Unionism – the true enemy of freedom

Following the devastating news that Daily Ireland is to fold, I was reading Martin O Muilleoir’s blog when I came across this:

Those of us who remember John Bruton’s execrable coalition putting a spanner in the peace process works in the 90s after Albert Reynolds fell from grace, know that a government in Dublin which has a visceral empathy for unionism is not good for the cause of freedom.

Is my orange jump suit in Guantanamo ready yet? He probably means “freedom” for de Valera’s mythical Irish nation, which in its self is an odd thing to say, but it struck me as rather pointed that a republican would point to anyone with a semblance of, or even who gives the impression of, understanding unionism as an enemy of freedom.

Best be careful not to get too close when doing that outreach work eh Martina?

  • EWI

    de Valera’s mythical Irish nation

    No more mythical than the Unionist “Ulster”, mind you.

    but it struck me as rather pointed that a republican would point to anyone with a semblance of, or even who gives the impression of, understanding unionism as an enemy of freedom.

    Now you’re just misrepresenting what we both know he meant – that John Unionist has a lot more than just an “understanding” for Unionism.

  • Dec

    Quite EWI

    Hence the phrase Visceral empathy. Perhaps that means the same as Understanding in Michael’s Dictionary.

    Having said that, its refreshing to see Michael back at blogging, liberally cutting and pasting the words of others, and loosely hanging a thread around them, with scant regard for original context. Especially after last months debacle.

  • Peking

    Well I suppose this does make a change from a daily dose of daddy’s exploits.

  • nmc

    Doesn’t quite read like UUP election material though, especially when printed on a white background, as opposed to a black and yellow one…

  • darth rumsfeld

    tut tut – seems like all the ex-journos on DI have descended on this thread in the scramble for the vacant janitor’s job on the Andytown Spews

  • I’m not sure how a lack of hostility for unionism (on the part of the Irish government, or any other party in these islands) is supposed to be bad for freedom in any sense?

    Wouldn’t tolerance and greater mutual understanding help bridgebuilding, and help all sides to address historic grievances?

    Wouldn’t addressing the grievances of all parties help bring a sense of freedom from past injustices?

    How can that be bad for freedom?

  • Manichaeism

    Unionism is the enemy of Irish freedom. I would have thought that was rather obvious.

  • Obvious? Not really, Mani.

    Unless you define freedom as “freedom from Britain”, and ignore any practical issues that might make a real difference in people’s day to day lives.

    I see the “unionist engagement” meme hasn’t spread too far!

  • harpo

    Michael S:

    What you say is true. IRs often do this – try to yell down anyone who shows any understanding, tolerance or even empathy for unionism.

    According to the IR script, nationalism is right and unionism is wrong. No deviation from that script is to be allowed, and anyone who shows signs of deviation is to be condemned as a west-Brit or even a unionist.

    I always find it amusing when IRs call fellow Irishmen/Irishwomen west-Brits or even unionists, for simply saying what reality is – that unionism is a valid political aspiration. It shows the usual IR intolerance for any opinion other than their version of Irishness, so that any Irish person who dares voice such an opinion is basically called a traitor. Where’s the willingness to listen to all opinions that IRs keep on telling us about? In such cases you say the wrong thing – you are called a traitor.

    Partition was not inherently wrong. Some Irish people recognize that. It was simply a two-state solution to the problem of having two peoples on the island. That solution has worked elsewhere, and is often proposed as a solution where two lots of people inhabit one land mass.

    IRs need to drop this demonization of any Irish person who dares face and state reality. They need to accept that nationalism and unionism are simply two competing, equally valid, political aspirations.

  • harpo

    ‘Unionism is the enemy of Irish freedom.’

    Manichaeism:

    That’s only correct if you define Irish freedom in the way that nationalists do – to them it is an independent state that includes all 32 counties on the island.

    It’s also just as true that Irish nationalism is the enemy of unionist freedom. Unionist freedom being defined as Northern Ireland remaining within the UK.

    I suppose when it comes down to it, one man’s freedom is another man’s imprisonment.

    If nationalists feel that they are currently imprisoned in the UK, unionists would feel equally imprisoned in a 32 county united Ireland.

    The wishes of the majority in Northern Ireland at any point in time don’t come into it. The current unionist majority in NI doesn’t make nationalists feel any better, just as a nationalist majority in NI that took NI into a united Ireland wouldn’t make unionists feel any better in that united Ireland.

  • Rory

    unionism is a valid political aspiration

    But of course it is, Harpo. So is fascism, so is conservatism, but like these two none of them are conducive to the welfare of the majority of people but rather are intended to further the ends of an exploitative and ruthless section of society.

    The job of those who concern themselves with the welfare of the common man is to combat and destroy them and bring an end to the conditions that created them and allowed them to flourish.

  • Manichaeism

    Totally agree with you harpo. Of course no one wants to be described as an enemy of freedom but in the context in which Northern Ireland finds itself one side or the other is going to deny it to someone. Describing Irish freedom as freedom from British rule may be a narrow definition but I don’t think Ireland has changed sufficiently yet to define it in any other way. I think if the UK suddenly found itself ruled by France the British definition of freedom would suddenly become a very narrow one which also had only one aspiration

  • Bushmills

    Rory (O Braidaigh perchance?)

    You lambast Unionism and link it with conservatism and fascism in your post. Is it not possible to be concerned with the welfare of “the working man” and be a Unionist at the same time? I don’t seem to recall reading in The Communist Manifesto or Das Kapital that a belfief in the creation of a 32-county Republic or Ireland was a necessary prerequisite to classifying oneself as a socialist.

    In fact what I do seem to recall from those publications is that petty nationalism and a fixation with increasing the power/size of the state are actually un-socialist views in the extreme.

    I suggest some further reading before spouting out your half-baked philosophy/tribal hatred and attempting to put the tag of “concern for the working man” on it again.

  • Peking

    Bushmills
    You’re wasting your time there. Those who puport to “concern themselves with the welfare of the common man” are currently aligned, and have found common ground with, some of the most repressive regimes and religious belief systems in the world. Ask the women and gays labouring under the extreme Islamic theocracies that the likes of Rory have so much sympathy with, about “welfare for the common man”.

  • Bushmills

    Peking

    Spot on. It’s the rank hypocrisy I simply cannot stand of some on the left who while happy to whitter on about equality and universal rights, happily cheer the Mad Mullahs who want to deny those rights to everyone.

    In Rory’s case, like most Provettes he likes to talk the leftist talk, but boil it all down and its no more than visceral tribalism.

  • Mani,

    Thanks for your acknowledgement of the sad symmetry of the “freedom for unionists” vs “freedom for nationalists” mindsets.

    Ignoring for the moment whether the UK suddenly coming under French (EU?) rule would be comparable to the counties of Northern Ireland having been part of some form of Union with Britain for most of the past millennium, I think “Ireland” HAS TO move beyond a definition of freedom as being “what nationalists want” or “what unionists want”, and towards a definition that actually takes into account practical rights and freedoms.

    I’m talking about real, useful freedoms here. Things that actually affect people on a daily basis: freedom from arbitrary detention or attack by terrorists; freedom to vote and organise politically; freedom to carry on business and make an honest living; freedom from discrimination based on politics, religion, race or gender; freedom of worship, assembly, and speech. That sort of thing.

    Not “my flag rather than yours is flying over the government”! That is a futile, zero-sum definition.

  • Rory, I don’t think you’ve made the case that a union of nations in some more or less federated system is fundamentally not “conducive to the welfare of the majority of people but rather …intended to further the ends of an exploitative and ruthless section of society.

    Arguably such a solution contains influences that can mitigate the risk of simple majoritarianism.

  • BogExile

    ‘….The job of those who concern themselves with the welfare of the common man is to combat and destroy them and bring an end to the conditions that created them and allowed them to flourish. ‘

    Oh God. Dave Spart is alive and well. Such lofty and pompous self-delusion. I’m guessing the author is:

    a) In his teens
    b) Doesn’t get out much
    c) Is regurgitating spoon fed republican agit prop which resonates with nothing in the real world

    Those in NI who purport to represent the ‘common man’ are normally those who express their communitarianism with a power tool in one hand and a giro in the other.

    Whether you consider unionism vailid or vile, it’s just like republicanism, you can’t disinvent it and neither philosophy is inherently fascistic. (Although too many of its adherents are)

  • kensei

    Has the man and ball rule been suspended around here?

  • Peking

    kensei
    Stop diving. You’re just like one of those football players who keeps waving imaginary cards at the ref trying to get his opponents sent off because he can’t hack it.

  • harpo

    ‘but like these two none of them are conducive to the welfare of the majority of people but rather are intended to further the ends of an exploitative and ruthless section of society.’

    Rory:

    Says you. Thanks for sharing your opinion.

    Conservatism has often been all about the welfare of the majority of the people. But I take your point – since partition Irish conservatism has often been all about enriching the few at the expense of the majority of the people.

    ‘The job of those who concern themselves with the welfare of the common man is to combat and destroy them and bring an end to the conditions that created them and allowed them to flourish.’

    Good luck with that. There are many who are benefiting from the Celtic Tiger who will oppose your efforts in this direction.

    You sound like someone from the Soviet Union. The people are going to get what you want them to get, no matter if they aren’t interested in it. Concern for the ‘welfare of the common man’ is often just code for totalitarianism.

  • harpo

    ‘I’m talking about real, useful freedoms here’

    Paul:

    But doesn’t everyone in the EU have just those useful freedoms?

    The big point that has to be made to everyone, is that just becuase you don’t have the constitutional arrangement that you would like for the place in which you live, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have all of the useful freedoms that everyone else in the EU has.

    So if you are an Irish nationalist living in Northern Ireland you have all of the freedoms that anyone else in the EU has. The fact that you don’t like the fact that NI is currently part of the UK doesn’t mean that you aren’t free. None of your human rights are being infringed upon. Yiou have all of the useful freedoms that anyone else has.

    Seeing the flag of your choice flying over the territory is not a right. It may be your desire or wish, but there is no right involved. Just as in any future united Ireland, some disgruntled unionist may not like the ROI flag flying over County Antrim. But no right is being denied to them.

  • John East Belfast

    I am Irish, Unionist and Free

  • Patrique

    Not too long ago If you were a leftie in a Provie area you had to be a “stick” and therefore an enemy. Labour can wait was one of their great slogans.And Bushmills is spot on.

  • Billy

    Michael

    EWI is absolutely correct – Bruton did not just have a “visceral empathy for unionism”. He was very pro-unionist.

    I’m all for an understanding of the position of others (that’s the only way we’ll ever make any peaceful progress here) but there is a difference.

    There are numerous complaints on here about Peter Hain – a British Secretary of State that unionists feel actually has ” a visceral empathy” for nationalism.

    I don’t know if that is true but I can understand that Unionists would be concerned that their interests are not best represented by someone with these views.

    Well, why should Nationalists not be entitled to the same concerns? Apart from being a very poor leader, Bruton was more concerned about the views of Northern Unionists than Irish nationalists. I ceratinly didn’t want my views (as a moderate Nationalist) represented by Bruton and I know an awful lot of fellow nationalists who felt the same.

  • Lord Gilnahirk

    JEB,

    I assume you mean you are British-Irish, as you are a subject of Her Majesty The Queen.

  • micktvd

    Those who puport to “concern themselves with the welfare of the common man” are currently aligned, and have found common ground with, some of the most repressive regimes and religious belief systems in the world. Ask the women and gays labouring under the extreme Islamic theocracies that the likes of Rory have so much sympathy with, about “welfare for the common man”.

    When will people stop with this tiresome attack on ‘leftists’ for not signing up to the fraudulent ‘War on Terror.’ Let’s make this clear once and for all. Most leftists do not align with theocracies or dictatorships in the Arab or Islamic world. Most leftists watch with growing horror as the likes of Bush, Blair and Howard create conditions perfect for the further growth of Al Quaeda and the Jihadists. Most leftists try to distinguish between rank terrorism and armed resistance,not always an easy task. Most leftists have a long history of supporting Arab Nationalism and not Islamic radicalism. Some of the powers opposed to US/UK policy are secular(PLO,Baathists, Syria, etc) and some of those who signed up for it are theocratic (Kuhwait, Saudi Arabia) Most leftists simply do not believe that this war is about safety or human rights, but rather obedience and domination.

  • DK

    Micktvd,

    You might be interested to know that there was a document called the “Euston Manifesto” signed by a lot of lefists that says exactly what you say – that being left wing is not about supporting the theocracies, and also does not automatically mean that you have to oppose everything Israel and America do.

  • Paul: ’I’m talking about real, useful freedoms here’
    harpo: But doesn’t everyone in the EU have just those useful freedoms? The big point that has to be made to everyone, is that just becuase you don’t have the constitutional arrangement that you would like for the place in which you live, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have all of the useful freedoms that everyone else in the EU has.

    That’s pretty much my point!

    Although, with the “war” against terror, and ever increasing state surveillance (compulsory ID cards, National citizen fingerprint database, satellite tracking of cars in the name of “road pricing” in the UK, for instance), I’m not sure that will continue to be the case.

    As a matter of interest, how is big brother doing in the South?

  • micktvd

    DK, I’ve read the Euston Manifesto and quite frankly I don’t support it’s main idea, that we face an enemy as powerful, oppressive and determined as fascism in the thirties and this requires that we make alliances with those whom we would otherwise oppose ( this is a very loose summary based on memory). As this is a bit OT I might leave it there.

    As far as supporting some of the things the US does; the East Timor situation is a really clear example. I personally begged the US, along with thousands of other Australians to intervene in 1999, and they did, along with the Australian military. But I wasn’t calling for them to bomb Jakarta or invade Indonesia or engage in geopolitical opportunism by implementing a long cherished plan for regional domination. I’d also been calling for the world to intervene there since the 1980s, and had watched while the West resupplied the Sukharto dictatorship with arms at crucial times, including when they were running low after major and murderous offensives. I won’t go on. But you see the situation that faces people with memories and judgements to make. To label leftists like myself islamo-fascist apologists or fellow travellers of theocracy, etc. is, in my view simplistic and annoying, especially from people who have a genuine committment to human rights and liberal values.

  • DK

    “DK, I’ve read the Euston Manifesto and quite frankly I don’t support it’s main idea, that we face an enemy as powerful, oppressive and determined as fascism in the thirties and this requires that we make alliances with those whom we would otherwise oppose ( this is a very loose summary based on memory)”

    The Euston Manifesto says the bit about the enemy but certainly doesn’t say that we should make alliances with those we oppose otherwise. It says the very opposite – my enemies enemy is not my friend. Only you don’t get many leftists supporting the USA, but a worrying number supporting theocracies, simply because they are fighting the USA or whoever.

    Here’s the link to it:
    http://eustonmanifesto.org/joomla/content/view/12/41/

    and key quotes:

    “That US foreign policy has often opposed progressive movements and governments and supported regressive and authoritarian ones does not justify generalized prejudice against either the country or its people.”

    “The violation of basic human rights standards at Abu Ghraib, at Guantanamo, and by the practice of ‘rendition’, must be roundly condemned for what it is: a departure from universal principles, for the establishment of which the democratic countries themselves, and in particular the United States of America, bear the greater part of the historical credit.”

  • Greenflag

    Is Northern Ireland ‘Unionism’ an ideology ? If it is it’s an incomplete ideology for it’s not shared by almost half the people living in Northern Ireland nor is it shared by 85% of the people living on the island of Ireland nor by the majority of people in Britain.

    Communism ‘collapsed’ because it focused (or at least it’s theorists did) -Marx -Engels etc on the very human need/desire to share . It failed to recognise that humans also have a need/desire to acquire and by this I don’t mean only in the material sense. Human beings (including Unionists and Republicans ) also have desires to defend their sense of self asnd to ‘bond’ with others of the same cultural/economic/political/religious/interest backgrounds . It’s when any of the latter are threatened or attacked that we (as human beings resort to war /conflict /violence etc.

    The focus of 19th century laissez faire ‘raw’ capitalism was in allowing the market to ‘decide’ the fate of people . One million Irish died in the Great Famine -1848 as a result So too did 27 million Indians during the heyday of the British Raj . Globalisation may yet turn out to be another ‘incomplete’ ideology in that it’s inherent promise of goodies for everybody on the planet may not be realisable due to scarce resources -enrgy-oil -water -land etc. . It seems to me that there are many on the left whose focus is still on a world that used to be, whereas the focus on the extreme right is on a world which in time may ‘flatten’ the expectations of millions in the Western developed economies and frustrate the hopes of the billions in the developing world . Osama Bin Laden is no joke . A billion poverty stricken Arabs from Morocco to Palestine is a political time bomb that sooner or later will explode outward and inward with far reaching consequences for the ‘West’ .

    NI Unionism is a valid political standpoint in Northern Ireland . It appeals to Unionists who value their economic /social/historical bond with Britain over any similar bond with Ireland . This ‘bond’ despite having been apparently weakened by the political/economic and demographic changes which have taken place within NI and across all of Ireland over the past 20 years have been not surprisingly strengthened by the ‘troubles’ and by the continuing pressure from Republicans for a UI .
    Unionists will continue to defend their ‘incomplete ideology’ for as long as the ‘demographics’ hold out and for some Unionists, the ‘cult ‘ wing ‘ even long after should the demographics shunt them into a UI. This latter is increasingly seen as unlikely which is why a large number of garden centre Unionists can still ‘ignore’ the polls at voting time in local and general elections .

    Those who ‘fanatically’ believe in a UI as being the Holy Grail of political objectives miss out on or care nothing for Unionist ‘attachment’ to the UK . They see Unionism as a mind trap -an aberration of history -a colonial leftover -and increasingly today a political and economic toad in the hole isolated in a post colonial world .

    NI Unionism IMO has reached the end of the road at least in a 6 county NI. I can however see it continuing to ‘survive’ in a repartitioned NI.

    Sir Reg Empey made the point that NI wants to be just like Wales or Scotland . But the reality is that NI is not Wales nor is it Scotland . And if Sir Reg does not wish for NI to be ruled by MInisters from darkest Wiltshire then he must surely understand those in Northern Ireland who never wished to be ruled from even an ‘darker’ Stormont .

  • To summarise: “Unionism is an incomplete ideology because it’s not shared by all the people.”
    “Globalism is an incomplete ideology because it may not deliver on its promises.”

    You’ve lost me. I’m not sure that word means what you think it means, Greenflag…

  • Greenflag

    John East Belfast ,

    ‘I am Irish, Unionist and Free ‘

    Not according to Sir Reggie Empey UUP as follows from the Belfast Telegraph

    ‘Social and economic challenges need to be dealt with by accountable people and not by a minister whose constituency is in deepest, darkest Wiltshire.’

    And here’s even more ‘rebellion’ from the ungrateful Reggie .

    ‘At the forefront of my mind, too, is a desire to see real politics working for all of us in Northern Ireland. It is long overdue that we take our place alongside our colleagues in Wales and Scotland in collectively shaping the political future of Northern Ireland, free from Direct Rule masters who treat our people like guinea pigs in some sort of social experiment. ‘

    ‘free from Direct Rule masters who treat our people like guinea pigs in some sort of social experiment.’

    As bad as that Reggie ?

    Isn’t this what Irish Republicans and Nationalists have been saying since the 1790’s ?

    The guinea pigs is a ‘social experiment’ is perhaps a little extreme . One million guinea pigs SFAIK never died of hunger while under British rule. On the other hand we can’t blame the British Government for their 19th century ‘laissez faire’ principles . Anyway there was too much money and better returns to be made from that jewel of Empire -India and of course other ‘resource’ rich colonies . What could Ireland offer apart from potatoes , cheap labour and plenty of recruiting fodder for the army and navy .

    Sir Reggie means well but I’m afraid his desire to see ‘real politics’ working in NI is about as probable as Montenegro landing a spacecraft on Uranus in 2006 .

    Forget devolution -Most people now don’t want it anyway . The fact that it works /can work in Scotland or Wales is immaterial . Communism was made to work in East Germany (1945-1989) but eventually it could not deliver the goods . Devolution IMO will be no different . It is a neither here nor there solution and fundamentally is undemocratic . It also cements ‘sectarianism’ into local NI politics or more accurately pours more cement on an already ‘concreted in’ society .

  • Rory

    Paul is correct when he argues that I do not make a case that any union of states is by definition inimical to the mass of people within those states. We have after all had the Soviet Union, the United States of America and the European Union to name but a few.

    But within context I was clearly speaking of Ulster Unionism which has always been inimical to the mass of people in Ireland including the majority of its own supporters. That unionism has always been monarchist, exclusively protestant and fiercely resistant to any progress of the working man or woman against the interests of business or property.

    It is of course theoretically possible that an Ulster form of a socialist republican unionism or indeed a communiist unionist party might arise, but it seems so highly improbable as to be discounted entirely.

  • kensei

    “Stop diving. You’re just like one of those football players who keeps waving imaginary cards at the ref trying to get his opponents sent off because he can’t hack it.”

    Diving? Imaginary? Tally that with:

    “Oh God. Dave Spart is alive and well. Such lofty and pompous self-delusion. I’m guessing the author is:

    a) In his teens
    b) Doesn’t get out much
    c) Is regurgitating spoon fed republican agit prop which resonates with nothing in the real world ”

    I’m merely growing more and more irritated with the prevalence of personal attacks around here and general nastiness. Could the Powers That Be sort it the fuck out.

  • Greenflag

    Paul,

    Apologies it was abit rushed .

    “Unionism is an incomplete ideology because it’s not shared by all the people.”

    Take as examples the traditionally accepted ideologies of Communism , Nazism , Fascism or indeed the ‘religious ‘ ideologies of medieval Christianity or Islam . These ‘belief systems’ tried and to a large extent succeeded in roping in ‘all the people ‘ during their heydays and even today in some parts of the Islamic world you do not ‘dissent’ if you want to live. Unionism never succeeded in ‘roping in’ almost half the population of NI thus ‘incomplete’.
    All of these political and religious ‘ideologies ‘ mentioned eventually failed because large numbers of people stopped believing in them or they were defeated in War (Nazism ) by economics (Communism ) or by a combination of science and secularism (Christianity) . But behind all of these ‘ideological’ failures lies the fact that that each tried to exaggerate the importance of one particular aspect of human identity . For the Nazis (Race) for the Communists (Desire for Economic Equality) for Religions (Human spirituality and place in the world). Behind the failure of NI as ‘democratic state’ lies Unionists ‘exaggeration ‘ of their Britishness and Irish Republican’s ‘exageration’ of their Irishess . The politcal focus in NI on this aspect of identity is seen in other parts of Britain and Ireland as ‘odd’ ?

    “Globalism is an incomplete ideology because it may not deliver on its promises.”

    For as long as the ideologies mentioned above (Communism etc ) survived they were seen as ‘delivering ‘ on their promises even if at the end only by the governing officials and establishment /priests etc etc. . BY the time Nazism could not deliver the 13th year of it’s 1,000 year Reich it was already history . When ideologies or belief systems are seen to no longer be able to deliver on their promises or be seen as coherent in their ‘interpretation’ of the real world or their view of man’s nature is seen to be at odds with the human condition then they disappear from history or cease to have all powerful control over men’s minds , thoughts and actions .

    By incomplete ideology I mean that human nature being what is – it’s unlikely that any political or religious ideology will ever be able to fully satisfy the ‘ human’ condition. In this respect ‘globalisation ‘ although beneficial in many respects may also in time come to be questioned for it’s ‘failure’ to deliver’

    I hope this brief explanation helps to get my point across

    As to the thread topic Unionism is not IMHO an enemy of freedom . It’s an ‘incomplete’ ideology that satisfies many of the desires /needs / bonds etc of the Unionist population in Northern Ireland . Unfortunately Unionists live in a Northern Ireland in which almost half the population have a different ‘incomplete’ ideology.

    Ideology in the above context is probably too strong word. We all know that within Unionism and Irish Republicanism /Nationalism there are many ‘dissenters’ .