Peace, yes but no end to Peace Process™

Speaking on Inside Politics at 12 noon today Martin McGuinness warns that the November deadline will not be good enough for the DUP, but that the governments must not wait for them:

“If they’re ready to do a deal by the spring of next year, then they can come on board,” he said. The governments must press on with the new partnership arrangements they say they are prepared to put in place immediately after the DUP, as it appears, refuse to do the deal.

“But that must not, under any circumstances, in any way, affect the plans of the British prime minister and the taoiseach to call a halt to all of this on 24 November. They must press on with the new partnership arrangements that they say they are prepared to put in place immediately after the DUP, as it appears, refuse to do the deal.”

It’s not a new line. It’s exactly what Gerry Adams said the week before the negotiations towards a comprehensive agreement died in December 2004. Shortly afterwards the repubican movement’s annus horriblilus began. But even then as we noted at the time, by the rules of the game neither of these parties can move on without the other.

That the DUP and Sinn Fein each share this constantly repeating line is interesting in itself. At best it indicates the Groundhog Day scenario that Noel Whelan argued nearly two years ago affords them comfortable front row seats without ever having to venture any of the political capital accumulated in the wake of ousting the previous incumbents.

This makes considerable sense, and is one of the reasons why Davy Adams in yesterday’s Irish Times argues that notional timetables don’t matter, these two are not interested in closing a deal. Indeed, the Conservative shadow Secretary of State has been breifing that November 2007 is a more realistic option for closure. These two reluctant dance partners may yet make even that look like Polyanna-esque optimism.

We have gone well beyond the time when there are any substantial visible issues blocking the deal to bring closure to the Peace Process™. Everything revolves around the interests of the two incumbents. The DUP won’t do a deal, until they get the optimum climatic condition for a deal. At this stage, that does not seem to require what the Americans (and latterly the Irish) say should happen by November: ie that SF join the Policing Board. So whilst the bar is reportedly high, the party is not setting itself impossible terms to do a deal if it sees fit.

Sinn Fein, inscrutable as ever, have played every stage as hard as they possibly can. From McGuinness’ remarks this morning, their game plan seems to be to keep everything as tight as they can around the IRA, get to November banking on the widely predicted no show from the DUP, and then look hammer them hammer them in the lengthening ‘blame war’. They will not move on policing until there is serious pressure from within. As Mitchel McLaughlin let slip last month, this is a long war by other means. Even if there is a deal in November that ‘war’ will not be ending any time soon.

However hateful a thought, Northern Ireland’s politicians will not be part of the solution to its long term economic crisis for some time to come. But, stranded on the sidelines, neither will they be, necessarily, part of the problem. Sinn Fein in particular has no appetite for imposing some of the tough measures thought to be needed to address those, and whatever its core, right of centre values, the DUP remains a populist party with no appetite for alienating it base vote. Westminster will continue the favour of taking unpopular measures and simultaneously giving our local incumbents the opportunity of making political hay in protesting them.

As far as Law and Order is concerned, as Davy Adams point out, much has already been done to lessen criminality already. Organised Crime continues with tacit political sponsorship. But control over the wrapping up operation will remain beyond political control and with civil servants in the Assets Recovery Agency and the PSNI. Other necessary reforms will be fought out over time, and ground slowly into shape.

Though it is impossible to say how fit for purpose that final shape will be, it will no doubt be crucial to the future peace and stablity of Northern Ireland that it is got right.

  • Henry94

    The reality is that Ian Paisley lacks the courage to do a deal. Those in his party who want to do a deal have to wait until he dies before the inevitable split in the DUP takes place. Therefore so do the rest of us.

    The two goverments should put far-reaching Joint Authority measures in place. Give the unionists a few things to negotiate away when the time comes.

  • ingram

    JA is an absolute non runner anybody who believes it possible is mistaken .

    It would mean the GFA was dead and that is not an option for either Government.The British Government are in a period of instability and the last thing they want is trouble in Westminster and the risk of public disorder in the province.

    Hain is full of bluster but when it comes down to Bottle he is plastic and see through.

    Martin

  • Shore Road Resident

    Just heard McGuinness on ‘Inside Politics’ call Jean McConville an informer.
    Thank god the DUP won’t do a deal. These animals must be kept as far away from the reins of power as possible.

  • joeCanuck

    Well it’s down to the final.Two teams left. There won’t be any time added on. No penalty kicks, just penalties. And it looks like the DUP are about to score an own goal unless they can pull off some fancy footwork.
    (sorry about that – couldn’t resist)

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    Better than that Shore, the provos have just issued a statement claiming that she was indeed an informer, despite the verdict of the hardly Brit-loving Nuala O’Loan. An extremely dodgy position to take methinks, given the universal and long-running disgust over the circumstances of this poor woman’s murder, not to mention the RMs sieve-like informer system within their own ranks down the years. This statement is on a par with Mitchell McLaughlin’s ‘if the boys did it, it’s not a crime’ antics, demonstrating beyond all doubt that shinner morality is significantly south of the gutter and certainly won’t be winning them any votes on either side of the border.

  • Shore Road Resident

    Don’t get me wrong, G vs C. I’m not fan of the DUP. But if they keep the Shinners out while keeping themselves out into the bargain, then we may just have found our elusive ‘victory for both sides’.

  • Prince Eoghan

    Funny how some are interested in dead fenians when it helps to provide yet another reason for not dealing with live fenians. Are fenians only accorded human being status when they are dead? Strike that, I have witnessed the views of some about bloody sunday etc… Then it’s ok to malign the dead and rage about mopery.

  • Shore Road Resident

    So – time to quite whining over Pat Finucane then? And don’t you realise that the real reason Jean McConville was killed was because she was ‘only’ a turned prod?

    Adams is a monster, his apologists are monsters, and this is not an excuse. No power for you. Ever.

  • Keith M

    SF/IRA are not making any signoficant progress in adressing the two main issues; ending criminality and supporting the police. For all the bluster of MMcG and GA, it should be obvious to everyone that when it comes down to it SF/IRA are not prepared the make the necessary changes to be in government.

    As long as this situation remains the same, the DUP can sit back, knowing that will not be forced in government with a group of criminals. Unless and until the Irish government is prepared to say that they would countenence a coalition deal with SF in the Republic, the pressure is off the DUP.

    Anyone who thaks that “Joint Authority” is an option, is fooling themselves. In the end AIA mk2 is the alternative, and given the choice of that or having a group of criminals as partners, the DUP need not be overly worried about the November deadline.

  • Mick Fealty

    PE,

    “Are fenians only accorded human being status when they are dead?”

    Eoghan, what on earth has this to do with the ‘price of eggs?’

  • Gerry Lvs Castro

    Adams is a monster, his apologists are monsters

    Can’t really argue here Shore — listening to Martin McGuinness on ‘Inside Politics’ earlier today induced the curious feeling of basic morality being twisted beyond recognition on the national airwaves.
    He appeared to be arguing that the RM should be thanked profusely for remembering where a few of the people they murdered in the most grotesque fashion were buried. Perhaps we should have given Myra Hindley an OBE for her similar efforts at locating the disappeared.
    McGuinness and his ilk are so adept at arguing that wrong is right that we should perhaps be thankful they speak for Irish Republicanism rather than some apocalyptic religious cult.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Interesting piece, Mick, though I would take issue with a number of points.

    I would agree that a deal in the autumn looks extremely unlikely. You are wrong to suggest Sinn Fein are comfortable in the political limbo that exists today: republicans would prefer to have a functioning executive, complete with the all-Ireland structures and Assembly. In fact, all-Ireland expansion for the party would be better facilitated by being able to present the party as office holders in the six counties.

    Sinn Fein has also shown itself to be capable of taking difficult decisions in government: you omit to mention that, alone among the parties, Sinn Fein did not run away from taking the posts of Health and Education, both of which always bring with them hard political choices (cast your mind back to the executive posts chosen by the DUP and I think you’ll get my point.)

    The one obstacle you (surprisingly) do not mention is political unionism’s utter anptipathy to sharing power with nationalists in general, and more specifically with Sinn Fein.

    Look across the 26 local government councils in the north, Mick, when you get the chance. Where nationalists are in a majority, and in most of these Sinn Fein are the largest party, the rotation of civic posts across the political divide is normal practice. For nationalism then, sharing power (in both a symbolic and real sense) with unionists is hardly an issue, never mind an obstacle. Indeed, the political message constantly sent out from the leadership of republicanism/ nationalism is that power-sharing with the leadership of unionism (as determined by unionists) must be embraced.

    Now contrast that with the policies and practices of a majority of the unionist-controlled councils here. Not only are Sinn Fein excluded in most from holding civic positions- including chairs/ vice-chairs of committees- but even the SDLP rarely get a look in.

    The message sent out from the DUP (and even the UUP) to their grassroots remains one of utter hostility to power-sharing. This is not going to change overnight, Mick.

    Were the DUP to seriously be considering moving their support base into a position to accept the sight of Martin McGuinness sitting alongside Ian Paisley as joint holders of the OFM/DFM post, you would expect to see some movement at a local level.

    Instead, what we have seen is quite the opposite. In Lisburn the DUP even attempted to exclude Sinn Fein councillors from sitting on one of the council’s committees, retreating only when legal advice forced their hand.

    Interestingly, the parties are currently meeting as part of the Review of Public Administration. I am led to believe that all strands of unionism have accepted (or at least not put up obstacles to) the need for formal power-sharing mechanisms on the seven new councils, including the rotation of civic posts and, more critically, the need for weighted majorities.

    Whilst that is progress in itself, it will ultimately be presented by the DUP as a British government inspired legislative move, and not as one embraced by the party. And this is the ultimate problem, Mick. For no matter how the DUP will seek to obfuscate, they will be the ones who will need to put Sinn Fein into government in any new Executive.

    And when that happens, it will represent a watershed in our history, as all strands of unionism will have signed up to power-sharing and the very public endorsement of the equal legitimacy of the nationalist/ republican tradition in the six counties.

    Sinn Fein, on the other hand, have spent years preparing the wider republican and nationalist support base for the compromises and changes necessary for the next phase in republican struggle. For starters, have a look at the Sinn Fein document on Flags and Emblems, which is now several years old.

    In that, Sinn Fein endorses a policy of ‘equality or neutrality’ of symbols in public buildings. For many republicans, the idea of accepting the flying of the union flag and exhibition of other unionist symbols in this part of Ireland remains an anathema. Yet the party debated the issue internally, and ultimately accepted it as policy. Alxe Maskey’s very public display of a tricolour alongside a union flag in his Mayoral office when serving his term as Mayor was a very powerful gesture which has yet to be reciprocated by unionism.

    In short, and to steal a Clintonesque line from James Carville, “It’s power-sharing, stupid!”

  • Mick Fealty

    Henry,

    “The reality is that Ian Paisley lacks the courage to do a deal.”

    Given the prolonged hiatus, that’s entirely plausible. Until they do a deal, that question will keep arising. Given the long term provisional nature of this ‘settlement’, we are not likely to see an answer to it any time soon. In that respect it is an entirely academic consideration.

    But then again, there is a new verb in Unionism. It’s called “getting Trimbled”. So caution could be seen as a reasoned response to this self declared ‘war by other means’. In which context the DUP have taken a leaf out of SF’ book by not boxing themselves in with overt conditions that their opponents can turn against them. Everything the DUP has put out in the last six months has been a little like SF’s objection to policing: ie it is generalised and unspecific.

    It’s hard to say where all of this is going. But I’d say the DUP will content themselves with growing their sphere of influence at Westminster, and taking kudos from the parliamentary set piece. Rightly or wrongly, they have impressed people in the DFA in Dublin in ways that Unionists never have done before.

    Similarly, Sinn Fein will seek to grow its representation in Dail and, if the numbers fall their way, begin to pressurise the Government there. I noted Arthur Morgan’s good humoured complaint before a string planning bill amendments were rejected in the Dail the other night, that the current Government never listens. I guess he’s expecting that to change after next year’s episode of musical chairs.

    In effect, we are still in a zero sum game. Sinn Fein will seek to use whatever indirect influence it can to conduct politics in Northern Ireland. As will the DUP.

    We have an indirect democracy with British direct rule ministers calling all the shots, and our MPs and MLAs and (later) councillors as lobbyists. Or at least that looks to be the prefered modus operandii for the foreseeable future.

    In some respects that could be in the interests of everyone, if Westminster impliment good law, and begin to create the conditions for a private sector revival.

  • Prince Eoghan

    Mick.

    “Are fenians only accorded human being status when they are dead?”

    Eoghan, what on earth has this to do with the ‘price of eggs?’

    Ach it was an emotive response to the manouverings of the previous posters. It should be taken in the context of me pointing out that the only concern for this dead woman was to provide further procrastination on power-sharing. I had thought I was reasonably clear, but maybe not.

  • Mick Fealty

    No argument from me on the council thing Chris.

  • Mick Fealty

    In which case it is an ad hominem (or non) argument. In the absence of a clear statement, discussions of motive are both endless and pointless.

  • Millie

    The truth of the matter is normal politics cannot work here. And the uncomfortable truth is that Paisley is representative. The DUP have been elected specifically not to do a deal, to prevent the formation of an executive, to continue with Direct Rule for the forseeable future. Then Adams will be right that NI is ungovernable and nationalists, once again, are being denied political representation in their own state.

    And who the hell are unionists to lecture anyone about being fit for government? With their track record they should be grateful they’re allowed anywhere near an elected legislature ever again.

    Everyone wants deals and preconditions BEFORE an agreement can be even talked about but those are exactly the sort of issues that need to be debated and negotiated within a political forum with real power, i.e. a government. It’s called taking political responsibility on behalf of the people who voted for you. But Paisley was elected on a no-republicans-in-government ticket which means he’s at least sticking by his promises and the GFA is dead.

    The British govt are now ruing the day the NI state was ever established. It was a short-term fix to a long-term problem and now it’s come back to bite them in the arse. Representative democracy along class lines won’t ever work here which is why the unionists were given home rule in the first place and the political parties in Britain wouldn’t touch the place with a barge pole. Sectarian politics for a sectarian state. But in reality there’s only so far Britain can bluster and bluff about the Nov deadline because ultimately its rule in Ireland rests on unionism which is why all its constituent parts – political parties, loyal orders and the loyalist paramilitaries – need to be given constant sweetners to stay in the ‘peace process’.

    So what is to be done? The GFA undoubtedly institutionalised sectarianism in the North by assigning political rights to those who identify themselves in sectarian terms, and the people who did well out it (SF & DUP) were the ones who did it the best. So scrap the GFA, it’s just petrol on a fire. Maybe scrap the NI state too? Bit late for that now the damage has been done and it’s pervasive. NI is nothing more than a politically backward monument to sectarianism, and the month of July confirms this for all the world to see.

  • Turbo Paul

    To borrow from Bill Clinton, Sinn Fein and the DUP would rather appear to be:

    “Strong and wrong” rather than “Weak and right”

    However, I am sure all must agree that “jaw, jaw is better than War, war”

    I predict that if a deal is not reached by November then a sort of détente will be the future, joint authority from London and Dublin, this will infuriate Unionists, and Republicans alike.

    The real test will follow next years Irish general election, when Sinn Fein will hope to capitalise on the failed deal this November and appear to be the victims of a DUP rejection, even after Sinn Fein are given a clean bill of health from the IMC.

    The real chessecake and power for Sinn Fein is win in the South, become part of the Irish govt and run the North as partners with London, long-term goal, Dublin assumes more control of the North by proxy.

    If the DUP reject Sinn Fein entry in the front door, then Sinn Fein will use the backdoor, via success in the Republic.

  • kensei

    “SF/IRA are not making any signoficant progress in adressing the two main issues; ending criminality and supporting the police.!

    Ah. I was wondering what they were this week.

    “We have an indirect democracy with British direct rule ministers calling all the shots, and our MPs and MLAs and (later) councillors as lobbyists.”

    So, to paraphrase, we don’t actually have any deomcracy, and are rather ruled by whim (however well intentioned) from on high. Forgive me if I gag on this.

  • Henry94

    Mick

    We have an indirect democracy with British direct rule ministers calling all the shots, and our MPs and MLAs and (later) councillors as lobbyists. Or at least that looks to be the prefered modus operandii for the foreseeable future.

    Indefinite direct rule from Britain is unacceptable to nationalists. The role of Dublin will have to be increased (call it stewardship authourity or partnership) if unionists are unwilling to operate the institutions. I don’t think anyone seriously thinks that rejectionism will be rewarded. Nor do I think anyone could see it as a recipe for stability. Dublin’s involvement is essential to secure nationalist consent to be governed in the absence of local institutions.

  • lib2016

    Millie,

    much of what you say is undoubtedly true but you forget to mention that the Brits have always turned on their friends.

    The Irish government is one of Britain’s few allies in Europe and the unionists are more than just a nuisance. Since the failed attempts at criminalising republicans in the early eighties Northern Ireland has become a real cause for shame to Britain internationally. It’s simply impossible for anyone abroad to take the claim of England having left colonialism behind and become a ‘liberal democracy’ seriously while the situation here drags on.

    Even Margaret Thatcher was forced to sign the Anglo-Irish Agreement, which was the beginning of the present joint authority status.

    How much more so now with the republican ceasefires having stayed firmly in place despite endless provocations from the British inspired loyalist paramilitaries.

    The DUP are not a serious political party with ambitions to govern, more a cry for help by a community which knows that it’s time is up. There is no unionist powerbase – not the UDR, not the RUC, not the paramilitaries, not the UUP and certainly not the DUP which is not either taken over by British ‘Intelligence’ or effectively destroyed.

    All that remains is for final responsibility to move from the British government to the Irish government. It will take the stroke of a pen at Maryfield and the news probably won’t leak out until long after the deed is done a year or two from now. There’s even legislation in place for Gardai to be seconded in to take over the running of the PSNI.

    Soon the present misinformation campaign on Sinn Fein will switch to an attack on unionism and it’s leaders and it’ll all be finished. We’ll be left with an ‘Orangeistan’ in parts of Antrim and North Down but the Scots seem to cope with similar Orange dissidents without trouble and so will we.

    The criminalisation of the Orange paramilitaries has been nearly completed despite the attempts by the UUP to save the UVF and the slightly less public attempts by the DUP to do the same for the UDA. No-one seriously believes in an independent Northern Ireland anymore. What would they fight for?

    Games nearly over.

  • Keith M

    Millie “And the uncomfortable truth is that Paisley is representative.”

    The uncomfortable truth for the majority of people is that the minority have chosen a group of thugs, criminals and liars to represent them.

    “And who the hell are unionists to lecture anyone about being fit for government? With their track record they should be grateful they’re allowed anywhere near an elected legislature ever again.”

    Trite, simplistic nonsense like this needs to be challenged. Name one thing that the Stormont government did that was not done by successive governments in this country.

    I’m not saying that the Stormont governments were saints, but when the minority turn their back on the democratic process, then there will be abuses of power, and on any scale, abuses in Northern Ireland were at a very low level.

    “The British govt are now ruing the day the NI state was ever established.” I doubt it. If the U.K. government can survive the Brighton bombing and missile attacks on Downing St., the current difficulties barely raise above noise level.

    “Representative democracy along class lines won’t ever work here which is why the unionists were given home rule in the first place and the political parties in Britain wouldn’t touch the place with a barge pole.”

    Thank your lucky stars that Northern Ireland (in common with this county) never went down the rat-hole of class politics. Paradoxically Northern Irish political division have far more in common with 21st Century arguements rather than the out dated class politics which dogged most of Europe in the 20th Century.

    Today the issues of sovreignty, local democracy vs. the nation state vs. a federal Europe, public vs private sector and equality dominate the political agenda, and these are all arguements central to political debate in Northern Ireland.

    “The GFA undoubtedly institutionalised sectarianism in the North by assigning political rights to those who identify themselves in sectarian terms.” Here at least we can agree, have been making this point since 1998. It’s just a shame that nationalists required this sweetener to sign up to the 1998 agreement. Any new agreement must eliminate designation if a common good is to be established.

    “NI is nothing more than a politically backward monument to sectarianism.” You could say that about many countries, but as I stated on a parallel thread, sectarianism was rife on this island long before partition. The border is simply a manifestation of sectarianism. Sectarianism needs to be tacked and that must be the priority above re-establishing an executive.

  • Mick Fealty

    Lib,

    The DUP are not a serious political party with ambitions to govern, more a cry for help by a community which knows that it’s time is up.

    The first part of this sentence is worthy of comment, the second party, I just don’t get.

    The easy riposte to this is that none of the parties which are strong in NI are serious about government. They are calibrated to spending policies. Since none of them are anywhere near getting the keys to a serious exchequer.

    It might be argued that SF is the only one with long term ambitions to getting into government, but that is at least two election cycles away and will, no doubt, entail a very painful learning curve.

    The second part comes over as a political slogan which bares little relationship with the reality on the ground. But I’m more than happy to hear you tell us why you think things are the way you think they are?

  • lib2016

    Mick,

    All the loyalists I’ve ever met detested Paisley and distrusted the DUP but they appear to have realised that the UUP was leading them nowhere and a vote for the DUP is at least a protest vote. It’s similar to the way they used to vote for ‘Boxer’ McQuaid on the Shankill even though they knew he was a figure of fun at Westminster.

    To get onto more serious things – the British troops are leaving. The PSNI are well aware that their immediate future lies in ‘neutral’ policing under the benevolent guidance of MI5 which is essentially a short term expedient. The fact is that all the unionist powerstructures are defunct except the DUP whom very few have confidence in.

    I’d welcome other explanations of why we have reached this position under Nu-Labour which is led by a control freak who has publically admitted his ambition to sort out the problems here.

    Moreover I’ve become convinced, partly because of this blog, that unionism is not united enough to be able to do a deal with Sinn Fein, just as they were unable to do a deal with the SDLP in the early 90’s.

    The British are shafting unionists because the unionists aren’t united enough to do anything about it and don’t know what they want anyway. Integration, independence, selfgoverning colony, provincial status – they’re all being put forward and have been for years.

    I’d prefer not to go into my reasons for believing that MI5 controls the DUP. They have agents inside all the British political parties and Sinn Fein so it’s hardly a big stretch to say that they also have agents inside the DUP.

    Republicans, as you quite rightly point out, aren’t ready for government just yet. Your timescale seems about right and they’re working on it. McGuinness especially seems to be developing the required gravitas. To steal a line from Henry – they were never afraid of work!

  • kensei

    “Trite, simplistic nonsense like this needs to be challenged. Name one thing that the Stormont government did that was not done by successive governments in this country.”

    Abuse civil rights.

    But this statement is THE most brilliant thing ever when it is followed by this:

    “I’m not saying that the Stormont governments were saints, but when the minority turn their back on the democratic process, then there will be abuses of power, and on any scale, abuses in Northern Ireland were at a very low level.”

    Of course, the level of Nationalist and Repuiblican debate here is nose diving at the moment, while Unionist posters are like the light of reason.

  • Keith M

    kensei, when I ask for examples I expect something a little more enlightening that “abuse civil rights”. Specifically what rights did the Stormont government abuse?

  • Millie

    Keith M

    ‘The uncomfortable truth for the majority of people is that the minority have chosen a group of thugs, criminals and liars to represent them.’

    Yawn, the same accusation was levelled at anti-imperialist movements in Kenya, Zimbabwe, Algeria, Malaya, South Africa, Palestine etc etc and they were the majority! If SF weren’t labelled crims and thugs they’d be letting the side down. Anyway the whole notion of ‘majorities and minorities’ is Britain’s lasting gift to the Irish nation: political division based on religious sectarianism. But don’t worry we’re not unique when it comes to the old divide and rule, the bastards did it everywhere.

    ‘Trite, simplistic nonsense like this needs to be challenged. Name one thing that the Stormont government did that was not done by successive governments in this country.’

    OK, there was no systematic campaign of violence and harassment against the ‘minority’ community in the South.

    ‘I’m not saying that the Stormont governments were saints, but when the minority turn their back on the democratic process, then there will be abuses of power, and on any scale, abuses in Northern Ireland were at a very low level.’

    This truly is a classic. The ‘minority’ didn’t turn their back on the democratic process, the democratic process bent them over and shafted them up the backside. The creation of the NI state was an abomination of the democratic process.

    ‘Thank your lucky stars that Northern Ireland (in common with this county) never went down the rat-hole of class politics.’

    I’m not sure what standards you’re applying to politics in the rest of the world but you’ll find most functioning democracies are at root level a conflict of ideologies based on class antagonisms. It’s called capitalism. And yes I know class politics have never really worked in the South either.

    ‘Today the issues of sovreignty, local democracy vs. the nation state vs. a federal Europe, public vs private sector and equality dominate the political agenda, and these are all arguements central to political debate in Northern Ireland.’

    Nice idea Keith, never going to happen. All debate and elections in this state are rendered under one thing and one thing only – the Border.

    ‘You could say that about many countries, but as I stated on a parallel thread, sectarianism was rife on this island long before partition. The border is simply a manifestation of sectarianism.’

    And sectarianism was a means by which Britain could dominate Ireland politically and economically. Therefore creating another smaller state based on the sectarian privilege of an artificial majority isn’t exactly an intelligent way to fight it, wouldn’t you agree? But then you can hardly ask the British to fight sectarianism and solve the Irish problem. Britain IS the Irish problem.

  • Lib,

    You obviously don’t talk to many unionists. 😉 Loyalists are many and those who vote PUP have always been few. Though nominally attached to the UVF, many members of the wider ‘movement’ have always voted DUP. And in more general terms the DUP’s heartland has been in working class communities for many years.

    Their critical success latterly has been in turning a number of key middle class constituencies away from the UUP either directly to them or into voter apathy. From Upper Bann to South Antrim old resentments have given way to passive acceptance of new leadership. In this regard they are at this moment ahead of Sinn Fein. The significance of the Durkan win was the party’s inability to penetrate the middle class Catholic vote (though as Feeney has pointed out, it is this demographic that is switching off voting just like their middle class Protestant neighbours.

    Like Sinn Fein, they have beaten the old establishment opposition and are in process of re-aligning most of Unionism under one party. Indeed, in light of Mitchel’s remarks, it is almost certain that Sinn Fein did its bit to fast track a transition to the DUP in October ’03 when the IRA instructed de Chastellaine not to disclose how much he’d seen decommissioned. In the words of one long time Trimble loyalist going into the November election, ‘we now have nothing to go on the doorsteps with’.

    That was a low point for unionism in general. From there, the UUP has dipped (permanently?) away from the power it once took for granted. And the DUP has simply gone from strength to strength. Trimble, for instance, would have agonised over troop cuts. The DUP is more concerned about decent severance pay. Their nine MPs perform well on the floor of the house, and above all look competent.

    One thing that appears to have been a fallacy of the early part of the Peace Process™ is that there was to be an end game. The DUP have known for some considerable time that all of this was provisional in eyes of Sinn Fein. It remains simply ‘war by other means’. And the Belfast Agreement a way station to somewhere else.

    It could be the road to Dublin. But given the choice, most Unionists would probably choose to stay just where they are.

  • Keith M

    Millie, are you seriously trying to suggest that SF/IRA are not engaged in criminality? I don’t want spurious arguements and unrelated nonsense from history, I want an answer to the here and the now.

    When SF/IRA go on TV and call armed robbery “fundraising”, when they run protection rackets and call it “community policing”, when they try (as today) to justify cold blooded murder, do you swallow their line hook line and sinker?

    And what’s your position on “the big lie”? When Adams represented himself as a leader of the IRA in negotiations with the UK government in the 70s and 80s, was he lying? When he now says that he was never in the IRA is he lying? When did the leader of the party that supposedly wants to govern the people of N.I. start lying and when if ever did he stop? I want to hear the answer to this question and I’m sure the majority of people in N.I. also do before they fully trust the party which he leads.

    “OK, there was no systematic campaign of violence and harassment against the ‘minority’ community in the South.”. I was looking for real examples, not well practised re-hashed mopery. When did the Stormont government organise a “systematic campaign of violence and harassment against the ‘minority’”?

    I’m not denying that loyalists targetted Catholics, and I’m sure if you have knowledge of Irish history, you’ll remember the successive border campaigns which targetted Protestants in Northern Ireland and also vuneral Protestants in the south in the 1920s. However to blame either the Stormont government for the activity of loyalists or southern governmentss for the IRA activity is nonsense.

    I’m still waiting for REAL examples to justify you original point that with their track record unionists should be grateful they’re allowed anywhere near an elected legislature ever again. Unionists who used the democratic process have done absolutely nothing that was not done by democratic nationalists in the south.

    “The creation of the NI state was an abomination of the democratic process.” I’m not going to go down this road again and again. This decision was made over 80 years ago, it was supported then and now by the people of both Northern N.I. and the Republic. Get over it and learn from the way that unionists got over the IFS leaving the UK. Do not use it as an excuse for nationalism not engaging in the democratic process in N.I. Even the staunchest republicans now see the idiocy of turning their back on the democratic process, which they did for decades.

    “I’m not sure what standards you’re applying to politics in the rest of the world but you’ll find most functioning democracies are at root level a conflict of ideologies based on class antagonisms.” The two biggest democracies in the world are India and the USA, and neither country’s politics are class driven. I can compile a list as long as my arm of other countries that are not trapped in the class politics rat hole.

    Of course there’s a lagacy of class politics in “old Europe” and also in emerging democracies, but even countries like Germany and France are moving away from it. The Socialists were overtaken by a party which has the national question at its heart in the last French Presidential election, and this year’s German election had little or nothing to do with class politics.

    “Therefore creating another smaller state based on the sectarian privilege of an artificial majority isn’t exactly an intelligent way to fight it, wouldn’t you agree?” Northern Ireland is no more artificial than the Republic. The initial divisions are caused by those who think that Ireland was better being part of the U.K. vs those who wanted self determination. Unfortunatly those divisions also were underscored by sectarian divisions.

    However rather than dwelling in the past and trying to play some fruitless and self serving blame game, I’d prefer to look at the present and future. Today the Republic is no longer the economic basket case it was for the decades after it left the U.K. The Catholic church no longer plays the same role in society and has now been pushed to the sidelines, although there’s still pushing to be done in education.

    Meanwhile Irish national sovreignty (in common with most other EU countries) is being sacrificed in the cause of the greater good of a united and peaceful Europe.

    The issues which caused partition over 80 years ago are disappearing over the horizon, but in Northern Ireland the core issue which caused partition, sectarianism remains.

    Neither unionists nor nationalists or republicans seem prepared to make the necessary steps to tackle it. From very different perspectives we agree that designation needs to go, yet how many parties agree with us?

    When and only when sectarianism is eliminated can Northern Ireland function in a completly sucessful way. Denying the lying and criminality of a bunch of thugs simply because they are on “your side” of the sectarian divide is the next step.

  • Millie

    Keith M

    We could go on for ever about this so I’m just going to comment on your last point.

    ‘When and only when sectarianism is eliminated can Northern Ireland function in a completly sucessful way.’

    Sectarianism as we know it today did not cause the NI state, on the contrary it is caused by it. Partition was a result of the uneven development of capitalism in Ireland, a gentlemens agreement between the leaders of orange and green capital north and south. Yes sectarianism did exist before partition but the creation of NI ensured it was institutionalised and built into the structures of the state.

    Think about it, NI was created as the largest viable territory that would contain a Protestant majority so that the society within its boundary could be defined by this majority, in sectarian terms. Orange marches for e.g. are a means to celebrate and assert the sectarian character of the territory within the State’s boundaries. Your wish for sectarianism to be eliminated is a noble one but rather naive given the role of these marches in stoking up sectarian tensions.

    The ‘peace process’ is not only about reaching a settlement between unionists and nationalists, it’s about unravelling the sectarian structures of the state and normalising them. British rule in Ireland rests on unionism so the question is how far can this normalising process go before it undermines the very foundations of the state? Can there ever be a non-sectarian NI or is that simply an oxymoron?

    Any peace agreement that explicitly condones and respects the ‘two traditions’ will be a sectarian one. The GFA embodied sectarian competition between unionism and nationalism so paradoxically sectarianism has gotten worse the longer the peace process has gone on. Therefore any solution based on the ‘equality of the two traditions’ will ultimately fail.

  • lib2016

    Mick,

    “You obviously don’t talk to many unionists”

    Not as many as I’d like to as I’ve been ill the last few years, unfortunately. Nevertheless the fact is that most of my working life has been spent in ‘mixed’ offices and it’s difficult to believe that they were all atypical.

    I would agree that many loyalists vote DUP. It’s been a constant source of wonder to me since they frequently quite vocal about the ‘Grand Old Duke of York’ factor.

    The UDA and the DUP have by accident or design led unionists into the eastern ghettos, thereby reducing their impact on the overall political and security picture. Big majorities for DUP politicans mean fewer seats.

    Sinn Fein have been very quiet about the Peace Walls in North and West Belfast while nationalist ‘yuppies’ have flooded into South and East Belfast and the ‘dormitory’ villages, taking republicanism with them. We will see which is the better strategy now that their children are becoming old enough to become politically active. Glengormley, Crumlin and other areas have been in the news recently.

    I feel, on a purely anecdotal basis, that post-unionism is an increasing factor, while I haven’t met many ‘post-republicans’. On the contrary!