McDonnell: reconciling ‘orange’ and ‘green’?

Henry Patterson has what looks like a punchy tome coming out in a few weeks. This morning on Tom McGurk’s programme, he described a failure of both Unionist and northern Nationalist elites to recognise the real underlying changes in the reality of life North and South. Alisdair McDonnell, unusually for a nationalist politician, struck a similar critical note on some within nationalism who insist on retaining ‘war time’ attitudes, and remain reluctant to move towards ‘a shared space’ at the recent MacGill summer school.By Dr Alasdair McDonnell MP

The theme of tonight’s discussion, “reconciling the orange and green” is a well worn one.

That often repeated rationale for our national flag – the reconciliation of the green and orange traditions on our island – has, unfortunately, become something of a cliché in northern nationalist politics. The treatment of the flag by a minority of nationalists over the last 40 years means that its promise as a symbol of hope and reconciliation has been damaged; but not, I hope, damaged beyond repair.

For while its symbolism may have been tarnished, and its rationale may have become clichéd, its aspiration is as relevant and powerful today as ever it was. As the representative of a constituency where we have people loyal to the boldest green and others loyal to the brightest orange. I know at first hand the importance of encouraging greater understanding between those two.

I know at first hand and have long been motivated by the enormous social potential that could be unleashed if they could finally be reconciled. The basic political philosophy that this motion is based on – that only through mutual respect and understanding can the people of this island live at peace together, has long been a cornerstone of the SDLP’s thinking. It is one of the greatest tragedies in Ireland’s history that it took others so long, and so many lives, to come to the same conclusion.

The awful violence inflicted upon the community as a whole by the militant fundamentalists on either side of the religious and constitutional political divide has had a terrible legacy. While some economic development across the North and a property boom continues to transform the physical element of that legacy, but the great pain and mistrust – the terrible emotional and sectarian legacy lives on.

But we are where we are, and those of us who have always stood by the aim of reconciling our people, of uniting catholic, protestant and dissenter in the fashion of Wolfe Tone have a greater responsibility than ever to use our influence and move that agenda forward. Now more than ever we must work to encourage and make progress on those things that already bring our people together and shine a light on those things that are used to keep us apart.

Over the next few minutes I’d like to talk briefly about each of these.

In some respects, the green and orange are closer together than ever. Working families from both traditions share the same hopes and fears for their children. The struggle to pay the mortgage, afford childcare, find enough quality time with a young family and bring up kids with self respect and opportunity is the same, difficult struggle in all corners of my constituency and in all corners of Northern Ireland.

Concerns about spiralling household rates and water bills, the environment, the state of our hospitals and the safety of our seniors are the same whether you live in Crossmaglen or Carrickfergus. In the most vulnerable and marginalised corners of the North, where paramilitary thugs of every hue encourage and feed off the worries and the fears of people struggling to improve their lives,
where small businesses are regularly shaken down mafia-style and where the victims of crime are asked to ‘sort it out’ through recourse to local godfathers, the desire for opportunity is the same,
the desire for accountable justice is the same, the need for hope is the same.

But alas, in many other respects the green and orange are further apart now than at any time in many decades.

The Economist last week for example reported that more than 97% of public housing in Northern Ireland is segregated. At the time of the first ceasefire there were nine peacelines in Belfast. At the last count there were nearly forty and the number is likely to grow further. There has been much analysis about why this is the case, as I’m sure there will be here tonight. Working in a constituency with some of the most marginalised single identity communities in the North, it’s a question I’ve thought a lot about.

There are, I believe, three major themes that underlie this increasing division. Three themes that remain as roadblocks to reconciliation between orange and green. They are the needs of VICTIMS, the lack of SHARED SPACE and, with apologies to Pat Spillane, the PUKE POLITICS that are the order of the day in Northern Ireland in July 2006.

The issue of victims and the concept of victimhood is an enormously sensitive and difficult subject, but it is also of central importance if there is to be any real reconciliation on this island. In basic, stark terms, insufficient attention was paid to the needs of those innocent people and families who were broken by violence.

They were asked to accept prisoner releases without any real empathy and have been virtually ignored by the Government ever since. They watched as some victims’ cases were elevated (often for very good reason) while the majority were ignored; they watch this year as monuments to the Hunger Strikers are erected in every nationalist town, village and housing estate, while the Provisional movement continues to evade its responsibilities to the many victims of their own violence .

How must it have felt, for example, for families of victims around Northern Ireland last week to hear the PIRA announce, 34 years after her disappearance, brutal torture and death that Jean McConville was a tout? Not an admittance of guilt and remorse on their part, but a statement 34 years after her disappearance, torture and death that they had been RIGHT to do what they did?

There are many many others cases of injustice and pain about which too little has been said. This very night 34 years ago Belfast was convulsed following 20 explosions and 9 murders – how many people here can name those victims? This night 25 years ago John Hazlett was shot and killed in Maghera – a case of ‘mistaken identity’ by the provisional movement. This night 4 years ago Gerard Lawlor, a young man of 19 years was shot and killed by the UDA on the Antrim Road as he returned from a GAA game. The list goes on and on.

Who, apart from their broken families and friends and neighbours is thinking of them tonight?

It is increasingly hard to argue with those who claim that there has emerged a hierarchy of victims. And that is a terrible thing. It is also the single most insidious and damaging barrier to any real reconciliation. The double vision, double standards, call it what you want, of the paramilitary gangs has long frustrated me.

The provisional movement knows well and exploits the power and emotion of ancient wrongs against the Irish people

* I recently received an email from the sinn fein bookshop offering me a DVD about the famine

* but they seem entirely unable to understand the awful effect of their own actions on their neighbours.

What they have done in the name of the green may have sparked generations of mistrust about the cause of Irish nationalism. It may have delayed the possibility of reunification of Our People by more than a generation.

Similarly, I watch loyalist bands march through Belfast incensed that anyone would dare question their commemoration of murderers like the UVF’s Brian Robinson or the Rathcoole Kill All Irish gang.

‘Why can nationalist residents not realise that these are historical figures and get over it?’ they ask, seemingly oblivious to the fact that the reason they are marching, the reason why thousands of them congregate around bonfires and burn tricolours and dishonour the memory of innocent victims like Michael McIlveen is to commemorate a battle that took place a short 316 years ago.

This disconnect – the sense of shared grievance about what was done upon you without any sense of what was done in the name of your community – adds to the dysfunction of Northern society and it needs to be confronted, it needs to be challenged. In the SDLP we recognise the role we played in supporting prisoner releases in the context of the Good Friday Agreement. But we also recognise that we must play a central role in taking up that challenge.

It is a challenge we embrace.

Our successful opposition to the ‘On The Runs’ legislation means that state and paramilitary killers must be held to account. Our opposition to the multimillion pound ransom payment to loyalist paramilitaries will seek to hold those gangs to account. Our questions about so-called Community Restorative Justice schemes will seek to make sure justice is held to account, And our support for the Office of the Victims Commissioner is to make sure that finally, the voices of all victims will be heard and will count.

The second of the roadblocks to reconciliation, as I see it, is the lack of shared space in Northern Ireland and the lack of cultural awareness that underpins this. It shouldn’t come as any surprise that there is a gulf of understanding between both sides of our community – in addition to the violence I’ve already talked about, we have had a generation of segregated education, segregated housing, segregated sport, segregated life.

In dark times, we took comfort in the safety of our own traditions and stayed well clear of others. With communities at each other’s throats, there was little point in trying to understand or appreciate what was important to ‘the other side’.

But these are brighter days, and for them to become brighter still we must all begin to make an effort to understand each other a little better; we must make genuine accommodation for the needs of others we must try to make the idea of ‘shared space’ more than a just a bit of jargon, a handy government-approved soundbyte.

As a nationalist, I can put my hand on my heart and say that the beliefs of Orangeism have long been alien to me. I can say that for a very long time my gut reaction to what it was, or what I thought it was, was very negative.

Of course, that shoe fitted very often

* when Orangemen blocked roads and encouraged civil disorder rather than talk to residents,
* or when they offered weasel words rather than condemnation when people were killed in Orange-related disturbances for example.

But it can no longer be enough for nationalists to fall back on the old easy stereotypes. To talk about ‘sectarian coat trailing’ or describe the proposed ‘Orangefest’ as a ‘big-otfest’ as one Newry SF councillor did recently, might be comfortable and might raise an easy cheer, but does it do anything to reconcile our traditions?

Are there big-ots in the Orange Order? Unfortunately, yes.

Are there decent men in the Orange Order? Fortunately, yes.

If as nationalists we believe the unification of the people of Ireland and the Island of Ireland is a worthy goal, when are we going to come to grips with the fact that Orangeism is part of this island’s life? When are we going to take up the challenge posed by accommodating this minority right? While there is no parallel with Orangeism in the nationalist side of cultural life, there is within Unionism and Loyalism a similar ignorance and intolerance about cultural activities important to nationalist people.

We need only look as far as the long list of murders of GAA people and attacks on GAA premises to see how little militant loyalism understands the work and life of that Association or the values and attitudes of ordinary Gaels.

Until more is done to build understanding about each other’s lives; unless political representatives do more to lead and shape attitudes, rather than always looking for the lowest common denominator; unless as St Paul wrote to the Ephesians, we learn to ‘be subject to one another’, there will be no shared space. There will only be a growing chasm between orange and green and an endless cycle of resentment, bitterness and recrimination about which side gets what.

Those who doubt this prognosis would be well advised to spend an hour or two with me and other colleagues at the Preparation for Government Committee currently sitting at Stormont. When RTÉ pundit Pat Spillane sought for a phrase to sum up what he perceived as the cynicism and negative tactics in Tyrone and Armagh football, he called it Puke Football; while I do not agree with the Spillane analysis of the Armagh or Tyrone teams, when I sought for a phrase to sum up the approach of the largest parties to the current impasse in the North, his analysis came to mind.

What is practiced today by the majority parties, the DUP and SF in Stormont and across the North is Puke Politics.

When I gave my maiden speech at the House of Commons I said that when the Provisionals and the Paisleyites were in the driving seat, everyone would suffer. That was 14 months ago and I’m sorry to say that unfortunately I have been proven right. The real injustice to the people who suffer – the ordinary working families trying to get on with their lives – is that these Puke Politics are being actively encouraged by Peter Hain and the Northern Ireland Office. We’ve seen it in the side deals with Sinn Fein, we’ve seen it in the gymnastics performed by Peter Hain every time the DUP demand more ‘confidence building’ measures.

The problem with pandering to Puke Politics is that brings out the worst in the people who practice that game and gets us nowhere good, fast. The cynicism, the ‘strokes’ serve only the narrow short term political interests of the parties who manipulate the process – not the process itself and certainly not the people it was designed to serve.

In the context of this discussion tonight, Puke Politics setting the agenda means that the balkanisation of Northern Ireland warned of by my colleague Seamus Mallon continues, greater understanding between our traditions is avoided at all costs and the great promise of the Irish flag remains unfulfilled. It’s sometimes hard to shake the feeling that that’s part of the point.

So what is going to happen on 25th November?

It is easy and popular to say: Wind the whole Stormont circus up, shut it down, pay them off. But look at what we are facing. If the policitians can’t share power, then how can we expect the people to share society?

The DUP has got to stop messing around on power-sharing, and Sinn Fein has got to stop messing around on its commitment to a lawful society. And they both need to be up front about the cost of failure. After 25th November, while we might have the British and Irish governments working together, all that we would really have in the way of political institutions would be seven balkanised super-councils: three green ones in the West and three Orange ones in the East, plus a mottled one in Belfast.

We still have no legal guarantees that there would be cross-community power-sharing. They are sleep-walking us into disaster.

Ladies, gentlemen and friends you have listened to me for long enough. Before I go I leave you with a couple of thoughts.

My former leader, and great friend of this summer school John Hume often talked about his experience of standing on that bridge in Strasbourg. He marvelled that the people of Germany and France who had done so much bad to each other could come together again to work for a common good. While John may have moved off the political stage, that message and image is as relevant today as it was when he first challenged the status quo.

While it may be unrealistic to talk about a full reconciliation between orange and green in the short term; while only the most ambitious optimists can imagine full partnership between the two any time soon, surely those of us who can see what unites us, despise what divides us and still believe in the promise of the tricolour, surely we can be subject to one another and reclaim the agenda from those who profit from division and whose narrow agenda ultimately serves no one – not even themselves if they had the wit to recognise it.

Surely we can come together again and work for a common good.

,

  • slug

    I do wish Irish nationalists would stop using “Orange” as a lazy shorthand for unionists. I am not remotely “Orange”. Can’t they say reconciling unionist and nationalist?

  • kensei

    Wow. Incredibly correlation with the SDLP strategy document posted yesterday.

    “To talk about ‘sectarian coat trailing’ or describe the proposed ‘Orangefest’ as a ‘big-otfest’ as one Newry SF councillor did recently, might be comfortable and might raise an easy cheer, but does it do anything to reconcile our traditions?”

    I can’t help but pick this out as it is my favourite pet bugbear. The problem is that the SF spokesman remains exactly right while the OO remains an anti-Catholic Organisation. The challenge to Nationalism is to define what precisely about the OO it opposes, rather than random anti-Protestantism/Unionism.

    This is a far bigger benefit to everyone, because it places the pressure to remove the negative bits, while making clear it is not opposition on principle, or a blanket attack. There should be no pushfor “reconciliation” with a bigotted organisation.

  • Nathan

    Zzzzzzzzzzzzz!

    The largely recycled commentatory of Dr McDonnell…is this what passes for northern nationalism these day?

    I’m sick to death of contributions which sneak in soundbites such as the unity of protestant, catholic and dissenter.

    We’re perfectly aware of Wolfe Tone’s United Irelander credentials thank you very much. But thanks to Dr McDonnell and his lousy/non-existent research, what we don’t know is that he was initially an all-islands man, who in 1793 said, “if the connection with Britain was one of perfect equality, equal law, equal liberty, equal justice then the link would be highly beneficial to both”. Put that in your pipes and smoke on it.

    Lets hope Alex Maskey tops the poll in South Belfast next time round. Nationalists and republicans deserve better reps than this.

  • Tadhgin

    Slug, I was going to say something like Jeez get over it, but I thought the better of it, and you know it is a very fair point. So, I will try and not use this particular shorthand.

    Otherwise, very much in agreement with Alasdair McDonnell’s points.

  • Garibaldy

    Mick,

    Unless I’m mistaken, this is a reprint of a book that came out with Oxford University Press that had to be pulped after Gerry Fitt successfully sued because it said he had asked for guns from Dublin. I think it was meant to refer to Paddy Devlin instead but can’t remember if those details are exactly correct or not.

    Nathan,

    Tone had declared himself privately to his friends as a believer in independence before 1793, but didn’t think that the public would agree yet. A letter he had written to Thomas Russell saying that was used by the government to attack the United Irishmen in 1793.

  • Garibaldy

    On Mc Donnell’s speech, I’ve seen Hume numerous times attack the notion of integrated education. Not much sign of a shared space there.

  • Shuggie McSporran

    Nathan

    “if the connection with Britain was one of perfect equality, equal law, equal liberty, equal justice then the link would be highly beneficial to both”

    That’s the whole point, it wasn’t and that’s why he was trying to break it.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Garibaldy

    I was thinking exactly the same thing. The SDLP Deputy Leader appears to be at odds with his party on ‘shared education’.

  • T.Ruth

    Aliadair McDonnell is a man of considerable integrity and is widely respected by the Unionist community. The important thing we can take away from his speech is that we will indeed spend our future together and we must all work hard to make that a peaceful and prosperous future for all our people.That will mean taking courageous steps to resist those who would move forward depending on the Republican movement to meet the promises it made in previous agreements.

    Mr.McDonnell’s criticism of other political parties wrongly equates the effect of DUP and Sinn Fein attitudes. The DUP has declared that it will not countenance power sharing at Executive level until it is absolutely clear that Republicans have dismantled the “war” machine,and separated themselves from all aspects of criminality.The Unionist people offer no political support to organisations that cannot support the PSNI and the legal system. Until we have a similar attitude from Republicans one could not blame Unionists if they are cautious about or resistant to power sharing arrangements.

    There is a lot of difference between this position and the position of Sinn Fein which appears to Unionists to be ambivalent in its attitude to terrorism,crime and criminality.

    The SDLP could assist the democratic people in our society if its leaders were prepared to join Alliance,UUP,DUP, in moving to form a partnership government and leave Sinn Fein behind until there is absolute clarity about its support for democratic politics and the Rule of Law.
    If Unionists have diffiiculty in agreeing to the inclusion in an Executive of a party with Sinn Fein’s record in relation to terror and criminality it should be understandable.Indeed they should be congratulated on determining that there is no acceptable level of criminality in our society from whatever source.
    T.Ruth

  • David

    I read Alisdair McDonnell’s piece with great interest. It is a heartfelt plea for reconciliation and a denunciation of what he describes as the “puke politics” of division as practised by the DUP and Sinn Fein. I found myself agreeing with almost all of it until the last couple of paragraphs. There McDonnell throws in this line:

    “We still have no legal guarantees that there would be cross-community power-sharing.”

    No “legal guarantees”? Unfortunately this line makes me wonder if the SDLP have learned anything over the last 8 years.

    The Good Friday Agreement came with a whole set of legal guarantees of “power sharing”. That is the primary reason why it proved to be unworkable. Remember the obligatory all party cabinet, a method for choosing an executive that has only ever been tried in one other country, Fiji, where it proved unworkable and had to be abandoned. Fiji actually copied Northern Ireland on this one, yet the rule was abandoned two years ago. It took them only 5 years to learn that this was a bad idea, yet 8 years on we still haven’t learned it. Then of course there was the wonderful “cross community voting” and “communal designation”, ideas copied from such paragons of stability as pre-civil war Lebanon and pre-partition Cyprus. Did nobody ever bother to inquire as to how those ideas worked out over there?

    Of course they didn’t and here’s the reason why. Back in 1973 somebody had an idea. If Stormont was bad because only unionists ever got into government, then it would probably be good to replace it with a system that made a cross-community coalition the only way of governing. The original idea wasn’t a bad one. The problem with it was that, despite the fact that there is a legion of divided societies on the planet, nobody has ever devised a set of structures that make this type of executive power-sharing happen. It was unworkable. Where there was enough goodwill between groups the structures were not needed, where there was no goodwill the structures didn’t work.

    Unfortunately the idea has become a bit like the emperor’s new clothes in the fairy tale. Support for the idea became the political orthodoxy. Any suggestion of doubt would lead to all sorts of accusations of bigotry or ignorance.

    Like all political orthodoxies, the executive power-sharing concept has stifled all debate on the possibility of alternatives. Not only this, the orthodoxy even suppressed any serious thought amongst supporters of executive power-sharing on how the concept could ever become a practical reality.

    The result was that 25 years on in 1998 executive power-sharing was still the orthodoxy when the Good Friday Agreement was being negotiated and lo and behold we got the most unworkable structures ever devised by man for the exercise of executive power, together with a patronising lecture on how we had to support this or we were opposed to peace.

    Unfortunately when political orthodoxy overcomes common sense, reality has a habit of intervening on the side of common sense. To the surprise of those still in the thrall of political orthodoxy the GFA did not lead to the harmonious governance of Northern Ireland by an all party cross community coalition. Instead it led to years of deadlock.

    The cross community voting system, which was designed to give the UUP and the SDLP a dominant and moderating position, quickly became the instrument of logjam when the DUP and Sinn Fein took over as communal leaders. Were the designers of this constitution really that stupid that they did not realise that election results could change? It seems so.

    Despite this track record the SDLP are now still calling for “legal guarantees of power-sharing”.

    The time has come for some genuine fresh thinking in Northern Ireland politics. The entire Strand 1 provisions of the Good Friday Agreement have proved unworkable and no matter how much Alistair McDonnell puts his fingers in his ears and whistles “We shall overcome” the problem will not go away.

  • Garibaldy

    David,

    Hasn’t Holland had religious power sharing for centuries?

    I was going to comment on this before and didn’t. There are a lot of fine words in this speech, and I do think that Mc Donnell, regardless of his less attractive qualities, is entirely sincere in what he says here. However, I would say there is a problem in the vision itself, one shared with things like the Community Relations Council. The vision is based on two different sets of people living peacefully alongside each other, not the creation of a single shared identity of citizenship. Thus it can only perpetuate division, not solve it.

  • darth rumsfeld

    Of course Wolfe Tone was as anti-Catholic as anyone, sneering at “poor Pat and his priests” on onme occasion.

    And there’s a lot of deserved Provo-bashing in this speech, but very little nationalist criticism. I’d like to hear his views on the GAA themed treads on Slugger in recent weeks. Can it be that in his world view there are good Huns and bad Huns, bad republicans and good Irish nationalists?

  • Garibaldy

    Darth,

    Tone was opposed to Catholicism as a religion. He was not anti-Catholic in the sense that we would understand the term. As his career as a pamphleteer and secretary to the Catholic Committee, and as a United Irishman, amply demonstrated.

    T. Ruth,

    Perhaps you should think about how unionism looks to many nationalists. After all, the UUP is formally linked to the PUP, and there is a long history of unionist politicians – and most especially the DUP – working hand in glove with loyalist paramilitaries. No side has behaved blamelessly, and it is unhelpful to think so. Motes and beams and all that.

  • barnshee

    “So what is going to happen on 25th November?

    It is easy and popular to say: Wind the whole Stormont circus up, shut it down, pay them off. But look at what we are facing. If the policitians can’t share power, then how can we expect the people to share society?”

    Accept the reality people do not “share society”
    Increasingly people in NI live separate if parallel lives living amd socialising almost entirely separately a sensible state when the societies fellings range from distaste and dislike to downright hatred.

    “Wind the whole Stormont circus up, shut it down, pay them off.”

    Here here the sooner the better while there trim down local authorities to an approprites size, cull the stormont civil service to GB or ROI levels and forget about rate increases

  • Nathan

    “if the connection with Britain was one of perfect equality, equal law, equal liberty, equal justice then the link would be highly beneficial to both”

    That’s the whole point, it wasn’t and that’s why he was trying to break it.

    I’m perfectly aware of that, McSporran. The Irish nation was a Protestant nation exclusively for the Protestant people in the 18th century. Its parliament in Dublin achieved neither perfect equality, equal law, equal liberty or equal justice, hence the moral imperative for physical force republicanism in that context.

    Garibaldy
    Tone had declared himself privately to his friends as a believer in independence before 1793, but didn’t think that the public would agree yet. A letter he had written to Thomas Russell saying that was used by the government to attack the United Irishmen in 1793.

    I’m not disputing his preferences for all-out independence, which formed a big part of his personal beliefs – I’m merely demonstrating that he kept an open mind about the connection with Britain. In “From the United Irishmen to Twentieth Century Unionism”, ATQ Stewart hints that Wolfe Tone would have accepted a dangling carrot such as a federal republic of the isles, had the republican movement back then been more of a success. Of course, in today’s context such a dispensation would be a backward step for the Irish nation, but it does make you think how flexible republicans need to be in todays political climate, in order to narrow the astronomical distance from a UI.

    Instead of spitting on the graves of those physical force republican patriots who quite rightly fought for full legislative autonomy from Britain, we must accept that to make a UI more appealable, the throats of some of those nationalist sacred cows will need to be slit without further ado e.g. I believe the office of First Citizen will need to be traded in for a dual presidency between Britain and Ireland for starters. Then theres the flag and national anthem to consider; the list of changes which need to be made pre-UI are numerous.

    Thus, we need actions, and not an avalanche of pre-prepared soundbites and snorts from Dr McDonnell – a yesterdays man with yesterday ideas.

    Either he stands down or he’ll be taken down come the next election.

  • darth rumsfeld

    “Tone was opposed to Catholicism as a religion. He was not anti-Catholic in the sense that we would understand the term. As his career as a pamphleteer and secretary to the Catholic Committee, and as a United Irishman, amply demonstrated”

    Agree completely- but it would be interesting to see how people like kensei distinguish Tone’s opposition to the church from the Orange order’s statements on the same religion.

  • Garibaldy

    Nathan,

    No doubt Tone would have been happy with a federation of democratic republics which included Britain, Ireland, perhaps France and America too.

    Changes before any United Ireland will be necessary, although not sure about the dual presidency idea. Can’t see the British swapping the monarchy for a president for a start.

    I think it’s fairly likely Mc Donnell will lose his seat at the next election, but to a unionist, not to another nationalist.

    The key change that is necessary to make a united Ireland possible is to end sectarian, divisive mindsets displayed not only by the SDLP but virtually all nationalists and unionists in NI.

  • Garibaldy

    Darth,

    I understand what you’re saying. Tone shared the traditional protestant hostility to the church of Rome that the Orange Order has. I don’t think that banning Catholics from the Orange Order is at all sectarian, anymore than it’s sectarian for the Catholic church to ban its adherents from taking communion in other churches. Religious belief entials excluding those who disagree with you.

    I don’t think that the Orange Order is inherently sectarian. But I do think that some of the motivations behind certain marches are suspect. As are the motivations behind those who oppose certain marches.

  • Nathan

    Garibaldy,

    The enduring popularity of the monarchy will continue until the death of Queen Elizabeth. After that, the monarchy will, with the assistance of the chattering classes such as Jon Snow, Peter Tatchell, Tony Benn, face its biggest challenge yet. I don’t rate its prospects post the death of QE2.

    Nevertheless, the future of the monarchy is a matter for the British legislature to decide upon. Irish politicians should not interfere in such matters, other than to declare the appropriateness given the warm relations between the 2 countries for a voluntary dual presidency setup at some point in the future. Of course, the consent principle must apply just like it does for a UI.

    As for convincing you about the dual presidency idea…I’ll leave that to the next generation because come 2016 Sinn Fein’s bellies will start to rumble, and it will be them looking for imaginative ideas to meet the needs rather than the wants of the Irish and British peoples of Ireland. In other words, it is an idea which belongs to the next generation rather than the current one.

    Nevertheless, it is feasible just like the dual monarchy setup was feasible in the 20C, when George VI was Irish Head of State on top of being British Head of State. Under the Executive Authority Act of 1936, the King was recognised and authorised to act on behalf of the IFS, and he was titular head of the State’s external relations. Under a republican version, I would wish the dual president of Britain and Ireland to represent the Irish nation abroad in a 21st century context just like George VI did a generation or two ago.

  • Garibaldy

    Nathan,

    I agree we do need imaginative ideas. Alas, no sign of them. Just more of the same old sectarian nonsense from both sides.

  • kensei

    “Agree completely- but it would be interesting to see how people like kensei distinguish Tone’s opposition to the church from the Orange order’s statements on the same religion.”

    Don’t mind personal conscience. If someone, no matter how much I disagree and hate it, decided they can’t attend Catholic services, then I respect that, though state my opposition. And things like whether or not they’ve fought for the rights of Catholic and such would come into play. That’s Tone.

    I mind anti-Catholicism at an organisational level. Something that bans, say attenance at a Catholic funeral as rule. And I dunno, things like open displays of sectarianism and aggression would come into play. That’s the OO.

  • IJP

    The only depressing thing about this very fine piece is the initial (and sadly predictable) reaction to it above. (“Us’ns is all peaceful but themmuns is iggerant bigots, so they are” – now there‘s the zzzzzzzz!)

    I would add only that a significant problem with “reconciliation” is that our people were never “conciled” to start with. A new Northern Ireland, indeed a new Ireland, is the great challenge.

    Peace and democracy, something NI has never truly had, are difficult. No country has ever arrived at it by default, it’s taken good people and hard work to move to that position. And as they did so, they were mocked by cheap populists, attacked by zealots, opposed by the forces of pre-enlightenment tribalism – but eventually, in many locations, they succeeded.

    Sometimes it’s best to forget party affiliations and work for peace and democracy with all those genuinely committed to it, and genuinely committed to overcoming the tough obstacles en route to it. The Member for Belfast South is clearly among that number.

  • Garibaldy

    IJP,

    But is he commited to forging a genuine sense of unity, or is he commited to a vision that preserves the sectarian powre blocs? Praiseworthy though some of what he does is, people who maintain the two communities vision remain trapped in the logic of division, and can never offer a proper solution.

  • kensei

    “But is he commited to forging a genuine sense of unity, or is he commited to a vision that preserves the sectarian powre blocs? Praiseworthy though some of what he does is, people who maintain the two communities vision remain trapped in the logic of division, and can never offer a proper solution.”

    Don’t understand this. I am a Nationalist. I will ever be a Unionist. I have no wish to substitute my Nationalism for something else, based on the partitioned six. I am Irish and that is what I will remain and I respect anyone else right to be what they want.

    There are certainly places where I have common ground with people, not least in my civic identity. But I will always be different from some of the other people living here. The sentiments are all very fine, but seem come a cropper on the rocks of that reality.

  • Garibaldy

    Kensei,

    I was suggesting that the separate but equal thing which seems to me to lie at the heart of Mc Donnell’s speech offers no long term solution to the division of the people living in Ireland. I want an independent and secular Ireland, but I can’t see that coming about while nationalists and unionists continue to think of themselves as fundametally different from one another. I think it will only come about from forging a new sense of communal identity. Outbreeding the unionists might well work eventually, but won’t make for a happy united Ireland.

    Of course, you’re right that my vision comes a cropper on the rocks of reality. However, I seek to change reality, not myself.

  • Urquhart

    Garibaldy, do you not think that he was on to something when he talked about the shared concerns of working families?:

    “Working families from both traditions share the same hopes and fears for their children. The struggle to pay the mortgage, afford childcare, find enough quality time with a young family and bring up kids with self respect and opportunity is the same, difficult struggle in all corners of my constituency and in all corners of Northern Ireland. ”

    Also, I thought his passage on victims and how they have been treated was excellent. Rather than talking about which religious side killed who, he’s distinguishing those who killed and apologised for killing against those who didn’t.

    Again I think he could be onto something with that. With Reg in bed with the UVF, it makes the SDLP the only mainstream party with clean hands – which is something to be rpoud of in my book.

  • kensei

    “I want an independent and secular Ireland, but I can’t see that coming about while nationalists and unionists continue to think of themselves as fundametally different from one another.”

    But in some senses, we are. Inothers, not that much.

    “I think it will only come about from forging a new sense of communal identity.”

    People will reject labels that forces them into places they don’t wnat to go. I am Irish, and I’d resist all attempts to categorise me otherwise. What communal identity can you use that emcompasses my opinion on that, and a Unionist who feels precisely the opposite?

    “However, I seek to change reality, not myself.”

    Good luck.

  • Garibaldy

    Urquhart,

    Certainly there were good things in the speech, as I think I said. Those are the sort of things I’m glad to see brought up. It is exactly such shared concerns that hold out the possibility of an alternative future (which answers your question too Kensei). But from my perspective, the SDLP accepts the sectarian division of our society and predicates itself on that. Viz Hume on integrated education, although I think that official policy may have changed on that.

    In terms of clean hands. What you say is substantially correct, and the victims thing was good too, although there are definition problems. From my point of view, those who operate in and reinforce the sectarian divisions of our society are guilty of fostering the climate for sectarian violence. That includes about 85-90% of the population. I am not saying that people in the SDLP and the UUP etc did not oppose violence, but they bear some responsibility for sustaining the division that produced it. I don’t expect you to agree with this, but it might be worth thinking about.

    Kensei,

    As I’ve said above, I hope that the reality of politics in the Assembly will make people realise that both unionism and nationalism care little for the day to day needs of people, and will happily implement the cutting of public services etc that will be dictated from London. Hopefully then they will look for alternatives, slowly and gradually though that may be. And I appreciate the much-needed good wishes.

  • Nathan

    IJP,

    The first part of his speech was very predictable e.g. unity between Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter – now where have I heard that before.

    It got better towards the end but by that stage I was bored to tears with the usual conventional style that passes for SDLP debate these days. Zzzzzzzz indeed.

    Dr McDonnell is a flawed politician and all I’m doing is exposing the flaws. First of all, he has rested the reputation of a great Irishman such as Wolfe Tone on a few crisp soundbites, cut adrift from the body of his work. As a result of politicians like himself, his life and his works have become a mystery. No-one knows his real life-story unless they consult a reputable book.

    Considering that after Oliver Cromwell, he was the founding father of Irish republicanism it is a scandal that his complete life-story has been dispensed from the national narrative.

    As a so-called persuader for Irish unity, Dr McDonnell should therefore be held partly culpable for this state of affairs. I could say the same about the Shinners, who bus their ignoramus canvessors down to Bodenstown every yr without doing the basics first such as organising a lecture on the mans life.

    Moreover, I don’t see Dr McDonnell laying down any practical project for a UI. As someone who has moved away from a feeling of indifference, to actually believing in the merits of an independent 32 county UI, I expect originality when it comes to Irish political thought. The SDLP, despite their democratic socialist credentials, do not offer this – thus, they must leave the political landscape ASAP and allow pragmatists such as Alex Maskey to break new political ground.

  • Carson’s Cat

    Why is it when I read the stuff about the Orange and Green in the ‘national’ flag that the only thing that I hear echoing around my head is – FLAGWATCH.

    If Alisdair is all that keen on reconciliation and tolerance then he wouldnt be encouraging people to report their neighbour to the SDLP website for having the audacity to fly a Union Flag from their own house.

  • Urquhart

    Nathan, you said: “they must leave the political landscape ASAP and allow pragmatists such as Alex Maskey to break new political ground.”

    You’re kidding, right?

  • Urquhart

    Also Nathan, I’ve read the start of the speech again and your criticism about his use of the ‘catholic, protestant and dissenter’ line is nonsense: the first thing he says is that it has become clichéd.

  • Garibaldy

    Particularly as he’s misquoting it. The very fact nationalists tend to reverse the actual order to put catholics first has always struck me as saying something subliminal about their assumptions.

    And quoting it may be cliched. Alas, trying to implement it remains deeply unpopular.

  • IJP

    Garibaldy

    Of course.

    You are right to caution.

    The “two power bloc” model has been shown to fail, it’s a pity the SDLP hasn’t realized it yet.

    I guess what I’m essentially saying is that if we only deal with those we agree with 100%, and if we dismiss everything we don’t agree with entirely, we’ll lead a lonely life!

  • IJP

    Nathan

    My above comments weren’t directed at you.

    You’re right to challenge.

    Again, all I’m saying is that if someone writes/delivers an 1,000-word speech, it’s easy to disagree with some of it and dismiss all of it.

    It’s not quite so easy to say: “You know, some of this stuff is a real basis for progress, let’s talk about it”.

    The process is hitting the rocks because people either dismiss things they don’t entirely agree with out of hand, or are not prepared to make real compromises even on some core issues where our people simply do not agree. (On that latter, Dr McDonnell would have to rise to his own challenge, of course.)

    In short, there’s no leadership out there.

  • IJP

    Alas, trying to implement it remains deeply unpopular.

    Good call. Sums it up exactly.

  • Garibaldy

    IJP,

    I agree we can’t only work with those we agree totally with. It’s just that this type of language can hide a very reactionary reality. Probably not in Mc Donnell’s case, but in some others certainly.

  • páid

    Agree (again) with IJP

    This ridiculous business about “outbreeding unionists” ( They may retaliate, with Officer Mackay shouting ‘Stand by your beds!’)

    I am a nationalist but I don’t want to live in a UI with 1 million plus people resenting and disloyal to their country.

    It would be like NI with a switch in roles.

    I am optimistic that within 20 years we may all swallow hard and set up affairs on an Ulster / Ireland / GB+I basis.

    And then get on with proper politics rather than headcounts and bullshit about marches.

  • bertie

    T.Ruth

    I am in agreement with a lot of your 10:50 post but at the moment the UUP has put itself outside the Pale and it needs to break its odious link to the PUP/UVF and make fulsome apology for doing it in the first place and by fulsome not some crap about it being the wrong time or tactic or even sorry for offence caused (although that should be part of of), but for doing something so imoral and despicable in the first place.

  • Nathan

    Urquhart,

    Alex Maskey has proven himself as a man who can rise above petty politics when necessary, and represent all of the community e.g. when Lord Mayor of Belfast.

    Therefore, he IS a pragmatist and he can build bridges while maintaining the credibility of his supporters.

    Dr McDonnell is a lightweight when compared with the assets (bar those rancid-minded canvessors) that exist in Sinn Fein today. If he considers himself a worthy rep, then he should ignore the clichés althogether. Wolfe Tone’s words are too worn out to be taken seriously I’m afraid.

  • T.Ruth

    Bertie
    I could not understand the UUP decision to incorporate the PUP in a special relationship to achieve a short term political advantage. If one looked at it only from a point of view of timing one would conclude that Sir Reg and co. had quite lost the plot. However I look at it from a moral democratic point of view and in that respect it is inexcusable. It prevents anyone in the UUP from declaring that they hold the moral high ground in relation to terrorism. For years the condemnation by Unionists of the relationship(inextricably linked) between Sinn Fein and the PIRA has been quite justified and those links remain.
    We need a society where everyone is dedicated to producing the maximum posssible happiness and well being for all our people.
    Those who can contribute to that are part of the solution. There is no place in a future Northern Ireland Executive for those wedded, however tenuous the link, to criminality and terror. Their is no place for those connected to organisations which have a destabilising effect our society for political ends.
    T.Ruth

  • T.Ruth

    “there is no place for those connected to organisations which seek to have a destabilising effect on our society to achieve political ends.”