Proceed with cautious optimism…..

There is no doubt whatsoever that the events of yesterday have placed us into a new era, an unprecendented acceptance of several hertofore unacceptable precepts. Northern Ireland is no longer a protestant state solely in existence for a protestant people. The catholic, nationalist people of Northern Ireland have fully accepted and moved forward into this devolved separatist state. Many lives have been lost in the process of the creation of this state, and not just from the 1960’s. This is the resolution that was not achieved in 1920 and has now been achieved. Dermot Ahern has asked why so many lives had to be lost before we could arrive at this place. A more hopeful or telling question is why so few have been killed. In the Irish Civil War which lasted for 11 months, it is estimated that around 4,000 people were killed. In any other sustained period of violence in the world, death rates have been exponentially higher.

There is possbily something positive to be taken from these facts. Perhaps lurking beneath our surface we have the essential understanding and cohesion that is required to co-exist peacefully within the confines of our separate traditions. Danger exists here also, if we now decide that we will only have two traditions to choose from and create a false society. Room has to be made for social, religious, political, class, ethnic and cultural diversity within our society and that space must be protected vigorously. While the previous civic forum came in for much criticism, it might also be seen as a neccesary space for the preservation of identity outside those that have been enshrined so far.

I fully understand the comments that people have made about moving forward not being an easy or indeed in some minds an achieveable feat. Indeed one of the first acts aniticpated by our new leaders will be the appointment of the Permanent Victims commissioner. He or she will need to examine, listen understand and take forward the issues of the past, while allowing our present and future to move on. It will not be an easy task, and it is unlikely that everyone will be satisfied with the decisions and choices that will have to be made.

Mick’s money was on the smiling picture of Marty and the Doc. My image of where we are now is one I took last year at a 12th of July parade in Belfast. Underlying the smiles, remains the tensions and hatreds of generations. But we have much to build on for the future, as long as it is an inclusive, understanding and newly tolerant future.

  • jj

    “The catholic, nationalist people of Northern Ireland have fully accepted and moved forward into this devolved separatist state.”

    Not exactly. As one commentator on Slugger noted recently, the constitutional issue has NOT been settled; the rules for how that change will be brought about have been agreed upon, that’s all.

  • Oranges for Sale

    JJ

    As far as most Unionists are concerned the constitutional issue HAS been settled. Full stop.
    Well, at least Gerry and Martin now agree that it has….

  • pmc

    And therein lies the delusion….. This is the settlement, no dount about it.

  • merrie

    Oranges & pmc: and what if there is a majority of Nationalists rather than Unionists in the six counties? Judging from demographic trends, this will happen within 25 years.

    As jj said, only the rules for change have been agreed upon.

  • Caught in a rutting

    The future of the Union is safe in my loins.

  • StarHound

    As ground breaking as yesterday’s events were, there has beem too much delusional nonsense and trite, lazy journalism about the so called ‘new dawn’.

    There has certainly been progress but neither side has given up on their basic and conflicting aspirations – the Assembly is just about managing a bad situation and making sure people don’t get killed.

    ‘The catholic, nationalist…have fully accepted and moved forward into this devolved separatist(sic) state.’ – Nationalists and Republicans are still focused on re-unification, the Assembly is a change in the means.

  • heck

    “This is the resolution that was not achieved in 1920 and has now been achieved.”

    I think not. “The troubles” are over for our generation but I would not claim “an end of history”. (others have made that claim and look how it worked out!) The partition of ireland was supposed to be a resolution.

    I think that in 50 years time our childern or grandchildern will be hoping to settle the constitutional issue. The issue has’nt gone away you know.

  • Gréagóir O’ Fráinclín

    What sort of attire are those blokes wearing in the photo. Brokeback mountain meets the bell boys!

  • Diluted Orange

    [i]”what if there is a majority of Nationalists rather than Unionists in the six counties? Judging from demographic trends, this will happen within 25 years.”[/i]

    For how long have we heard this old chesnut? As birth-rates go down on both sides, as they have been doing in recent times, and as, hopefully, less people move away from NI to get jobs in Britain or the Republic, any demographic change will ebb out.

    Hopefully in 25 years, if the demographic change you’re talking about does come about, then after a quarter century of peace and co-operation, starting from yesterday, any decisions taken regarding constitutuional issues will be less about a sectarian head-count as matters presently are.

    A 50%+1 scenario isn’t going to lead to a nice new, fluffy, happy United Ireland, but if say 75% wanted it, or 75% wanted to remain part of the UK, then that is real progress. It would mean we will have moved on from tribal politics. We will have evolved from effectively branding one’s political aspirations to people at their birth, in accordance to whether they’re a Protestant or Catholic, to a situation where people can think for freely themselves and ultimately therefore the demise of parties like DUP and SF, whose mere existence stem from the divisions in our society at present

  • avonmore

    No matter what the CIA might wish us to think, nothing is over. CIA talk about a multicultural Ireland to dry up the swamp is just American hype. THe fact that the killers of Denis Donaldson and the comrades of Stakeknife et al are out in the open does not change underlying truths. The beggars’ bowl approach of McGuinness, Adams and Paisley won’t change much either. “We will rise again”.

  • Dread Cthulhu

    DO: “For how long have we heard this old chesnut? As birth-rates go down on both sides, as they have been doing in recent times, and as, hopefully, less people move away from NI to get jobs in Britain or the Republic, any demographic change will ebb out.”

    You’re wrong, because you are apparently fixated on only part of the equation. There will continue to be a shift in population due to the differing ages of the two groups. Just as this is not the end of history, it’s not the end of demographic shift, either. It’s not a mathematical certainty, but not the nationalist pipe-dream, either.

  • As birth-rates go down on both sides, as they have been doing in recent times

    True, but Catholic birth-rates are still higher than Protestant ones, especially outside Greater Belfast.

    It’s not a mathematical certainty, but not the nationalist pipe-dream, either.

    Wow! I agree with Dread Cthulhu.

    We know from demoscopic evidence that there are more Catholics more-or-less content with the status quo than there are Prods wanting to have a United Ireland. The two really big questions are whether this balance will change and how immigration will affect the debate. A generation is a long time in politics, and who knows how a generation of peace and power sharing might affect people’s perception of Britain, Ireland and Northern Ireland?

  • Madmick

    Those hats on the band members in the photo look a bit camp ???

  • another_pleb

    “Catholics more-or-less content with the status quo”

    What does this mean exactly? I mean, most Catholics don’t feel the need to plant bombs and shoot people and most Catholics are perfectly willing be a model citizens (paying taxes etc.).

    Most Catholics are able to eke out a fairly happy existance within N.I. This surely doesn’t stop them from having an aspiration somewhere at the back of their mind that a U.I. mightn’t be such a bad idea (and possibly even worth voting for should they think such a plebecite to be winable), but at the moment it’s not worth losing sleep over.

    There might also be more than a few Protestants who don’t really care for the UK that much and might be willing to gamble on a UI if the money (so to speak) was right.

  • saenzmct

    Of course the constitutional issue is not resolved for ever and a day. But at least PSF/PIRA have abandoned the policy of bombing and shooting unionists out of the UK. They have signed up to a partitionist consent principle. However they will of course view this as a transitional phase pending a united Ireland. The DUP are perfectly entitled to view it as a phase pending closer East-West integration. However, as the Paisley party is profoundly six-countyish in orientation,therein lies the imblance in the “settlement” for unionists. We will soon see just how strident Sinn Fein’s drive to Irish unity will be and what the unionist response is. Those of us happy to let the constitutional issue take its demographic and democratic course, hope that pressing socio-economic issues like job losses will be everyone’s priority.

  • Irish Republican in America

    “There might also be more than a few Protestants who don’t really care for the UK that much and might be willing to gamble on a UI if the money (so to speak) was right”

    That’s right another_pleb. The potential of making $ will Unite Ireland a helluva a lot easier than a barrel of a gun will.

  • Diluted Orange

    [i]”There might also be more than a few Protestants who don’t really care for the UK that much and might be willing to gamble on a UI if the money (so to speak) was right”[/i]

    There-in lies the stupidity of wanting to settle the consitutional question via a sectarian headcount plus a few disgruntled Prods. A United Ireland formed on the 50%+1 principle, whilst democratic, isn’t going to solve the problems in NI nor mend the divide.

    The fact is that the IRA have done more damage to the notion of a United Ireland than they could ever imagine. It doesn’t matter if the Republic is somehow attractive to a few Prods now that there’s money to be made – too much blood was shed for any amount of potential riches to influence the vast majority of the Unionist community to ever consider obliging to a United Ireland. Republicanism will forever be tainted by the IRA’s campaign in the eyes of Unionists.

    Contrast this to the situation if the IRA had never existed – Unionists would be much more likely to want to divorce themselves from the condescending UK government.

  • lib2016

    Diluted Orange,

    The point is that the two largest communities in NI are approaching similar size. The large groups on either side will have follow as the centre decides just as people do in normal democracies.

    If you don’t like it that’s tough on you but the vast majority of both sides are not going back to war.

    If unionists can persuade the centre that they have a way to leave our past behind and build a sustainable future together then they will win. If they continue to substitute belligerence and threats for politics they are finished.

    Nationalists are in exactly the same boat, of course.