“increasingly unpromising scenario”

The Sunday Times reports that the, still expected, visit by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and Prime Minister Tony Blair on Thursday will be accompanied by an unveiling of a number of benchmarks to be achieved by the parties before the 24th November. But with SF announcing that they are to review their semi-participation in the assembly and the DUP increasingly critical of Secretary of State, Peter Hain, as well as Sinn Féin, while also, as noted here, setting out what some of those benchmarks are likely to be [including policing? – Ed] the “increasingly unpromising scenario” arguably looks less, not more, likely to be resolved.

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  • Turbo Paul

    I have said this before but there has not been any response to my question.

    As the English bankroll Northern Ireland to the tune of £1.5 billion a year.

    Why oh why can’t the English people have a referendum on whether the English want the Unionists of Ireland to remain part of Britain???

    Northern Ireland remains a £1.5 Billion a year “Stone in the shoe” for the vast, vast majority of English people.

    It is the English that has had to spend billions over the years propping up a Vichy, Quisling like government without ever being able to decide democratically whether, (through a vote of the people,) the English want anything to do with Ireland.

    I say that if by November there is still no devolved assembly then the English should be allowed to vote , 2007, on whether the English want the Unionists to remain part of Britain.

    I understand how uncomfortable it may be for Unionists, being the unwelcome gatecrashers, at a party where nobody likes you, has anything culturally in common with you, and frankly never did.

    It has only ever been politicians who say Northern Ireland has a right to be within Britian, nobody has ever asked the people, via a direct vote on this issue.

    I realise that any deal will be very hard to achieve, as both sides carry so much history, however, why should Britain have to endure this without a vote of the English, British people deciding whether the English, British want Unionists to remain part of Britain/England.

    Upon another note, if a deal is reached by November, does that mean the Brits have no power in the future to disolve the assembley???

    Or does the Sword of Damocles still hang over the parties in the assembley, to be desolved at the whim or behest of the Brits, via Unionism?????

    If a deal is reached, surely then the Brits must renounce any authority in Northern Ireland, or does that leave us with Ian Paisley being able to force the Brits to desolve the Assembley because:

    “Gerry Adams has not brushed his hair, or Connor Murphy, (New Sinn Fein leader hopefully) has egg on his tie???”

    Please, please, someone tell me why the English are denied a vote on whether the Unionists remain part of Britain.

    The biggest dividend for the real people of Britain out of the peace process is, now there is relative peace, Northern Ireland can be “Dropped like a £1.5 billion a year hot potato”

    Finally, to quote an old Fleetwood Mac song.

    If you can’t sort it out by November,

    “You can go your own way”

  • Pete Baker

    “I have said this before but there has not been any response to my question.”

    Single transferable comments tend not to get many serious replies, TP. It comes across as a commenter who isn’t reading the original post, or considering the actual topic.

  • TAFKABO

    I’m British.No one else can vote my identity away.

    Sorry, but that’s just the way it is.

    Why is it that no political party in the rest of the UK have ever suggested such a poll?
    Surely if it was a tenth as popular as you suggest than it would have been raised as an issue by now?

    Your wishful thinking is not my reality, thankfully.

  • Turbo Paul

    Pete, if the way I have commented is unworhty then I appologise.

    However, I do think I have raised issues connected to the current negotiations for a deal by November,

    The Sword of Damocles comment is certainly relevant and is something that could be stopping a deal if true,
    what would be the status if a deal is reached???

    What kind of deal is being strived for??

    My off the cuff, glib remarks are not intended to offend, although I realise they may do, but it is only done tongue in cheek as other bloggers do, I am sure.

    I will try to “Stay on message” in the future.

    TP

  • Shabaz

    Turbo Paul – “You can go your own way”

    You have forever ruined that fantasic Fleetwood Mac song for me. Thanks a bunch

  • Hidden Gem

    Turbo Paul

    Why oh why can’t the English people have a referendum on whether the English want the Unionists of Ireland to remain part of Britain???
    I agree that this would seem a good idea as, IMO, the majority of people in Britain are of the opinion that NI is just not worth the financial cost the Exchequer incurs. However, this will not and in deed, can not happen without new legislation. The GFA enshrines the right of voters here to determine where their political future lies.

    Back to the drawing board I’m afraid!

  • Turbo Paul

    I fully accept the GFA in full and realise I should roll up my sleeves, go back to the drawing board, and try to come up with positive suggestions that may help reach a fair, honest settlement, that see’s all the people in Ireland enjoy a better standard of living.

    My knee jerk comments are a result of being new to blogging.

    I will try and analise the thread and stick to commenting on the issues raised.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Pete that was a 63-word sentence there. A new record?

  • Pete Baker

    Hey! that was the abbreviated version, Gonzo!

    I could have said “Secretary of State for Wales and Northern Ireland..” ;p

  • TP

    “My knee jerk comments are a result of being new to blogging”

    and perhaps Northern Ireland politics?

  • Crataegus

    Turbo

    While we are at it why not a few other polls about getting rid of other regions that are net recipients, are you in a region that is a net contributor? I have residency in Central London and abandoning of all those sponging regions would suit my pocket just fine. We could even add in a few problematic areas in the South East. That’s the way to go no doubt about it.

    We could extend the idea of policy by public vote and have one on staying in Iraq getting out of that would save us a fortune or why not get out of Europe. Don’t know how that would leave all those who have moved to Europe but that’s their problem. Perhaps a vote on should we reduce income tax or should MPs take a salary cut? I am sure we could virtually guarantee a 100% turn out on those two.

    Your post reminds me of the attitude of fathers who leave their partners to bring up the child themselves. If you helped create the problem you have a responsibility to help solve it. Secondly if a region is to leave the United Kingdom it is primarily a matter for the people of that region. With regards the NI Assembly which has many of us vexed, could I suggest that many of the problems now occurring were actually predicted and that successive Secretaries of State have and are making a right Horlicks of it.

    There are structural problems which institutionalise sectarianism and enable minority veto that should never have been allowed to happen.

    There were side deals which reduced the authority of the Assembly and made bargaining with the UK government more important.

    The UK government was not a neutral observer and it should not have been in the position it was during the negotiations.

    There was an agreement here that had a thumping mandate and that goodwill has been allowed to evaporate and the whole process is now treated with contempt.

  • Crataegus

    increasingly unpromising scenario

    If there isn’t an agreement what difference does this make to those in pole position, a loss of salaries but no real political damage. Some awkward decisions will be made by the British Ministers and they will be blamed and life will go on.

    I imagine SF’s gaze is on next years general election in the south, so I can’t see them wishing to be seen as being in any way weak, the DUP is stuck in the shadow of an octogenarian, but that would be to understate the problem. Paisley is important because he represents a section of wider Unionist opinion and a rather vocal and assertive section.

    I must confess to being less than optimistic, even if the Assembly does get up and running are we going to be greeted with this sort of grandstanding whenever one of the leading parties chooses?

    Even Hain’s threat is poorly considered if November deadline isn’t met then what; the place continues to be administered. I could be very wrong but I just don’t see this working. Time for a fundamental rethink and change of approach and a different Secretary of State one a lot more capable of dealing with disputes, one that understands that if you threaten you need to ensure the threat directly or indirectly hits those that are causing the problem. While we are at it time to make changes to the team who advise the SoS.

  • Con

    Turbo,
    I see where you are coming from, but there are issues that no-one else has addressed.
    It is not about English people. They have no say whatsoever in the constitutional position of NI. They may well pay through the nose for the cost of running NI but if a 32 County socialist Irish Republic happened tomorrow, do you really think that your average taxpayer in England, Scotland or Wales would see a reduction in income tax?
    No way.
    HMG have a wonderful talent for wasting billions of £Sterling, the more there is to waste, the more they will waste.
    All talk about how the British percieve NI is really quite irrelevant, it is up to us to sort out between ourselves, move forward, and agree a common future that leads to a society free from the bullshit that has fucked us up for too long.

  • fair_deal

    At this stage in the negotiations did any one honestly expect the respective parties not to be toughening up positions?

    “Why oh why can’t the English people have a referendum on whether the English want the Unionists of Ireland to remain part of Britain???”

    Because under international law a country is not allowed to expel pieces of territory against the wish of the majority in the territory affected.

  • kensei

    “Because under international law a country is not allowed to expel pieces of territory against the wish of the majority in the territory affected.”

    Sure. Of course, England, Scotland and Wales could all secede formt eh Union, then subsequently set up the “No NI’s club”.

    Or they could just stop paying for us, which would cause this place to melt fairly quickly.

  • SpellingBee

    F_D: “Because under international law a country is not allowed to expel pieces of territory against the wish of the majority in the territory affected.”

    What’s your authority? Not being flippant; just curious.

  • George

    Fair_Deal,
    there is no such thing as “international law”.

    Theoretically, all it would take is a simple act of parliament at Westminster.

  • TAFKABO

    Who thinks that a decision by England to simply abandon Northern Ireland would make the Irish Republic more likely to step into the breach and take over?

    Let’s keep something in mind here.

    The Brits could have wiped out the IRA, and the IRA heartlands dozens of times over in the last forty years.They chose not to do so primarily because of public image in the wider world.
    Why would they have spent forty years playing softly softly, only to turn around and create a new Bosnia in one fell stroke?

    Reality check.

  • Turbo Paul

    Surge in support for Irish unity

    41% Britons favour united Ireland; Only 26% want Ulster in UK

    Special report: Northern Ireland

    Jonathan Freedland
    Tuesday August 21, 2001
    The Guardian

    A verdict to strike a chill through Ulster unionism comes in today’s Guardian/ ICM poll, which finds more Britons think Northern Ireland should be part of a united Ireland than believe it belongs in the United Kingdom.

    In a finding that hits at the very heart of unionist ideology – which regards the province as an integral part of the UK – 41% of Britons believe Northern Ireland should be joined with the Irish republic while only 26% say it should continue as part of the UK.

    For unionists, many of whom consider themselves British and refer to Britain as “the mainland”, today’s findings amount to a cold shoulder from their fellow citizens. Only one in four wants the province to stay part of the country.

    Nationalists and republicans are bound to seize on the results as evidence that Britons are ready to let Northern Ireland go. The cherished goal of both movements remains a united Ireland.

    Government ministers are likely to take note of today’s results, too. Tony Blair said soon after he came to office in 1997 that he did not believe he would see a united Ireland in his lifetime. The Good Friday agreement leaves the final say to the people of Northern Ireland in a referendum. But British officials have spoken privately of a limited public patience in Britain with Northern Ireland and its problems – and today’s poll seems to vindicate that.

    The survey holds even more dispiriting news for unionism. Asked who they blame for the current problems in the Northern Ireland peace process, 3% named unionists, 5% said republicans, while 64% blamed both sides equally.

    Unionists have long argued that it is the republican refusal to move on arms decommissioning that remains the province’s key problem. They have also assumed the British public would sympathise with UK citizens who, unionists insist, face a terrorist threat from the IRA.

    Yet the poll suggests no such British public sympathy but instead a “plague on both your houses” impatience with the two sides.

    To add to unionist misery, ICM’s polling was done over the weekend – following the widely condemned withdrawal by the IRA of its breakthrough offer on disarmament and amid allegations of renewed IRA terrorist activity in Colombia and elsewhere. Anti-republican feelings could have been expected to surge.

    Yet few respondents drew any distinction between republicans and unionists when it came to apportioning blame for the current stalemate. Instead they lumped the two sides together, in a declaration that amounted to “They’re both as bad as each other”.

    Unionists will find it particularly galling that they are bracketed with republicans, whom they regard as beyond the pale. They believe only armed loyalists have any similarity to republicans – not mainstream unionists like themselves.

    Nor will they draw any comfort from the high proportion of “don’t knows”: 33% on the united Ireland question and 27% on the question of blame. Pollsters often cite apathy or indifference as the explanation for such high scores, suggesting Northern Ireland is simply not relevant to many Britons.

    The main findings represent a long-term shift in British opinion on the future of the province. Surveys in the 80s and 90s showed opinion was much more evenly divided – with just a point or two separating the two opposing views.

    Today’s poll sees the pro-unification camp extend a 15% lead over the stay-in-the-UK position.

    It also brings Britain closer into line with opinion within the Irish republic – where polls show an overwhelming majority continues to favour unification.

    A 1999 survey found 86% of Irish voters still wanted to unite the island – despite a massive “Yes” vote in the May 1998 referendum approving the Good Friday agreement, which required the republic to renounce its constitutional claim on the north.

    Surveys in the US have shown clear majorities of American opinion in favour of a united Ireland, too. With today’s poll confirming that British views are shifting dramatically, Ulster’s unionists look increasingly isolated in their opposition to Irish unity.

  • lib2016

    At the last election the unionist majority was down to 69,000 and falling while all the unionist power structures have been systematically destroyed or abolished. You name it and it’s position has been undermined or destroyed in the last ten to fifteen years, the UDR, the RUC, the ‘illegal’ (but British organised and run) paramilitaries such as the UDA, UVF and LVF, the UUP and last but certainly not least the Orange Order.

    Most of this has occurred under during New Labour’s reign and they just happen to be control junkies but of course that’s all just a coincidence. Nobody ever really planned anything and the union is safe or another 30 years.

    And if it isn’t sure don’t we all know that the ‘Red Berets’ will lead the Resistance and risk 25 years imprisonment at the Hague.

    PS Don’t forget that, according to team Ingram, the really important question we should be discussing is whether British Intelligence was running the IRA while it bombed London. Talk about a daft attempt at distraction.

  • TAFKABO

    Turbo paul.

    Hang on a minute.
    Weren’t you telling us that a majority would vote for dumping the six counties?

    from what I could see of that report, almost sixty percent of people don’t even have a united Ireland as an aspiration,and that’s not taking into account the change in numbers for forcing the six counties out of the UK.

    Far from worrying this unionist, that poll gives me great cheer.
    You need to realise that just as all those people in the Irish repubic aspire to a united Ireland, they voted overwhelmingly to leave the decision primarily up to the people on Northern Ireland.
    The same is clearly true for the rest of the UK as well.

    In fact, whilst I don’t trust any UK government as far as I am even allowed to vote for them, I do trust that the majority of British people if polled on removing a million British people from their nationalisty and dumping them into a hostile enviroment, would unfailingly vote no.

    Tip tip old chap.

  • Prince Eoghan

    T.

    “The Brits could have wiped out the IRA, and the IRA heartlands dozens of times over in the last forty years.They chose not to do so primarily because of public image in the wider world.”

    Many say the same about Republicans re-modelling crap 1960’s era architecture in English cities. Not to mention having the capability to murder indiscriminately all over the UK. The desire, not to mention support was not there for mass bloodletting.

  • Turbo Paul

    If you really think this TAFKABO, then perhaps if there is no deal by November, (hoping this is not the case)your good-self and your fellow decent majority of Unionists may consider lobbying for a vote, especially as, by your analysis, the vote will go in the favour of retaining links with Northern Ireland.

    Therefore a vote for Unionists by the Brits would confirm the unbreakable link between Northern Ireland and Britain.

    However, if the vote were to go the other way, would that be accepted???

    I think it is the duty of everyone concerned to put pressure on all sides to reach a deal by November.

    If that means the spectre of a doomsday scenario looming for both sides then that may just encourage the leaders of all parties to do what they were elected to, establish themselves into governing the province for the people, having been elected by the people.

    Better still that a deal is reached by November that see’e real benefits and funding for all the people affected, especially those who need decent housing, jobs, and education.

    Opposite opinions maybe, but I am sure there is common ground between everyone wishing to see a final settlement to the Irish Conflict.

  • TAFKABO

    Why would I want to lobby for a vote which could only give me what I already have?

    Don’t be silly.

    Partition is copperfastened into international law through the GFA and referenda held across Ireland.
    I’m not the one who has a problem with the status quo.

  • Stephen Copeland

    Why would I want to lobby for a vote which could only give me what I already have?

    But TAFKABO, you already live in a republic with a largely Catholic heritage, so what’s your fear?

  • TAFKABO

    Stephen.

    I’ve said it before, but you may have missed it.
    If I thought a truly secular republic, such as that envisaged by the united Irishmen, was on offer, I’d be out in the streets campaigning for it.

    Alas, I think it nigh on impossible, given the depths of sectarian hatred that exist within the majority nationalist population on the island.

  • Stephen Copeland

    TAFKABO,

    … the depths of sectarian hatred that exist within the majority nationalist population on the island.

    I honestly do not think that you are correct on that. There is certainly hatred in some communities the north, but there is little to none in the south. I know you’ll disagree (it goes with the territory), but I have lived north and south, come from a southern Protestant background, and really have not seen or experienced any hatred towards me on account of my religion. In the south I am frequently mistaken for a ‘west brit’ on account of my accent and general middle class demeanor, but the most I ever get for that is a gentle teasing from friends. In general people (protestant and catholic) do not give a damn what religion, if any, you might have.

    Have you any signicant experience of life south of the border?

  • TAFKABO

    Stephen.

    My experiences south of the border are overwhelmingly positive.
    But I still believe the way a visitor is treated is not indiciative of how a sudden influx of unionists to the population as a whole might expect to be treated.

    the Love Ulster parade showed me what I thought would happen, and not for the violence itself, but the reaction, from the hostile build up in the media, to the denial of what actually happened in the aftermath.

    I believe it’s a significant minority that would wish to visit harm upon unionists, but I also believe that the majority would stand by and let it happen.

  • michael

    That ‘love Ulster’ thing, everyone involved was just deplorable!

    Nationalists north and south were extremely angry and embarrassed by what happened.

    The people involved in that march knew this would happen (i.e. a small minority of idiots would react) that’s why they did it!

  • Stephen Copeland

    TAFKABO,

    … the way a visitor is treated is not indiciative of how a sudden influx of unionists to the population as a whole might expect to be treated.

    We’re not talking about large-scale migrations here. Post-UI unionists will live exactly where they are living now, and for the most part in majority-unionist areas. The ‘influx’ will only be at the political, legal, and media levels. If you’ve been watching southern society at all, then you’ll know that unionists have nothing whatsoever to fear on that front. Post-UI they will get their fair share of the cake, and then some. Even now, with about 0.01% of the south unionist, they are in virtual control of the Irish Indo, RTE, Fine Gael, etc. Fine Gael, to name but one party, would trip over themselves to coalesce with unionism. The icons of unionist would remain untouched, but would have an open door to their south. I have no problem with all of that – I think the country will be the richer for the full involvement of all of its children.

    Your argument about the Love Ulster march is simply wrong, but we all spent enough time chewing over it earlier in the year, so I won’t e-open it. Suffice to say that the Gardai, as representatives of the Irish state, both defended the assorted loyalist b1gots on display, got themselves pelted into the bargain, and ensured that not one of Frazer’s UVF fan club got touched. The Gardai represented the vast majority of the southern people that day – remember that.

  • Brian Boru

    Roll on Plan B and North-South nirvana…;)

  • TAFKABO

    The people involved in that march knew this would happen (i.e. a small minority of idiots would react) that’s why they did it!

    Suffice to say that the Gardai, as representatives of the Irish state, both defended the assorted loyalist b1gots on display, got themselves pelted into the bargain, and ensured that not one of Frazer’s UVF fan club got touched.

    QED.