“When we discuss these issues with genuine mutual understanding..”

Former Ireland rugby international Hugo MacNeill, in the Irish Times [subs req], calls for a wider debate than the one previously suggested by Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.. and leads the way into it by paraphrasing the oft-quoted poet John Hewitt

“Firstly, I am an Ulsterman steeped in the traditions of this place. Secondly, I am Irish, of this Ireland. Thirdly, I am British, and finally, in a more diffuse way, I am European. It may make it easier for you to understand if you remove one of those elements but if you do you are no longer describing who I am.”

Hugo MacNeill starts by describing his interest in the question of identity [subs req]

The question of the North has always fascinated me. So too has the relationship between Ireland and Britain. Why? It is a matter of who – and what – I am. Ancestors from Glenarm in Co Antrim; a family involved in Irish history; growing up in Dublin; at college in Trinity and Oxford; playing rugby for Ireland with my Ulster team-mates; living in England for nearly 20 years; and now back in Dublin but working in London two days a week for an international organisation.

And he ends with a call for a less narrowly defined, “new framework, a new language in which these issues are discussed”

There is now a relationship between Britain and Ireland that would have been unimaginable just over a decade ago. We no longer believe in the stereotypes: the mischievous, cunning Irish; the haughty arrogant English.

These changes bring fantastic opportunity on the one hand and great challenges on the other. In turn they demand changes in the way we think about many economic, social and cultural issues. They also demand changes in the way we think about the North and indeed the South.

We need a new framework, a new language in which these issues are discussed. We need to explicitly recognise the changed and changing context in which they play out, in all parts of our island and with our UK neighbours. Pursuing one path based on one set of beliefs or assumptions, whilst not recognising the wider set of changes, the views of the other parties, will lead to a narrow and increasingly divided society, principally in the North (where such matters do continue to be of daily importance), but also on the wider island.

When we discuss these issues with genuine mutual understanding we are more likely to build a better future for all the people on this island whilst continuing to strengthen the bonds with our neighbours across the Irish Sea. This will probably involve a richer, less black or white, more complex set of assumptions and relationships than have been discussed to date. However, it’s a big and worthy prize. Let’s go for it.

The paraphrasing by Hugo MacNeill is from a paragraph in this letter from John Hewitt to John Montague in 1964

I always maintained that our loyalties had an order to Ulster, to Ireland, to the British Archipelago, to Europe; and that anyone who skipped a step or missed a link falsified the total. The Unionists missed out Ireland: the Northern Nationalists (The Green Tories) couldn’t see the Ulster under their feet; the Republicans missed out both Ulster and the Archipelago; and none gave any heed to Europe at all. Now, perhaps, willy nilly bundled in the European rump of the Common Market, clearer ideas of our regional and national allegiances and responsibilities may emerge, or our whole sad stubborn conglomeration of nations may founder and disappear for ever.

,

  • mickhall

    “Firstly, I am an Ulsterman steeped in the traditions of this place. Secondly, I am Irish, of this Ireland. Thirdly, I am British, and finally, in a more diffuse way, I am European.

    Question?

    Is it possible to be all four, yet no longer give allegiance to the UK State.

    Regards to all.

  • smcgiff

    Mickhall,

    One would be tempted to suggest you’ve provided the definition of a Dublin 4 resident. 🙂

  • smcgiff

    I can only see closer and closer ties between the Republic and Britain. I think that pace will go hand and hand with an increase in North-South relationship.

  • kensei

    Interesting. The bit that he misses out, however, is that the relationship between the Republic and the UK has improved, and old assumptions dropped, because it is a relationship between equals and not been between master and servant. The Republic trades with the UK, but is probably less dependent on it at any other point in it’s history.

    The original quote he paraphrases from is complete nonsense, however.

    “I always maintained that our loyalties had an order to Ulster, to Ireland, to the British Archipelago, to Europe; and that anyone who skipped a step or missed a link falsified the total. The Unionists missed out Ireland: the Northern Nationalists (The Green Tories) couldn’t see the Ulster under their feet; the Republicans missed out both Ulster and the Archipelago; and none gave any heed to Europe at all. Now, perhaps, willy nilly bundled in the European rump of the Common Market, clearer ideas of our regional and national allegiances and responsibilities may emerge, or our whole sad stubborn conglomeration of nations may founder and disappear for ever.”

    Where to start? Nationalism has loyalties to Ulster, but rather the full 9 county version rather the the 6 county statelet that Unionism seems so keen on promoting. Second the idea that Nationalism should have some sort of allegiance to the “Archipegalo” is flat out wrong. AT various points in it’s history, Irish Nationalism has had allegiances with varying European powers. The same could be said for Scotland, (or even England, when you think about it). The questions is always the same: who does National interest coincide with. Finally, it misses out everyone else, and a section of Ireland’s cultural vitality comes from the diaspora.

    It is interesting to see how other people see themselves. The problems arise when you start pushing how you see yourselves onto others.

  • mickhall

    Couple of points, after Iraq, Blairs major failure has been not to bring the UK into the heart of the EU, if anything we are no nearer to this today than under Thatcher. Which just shows how far Blair is in the pockets of the most reactionary English elements.

    Any one know the percentages of the RoI trade with the UK and the rest of the EU and world? If anything the EU has been a far greater motor for reunification than armed struggle, yet it seems of late to have stalled.

    I would love to hear from Unionists as to my question above, is it possible to be British yet not give allegiance to the UK State. It is a serious question, or is all Britishness based on the Finchly criteria.

  • confused

    Is Hugo McNeill the grandson of Eoin McNeill who played such a pivotal role in the fight for Irish independence? If so it represents a huge change in one family’s attitude within two generations.
    I remember Hugo being the best full back to have worn the green jersey and so brave.
    I am pleased he has done so well for himself.

  • Two Nations

    I believe it to be a complete myth that the Irish identity is unique from the British identity.

    Irishness is an intrinsic part of the British identity. Always has and always will be.

    The mistake Irish nationalism makes is to equate Britishness with (southern) Englishness. It is not. There are distinct differences between a native of Sussex and an Irish Gael, but the same can be said for a Sussex man to a Highlander, Yorkshireman or Ulsterman. The Union is just that, a union of identities that may have differences but who all still have the same core identity.

    However, the similarity of the Irish Gael to the West Welsh, Highlanders and Cornish is most profound

    It is time for the Irish to shake off this mistaken belief that they are not British. They are as British as Maggie Thatcher. Hopefully with time they will come to realise this and start enriching the Union again.

  • kensei

    The idea of a “British” identity rather than the constituent parts is a comparatively recent one, driven by Union, Empire and Protestantism. All of which the “Irish Gael” wasn’t a full paid up member of. All of which are also either gone, or on the wane.

    The Irish Gael is clearly different anyway; the difference is plain to see in the fact there are now two states, Two Nations. Ideals of Republicanism and independence from Continental Europe and the US took root in Ireland in a way they didn’t elsewhere and they are pretty fundamental differences from the rest of the UK and where more fundamental at the start of the 20C.

    But even if we accept for a second your supposition that we are all British, does the Union follow as the natural and right form of government? Clearly not and Scotland is currently weighing up the advantages or otherwise. I could see an argument for a loose collection of states, but it has been rather superceded by the EU.

    And if the Irish see British as English, then that would be because the English so totally dominate the Union by virtue of their mass, and by the fact they only recently have cottoned on that they actually might, possibly, be different.

  • Pete Baker

    Mick

    I’d suggest that the allegiances John Hewitt referred to are cultural and societal rather than political.

    As he pointed out, political movements have tended to ignore certain layers of those allegiances for their own ends.

    That’s possibly why Hugo MacNeill calls for a new framework and a new language to discuss the issues – although a better understanding, a less politically loaded interpretation, of the allegiance to the archipelago would probably be the most beneficial in that discussion.

  • Harry

    In the midst of all his philosophising it’s interesting that Hugo MacNeill chooses to forgo any analysis of yet another input into the core meaning of identity in n. ireland – that 15% of the population of the island so hated their neighbours and were so used to a position of privilege and disdain that they refused to coutenance being in a more subordinate position within a united ireland. That they were enabled to do this by threatening a force out of all proportion to their numbers due to british support and that they corralled a huge number of irish people into their new state to do this, regardless of the anti-democratic nature of doing so. At present 45% of the population are still corralled, a number that would be bigger had they not been subjected to 50 years of what may be termed ‘economic sanctions’ with the intention, and result, of making their emigration rate 3 times higher than the emigration rate for protestants.

    One would think he’d deal with the salient facts first before flying off on a waffle-fest of management-speak. If he’s interested in identity and how it relates to the political set-up of northern ireland he is surely remiss in not talking about the common and widespread before concentrating upon the vague and aspirational? After all, this is how we got here and this is why we are here to this day.

  • Frustrated Democrat

    I think that the Irish and British nations grow closer together in culture and politics with every passing year.

    The ideals of a United Ireland and a United Kingdom belong in the last century; what we need is a United Isles with separate legislative units in each state and an overall Union that dictates how we interact with the EU and the rest of the world. It may well be that political parties would organise across the various borders e.g. I can see the Tories and Fine Gael and UUP fitting into one party very easily and Labour and the Liberal Democrats also have their bedfellows.

    Together the five countries would have a much greater role to play on the world stage than the countries have separately or as the UK and Ireland. Each country could still maintain its individual unique culture while playing a full part in a United Isles.

    I am British, Irish, Northern Irish and an Ulsterman and I do not need anyone else to tell me what my heritage and culture are or should be those things are personal to me. I believe that for the c. 75 million people who live in these Isles that a unity of purpose would be in the best interests and all. The narrow political nuances of the parties in Northern Ireland should be set aside for the good of all. After listening to all the parties polcies the only thing that really divides them is a line on a map and blinkers on their eyes.

  • Henry94

    The bottom line for Irish nationalism is political independence. Any set of identities that Hugo McNeill or anybody else cares for can be accommodated within that.

    If Scotland for example voted to leave the Union those with a British cultural identity would not have to surrender it. But in our case the British identity of the minority was hostile to the democratic will of the people of Ireland as a whole.

    In my view you can’t honestly claim to be Irish and to be a democrat and to support partition.

  • Aaron McDaid

    Even if every single county in these two islands became an independent sovereign state, the islands would still be called Ireland and Britain, and the inhabitants would be Irish and British. Therefore ‘Irish’ and ‘British’ have clear meanings distinct from politics and even maybe from culture. So unionists are Irish.

    Now my next point. If two Irish people meet in the US and bring up kids, those children would likely describe themselves as American and as Irish-American, but they probably wouldn’t say they are Irish. So your cultural/ancestral heritage is prefixed to where you were born, and does not replace it. So Irish unionists (as opposed to Welsh unionists for example) can be called British-Irish or maybe even Scots-Irish for many of them. They wouldn’t call themselves just Scottish, so that leaves the big question – can they be called British without further qualification? Wouldn’t British-Irish be more accurate than simply ‘British’?

    Now, the state that controlled Britain and Ireland (and India and so on …) was called the UK. Strictly speaking, it wasn’t called Britain. Therefore it would make more sense to say Ireland and India were UKish than to say they were British. The problem is that “UKish” just sounds stupid, so instead of attempting to form myths about “UKishness” they formed myths around “Britishness”. The “Britishness” myths obviously made more sense around the time of the union between England and Scotland to form Great Britain in 1707.

    So, in conclusion, I want you to imagine two scenarios.

    First, imagine that island to the east of Ireland was never given the name of Britain. The state formed by the union of Scotland and England in 1707 would have been called the UK, not ‘Great Britain’. Fast forward to the present day and we would have English and Scottish and Irish unionists all proclaiming their “Englishness”. There would be no ‘Britain’ word for them to use, and “UKish” would sound pretty stupid. From our point of view this surely would be wierd? Irish unionists don’t call themselves English (except for those who really do have a close connection with England of course).

    The second hypothetical scenario to consider is where the union of the kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland was given a sensible name, a name which could have “-ish” appended and sound reasonable. I can’t think of a suitable name right now, so I’m going to just call it X. Anyway, in that case people would be talking about Xishness and being Xish. Unionists throughout the world would be calling themselves Xish, and the idea of an Irish unionist calling themselves British would look just as stupid as an Indian unionist calling themselves Welsh.

    So “British” only means what it does (and it’s not very clear what it means) because “UKish” sounds pretty stupid. Irish unionists are Irish and they are UKish. The only reason most of them can also call themselves British-Irish or Scots-Irish is because of some cultural and religious heritage passed down from blood ancestors. Compare this to native Gael* unionists who might see themselves as UKish, but shouldn’t see themselves as British or even British-Irish.

    So does anybody think I’m onto something when I ask how things might have turned out linguistically if “UKish” didn’t sound so stupid? Or is all of the above (instead of just most of the above) nonsense?

    * (there’s no such thing as a purebred native gael of course, we’re all mongrels, but let’s pretend we’re not mongrels)

  • Greenflag

    I’m a Dubliner -Irish -European with nearest cousins in the UK. The provincial Leinster does’nt have great appeal although I’m prepared to accept that for Ulstermen and Munstermen that may be important . I’m not opposed to being considered British in the societal/cultural sense as long as it’s not political . I consider the Scots to be our closest cousins followed by the English and Welsh. I’m all in favour of greater educational , cultural and economic ties with the UK but I believe it’s been good for Ireland and most of the Irish people- that we ‘withdrew’ politically from the UK in 1922. We are a better country and people for it . We’ve had to be. We have learned independence the ‘hard way’ Of course national independence in 2007 in the European Union context is not what it was in 1920 which was still the age of Empire.
    For those people who have a leg on both sides of the Irish Sea and who are comfortable with both ‘identities’ ? I don’t see any problem . They can be either or both etc etc . It’s in the purely ‘political ‘area where the problems arise and they revolve mostly around the situation in NI and the constitutional question as well as the huge gap between Unionists and Republicans as regards the role of ‘monarchy ‘ . We also prefer our written constitution with it’s safeguards and guarantees to an unwritten British one.

    Regardless however of whatever politcal solution is ever found- it’s likely that British/English /Irish relations will continue to improve in the future in both an archipelago context and in the wider European Union and the world .Nobody should fear that especially those people who are confident in their identity whatever it may be or whatever combination of identities they prefer . It does not have to be just a black and white or green and orange world .

    I can imagine a future Ireland having a common defence pact/agreement with the UK and having close relations with each of the countries/nations in the UK Union . But I can’t imagine any significant section of the Irish people in the Republic having any desire to return to Westminster Rule . Not because there is anything inherently wrong with such rule per se -(Britain is after all one of the most democratic States in the world) but from a purely Irish perspective Westminster rule has not ‘worked’. There were times during the last 200 years particularly in the early 19th century when Ireland could have been ‘copper fastened into the Union but the combination of anti catholicism and the demands/success of Empire not to mention the concerns of the established church in Ireland all combined to get in the way . We can’t turn back the historical clock.

    The rise of Irish nationalism post 1800 was not much different from the rise of German ,Italian , Polish equivalents . This nationalism inherited the 1798 French and American Republican strains and also the Belfast Radical and these inspired the 1916 and subsequent movements for independence however limited. In Ireland however ‘nationalism’ came up against the world superpower of the time.

    Partition I believe helped to turn /twist Irish Republicanism /Nationalism down a narrower Gaelic /Catholic Ireland only ethos, from which we seem to have just emerged .For this emergence we have to thank the success of the economic revolution , growing secularism and lessening of direct RC church influence in public affairs as well asour entry into the ‘family’ of nations with our separate ‘identity’.

    There is no question that being part of a British State could give Irish people greater security . Problem being that historically this security was a double edged sword. Ireland was ‘neglected ‘ at a time in it’s history when it’s people were through the medium of English being exposed to the wider world of ideas . In the political arena those ideas struck root and are as of today still growing -IMO.

    Que sera sera but theres no need for anyone to lose a life or spend their life in prison for either a UI or a 6 county or 2 county NI IMO.

  • baldrick45

    Keep this up lads. This is the first slugger topic I’ve read in weeks which has avoided a quick and painful descent into whataboutery.

    I’m happy with a “British-Irish” tag. As said above, I’m of the island and glad of that fact but I’m “british” in attitude/social outlook and look to what’s happening in London via the Beeb each day rather than tuning in to RTE for news of the Dail.

    Does that unconscious affiliation, (arising as it does from some complex mix of family background, education, religious belief and life experience) make me “not-Irish”.

    I don’t think so. I carry both passports. I stand for both national anthems. I respect the achievements of both nations and in sporting terms I love to see NI & Ireland do well and the English get hammered.

    I am whatever product of nature and nurture that I am and I am at peace with that combination.

    And if anyone from the Republican or Loyalist traditions would say that I can’t be both that the dichotomy between being British and Irish is too great then I can only repeat that the combination sits easily on my shoulders so would they kindly f*ck off and find a cause really worth dying for.

    My 2c

  • Southern Observer

    At present 45% of the population are still corralled, a number that would be bigger had they not been subjected to 50 years of what may be termed ‘economic sanctions’ with the intention, and result, of making their emigration rate 3 times higher than the emigration rate for protestants.,
    That’s one of these canards that occasionally surfaces.The reality is that the Stormont ‘economic sanctions’ policy actually backfired as poverty and educational deprivation lead to a higher Catholic birth rate which is now making its presence felt.
    Terence O’Neill hit the nail on the head in 1969 with his infamous interview which was perceptive albeit clumsily expressed:

    ‘It is frightfully hard to explain to Protestants that if you give Roman Catholics a good job and a good house. they will live like Protestants because they will see neighbours with cars and television sets; they will refuse to have eighteen children. But if a Roman Catholic is jobless, and lives in the most ghastly hovel, he will rear eighteen children on National Assistance.’

  • Mick Fealty

    The power of MacNeill’s argument, it seems to me, is in his notation of multiple disconnections in the primary political relationships for both nationalism and unionism (a form of partition that applies to East West as well as North South):

    How much does the South really care about the North? How many people from the Republic have even been to Northern Ireland? When is the last time you heard the North as a discussion point during a night out?

    Unionists have their own challenges: not only to work with their nationalist brethren in a shared society but to build a mature relationship with their neighbours to the South and also to re-connect with their fellow “British” citizens.

    We are all very good at theorising. But is it possible that neither the North South not the East West relationships can be substantially resumed until people start to forge working relationships within Northern Ireland? At the moment the main narratives seem to consist mostly of dreaming of cutting out ‘the other guy’ in order to get to, what one DUP MLA once described to me as, Green or Orange heaven.

    So far in this discussion, there seems to be no settled consensus about what it actually means to be Irish. For some it simply being born on the island, for others there have to be conditional beliefs attached. But I suspect the lived reality of most people is closer to Baldrick45’s fluid model.

    Back in the late seventies/early eighties when the Irish Passport cost £4, and the British £11, I knew more than a few people of unionist background who bought the cheaper package – with few qualms. As they flipped over each other price differential, my guess is that fewer and fewer did.

    On a slightly different cultural tack, the first pub in my home town to be able to get RTE on an extended aerial drew crowds each Saturday from across the community because they could get English First Division matches live. I also recall Hunters Bar in Bangor being packed out to watch Barry McGuigan fight at the Ulster Hall, on Scottish TV.

    At the edge of things, I suspect there is a far greater fluidity between British and Irish identity than is often admitted in formal public debate. As both parts of the island have to bend to take in new communities, it will need to borrow some of this flexibility, even as the debate of what it means in practical terms to be Irish or British continues.

  • Pete Baker

    Actually, Mick, I’d argue [again] that rather than the power in MacNeill’s argument being the “multiple disconnections in the primary political relationships for both nationalism and unionism” being the power..

    ..The power is instead in the disassociation of the political allegiance from the cultural and societal allegiance.

    That’s the dis-connect that I see Hewitt drawing.

    And it’s something that politically driven commentators have deliberately ignored.

  • The identity of the person is the preserve of the person, and any attempt to apply another label to the person is the preserve of the numpty for whom the identity of the person was confusing and/or worrying.

    I took the somewhat moronic decision to write to the Irish Foreign Minister back when I was eighteen, renouncing my Irish citizenship, which I argued had been illegally forced on me by a hostile government, and that I didn’t recognise earlier.

    I fell into the schoolboy error of not realising that other people can say what they want about my identity so long as they have no ability to affect it in law or coercively alter my perception of it.

    Anyway, when I phoned Iveagh House to make sure alles war in ordnung, I realised that I was being sillier than a bag full of cats, and urged them to treat it as a fake. They consented, and I managed the same effect by just getting the hell over myself, thereby managing to just avoid disappearing up my own arsehole.

    For the record, I’m a Tory, British, Ulsterman. I don’t feel Irish at all, and the day I say I’m a European is the day I listen to the DUP and say ‘well that makes sense’.

  • mickhall

    “At the edge of things, I suspect there is a far greater fluidity between British and Irish identity than is often admitted in formal public debate. As both parts of the island have to bend to take in new communities, it will need to borrow some of this flexibility, even as the debate of what it means in practical terms to be Irish or British continues.”

    Mick,

    Without wishing to cause offense very few people within the UK or RoI debate or give a thought to what it means to be British, bar the Unionists of the north/NI or some fool who writes speeches for the likes of Gordon Brown. Although I was once at a LP conference when Brown was asked his nationality and he replied quick as a flash Scot, Britishness was not on his horizon back then.

    Anyone know when this term hit the street, for the life of me this term makes no sense to me. One can be an English, Irish Scottish, Welsh, etc etc citizen of the UK and EU, but to be British tells us nothing about the individual in question bar the fact that they lack confidence in their nationality.

    Having said this if people wish to claim to be British or anything else I have no problems with it, just as long as they do not force it on to the majority; and of course as far as Ireland is concerned, there is the rub.

  • Mick, for someone not wishing to cause offence, you haven’t mastered it yet. No offence.

    The idea that someone’s British identity is a sop to that person’s lack of confidence in some further division of their national identity is a canard, and somewhat unworthy of the argument.

    Being asked ‘what is your nationality’, someone with a British Passport can read it in official black and white thereon. Their decision to then nominate a further subdivision within the UK is entirely up to them.

    Incidentally, if someone Welsh or Scottish, Northern Irish or English wishes to establish their identity and nationality as purely one of those without reference to Britishness, is entitled to do so, with the proviso that the government will apply the correct legal nomenclature to their official documents.

    We’re not asking you to understand Britishness, so long as you can recognise it and won’t attempt to argue away the person’s right to rational self-determination.

    So when I say I’m British, I am. I’m not claiming it, I’m making a statement of my identity on the basis of arguments that are rational to me. Someone who tells me they were born in Belfast and is Irish, is, in my view, Irish. They aren’t pretending, or arguing for arguments’ sake, but making a statement on the basis of the same types of arguments they have personally run through in their own head. The same goes for me.

  • Rubicon

    Pete,

    It’s not new – you’re pointing to different categories of nationalism – state and cultural nationalism. The former could use the UK as an example – but without the NI component that took up arms and threatened rebellion against the crown and then declared a cultural apartheid where Catholics were unwelcome. The latter was well decribed by DeValera who put into practice an equallly miserable practice.

    Both approaches have generated support – not because they delivered anything that improved life – it just allowed some to think themselves better than the other; more “loyal”, more “pure”, more “true” etc. etc.. It’s been a good sell – near all buy it.

    I’d welcome a “new lamguage”. Those describing themselves as unionist or nationalist may need remedial lessons in self-respect. Without their national tit to suck on they’ll need to stand on their own 2 feet.

  • Harry

    You can have whatever identity you want – what you don’t get to do is impose a political system from another country onto people in ireland, a system which has effects on much greater numbers of people across the entire island than is justifiable by your arguments about your identity. Suiting yourself is not an argument, it’s just suiting yourself. It is ultimately hard force and the threat of civil war that allows unionists to influence life on this island far in excess of their numbers. This influence requires a high level of ‘britification’ of irish society at the moment and a downplaying of any really robust expression of irish gaelicism as the price that is to be paid for peace across the island. The irish are required to remain mute, culturally and politically speaking, to a degree that does not reflect their size while unionists are allowed to punch above their weight.

    These things are based on force, the kind of force the british use – that is to say, overwhelming force that is so definitive it defines the context of the situation; which is so normative that it seems ubiquitous but invisible. It is ‘the law’.

    But actually it is force. The irish media are happy to accomodate the unionist view while downplaying any right-to-assert that irish nationalism may validly seek.

  • kensei

    Greenflag

    “Not because there is anything inherently wrong with such rule per se -(Britain is after all one of the most democratic States in the world)”

    Actually I’d disagree with both point here. There is something fundamentally wrong with rule from Westminister for Ireland, Scotland and Wales. If each component was of comparative size, or had exactly equal say I might agree. But the relative populations mean that more or less, what England wants, England gets. And that means that Scotland and Wales can get policy they hate forced on them, as in the eighties, and if England doesn’t get what it wants because of a tight Parliament, it breeds resentment there, as we are seeing now.

    There is a fundamental democratic deficit within the Union, not to mention that the House of Lords is a mess and only marginally less abhorrent than it was 20 years ago. The UK has a democratic tradition, but it is somewhat conservative and slow and preserves things that should be long gone. While the US system has it’s own problems, the amount of offices open to democratic elections and the belief in it has always impressed me far more.

    Mick

    “At the edge of things, I suspect there is a far greater fluidity between British and Irish identity than is often admitted in formal public debate. As both parts of the island have to bend to take in new communities, it will need to borrow some of this flexibility, even as the debate of what it means in practical terms to be Irish or British continues.”

    I’m not sure. When you are secure in your own identity, you can do things like buy an Irish passport because it’s cheaper because it doesn’t at some level change who you are. There is certainly more overlap in what it means to be Irish and what it means to be British than is admitted in public debate, but there are still differences. And those are what make us what we are, ultimately.

    “Anyone know when this term hit the street, for the life of me this term makes no sense to me. One can be an English, Irish Scottish, Welsh, etc etc citizen of the UK and EU, but to be British tells us nothing about the individual in question bar the fact that they lack confidence in their nationality.”

    I don’t think so. It’s more that “British” is a term so deliberately vague that doesn’t tell you anything.

  • Kensei,

    Blow that for an argument; ‘British’ tells you a huge amount more than you have a right to know in a conflict riven place like Northern Ireland.

    It also says something about the person’s approach to the Union. In my view.

  • Wilde Rover

    “I would love to hear from Unionists as to my question above, is it possible to be British yet not give allegiance to the UK State. It is a serious question, or is all Britishness based on the Finchly criteria.”

    Interesting question Mickhall, although it is loaded in a way that would probably make the more ruminative unionist commentators shy away from speculation for fear of the Lundy Label.

    Perhaps if it were reworded.

    Is it possible to be British in the absence of a UK state?

    If England, Scotland, Wales, Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland were five independent states within a future federal Europe and voted together tactically on common cultural, socio-economic and political issues, could that not be seen as a form of “Britishness”?

  • Mick Fealty

    ken,

    That’s two different Micks btw…

    harry,

    Interesting. You rightly identify force as the basis of Northern Irish state/law. But surely force is the basis for the Republic’s independence too? The Belfast Agreement is simply a settlement to agree to determine future sovereignty without the use of such force.

    But the focus of MacNeill’s piece is not on political relations, it is about human relations. If I read Pete’s comments correctly, he is suggesting the political debate is out of sync with the reality of people’s lives. That might be measured perhaps by the lack of authoritative Northern Irish voices in the national debates in both the UK and the Republic.

    So what does exactly NI bring to the each of the relative ‘parties’?

  • Oilibhear Chromaill

    If Hugo McNeill’s about ‘human relations’, then maybe he or a commenter could response to this? Is there such a thing as a ‘moderate’ unionist voice when it comes to the Irish Language

    As I’ve posted elsewhere on Slugger, the UUP, supposedly the moderate unionist party, have issued their manifesto and it contains a commitment to ‘oppose the divisive Irish Language Act proposals’. Given that no concrete proposals have emerged yet as there’s a consultation process still ongoing (and will be until 3 March), then that seems to me to be a statement of outright opposition to the Irish Language Act.

    Yet this is coming from the moderate UUP…..

    On a human level, this denies thousands of people in the north the right to a full role in their society. The UUP will take part in a government but it won’t be working ‘for all of us’. Us in that particular context is just those who subscribe to their point of view. It’s as bad as ‘simply British’ – just more a subtle form of expression.

    To my mind there’s a form of unionism which accepts Irish identity but won’t have anything to do with Irishness – the language, the GAA. They associate that with political Irishness. They’re entitled to their opinion but they’re not entitled to deprive me of my right to advance my form of Irishness and to live my life according to its lights in my own country.

  • Greenflag

    Pete,

    ‘The power is instead in the disassociation of the political allegiance from the cultural and societal allegiance. That’s the dis-connect that I see Hewitt drawing. ‘

    I agree -necessity being the mother of invention- this apparent ‘disconnect’ is the adaptive means for coping with the seeming contradictions in ‘identity’ .

    ‘And it’s something that politically driven commentators have deliberately ignored.’

    Again almost of necessity for in most people’s daily lives ‘politics’ is not a pressing issue even during election season. Looking at participation in politics and the falling percentage for election turnouts -it’s clear that while people treasure their ‘democracy’ a large minority don’t even bother to exercise their right /duty to vote . This btw is not just an NI phenomenon. Chances are that even if the DUP win 35% of the vote in the election this will probably amount to no more than 22% of the actual electorate.

    Kensei,

    When I said the Britain is one of the most democratic I did not mean the MOST . It is true that Scotland & Wales & Northern Ireland ‘suffered’ disproportionately under the Conservative regime of Margaret Thatcher but so too did much of the North of England . Half of Britain’s population lies south of a line from Bristol to the Wash and this half suffered ‘least’ understandably enough given that it was north of this line that most of the old industries were located. The fault lines in British politics may run along the national boundaries of the various countries but the fault line in the British economy and society is still North/South and the latter is reflected in the votes for the main parties. NI politics is an anomaly in this N/S divide mainly due to the ‘constitutional’ issue I’d add .

    ‘There is certainly more overlap in what it means to be Irish and what it means to be British than is admitted in public debate, but there are still differences. ‘

    Of course there are still differences but apart from the purely political how important are they in most people’s daily lives ? I would agree that for the diehard Unionist and/or Republican the ‘difference’ is often exaggerated because without it, their raison d’etre would be under threat .

    As to the differences making us what we are ? Partly – but I’d say that in the long run it’s what we have in common as people/human beings that has to be the best hope for the future not just of the Irish & British /English etc but of everybody on the planet . We were people before we were nations 🙂

    BTW I can agree re your comment on Britain’s democratic deficit . The US is on the surface at any rate more ‘democratic’ but here again 25% of the electorate will choose the next President . I’m not sure of US voter turnout rates for electing the local sherriff etc but I recall reading an article that it was lower than 20% in many cases . I can well imagine that a small cabal can probably still elect/appoint their own ‘sheriff’ in some areas.

  • Greenflag

    Harry,

    ‘You can have whatever identity you want – what you don’t get to do is impose a political system from another country onto people in Ireland, a system which has effects on much greater numbers of people across the entire island than is justifiable by your arguments about your identity. ‘

    True enough Harry . Your quote above pin points the ‘political contradiction’ which inevitably surfaces in these kinds of debates . Politics is after all part of a culture and a society.

    ‘It is ultimately hard force and the threat of civil war that allows unionists to influence life on this island far in excess of their numbers.’

    True enough in Northern Ireland . As for here in ROI I’d suggest that ‘unionist ‘ influence is less than that of the support groups to promote the interests of recent immigrants .

    As regards what you call ‘force’ and it’s use . In terms of realpolitik there will always be a disconnect between Britain and Ireland in this area. With a population 10 times that of Ireland there can be no ‘equality’ of force as between both jurisdictions nor for that matter can there be such ‘equality’ between Germany and Switzerland or France and Belgium . But in the context of the EU does this ‘force’ you refer to matter any more ? From an NI perspective I’ll concede it might but from an ROI perspective the only force which Unionists have is their vote as part of a local majority in NE Ulster .

  • Alan Law

    I struggle with my identity. I live in Paisley country (Ballymena) but have never voted for him (or his party). My family have strong Unionist traditions and beliefs.

    I believe I am Irish but with a hint of Britishness too. I deep dowm believe in Irish Unification. I hold both passports.

    I am not anti-British. I fully accept Britain, I acknowledge our shared past and future. I regret our failures and wrong-doings.

    I was educated at a state Grammar school, which essentially meant almost exclusively protestant.

    I have a strong friendhip with a man from tipperary, yet it took a trip to Australia to meet a fellow irishman. Is he more Irish than I? I doubt it. In fact, I felt that his obsession with British empire, demonstrated a subserviance which was neither positive or healthy.
    Been to watch hurling at croker, but never seen Northern Ireland at Windsor. Yet my friend from Tipp claimed he could never go to Windsor, as if that was his idea of my indentity. I noticed him turning the sound down on the TV when GSTQ was being played.

    I believe that respecting Irish National Anthem is not an affront to the UK, nor does it make me less British.

    But I still feel confused?
    An englishman years ago referred to me as not ‘proper’ Irish, I felt offended.

    I refer to myself as Irish.

    I am still confused.

  • Teach

    Living in Scotland I’ve always seen my nationality as Scottish but my citizenship as British.If Scotland was no longer a part of the UK then I would no longer be British IMHO.

    When it comes to the UK I’ve never at any time felt oppressed or that my vote didn’t count.When I vote I judge the policies they present not what nationality they are so I have no problems voting for any politician wither he’s Scottish or not.

  • Greenflag

    Alan Law

    ‘I refer to myself as Irish.’

    Then that’s what you are.

    ‘I believe I am Irish but with a hint of Britishness too.’

    Then that’s what you are .

    ‘An englishman years ago referred to me as not ‘proper’ Irish,’

    That’s his problem not yours .

    ‘I felt offended.’

    Way too sensitive . A direct punch on the nose would cause the ‘englishman’ to reevaluate his use of the word ‘proper’ You would then be redefined as a proper Irish bastard !

    Teach,

    ‘If Scotland was no longer a part of the UK then I would no longer be British IMHO. ”
    Not politically anyway -But would you still watch Coronation Street and listen to Terry Wogan ?

    ‘When it comes to the UK I’ve never at any time felt oppressed or that my vote didn’t count.When I vote I judge the policies they present not what nationality they are so I have no problems voting for any politician wither he’s Scottish or not. ‘

    Now that sounds like common sense 🙂

  • mickhall

    “The Belfast Agreement is simply a settlement to agree to determine future sovereignty without the use of such force.”

    Mick F

    I cannot let you get away with the above for it is untrue, what the GFA agreement has done is get a majority of the ‘NI’ parties to forgo the use of force, but the UK State retains that right and if it is in its interest it will use it without hesitation, hence the new MI5 building.

    “The idea that someone’s British identity is a sop to that person’s lack of confidence in some further division of their national identity is a canard, and somewhat unworthy of the argument.”

    I have to disagree on the issue of confidence, todays Sunday Times has a poll about Britishness and I cannot but notice those who claim the most that they feel it are newcomers to the UK. [first or second generation]

    I also find it interesting that no Unionist has answered my question about how long being British has been on the street. Could I take a guess and suggest [and it is only a guess] the first half of the 20th Century, if so it tells one a great deal about why Unionist appear to outsiders to display such a lack of confidence in their identity.

    The way Brown and Blair use the term is clearly a sop to multi culturalism and it makes them look doubly ridiculous imo. However I agree people are what they claim, but when we claim it, we should all be wary that someone with a vested interest beyond our own may well be pulling our chains. For make no mistake, whether they are from the Falls or Shankhill, man or women, when visiting England or the USA/EU they are just another paddy 😉

  • cynic

    Sorry but I am so inspired that i have to break into song.

    To borrow from Hanna Jones (see below), this Island is big enough for all of us and perhaps some of the more excitable of us could do with reading the lyrics!

    I am what I am
    I am my own special creation
    So come take a look
    Give me the hook or the ovation
    It’s my world
    And I want to have a little pride in
    My world
    And it’s not a place I have to hide in
    Life’s not worth a damn
    Till you can say
    I am what I am

    I am what I am
    I don’t want praise I don’t want pity
    I bang my own drum
    Some think it’s noise I think it’s pretty
    And so what if I love each sparkle and each spangle
    Why not try to see things from a different angle
    Your life is a sham
    Till you can shout out
    I am what I am
    I am what I am

    I am what I
    I am what I
    I am what I
    I am what I
    Somebody
    (Repeat)

    I am what I am
    And what I am needs no excuses
    I deal my own deck
    Sometimes the ace sometimes the deuces
    It’s one life and there’s no return and no deposit
    One life so it’s time to open up your closet
    Life’s not worth a damn till you can shout out
    I am what I am
    I am what I am

    Somebody

    I am what I
    I am what I
    I am what I
    I am what I
    (Repeat)

    I am what I am
    And what I am needs no excuses
    I deal my own deck
    Sometimes the ace sometimes the deuces
    It’s one life and there’s no return and no deposit
    One life so it’s time to open up your closet
    Life’s not worth a damn till you can shout out
    I am what I am

    I am I am I am
    Good
    I am I am I am
    Strong
    I am I am I am
    Worthy
    I am I am I am
    I belong
    I am I am I am
    Useful
    I am I am I am
    True
    I am I am I am
    Somebody
    I am as good as you

  • Wilde Rover

    Oilibhear

    “Is there such a thing as a ‘moderate’ unionist voice when it comes to the Irish Language”

    As a first language English speaker, second language Irish speaker brought up in a life-support Gaeltacht on the west coast of Ireland, i.e. Irish speaker who is not a “Gaelgoir den chead scoth (first-rate Gaelgoir)” might I suggest an answer to your rhetorical question?

    One cannot expect respect from unionists when no real respect is given by the language’s supposed supporters.

    As a GallGaelgoir I am eternally depressed by the snob-Gaelgoirs who won’t reply in Irish out of spite, the vast majority that recoil at the sound that reminds them of cultural failure, and the starry eyed Rurai-wannabes that are great to chat to if you are into Marxist republican fantasia, but not much else.

    So if I think the language has been hijacked and beaten beyond the point of valuable use why would someone who regards the language as foreign be predisposed to giving it serious consideration?

    Is trua e, ach sin e an sceal.

  • Wilde Rover, you have a very valid point but you overlook unionists who recognise that the language is part of their culture, but take the view that language is a means of communication first and foremost and that there is no need for the government departments (in Northern Ireland) to be forced to spend money on what is essentially a hobby here, equivalent to marching or Irish dancing.

  • oilibhear Chromaill

    I have no real interest in all the forms and press releases and documents of NI government departments being translated into Irish. Just the top ten most demanded documents would do me.

    However I do want the BBC and other public bodies to recognise that they must do much more for the Irish language, on a par with what the BBC in Wales does for Welsh for instance.

    I want Irish language signage – such as Fáílte go Béal Feirste – on main routes into towns and cities. It can be part of a sign of welcome in English and Ulster Scots if necessary. I want better support for Irish medium schools and other measures which help the usage of Irish in public life as distinct from the status.

    But I won’t be told by a political party located in Ireland that the Irish language isn’t part of us.

    I don’t know what experiences the Wilde Rover had with An Ghaeilge but I do empathise with him when some Irish speakers don’t speak as Gaeilge with learners. It’s rude. I wouldn’t do it. So I can’t stand over anybody else doing it. But it’s similarily rude to ignore the Irish language as if it was a bad smell that would go away sooner or later.

  • kensei

    “Blow that for an argument; ‘British’ tells you a huge amount more than you have a right to know in a conflict riven place like Northern Ireland.

    It also says something about the person’s approach to the Union. In my view. ”

    It tells you something in the context of here. In the wider context, I don’t actually tell you very much, and I think a lot of British people wouldn’t
    necessarily like the association it gets here.

    It can’t be other as it tries to draw together so many often disparate things.

    Greenflag

    “When I said the Britain is one of the most democratic I did not mean the MOST .”

    If we limit ourselves to just the democratic nations in the world, I’d say that Britain would only be mid table at best. Things like the House of Lords, Legislation being declared unlawful not being immediately struck off, the increasing authoritianism and FTP wouldn’t shove it down the list for me.

  • dc

    “Firstly, I am an Ulsterman steeped in the traditions of this place. Secondly, I am Irish, of this Ireland. Thirdly, I am British, and finally, in a more diffuse way, I am European. It may make it easier for you to understand if you remove one of those elements but if you do you are no longer describing who I am.”

    If you were to replace ‘Ulsterman’ with ‘Galwayman’ or ‘Connaughtman’ that would probably sum me up very well too.

    Personally, I have never related to nationalism’s rejection of the ‘British’ part of that thread. It’s why I’m not a nationalist. An inclusive unionism can embrace all of these complex, layered identities.

    To answer Mick Hall’s question – whilst there is a need for reform (even reinvention) of the Union, I think it would be a great pity for us all on these islands if we were to break apart into a series of separate states. If that were to happen it simply wouldn’t reflect the reality of the immensity of what we all have in common with one another.

    What is called for may be a reinvention of the Union but not the sort of turning our backs on each other which separatism seems to aim for.

  • dc

    Oilibhear, I agree with you on much of what you say about Irish. For instance, any citizen here should be able to communicate with a government department through Irish (or Polish, or Chinese).

    The two biggest worries most unionists have are that under this new act their children will be forced to learn Irish in school, and secondly that all the road signs will be changed to Irish.

    So far the proposed Irish Language Act has been shrouded in ambiguity. If the proposals were clearer it would be easier to lay such fears to rest. Also I think other minority languages here need to be included in this process, i.e. Polish, Lithuanian, Chinese, Ulster-Scots etc.

  • Harry

    Separatism does not meaning turning our backs on each other. Haven’t you heard of Ryanair? Seaparatism means the empowerment of a nation to a degree commensurate with its rights. It is the beginning of real interchange, for it means the releasing of energies and disinhibiting of a situation that is currently stunted and restrained by the dysfunction of northern ireland. Partition is a poison which perverts and enervates the life of the island.

  • dc

    But your idea of nation isn’t my idea of nation.

  • Harry

    It is interesting to note too that multi-culturalism is being pitched as a kind of remedy to nationalism, while integration and dialogue between the new cultural groups is accepted as taking place in the english language across the island. In other words, multi-culturalism is something of an anglo-centric phenomenon as it occurs presently on the island and as such partakes of those influences which tend towards bringing us closer into the anglo-american political and cultural sphere. Partakes of those influences which aid the assertion of british nationalism on thios sialnd. English as the lingua france of such a large group of new immigrants will have a profound effect on the cultural direction of this country and hence on the political direction. There’s nothing wrong of course in english as a lingua france in this instance if irish culture and the irish language are reinvigorated to the same degree within the polity, but this is unlikely to be the case. Rather such culture is to be downplayed and reduced to minority or hobby status while we power ahead towards a globalised, mostly anglo-american cultural future. The powers that be and their associated travellers in the media and positions of power are ensuring that things will bend in this direction.

    This is totally asymmetrical relative to the numbers of those across this island who call themselves irish. Yet what is instability but some form of imbalance and what is northern ireland but the asymmetric use of force by britain against the rights of the irish people for its own strategic gain? That is the origin of the instability on this island and hence of the perversity, both north and south.

  • lapsedmethodist

    The problem with identities in Ireland, north or south, is that everyone uses rose-tinted glasses to view their own “side”. What is regarded as an independant Ireland by nationalists/republicans was/is a state where everything from public health and education to the arts was handed over to the Church to either administer or patrol, and what was/is regarded as “British ” by unionists was/is the handing over of the functions of the state to a secret society.
    It’s the defending of the indefensible that makes Ireland such a bitter place at times.

  • Harry

    I agree lapsedmethodist but in many ways the two states were mirror images of each other and the line of the mirror was partition. Smash the mirror and the people may breathe.

  • IJP

    Mick F is spot on, most notably with his comment about people going for whatever the cheaper passport is.

    The failure of the Agreement was that it dealt with political and justice institutions, but it didn’t touch on economics. Without a functioning market economy, all the above is meaningless.

    For although there’s more to it than money, in the end economic considerations were crucial to the partition of the island. And they’ll be crucial to any unification too.

  • Harry

    “in the end economic considerations were crucial to the partition of the island”

    How exactly?

  • Pete Baker

    GreenFlag

    “I agree -necessity being the mother of invention- this apparent ‘disconnect’ is the adaptive means for coping with the seeming contradictions in ‘identity’ .”

    Actualy, you’re not agreeing with what I said, you’re constructing an entirely separate argument which I don’t agree with at all.

    Necessity has nothing to do with the neglect of certain layers of allegiance which Hewitt noted.

    Rather it was a deliberate attempt by the political groupings concerned to ignore those allegiances and, in doing so, emphasise both their specialness and the difference of the other.

  • páid

    Good question.

    Partition was inevitable from 1911 says Mansergh; but for political reasons, which probably had some economic sub-reasons.

    Another reason would be social. Belfast, IMO, more resembles Glasgow and Liverpool than Dublin – when it comes to ethics, humour, industry etc.

    But the forces that made Belfast a great British city, and Dublin a non-industrialised backwater are fading fast. And the forces that pulled North from South have passed their zenith; geography, with it’s inevitable effects on the social makeup will increasingly play a part.

    So NI will drift from Finchley, but Ballygobackwards’ days are numbered also.

    We’ll all end up drinking pints of Guinness in the pub.

    Now isn’t that Irish?

    Or British?

  • lapsedmethodist

    Harry: If breaking the mirror involves civilised, thoughtful pieces like the John Hewitt piece, bear it in mind that it’s relatively easy for the middle classes to posit such a philosophy. For the average working class bloke it means walking up to a nutjob, tapping him on the shoulder , and in my experience taking your life in your hands. I lost one of the best jobs I ever had in the ’70’s for having the temerity to argue with a deputy editor on a provincial rag that perhaps any street or village that housed catholics wasn’t a ” Fenian hole “

  • Mick Fealty

    Mick H,

    What I actually said was that the Belfast Agreement was:

    “…a settlement to agree to determine future sovereignty without the use of such force.”

    Just before that I also said:

    “You rightly identify force as the basis of Northern Irish state/law”.

    So where are we missing each other?

  • Wilde Rover

    Oilibhear

    I didn’t mean to imply everything about the language is negative. Of course there are many positives. I was merely trying to highlight some issues that need addressing if the language is going to make it as far as 2100.

    “But it’s similarily rude to ignore the Irish language as if it was a bad smell that would go away sooner or later.”

    That is also true. But its only future is through a purely cultural prism above politics, rather than as a political football.

    If the Irish language (or pedantically speaking, Ulster Irish, a dialect which of course most Connaught and Munster Irish speakers have difficulty understanding) continues to be perceived as one of the Horsemen of the Fenian Apocalypse those who consider themselves British will never feel comfortable about it, let alone their kids being taught it.

    Ta eagla orthu.

    The laudable growth of Welsh has not seen any great movement to secede from the UK. Perhaps it’s because of their more culture-driven approach.

    Beano

    I agree that it would be an onerous burden on the taxpayer, and that I believe that a prolonged enforced education would have the same sorry result as it had in the Republic.

    How about, as a compromise, one year compulsory Irish kindergarten?

    Of course, when I say Irish kindergarten it would have to be a curriculum based on a 21st century forward-looking language with no reference to the past or struggling or Celtic Mists or bodhrans or bishops or keening.

    The schools would have to be totally mixed and the schools’ ethos recognize constitutional realities. Above all, it should present the language in a fun, exciting way, focusing on speaking, singing, and games.

    After that, it should be optional, paid for by parents, but with a subsidy, with a neutral curriculum all the way up.

    Ideally the kids rather than the parents should decide if they wanted to continue. A father from a green persuasion should be prepared to listen to “but I don’t like it daddy” in the same way a father from an orange persuasion should be prepared to listen to “but I like it daddy.”

    That might produce small mixed classes of kids who want to be there just because they love the language.

    And if enough kids like it, then stick up some road signs in Irish.

    As for the rest, they will have had a year of language training at an early age that will stand to them when they go on to learn French, Spanish, Chinese, etc.

  • Hickenlooper

    I am a Catholic and a Nationalist and totally happy to embrace all four categories:

    Ulsterman: Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan I
    count amongst my favourite
    spots on the planet.

    British: And utterly ashamed to be so,
    thanks to the desecration of
    British decencies perpetrated
    on my people by Unionists.

    Irish: Proud to wrap the green white
    and orange flag around me

    European: The one and only Mainland

  • willowfield

    HENRY94

    The bottom line for Irish nationalism is political independence.

    Then Irish nationalism should be happy. Yet clearly it is not.

    But in our case the British identity of the minority was hostile to the democratic will of the people of Ireland as a whole.

    The Irish people as a whole clearly determined that they were two separate peoples. Read some history and check out some election results.

    In my view you can’t honestly claim to be Irish and to be a democrat and to support partition.

    Why? If you recognise peoples’ democratic right to self-determination, you have no option but to support partition, Irish or otherwise.

  • Harry

    More self-serving claptrap. British nationalism in ireland hasn’t got a leg to stand on. Unionists are a nation within a nation, not a nation apart from a nation. They refuse to take their rightful place within the nation, preferring instead to cause untold trouble for everyone across the island in order to suit themselves. They do this through force.

    The british are happy to use them to do this, since britain has always preferred to keep one foot in ireland. There is little to suggest they intend to do otherwise in the future. Consider how america seems to have switched its focus on foreign policy in europe from Bonn to London from the mid-nineties to today. Britain, allied to america, is setting itself up on the fringes of europe as the spoiler of european unity yet again, at least to a degree discernible in foreign policy objectives. Disunity in europe over the war in Iraq, the restructuring of the british military in line with a vision of closer anglo-american (i.e. bi-lateral) military co-operation in the future as well as the restructuring of the european and american military blocks along franco-german and anglo-american lines all lead one to suspect that britain’s relationship with europe – and hence its interest in ireland – will remain in flux or closer to the traditional models of power blocs than generally believed for some time.

    It is not in our interests as irish people that we remain subject to these influences such that our sovereignty and culture are constantly toyed with.

  • Greenflag

    Pete,

    Necessity has nothing to do with the neglect of certain layers of allegiance which Hewitt noted.

    Rather it was a deliberate attempt by the political groupings concerned to ignore those allegiances and, in doing so, emphasise both their specialness and the difference of the other. ‘

    Where does a circle begin ? At any point presumably . Which came first the deliberation or the necessity . Hewitt wrote his letter in 1964 almost 10 years before the UK & ROI joined the EEC . I agree that both ‘allegiances’ chose to deliberately ignore the ‘other’ or if not ignore try to minimize it’s importance. At some point in time this became a ‘necessity’ to either win power ( De Valera) in the Free State or to maintain power (Brookeborough) in NI.

    Maybe a definition of ‘necessity ‘ is where we differ.

    Let’s not forget Hewitt was a poet .So too was Pearse . Dealing with the harsh political realities was perhaps not the forte of either . McNeil still speaks a truth especially for those on this island and the neighbouring island who have more fluid ‘identities’ and are comfortable with both . I suspect that for a large number of people in NI that McNeil’s degree of identity comfort is a long way off and may never be achievable .

    Let’s also not forget that it’s a rugby game on Saturday not ‘national political identification ‘ day .

  • Greenflag

    lapsedmethodist .

    ‘If breaking the mirror involves civilised, thoughtful pieces like the John Hewitt piece, bear it in mind that it’s relatively easy for the middle classes to posit such a philosophy. ‘

    Or to paraphrase Harry’s line ‘smash partition and let the people bleed ‘ 🙁

    Partition as Martin Mansergh was inevitable from 1911 on and 100 years later almost ‘repartition’ may also be inevitable . Next time around though a neutral international agency should be given the job of redrawing a new political border IMO.

    Good post lapsedmethodist.

  • Greenflag

    Harry,

    ‘Never mind what they say watch what they do ‘

    ‘The British are happy to use them(Unionists ) to do this, since Britain has always preferred to keep one foot in Ireland. There is little to suggest they intend to do otherwise in the future. ‘

    Realpolitik -Harry . The UK has a legitimate interest in protecting it’s ‘western flank’ . The question is whether they are using the best means to achieve this by keeping one foot in NI .

    As for our sovereignty and culture being toyed with ? Anglo American influence is here to stay . The question is how much of it we want and how much we’d rather discard . The evidence appears to be that the former exceeds the latter by a wide margin.

    ‘British nationalism in Ireland hasn’t got a leg to stand on. ‘

    Not true there are still three wheels on the unionist wagon .

    Wheel 1:

    The local Unionist majority in the 6 county Northern Ireland State and the statistical improbability of a pro UI nationalist voting majority for the next 50 too 100 years if ever .

    Wheel 2:

    The continued financial support by the english taxpayer for the public sector dependent NI State .

    Wheel 3:

    The determination of Northern Ireland Republicans to maintain the political objective of a 32 county UI rather than focus on a more achievable objective like 30 county Republic after a fair and agreed Repartition of NI by a neutral international agency such as the UN/EU etc.


    Unionists are a nation within a nation, not a nation apart from a nation.’

    Actually from a Unionist point of view they are both . Which is another reason why a fair and agreed Repartition of NI is the only practical solution which allows unionists to maintain their political identity . If there is such a thing as a British ‘nation’ then unionists are a part of that nation in NE Ulster.

    willowfield:

    You have a point when you state to Harry

    ‘If you recognise peoples’ democratic right to self-determination, you have no option but to support partition,

    By extension the same logic would apply to supporting Repartition!

  • willowfield

    HARRY

    More self-serving claptrap. British nationalism in ireland hasn’t got a leg to stand on. Unionists are a nation within a nation, not a nation apart from a nation. They refuse to take their rightful place within the nation, preferring instead to cause untold trouble for everyone across the island in order to suit themselves. They do this through force.

    The exact same logic could be used to describe Irish nationalists in the wider British nation:

    Irish nationalism in the British Isles hasn’t got a leg to stand on. Nationalists are a nation within a nation, not a nation apart from a nation. They refuse to take their rightful place within the nation, preferring instead to cause untold trouble for everyone across the islands in order to suit themselves. They do this through force.

    GREENFLAG

    You have a point when you state to Harry ‘If you recognise peoples’ democratic right to self-determination, you have no option but to support partition, By extension the same logic would apply to supporting Repartition!

    Not really when you consider that not a single vote has been cast for it.