The next steps in achieving lasting peace and unity

With Sinn Féin most likely well and truly out of the governmental loop south of the border for the next five years following the recent Dáil elections, I thought it might be helpful to see what Fianna Fáil have on their agenda when it comes to furthering the unification objective.

Fianna Fáil says in its election manifesto (PDF file) that “the achievement of lasting peace and unity on our island remains the most important objective” of the party.

Without peace there would be no prosperity. It is the precious prerequisite for every element of our Nation’s progress. To that end, it is our first priority and prime concern. We stand for Irish unity based on consent and reconciliation. As Ireland’s largest republican and nationalist party we have led the debate on unity, striving to convince all strands of nationalist Ireland that violence only embeds partition and corrodes the republican goal of unity between Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter.

The party says it entered the peace process with two goals:

– To bring all elements of nationalist Ireland to our peaceful analysis of partition and Irish unity

– To secure a historic and lasting peace agreement with the unionist people

Fianna Fáil proposes the following “further steps forward for peace and unity” in Ireland:

North/South Co-Operation

– Implement a Comprehensive Study on the All-Island Economy

– Fully operational all-island energy market, to include an all-island approach to the renewable energy sector, a second electricity inter-connector and an all-island gas network

– Introduce a Single Electricity Market by November 2007

– Actively support fully integrated and seamless co-operation in the areas of health, education, infrastructural development, communications, planning and other public services

– Press for a single all-island corporation tax of 12.5%

– Continue to progress the North West Gateway Initiative

On helping Border Communities:

– Press for all-island planning and co-ordination in infrastructural investment across the Island over the next decade, to ensure greater provision of services to border communities

– Establish a cross-border Innovation Fund to support education, skills, science and innovation, energy research, regional development, tourism development, poverty, social inclusion and community infrastructure

– Support the development of cross-border projects including:
The Dublin – Letterkenny/Derry dual carriageway
The Border Corridor
The Ulster Canal
The Bridge at Narrow-Water

– Campaign for the complete removal of North-South cross-border telecoms and bank charges

– Further develop the Dublin-Belfast rail line as part of an integrated rail service serving major population centres, North and South

– Maximise the potential for cross-border cancer services, building on the project to provide services to Donegal

– Support the significant upgrading of higher education capacity in the border region through strategic alliances between education institutions, North and South

– Intensify efforts to promote graduate mobility, graduate retention and access to people from disadvantaged areas to higher education

– Complete the rebuilding of all border crossings destroyed during the Troubles

– Complete the development of Derry Airport, for which the Irish government has already committed almost 11 million

On battling Sectarianism:

– Establish a new Anti-Sectarianism Fund to assist projects in interface areas designed specifically to address the root cause of sectarianism and to diffuse tensions

– Increase the Reconciliation Fund to 35 million to improve dialogue between the nationalist and unionist tradition and develop capacity building amongst communities affected by the Troubles, including a focus on isolated border communities

– Provide additional staff and resources to the British Irish Secretariat to improve monitoring of sectarian incidents throughout the North and improve liaison with the PSNI

– Monitor progress and press for full and timely implementation of the Triennial Programme of the Shared Future

– Review all funding for education and community projects to see where a greater impact can be had on tackling sectarianism

On Policing:

– Monitor the full implementation of the Patten Reforms

– Press for increased Garda – PSNI co-operation including common police training where appropriate

– Provide continued support for the work of the Police Ombudsman

On Demilitarisation:

– Press for the complete implementation of the British Army demilitarisation Programme

– Negotiate for further reductions in troop numbers, beyond the Programme targets

– Fund an international competition for a permanent landmark peace monument to be located in the border region

– Press for the full decommissioning of loyalist and dissident republican weapons

  • Whatever Next

    Oh please, I can sum up FF’s attitude to ‘unity’ in 3 words: NFW. Or if you prefer another, pre-watershed 3, Please God No. The South couldn’t have made it any clearer: the last thing the Tiger wants are sociopathic, welfare-ridden, murder-endorsing Northern types. And if you haven’t got the message this election, that’s okay, because you’ll hear it again at the next one. And the one after that, and the one after that, and, what do you know, the one after that. And what has so repulsed the South about the north? The 30 years of sectarian bloodshed waged by the Provos. So well done you: truly you copperfastened partition.

  • kensei

    Yeah, thanks for that WN.

    On the actual issues, most of it seems sensible.

    The “On helping Border Communities” section is largely non specific – “campaign for” rather than take action. It’s really there SF should have exploited a gap, really.

    Also if the South is so disinterested in the North, why have

    “Press for a single all-island corporation tax of 12.5%”

    and risk your competitive advantage?

  • páid

    At the end of the day, IMO no-one who is serious about unity on the Southern side is interested in creating a NI in reverse i.e. a ROI writ large with a significant minority, in a particular geography, who are disloyal to the State, alienated from it, and more loyal to a neighbouring state.

  • Whatever Next

    Kensei, if you want to kid yourself – and after last week too! – that the South actually wants to find itself part of the same country as the north, go right ahead. No serious Southern politician, the leaders of Labour, FF & FG all included, wants Dublin to be responsible for the north. There is nothing they want less, and they have arrived at this position precisely because of the legacy of 30 years of sectarian murder waged by the Provos. But soon some fantasist will appear to assure me that all the Jaffas in the north are going to disappear by, oh, 2016. Well guess what girls, even if they did, the South still wouldn’t want the North because it’s *Northern Republicans* that they positively dislike (or have you learnt nothing from the lack of transfers too?)

  • another_pleb

    If Northern Ireland were a football team, it would be Millwall.

    Nobody likes us and we don’t care!

  • GavBelfast

    As if election manifestos ever amounted to actual progammes for government that will be substantially delivered.

    However, we can be sure that any contribution will enhance North-South relations and closeness more than bombs and hoaxes at Kilnasaggart.

  • susan

    I think there is sincere and tested commitment towards a more peaceful, economically stable NI within the ranks and the leadership of FF, and for many Fianna Feailers there is a genuine, long-term aspiration towards a UI achieved through “consent and reconciliation.” Equally important, the party has the resources and experience to achieve many of its goals.

    I think George has done a service to Northern readers unaccustomed to dealing with FF in presenting the manifesto here. As FF’s policies do come to play a larger role in the North, an even bigger service will be done by journalists, bloggers, etc. who shine the torch on the details and follow up of how and if FF pursues these objectives.

    Towards that end, as a jarring but necessary educational example, I’m providing a link to Maev-Ann Wren’s analysis of FF’s 2002 manifesto promises on healthcare, and what has actually happened. Because the devil, as most know to their cost, is in the details. And because the lives of innocent people do not matter less if they are jeopardised by inaccessibility of healthcare than by paramilitary violence.

    (By the way, Maev-Ann Wren is the author of “Health Spending and the Black Whole,” and has written on healthcare in The Irish Times, The Sunday Tribune, Quarterly Economic Commentary, etc. Required reading for any pols or parties looking to challenge FF next time out)

    From the article, well worth reading in its entirety:

    “At the May 2002 launch, Bertie Ahern said Fianna Fail was committed to “full implementation” of the “most ambitious ever health strategy”. Minister for finance Charlie McCreevy said health spending would be the government’s “number one priority”, even if growth slowed. In a display of unity, Ahern was flanked by McCreevy and minister for health Micheal Martin, ministers who had disagreed over funding health.

    Fianna Fail was campaigning on the 2001 Health Strategy, the Taoiseach made clear.

    The 10-year plan published six months before promising 3,000 public hospital beds, up to 600 primary care centres, 5,600 long stay beds for older people . . . that was Fianna Fail policy.

    Fianna Fail would “permanently end waiting lists by 2004”, Martin promised.

    “Micheal Martin has put so much commitment into this document, I would genuinely love to see him get five years to implement it, ” Ahern enthused.

    The election was in June. The government increased hospital charges in November; froze public health employment in December; and, through the winter of 2002-2003, cut spending on hospitals. Over 180 beds were closed in acute hospitals in the east in some months in 2003. Health boards cut home helps. New public facilities costing 400m were idle in 2003 and 2004.

    By autumn 2004, there was outcry over elderly patients spending five nights on trolleys in squalid, overcrowded accident and emergency departments. The consequences of abandoning the strategy were manifest.”

    http://www.tribune.ie/article.tvt?_scope=Tribune/News/Home%20News&id=68191&SUBCAT=Tribune/News/Home%20News&SUBCATNAME=

  • susan

    “Fianna Feailers” — Jesus, I am sorry for that typo, and any others, trying to do to many things at once, I’m afraid.

  • scary_eire

    Looking at some of their policies in the thread – would any unionists on the site object to them or their implementation?

    Id appreciate any answers

  • Plum Duff

    Yeah, yeah, yeah, WN, nobody else ‘done nathin”. You would serve your Unionist cause a little better if you considered, for once, the **full** facts of these last 30 years or so. All sides had bloodied hands – Bloody Sunday, McGurk’s Bar, La Mon, etc, etc. Take that large green mote from your other eye – it seems to be shielding you from crimes committed by loyalists and security forces.

    Notwithstanding your usual rant about SF and the IRA, there may be something in your argument re the *perceived* partitionist direction of the current Irish electorate. That remains to be seen, however. It is much too early to call.

    SF lost a seat, fair enough, but the most partitionist of the Southern parties, the PDs, were decimated – with the Anti-Christ himself (from a SF point of view!), Michael McDowell, failing to get elected at all. Finally, it shouldn’t be forgotten that the largest ‘Republican’ and ,allegedly, anti-partition, party, FF, received the majority of votes in the country. What they’re going to do about it, though, is another question entirely!

  • Pounder

    For my part i really dislike the idea of refering to non-catholics and non=portestants as Descenters. I am an athiest and proud of it, there is no way you can compare my beliefs (or lack there of) to that of say a Jew or a Buddist yet people Here and There 🙂 continue to lump us all in togeather.

    As for the policies, I can see nothing wrong with them beyond the fact that it’s Uncle Bertie supporting them and the usual knee jerk reaction unionists eill have. Also throwing more money at battling sectarianism is throwing good money away, some people on either side of the peace lines revel in the sectarian hatred, no amount of money can battle that kind of closemindedness shy of gene-therepy

  • John East Belfast

    Words are cheap – especially directed to a jurisdiction where there are no votes.

    Lets face it – FF will concentrate the vast majority of its energies on policies that will help it win the next election in the 26 counties – that is what politics is all about.

    Now and again a Party might sacrifice its own electoral success for the good of the country (UUP) but FF does not have to nor want to for the the sake of the 6 counties.

    Let’s face it if they were really committed to Irish Unity they would have a coalition with SF which could be the partner tasked with championing that aim. Only SF have the passion and will to drive a UI campaign

    As a unionist regularly told by nationalist sluggerites how unwanted we are by the rest of GB how do the northern nationalists feel about being so decisively rejected by their 26 county cousins ?

    It gives that whole SF unionist outreach initiative a whole new meaning as it would appear the northern jaffas might be the only friends the northern nationalists actually have on the island !
    Which of course is no bad thing.

    I have always believed that if nationalists really wanted a UI then they first have to sort out their relationships with their 6 county neighbours.

    – not objecting to any responsible annual marches, not having such animosity to the NI football team, being able to say the two words Northern Ireland would be a start.

    The bottom line is that nationalists need to be fully active members of the partitionist society within which they live – ie good citisens of the entity called Northern Ireland.

    Lets face it SF is clearly a partitionist party now with a northern emphasis that helps define the differentiation on the island.

    They have to be prepared to take the risk of fully involving themselves in NI life at the expense of all others and who knows how our grandchildren might reciprocate.

    That is the risk facing northern nationalism

  • Whatever next

    Yeah, yeah, that’s right plum duff, because, when discussing the utter absence of any panting desire in the south to get landed with the North directly because of Free State repugnance at the Provos, I didn’t mention eg ‘loyalist’ atrocities, that means I don’t think ‘loyalists’ commited atrocities. You’ve got me bang to rights. Alternatively, grow up and try your puerile whataboutery out on your dog.

    Provos killed and killed and killed, and now they’re getting, well if not exactly their due, then at least a portion of what they deserve.

  • kensei

    “Kensei, if you want to kid yourself – and after last week too! – that the South actually wants to find itself part of the same country as the north, go right ahead. No serious Southern politician, the leaders of Labour, FF & FG all included, wants Dublin to be responsible for the north. There is nothing they want less, and they have arrived at this position precisely because of the legacy of 30 years of sectarian murder waged by the Provos. But soon some fantasist will appear to assure me that all the Jaffas in the north are going to disappear by, oh, 2016. Well guess what girls, even if they did, the South still wouldn’t want the North because it’s *Northern Republicans* that they positively dislike (or have you learnt nothing from the lack of transfers too?)”

    First up, I don’t see 2016 as a realistic target myself as have never claimed it. The attitude to unity in the South is a largely settled matter – everyone is for it, it has to come by consent and it’s unlikely to happen soon. I have no illusions that it is a big issue, but it’s bonus votes if you have good foundations, and no more. You are kidding yourself if you think that any Southern Party would vote down unification if the North voted for it.

    Second, SF’s results in the March Assembly elections did not herald the imminent onset of a United Ireland. Similarly, last weeks Dail elections did not herald their imminent destruction. They suffered a setback. They may well learn from it. They may not, but about the only thing you can say at this stage is that their reaction has been more sober than their detractors. As partition and unity is, as I said earlier, a largely settled matter, it didn’t really impact on the election. SF got a kicking because of poor policy and a lacklustre campaign.

    And finally, seeing as the South hate Northern republicans so much, maybe it’s Unionists that should be pushing for unity.

  • John East Belfast

    scary

    “Looking at some of their policies in the thread – would any unionists on the site object to them or their implementation?

    Id appreciate any answers”

    well as a Unionist when somebody says here is our list of policies that we hope will achieve peace and UNITY then I am immediately going to go on the defencive – what do you expect ?

    You then have to say are these policies for the good of each economy and value for money for each respective tax payer or are they part of an overall conspiracy to achieve something by stealth which they cannot achieve by the force of their argument.

    I could also say that linking “cross border cancer services” in with a policy on peace and UNITY is bad taste to say the least.

    However thanks George for posting this as it only confirms what I already believed as it ‘lets the cat out of the bag so to speak’

    Every Unionist Party should have a copy of thes manifesto pledges and bear it in mind when what appear to be good intentions are advocated from across the border

  • kensei

    “Now and again a Party might sacrifice its own electoral success for the good of the country (UUP) but FF does not have to nor want to for the the sake of the 6 counties.”

    😆 Quality man, quality.

    “As a unionist regularly told by nationalist sluggerites how unwanted we are by the rest of GB how do the northern nationalists feel about being so decisively rejected by their 26 county cousins ?”

    Northern Nationalists weren’t rejected, Sinn Fein had a poor election. Not the same thing at all, and you can’t paint the bizarre headcount politics of the North onto the 26. Even in terms of SF, if they had have pulled in 10% and 10 seats, they would still have been a comparatively small grouping. As it is, they’ll still be about, no doubt working away for council elections in a few years time where they may do better.

    It really would be nice to see some intelligent reactions from Unionists.

  • Suilven

    I believe Dissenters originally referred to Presbyterians and other non-Anglicans; clearly it was unthinkable in Tone’s day that one should disown religion completely!

    As for the proposals itself:

    Kensei: ‘Also if the South is so disinterested in the North, why have

    “Press for a single all-island corporation tax of 12.5%”

    and risk your competitive advantage?’

    Easily paid lip service to when you know the clunking fist of G Brown stands agin it.

    ‘Complete the development of Derry Airport, for which the Irish government has already committed almost 11 million ‘

    And God knows they need it, by recent reports. Although why this white elephant airport, with its derisory passenger numbers, is persisted with is beyond me.

    And a bridge at Narrow Water? Words fail me.

  • John,

    With all due respect decribing Sinn Fein as being “clearly a partionist party” is really stretching credulity just a tad too far…

    Whilst last weeks election results were dissapointing, they seem to have been taken out of all context and perspective in ceratin quarters. Sinn Fein increased it’s share of the vote (albeit just slightly) and lost just one seat. Hardly the stuff of disasters or melt-downs. There were at least 5-6 constituencies where they polled well enough to stand a realistic chance of winning seats next time. (particularly in Donegal where they still had a huge vote polling 21% and 17.5% respectively.

    Yes there is a total re-evaluation needed on economoc policies and I expect that they will move much more towards the centre-ground in the next few years.

    They have created a good base in many constituencies throughout the country and no party responds better to setbacks. Just ask the likes of Joe Hendron about that…

    In many ways Uniionists are making a big mistake by thinking that a United Ireland is only possible via electoral success for Sinn Fein. With every day that passes, many apects of the island’s economic infastructure are being reconstructed on an All-Ireland basis. (The DUP’s Gas proposals being the latest).

    HIstory has shown that events can quickly overtake circumstances and economic wealth can be a great persuader for the abandoment of previosuly entrenched positions…

  • Dec

    The bottom line is that nationalists need to be fully active members of the partitionist society within which they live – ie good citisens of the entity called Northern Ireland.

    You really have to lose this ‘big House, listen up Ketholics’ mentality. The vast majority of Nationalists are good citizens: we pay taxes, obey the law and are fond of animals. If I want to call Northern Ireland the North, I will do so, much as Unionists will continue to call it Ulster. I will of course always support the Republic of Ireland and continue to chuckle at Unionists who think SF dropping one seat and FF being returned to power has doomed Nationalism for eternity. Please let me know how any of the above actually impinge on your daily rituals.

  • Whatever Next

    ‘Wealth’ has already done the persuading. The previous atavistic interest in the North, broadly spread accross the South’s political class during the 3 generations of independent penury, has vanished like a willothewisp, now that there’s really money to endanger. That’s how thin the desire for their lost Northern brothers and sisters was.

    Having the edge on most Northern Republicans by actually having a vote in the South, I’m cheerful enough. No one in the South wants to spend a single Euro so they can find themselves in the same state as Gerry Adams. The prospect appals the vast majority of people in the Republic, but I expect myopic northerners to be the last people to understand why – to realise what it is that *they* have done that has made them so offputting. Sure, far better to stick with the self-pity and the unrealistic fantasies. Gerry and Martin: the men who made partition permanent.

  • GavBelfast

    I don’t think last week’s election result was a setback to the prospects (in some future time) of a United Ireland.

    Had SF done well, that could well have been a setback.

    It is just possible that, while the existence of nearly a million Unionists is the conundrum, Sinn Fein and its baggage is one of the biggest obstacles.

  • freakwatch

    WN/Donal,

    So you claim to be a southerner with this personae?

    Make up your mind. Or do the multiple personalities do battle each day?

  • Dewi

    Ain’t seen that b4 – the scale of the commiment is surprisingly large. What would be transformational however would be a high speed (a la TGV) Rail link between Dublin and Belfast – now that would be cool.

  • Cormac

    Whatever Next:

    “Gerry and Martin: the men who made partition permanent. ”

    If you’re saying that those who espoused violence copperfastened partition, then surely those that worked towards ending violence also worked towards ending partition – ie Gerry and Martin.

  • flamiglip

    I dont see the big deal about Sinn Fein doing crap in the south, it’s not like it’s a new thing. People are acting like a vote for any other party like Fianna Fail is a sign that everyone’s suddenly turned unionist in the republic, which confuses me greatly. I mean, people voting for Fianna Fail and Fine Gael is hardly a shocker. Disappointing for the shinners nonetheless, but as an SDLP supporter (yeah we still exist), it’s hardly a disappointment for me.

  • jaffa

    This is all very cheerful and positive except for the line on troops – pressing for further reductions just to get Brit boots off Irish soil looks a bit SF. I’d spin this and argue that Irish regiments should be stationed in NI and where possible work with the Defence Forces.

    There’s some potential “true republican” stories here. The Royal Irish descend in part from the Royal Ulster Rifles a regiment which included a great many southern volunteers in WW2. It has a similar airborne role today to the one it held when it landed at Ranville to open the invasion of Normandy. War stories make nations.

    On the constitutional front FF are clearly being well behaved as you’d expect but there are a couple of measures that could be made to exchange political staff without any merger of legislature or threat to constitutional position.

    One simple step would be the recreation of a northern senate. 24 people would be the proportionate addition to ROI’s 60. If each senate was composed of Irish academic, religious, commercial, engineering, farming types and if all 84 had speaking rights in both senates they’d bring a harmless all-Ireland dimension to each assembly (and allow perspectives on each jurisdictions legislation that might usefully help co-ordination) without in anyway giving southerners the right to make law for the North.

    One other thing that bores George but how about undoing FG’s cheap stunt and re-entering the Commonwealth with external association. I have a wee fantasy about a developing constitutional convention whereby the head of the Commonwealth of Nations appoints the President of the Commonwealth of Ireland as the Governor of Northern Ireland – a dual presidency if you like and a dual monarchy in one and still no merger of legislature.

  • Whatever Next

    Cormac: “If you’re saying that those who espoused violence copperfastened partition, then surely those that worked towards ending violence also worked towards ending partition – ie Gerry and Martin”. And there’s SF mindset in a sentence: ‘when Gerry and Martin were saying black was black, and white was white, they were right, and now they’re saying white is black and black is white, then they’re right too’. Cormac, you might want to forget about what Gerry and Martin got up to before they stopped getting up to it, but as you really are going to have learn, next to nobody in the South is going to.

  • Cormac

    flaminglip:

    Here’s an idea to completely finish SF North and South – unification of the SDLP and Fianna Fail.

    Now that violence is no longer used/needed/whatever, wouldn’t such a party be more attractive to Republicans than SF?

    I know there are advantages to having a separate party in order to more easily get support from whoever happens to be in government in Dublin, but doesn’t such a move make sense as FF are unlikely to ever be out of power for long (as we can see from the last 30 or 40 years)?

  • Cormac

    WN – I was just pointing out deficencies in your logic, not saying I agreed with you! 🙂

  • Pounder

    To be honest I think the SDLP has fell for the same thing the UUP did and with similar consequences. The SDLP stopped listening to their electorate and started telling them what what should want, John Hume recognised this and got the hell out before it was too late, Trimble did the same though he was given a little push. The SDLP aren’t about to rise again, they are lame and dying.

  • Dewi

    Whatever next – times change – when faced with shit like this:

    What do u really expect ?

  • Mark

    So, the SDLP are lame and dying on 17% of the vote, but Sinn Fein didn’t really do all THAT badly, all things considered, and are still a force to reckon with on 6.9%. Explain.

    The FF position reads very nicely and has little that anyone of any persuasion to object to, which is exactly what it was designed to do.

    As far as the government of the Republic of Ireland is concerned, whatever their eventual make up, the North is pretty much fixed right now and policy is directly simply at making sure it doesn’t break again soon. So they’ll bust a gut to support the status quo, but that’s as far as their interest goes other than in a vaguely aspirational sense.

    I’d be amazed if the ending of partition occupied even a couple of minutes of cabinet time over the next five years.

  • Press for a single all-island corporation tax of 12.5%

    As Kensei says, the fact that Fianna Fail is pushing this, and encouraging the SDLP to push for it, is the best evidence about their long-term intentions for the north.

  • Pounder

    17% of the vote and falling, I seem to remember the SDLP having a lot more MLA’s after the previous election. In fact I remember a SDLP Deputy First Minister, now they’re 4th in the pecking order with the Alliance breathing down your neck.

  • seanzmct

    There is a glaring democratic deficit at the heart of all this. Fianna Fail has all these policies pertaining to the North but it does not offer itself to the electorate in Northern Ireland. It is surely time for FF to do away with Sinn Fein altogether by organising and standing in elections north of the border.

    Irish Labour and Fine Gael should do the same. The former accepts members from the North but has shied away from standing candidates.

    In addition the British Labour party should end its undemocratic boycott of the North by standing candidates here also.

    The more alternatives to the parties of sectarian communal interest the better.

  • Pounder

    The only result of Southern parties standing up Here would be a further fall in SDLP votes, unless FF formally joins up with the SDLP.

    The thing is non-sectarian parties do exist already, the Socialist Party, Workers Party, Green Party and the Alliance Party, but with the exception of the last tow they just don’t get votes.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    JEB

    “well as a Unionist when somebody says here is our list of policies that we hope will achieve peace and UNITY then I am immediately going to go on the defensive – what do you expect?”

    Fair enough. As a republican (though not one of the SF variety) I completely understand why a unionist would feel that way, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise to you, as a unionist, that FF are very proud to call themselves “The Republican Party”.

    This is an interesting phenomenon – not referring to you here JEB – that, after all the years of mayhem, “republican” has understandably become a pejorative among unionists. It has lost its actual meaning and has come to refer to violence, and generally to aggression against unionism, in the minds of many unionists. What’s interesting is that when unionists look at FF (a party that isn’t in the business of attacking unionism and don’t behave anything like SF towards them) they conclude that FF aren’t actually republicans at all – they can’t be republicans as they are aren’t monsters – instead of the contrary conclusion that perhaps SF don’t encompass all there is to know about Irish republicanism. That perhaps there is a far broader, more appealing, more inclusive and even noble definition of that much-abused banner.

    There’s a vital debate to be had as to what Irish republicanism is to mean in the years ahead, and how we can return to a much clearer, less loaded definition of the term, in the consent principle era. It’s a debate in which northern Protestants and unionists (the two are not synonymous) have a critical role to play. (I’d love to see Belfast rediscover in a major way, and truly take ownership of, its heroic United Irish heritage, for example.)

    “You then have to say are these policies for the good of each economy and value for money for each respective tax payer or are they part of an overall conspiracy to achieve something by stealth which they cannot achieve by the force of their argument.”

    These policies are clearly common sense for the economic benefit of north and south, but here’s the twist for unionists – these common sense steps DO lead towards greater north-south integration and DO lessen incrementally the significance of the border. They don’t remove it – only consent can do that, we’re all agreed – but they do render it increasingly meaningless. The question for unionists is: is safeguarding the union worth jettisoning economic development and consigning your children to relative poverty? (A union that, the figures predict, will strangle them economically and in turn, almost certainly consign them to a serious communal psychosis.) Or do you remember that your say in a border poll is guaranteed, and so in the meantime you’ll do whatever you must to develop this place – even though you cannot know where it all will lead – and let the chips of the next generation fall where they may?

    “I could also say that linking “cross border cancer services” in with a policy on peace and UNITY is bad taste to say the least.”

    Then you don’t know about cancer services in Donegal. I know a little about it. I once met a 93-year-old man from the Donegal Gaeltacht who was travelling three times a week to Dublin for radiotherapy (why put a 93-year-old through that, I don’t know) while the same facilities were available across the border in Derry. (Similarly, the “isolation” of 10k people south of Lough Erne is the reason Omagh is losing its hospital and Enniskillen isn’t – even though south Fermanagh could be served by Cavan General, west Fermanagh by Sligo General and north Fermanagh and most of Tyrone by Omagh.) It’s hard for Belfast people to appreciate, I know, but the malign role of partition in health provision in border areas is a huge issue.)

    As for the point about “conspiracy” and “letting the cat out of the bag” – in fairness, Fianna Fail couldn’t be clearer about their republicanism and their pro-unity aspiration. I suppose the challenge I would put to you, as a unionist, is to empathise with your ideological opponents: would you accept that FF’s reasons for wanting reunification are benign and that they honestly do believe it would be in the best interests of everyone on this island?

    “Every Unionist Party should have a copy of these manifesto pledges and bear it in mind when what appear to be good intentions are advocated from across the border.”

    Would you not accept that these manifesto pledges ARE born out of good intentions? And that FF’s reasons for wanting reunification are rooted in good intentions for all the people of this island? Including you?

    Not asking you to agree, just asking you to empathise and accept that your political opponents might have benign motivations. (Something we are very slow to do here in NI.)

  • jaffa

    Dewi,

    Were all the comments on that from Scots? I think you’re looking at a moronic football fan’s wind-up.

    Billy,

    Good line on the health-care points. Whether we’re selling spare capacity north-south or buying services on demand rather than building hospitals in inappropriate positions in Northern Ireland this looks like something that both improves lives and potentially cuts Northern costs or add to our revenue, neither of which undermine the northern state. It’ll be interesting to see the position of unionists in the border regions if we go down the RPA route. I think the UUP health minister should back your thoughts and shoot this fox before SF claim it.

  • PaddyReilly

    In my experience, successful political parties arise out of mergers, unsuccessful ones out of splits.

    So who is going to merge with whom? The obvious strategically advantageous one would be a merger of SF and the SDLP, but nobody seems prepared even to consider that, and the idea of a merger of the SDLP with FF is now being seriously mooted.

    If this is the case, and SF are meant to be disadvantaged by it, then SF should be thinking of a Southern merger. The idea is to further undermine or at least sideline partition by bringing Southern Politics to the North, rather than trying to take Northern Politics South.

    I think the best candidate is Labour, who have already taken in a number of ex-insurgents in the form of the Democratic Left. Besides this, James Connolly was a little bit of an insurgent himself. SF have consistently sold themselves as a left-wing party, and so can only hope for a smallish niche in an increasingly bourgeois electorate.

    The next step is to align with FG, in the familiar Rainbow Coalition. Then we have two competing sides, one Centre Right and the other Centre Left, like most European countries, and increasing less to do with whose grandfather killed whose, in the familiar Irish pattern.

  • scary_eire

    “These policies are clearly common sense for the economic benefit of north and south, but here’s the twist for unionists – these common sense steps DO lead towards greater north-south integration and DO lessen incrementally the significance of the border. They don’t remove it – only consent can do that, we’re all agreed – but they do render it increasingly meaningless. The question for unionists is: is safeguarding the union worth jettisoning economic development and consigning your children to relative poverty? (A union that, the figures predict, will strangle them economically and in turn, almost certainly consign them to a serious communal psychosis.) Or do you remember that your say in a border poll is guaranteed, and so in the meantime you’ll do whatever you must to develop this place – even though you cannot know where it all will lead – and let the chips of the next generation fall where they may? ”

    That was a very good statement and i think it is 100% correct

  • Ronan O Donnell

    FF published a fuller policy document on peace & unity during the campaign which fills out the details on the high level objectives in the manifesto. Its at http://www.thenextsteps.ie/peace

    The specific section on Irish Unity is interesting: its the constitutional republican theology and bitch slaps teh provisionals into the role of insipid follower:

    “Fianna Fáíl & Irish Unity

    Our constitutional republican analysis of Irish Unity has shaped the Irish Peace Process. It is accepted now by all but the dissident fringe of nationalist Ireland.

    We stand by the goal of a United Ireland. It is a positive and peaceful goal. Though undermined by sectarian campaigns of the Troubles, we are determined to restore it as a realistic option for all traditions, where together we could shape an Ireland based on mutual respect, tolerance and opportunity.

    Such an Ireland can only be obtained through consent and reconciliation.

    Unity based on violence or coercion is impossible and abhorrent to the values of the Irish people.

    Those who advance the tactic of violence do so against the will of the Irish people as expressed in the 1998 referendum on the Good Friday Agreement, the first act of all-Ireland self-determination since 1918. No republican can defy that will.

    The Good Friday Agreement recognised the legitimacy of the goal of Irish unity.

    We now have agreement that a United Ireland, if brought about by peaceful and democratic means, will happened when it is the wish of a majority within Northern Ireland in agreement with the rest of the people of Ireland.”

  • The Dubliner

    “The attitude to unity in the South is a largely settled matter – everyone is for it, it has to come by consent and it’s unlikely to happen soon.” – Kensei

    I think you’re looking at least three decades hence before unity becomes a possibility. Bertie Ahern would be thinking 20+ years and Fianna Fail policy would be predicated on that timescale. It’s impossible to predict with any certainty how the south will vote on the issue if or when it arises, but I think that it will be based on a much colder rationale than would have been the case a decade ago. Romantic Ireland isn’t dead and gone as Yeats said, but it’s certainly a lot less romantic. If that continues, I don’t see unity being something that the south would seriously consider unless certain conditions were met, e.g. economic self-sufficiency, political stability, a less polarised sectarian society, and a huge improvement in the ‘relationship’ between the unionist community and the south, etc. Fianna Fail are genuinely a republican party and that’s why they are working to put the necessary conditions in place. It’s a long, slow road with no guarantee of ever getting to the end of it, but the end – for most of us still – is worth it.

  • páid

    PaddyReilly,

    a SF/Labour merger eh?

    Guns’n’Roses 😉

  • PaddyReilly

    Sammy Morse’s analysis of West Belfast:-

    by almost every measure it is also the poorest constituency. 80% of the census areas in West Belfast are among the poorest 20% in Northern Ireland. It contains Northern Ireland’s poorest ward (Shankill) and it’s poorest sub-ward census area (the Westrock and Springhill estates, part of Gerry Adams’ Whiterock/Ballymurphy heartland). Over two-thirds of children were born to unmarried mothers in 2004.

    There are middle-class pockets… Even these areas struggle to meet Northern Ireland economic averages, however, and for all the political divisions of the constituency, relative poverty is the norm either side of the peaceline.”

    There doesn’t seem much point in trying to sell these people FF Capitalism. In Britain, these people would be Labour voters.

  • BogExile

    1. Republican wish: The Good Friday Agreement recognised the legitimacy of the goal of Irish unity.

    We now have agreement that a United Ireland, if brought about by peaceful and democratic means, will happened when it is the wish of a majority within Northern Ireland in agreement with the rest of the people of Ireland.”

    2. Unionist reality: The Good Friday Agreement recognised the legitimacy of maintaining
    Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom

    We now have agreement that Northern Ireland will contiue to exist as it is the wish of the majority in agreement with the rest of the people of Ireland.

    The election result confirms that the rest of the people of Ireland entertain Irish unity in the same manner as they might contemplate the existence of Elvis as a shelf-stacker in modern day Walmart – entertaining but probably mad.

    Modern Irish politicians (and I exclude Sinn Fein and any other zero-sum halfwits from that bracket) aren’t looking any further ahead than the next general election.

    If this continues to be the trend i.e. apart from Mr 6%, they leave us alone for the next 10 years or so, the cause of Irish unity will be advanced as never before. Then again, it’s unlikely that Sin Fein will disappear in a puff of logic. Semtex, perhaps, not logic.

  • Southern Observer

    Whatever next,
    In the assembly election the thumbs down was given to Bob McCartney’s specific brand of unionism.Similarly I ,and all of my acquaintances,voted to reject SF’s specific brand of nationalism.None of us is philosophically opposed to the concept of a UI.
    If Northern Ireland were a football team, it would be Millwall.
    Nobody likes us and we don’t care!

    Aw c’mon!This negative self-image will not do.2/3 of us voted for Norn Ironers (McAleese and Dana) in the last presidential election.

  • Southern Observer

    To reprise,
    The issue of a long term UI is one of a myriad whch determined my (SF unfriendly) vote.
    I reasoned thus:
    SF are hardly likely to connect with the middle-of-the-roaders in NI.So why blow wind in their sails?
    A powerful southern economy is an absolute prerequisite.This would be derailed by SF’s economic policies.
    -P.D. voter.