“the election results reflect a deeply fractured society”

Veteran punk band Stiff Little Fingers played the Ulster Hall on Friday and one of their tracks, Alternative Ulster, provides both the starting point and the conclusion to the Observer’s Henry McDonald’s survey of the political landscape post-election. Given my previous post, it won’t be a surprise that the stand out quote, for me, comes from Queen’s University’s Dr Peter Shirlow who, as Henry McDonald notes, said the outcome did not necessarily entail a move towards historic compromise.

“I think we have seen the emergence of two political movements rather than parties. Sinn Fein and the DUP are working on the basis of [politically] catch-all ethnic groups catering for rival populations. In particular, the DUP are getting a very big vote out of fear of the other side and the growth in Sinn Fein. That huge DUP vote is not about compromise, but tapping into deep insecurity in the Protestant community. Both parties are, in a way, feeding off each other.”

And a musical interlude..

, , , , ,

  • Greenflag

    Henry 94,

    ‘Albert reynolds offered unionists five seats in the cabinet. That offer has not been withdrawn. ‘

    Newsflash- Albert Reynold’s is no longer Taoiseach and his offer was purely party political and hypothethical .

    ‘In a united Ireland power-sharing will have to feature. ‘

    Why ? The Irish Republic has no intention of introducing ‘sectarianism’ into the Republic’s politics . No thanks. Voluntary coalitions between like minded parties can lead to effective government but so too can majority rule . Northern Ireland’s particular political /sectarian problems would have no resonance within a UI nor should they .

    ‘What happens in the republic today is not really relevant. ‘

    Rabbitting on about what is going to happen in 20 years time is ‘relevant ‘ ?? Pull the other one Henry .

    ‘This is a merger not a takeover. ‘

    It’s neither . If it ever happens it will be the latter not the former . Beggars can’t be choosers even if HMG has somehow conveyed the message that they can – to the First Minister in waiting.

    Me thinks Henry that it’s not just Unionist politicians who have risen to new heights of individual and collective political doublethink .
    Some of the contributors above indicate that some of our Republican 2016/2020 /2027 boyos have in this respect become more ‘Unionist’ than the Unionists themselves .

    PS . The Irish Republic is not just a larger Northern Ireland with fewer protestants and more Polish and Chinese immigrants . It is not West Germany to East Germany either .

  • kensei

    “Untrue . Sharing power is not obligatory in the Irish Republic . Voluntary Coalitions we have and have had but we also have majority rule . There is no political guarantee for ‘unionists’ as a political party in a UI nor can there be .”

    true. But electoral pressures mean that Unionist politicians would probably be king makers, particularly if people still don’t want to talk to SF.

  • Valenciano

    The problem is that those Nationalists who speak of 2016 are obviously guilty of wishful thinking. Current trends would point to at least 2030, if that. Additionally such apparent demographic change can quickly alter. For example I remember reading an article in the well respected publication ‘Parliamentary Affairs’ which went along the lines of “these elections are likely to be the last in which Unionist parties will receive a majority of the votes.” That was in 1997 when the Unionist vote had dipped to 50.5% It proved to be false as Unionists were still able to take a majority of votes in 2005.

    If we examine the overall Nationalist vote share over the past decade it doesn’t support the conclusions of people on this thread [W=Westminster, L=Locals, E=Euros, A=Assembly]

    1997(W) 40.5
    1997(L) 40.8
    1998(A) 40.2
    1999(E) 45.4
    2001(W) 43.1
    2001(L) 40.2
    2003(A) 40.5
    2004(E) 42.2
    2005(W) 42.1
    2005(L) 40.1
    2007(A) 42.6

    It should be obvious from that that the picture is not one of an upward trend. In fact it seems that the Nationalist vote has been stuck somewhere in the 40-42.5% range for the past decade (the exception 1999 clearly being an aberration.) This year’s elections where the first since 2003 when the overall Nationalist vote rose relative to the previous equivalent election. The preceding, locals, Westminster and Euro polls had all actually seen a decline relative to the previous election.

    If we examine more longer term trends the picture again looks less rosy

    1977(L) 29.0
    1987(W) 35.1
    1997(W/L) 40.8/40.5
    2007(A) 42.6

    While the Nationalist vote in each case has been growing, the rate of growth has lessened each decade, possibly due to a converging of Catholic and Protestant birth rates. That last fact generally tends to be ignored by Nationalists and similarly the fact that they have only been able to increase their number of seats by two in the last decade means a majority in the assembly, let alone a border poll is some way off with 2030 beginning to look like an optimistic date.

    The Parliamentary Affairs article alluded to earlier suggested that the eventual outcome might be a small dwindling centre vote holding the balance of power between the two blocs a la Belfast City Council. It’s not looking that unlikely.

  • BP1078

    BP1078

    ‘Gentle’ refers to a continuing slow downward trend of total unionist seats/vote. ‘Serious’ refers to a critical point in time when Num of Unionist seats/vote = Num of Nationalist seats/vote.

    Data extrapolated from NI census 2001, voting preferences Assembly and local elections (including Constituency, &#xtu;rnout and Transfers starting from 1993 local gov elections). http://www.ark.ac.uk/elections/

  • Anon Nationalist

    Sorry above if from me not BP1078. It’s too early where i am 🙂

  • Doctor Who

    Kensei

    “But electoral pressures mean that Unionist politicians would probably be king makers, particularly if people still don’t want to talk to SF.”

    Absolutlely no proof of this. Unionism could also end up as in significant opposition party in the Dail, particularly if Southern voters are worried by a Northern British influence.

    It is also an irrelevant argument for persuasion, as it is an all Ireland Dail, and by definition a Unionist cannot reside there.

    It is however charitable of you to remind everyone that while in the South the main political parties refuse to have anything to do with Sinn Fein / IRA, up in the North Unionists are expected to “sleep with them”.

  • Stork

    anon Nationalist

    “I’m basing the assessment on Nationalist-Unionist not Catholic-Protestant (I should’ve made that clear)collected over a number of elections taking into account voting(tribal) patterns, turnout%, and electoral age groups( NI Census). In your linked figures it’s clear you are assessing Catholic V “The Rest”. Nationalists can of course be of NO Religion and go to schools represented as non-denominational but for a table that reflects this more clearly why not try downloading the relevant report from http://www.nicensus2001.gov.uk/

    Those are precisely the figures I am using. I am not talking about religion, I am talking about “community background” figures from the census at different ages. I am *including* those who put down “no religion” but are of Catholic community background (per the census compilers). As I say, they have accounted for less than 50% of births since 1992 and the proportion is gently falling. This is also confirmed, as I say, by higher numbers in “Protestant” primary schools than “Catholic” primary schools from P1 to P7 from DENI data.

    “The reference to “not anytime soon” leans towards 2027AD and admittedly a lot can happen until then with many unknowns such as the effect of immigration not taken into account. For now though it certainly appears to be a gentle but serious downward demographic trend for unionists.”

    Unionist voters yes – I’ve said as much, and the Catholic “community background” proportion of the population is still very slightly increasing because they have a greater share of the proportion of total births than the proportion of the total population (eg. as at 2001 census 48% of births were Catholic “community background” compared to 44% of the total population). On such trends by the 2011 census Catholic “community background” births will probably be around the same as their proportion of the population at about 46%. Whether Catholic total fertility rates will continue to reduce at a faster rate than Protestant ones and the Catholic proportion of new births shrink below their proportion of the total population remains to be seen but that has happened in eg. Canada.

    Of course you are quite right in bringing up immigration as a wild card, but it seems that the big recent story is the inward migration of ethnic minorities. This may see the Protestant “community background” lose it’s majority but it also reduces the proportion of Catholic “community background” and makes it even less likely for them to ever achieve 50%+1

    At the 2011 census we might realistically get something like

    49% Protestant “community background”
    46% Catholic “community background”
    5% Others

    and from then on the trend being for “Others” to slowly increase and both of the first two figures to start slowly shrinking. This seems the most reasonable trend to me. The Catholic “community background” total fertility rate is probably at or below the Protestant “community background” total fertility rate even now in 2007. If it does drop below as in Canada then the second figure above will probably have shrunk slightly faster than the first by the time the 2021 census comes around. (though that isn’t quaranteed because it depends on death rates too).

  • kensei

    “Absolutlely no proof of this. Unionism could also end up as in significant opposition party in the Dail, particularly if Southern voters are worried by a Northern British influence.”

    Unlikely FG would lap it up and it wouldn’t pay for the other parties to keep you isolated. Normal democratic politics means, yes you could be in opposition.

    “It is also an irrelevant argument for persuasion, as it is an all Ireland Dail, and by definition a Unionist cannot reside there.”

    Of course they can, just as a Nationalist can sit in the assembly. Can we say “Ulster Protestant voting block” then?

    “It is however charitable of you to remind everyone that while in the South the main political parties refuse to have anything to do with Sinn Fein / IRA, up in the North Unionists are expected to “sleep with them”. ”

    Keep SF out of government – vote for a United Ireland.

  • keith

    I don’t really think James speaks for the majority of nationalists (or the minority for that matter…)

  • Greenflag

    Kensei

    ‘But electoral pressures mean that Unionist politicians would probably be king makers, particularly if people still don’t want to talk to SF.’

    Neither do we have a King and are not going to have a Queen either 🙂 There would be NO ‘unionist ‘politicians anyway in a UI . There could be ex Unionists and those of a Unionist background in an Government depending on what combination of parties forms the Government . It would be up to both SF and ex Unionists to make themselves into ‘attractive’ coalition partners . Based on what we see at present in NI – I can see FF and FG getting together long before either would coalesce with SF or any ‘former’ Unionist party . Coalition government in any UI will be ‘voluntary’ unlike the situation you have in NI. Again the Republic is not a larger NI . Former ‘Unionists’ could in theory aspire to Taoiseach status but in practice probably only through being members of either FF or FG . It’s politically feasible that both SF and a former Unionist party could retain their largely regional identity and representation and could combine to advance regional interests for a period but this could only work in coalition with either FF or FG . The longer term trend would br for SF to split and merge into FF or Labour and for the SDLP to split as between FF or FG or Labour . Ex Unionists could be either a regional party protecting former ‘british’ unionist interests or could split as the other parties .

    All hypothetical and academic anyway .

    But you can rest assured that if there is ever a move towards a UI becoming a possibility you can expect ALL parties in the Republic to be united at least in one area and that will be in ensuring that the sectarian divide in the politics of Northern Ireland is not replicated in the Republic .

    To be brutally honest -We can’t afford that kind of shite in a globalised world economy !

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Comrade Stalin

    “You may be in for a shock with your implied blind assumption that Dublin will do any better.”

    My assumption is that by actually taking part in a sovereign government, at the very least we’ll be in control of our own affairs. You see, an all-Ireland government would not mean “Dublin Rule” – it would mean people from Belfast and Derry and Tyrone and Armagh sitting in government with people from Cork and Galway and Dublin and getting on with trying to run the place as best they could. Certainly mistakes would be made and there would be significant failures in various areas, but they would be OUR mistakes and OUR failures. And at least they would have come about as a result of trying to do the best thing for the people of THIS island – it won’t be a case of people on this island getting shafted as a result of policies that make sense on the other island. (Can there be a more graphic symbol of the incongruity of this than the legion of desolate petrol stations along the northern side of the border?)

    Furthermore, locating political power on this island, and putting it into the hands of the people here, would be an unalloyed good, as the experience of the Republic has shown. It is not only the way to make ourselves materially better off and more at peace with ourselves, it is a means of making ourselves a better, more mature people. Independence and the devolution of ultimate responsibility for ourselves has a way of doing that.

    (Consider this: at the time of partition, the population of Belfast was 100,000 GREATER than that of Dublin. There’s the story of partition followed by independence on one hand, and continued union on the other, for you in a nutshell. And before someone says it: the trend was already seriously advanced BEFORE the Troubles.)

    “I hear people all over all the time saying that Dublin gets everything and the jackeens don’t care about the country…”

    It’s true, the Jackeens DON’T care about the country – however, the Jackeens don’t enjoy unchecked rule over the country. The present Taoiseach is a Jackeen – the last one a Meathman (Bruton), before that a Longfordian (Reynolds), before that a Mayoman (Haughey, by birth), then a Dub (Fitzgerald), then a Corkman (Lynch) and so on.

    The provinces think the capital gets everything. Equally the metropolitans think the culchies have it all. So?

    “and all those eejits in Cork with their “real capital” nonsense…”

    I can’t believe you are invoking the “People’s Republic” t-shirts as some sort of substantive political point. Ask Micheal Martin (my tip for next Taoiseach and arch Langer) whether he thinks Cork should secede.

    “There are people in Manchester and Liverpool who don’t think London government works for them either.”

    I’d say they’re right, but frankly, that’s a matter for themselves. Incidentally, arguing that London rule fails many regions is not exactly a compelling reason why we should keep it!

    “This is a pretty ineffective justification for reunification in and of itself TBH”

    What? That the status quo is a failure, but a reunified, sovereign Ireland would be the path to a better future? Frankly, I don’t think you grasp the extent of the problem in NI, nor the sheer extent of the transformation that independence can have on a people.

    “- as if the free staters are going to start shovelling their cash over the border and welcome us with open arms as soon as we join.”

    Colonial mindset alert! Come on Uncle Joe, get real. Reunification doesn’t mean swapping one colonial master for another – it means independence, and getting our house in order, and starting to make a CONTRIBUTION. (Stop me when I’ve lost you.) If I thought reunification simply meant moving to a new dole office I wouldn’t be remotely interested – but in fact reunification means getting off the dole and starting up a new business with our big brother. (Who is good at this sort of thing and will help us get on our feet.)

    “While I think the Irish economy is strong enough to take us on, I still think we’ll be perceived in the same way that East Germans are perceived in Germany.”

    Stop thinking about being “taken on” – the Republic isn’t Harland & Wolff Mk II. Reunification means a whole new mindset, and independence provides the context for that new mindset. Some might sink but I think a critical mass of the population will swim. It’s a brave new world, independence, but you get nothing in this life if you don’t take a few risks.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    “At any hint of an economic downturn post-reunification, Irish people will come to resent us as a drain on their economy, especially if there is violence or trouble.”

    I have no intention of seeing the north become a drain on the Irish economy. I want to see the north return to its traditional role as the engine of the Irish economy.

    “The road ahead for the republican ideal is a very, very rocky one.”

    You misunderstand the republican ideal – so blinded are you by your spectacularly colonial mindset. My God, eighty years of partition and truncated union has utterly destroyed your sense of self-worth. It’s this kind of malaise that is in most need of the psychological emancipation of reunification.

    Doctor Who

    I see you have ignored my question. Can I take it that, in the event of a majority voting for reunification, you would embrace terrorism?

  • Keith

    Now now billy, you know what they say about assumptions.

  • BP1078

    Anon-Nationalist
    Data extrapolated from NI census 2001, voting preferences Assembly and local elections (including Constituency, &#xtu;rnout and Transfers starting from 1993 local gov elections). http://www.ark.ac.uk/elections/

    Valenciano in his 11.10 am post has kind of made my point for me; if you check on that website you quoted, the Unionist-Nationalist ratio has stabilised or even increased slightly in the former’s favour in every election since 2000.
    That trend was stopped last week, but whether that is a temporary blip or not, who knows?

    Did you know also that the combined SDLP/SF vote has declined by 35,000 between the first Assembly election and the one we had last week?

    The census figures I’d say are completely irrelevant to the debate, babies aren’t born unionist or nationalist and there is no requirement for adults to state their political viewpoint on the census form.

  • Greenflag

    Kensei

    ‘To be brutally honest -We can’t afford that kind of shite in a globalised world economy !

    And neither do we have the English taxpayer to cough up the readies everytime we need a ‘fix’ .

    Northern Ireland has never really experienced self government -no -not even during the Stormont years 1920 to 1972 . Sugar daddy was always there to keep the ‘irritant state ‘ quiet and off the front pages. In a sense not much different from what Gordon Brown is being asked to do yet again . There’s more to self government than just being elected and having one’s arse plonked in a ministerial chair or mercedes and shouting ya boo and waving the union jack or tricolour in the face of your Ministerial colleagues at every opportunity !

    Anyway it is my contention that ‘real politics’ can never evolve properly in a 6 county NI State simply due to the constitutional deficiency which lies at the very heart of that State . Northern Ireland’s politics can only be normalised if that State is absorbed into larger political entity either the UK or the Irish Republic . There is also a possibilty that a smaller Unionist State in the North East could have sufficient democratic support to be deemed a ‘normal’ democracy . In the case of the latter this would necessitate a fair repartition of NI with probably half or slightly more of the territory of the NI State being ceded to the Republic .

    I happen to believe that the latter is a preferable solution for Northern Nationalists and Republicans to another 40 years of navel gazing and waiting to see if the Republicn/Nationalist birth rate reduction is offset by a higher Unionist emigration and death rate or whether which new immigrants are likely to vote Orange or Green or Yellow !

    The Republic’s investors will continue to buy out the North as the latter continues it’s path of economic emisseration relative to the Republic . The North’s ‘geriatricisation ‘ is also propelling that region into an ever narrowing cul de sac of limited options . Que sera sera .

  • Henry94

    Greenflag

    ‘In a united Ireland power-sharing will have to feature.

    Why ? The Irish Republic has no intention of introducing ‘sectarianism’ into the Republic’s politics . No thanks.

    If we have learned anything it is that sectarian politics and majority rule are mot mutually exclusive.

  • Greenflag

    Henry94,

    ‘If we have learned anything it is that sectarian politics and majority rule are not mutually exclusive. ‘

    ? Not sure what point you are making here Henry94. Some elaboration might help .

  • Stork

    BP1078

    “Valenciano in his 11.10 am post has kind of made my point for me; if you check on that website you quoted, the Unionist-Nationalist ratio has stabilised or even increased slightly in the former’s favour in every election since 2000.
    That trend was stopped last week, but whether that is a temporary blip or not, who knows?”

    However it is fairly obvious if you look at the fine details that behind that is a load of UUP voters jumping to Alliance in constituencies along the eastern seaboard. What that means I don’t know, but that’s what happened.

    “Did you know also that the combined SDLP/SF vote has declined by 35,000 between the first Assembly election and the one we had last week?

    The census figures I’d say are completely irrelevant to the debate, babies aren’t born unionist or nationalist and there is no requirement for adults to state their political viewpoint on the census form.”

    They’re certainly not irrelevant, because the increase in the Catholic “community background” population is THE reason for an increase in the nationalist vote over the past 30 years. If you think it has increased because Protestant “community background” people have decided to start voting SDLP or Sinn Fein then you are very much mistaken. The fact that this previous demographic trend has stopped and may even go into reverse is highly relevant to future election and border poll predictions. At the very least it is not “completely irrelevant” as you state.

    Of course it does not translate into a perfect predictor of a border poll, and I specifically stated it won’t, but actually nationalist / unionist party splits in elections don’t translate into the results of a border poll any better. Just look at all the opinion poll data on this subject. Sure we can be skeptical of that data but the differences in eg. pro-union Catholics compared to pro-united Ireland Protestants are huge and can’t be ignored and completely brushed away.

    I don’t think that SNP or Plaid Cymru votes would translate into results of referenda on independence either incidentally.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Comrade Stalin

    Sorry, just re-reading my earlier post and I realise that my tone is a little hectoring. By way of explanation, I was laying into a certain type of mindset that I perceive to be quite widespread among unionism – I have referred to it as a “colonial mindset”. I’m sorry for applying my general criticisms to you personally. Apologies and, I hope, no hard feelings.

  • Yoda

    Good discussion; however, I just can’t shake the sense that when you scratch the surface of those who insist on their being neither unionist nor nationalist you actually find a de facto unionist.

  • BP1078

    “They’re certainly not irrelevant, because the increase in the Catholic “community background” population is THE reason for an increase in the nationalist vote over the past 30 years”

    Or you could argue that there is much more point in Catholics voting now than 30 plus years ago. There is a big jump in the “nationalist” vote between say round about 1970 and 1995 onwards, which can’t be explained by a much smaller increase in those describing themselves from a Catholic community background.

    I agree with the rest of your post, there is no way anyone can predict with any certainty how the constitutional status will pan out over the next ten, never mind twenty years;there are too many unknown variables now compared to the time of the last border referendum.

  • Nite star

    BP,

    I see you haven’t responded to my Mar 12, 2007 @ 08:00 PM post. I would be very interested to learn what you meant when you said, “There are things I like, things I dislike – like anyone in Britain itself, I imagine.”

    In the abscence of clarification, we can only assume that the Shinners represent only the treasonous form of Irish Republicanism but are complete hypocrits too.

  • hotdogx

    I don wish to alarm any unionists but…
    It has come to my notice on the RTE website that in first preference votes uup and sdlp had about the same and sf was behind the dup by only 27000 votes (population of a small town)or so. Nationalist parties could soon be a permanent majority in the assembly. A nationalist dominated assembly will have an easier time convincing the electorate of the benefits of a ui.

  • Doctor Who

    Billy Pilgrim

    “I see you have ignored my question. Can I take it that, in the event of a majority voting for reunification, you would embrace terrorism?”

    I think you will find that I answered your question unequivacally. Although it was naturally not what you wanted to hear.

    So I will answer it again, NO I WOULD NOT EMBRACE TERRORISM.

    Now the next time you put your X or your first pref. for Sin Fein on your ballot, ask yourself the same question.

  • Harry

    hotdogx: in first preference votes uup and sdlp had about the same and sf was behind the dup by only 27000 votes

    That’s interesting. Do you have a link to the actual page showing that?
    If this is correct, then on a 62% turnout the difference between the nationalist and unionist vote has narrowed to a mere 27,000. Upon this slim majority alone is the future constitutional life of millions to be decided? Is that not a recipe for the profoundest instability the island has seen since the threat of civil war (or more properly the threat of british sponsored war) in 1922?

    And yet after reading some posts on demographics above I was beginning to be of the opinion that the unionist status quo was safe, what with claims about declining birth rates, increasing ‘others’ and what not. Then all of a sudden I’m told the difference between the ‘blocks’ has narrowed to a mere 27,000.

    That’s the thing about n. ireland – one moment you think one thing and despair, next moment something else seems possible or likely and you feel the complete opposite. Then something else is pointed out and you feel differently again, and then you discover yet a newer viewpoint and all changes yet again.

    The whole place is completely unstable and prone to fall apart at any moment. Confusion and uncertainty reigns and the british have used this – at all levels – to attempt to consolidate their interests on this island. This is a poison for our mental wellbeing and for our political lives as Irish people.

  • The Pict

    The Limits of growth was a doomsday book discredited in the 1960s for incorrectly predicting the future from present trends. this, of course, happened in the “Real World” as distinct from the home of the Potato university and You You Anker Land.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Nite Star

    What are you on? And what do Sinn Fein have to do with me?

    (Read on.)

    Doctor Who

    With respect, you haven’t answered my question at all. You answered a completely different question.

    I asked you what YOU would do in the event of a pro-unity majority and you responded by making a dark prediction about what you think others might do. You talked about unionist resistance and sidestepped my question as to whether you could say you would unequivocally oppose and condemn such attempts to frustrate a democratic mandate for unity.

    So I assume you are, at the very least, leaving yourself the option of a resort to terrorism. Yet you claim (for the first time, natch) “I WOULD NOT EMBRACE TERRORISM” – can you guarantee the implication of this – that you WOULD respect the democratic outcome of a border poll, even if you were in the minority?

    It shouldn’t be this hard to get you to say you would.

    “Now the next time you put your X or your first pref. for Sin Fein on your ballot, ask yourself the same question.”

    Not that it’s any of your business, but I have never voted Sinn Fein. (Though I have to admit I’m running out of reasons not to.)

  • Valenciano

    >>That’s interesting. Do you have a link to the actual page showing that?
    If this is correct, then on a 62% turnout the difference between the nationalist and unionist vote has narrowed to a mere 27,000.<

  • Roger

    Some things mentioned in favour of a united Ireland actually sound quite appealing to me a Unionist, they are as follows:

    1. No water tax or rates bills
    2. All Ireland railway line (excellent proposal)

    However on other issues mentioned within this thread I have great discomfort with and these are key reasons why I can’t support a Sinn Fein lead united Ireland they are as follows:

    1. Phasing out of English – This is a ridiculas proposal when this is one of the most important global languages while Gaelic is virtually dead.

    2. Ban on membership of loyal orders and their parades. I am completely against this and it doesnt really show that Sinn Fein are prepared to reach out to Protestants in a ui.

    I am also concerned that a time frame seems to have been put on the unification of Ireland at around 2020. I can’t honestly understand where this date has come from but I have heard it mentioned a lot as of late by Republicans.

  • Harry

    Phasing out of English
    Ban on membership of loyal orders and their parades

    If you weren’t so inclined to believe the ridiculous you might have copped this fella for the piss-taker he obviously is from the extreme madness of his suggestions. It is the reflection of your own attitudes you are viewing when you take this seriously, not his or anyone else’s for that matter.

    I am also concerned that a time frame seems to have been put on the unification of Ireland at around 2020

    The best you can hope for is that the current ‘process without a policy’ keeps the nationalists pacified for another 10 years, if even that. The moment nationalists begin to lose hope will be the beginning of a much more serious war than has occurred thus far. Nationalists smell the finishing line, their hopes are raised and nothing is going to deflect them from that. Unionist and british leaders know this, which is why their level of demilitarisation is somewhat less than impressive and why unionists have at least 150,000 guns in private hands with the number increasing not decreasing every year.

  • Doctor Who

    Harry

    In actual fact you make James look like Ghandi.

    Roger

    “1. No water tax or rates bills
    2. All Ireland railway line (excellent proposal)”

    An UI is not needed to accomplish list. No. 2 is acheivable through North South bodies as per GFA, No 1. can be acheived throug the Assembly, providing it returns.

  • Doctor Who

    Billy Pilgrim

    Which part of “I Would Not Embrace Terrorism” do you not understand.

    In my earlier post I said words to the same effect, I also said you would have to be naive to think that Loyalism would not resist any moves toward a UI by non violent means. Are you naive?

    Why would you not vote Sinn Fein, Gerry has promised you a UI within 13 years. Now when it becomes clear that ain´t going to happen, who do you take your frustration out on? Gerry, Bairbre, Munchie etc etc, no probably not. You will do what you have always done and blame Unionism.

    Put the pipe dream to bed for good and get on with meaningful power sharing, which will be beneficial for all the people of Northern Ireland first and formost, also for our neighbours in ROI and the rest of the UK.

  • Harry

    Actually Dr Who I am the soul of tranquility and any moves towards hurting people generally makes my stomach churn. That doesn’t mean however that I can be blackmailed or intimidated by those who threaten violence in oh so subtle ways. Nor does it mean that the status quo can hide its true face from my critical acuity behind a veil of legalistic self-righteous priggishness, such as it attempts to do in n. ireland. The status quo in n. ireland is very violent, implicitly, and very uncompromisingly so.

    As for ‘pipe dream’ – do you seriously think you can keep the irish people separated from their fellow countrymen and women on the basis of a piffling 47,000 votes and falling? Who do you think you are? How many Irish people above and beyond the normal rate had to emigrate from northern ireland over the last 80 years due to disadvantage for you to rely at this juncture on the small ‘majority’ gained from it to maintain your status quo? 47,001? Well, approximately 2 and a half times that number have ‘abnormally’ emigrated over that time, not including the children they have also given birth to in the meantime.

    The position of unionism is morally and pragmatically untenable.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Doctor Who

    “Which part of “I Would Not Embrace Terrorism” do you not understand?”

    The part in which you refuse to say you would accept the democratic verdict of a pro-unity majority, and would oppose and condemn those who would not. Are you prepared to make such a declaration?

    If not, why not?

    “I also said you would have to be naive to think that Loyalism would not resist any moves toward a UI by non violent means.”

    And I have said repeatedly that that isn’t what I’m asking you. I’m asking you whether you would respect a democratic majority voting for something you voted against? And I’m asking whether you would oppose those who would use violence to oppose a democratic decision. You have repeatedly refused to answer that specific question.

    (And no, it’s not good enough to say you would oppose terrorism – too many semantic escape routes. Stop with the weasel answers and tell the truth – what would you do?)

    “Are you naive?”

    No, but I’m not asking you what you think others would do. I’m asking you what YOU would do. And you pulling every trick in the book to avoid answering me.

    “Why would you not vote Sinn Fein, Gerry has promised you a UI within 13 years.”

    I don’t have too many problems on policy, I have to admit, and there is much that the Adams-McGuinness leadership have achieved that I admire. But I’ve seen them on the ground and while, on one hand I can’t help but be in awe of their organisational sophistication, on the other I am afraid of them. There is a Greenshirt element within the movement that the party does nothing to discourage.

    I also think that reunification will happen as a result of a ’98-style coming together – but SF aren’t the spiritual descendents of the United Irishmen. They are the spiritual descendents of the Defenders.

    “Now when it becomes clear that ain´t going to happen, who do you take your frustration out on? Gerry, Bairbre, Munchie etc etc, no probably not. You will do what you have always done and blame Unionism.”

    If we get to 2016 and reunification hasn’t happened, we will continue to work for it. 2016, or 2020 aren’t deadlines. SF have a part to play in all of this, but it isn’t about them – and frankly, unionism needs to get over its SF-fixation. (Twice on this thread I’ve been assumed to be a SFer, for example.)

    “Put the pipe dream to bed for good and get on with meaningful power sharing, which will be beneficial for all the people of Northern Ireland first and formost, also for our neighbours in ROI and the rest of the UK.”

    How can you seriously promise a dispensation which “will be beneficial for all” when you treat the aspirations of almost half your fellow northerners with such callous disregard? How on earth could your promises be taken seriously?

  • Doctor Who

    Harry

    “How many Irish people above and beyond the normal rate had to emigrate from northern ireland over the last 80 years due to disadvantage for you to rely at this juncture on the small ‘majority’ gained from it to maintain your status quo?”

    You contradict yourself….how can a population both flourish and be forced to emmigrate. Could it be that as usual you are talking bollox.

    I perferred the Harry that described Unionists as an “autistic people”, and reserved the right of “all Irish men to bare arms against British oppression”.

    Why are you trying to re invent yourself as a pacifist?

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Harry

    “…on the basis of a piffling 47,000 votes and falling?”

    Really? Is that all it is? That gives me an idea.

    Let’s schedule a border poll for the same day Ireland next play England in the rugby. Give all the tickets to the Ulster branch for free and have the Irish government lay on free trains and buses from Belfast and Ballymena and Bangor and Portadown etc. Free accommodation in any Dublin hotel (subject to availability) for anyone in possession of a rugby ticket. Throw a huge street party on College Green (appropriately, right in front of dear old Trinners) celebrating the Anglo-Irish/Ulster Protestant contribution to Ireland, with free Guinness and Bushmills for all.

    It’d cost €50 million, but it’d get 82,000 northern rugby fans out of the way for a day – of whom, let’s be honest, 81,000 would probably be broadly of the unionist persuasion.

    Reunification would be a fait accompli!

    (Except for Doctor Who and his band of dissidents hiding out in the hills and caves above Belfast, of course.)

  • Harry

    how can a population both flourish and be forced to emmigrate

    Simple, by flourishing less well than they would otherwise have done if circumstances had been less antagonistic to them.

    I’m glad you remember the idea of unionists as ‘autistic’ – it’s been quite some time since I spoke of that. It’s an accurate enough way of looking at unionism, politically and psychologically speaking.

    the right of “all Irish men to bare arms against British oppression”.

    There’s a joke in there somewhere but I can’t quite find it yet…

  • Doctor Who

    Billy pilgrim

    Actually such a scenario is as about as real as the electorate ever voting for your “pipe dream”.

    As for hiding in the hills or caves, well as Unionist I have never worn a mask and hid in the long grass waiting to detonate a bomb or shoot an unarmed target.

    On another thread you have stated that the Ulster Unionist Party never respected Democracy in Northern Ireland, ( in fact you implied that the UUP was on a parallel with Sinn Fein / IRA, when it came to opposing Democracy during the troubles) but if you stopped and listened to yourself for a second you might wake up.

    The aspirations of a United Ireland, however mis guided and fairy tale like they may be are a fair aspiration, it is however getting in the way of real politics. The more I hear of Nationalists / Republicans on these threads, the more í´m convinced that they have no interest in moving the assembly forward. They are bideing their time because the big man with the beard has promised them their ultimate Christmas present.

    However Billy while Gerry exists, Santa doesn´t, and neither can deliver what you want. Put your childish fantasies to sleep and move on. In forty years time you will regret carrying this stupid pipe dream to bed every night.

  • kensei

    “In forty years time you will regret carrying this stupid pipe dream to bed every night.”

    Interesting thing you are doing there. You are going “Well it is a fair aspiration BUT just drop it, child”. Well, no. Why don’t you just give up YOUR stance?

    I’ll bet neither Billy nor I will regret it in 40 years time either way.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Doctor Who

    “Actually such a scenario is as about as real as the electorate ever voting for your “pipe dream”.”

    I thought that might be your next attempt to avoid the question. “It’ll never happen anyway so what’s the point in talking about what I’d do…etc”

    I take it that, since you are not prepared to say you would accept a democratic vote in favour of reunification, that you would respond to such a vote by going for your gun? Or at the very least, supporting those who did so?

    Be honest. It’s so much less tiresome than this charade. I thought Ulstermen prided themselves on their forthrightness, on their intolerance of weasel words and dishonesty?

    “As for hiding in the hills or caves…”

    Just a little artistic license there Dr, no offence intended!

    “…well as Unionist I have never worn a mask and hid in the long grass waiting to detonate a bomb or shoot an unarmed target.”

    Why would you preface this with “as a unionist”?
    As you know, some unionists HAVE done these things – I mention this only to show the incongruity of your prefacing the sentence with “as a unionist”.

    “On another thread you have stated that the Ulster Unionist Party never respected Democracy in Northern Ireland…”

    You’re paraphasing, to say the least. I’ll put it this way: Being a true democrat means accepting the integrity of the votes you lose. By that reckoning, from the first Home Rule bill of 1886 right up to the present, unionism has never shown itself to be a strict adherent to anything I would recognise as democracy.

    Your refusal to commit yourself to accepting the democratic verdict of a border poll (whatever the outcome) and your prediction that a pro-unity vote would be met by widespread pro-union violence, only goes to prove my point.

    As I say, being a true democrat means accepting the integrity of the votes you lose. Clearly you don’t think unionism is democratic. But right now, I’m not interested in unionism generally. I’m asking about your specifically, and I’m asking you to answer for yourself, and no-one else.

    Again my question is: are you prepared to say you would accept the outcome of a border poll, whatever that outcome might be? The substance of the question is: are you a democrat or not?

    “…in fact you implied that the UUP was on a parallel with Sinn Fein / IRA, when it came to opposing Democracy during the troubles…”

    I don’t think I implied that at all, on the thread you mention. That’s an argument for another day.

    “The aspirations of a United Ireland, however mis guided and fairy tale like they may be are a fair aspiration, it is however getting in the way of real politics.”

    I think the state of Northern Ireland is getting in the way of real politics. So you and I reach stalemate. Let’s set it aside and move on to a more productive area of discussion.

    “The more I hear of Nationalists / Republicans on these threads, the more í´m convinced that they have no interest in moving the assembly forward. They are bideing their time because the big man with the beard has promised them their ultimate Christmas present.”

    I think most nationalists want to move the assembly forward and want to take a hands-on role in making a success of this place. I think most nationalists see this as a means of achieving reunification – ie by creating a context in which opposition to reunification is objectively ridiculous and, basically, bad for business. Destroy the border by making it as anachronistic as possible.

    You have to admit, it’s a brilliant tactic – it leaves unionists defending division for the sake of division.

    “Put your childish fantasies to sleep and move on.”

    No.

    Again we reach stalemate, you and I. Let’s move on to a more productive area of discussion.

    “In forty years time you will regret carrying this stupid pipe dream to bed every night.”

    I doubt it.

    Are you prepared to commit to exclusively peaceful and democratic means in the event of a pro-unity referendum?

    If not, and if you’d take up the gun, how can you claim to oppose terrorism?

  • Aaron McDaid

    Doctor Who,
    I see Billy too has been at the receiving end of your nonsense assumptions. I refer to the knee jerk assumptions on who he has voted for.

    Earlier in this thread Doctor Who said of me “I do not not deny you your monolistic view of what it means to be Irish, so why can you not repect my plural view of my Irishness.“. That’s complete nonsense, and Doctor Who has no evidence that I have any sort of exclusive idea of Irishness.

    Doctor Who even hypocritically said, in the same post, “If you where a regular contributor or reader of these threads over the last few years you will know I am … “. Doctor Who is in no position to lecture anyone on prejudice. Doctor Who, debate what we say on this board, not against your paranoid delusions.

  • Might Work

    Throw a huge street party on College Green (appropriately, right in front of dear old Trinners) celebrating the Anglo-Irish/Ulster Protestant contribution to Ireland, with free Guinness and Bushmills for all.

    FFS don’t tell RSF.

  • Doctor Who

    Aaron McDaid

    Doctor Who even hypocritically said, in the same post, ”If you where a regular contributor or reader of these threads over the last few years you will know I am … ”.

    What in Belzebubs ball´s are you talking about. The poster called Realist.. is that you, assumed I was a Protestant, when I´m not.

    As for Billy, well I think he would agree he is big and ugly enough to look after himself. Not so sure about you though.

    Billy Pilgrim

    As I´ve said before it beggars belief that a Nationalist has the audacity to lecture a Unionist on constitutional politics. I oppose a UI, I do however think that Northern Ireland is best administrated from Belfast with very strong links with the reat of the UK,ROI and the European Community.

    I don´t agree that 50 + 1 is coming anytime soon and I also don´t believe that such a slender majority, forcing half of the poulation against there will is a healthy option.

    At partition the Nationalist population in the North was slightly less than 35%, it has risen by perhaps 7% in 80 years. So it is neccesary that Unionism has to be more acommodating of Nationalist aspirations, something in the past they have refused to do. When looking at electorate results, remember Republicans refused to vote for years and organised boycotts. Now we have a situation where Nationalists are being told that Stormount is a prelude to a UI. But I´m afraid that´s just not true. The only people saying that are Sinn Fein, and as you have rightly pointed out you really couldn´t trust them as far as you could kick them.

    I apologise for assuming you are a Republican voter, as I would never tell anyone which way to vote, that is matter of concience for the individual. I am however bewildered by the size of the Sinn Fein vote, simply because I don´t feel that simply giving up aremed srtuggle makes them “constitutionalists”. As I have sai before Nationalists seem very quick to forgive the IRA of their sins, while many victims remain unburied. That is Democracy, and one of it´s many faults.

    I would oppose a UI Democratically now like I have always done, in the event of being forced into a UI I would continue to oppose it Democratically. Unionism can never be persuaded into a UI and to be fair Sinn Fein / IRA, SDLP and the ROI govt. know that, they have never tried to pretend otherwise, they have never once suggested HOW the British, Ulster Unionist identidy would be maintained and respected in a UI, other than saying it would be.

    It is now up to all party´s at Stormount to make the Executive work. However as the benefits of it working seem greater for Unionism or Devolutionists with the Unionist party´s, I think Sinn Fein will go in half heartedly. Remember Provisional Sinn Fein are still very knew to the “constitutional” game, and when it suits they will choose to bring the house down, while pointing the finger at “demuns overthere”.

    Harry

    You state that hordes of Irish emmigrated from NI to escape British oppression. Why then did they migrate to Britain.

    Also the biggest cause of migration (Nationalists and Unionists) that I knew of when I grew up, was sectarian IRA and Loyalist violence. The former which you so proudly endorse.

  • Yoda

    You state that hordes of Irish emmigrated from NI to escape British oppression. Why then did they migrate to Britain.

    Is that really so hard to figure out?

  • Aaron McDaid

    Doctor Who,
    Don’t pretend that I am defending Realist’s mistake. Of course Realist made a mistake about you by presupposing your religion, but that doesn’t justify the mistake you made about me.

    I had earlier simply asked you to clarify this:
    the idea that a Unionist can be persuaded not to be a Unionist is downright stupid. In fact it is too stupid to be patronising.
    In response you quite childishly made a false, and totally unrelated, claim that I had a narrow view of what ‘Irishness’ means. I can gaurantee that if I gave you a questionnaire on my politics and culture and religion, you would get 90% of it wrong.

    Simply admit that you had allowed yourself to forget that unionism is just another political belief that individual people might drop as a result of political debate. And then admit that you shouldn’t make presumptions about people’s religion, culture, politics.

    You have been caught out making a number of false presumptions by a number of people. You simply are unable to defend your position, instead dreaming up as many paranoid delusions about each and every nationalist and/or republican that you can. First off, you sometimes seem to think ‘nationalist’ and ‘republican’ mean exactly the same thing.

    … As for Billy, well I think he would agree he is big and ugly enough to look after himself. Not so sure about you though.

    I’m not particularly sticking up for Billy, or for that matter myself, I’m just calling bullshit when I see it. Are you big enough to admit another mistake.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Doctor Who

    “I oppose a UI, I do however think that Northern Ireland is best administrated from Belfast with very strong links with the rest of the UK, ROI and the European Community.”

    I suppose the question is, why do you oppose a UI?

    Would you still oppose it if there was provision for a sort of “home rule” for the northeast? With a devolved assembly in Belfast administering for those areas (say the super-council areas) opting to take part? With, of course, full northern representation in the sovereign all-Ireland parliament? Surely this would provide a local assembly responsive to local needs, a sovereign parliament in which the Belfast hinterland wouldn’t exactly be swamped (statistically the present NI would be entitled to about 75 seats in an enlarged Dail – almost a third overall), and access to the top levels of European government (via members of government – some of whom, it’s a statistical certainty, would be elected by we northerners. That’s something that membership of the UK cannot offer.)

    If so, why?

    “I don´t agree that 50 + 1 is coming anytime soon and I also don´t believe that such a slender majority, forcing half of the population against there will is a healthy option.”

    50% plus one is what has been agreed. If it happens, the reunification ball starts rolling. That’s the bottom line. Besides, you warn against coercing almost half the population – but your solution is to frustrate more than half? Not going to happen – the principle of consent is the fundamental rule of the game, and that rule isn’t going to be changed now.

    “At partition the Nationalist population in the North was slightly less than 35%, it has risen by perhaps 7% in 80 years. So it is necessary that Unionism has to be more accommodating of Nationalist aspirations, something in the past they have refused to do.”

    I would welcome unionist efforts to do so, though I have to say I think it’s too late. Even twenty-five years ago it could’ve been argued that NI was objectively better off than the Republic – no longer. Every objective argument is now in favour of reunification: economic betterment, social detente, increased political representation and the chance of access to real power in Ireland and Europe, infrastructural development, psychological release from the post-imperial cul-de-sac that is the state of Northern Ireland – the list goes on. Against that, the only arguments are a) emotional and identity-related (not small things, I hasten to add); and b) morbid warnings of an Ulster Protestant Armageddon.

    So as I say, I’d welcome a belated unionist attempt at pluralism, but I have to say I think it’s too late. And I would add that it’s at odds with the very reasons for partition in the first place. But I would applaud the effort.

    “When looking at electorate results, remember Republicans refused to vote for years and organised boycotts. Now we have a situation where Nationalists are being told that Stormount is a prelude to a UI. But I´m afraid that´s just not true.”

    That will be a judgement for future historians. I suppose we shall see.

    “The only people saying that are Sinn Fein, and as you have rightly pointed out you really couldn´t trust them as far as you could kick them.”

    I think they might be on to something. Getting into power on both sides of the border is a brilliant strategy for undermining the border, you have to admit.

    “I apologise for assuming you are a Republican voter.”

    No apology necessary. I am a republican to the tips of my fingers. Nor would I consider it a slur to be accused of voting SF. I haven’t done it before but I don’t rule it out either. I don’t buy the “touch not the unclean thing” attitude with which unionists, the establishment and our media treat SF. I find it depressing.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    contd

    “I am however bewildered by the size of the Sinn Fein vote, simply because I don´t feel that simply giving up armed struggle makes them “constitutionalists”.

    As I said earlier, I am running out of reasons not to vote for them. They have ended their war. They have decommissioned. They have effectively stood down. They are at an advanced stage of winding up their criminal empire. They have backed the police. They stand ready to enter an executive. They provide effective representation for nationalism. They are deadly serious about a united Ireland. In truth, it’s only past experience that stops me voting for them, but even that is fast receding into memory. Times change. So do parties and movements. I’ve been slow to accept their bona fides, but I’m going to have to soon.

    “As I have said before Nationalists seem very quick to forgive the IRA of their sins, while many victims remain unburied. That is Democracy, and one of it´s many faults.”

    It’s not a fault of democracy that others vote for parties you oppose. It’s more likely that your narrative of the last forty years is faulty – or at the very least, incomplete.

    “I would oppose a UI Democratically now like I have always done, in the event of being forced into a UI I would continue to oppose it Democratically.”

    Thank you for clearing that up (finally!!!).

    “Unionism can never be persuaded into a UI …”

    Of course it can’t. But that doesn’t mean individuals from the broad unionist background can’t. They are not automatons. The fundamental that underpins democracy is the assumption that individuals are capable of making reasonable and rational decisions. Therefore republicans must set about laying out reasonable and rational arguments, and hope that: a) the arguments are good enough (and I believe they are compelling, but it’s early days yet); and b) that the assumption underpinning democracy is correct.

    “…and to be fair Sinn Fein / IRA, SDLP and the ROI govt. know that, they have never tried to pretend otherwise, they have never once suggested HOW the British, Ulster Unionist identity would be maintained and respected in a UI, other than saying it would be.”

    What do you make of my proposal (above) of a devolved local assembly in Belfast for those areas that wanted one?

    “It is now up to all party´s at Stormount to make the Executive work. However as the benefits of it working seem greater for Unionism or Devolutionists with the Unionist party´s, I think Sinn Fein will go in half heartedly. Remember Provisional Sinn Fein are still very knew to the “constitutional” game, and when it suits they will choose to bring the house down, while pointing the finger at “demuns overthere”.

    Again, I suppose we’ll see. I think SF’s interests would be better served in showing themselves to be competent in government, as they could then target cabinet seats after the next southern election and, they hope, have complementary ministries. Say you have SF health ministers in Belfast and Dublin – this means that health policy for all of Ireland would be coming from the SF leadership. And you can bet it’d be a single, seamless policy. And if it was seen to be working, how ridiculous would the border seem then? As I said, if this strategy works, unionism is left arguing against better government, better services, arguing for the anachronisms of partition and demanding division for the sake of division.

  • belfastcouple

    Shirlow’s perspective is not gllomy but instead accurate. We assume he is talking about the nature of broad alliances within both. Both used to be narrow in terms of their electorate but have expanded in terms of class and meaning.

    Unlike Bew he doesn’t use sich aggressive language such as ‘warriors’. He always seems to make points about sectarianism without being offensive.

    Anyhow the only socalist who is obviously anti-sectarian in the Assembly is Dawn Purvis.

  • Nite star

    Billy Pilgrim,

    “What are you on?”

    =====================================================
    =====================================================
    “There are things I like, things I dislike – like anyone in Britain itself, I imagine.”
    =====================================================
    =====================================================

    As asked in my post on Mar 12, 2007 @ 08:00 PM,
    Please explain.

  • Pete Baker

    Nite Star

    Allow me to paraphrase Billy Pilgrim..

    “Like anyone in Britain itself, I imagine, there are things I like and things I dislike which are British.”

    It helps in a discussion if there’s, at least, an attempt to understand what’s being said.

    Sadly, there’s been very little evidence overall in this thread that any such attempt is being made.

  • Petey

    Lest we forget the electorate only turned out to be a ‘sectarian headcount’ when SF and the DUP became the biggest parties… remember sectarianism didn’t exist when the SDLP and UUP were up there.

    Sour grapes from a bunch of middle class careerists licking their wounds at people seeing them for what they are (soon to be were).

  • Nite Star

    Pete, BP,

    ”It helps in a discussion if there’s, at least, an attempt to understand what’s being said.”

    Thanks Pete and I agree. That is precisely what I was trying to do as I thought there was a possibility that BP was being provocative, possibly using a moderate tone to disguise a more hard-line belief. I was merely trying to highlight the ambiguity in the original comment (”…things I dislike – like anyone in Britain itself…”). I can see this wasn’t the intention and am more than happy to concede I got this one completely AAF!.