Hain: what the Agreement did for Unionists

In a recent speech, Peter Hain lays out what he believes the Belfast Agreement did to address Unionist greivances:

What has unionism got from the Agreement? I don’t regard that as a rhetorical question: there is an answer. For the first time in the history of Northern Ireland, the Irish Republic has dropped its constitutional claim over the territory of Northern Ireland.

For the first time in the history of Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein has accepted that Northern Ireland will remain part of the United Kingdom until and unless the people of Northern Ireland decide otherwise.

For the first time in the history of Northern Ireland, the IRA have accepted that Northern Ireland will remain part of the United Kingdom until and unless the people of Northern Ireland decide otherwise.

For the first time in the history of Northern Ireland, the principle of consent is enshrined in an international agreement. Now anyone who knows the history of Northern Ireland and of unionism must appreciate the great significance of this.

To those who say that the principle of consent should always have been there, we always have to deal with what is and not what should be: you can’t rewrite history but you can make it.

In short, it seems to me that the two fundamental demands of unionism throughout 30 years of the troubles have been met: peace – the end of the terrorist campaign – and the securing of the union.

  • fair_deal

    This is actually a poor speech generally. Its section about loyalist communities is all over the place. The word was the NIO were a bit all over the place on what to say and it shows.

    It also doesn’t exactly show a ‘listening’ mode when it insists water charges et all are to be brought in regardless.

    As for the consent and the constitutional claim LMAO. Hain tries the Trimble arguments on the Unionist community that’ll work.

    1. The principle of consent was enshrined in domestic and international law the non-recognition of by nationalism was legally irrelevant.
    2. Unionism was told by the government that the prinicple of consent had been accepted by Irish nationalism in 1974 and 1985. How many times do we get the same concession?
    3. These two ‘gains’ were not cost free and many Unionists disliked the price e.g Army Council members as Executive ministers.
    4. Sinn Fein has its own interpretation of the principle of consent that it only applies to the final transfer of sovereignty and all ‘preparatory’ transfers before that do not need consent.
    5. The IRA does not accept the principle of consent. In its statment on the agreement it said it was not bound by the Agreement.
    6. These are the arguments of 1998 not 2005 and they didn’t work well on half the Unionist community then so they won’t work now.

  • Henry94

    fair_deal

    I agree with your analysis of the speech. If it was intended to reassure loyalists then it was a failure.

    But what speech would reassure them?

    The things they appear to want are not possible. There can be no absolute right to march and there can be no alternative to the Agreement.

    The only question is how painful the process of realising this is going to be for them. And for the rest of us.

  • anne dunne

    Poetry Corner,

    These days the air is think with bitter cries,
    as baffled thousands dream they are betrayed,
    stripped of the comfort of safe loyalties,
    their ancient friends considered enemies,
    alone among the nations and afraid.

    And those who now most loudly mouth their fears
    are webbed in spirals of rash verbiage
    which, coarse with coloured epipets appears
    a rhetoric of cudgels, torches, spears,
    loaded with vivid enmity and rage

    This land we stand on holds a history
    so complicated, gashed with violence,
    split by belief, by galant pageantry,
    that none can safely stir and still feel free
    to voice his hope with any confidence.

    Slave to and victim of this mirror hate,
    surely there must be somewhere we could reach
    a solid track across our quagmire state,
    and on neutral sod renew the old debate
    which all may join without intemperate speech.

    The Anglo-Irish accord
    John Hewitt

    Question for youngsters / educators – is John Hewitt on the english syllabus yet or does Seamus Heaney still monopolise the contemporary Ulster poet slot as he did in my day?

  • fair_deal

    Henry

    I honestly don’t know were to begin with your comments.

    1. It pigeonholes an entire community as not wanting any agreement. It presents a political agreement on sharing this space and the Belfast Agreement as having to be exactly the same thing – no willingness to learn from the failures of the Agreement over the last seven years and no willingness to change nationalist attitudes.
    2. It strongly implies that the response to any Unionist concerns and aspirations is basically you are not going to get anything so sit there and live with it.
    3. The Human rights and equality agendas are to be something to happen to Unionists rather than help them?

    What is the point or where is the incentive for Unionists to invest in politics if that is the situation?

    Free assembly is not an absolute right. There is only one absolute right and that is about torture and inhumane treatment. However, in no human rights document is there a requirement to gain permission of a hostile community before you are allowed to exercise freedom of assembly, association and expression.

    A genuine human rights agenda would mean that some nationalist ‘wants’ (i.e. Loyal Order parades blocked) should be declined and the failure of nationalists and republicans to recognise demonstartes it isn’t about getting a society established on human rights and equality but simply as the spin to be put on a nationalist wish-list.

  • fair_deal

    anne

    Hewitt did get a few poems included in my English lit class (15 years ago) but heaney was the main local writer focused on.

  • Henry94

    fair_deal

    However, in no human rights document is there a requirement to gain permission of a hostile community before you are allowed to exercise freedom of assembly, association and expression.

    The problem is not your position in the argument. The problem is that you don’t understand that you have lost the argument. It’s over. Nobody except yourselves believes your case.

    The principle is established that residents have the right to object.

    The principle is established that negotiation is the way forward.

    It is established that the Parades Commission will decide when there is no agreement.

    Real leaders help their people to move on from a political defeat. They don’t keep doing the same stupid thing over and over in the hope of getting a different result.

  • fair_deal

    The lost argument stuff is a self0-serving argument. I can say nationalism has lost the argument for ending partition that doesn’t mean nationalism won’t still to try and make the case to change that.

    Reality is a construct. A construct determined by arguments and decisions. A new reality is created by argument, debate and new decisions. You just don’t go that is the way the world is everyone go home.

    “The principle is established that residents have the right to object.”

    So it doesn’t matter if a principle is in breach of human rights law?

    Real leaders get their supporters what they are entitled too.

  • Henry94

    fair_deal

    I can say nationalism has lost the argument for ending partition that doesn’t mean nationalism won’t still to try and make the case to change that.

    A fine example of what I’m talking about. Nationalists lost the arguement about ending partition without the consent of a majority in the north. And to listen to ius now you’d think we invented the concept.

    So it doesn’t matter if a principle is in breach of human rights law?

    If there is a case take it to court and test it.

  • 9countyprovience

    “A genuine human rights agenda would mean that some nationalist ‘wants’ (i.e. Loyal Order parades blocked)”

    FD
    You didnt finish the sentence. It should read:
    A genuine human rights agenda would mean that some nationalist ‘wants’ (i.e. Loyal Order parades blocked from marching through their area)

    No-one is against the right to march. In any modern democratic society, local residence have a right to block marches through their area. Many a concert has been stopped from taking place around Croke park and Landsdowne road because the locals in the area object to them going ahead. Marching through a non-residential area or through a residential area where there is local consent are fine. The traditional aspect should be the march itself rather than where the march takes place.

  • Dessertspoon

    Nevermind human rights – too many people cling to human rights law and forget about their own responsibilities to other human beings. Why not try common sense – as fair_deal said “You just don’t go that is the way the world is everyone go home.“. The world and Norn Iron have changed and the OO have to accept that some of their parade routes are no longer viable and Nationalists have to accept that sometimes the Concerned Residents Groups aren’t really that concerned and are just trying to get a reaction. Might be over simplifying a tad I know.

  • fair_deal

    9countyprovince

    “In any modern democratic society, local residence have a right to block marches through their area”

    1. Please show me where in the ECHR it says this?
    2. The most extensive analysis and review of democratic practices and rights in the Western world around parades/marches was carried out in South Africa and it found no such right.

    Henry94

    “A fine example of what I’m talking about”

    A nice and subtle twist on my point. I was not discussing the principle of consent. I was exemplifying that non-acceptance of an argument does not mean you stop making your case.

    “If there is a case take it to court and test it.”

    There is and it will. Would you be advising me to have faith in our local justice system? 😉

  • fair_deal

    Dessertspoon

    The responsibilities of Loyal Orders is to take account of the locals complaints about the manner of the parade etc.

  • Denny Boy

    Anne Dunne

    Anne, that’s one powerful piece of writing from Hewitt. It’s old fashioned but I believe his deliberate choice of this form is perfect for the theme of ancient enmities.

    He ought to be on every syllabus. Since Heaney won the Nobel Prize it seems he can do no wrong. Yet he hasn’t delivered much of late that could be classed as “outstanding”.

  • Brian Boru

    Fair_deal, you say that the non-recognition of the principle of consent prior to the GFA was “irrelevant”. Your side wasn’t saying that before the GFA when Unionist politicians were always demanding the removal of Articles 2 and 3. Now when it’s gone you downplay its significance.

    Also, the fact that the PIRA has not killed a single Protestant in nearly 10 years – and no policemen/women have died since 1998 – surely should be regarded as the principle Unionist “gain” from the agreement. It would not be a good idea to jeopardise the agreement then. Also, Loyalists have gotten their prisoners out.

    If Nationalists seem to have gotten more, it is actually because they have started in this process from a position of great disadvantage, being – at the onset of the GFA – just 7% of the RUC/PSNI – in spite of being 41-44% of the population. The 50:50 recruitment policy is the only way to get Catholic representation in the PSNI anywhere near Catholic proportions in the NI populace as a whole. When Unionists whinge about this rule, I regard it simply as being out of a desire to continue to keep the security forces overwhelmingly Protestant out of as supremacist outlook not unlike that of Aparteid South Africa or the whites of the US Deep South during the 1960’s. You are going to have to snap out of this paranoia that considers any move towards equality as “a step to a United Ireland”.

    In any case, I don’t see what’s wrong with a United Ireland achieved by consent – it’s called democracy. In Europe, there a Catholic countries with Protestant minorities e.g. Hungary and you don’t see them throwing petrol bombs at each other. Certainly, it doesn’t happen in the areas of the South which have large Protestant populations like Donegal. I personally regard the Orange Order as having a lot to answer for in terms of indoctrinating tens of thousands of Protestants since partition about the imaginary “danger” of a United Ireland for Protestants. This “danger” is just hyped and illusory. I am fed up of Unionists whinging all the time. As are people in mainland UK.

  • fair_deal

    Brian Boru

    “Also, the fact that the PIRA has not killed a single Protestant in nearly 10 years – and no policemen/women have died since 1998 – surely should be regarded as the principle Unionist “gain” from the agreement”

    The “be grateful for not being killed”. No implied threat in that oh no and an implication they had good cause to want to shoot us in the first place.

    “at the onset of the GFA – just 7% of the RUC/PSNI”

    That was all Unionist fault of course IRA targetting played no role whatsoever.

    “The 50:50 recruitment policy is the only way to get Catholic representation in the PSNI “

    1. No its isn’t. All political and community leaders endorsing the PSNI and encouraging people from their communities to join is a better way of ensuring the PSNI recruitment pool is representative of NI society.
    2. Also 50:50 does nothing for the under-representation of women or ethnic minorities in the police.

    “I regard it simply as being out of a desire to continue to keep the security forces overwhelmingly Protestant out of as supremacist outlook “

    Just shows your narrow view of Unionists and Unionism.

    “Hungary and you don’t see them throwing petrol bombs at each other”

    Good for Hungary and it built its success on tolerance not demanding sectarian demarcation of roads but its relevance? The Roman Catholics of Gibraltar think British Rule is just great but it has no relevance to the people here.

    “I am fed up of Unionists whinging all the time. As are people in mainland UK.”

    LMAO.

  • Hektor Bim

    fair_deal,

    Isn’t the whole reason we have a Parades commission because the Loyalist Orders refuse to take into account the concerns of residents? After all, there regularly is sectarian singing, vandalism, and display of paramilitary banners (who continue to kill Catholics – there’s an implied threat) at these marches. It seems to me pretty clear that the “Loyalist Orders” are unwilling or unable to control their own parades, so the government will have to do it for them. I see no recognition from you of this essential fact.

  • Brian Boru

    “1. No its isn’t. All political and community leaders endorsing the PSNI and encouraging people from their communities to join is a better way of ensuring the PSNI recruitment pool is representative of NI society.
    2. Also 50:50 does nothing for the under-representation of women or ethnic minorities in the police.”

    Right well then maybe they should also introduce quotas on women and ethnic-minorities. In fact, the Southern government is bringing this in so we are practicing what we preach. Ethnic-minorities though are only 0.75% of the population in NI so it shouldn’t be too hard to fill that quota. What your saying seems to actually back up the argument for quotas.

    Before the quotas, Catholics were 7% in the RUC. Now they are 15% in the PSNI. Obviously the quotas are working in making the PSNI more representative. Which the Orange Order and its hangers-on absolutely hates. Note how the “Love Ulster” newspaper that they have sent out says that Unionists have lost the RUC. As if to suggest that the RUC should be the armed wing of Unionism. That is not acceptable to the 41% of the NI population who vote for the Nationalist parties. Unionism is used to domination and will now have to get used to equality. Resistance to the quotas is just the same as the resistance in the 1960’s of the Whites of the US Deep South to equality for blacks. They rioted against the civil-rights laws brought in by President Johnson. Loyalists likewise riot against getting Catholics into the PSNI. It goes against the grain of how they think i.e. Protestants should be the first class citizen, Catholics the second-class. The same happened decades ago when the Stormont tyranny was abolished in 1972, and when the vote-rigging was stopped in Derry. This is part of a pattern of attitudes and behaviour that will be depressingly familiar to observers of what happened in the 1960’s in the Deep South of the US.

    “Good for Hungary and it built its success on tolerance not demanding sectarian demarcation of roads but its relevance? The Roman Catholics of Gibraltar think British Rule is just great but it has no relevance to the people here.

    We don’t have demarcated roads in the South either where there are large Protestant minorities e.g. Donegal. Shows we are doing something right.

  • Plum Duff

    Fair Deal

    I’ve been trying, patiently and sympathetically, to follow your arguments through this topic and several related ones to which you contributed. I must confess, after reading and re-reading your points at issue, that I really do not know what your beef is. Every single positive gain for Unionists – status of UK, consent, Arts 2/3,etc. – in the GFA is dismissed, whereas any perceived gain (I prefer, ‘balancing up’) for Nats/Reps, mostly aspirational, I would suggest, starts a whinge-fest about ‘concessions’ or some other dreamt-up slice of paranoia. What do you really fear about equality? Does the real problem lie in that your raison d’etre will become a ‘ne pas etre’?

  • Henry94

    The unionist attitude to policing was summed up by a young woman in the Let’s talk audience last night whoc claimed the PNSI was doing everything for the nationalists and nothing for the “people of Northern ireland”.

    Same as it ever was.

  • darthrumsfeld

    “The world and Norn Iron have changed and the OO have to accept that some of their parade routes are no longer viable and Nationalists have to accept that sometimes the Concerned Residents Groups aren’t really that concerned and are just trying to get a reaction. Might be over simplifying a tad I know.”

    1990-eight or nine parades along Garvaghy Road
    1998-one Sunday morning parade
    Credit given-nothing. And there are numerous examples of parades being rerouted, or times changed to accommodate local changes in circumstances.

    One single solitary comment from any nationalist politician recognising dessert spoon’s perfectly reasonable comment on these groups?-Still waiting. One single solitary conmcession by a residents’ group? Well the nearest is from the Bogsiders who deign not to interfere with August 12th provided ABOD parades are stopped in Dunloy, N Belfast and whereever else they feel duty bound to interfere on behalf of local people.

    Plumduff
    I don’t regard a recognition that I am legitimate, when I already know that I am legitimate to be any great shakes. Arts 2&3 were illegal, unenforcable, and embarassing- why would I want to pay a real price to get rid of them? It was Trimble’s biggest failure that he saw this as anything more than a sacred cow that the Irish Government was going to have to slaughter to show its good faith.

    The consent principle is likewise no more than a recognition of reality. if you don’t seek to gain my consent and insist on forcing me to do something I don’t want , you’ll quickly regret it . “Nemo me impune lacessit” .
    The only real and significant concession that Unionism would have to acknowledge would be if nationalism -specifically the Irish Goverment-accepted that there is another possible(probable) outcome to political development here-namely that there will never be a vote in favour of a United Ireland. Pretending that it’s inevitable, and doing all you can to harmonise government and infrastructure inn anticipation, is the source of much of the Unionist anger. Look at the replacement for Articles 2&3. No recognition that I am not part of the Irish race or nation there, regardless of my views.

    It’s not about “equality”, as Sinn Fein spin it. Nationalists feel varying degrees of antipathy to the British state; Unionists varying degrees of attachment. So we’ll denude NI of the British symbols to placate the nationalists, who will regard the changes as insignificant, cosmetic, tokenism, while at the same time offending many of the Unionists-particularly that section most identifying with mainstream UK-i.e. the garden centre Prods who voted for the Agreement in the first place because they assumed it was the end of the journey, not the next station for the Dublin train.

    Hain’s speech shows that the NIO haven’t decommissioned their mindset. Why waste paper blustering about what you’re going to do to paramilitaries when a few years ago they were the unsung heroes of the peace process, golf buddies of President McAleese, and possible future allies in keeping the lid on their communities?

    Jim Gray-UDA commander- flash lifestyle, bling, holidays-safe from arrest
    Jim Gray ex-UDA commander-cuff him and stuff him!
    That’s the NIO approach to paramilitaries

  • George

    Single is automatically solitary Darth.

    There is nothing in the Irish constitution that claims you. You are entitled to be part of the Irish nation with the rest of us if you so wish but that decision is for you and you alone.

    It is not for the Irish constitution to outline who is not entitled to be part of the Irish nation rather to outline who is. Write your own constitution if you need some soothing about what you are not a member of, don’t blame Bunreacht na hEireann.

    The principle of consent, by its very nature, accepts that there may never be a united Ireland. It also accepts that there may be one.

    On the GFA being the end of the journey, don’t forget Parnell’s quote, which is on his statue on O’Connell street:

    “No man shall have the right to fix the boundary to the march of a Nation.”

    That includes you Darth.

  • darthrumsfeld

    So why are all the roads offered to us signposted “Dublin” then George? The assumption that your nation hasn’t already reached its boundaries belies the burblings of the Bicycle Thief

  • George

    Darth,
    it is up to unionism as a political ideology to build its own road rather than expect others to show it the way.

    Ideology remember so what’s the big idea?

    Leadership is what unionism should be offering, not dragging its feet because its constituents are being shown the only routes currently on offer.

    The situation at the moment is that virtually everyone agrees there has to be change and the only roads out there at the moment for your average NI punter have “Future Dublin Rule” and “Permanent Direct Rule” signposts. There’s also the precipice with “chaos”.

    I would love to see unionism outline how it is going to pay for its own road, where this road is going to go and who is welcome on it.

    I would love to see unionism start work on this road. After all I have no right to restrict the boundary of your nation.

    Will it be another motorway to nowhere like the original unionist M1 or will this new unionist road be the spine of an exciting and vibrant Northern Ireland, encompassing all its citizens and winning their longterm allegiance?

    You tell me.

  • hotdogx

    good point about the m1 built in the wrong direction,good ole unionisim in its usual state of denial, the 6 counties has no sense of itself.

    unioisims border has caused the demise of many of our nations railways which were cut off by the border. in the six counties the derry line is falling into a serious state of poor repair, the only other line goes to dublin- so i dont hold out much hope for our railways in the north while were opening new ones in the republic. The usual poor leadership by unionism!

  • Comrade Stalin

    fair_deal,

    1. The principle of consent was enshrined in domestic and international law the non-recognition of by nationalism was legally irrelevant.

    Then why did unionists complain about them non-stop ? Why did the UUP raise this issue at the talks and get the change included in the Agreement ? You can’t ask for something, then turn around and say you didn’t really want it anyway. That’s what a petulant six-year-old child would do.

    2. Unionism was told by the government that the prinicple of consent had been accepted by Irish nationalism in 1974 and 1985. How many times do we get the same concession?

    The Principle of Consent was not enshrined in law. As part of the Agreement, unionism secured an adjustment to the 1920 Government of Ireland Act which made it law. The significant aspect of the whole thing was that it was accepted by republicans. It seems that once again, once someone provides you with a concession you dismiss it.

    3. These two ‘gains’ were not cost free and many Unionists disliked the price e.g Army Council members as Executive ministers.

    I dislike the price of having former Vanguard members and Ulster Resistance supporters in government, but that’s life. Unionists do not have a monopoly on not liking some of the people they have to do business with.

    4. Sinn Fein has its own interpretation of the principle of consent that it only applies to the final transfer of sovereignty and all ‘preparatory’ transfers before that do not need consent.

    So ? Don’t they have a right to an opinion ?

    Unionists have their own interpretation of the principle, which is the hilarious contradiction that there cannot be a united Ireland until the majority of unionists agree to it (the contradiction being that if you agree to a united Ireland, you’re obviously not a unionist). The fact that they are wrong in all respects on this issue does not change the reality on the ground.

    5. The IRA does not accept the principle of consent. In its statment on the agreement it said it was not bound by the Agreement.

    Given that the IRA have maintained their ceasefire and are backing Sinn Fein, I think it’s clear that they have accepted the compromise, so this one is specious.

    6. These are the arguments of 1998 not 2005 and they didn’t work well on half the Unionist community then so they won’t work now.

    What arguments will work ?

  • fair_deal

    CS

    “Then why did unionists complain about them non-stop ? Why did the UUP raise this issue at the talks and get the change included in the Agreement ? You can’t ask for something, then turn around and say you didn’t really want it anyway.”

    1. Unionists foolishly thought the principle of consent was up for grabs.
    2. In the words of Ken Maginnis “We need changes to Articles 2&3 so we can sell cross-border bodies.”
    3. I wasn’t there. I didn’t ask for it. The ove-focus on high politics was why the Agreement didn’t sell to the Unionist community.

    “The Principle of Consent was not enshrined in law”

    Wrong. The right to determination for Northern Ireland was given to the Parliament of Northern Ireland in the 1920 Government of Ireland Act (this is why there was technically a united ireland for about six houurs as that is how long it took the parliament to pass the legislation to exercise it).

    After Stormont was perogued in 1972 this left a legal problem as the body with the legal right to determine Northern ireland’s constitutional future didn’t exist. Therefore, the Constitution Act of 1973 was passed and transferred the right from the parliament to the people ie it would be determined by a referendum.

    “Don’t they have a right to an opinion?”

    Of course they do but their divergence from what Hain claims the principle of consent means devalues his claim about its ‘universal’ recognition.

    “which is the hilarious contradiction that there cannot be a united Ireland until the majority of unionists agree to it”

    No they don’t – in any political talks the Unionist parties have never asked for such a mechanism. Those are the mechanisms of the Assembly.

    “Given that the IRA have maintained their ceasefire and are backing Sinn Fein”

    The IRA did break its ‘cessation’ (Canary Wharf, Lisburn, DAAD) plus a whole host of other illegal activities (gun-running, intelligence gathering, targetting, recruiting, training, crime, punishment beatings and murders et al). Not that loyalists have been any better, indeed worse, on that front.

    “”What arguments will work?”

    Plenty but it needs change from the Unionist parties, loyalist paramilitaries, government and nationalism.