End of Unity 2016, beginning of Unionist consolidation?

Alex Kane argued in last week’s column for the Newsletter that since the wheels have fallen off Sinn Fein’s 2016 prediction of Irish Unification. He asks: What is Sinn Fein without the IRA? What is Sinn Fein without the catalogue of grievances to be addressed? What is Sinn Fein without a growing mandate from the Southern electorate? Indeed, how republican is a party which governs part of Her Majesty’s territory? He then argues there is no time or place for Unionists to engage with Republican outreach. Instead, they need to expend their energies in outreaching to non-voting unionists.
By Alex Kane

When Sinn Fein/IRA embraced the Armalite/ballot paper strategy in 1981, it was their first little footsy with democracy, the first little indication that they recognised that semtex and snipers alone were not going to deliver a Brit-free united Ireland. And, over the next twenty-five years, while Sinn Fein increased its vote in election after election, the IRA played around with back-channel communications with successive governments, ceasefires, a drawn out process of decommissioning and finally, in 2005, total decommissioning.

It all seemed to be going so well, too, with Sinn Fein (having gained a useful toe-hold in the Dail in 2002) eclipsing the SDLP at Assembly, Westminster, European and local council levels in Northern Ireland. They have hammered down a deal with the DUP and carved-up almost 70% of government between themselves. The icing on the cake, and the sure sign that the unity project was close to completion, was to have been a doubling of their seats in the Dail and a place in the next Irish government. This victory would then have been followed by the launching of their Charter for Unionist Engagement and the battle to win over that 10-15% of unionists who were considered soft enough to consider the merits of unification. This whole strategy could be summed up as the softly-softly-catchee-monkey approach.

Well, despite the fact that a wheel has fallen off their electoral bandwagon, Sinn Fein, as they always do on these occasions, ignored the reality and continued with the rhetoric. The Charter was launched in Stormont’s Long Gallery a few weeks ago, with Martin McGuinness declaring that he wants “to build a new Ireland that is based on a new relationship between Orange and Green…” Fine sounding words, but the reality is that democracy just isn’t going to work for Sinn Fein. They are now trapped and hobbled in an internal settlement, with unification further away than it has ever been.

It may have taken them almost a century to realise that violence wouldn’t deliver their goals, but I suspect that it won’t be all that long until they realise that demographics won’t deliver it, either. There is nothing they have to offer small-u unionists. More important, though, there isn’t much they can offer that significant minority of small-n nationalists who are reasonably content to remain within the United Kingdom; especially now that Northern Ireland has power-sharing stability.

As Northern Ireland develops into a “normal” country, it will become very much harder for local republicans to sustain the argument that it is a “failed entity.” And, as memories of the one-party state fade and republican concerns and grievances have been mostly addressed and resolved, it will also be hard for Sinn Fein to convince their own grassroots that unification is the answer. Put bluntly, it will be difficult to be in government, supporting the legal and security institutions, while continuing with a campaign that claims that the “North is an artificial and offensive creation.”

Oh yes, Sinn Fein will continue with the pretence that the march to unification is as vibrant as ever, but the reality is that they have reached the end of the road and lost the only battle that ever really mattered to them. However they may try and spin it otherwise, Sinn Fein has been forced into an accommodation with unionism in a Northern Ireland that is more firmly entrenched within the United Kingdom than it has ever been before.

What is Sinn Fein without the IRA? What is Sinn Fein without the catalogue of grievances to be addressed? What is Sinn Fein without a growing mandate from the Southern electorate? Indeed, how republican is a party which governs part of Her Majesty’s territory?

In the mid-1990s Gerry Adams calculated that unionists could be broken apart and the Union ended. His main aim was to make Sinn Fein look serious about an internal deal, while unionists, whingeing as they walked away from negotiations, would look like political dinosaurs. The problem, of course, is that the UUP refused to be bluffed out of the peace process, forcing Sinn Fein, in turn, to stay in and negotiate the very internal settlement they didn’t actually want.

Worse was to come: while the UUP was hugely damaged by events, the DUP, probably to Sinn Fein’s surprise, simply picked up the pieces and finished the job. Adams was forced to make the best of an increasingly bad hand, all the while praying that he would get a breakthrough down South and install a Sinn Fein bogeyman in the next Irish cabinet. The electorate didn’t oblige, however, which leaves Adams in the uncomfortable and absurd position of having to persuade Sinn Fein supporters up here that the party’s presence in an unwanted partitionist Assembly should be regarded as a mere transitional step towards the ultimate goal!

In other words, Adams miscalculated utterly. A strategy which was supposed to enrage, isolate and demonise unionists, paving the way to a greening of Anglo-Irish relationships and copper-fastening the inevitability of unification, has ended up with Sinn Fein trapped into government with those same unionists and with little sign of an exit route for republicans.

The IRA has been stood down and their weapons put beyond use. Sinn Fein has shredded the sheet music of “A Nation Once Again” while their Ministers and MLAs get on with the business of governing this part of the United Kingdom. The Armalite didn’t do it for them. The ballot box won’t do it for them. The rhetoric can’t do it for them. Their day isn’t coming.

That being the case, there is no need for unionists to engage with Sinn Fein as part of the Unionist Outreach project. Unionists don’t want unification and the Irish electorate don’t want it, either. This is not a time to be offering political or publicity lifelines to Sinn Fein. For those unionists who believe in outreach, could I suggest that they concentrate, instead, on reaching out to that huge bloc of non-voters within their own pro-Union community?

,

  • Cahal

    So Sinn Fein’s strategy “could be summed up as the softly-softly-catchee-monkey approach”….whilst simultaneously the same strategy “was supposed to enrage, isolate and demonise unionists”.

    OK Alex, if you say so.

    “Unionists don’t want unification and the Irish electorate don’t want it, either. ”

    That’s just a lie.

  • Pól

    I just hope most unionists believe what this man is saying.

    Never is a long time.

  • Pól

    Also, does Mr Kane not realise that the one thing that would finish Sinn Fein is Irish Unity? Until then, almost every single decision taken in Northern Ireland has to be agreed with murderers and terrorists who want to undermine the state.

    Great victory for the unionists there.

  • Porlock

    Cahal,

    I don’t see a contradiction in those two statements from Kane’s piece. Sinn Fein went out of their way to “seem” democratic, while, at the same time, hoping to put unionist parties in an intolerable position. It didn’t work. 35 years of an IRA campaign just to put a least one member of the Army Council into the government of NI!

    “Unionists don’t want unification…” No lie there.

    Porlock

  • kensei

    That is a fucking appalling piece. There is nothing to back anything up, it’s merely assertion, conjecture, wishing hard and occasionally contradictory. In fact, it’s like a Unionist version of the 2016 mentality he’s trying to ridicule. Repeating things over and over doesn’t actually make them true.

    Most of this is standard arguments that go on and on here and I’ll not bother repeating the same tired counter arguments. Take it as read. But this:

    “it will also be hard for Sinn Fein to convince their own grassroots that unification is the answer.”

    is a corker even by the standards of some of the comments here. Has he ever actually met a Republican?

  • Jeremy

    “In the mid-1990s Gerry Adams calculated that unionists could be broken apart and the Union ended. His main aim was to make Sinn Fein look serious about an internal deal, while unionists, whingeing as they walked away from negotiations, would look like political dinosaurs.”
    So what did SF want to achieve Alex by the negotiations. Surely more than wanting to make Unionism look like Dinosaurs. They either wanted an internal solution or the governments. Seeing as how a govt. solution would exclude them then surely they wanted a working internal solution. How otherwise to split away the 10-15% who might consider a United Ireland. Is that not now the case.
    If i recall correctly at some stage many years ago Gerry Adams said that while the demographics option sounded like a lot of fun it hardly amounted to a strategy.

    While typing I looked up and noted kensie’s opener. I have to agree with it.

    Finally I dont like the last paragraph where you encourage unionists to outreach inwards – looking to the garden centers for further votes. How that will entrech the union is to be seen. I fear this is the UUP going we did the heavy lifting and nailed SF into the union and all we need to do now is dig the trenches and fill the moats. Blue sky thinking it aint

  • fair_deal

    There is an unnecessary linking of two issues.

    There is a job of work to be done on Unionist turnout but the odd meeting with a Shinner won’t seriously detract from that. The stats from recent elections would point to it being chiefly former UUP voters (often regular) now sitting at home. The UUP needs to know why they stopped voting for them and the DUP needs to know why they aren’t prepared to make the jump to them? Perhaps they could commission joint research?

    I wonder if Alex is over-estimating the Union Group’s thirst for this outreach as being representative of the mainstream Unionist community? It isn’t.

    It is also unwise to place such strength on one election result. As a peripheral party in the RoI small swings of opinion plus/minus 1-2% and the fact they will usually be last seat battlers means it will either be feast or famine for.

    2016 is a fantasy trying to make reality fit historical neatness but wasn’t it always? It would be better to wait for at least one more such election result (preferably another general election) before the ‘project’ can be so easily dismissed.

    One defeat rarely makes or breaks a party permanently, what they do about it is key. In the RoI context FG got its ass kicked in 2002 and came back with a strong result in 2007. FF got an ass kicking in the European and local elections it reworked its machine and pulled it out of the bag in 2007. Although Adams recent Bodenstown speech doesn’t provide any real clarity on what lessons they have drawn if any from the setback.

  • Circle the wagons

    “More important, though, there isn’t much they [SF] can offer that significant minority of small-n nationalists who are reasonably content to remain within the United Kingdom…”

    Not so sure about that, but there sure as hell ain’t anything the Unionist parties can (or want to) offer them either.

    (Except of course for plenty of squealing and shrieking about Irish language acts, slagging off of the GAA etc etc).

  • parcifal

    Alex Kane’s arguement can easily be turned on its head. The very fact that Orange and Green are working together is part of the aims of the 1916 proclamation.

    You can equally argue that stronger ties and co-operation with the South will make partition irrelevant at some point, as both Protestant and Catholic realise they’re both Irish peoples, living and working together on the island of Ireland; and the Union Jack can be returned to her Majesty the Queen.

  • Liam

    I find it laughable how SF thinks it can deliver a United Ireland. It is despised in the South, has no links to FF, FG nor the Irish Labour Party and it is stuck in coalition with Unionists which many of its grassroots are uneasy about. The SDLP on the other hand has great links with the main southern parties and doesn’t frighten Unionists nor southerners.

  • Richard James

    “Alex Kane’s arguement can easily be turned on its head. The very fact that Orange and Green are working together is part of the aims of the 1916 proclamation.”

    So what Patrick Pearse really wanted was the DUP and Sinn Fein to serve as Her Majesty’s Ministers in a United Kingdom Assembly? Kinda makes you wonder what all that nonsense about a Republic was about!

    “You can equally argue that stronger ties and co-operation with the South will make partition irrelevant at some point, as both Protestant and Catholic realise they’re both Irish peoples, living and working together on the island of Ireland; and the Union Jack can be returned to her Majesty the Queen.”

    Considering Westminster retains control over taxation, defence, foreign affairs, immigration, employment legislation, currency, social security, data protection, competition and transport laws you’ll find partition being a very real part of your life.

    Ian Paisley, Brian Faulkner, Edward Carson and James Craig all regarded themselves as Irish. Yet none of them wanted an Irish Republic, or to be part of it. As for sending back the Union Jack, you’d be hard pushed to get Roy Garland to sign up to that let alone Ian Paisley :o)

  • parcifal

    well Richard Ireland is a Hegelian tragedy.

    More than two thousand years after Aristotle’s Poetics, the German philosopher G.W.F. Hegel (1770-1831) proposed his own original and highly influential theory of tragedy. Unlike Aristotle, who defines tragedy in terms of specific requirements of plot and character, Hegel defines it as, at bottom, a dynamic contest between two opposing forces–in effect, a collision or conflict of rights.

    We’ve had the farce, the comedy of errors, and manners, perhaps the romantic comedy of re-unification is the last act.

    Still can’t find Aristotle’s poetics though , the lost book, I think the unionists have it under lock and key 🙂

  • Richard James

    Perhaps the tragedy is due to an irredentist Irish nationalism which cannot accept a two state solution. While Unionists have no desire to deny a state to those Irishmen who wish to live seperate from the UK, Irish Nationalist are unable to concede the same right to those Irishmen who want to work in partnership with other parts of the British isles.

    I take it a united Ireland is the end of history Hegel spoke of :o)

  • Jeremy

    Richard, what are you thoughts on Alex Kane’s artice as opposed to Paricfal’s.

  • Cahal

    Richard,
    Most people are in favor of a two state solution i.e. Ireland and Britain. Each neatly contained on a separate Island.

    If you would like part of Britain to also be on Ireland, you can have the Ards peninsula for free.

  • parcifal

    richard
    My understanding of Hegel here is that
    it takes two sides to commit to have the tragedy.
    Not just one.
    The fact that republicans are sad and pissed off, due to the the non-realisation of their dream, also mirrors the sadness and pissed-offedness that unionists feel being constantly berated and cajoled and living under siege as it were.

    So perhaps a resolution to this tragedy is indeed the romantic comedy, where both sides fall in love and get married.
    here’s the definition:

    Romantic Comedy.
    Perhaps the most popular of all comic forms–both on stage and on screen–is the romantic comedy. In this genre the primary distinguishing feature is a love plot in which two sympathetic and well-matched lovers are united or reconciled. In a typical romantic comedy the two lovers tend to be young, likeable, and apparently meant for each other, yet they are kept apart by some complicating circumstance (e.g., class differences, parental interference; a previous girlfriend or boyfriend) until, surmounting all obstacles, they are finally wed. A wedding-bells, fairy-tale-style happy ending is practically mandatory. Examples: Much Ado about Nothing, Walt Disney’s Cinderella, Guys and Dolls, Sleepless in Seattle.

    McGuiness/Paisley springs to mind 🙂

  • parcifal

    Jeremy perhaps richard finds my comments more interesting than Alex Kane’s one-dimensionalism

  • willowfield

    FAIR DEAL

    There is a job of work to be done on Unionist turnout but the odd meeting with a Shinner won’t seriously detract from that. The stats from recent elections would point to it being chiefly former UUP voters (often regular) now sitting at home. The UUP needs to know why they stopped voting for them and the DUP needs to know why they aren’t prepared to make the jump to them? Perhaps they could commission joint research?

    Great idea. I wrote an article for “Ulster Review” (remember that?) over ten years calling for research into unionist non-voting. Needless to say, none was carried out!

    2016 is a fantasy trying to make reality fit historical neatness but wasn’t it always?

    It’s not that fantastic. I think the NI voting population is set to hit about 50:50 by 2016 (or maybe 40:40:20 Prod/RC/other). Unionists need to start planning for that – it soon won’t be possible to rely on the Prod vote alone.

  • The Dubliner

    I agree with Kane’s central point that the Adams and McGuinness leadership led their supporters out of one cul-de-sac only to lead them into another, and I’ve made that point myself. He is wrong to claim that PSF didn’t want to be part of a negotiated settlement with unionism:

    “In the mid-1990s Gerry Adams calculated that unionists could be broken apart and the Union ended. His main aim was to make Sinn Fein look serious about an internal deal, while unionists, whingeing as they walked away from negotiations, would look like political dinosaurs.”

    The format of the GFA negotiations wasn’t devised by PSF. Indeed, they spent the greater part of their early efforts trying to get in on the act after determined attempts (a litany of pre-conditions) were made by the British government and unionists to exclude them. So, there was going to be a settlement between nationalism and unionism whether PSF were a part of it or not. It wasn’t a strategy by PSF to discredit unionism. A propaganda victory over unionism would have been short-lived and would have done nothing to address the underlying dynamics of the civil conflict, nor would it have brought a united Ireland one inch closer. PSF needed a return to Stormont because a political party needs a parliament in order to be seen to be powerful and able to affect change. It also needs to be able to offer state-financed political careers to its ambitious supporters. Partition works for PSF – without it, they are sans jobs and purpose. That is why the only thing they asked Tony Blair’s incoming government for in return for a second PIRA ceasefire was a place at the negotiating table.

    It would be better for Alex Kane’s credibility if he didn’t appoint himself as the official spokesperson for unionism.

  • frustrated democrat

    Me thinks Nationalists do protest too much.

    A UI is dead and in its coffin and every day the assembly works sees another nail in it.

    SF needs to think of a new direction and policies to replace the old tired ones.

    AK is right Unionists have won the Union and SF miscalculated.

  • Dewi

    Willowfield is right – would Unionists rather a Northern Ireland ruled by nationalists or a rather more liberal united Ireland ?

  • George

    Alex Kane seems to be making the common mistake of thinking that it will be Sinn Féin that will win over the 10-15% of unionism to the idea of unity or indeed the nationalists with a small n for that matter.

    It isn’t. Once the penny finally drops that violence won’t end partition then it becomes clear that the Irish Republic is and always has been the greatest threat to the union, not Sinn Féin.

    The Irish economy (much maligned in recent months) grew at a whopping 8% in the first quarter of 2007 and seems to be in for another record year of growth.

    The simple fact is that if Northern Ireland wants to survive in the long run it will have to be in a position to deliver an economy, standard of living etc somewhat similar to its southern neighbour.

    The question is can it compete with the Republic economically, socially, culturally etc.

    It certainly won’t if Alex Kane is representative of unionism as at the moment the NI economy is as close to a “failed entity” as you can get.

  • kensei

    “Me thinks Nationalists do protest too much.”

    Nah.

    “A UI is dead and in its coffin and every day the assembly works sees another nail in it.”

    Nah. We have a glorified council and we will begin to run up against the limitations of powers. Everywhere else in the UK, devolution has favoured Nationalism and demands for more power. A United Ireland is about more than Sinn Fein and about more than just managerial skill.

    “SF needs to think of a new direction and policies to replace the old tired ones.”

    All parties need to renew. In the North not so much for SF yet but it would be good to preempt. In the South, clearly, as they just had a bad election.

    “AK is right Unionists have won the Union and SF miscalculated.”

    Al things are possible. Demographics and politics are as yet unclear. Republicans should be confident because we believe in the strength of out argument and are passionate about making it, not because of some mystical cosmic inevitability.

    If Unionism has any sense it will follow the same path.

  • fair_deal

    willowfield

    “I wrote an article for “Ulster Review” (remember that?)”

    Yes I do. Boys you know how to make a fella feel old. There were lots of ideas in that magazine could still be applied by Unionism. For all the criticism of Unionism it generally doesn’t lack ideas, it’s in the area of implementation were it all falls apart.

    See you on Saturday night at D’s celebration?

  • ciaran

    “Me thinks Nationalists do protest too much.

    A UI is dead and in its coffin and every day the assembly works sees another nail in it.

    SF needs to think of a new direction and policies to replace the old tired ones.

    AK is right Unionists have won the Union and SF miscalculated. ”

    This looks like wishful thinking. If it were true , why would Ian Paisley admit on tv that it was either share power with SF or get more input from the south.Sounds more like the best of a bad bunch for unionism.
    Just think of the power in Irish politics unionists would have if they were in a united Ireland.The dail would have to take notice of them unlike westminster which can ignore them until the cows come home.

  • Turgon

    Cahal,

    “Most people are in favor of a two state solution i.e. Ireland and Britain. Each neatly contained on a separate Island.

    If you would like part of Britain to also be on Ireland, you can have the Ards peninsula for free. ”

    Leave out the humour and that is actually pretty sectarian. I thought everyone had signed up to the principle of consent for the people of Northern Ireland. How does that fit with the seperate islands? What do you want me to do, become Irish, shut up, die? That was tried for quite a few years (by people whom I trust you would condemn) and we are still here.

  • flaminglip

    Why is it that far more Unionists were against the GFA than Nationalists, that DUP found it so hard to get into Government with Sinn Fein etc. I mean, if it was the thing that’s killed off any hopes of Irish Unity, you’d think they would have been champing at the bit to get Sinn Fein into Government. And Alex Kane sounds really desperate. Why?

  • flaminglip

    Anyway, I can’t help feel that regardless of the whole green vs orange thing, uniting the country would benefit everyone economically by a great deal. But hey, this is Northern Ireland.

  • Turgon

    Flaminglip,

    This is not a go at you personally but why do we keep hearing about economics as if it were the answer to every problem?

    Economics would have suggested an independent Ireland in 1916 as daft yet people were willing to fight for it.

    Economics would suggest the Slovacks probably had a better deal in Czechoslovakia.

    This is an ethnic conflict. Economics is not irrelevant but is only a part of the equation.

  • parcifal

    Turgon
    would you say prods have an identity conflict between their Irishness and Britishness?

  • Turgon

    Some may have. I am a pretty conflict free zone (except with the kids and Elenwe occassionally)

    I have told you before. I do not feel Irish. This is not a form of anti Irishness it is a form of Britishness. I do not regard the two as antagonistic merely as seperate variables. Some Prods feel Irish, that is fine by me, some feel Irish and British, that is fine by me. I feel British but not Irish.

    I still get the impression that some of you have problem with me saying nice things about Irish culture etc (I still have not started Ulysees, am too scared and am getting through a book on the origins of the First World War) and yet not being Irish.

    Do you feel I am suffering from false conciousness or something?

  • parcifal

    not sure turgon, if a UI were ever to happen would you wake up and say “Oh my God I’m not British anymore”.. are feelings the guide?

    For my part I’m not anti-british, and having grown up in Britain I’ve my own contradictions.
    Have a Protestant Grandfather and Catholic Grandmother.

    It a moral thing for me, the tri-colour belongs above Belfast City Hall, as the country was falsely partitioned.
    Its just not right.

  • The Dubliner

    “Alex Kane seems to be making the common mistake of thinking that it will be Sinn Féin that will win over the 10-15% of unionism to the idea of unity or indeed the nationalists with a small n for that matter.

    It isn’t. Once the penny finally drops that violence won’t end partition then it becomes clear that the Irish Republic is and always has been the greatest threat to the union, not Sinn Féin.” – George

    Spot-on, but Kane can be forgiven for that flawed assumption, since he shares it with the majority of nationalist voters in the north. PSF’s history of violence against the British/Unionist community prevents it from ‘winning over’ that community. In fact, its association with a united Ireland makes it an utterly repugnant prospect to them. That ‘us and them’ mentality kicks it becomes one side trying to secure a victory over the other – each side digs in deeper. It may be my imagination, but Kane’s article seems to be dripping with it. PSF are a huge part of the problem, and I don’t see any movement in the direction of unity until their input is marginalised or otherwise neutralised. That will happen not from the north but from the south: when the Irish government gets involved at the proposal level (after what Bertie Ahern termed “a long period for economic and political stability”).

    PSF can’t sell Irish unity because they don’t have a clue what they are actually selling. It is up to the two governments (particularly the Irish government) to do all of the detailed research, analysis and projections on the critical areas such as law harmonisation, economic integration, transfer of control of state bodies, etc. Only then can it be known what the people of the north will actually be voting for. To give an example: the British government is the biggest employer in Northern Ireland. What is going to happen to those jobs when the British state no longer employs NI workers to do work for all of the UK? What is going to happen to them when the Irish government wants to cuts costs by restructuring and rationalising state services? What will happen to their state pension plans? What will happen if their pensions are higher in the UK than in the Republic? Will the Irish government introduce (a currently illegal) two-tier pension scheme for its citizens who should otherwise have the exact same entitlement? What will have to cases that are before the courts or pending in NI under laws that aren’t applicable in the south? How will professional qualifications, Codes of Conduct, best practices, etc, be integrated?

    People will want to know the answers to those (and thousands of other) critical questions before voting for Irish unity, as they directly affect them. Unless those answers can be provided prior to a vote of re-unification, the guaranteed outcome is a ‘no’ vote. And just think how all of those questions and answers will be exploited for scaremongering purposes by either side in the run up to the vote!

  • Cahal

    “What do you want me to do, become Irish, shut up, die?”

    Eh? May I suggest some herbal tea.

  • GavBelfast

    “It a moral thing for me, the tri-colour belongs above Belfast City Hall, as the country was falsely partitioned.”

    The island was partitioned because, had it not been, there would have been a war across the whole island which, with arms to hand and the issues at stake, would almost certainly have made the later civil war in the South look like a minor squabble.

    Partition was always likely given the distinctivess of most of Ulster coupled with the drive for Home Rule but it became an unsatisfactory necessity and certainty once the Rising and then 1918 Election took place, and then the blood-letting in the South copper-fastened it.

    Whatever happens in future, I don’t think the current flag of the Republic will fly above the City Hall (not in an official capacity anyway), if we’re ever all together in some form or another, it’s hard to see how symbols that perhaps a million people simply don’t identify with would continue – a recipe for more alienation.

  • Sean

    gave belfast there arent a million unionists in northern Ireland

  • slug

    I have saved a lot of money into tax free PEPs and ISAs; what happens to this tax free income in a UI?

  • frustrated democrat

    Kensei/Ciaran

    Why Paisley did what he did is irrelevant, we now have a working assembly and power sharing.

    The case for discrimination is now over and as time passes the % bothered about a UI will steadily diminish. Most people in NI are now ‘comfortable’ with the status quo, it may not be exactly what they wanted but as a compromise it is acceptable.

    The only battles left, if they even exist, are inside unionism and nationalism particularly bewteen the SDLP and SF. However the difference is that they are within the context of Northern Ireland not all Ireland.

    SDLP and SF should come clean with their supporters that as anything other than green misty eyed aspirations a UI and Irish Nationalism are dead.

  • curious

    “Unionists don’t want unification and the Irish electorate don’t want it, either. “ That’s just a lie.

    Surely this is not a lie as well Cathal?

    [b]United Ireland ‘off the agenda'[/b]
    ‘Senior Irish government sources said that they did not expect the constitutional position of Northern Ireland to be raised again for “20 to 25 years”.
    http://www.newsletter.co.uk/news?articleid=2992568

  • curious

    ‘That is a fucking appalling piece. There is nothing to back anything up, it’s merely assertion, conjecture, wishing hard and occasionally contradictory.’

    Just like Gerry’s pre election speech in Dublin on RTE kensie.

  • Diluted Orange

    Kensei

    [i]”Republicans should be confident because we believe in the strength of out [b]argument[/b] and are passionate about making it, not because of some mystical cosmic inevitability.”[/i]

    Really? Republicans aren’t known for using these argumentative skills in the past to force home the point are they?

    They were far more likely to use a few pipe bombs etc to add persuasion to their ‘argument’ than to actually try and entice Unionists into believing that a UI was a viable alternative. When that didn’t work they had no choice but to fundamentally compromise their position and accept partition.

    By the way just because you don’t agree with a piece doesn’t make it ‘fucking appalling’. I don’t really see the post in AK’s article but the main tenet is clear (and fairly obvious) i.e. there won’t be a UI in 2016 (and for the forseeable future, if at all).

  • Briso

    Posted by willowfield on Jul 02, 2007 @ 07:54 PM
    >It’s not that fantastic. I think the NI voting
    >population is set to hit about 50:50 by 2016 (or
    >maybe 40:40:20 Prod/RC/other). Unionists need to
    >start planning for that – it soon won’t be
    >possible to rely on the Prod vote alone.

    Can I just say, as a Nationalist, I hope you remain a voice crying in the wilderness. 😉

  • kensei

    curious

    “Surely this is not a lie as well Cathal?

    United Ireland ‘off the agenda’”

    No, that is government planning rather than an opinion poll. At the moment it seems a reasonable time scale, and governments do have to plan these things. By the standards of The Process, that is quick! But then again events could move things along in unexpected fashion. We’ll have a referendum at some point before then, probably.

    “Just like Gerry’s pre election speech in Dublin on RTE kensie.”

    Don’t know which speech you are talking about, probably didn’t hear it. What has that got to do with the price of fish other than fairly ham fisted whataboutery?

    Briso

    “Really? Republicans aren’t known for using these argumentative skills in the past to force home the point are they?”

    Not nearly enough. But then, it’s hardly a problem limited to Nationalism here, is it?

    “They were far more likely to use a few pipe bombs etc to add persuasion to their ‘argument’ than to actually try and entice Unionists into believing that a UI was a viable alternative. When that didn’t work they had no choice but to fundamentally compromise their position and accept partition.”

    :Rolleyes:

    “By the way just because you don’t agree with a piece doesn’t make it ‘fucking appalling’. I don’t really see the post in AK’s article but the main tenet is clear (and fairly obvious) i.e. there won’t be a UI in 2016 (and for the forseeable future, if at all).”

    No what makes it appalling is it is a fact free zone.

  • Briso

    Kensei, it wasn’t me, it was Diluted Orange.

  • Diluted Orange

    [i]No what makes it appalling is it is a fact free zone.[/i]

    How can an article, which is in essence a hypothesis about whether there’ll be a United Ireland or not in 2016, include any facts which can actually be construed as relevant?

    No-one knows, for sure, what will happen in 2008, nevermind 2016. At the end of the day the piece represents merely one man’s opinion, which as a journalist he is employed to give. As his views conflict with your own you are more than entitled to disagree with him but to call it ‘fucking appalling’ just smacks of sour grapes.

    [i]“They were far more likely to use a few pipe bombs etc to add persuasion to their ‘argument’ than to actually try and entice Unionists into believing that a UI was a viable alternative. When that didn’t work they had no choice but to fundamentally compromise their position and accept partition.”

    :Rolleyes:
    [/i]

    You may roll your eyes but it’s true. The only reason SF even appear on the electoral roll is becuase they failed to coerce Unionists into a United Ireland by bombing them. Now they suddenly think we’ll be seduced into their way of thinking through an ‘engagement’ programme – laughable at best.

    Sinn Fein are becoming more and more irrelevant as far as a UI is concerned. It’s like watching the Conservatives blabber on about the Anglo/Scots Union, when their views will have nothing do with its dissolution/retainment as they have very little influence in Scotland (in the same way that SF has even less input into the affairs of the RoI). The great strength of Nationalism, in general, is its ability, in its most successful guises, to sweep a nation and garner a significant majority and therefore mandate for change over a relatively short period of time. Sinn Fein’s electoral rise in NI has certainly been meteoric but its strength is now saturated – there aren’t going to be many more Republicans coming out of the woodwork to support its aims and if they did SF will only ever appeal to around 45% of the electorate here.

    SF have reached their peak and are never again going to enjoy a similar rate of enthusiasm to join their cause – the project and the vigour embibed within it is waining as the years continue to progress with their main goal seeming further and further out of reach.

    The republican cause is far more likely to be augmented by outside forces, such as the rise of the SNP in Scotland and the disintegration of the UK via that channel, rather than through the ingenuity of SF.

  • kensei

    “How can an article, which is in essence a hypothesis about whether there’ll be a United Ireland or not in 2016, include any facts which can actually be construed as relevant?”

    He can attempt to case. He doesn’t. You might think reading third rate leftovers from the Slugger comment zone is a great articles, but, bless, I have standards.

    “As his views conflict with your own you are more than entitled to disagree with him but to call it ‘fucking appalling’ just smacks of sour grapes.”

    It isn’t about disliking his opinion. Occasionally you’ll get a good argument form t’other side and it’ll require you think on it, and how to respond. It’s a good thing. there is nothing like that here. So, yes, it fucking appalling.

    “You may roll your eyes but it’s true. The only reason SF even appear on the electoral roll is becuase they failed to coerce Unionists into a United Ireland by bombing them. Now they suddenly think we’ll be seduced into their way of thinking through an ‘engagement’ programme – laughable at best.”

    What the hell is the democratic process other than an “engagement” programme? It shouldn’t be about seduction or trying to sneakily convincing you in to a United Ireland. It should be about presenting a strong coherent case and showing how it can benefit you. If that was the case they would convince some people, if the past didn’t act as a giant barrier.

    So, while not really agreeing with SF’s “outreach” programme, the have to do something to start and try to overcome that. It’ll be a long process, if they are serious. Fair play to them for at least trying.

    “SF have reached their peak and are never again going to enjoy a similar rate of enthusiasm to join their cause – the project and the vigour embibed within it is waining as the years continue to progress with their main goal seeming further and further out of reach.”

    Who knows? People were motivated enough to continue an armed campaign for 30 years. Maybe they will become more respectable and more competent and pull yet more voters off the SDLP; it’s still the current trend. Maybe they will sort out their Southern policy and have some more success there; like a all small parties, they are hostages to swings of a few percent. I know how it must fill you with joy inside, but it really is too early to be pronouncing death on anyone yet.

    “The republican cause is far more likely to be augmented by outside forces, such as the rise of the SNP in Scotland and the disintegration of the UK via that channel, rather than through the ingenuity of SF.”

    To an extent you are right. But change still requires an internal engine. And if SF does something ingenious, it WILL help the Republican cause, even a little. Nothing was ever achieved by giving up and doing nothing, and that’s a fucking appalling point an’ all.

  • Yokel

    Alex Kane has rightly changed his tune.

    About a year ago or so I think it was, he was doom and gloom in a article reproduced here that had me wanting to kick him up the arse.

    How times change, eh Alex. It’s not so bad really is it.

  • Gréagóir O’ Fránclin

    Turgon says..’Do you feel I am suffering from false conciousness or something?’

    Freud:
    Tell me about your mother?

    Ulster Unionist:
    Well she’s this wee old grey haired woman who seems to have abandoned us after many years of protecting us, and egging us on and telling us what to do. She’s more or less now told us to let go of her apron strings. We’re ever so lonely, afraid and confused and don’t know what to do!

    Is there a sort of Oedipus Complex within the Unionist psyche?

  • Prince Eoghan

    >>“The republican cause is far more likely to be augmented by outside forces, such as the rise of the SNP in Scotland and the disintegration of the UK via that channel, rather than through the ingenuity of SF.”

    In the words of Bobby Sands “Everyone Republican or otherwise has their own particular part to play” Seems my countrymen are finally living up to expectations by voting for the SNP.

    >>This is an ethnic conflict. Economics is not irrelevant but is only a part of the equation.
    Posted by Turgon on Jul 02, 2007 @ 11:12 PM<

  • ShannonErne

    UK forever UI coming up soon. Why don’t you both face reality.
    1. Nationalist unfortunate truth
    A small no. of comfortable Catholics (Just as in the South pre 1922) will not vote for radical change if this provides any risk to their position. The north will remain part of the UK for at two generations after any potential Catholic majority (First generation will have a majority but not of voting age).

    2. Unionist unfortunate truth
    The Nationalist vote equals the Cath% of those over 18. There are more Cath kids than Prot.kids. There are now more Cath. in child-bearing age than Prot. Catholics will win demography eventually and this will mean more Nationalist votes than Unionists (unless something absolutelydrastic happens to change things).

    What 1 and 2 mean, is that 30 years in the future, Northern Ireland will have a nationalist first minister, a majority of nationalist ministers, and look a lot less British. Most voters will not want British flags withoutIrish flags, The Royal Mail will accept the majority’s view that red is the wrong colour for post boxes in a divided community. Southern ministers will be a lot more common than British visitors as Cross-border bodies boom. Britain will be a lot less happy about financing the fenians, and indeed holding on to N.I.

    In another generation, the united Ireland with a devolved NI assembly will probably be a runner.

    Finally, a number of writers, have confused southern distaste for SF, with distaste for a peaceful union. Most against a U.I., just don’t want a disgruntled NI majority in their state, and have a problem with the financial shortfall. Over time surely a peaceful NI has to be able to reduce dependency at least to that of Connacht, which would be manageable.

  • Alex Kane

    Hi Yokel,

    I am very confident that there won’t be a United Ireland in my lifetime (and I’m giving myself another 30 years of life); and pretty confident that it won’t happen in the lifetime of my youngest (9 in October).

    That aside, I still think Unionism—in party political and propaganda terms—is a bloody disaster. Both Fair_Deal and Willowfield have touched on the problem in earlier posts.

    You conclude, “It’s not so bad really is it”? I don’t share your confidence.

    Best wishes,

    Alex.

  • Turgon

    PE.

    OK “ethnic conflict” is a poor term but what I mean it is about the complex interplay of identidy, tradition, politics and stuff. Intellectually sloppy short hand I accept.

    Greagoir,

    Thank you for bringing Freud into it.

    Anthony Clare was in discussion with Adams once on “In the psychiatrists chair”, a programme which I hated, but claimed that Unionists had a form of false conciousness. Clare (who I guess knew a thing or two about Freudian stuff) rounded on him and said that was a fundementally fascist analysis (his words not mine) and extremely perverse.

    I guess I was leading parcifal into a trap but I would have tried not to be quite as sharp as to call him a fascist.

  • The Dubliner

    “I am very confident that there won’t be a United Ireland in my lifetime (and I’m giving myself another 30 years of life); ” – Alex Kane

    I’m giving myself another 40 years of life and… I’m very confident that I’ll be too senile to care by then.

    My guess is we’ll be in purgatory by then (err, wrong term)… that we’ll have voted for a UI and be in that stage wherein the former NI is ‘quarantined’ as it becomes integrated with the south… probably lasting a decade or so as state employees (such as the judiciary, police force, ect) are retrained and re-educated in accordance with the south.

    Guesses, however, are as good as three-dollar bills.

  • PaddyReilly

    Will there be a United Ireland in the next thirty years? Given that there is no history of regular referenda on the matter, and the one referendum that was held was boycotted, it is hard to say. However, if we look at the decline of the Unionist 1st preference vote in the European Parliament elections, we can get some idea of how things are going:-

    1979: 60.8%
    1984: 58.0%
    1989: 57.8%
    1994: 55.4%
    1999: 52.3%
    2004: 48.6%

    In 2004, Unionists were able to win two seats with the aid of 4% of transfers from the Centrist candidate. In 2009, assuming a continued decline at the same rate and the same percentage of available transfers, the results are really too close to call. I have done the calculations two ways, and one predicts that the UUP will get in by 10,000 votes, another by just 2000. This of course represents the narrowest of margins. However, there seems little doubt that as of 2014, NI will be represented in Europe by two Nationalists and one Unionist member. My predictions for the Unionist 1st preference vote in EU elections for the next thirty years is a continued loss of 5% per decade, which would give results as follows:-

    2009 Est 46.1%
    2014 Est 43.6%
    2019 Est 41.1%
    2024 Est 38.6%
    2029 Est 36.1 %
    2034 Est 33.6%
    2039 Est 31.1%
    2044 Est 28.6%
    2049 Est 26.1%

    Personally, I would not give the Union much chance of survival beyond 2014 on a Unionist vote like this. Nationalist strategy when a Nationalist majority is achieved would be to integrate as many public bodies as possible, health service, police etc, leading to an even faster decline than this.

    Predicting loss of Westminster seats is a lot more haphazard. It all depends on the bickering of political parties, the popularity of politicians, the fickleness or cuteness of electorates and the decisions of Boundary Commissioners. Here again there is a pattern of Unionist loss and Nationalist gain. Judging on past performance, Unionists will continue to lose a seat at every election, or, if they are lucky, at every other election, for at least another twenty years. The following represents a guesstimate of what will happen:-

    Constituency:: Becomes Nationalist

    01) West Belfast:: 1974
    02) Foyle:: 1983
    03) Newry & Armagh::1986
    04) South Down:: 1987
    05) Mid Ulster:: 1997
    06) West Tyrone:: 2001
    07) Ferm & S Tyrone:: 2001

    08) North Belfast:: Est 2009
    09) Upper Bann:: Est 2014
    10) South Belfast:: (2005)

    11) East Londonderry:: Est 2019
    12) South Antrim:: Est 2024
    13) North Antrim:: Est 2029
    14) Lagan Valley:: never
    15) East Antrim:: never
    16) Strangford:: never
    17) North Down:: never
    18) East Belfast:: never

    Since I made this calculation it looks like South Antrim is going to turn before East Londonderry. But the result here is the same: I would expect a majority of Westminster seats to be held by Nationalists by 2014.

    But of course, what I am presenting is the Nationalist view of the shape of things to come. I do not suppose it will find much favour among Unionists. They are welcome to find comfort in the prospect of reappearing Garden Centre Prods, Crypto-Unionist Papists, transferable votes from Quebec, etc etc. All I can say is that my calculations work well enough for me, and have been confirmed by election results for some time now.

  • slug

    The number crunchers have arrived and sanity departed.

  • Turgon

    Paddy Reilly,

    Yes I am terrified already. Prince Eoghan, when do I book the flight of the intolerant, looks like I need to soon. Alternatively I will start moving supplies to Devenish.

  • Diluted Orange

    10) South Belfast:: (2005)*

    Due to a split Unionist vote, expect the natural order to be restored come 2009.

    08) North Belfast:: Est 2009

    Don’t think so …

    11) East Londonderry:: Est 2019

    Coleraine, arguably the most loyalist town in the Northern Ireland and the hub of this constituency. Not very likely.

    13) North Antrim:: Est 2029

    to paraphrase the favourite expression of the present MP … Never.

  • Cahal

    Given Paddies figures above, is there any evidence that this is the “beginning of Unionist consolidation”. Looks more like a drip, drip, drip in the wrong direction for them. Thats not to say we’ll have a UI by 2016.

    2014 looks more likely these days.

  • Turgon

    Diluted Orange,

    Whilst I agree entirely about your views on the figures I am a little careful about quoting that particular type of remark from Martin McGuiness’s new friend.

  • Diluted Orange

    [i]Turgon

    Whilst I agree entirely about your views on the figures I am a little careful about quoting that particular type of remark from Martin McGuiness’s new friend.[/i]

    How silly of me! It should have read … Never, Never, Never, … erm, OK then!

  • PaddyReilly

    East Londonderry: yes, this constituency is currently 59.9% Unionist. But that does not mean it will stay so forever. As I have pointed out, Northern Ireland was 58% Unionist in 1984, but only 48.6% twenty years later.

  • Diluted Orange

    Paddy

    To be fair these predictions represent a mere expansion of current statistics across a much larger time-frame and well into the future. The rate of growth in the Nationalist population has slowed a lot in recent years, which your analysis fails to account for when you suggest that Unionism will lose a seat to Nationalism in every general election from now on.

    Using your logic you could, given current rates of growth amongst different ethnic pockets across the British Isles, similarly extrapolate the following demographics for 2029:

    England to become an Islamic republic.

    Northern Ireland to become a satellite Polish state.

    Republic of Ireland to become a satellite Polish state. (Unification at last?)

    Scotland to become Northern Ireland.

  • Dewi

    I think you can say with some certainty that the balance in the Assembly will narrow over the next three elections. A third nationalist seat in Upper Bann, a fourth in Fermanagh South Tyrone, a seat in Strangford in the nearish future – then (and I know this sounds daft but the demographic contrast between age groups is staggering) a fourth seat in North Belfast and a third in Derry East and then its almost equal.

    Recognise absolutely that things change, migration patterns, birth rates etc – but the top bit of above is fairly inevitable.

  • PaddyReilly

    England to become an Islamic republic.

    This would require an increase of 54,000,000 in the Islamic population, or similar decrease in native population.

    North Belfast to fall to Nationalists

    Requires increase of 3,500 in Nationalist population (or comparable Unionist decrease)

    Upper Bann to fall to nationalists

    Requires increase of 6,000 in Nationalist population (or comparable Unionist decrease)

    The rate of growth in the Nationalist population has slowed a lot in recent years

    I see no evidence of it in this year’s election. But even if it has, it has not frozen in mid-air.

  • Diluted Orange

    [i]England to become an Islamic republic.

    This would require an increase of 54,000,000 in the Islamic population, or similar decrease in native population. [/i]

    Well, duh! I said given current [b]rates[/b] of growth – therefore using your own tried and trusted form of prediction to show how the British Isles will look in the next 20 or so years.