After the long war, the long wait…

Roy Garland doesn’t rule out a united Ireland at some undefined point in the future. But, he argues, it won’t be within the lifetime of Gerry Adams.

  • Henry94

    It is clear that a lot of unionists are unhappy with the way the north is being run now by the British government and many are also unhappy with the only alternative to that which is power-sharing with Sinn Fein.

    So instead of giving out about Sinn Fein for offering an alternative future they should be themselves putting forward a vision for a partitioned future that works. If they have one.

    Despite words to the contrary, Sinn Féin seems unable – publicly at least – to envisage outcomes that are not predicated on achievement of Irish unity and unionist defeat. This increases unionist stubbornness.

    If the case for contiuned partition rests on nothing more than being annoyed at the suggestion of an alternative then it’s hard to see how it is sustainable.

    He is of corse right that it is hard to see a role for Sinn fein in a united Ireland but that should be an attraction for unionists. Share power with the likes Ahern, McDowell, Kenny, Durkin and Rabitte with Sinn Fein consigned to the opposition benches forever.

  • smcgiff

    ‘Share power with the likes Ahern, McDowell, Kenny, Durkin and Rabitte with Sinn Fein consigned to the opposition benches forever.’

    I’ve shimmied this up the sectarian flag pole before. How much do unionists really hate SF? :O)

  • Ginfizz

    Garland identifies many important points – the main one being the contrast between Sinn Fein’s “hand of friendship” approach and the grabbing, begrudging nasty reality. Sinn Fein has deliberatly and in a calculated fashion made the political process an uncomfortable experience for Unionists – whatever the rights and wrongs, the simple truth is that Unionists see the destruction of the RUC as a defeat, the release of prisoners as an affront to their sense of decency, the latest decommissioning acts as begrudging in their nature – enough to satisfy the government (who most Unionists have little faith in anyway) but not enough to satisfy them. For these, and other reasons the Unionists of Ulster turned against Trimble and the UUP.

    The only conclusion that can be drawn is that Sinn Fein has no desire whatsoever to reach a genuine accomadation with Unionism, but is intent upon humiliating and defeating the Unionist community. They will never be trusted.

  • smcgiff

    ‘They will never be trusted.’

    With respect Ginfizz, you’re contradicting yourself. If SF can do no right in the eyes of unionists, then why not at least push their own agenda?

  • Ginfizz

    Smcgiff

    Fair enough, perhaps “never” was an overstatement, but I would argue, not for a very long time (perhaps not in my lifetime! 😉 ).

    They are pushing their agenda – it doesn’t include Unionists, in any other role than sitting down, shutting up and taking wahtever is handed to them, they should be honest enough to admit that.

  • Fraggle

    Unionists are pushing their agenda – it doesn’t include nationalists, in any other role than sitting down, shutting up and taking wahtever is handed to them, they should be honest enough to admit that.

    See, that works too.

  • Ginfizz

    Fraggle

    The difference is that most of the boxes on the nationalist agenda at the time of the GFA have been ticked. Unionists do not see any reward for the suffering they have had to endure.

    Furthermore, I don’t think that anyone could seriously contend that Unionism (Democratic and Ulster varities) hasn’t moved. Just what have Nationalists had to sacrifice in the last ten years? And please spare me the crap about sitting in Stormont, everyone knows Gerry and the boys are as a happy as a pig in sh*te up there.

  • George

    “For most unionists Irish unity means the final defeat, surrender and humiliation of an honourable tradition and they will not consent to it.”

    One way to avoid surrender and humiliation is for unionism to finally accept that to be Irish and independent is as honourable a tradition as to be unionist and British.

    Whatever about the internal issues in Northern Ireland that are annoying unionists, unionism’s attitude towards the Irish Republic is childish and counterproductive in the extreme.

    Examples: Refusing to shake Bertie Ahern’s hand, Willie Hay getting annoyed that the tricolour flies to remember war dead, ignoring opportunities to work together for the benefit of all, scuppering cross-border co-operation when the biggest losers are those north of the border etc.

    Close relations with the rest of this people on this island are not something to suffer or endure, they are something to embrace and work for.

    If the Irish nation and its state is only to be tolerated under sufferance by unionism then we are in for a long period of stagnation and misery. And unionists will be the bigger losers.

    Unionists seem to forget taht to embrace is not to unite with.

    If we can get over this hurdle, then this island will really be going places. Where, I don’t know but better than where we are now.

    Of course it will mean an end to the neverending denigration of each other’s cultures, quirks and symbols. Most of us will have to find something else to whinge and moan about.

  • smcgiff

    ‘Furthermore, I don’t think that anyone could seriously contend that Unionism (Democratic and Ulster varities) hasn’t moved. Just what have Nationalists had to sacrifice in the last ten years?’

    Moved? I think dragged kicking screaming and rioting would be more accurate verbs, and see where it got Trimble.

    How does the release of IRA prisoners benefit the VAST majority of nationalists (even republicans). This might be a slight in the eyes of unionists, but a benefit to the community at large? No.

    If we stick to the big picture, what have unionists lost? The RUC? Do you really think that nationalists owed a love or even loyalty to that organisation? A PSNI of closer to 50% Protestant, 40% Catholic and 10% other in time will be a more representative police force.

    I don’t think it facile to suggest that unionists have the most to lose because they had the most in the fist place. By most I mean involvement in the institution of a state that largely bypassed one community. What would you ask of nationalists to give up that would be comparable to what unionists have compromised on?

    Something, not for the sake of compromise, but something that would benefit unionists by the fact a change has been brought about.

    Or is it really just about saving face?

  • Ginfizz

    So Nationalists haven’t actually given up anything then? The IRA bombed the place for thirty years, murdered their neighbours and fellow country-men and have now cashed in their guns for a vast raft of concessions.

    Unionism, on the other hand, which generally eschewed violence and sought to achieve its aims through democracy, gets shafted every time.

    The Nationalist demands of 1998 have been met and they still refuse to share in “ownership” of the state apparatus, which you allege they didn’t have because of years of Unionist domination.
    Why? Because they don’t really want to get down to governing this place on equal terms with Unionists, they are happy to contrive dirty little side deals with HMG and increase the angst of the Unionist community.

  • smcgiff

    ‘So Nationalists haven’t actually given up anything then? The IRA bombed the place for thirty years, murdered their neighbours and fellow country-men and have now cashed in their guns for a vast raft of concessions.’

    Are you equating nationalists with the IRA? I don’t.

    ‘Unionism, on the other hand, which generally eschewed violence and sought to achieve its aims through democracy, gets shafted every time.’

    Unionists on the whole, as Nationalists on the whole eschewed violence etc.

    ‘they still refuse to share in “ownership” of the state apparatus’ Some nationalists have even taken ownership despite being attacked by terrorists.

    ‘Because they don’t really want to get down to governing this place on equal terms with Unionists, they are happy to contrive dirty little side deals with HMG and increase the angst of the Unionist community.’

    If by ‘they’ you mean SF then I agree with you. But what are Nationalists and Unionists to do?

  • “One way to avoid surrender and humiliation is for unionism to finally accept that to be Irish and independent is as honourable a tradition as to be unionist and British.”
    That’s the solution to the “identity” problem, also the solution for the one flag to be adopted, representing the green and orange traditions equally. The tri-colour.
    Perhaps the white could represent the light of Christ, so we wouldn’t have to worry about differences between Caths and Prods
    A united ireland of equals.
    Once that’s accepted by the unionist community, the rest is just paperwork 😉

  • Fraggle

    Ginfizz, the constitutional arrangement of the north with regards to britain is the choice and responsibility of unionists. You are the ones who choose to have us rules by an unacountable foreign parliament, not us. For just over 50% of the electorate, you are getting 100% of your way on the question of who is in overall control.

    Not Sinn Fein’s fault if the people who you chose to be in charge of us make decisions unionists don’t like. Remember, you cose them, not Sinn Fein and not nationalists. If politcis is uncomfortable for unionists, it’s their own fault, after all, they are the ones who currently have things their way.

  • foreign correspondent

    Under the influence (of another current Slugger thread), with a slight nod to Michael Moore, I´d just like to say:

    What´s the POINT of Unionism, dude?

    I´ll get me runners.

  • Mick O’Tick

    Ginfizz

    “The only conclusion that can be drawn is that Sinn Fein has no desire whatsoever to reach a genuine accomadation with Unionism, but is intent upon humiliating and defeating the Unionist community. They will never be trusted.”

    Now there’s plenty of “whataboutery” in your comment, Gin, but we’ll not go there. As far as “accomodation” is concerned, when you realy get down to it, unionists don’t want to be understood much less accommodated. They prefer to be left alone. So, with this in mind, how do suggest nationalists and republicans go about convincing otherwise?

    “The difference is that most of the boxes on the nationalist agenda at the time of the GFA have been ticked. Unionists do not see any reward for the suffering they have had to endure.”

    What suffering?? Oh, you mean having to come to grips on sharing power. Having to come to grips on equality. having to come to grips, that they no longer have a veto on progress, et cetra, et cetra. I think you get the point.

    If you consider “suffering” a symptom of being slightly marganalized, then so be it.

  • 9countypronvence

    Ginfizz,

    The Unionists have secured that a majority vote would be needd to unite the island. Nationalists, in accepting the GFA have accepted this,the ROI has voted out it’s claim to NI and the IRA has decommishioned its weapons. NI’s position within the UK has never looked so secure in it’s whole existence. If you’re so concerned about what ‘themuns’ got, just think what Unionists got. They got NI’s existance confirmed by Nationalists and they have the veto.
    If you don’t like what HMG is up to, maybe you should consider a different government. I know of one a few miles down south of you 😉

  • irishman

    More MOPEry from Garland. As a long-time member of the society that believes the problem here is that nationalists remain nationalists, we should not be at all surprised by the whingeing nature of this column.

    One would think unionists had committed no wrongs upon nationalists in the past.

    It illustrates how bereft some unionists are of vision and confidence.

  • Congal Claen

    Hi George,

    “One way to avoid surrender and humiliation is for unionism to finally accept that to be Irish and independent is as honourable a tradition as to be unionist and British.”

    As a Unionist myself, I have no problem whatsoever with Irishmen wishing to have independence. However, that generally isn’t all that Irish Nationalism wants. They usually, correct me if I’m wrong, want there to be a United Independent Ireland. So, I have to be part of their ideal. This therefore means that Unionism cannot exist if Irish Nationalisms’ dreams are fulfilled. Whereas an Independent Ireland already exists together with a British Ireland. They aren’t mutually exclusive. For sake of argument, if the Ards peninsula became exclusively Unionist, would Nationalism still want it as part of a UI? If so, why?

    “unionism’s attitude towards the Irish Republic is childish and counterproductive in the extreme. Examples: Refusing to shake Bertie Ahern’s hand, Willie Hay getting annoyed that the tricolour flies to remember war dead, ignoring opportunities to work together for the benefit of all, scuppering cross-border co-operation when the biggest losers are those north of the border etc.”

    George, with “whataboutery” booming in my head, most nationalist politicians up here don’t (possibly can’t) even say Northern Ireland. The shinners can’t say something as simple as the Queen, it’s Mrs Windsor. The Irish rugby team refuse to display any signs that “Ireland” has Northern Ireland as one of it’s parts. Similarly for every other sport where all-island representation occurs. Until relatively recently, the oppositions’ anthem was not played at Irish rugby games. Why? Because that would mean GSTQ being played every time England played. Childish? Counterproductive in the extreme? I think you’ll find no tradition here holds the monopoly on childishness or counterproductivity.

  • Mick O Tick
    “As far as “accomodation” is concerned, when you realy get down to it, unionists don’t want to be understood much less accommodated. They prefer to be left alone. So, with this in mind, how do suggest nationalists and republicans go about convincing otherwise?
    Some ideas.
    Have a “hug a unionist day”
    or “tickle an orangeman week” 🙂
    In truth though a spoilt child sulking at a party needs lots of love and attention, so you stop the music, gather round the child, all hold hands, tell it you love it, then let it have its tantrum, to be followed by hugs and smiles dry the eyes and then turn the music up, and party.
    Is this a good analysis?

  • George

    Congal,
    Irish Nationalism does want there to be a United Independent Ireland but only if the majority, north and south, so wish. It may never happen.

    If this happens, unionism, a political ideology, will go the same way north of the border as it has gone south of the border. It will cease to exist as it will have no raison d’etre. The culture of those who were previously unionist won’t cease to exist, however.

    The problem with the Ards peninsula analogy is that this can only come about by the extermination or ethnic cleansing of those non-unionists currently there.
    We have to stick with where we are and that is Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. Otherwise, we are giving succour to the East of the Bann brigade.

    “with “whataboutery” booming in my head, most nationalist politicians up here don’t (possibly can’t) even say Northern Ireland. The shinners can’t say something as simple as the Queen, it’s Mrs Windsor.”

    I deliberately left out the issues north of the border, that is for you lot to sort out.
    I’m talking about unionists engaging maturely with the 4.1 million Irish south of the border.

    “The Irish rugby team refuse to display any signs that “Ireland” has Northern Ireland as one of it’s parts.”
    That’s because there isn’t an agreed Northern Irish symbol. Give us one and we will display it.

    “Similarly for every other sport where all-island representation occurs. Until relatively recently, the oppositions’ anthem was not played at Irish rugby games. Why?”

    I think that happened after Bloody Sunday but we have all moved on. GSTQ is now played without any issues. I think unionism has to also move on. The flag of St. Patrick, which means nothing to most Irish people, is the flag of the rugby team, for example. I would be much happier with the Tricolour and an agreed Northern Ireland flag, with The Soldier’s Song and an agreed Northern Ireland Anthem.

    I agree no tradition here holds the monopoly on childishness or counterproductivity but I do honestly believe that the Irish Republic has grown up beyond all expectations in the last 20 years and has got virtually no respect from unionism in return.

    Sure they talk but by their actions, they treat us as “Nationalists”.

    If unionists are incapable of making peace with the Irish Republic in 2005, the Republic’s citizens will be justified in believing they aren’t interested in peace.

    This is not good for the long-term security of this island.

  • George
    If this happens, unionism, a political ideology, will go the same way north of the border as it has gone south of the border. It will cease to exist as it will have no raison d’etre.
    Similiarly Sinn Fein’s raison d’etre will cease to exist. Now that must be one thing that would put a smile on the faces of the DUP.

  • Angel

    How would an united Ireland affect/benifit the people (all people) in general?
    Would it keep jobs in the country? Would it create jobs in the country? How would it affect the International Trades Union? Would the cost of living increase or decrease? Then there’s taxes, consumer out of pocket expense, The Dole, education, medical care, energy cost etc. The bills keep coming and the jobs keep going. How will the country (United) be able to support the general population and increase the quality of living for all?

    One solution to the “us” and “them” problem would be to implement freedom FROM religion. Remove the “what religion are you” question from all applications. Why is this so important? The only time this sould be asked is when you’re filling out a life insurance policy or in the “in case of emergency contact” box. How does beeing one faith or another determine your qualifications? Wouldn’t the school attended be more of a qualification factor?

    Change is scary and people are afraid that, that dramatic of a change would/could throw the whole country into an economic depression with no-one to help pull them back out.

  • Mick O’Tick

    Angel

    “Change is scary and people are afraid that, that dramatic of a change would/could throw the whole country into an economic depression with no-one to help pull them back out.”

    You’re starting to sound like Bertie Ahern. Your fear has got the best of you.

  • Angel

    Ouch…

  • Biffo

    Ginfizz

    “Unionists see … the release of prisoners as an affront to their sense of decency”.

    Unionists may think they are superior, but they aren’t.

    The release of a prisoner no more offends a unionist’s sense of decency than it offends a nationalist’s sense of decency.

    The release of a prisoner is no more painful for protestant victims than it is for catholic victims.

    It would be helpful if Unionists could finally find it within themselves to desist from repeating this kind of gratuitous, offensive, sectarian bullshit.

  • Henry94

    I see documents from the Castlereagh break-in have turned up in loyalist circles.

    “Police in the North have warned dozens of republicans that their lives may be under threat from loyalist paramilitaries.

    The warning is linked to the recovery of a document believed to have been stolen from the high-security police and military base at Castlereagh in east Belfast last year.

    The PSNI has told republicans in the nearby Short Strand area that their personal details have been discovered in the possession of loyalists and their lives may be under threat.

    Sinn Féin’s Alec Maskey said more than 50 people had been warned and he planned to raise the matter with the British government as a matter of urgency.”

    If they had turned up in republican circles we would have had a few threads on the subject.

  • Brian Boru

    “The difference is that most of the boxes on the nationalist agenda at the time of the GFA have been ticked. Unionists do not see any reward for the suffering they have had to endure.

    Furthermore, I don’t think that anyone could seriously contend that Unionism (Democratic and Ulster varities) hasn’t moved. Just what have Nationalists had to sacrifice in the last ten years? And please spare me the crap about sitting in Stormont, everyone knows Gerry and the boys are as a happy as a pig in sh*te up there. ”

    Reward? You have an end to Republican killings of Unionists. This was not about reward but about ending the violence. Part of that involves addressing the causes of conflict, which include the blatent underepresentation of Catholics in the institutions of the State, including the police. The quotas are part of that process, and while Unionists may whine about the supposed inequality of it, in truth, there Unionists started of with a surplus of representation in the RUC/PSNI and therefore the quotas are needed to bring things into equilibrium in the long run.

    Unionists must accept that while NI will remain in the UK while a majority want that, that Nationalists still have the right to express an aspiration for a United Ireland achieved by consent. What is coming across here on this thread is what that Protestant writer Susan McKay said in her book “Northern Protestants – An Unsettled People” about how many Unionists reject the right of Northern Nationalists to even aspire to reunification. Dear Unionists, accept their right to their aspirations. The toleration of differing aspirations is a fundamental value of a democratic society.

  • Brian Boru

    BTW we are also introducing quotas for Gardai recruitment so we are not being hypocritical on this.

  • Congal Claen

    Hi George,

    “Irish Nationalism does want there to be a United Independent Ireland but only if the majority, north and south, so wish. It may never happen.”

    Welcome words George. I don’t doubt your sincerity. However, I’m sure you’ll understand that Unionists remain a little skeptical. Afterall, it’s only a few years since Articles 2 and 3 were removed. As I recall, when the McGimpseys challenged these through the Irish courts they were ruled Constitutional imperatives. Again, it’ll take a while for this to sink in…

    “If this happens, unionism, a political ideology, will go the same way north of the border as it has gone south of the border. It will cease to exist as it will have no raison d’etre.”

    We’ll have to disagree on this one George. I happen to believe that the Republic will once again become an integral part of the UK, through choice. As Nationalism believes it’s natural for there to be a UI so I believe it perfectly natural for there to be a United British Isles. Of course we’ll have to wait for the demise of the EU for this to happen…

    “That’s because there isn’t an agreed Northern Irish symbol. Give us one and we will display it.”

    George, you know very well this is not the reason that the NI flag isn’t flown/GSTQ sung. Currently, the 9 county flag flies which is not an agreed symbol. If an agreed symbol/anthem is a prerequisite then that rather rules out the tricolour/soldiers’ song as the symbols for an Irish team. The current arrangement is actually hindering the team. If you watch the the players as the anthem is being sung none of the NI representatives sing, as they’re alienated. Even among those players from the RoI, they do not all sing. Personally, I think because they do not want to offend those from NI. In a game were psychology is such an important factor it is a major self inflicted setback before the game even starts. Mary MacAleese was a vocal opponent of GSTQ at QUB graduation ceremonies when she lectured there. Now as your president, she has no problem with the offence caused to her fellow countrymen. Double standards? Compare the singing of the anthem with Ireland’s Call. Rugby, rightly or wrongly, likes to think of itself being the thinking mans’ game. If this is the attitude of the thinking men from the RoI you should be able to understand the suspicions that Unionists have for the rest. The use of these symbols is certainly counterproductive. Is it childish? I’ll leave that to you…

    “If unionists are incapable of making peace with the Irish Republic in 2005, the Republic’s citizens will be justified in believing they aren’t interested in peace.”

    Equally, I could say that with the President of the Irish Republic believing that Unionists acted like Nazis, NI’s citizens will be justified in believing the Irish Republic is not interested in peace.”

    However, again I’ve decended into whataboutery. This gets us nowhere. In attempt to move us on what about we point out faults in our own states that we’d like sorted rather than point fingers at each other. I’ll start us off…

    1.)There should be no bar on a Catholic becoming the monarch.

    2.)The oath of allegiance, to become an MP, should be scrapped. Thus, allowing SF members to take up their seats without making an oath which they do not believe in.