Government must settle Unionist greivances…

Alex Kane is highly sceptical of the Secretary of State’s claim that violence doesn’t pay. He’s clearly not a fan (nor is he of Tory Lord Ancram). The bottom line, he argues, is that if Hain’s claim is to stand up, then the British government needs to make sure there are sufficient outworkings from a re-established Agreement that settle in Unionists favour.

By Alex Kane

The first thing to do with any speech by a Secretary of State, and particularly one by Peter Hain, is to hold it at arm’s length and smell it. Within a matter of moments you will detect the odious whiff of the porky; that one paragraph which falls between being an outright lie and a blatant misrepresentation of the known facts. And, paradoxically, it is in the porky that you can discern the real truth of the speech.

In Wednesday’s outing the porky could be found nestling between pages six and seven: “I would simply say that the lesson of the last 30 years is unequivocal: violence does not pay. Republicanism made no significant political headway whatsoever until the IRA called a ceasefire; it will make political progress in the future only in proportion to its adherence to peaceful and democratic means. That is why the IRA has set aside the armed struggle…”

Let me break down that paragraph. “Violence does not pay.” We all know that the opposite is the case. Even Mr. Hain knows it. In an interview for another local newspaper, he said; “Protestants…have gained the fact that their future will be decided by peaceful means, not by brute force.” But if they have only just gained that fact, then it must follow that “brute force” had been the deciding factor up until then. It’s a porky, Mr. Hain.

“Republicanism made no significant political headway…” The closure of Stormont in 1972; the disbanding of the B Specials and the UDR; the Anglo-Irish Agreement; the Downing Street Declaration; secret talks with the IRA dating back to July 1972; de facto joint sovereignty between 1985 and 1998 and the erosion, blurring and undermining of the pro-Union dimension. It’s a porky, Mr. Hain.

“Political progress…in proportion to…adherence to peaceful and democratic means.” In other words, if the IRA maintains its ceasefire then republicanism will reap political rewards. Progress, in republican terms, is progress towards a united Ireland. Why should the Secretary of State be promising the IRA political progress? It’s a porky, Mr. Hain.

“The IRA has set aside the armed struggle…” Set aside is a very unusual term to use in the general context of this speech. It seems to be a deliberate acknowledgement by the Secretary of State that the armed struggle may not, in fact, be permanently over. If that is what he thinks, and, by extension, what Tony Blair thinks, then it would explain the other parts of the paragraph. They are continuing to appease the IRA because they continue to believe that the IRA remains a threat. It’s a porky, Mr. Hain.

So, the political thrust of the speech can be summed us as follows: Unionists should be grateful that the IRA has taken a sabbatical from its terrorism and should now concentrate on where to get the money for water rates, rather than fussing about the fact that the government will continue with the process of sweetening and “buying off” Sinn Fein.

It’s exactly the sort of speech one would have expected from the hollow, constitutionally vacuous, Mr. Hain. He has so little sympathy for the pro-Union cause, and so much contempt for unionists, that he really does believe that he can bamboozle us into imagining that his spineless waffle should be interpreted as gains for unionism.

If, as he stated during the speech, the principle of consent is enshrined; the IRA has accepted that Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom; and the Republic has dropped its constitutional claim; then why is he pursuing a policy which makes a mockery of those supposed realities and encouraging republicanism to believe that the British government doesn’t give a damn about the Union? It’s all part and parcel of the same porky, Mr. Hain, and Sinn Fein could not have wished for a more accommodating Secretary of State.

But just when you thought it couldn’t get worse for unionists, up popped the former NIO minister Michael Ancram, to lay into Mr. Hain on our behalf. I say lay into, but in reality being criticised by Mr. Ancram is like being savaged by a geriatric gnat. And what, precisely, was his advice to Mr. Hain? “Be even-handed in dealings between unionists and nationalists; taking nothing from one without taking something from the other.” Ah, so that explains Conservative policy between 1979 and 1997; taking from unionists the signs, symbols, touchstones and benchmarks of their constitutional identity and, in return, taking from armed republicans any fear they may have had that the UK government would destroy them.

The paradox for unionists is that while the IRA hasn’t won (there is no united Ireland and no ending of the British presence) the British government seems determined to encourage Sinn Fein’s belief that its’ republican agenda will emerge victorious. Unless and until the government resolves that paradox, and resolves it in favour of the pro-Union majority, then there is no likelihood of a lasting, let alone a stable political settlement. Things look bad at the moment; very bad indeed. And Peter Hain is too arrogant and biased to realise the damage he is doing.

First published in the Newsletter on Saturday 24th September 2005

  • Comrade Stalin

    I despair when normally sensible writers such as Alex themselves descend into revisionism.

    Republicanism made no significant political headway…” The closure of Stormont in 1972; the disbanding of the B Specials and the UDR; the Anglo-Irish Agreement; the Downing Street Declaration; secret talks with the IRA dating back to July 1972; de facto joint sovereignty between 1985 and 1998 and the erosion, blurring and undermining of the pro-Union dimension. It’s a porky, Mr. Hain.

    Stormont was closed because unionists refused to take action on very basic civil rights and voting reforms. The b-specials/UDR were quasi-paramilitary organizations that should never have been allowed to even exist in a society calling itself a democracy. The Anglo Irish Agreement was disarmed by the Belfast Agreement as a concession to unionists, and in any case republicans don’t care for it. What role does the Downing Street Declaration play now ? – none.

    the erosion, blurring and undermining of the pro-Union dimension

    Alex, why do you think it is in the government’s remit to protect unionism or the pro-union dimension ? That is the job of the unionist leadership. Why is it someone else’s fault if the unionist leadership do an extremely bad job of making the case for the union ?

    Things look bad at the moment; very bad indeed. And Peter Hain is too arrogant and biased to realise the damage he is doing.

    Alex, is this a veiled threat ?

  • Oilbbear Chromaill

    If I were a unionist like Alex, sitting in my comfy and leafy home down on the ‘Gold Coast’ or equivalent, I’d be worried. IRA decommissioning is about to happen and the old world, in which his likes creamed it off the labour of the masses, is about to disappear. Unionists from the political parties don’t really care about the Union – just the double and triple salaries it brings, the lucrative old boys contracts and the likes. The end is nigh.

    And about time too. What unionists demonstrated over the years was a capacity for misgovernment, corruption and cruel oppression only matched by despots such as Idi Amin and Saddam Hussein. They were rightfully shaken from their lofty perch by the IRA in 1970 following their attempted pogrom in 1969 – a 30+ year was too long a conflict before the message went home that they were unfit to be a part of any government describing itself as a democracy.

    Unless they realise this is their best chance to redeem themselves and their self serving political ‘philosophy’ – self serving in the sense that they were never above feathering their own nests at the expense of their voters and followers – they may end up being forcibly ejected. And good riddance.

    I have the greatest of respect for ordinary unionists who’ve been misled by their leaders – but their leaders are truly detestable contemptible leeches.

    And I am under no illusions that the system as it currently stands has been abused by Catholics, specifically Castle Catholics, and we need to be on our guard to ensure that this doesn’t happen in future under whatever powersharing arrangement which will emerge.

  • TAFKABO

    “the old world, in which his likes creamed it off the labour of the masses, is about to disappear.”

    That’s a relief, for a moment I thought we were going to be joining the Irish repubic.

    “What unionists demonstrated over the years was a capacity for misgovernment, corruption and cruel oppression only matched by despots such as Idi Amin and Saddam Hussein.”

    Listen mate, you need to see a doctor immediately, your sense of perspective is damaged beyond repair.

  • Comrade Stalin

    “Unionists from the political parties don’t really care about the Union – just the double and triple salaries it brings, the lucrative old boys contracts and the likes.”

    List some double/triple salaries, old boy contracts and so on. I dare you.

  • OIlbhear Chromaill

    Here’s to you Mr and Mrs Robinson….and the entire clan, no doubt, rolling in Westminster moolah….

    And how about John Laird, the man who dined for Ulster Scots….

    It isn’t political principle which is at stake here, it’s the money… like Deep Throat told Bernstein, follow the money….

  • ALan

    *I have the greatest of respect for ordinary unionists who’ve been misled by their leaders – but their leaders are truly detestable contemptible leeches. *

    This is clearly the new line for the autumn, another variation on megaphone diplomacy.

    Never mind the beef – where’s the engagement?

  • Comrade Stalin

    Here’s to you Mr and Mrs Robinson….and the entire clan, no doubt, rolling in Westminster moolah….

    Sinn Fein have offices and considerable salaries as MPs as well. Is it wrong for unionists to earn the same salaries as everyone else ?

    And how about John Laird, the man who dined for Ulster Scots….

    How much is he getting ? Do you think it might compare the the money spent on the Irish language by the European Union ? Naturally you’d be opposed to that sort of thing.

    It isn’t political principle which is at stake here, it’s the money… like Deep Throat told Bernstein, follow the money….

    You haven’t demonstrated that the union is a unionist pork barrel. Pretty much everyone seems to do pretty well out of it.

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    “Unionists from the political parties don’t really care about the Union – just the double and triple salaries it brings, the lucrative old boys contracts and the likes.”

    This no doubt explains why Sinn Fein are the richest party on the island of Ireland — and that’s before the £26m ‘golden handshake’.

  • aquifer

    “What unionists demonstrated over the years was a capacity for misgovernment, corruption and cruel oppression only matched by despots such as Idi Amin and Saddam Hussein.”

    Do you think that flattering Unionist Ultras will get you somewhere Oilbbear? They never really cut the grade as systematic torturers to be truthful, and the English’s heart was not in it either. Others were much better at it, and PIRA internal security were quite diligent at times. South american countries and some gulf states excel. As to corruption and misgovernment, the Unionists ran a tight little financial ship for the most part, thats why the Brits left them too it. Although the catholics certainly lost out, that’s for sure.

    “Unless they realise this is their best chance to redeem themselves and their self serving political ‘philosophy . . . . they may end up being forcibly ejected. And good riddance.

    So ethnic cleansing is not ruled out? Good to know where republicans stand on these matters.

    As to Alex and his chronic Onionist bellyaching. He imagines that having local security militias has some instrinsic value. Why? A preference for men in Uniform should remain a private not a public matter, there are all sorts of clubs for those interested in militaria.

    And why should any British offical indulge a sectarian gang seemingly incapable of extending full political participation to people who happen to be catholic. Especially when dispeptic commentators slag off their ex-ministers. ‘being criticised by Mr. Ancram is like being savaged by a geriatric gnat’ And I had imagined that Ancram was pro-unionist, but maybe not pro enough for Outtraged in Donacloney.

    I have heard of a book ‘how to make friends and influence people’ Maybe someone should write ‘how to keep friends and not piss them off’.

    Union with who now?

    Simply not British at all

  • Adrian IV

    Why is it that that every time I read Kane mouthing off about someone like Hain, all I can hear is ‘Trimble, Agreement, McGimpsey, etc …..’ & all the other “porkies” he’s told over the years? Is he Norn Iron’s most discredited columnist or does Eamon McCann still hold that palm?

  • red kangaroo

    alex kane should get ober it.. nobody cares about a bunch of second rate jackboots in northern ireland. They have had almost a century to prove themselfes, and guess what??? they failed. So bye bye union and good rid to it. The world has moved on from this petty protestant supremacy so boo who Mr Kane but it looks like you lost.

  • David Vance

    Good stuff from Alex – good to see his analysis and mine are now aligned. The spite contained in some of the previous comments evidence his accuracy.

  • Dave

    Some say that unionism has no leardership I would say this is true (sad as that is).

    The people of Northern Ireland will have true leadership the day they strike out for Independence. No British/Irish government, No United Ireland and No union. The people would be focused on one thing only, an Independent sovereign Country.

    Only this will safeguard their culture and heritage, only this will bring peace. The aspiration of unification by irish terrorists will come to an abrupt end. the Westminister mandrains will have achieved their goal of betraying the people of Northern Ireland to irish Terrorists default. (told to sling their hook)

    For a United Ireland or Independence to work it needs the support of the majority of the people, lets put it to the people lets have a referendum.

    Britain does not want or need Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland does not want or need the Republic of Ireland. What Northern Ireland does need is direction and an aspiration for a Country of their own which will lead them in the same direction with a clear and achievable goal.

    Peace.

    Independence is a viable option lets take it, now.

  • Dave

    Oilbbear Chromaill

    really?

  • Brian Boru

    “If, as he stated during the speech, the principle of consent is enshrined; the IRA has accepted that Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom; and the Republic has dropped its constitutional claim; then why is he pursuing a policy which makes a mockery of those supposed realities and encouraging republicanism to believe that the British government doesn’t give a damn about the Union? It’s all part and parcel of the same porky, Mr. Hain, and Sinn Fein could not have wished for a more accommodating Secretary of State.”

    Firstly, it’s not a matter of “if”. Articles 2 and 3 have been altered to remove the territorial-claim, and their present-form makes it clear that there can be no United Ireland without the consent of the majority of people in Northern Ireland. Also, the PIRA has not killed Protestants on going on 10 years now so evidently their “war” against Unionist civilians is over. They have stated for the first time that the “armed campaign” is over. Previously, they were only willing to go as far as declaring a “cessation of military operations” which does not have the same ring of permanence as “end of the armed campaign” does.

    The article indicates the continuing Unionist fixation with symbols. They Unionists have to realise that when they insisted in absorbing Nationalist areas into the Northern statelet in 1920, they gave up their chance to set up a state that was purely British in its national allegiance. 2 of the Six Counties were Nationalist (now its 4) but they insisted in 1914 and 1920 on 6 counties. No Protestant counties were given to the South though. So the Unionists effectively created the context where more politically-neutral symbols were required for the PSNI/RUC – including the name change.

    Now in any other part of the world, people wouldn’t really care less if the name of their police-force was changed. This is indicateive with what I consider a Unionist obsession with symbolism – an obsession that is not understand in the rest of the UK. Still less do mainland UK citizens understand the need for thousands of parades every year to celebrate victories over Catholics 314-5 years ago – let alone the stubborn refusal to even accept miniscule changes in the routes of those marches. The Daily Telegraph in 1998 – a newspaper you would consider to be pro-Unionist – even referred to the Orange Order as a “strange cult” in 1998.

    If the Nationalists have gotten more from this process, it is more a reflection of how disadvantaged the Catholic community was and still is within NI vis a vis the Protestant community. Recent statistics continue to show that Catholics are twice as likely to be unemployed as Protestants, and Catholics are only 15% of the PSNI – and even the latter figure was only achieved because of the Patten proposals.

    To Unionists used to a 98% Protestant police force, and to having everything their own way from 1920-72 and then until the Anglo-Irish Agreement, these changes may well be difficult to accept. But this was also the case for the Whites of the US Deep South when forced to accept desegregation and the Civil Rights Act in the US in the 1960’s. Change is not always comofrtable but it is a precondition for peace, since historic injustices against the Catholic ‘minority’ in the North sparked the Troubles in the first place. Rectifying these injustices should not be seen as “concession after concession to Republicans” but rather as right historic wrongs against the minorityt community.

  • Jacko

    The reasons for the recent upsurge in violence are plain to see if people can detach themselves from their own political prdeujices for just a second or two.

    The UDA and UVF want to find a semi-plausable reason for continued existence now that the IRA are disappearing off stage – hence the Protestant alienation/victims of discrimination/we need bags of money for our people, crap. Also, they know that once the IRA does disarm and disappear they are next on the menu, so it’s a case of lay out our case, such as it is, in advance of that.

    The unionist parties are in a similar position except they want to avoid the political implications for them of the IRA disarming and disappearing. So suddenly poverty and deprivation in working class areas has primacy over everything. Whereas before, even if it does exist as they describe it, they couldn’t have given a toss.

    The loyalist paramilitaries and mainstream unionism have a real convergence of interest at the moment hence the convergence in planning and tactics.
    The orange order is led by lunatics eager to fall in behind both of the above.

    For unionism and loyalism, the situation now unfolding within republicanism is their worst nightmare come true.
    If they had any political nous and/or integrity, instead it would be seen as the most positive developments imaginable.

    Alex Kane, like most right thinking unionists, should recognise all of the above as a reality – and I’m not certain that he doesn’t.
    Maybe, given the paper he writes for and the party he belongs to, it’s just easier to follow the crowd on this one.

  • Denny Boy

    Thoughtful post, Jacko, and this for me is the cruncher:

    “Alex Kane, like most right thinking unionists, should recognise all of the above as a reality – and I’m not certain that he doesn’t.
    Maybe, given the paper he writes for and the party he belongs to, it’s just easier to follow the crowd on this one.”

    The News Letter could pull its finger out as regards rapprochement, if that’s the word I want. I don’t see it in my neck of the woods but does it give space these days to points of view that are NOT unionist? The Irish News does acknowledge the views of “the other side” but is there any reciprocity from the NL? If not, maybe they could work on it. Just a thought….

  • David Vance

    Danny Boy,

    Oh yes. the Irish News is just brimming with the views of anti-Agreement unionists! It’s a homogenous daily dose of pro-Agreement dross.

    Jacko,

    Deluded thinking of your part. The UDA/UVF see the benefits of Provo violence and want a bigger slice of the action. Instead of crushing gangsters, the Belfast Agreement rewards them. As for the idea that the IRA are “leaving the scene” – I think that conclusion adds a new dimension to the expression “Fool me once…” The Provos are trying to go where no unionist worth their salt will accept them – Government. The IRA retains its illegal structure for terror, it is growing it’s Rafia empire, and it is milking PR so that the gullible and malign can row in behind it in achieving its insurrectionist agenda. Alex Kane is merely reflecting what most thinking unionists believe.

  • Jacko

    Denny Boy
    I don’t buy the News Letter because, frankly and irrespective of the editorial position it holds, I think it is a shite paper.
    I scan it regularly where I work and it does give space to Suzane Breene who is from a Catholic background but could hardly be described as “nationalist” in the accepted sense.
    It has swerved to the right in recent times after falling sales. The previous editor backed the pro-agreement stance of Trimble’s UUP.
    Whether its sales have improved or not as a result of this, I don’t know.
    My impression is of a paper determined to follow and play to the crowd as opposed to trying to give any leadership.

  • David Vance

    Jacko,

    Point of information. Suzanne Breen has not been published in the Newsletter for four months. Your scanning process seems to have glitched.

  • Denny Boy

    I’m glad to hear about Suzanne Breen and the NL. The less polarization in Ulster media the better for all concerned.

    I’m not saying that journalists can sway readers so easily, but who else is going to put the other chap’s view more cogently? Certainly not the politicians.

  • David Vance

    Did you understand my post? Suzanne no longer writes for the NL, which is a big loss imo.

  • Denny Boy

    David, I understood all right. I was cheered that the NL had actually given her a chance to put her view at one time. I admire her.

    I hope they have the good sense to employ more nationalist writers from time to time. What’s the point in a paper that reflects only one’s own views? That’s like talking to oneself.

  • Fermanagh Young Unionist

    Do the Daily Ireland employ many Unionist writers?

  • Denny Boy

    FYU, why not buy it and see?

  • Fermanagh Young Unionist

    FYU, why not buy it and see?

    Because I’d rather stick pins in my eyes… it’s probably as bad as an phoblacht.

  • Oilbhéar Chromaill

    FYU:

    Perhaps you would be better reading a quality newspaper such as Daily Ireland rather than a rag such as the Newsletter.

  • Denny Boy

    “Because I’d rather stick pins in my eyes… it’s probably as bad as an phoblacht.”

    I see. Did you read The Satanic Verses or was that something else you condemned sight unseen?

  • Fermanagh Young Unionist

    Oilbhéar Chromaill,

    Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion

    Denny Boy,

    Did you read The Satanic Verses

    Nope and I don’t intend to either

  • David Vance

    Denny Boy,

    Suzanne is an excellent writer and her loss to the NL is considerable in my estimate.

  • dawgface911

    fyu…….ive read the satanic versus, daily ireland, and the newsletter. reading is a good thing. i don’t understand the juvinile comment about needles in your eye. you should find a competent accupunture specialist and put needles in target areas of your head. or if you cant resist exposure to more than a comfortable , agreeable couple of news sources, try putting your head in the sand.

  • dawgface911

    Dave ..I agree with you, lets give independece a shot !! the people need leadership and direction, and as you said ” aspiration for a country of their own ”
    as I see it though, the independant republic of ulster has to be located somewhere else.
    when the republic is set up there will be unrestricted orange marches, a resurected B-specials, special powers act, udr, oh happy days.
    like I said it wont work here, what about New Orleans?

  • Chico

    Poor Prods being pushed to the limit we’re told – God help the craturs, how much more can they be expected to take. Stripped of their powers to abuse their Catholic neighbours, they can’t even walk the Queen’s highway anymore to celebrate their culture.
    Culture, they haven’t even got an identity, never mind a culture; they abandoned an Irish identity, always something to scorn, to ridicule, to deride. Their non-leaders of the recent past, who nurtured this derision (“we don’t jig at the crossroads”), clowning in their lickspittle ermine shawls, now brown-nose their English masters in the HOL.
    Their new non-leaders – Pastor Paisley the Pied Piper of Protestant Persecution, leads them up the same garden path to the Larne and Liverpool boats, whilst thinking of the same lickspittle shawls; and their so-called defenders – the Brigadiers prey on their children and their communities: aren’t these the real sources of their despair.
    Should we feel sorry for them – certainly not, centuries of bigotry and hatred still drive hordes of them and their leaders; should we pity them – probably yes, the lack of identity and real culture must be traumatic, and the desperate search for Scottish roots, with the be-kilted LL at their head demeaning. After their hundreds of years in Ireland, this deluded nobleman of the realm, seeks to turn them back into Scotsmen: how ironic since it was the original Scots from Ulster who established the Gaelic culture there and the very name Scotland.
    Yes we do have to pity these poor Prods, their treasured Union is a thief in the night, a thief of their identity as Irishmen. Now let them contemplate the real Irish who never surrendered, who never took the soup, who never donned the ermine shawl They saved their sacred language, their ancient literature, their music, their dance, their sport and their mystical spirituality – a real identity, a distinctive Gaelic culture, the enduring mark of their nationhood.
    Time is running out George, Sammy and Henry, the Gaels are marching on, with you or without you, our day has come.

  • Denny Boy

    Chico, my boy (if that isn’t a tautology) I hear your pain and empathize. However, your post contains a little too much triumphancy for my taste. I don’t see the sense in swapping one brand of triumphancy for another.

    Keeping a chap when he’s down is never nice.

  • Denny Boy

    That should of course be “kicking”. Blame the lateness of the hour. Goodnight!

  • Chico

    Danny boy i’m down in the Austral regions hence the name and time. Triumphancy no – realism yes. I don’t belive in fudge and in any struggle there will always be a winner. Co- existence with evil no way.

  • Chico

    Danny boy i’m down in the Austral regions hence the name and time. Triumphancy no – realism yes. I don’t belive in fudge and in any struggle there will always be a winner. Co- existence with evil no way.

  • Chico

    Danny boy i’m down in the Austral regions hence the name and time. Triumphancy no – realism yes. I don’t belive in fudge and in any struggle there will always be a winner. Co- existence with evil no way.

  • Alan McDonald

    Chico,

    You say, in any struggle there will always be a winner.

    Can you not imagine a struggle in which both hostile adversaries lose?

  • Jacko

    “…Danny boy i’m down in the Austral regions…”

    Thank Christ! We’ve enough blind bigots here to be going on with.