boisterous brethren would disengorm you one iota 😉

    “I also loved the predictable dig at the monarch and the oath”

    Can I also make clear, for the record, that I did not have a dig at the monarch. Genuinely, I have more respect for my unionist neighbours than to deride their Head of State, however diverting that might be. I also bear the lady herself no ill will whatsoever. I made a dig at the monarchist oath, which I believe to be anachronistic, undemocratic, insensitive, prosaic, meaningless, unnecessary, illiberal and, most importantly, unreflective of British society.

    As a Catholic, I would be outraged if anyone sought to require practicants of the reformed faiths to swear allegiance to the Pope in order to discharge some public function. As an Irishman, I would be disgusted at an oath requiring unionists to subscribe to republican precepts in order to represent their people. But. of course, the oath isn’t about repecting the monarch or the State, it’s about keeping fenians out, and always has been.

    Tell you what, Dessertspoon. I as a republican, an anti-monarchist and an Irish nationalist will state here that I would support speaking rights for Northern MPs adn MEPs in the Dail (on the same basis as other TDs) being made contingent upon the representatives in question taking their seats in the Parliament to which they were primarily elected (subject to a moderation to the Westminster oath to make it something that an Irish republican could take – faithful service of the institution, their constituents, colleagues, etc). Everybody hurts, everybody gains, everybody stretches themselves, everybody challenges their community and everybody participates. Republicans acknowledge, explore and develop their Britishness, and unionists contemplate and recognise their Irishness.

    In fact, it would only be republicans bearing obligations in order to get what they want. Unionists could take it or leave it.

    Surely you can’t say fairer than that!? Don’t you fancy listenting to the Tories bitch at McGuinness’ maiden speech? Surely you can meet us halfway?

    Personally, I think Gerry’d be a rock-star at the dispatch box. What’s the Long Kesh Irish for “honourable member”?

  • Mick Fealty

    MCT, please feel free to email.

  • middle-class taig

    KeithM

    “Funny I remember nationalists constantly whinging that unionists were holding the UK government to ransom in the mid 1990s and delaying their precious “peace process”.”

    They were. Do you consider that “effective representation” for their communities? Whatever floats your boat, Keith.

  • Keith M

    MCT, I’m that at least you now accept that unionists were working hard in Westminster.

    Do I consider that “effective representation” for their communities?, Absolutly, by calling their bludff and by showing up the duplicity of SF/IRA they proved what I had suspected from the start that the “complete ceasefire” was not permanent (despite what Albert Rynolds has told us). This prompted the Mitchell Principles, which had they been adhered to, might have actually produced a workable agreement, as SF/IRA would have decommissioned all the weapons BEFORE the agreement was finalised.

    Instead the Labour government with a huge majority and not dependant on unionist support, chose to disregard the Principles and from then on it was a long slow and (for me) very predictable slide into where we are today.

  • Jo

    “the oath isn’t about repecting the monarch or the State, it’s about keeping fenians out, and always has been”

    John Hume, Gerry Fitt, Seamus Mallon, Eddie McGrady, Alistair McDonnell, Mark Durkan, Kevin McNamara, Daniel O’Connell, John Redmond…

  • Jo

    ..Iain Duncan Smith, David Alton, Charles Kennedy, Tony Blair (well, nearly!)

  • middle-class taig

    Keith

    So, in summary, in thwarting peace process they were effectively representing their communities because the peace process later brought some good things for SF.

    You seem utterly contorted by your loathing for republicans. It’s a genuinely embarrassing thing to have to read. You’re so interesting on political punditry, particularly in the South. I’m sad for you that you can’t widen your vision on matters republican.

  • middle-class taig

    Jo

    Fenian does not equal catholic.

    Except where I decide it does for rhetorical purposes.

  • Keith M

    MCT, no in thwarting the concessions to SF/IRA Unionists showed that SF/IRA were not not ready to fully embrace democracy but were willing to revent to terror as soon as the concessions stopped.

    It was a salient message then, and was not heeded, and so we are where we are today.