A shared future is your only man…

Bertie Ahern talking to the Seanad today, laid out the long promised framework of participation of Northern Irish voices in the Oireachtas. Hat tip Dave.

In a context where progress is being made and trust and confidence are being restored, there is also an opportunity to address the issue of Oireachtas participation by Northern representatives. As I stated in the Dáil, what I will propose will be sensible but modest. It will be faithful to the recommendations of the All-Party report. There is no question of granting Northern Ireland MPs speaking rights in the Dáil.

Nor will our proposals cut across the architecture of the Good Friday Agreement. It can moreover complement the North-South parliamentary forum under the agreement, which we hope to see established soon.

The British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body is already in existence and thriving. There is also a distinguished history of Northern appointees to this House to build on.

He’s also pointed out that there is no question of Unionists having simply to comply with the wishlists of their opponents: “They have to be persuaded and convinced that they can trust those who seek their trust”.

In an interesting reprise of arguments separately advanced by Michael McDowell and Trevor Ringland he said:

“We cannot just talk past them about what we want. If we are to talk of unity, let us talk of uniting people and not just territory. A shared future will not come easy. Apart from making political progress, we need to make progress in the hearts and minds of all of the people. We need to confront sectarianism and hatred wherever we see it, on all sides”.

  • spirit-level

    Great speech
    I wonder if Bertie Ahern’s vision is more amenable to unionists, and actually Sinn Fein are the biggest obstacle to a united ireland?
    This is my research project, so I’d appreciate any comments from unionist blogger in particular.
    Thanks

  • Alan2

    Like I have stated before I find the likes of Michael McDowell`s Republicanism non threatening. I am still not convinced but at least when I hear him speak about Republicanism and indeed Beties speech I do not automatically go into anti-United Ireland mode.

  • Gum

    Thats because McDowell’s not serious Alan! He doesnt give a damn about a UI. Why should he? He and his party are very very comfortable with the status quo. Its what Brian eeney said a few yrs ago – when the parties in the south feel Sinn fein breathing down their necks, they all try to dust off their republican credentials. (It wont work – how do you out-republican Sinn Fein?) I dont like the border, but I wouldnt want McDowell’s version of the republic to come into effect. A tolerant pluralistic society is more important and wouldnt be the case under the PDs.

  • Mick Fealty

    Gum

    The problem with spending so much effort on who says something is that you miss: one what was said; and that other people have said precisely the same thing.

    The thing’s the thing not the who.

  • Gum

    I know Mick, but I was (1) replying to Alan, and (2) trying to suggest that the ‘who’ can be as important as what they say if their actions and past statements contradict the pronouncement in question.

    Which I think is fair when discussing Michael McDowell’s vision of the republic.

  • IJP

    spirit

    Specifically: Irish ‘Nationalists’ (by which I mean those who play the ethnic ‘Irish Nation’ card in a variety of forms) are the biggest block to a ‘United Ireland’.

    If they turned to true Irish Republicanism (the genuine ideals of united people under common themes and interests rather than playing one ethnic block off against another) they would have a better chance of attaining that goal. That chance would still be odds-against, but at least it would be conceivable. (The risk, of course, is that they would lose their ‘tribal’ support base and get no votes – but do they want a United Ireland or don’t they?)

    Both the SDLP and SF are Irish Nationalist parties, albeit containing genuine Republicans (too) far removed from the leadership.

  • Gum

    I think that is very true IJP.

    What makes any of us Irish? Is it playing the gaelic games, speaking the language or playing the music? Obviously not. The only common denominator is that we all happened to be born on this part of the earth. Which means the child of Nigerian immigrants thats born today in a Dublin hospital is as irish as me or Bertie Ahern if he/she wants to be. We need a much more flexible notion of nationality – get it away from outdated romantic notions of the ‘gaels’. (This also would allow unionists to continue to see themselves as British in a UI).

  • JD

    It is incombant on republicans and Sinn Fein to articulate and define what they mean by building an Ireland of equals.

    Although Micheal McDowells version of republicanism may appeal to some unionists, they need to be wary of the type of united Ireland that a PD Ireland would produce. It would be one were the massive inequalities and two tier systems that presently permiate the twenty six counties under a FF/PD Government, would simply be reflected in an all Ireland context.

    IMHO new all Ireland arrangements must contain three key elements:

    1. Human rights based governance should be enshrined in a legally binding All Ireland Bill of Rights.

    2. Particpatory democracy should encouraged and given real credible powers of scutiny through a strong All Ireland Civic Forum.

    3. Equality legislation articulated in Section 75 should be strengthened to ensure that statutory agencies cannot discriminate on grounds of socio-economic conditions, race, age gender or religion etc.

    Re-unification can reverse the six county decline and open up opportunities for everyone.