On “speaking conceptually”

The Irish Times today notes the reaction [subs req] from political parties here to Sir Kenneth Bloomfield’s speech there.From the Irish Times

Sinn Féin MLA Willie Clarke said Sir Kenneth was reflecting wider opinion within Northern Ireland.

“No one should doubt that when an old-school unionist such as Ken Bloomfield can recognise the political dynamic of Irish reunification that he is reflecting the much broader political realities,” he said.

“I believe that there is an unstoppable momentum towards Irish unity. This is reflected across all sections of our society and even privately many unionists recognise this reality. It is a question of how we manage this transition,” said Mr Clarke.

and

SDLP deputy leader Dr Alasdair McDonnell said Sir Kenneth’s speech meant that at last a proper debate on a united Ireland was beginning.

“The SDLP position is very clear – unity can only come through a process of dialogue and partnership. An agreed, united country is not a zero-sum concept or a winner-takes-all proposition,” he said.

“All the guarantees, protections and equality provisions of the Good Friday agreement should apply in the context of a united Ireland. That is the framework in which we will build our shared future.”

Meanwhile..

Danny Kennedy, deputy leader of the UUP, said that while Sir Kenneth was entitled to his personal view he was fundamentally wrong: “Unionists are not thinking in terms of even a managed or negotiated settlement involving a united Ireland.

“I certainly regard the Belfast Agreement and the product of the agreement, the St Andrews Agreement, as a political settlement and that that settlement will endure,” he said.

“I don’t believe Sir Kenneth’s views are representative of the views within political or grassroots unionism. I think what he is saying is not on the agenda,” added Mr Kennedy.

and from the Northern Ireland Executive’s Minister for the Environment..

DUP MLA Arlene Foster said unionists did not fear that a united Ireland was “just around the corner”. There had never been less momentum towards a united Ireland, she said.

“Under DUP leadership, unionists are confident that our union with the United Kingdom is stronger than ever. Through ensuring that unionists hold the veto and are in control of their own destiny, we have safeguarded the union,” she added.

“Sinn Féin may try to placate their supporters by arguing that they are on course for Irish unity by 2016 but it is widely accepted that a united Ireland is nothing but a pipedream,” said the Fermanagh-South Tyrone MLA.

Ms Foster said she assumed Sir Kenneth was “speaking conceptually”.

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  • The Dubliner

    “All the guarantees, protections and equality provisions of the Good Friday agreement should apply in the context of a united Ireland. That is the framework in which we will build our shared future.” – Alasdair McDonnell

    The arrogance of the northern nationalists! That is the context in which northern nationalists and unionists have agreed their “shared future” within the abnormal context of NI, where two nationalisms of roughly equal mass compete for one government to rule over them. Unity will remove one competing government from the equation, making its nationalism purely cultural, and reduce the competing mass of the rump 60/40 percent in the dual state to 86/14 percent in the unified state, making it eminently manageable within the existing governmental and constitutional arrangements. Nothing will turn folks in the south off the idea of unity faster than northerners threatening to superimpose their ghastly dysfunctions on a healthy and prosperous society, attempting to bring about its ruin as surely as they ruined their own corner of the island. If the SDLP want to maintain the union, then they’re going about it the right way by imposing such asinine pre-conditions to negotiations with the south. And in case McDonnell isn’t aware of how democracy works, the electorate of the south decide their future – they do not abdicate that right or delegate it to self-serving northerners who would happily spend every penny of Irish taxpayers’ money to pay for their own indulgences.

    “I think what he is saying is not on the agenda.” – David Kennedy

    Spot on. And it won’t be on the political agenda until NI is self-financing – or as Bertie Ahern put it after “a long period” of economic and political stability.

  • Damien Okado-Gough

    The Dubliner has spoken volumes. I’ve written on this forum before that it’s wrong to assume that the people of the south will easily agree to unity. It’s bad enough having the neighbours from hell living next door, never mind them turning up on your doorstep wanting to move in.

    The people of the north have a long way to go to persuade either the British public or the southern public that they worth having in their nations. The north is a seriously dysfunctional society. It’s very true that there needs to be a long period of stability, as well as serious bridge-building between the two main communities.

  • Nevin

    Dubya, the folks in the south appeared to be quite happy to endorse the principles outlined by Alasdair when they voted for the 1998 Agreement …..

  • Nevin

    Damien, you may have missed the news recently but many communities across these islands are ‘seriously dysfunctional’. However, it would be rather sad if we never lowered the drawbridge.

  • miss fitz

    I think that the main point so many people are missing is the ‘unity by stealth’ that we are seeing. Every day you see a little more cooperation, partnership, joint working agreements and so forth. The construct of the all-island economy is going ahead full steam in many areas.

    Mind you, I was in Broughshane early this morning, and was very taken by this picturesque village which is proudly competing in the ‘Britain in Bloom’ competition.

    The challenge for the future will be to manage these two very potent allegiances in the face of what is an ever increasing island of cooperation.

  • Nevin

    Miss Fitz, perhaps we’re sleep-walking into 2016 …

  • Cahal
  • inuit_g

    “All the guarantees, protections and equality provisions of the Good Friday agreement should apply in the context of a united Ireland. That is the framework in which we will build our shared future.” – Alasdair McDonnell

    I presume he includes the most important ‘equality provision’ of all – the right for Northern Ireland to vote itself out of any United Ireland, with provision for referendums every 7 years, just as now, and with both governments agreeing to respect the outcome.

  • Dawkins

    Inuit_g,

    I must admit I’ve never understood this “equality provision”.

    If Northern Ireland is subsumed into the Republic then surely it ceases to exist. So resurrecting NI every seven years to vote would be like trying to recreate a dodo using DNA from dodo bones and feathers.

    In such a scenario, who would vote? The peeps then living in what would be called the Northwest or the North? And how many would there be? And would unification not have produced a startling change in demographics?

    All questions which I can’t answer but find intriguing.

  • Reader

    Dawkins: I must admit I’ve never understood this “equality provision”.
    Nationalists do seem to struggle with the concept. But it’s really just an exercise in symmetry
    From the Good Friday Agreement:
    “affirm that whatever choice is freely exercised by a majority of the people of Northern Ireland, the power of the sovereign government with jurisdiction there shall be exercised with rigorous impartiality on behalf of all the people in the diversity of their identities and traditions and shall be founded on the principles of full respect for, and equality of, civil, political, social and cultural rights, of freedom from discrimination for all citizens, and of parity of esteem and of just and equal treatment for the identity, ethos, and aspirations of both communities;”
    Or to put it another way, whatever Parity of Esteem means to you now, it would also imply the same to Unionists in the future.
    Dawkins: If Northern Ireland is subsumed into the Republic then surely it ceases to exist.
    That’s a careless assumption. Unless the New Republic wants to apply Parity of Esteem across 32 counties (which seems unlikely!), it will have to apply PoE across 6 counties instead (see GFA above). So Northern Ireland will still exist in that sense.

  • Dawkins

    Reader,

    Still doesn’t really answer my questions. Not in a practical sense anyhow. But must dash. Will return to this.

  • Aaron S

    The idea of constitutional hokey-cokey, with a new step every 7 years, is the funniest thing I’ve heard in a long time. A whole new world of Unionist absurdity.

  • Dawkins

    Aaron S,

    I have to concur. And who chose the seven-year period, or is it arbitrary?

    Has it some sort of magical or cultural significance, like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs or The Seven Ages of Man, or Seven Drunken Nights?

    Or perhaps it represents the seven-year itch, that crucial point in a marriage, this one being the union of two parts of the island.

    “Darling, we have to talk….”

  • Alan

    “All the guarantees, protections and equality provisions of the Good Friday agreement should apply in the context of a united Ireland. That is the framework in which we will build our shared future.” – Alasdair McDonnell

    I know the SDLP seem wedded to community voting within the Assembly as a protection for a minority, but surely they are not expecting a similar arrangement in a future government of a United Ireland?

  • Nevin

    So (some) Nationalists seek parity of esteem when they’re in a minority – and to hell with minorities when they’re the majority!!

  • The Third Policeman

    Any further votes on returning to the UK would be useless anyway, you all seem to be forgetting one very important obstacle; there is no way in hell Britain would take the north back. Surely they would also get a vote on such an issue. Can any unionist here honestly tell me they think we would be allowed back in?

  • páid

    Bloomfield talks sense.

    The South isn’t interested in a 51% scenario, with hundreds of thousands of sullen, disloyal prods.

    And if unity of some sort comes, I don’t think it will be a Southern takeover. The realities of Ulster’s history and culture will have to be reflected in any arrangement.

    Anything else would result in a 1950s NI in reverse, and that didn’t work.

  • kensei

    “So (some) Nationalists seek parity of esteem when they’re in a minority – and to hell with minorities when they’re the majority!!”

    I don’t think that’s the case, Nevin. I think it is merely a recognition of the fact that what is appropriate in the close split of a deeply divided six counties (and the associated history) isn’t automatically applicable in a new United state – the context changes. If Unionism has a veto a la current arrangements, why not other ethnic groups. I doubt even Unionists would be keen on that road.

    I think in the event of an All Ireland state, Nationalists, particularly Northern Nationalists, would be extremely mindful of treatment of minorities. The current mutual veto doesn’t necessarily follow from that. Potential solutions include – strong constitutional equality provisions and associated balancing of the Supreme Court, strengthening of local government, independent oversight bodies, and a stronger Senate with differing voting systems.

  • splurge

    the big difference between unionists in a reunited Ireland and nationalists in Northern Ireland from 1920-70 is that unionists would have a sizeable number of TDs and be in a position to part of a coalition government, probably the only chance Fine Gael has of forming a government in the future. Unionists wouldn’t be the permanent opposition and we wouldn’t abolish PR the way they did.

  • Pounder

    [i]Anything else would result in a 1950s NI in reverse, and that didn’t work.
    Posted by páid on Aug 26, 2007 @ 09:47 PM[/i]

    Sadly thats exactly what a vocal section of the Republican community seem to want. As a smarter man then me once put it “A slave begins by demanding justice then ends up demanding to wear a crown”. In my view, perched on an Alliance Yellow fence, Shinners go on about a shared future yet only seem only interested in getting their own way and playing the victim card when they don’t. Modern politics is a careful game of give and take yet both sides in this country are intent only in taking.

  • Todd

    So keeping the 6 counties in the uk is giving?
    Oh sorry you must have meant equality was giving…

  • Pounder

    [i]So keeping the 6 counties in the uk is giving?
    Oh sorry you must have meant equality was giving…
    Posted by Todd on Aug 27, 2007 @ 01:21 PM[/i]

    It’s hardly as cut and shut as you make it seem. While Northern Ireland remains in the UK devolution means we govern ourselves and you convieniantly ignore that Dublin gets a lot more say into the workings of up here than they did under direct rule. In true Monty Python style there really is no pleasing some people.