Alternative Lessons of Limavady

I recently blogged the decision of Limavady council to remove various “offensive” items. Mr. Donnelly produced an interesting blog from a republican perspective about the “The Lessons of Limavady” and how it illustrated unionist thinking. Whilst I do not believe in tit for tat blogging; this episode along with the recent “Cavalcade for Londonderry” counterpoised with the ongoing love in makes for an interesting time to analyse the current tactics of Sinn Fein from a unionist perspective.Clearly in Stormont the love in seems to be progressing. The budget elicited a fairly positive response from Mitchel McLaughlin the Sinn Fein finance spokesperson. Although the SDLP opposed the budget; SF MLAs seem to be supporting it.

Some around the peripheries of SF have objected to the nature of power sharing in Stormont; this seems to be the central issue on which Gerry McHugh resigned from SF. Others within the broader republican movement of course reject the whole concept of ending the “armed struggle” and regard it as surrendering to the hated “Brits”; this seems to be the position of Republican Sinn Fein in so much as they show any evidence of a coherent political strategy. Of course others who would be of a very different ilk of republican such as Slugger’s own The Dubliner have also lambasted Sinn Fein not only for their support of violence but now their entry into a partitionist settlement. These criticisms are of course an echo of the DUP which has claimed SF entering power sharing with them represents a victory for unionism.

Sinn Fein of course refutes these analyses. They have continued to argue that entry into Stormont is merely the latest tactic in the ongoing struggle; this argument continues to be advanced such as here on Balrog by Adelante. It is an argument which I, from a diametrically opposite position, find relatively convincing. Here is not the place to rerun my view that the IRA whilst not staring defeat, was staring complete irrelevance in the face; and that the current system of power sharing gives republicans very significant power along with the opportunity to advance towards their objective using this means until such time as they need to reactivate the “armed struggle.”

The Republican movement has always played an extremely long game. That does not mean that every occurrence has been pre planned or that every eventuality has been allowed for. I would, however, submit that in view of Adams’s claims that by the mid 1970s there was a “military stalemate”, this shows that as long ago as then, Adams was preparing the ground for a political strategy which would result with republicans in a Stormont executive. His strategy to get his party to there is of course open to very many interpretations (mine highly unfavourable) but, I would submit: was mapped out, at least in sketch form, many years ago, has changed only in detail, not in principle, and is still, in the eyes of SF a stepping stone to a united Ireland.

One of SF’s major problems is, however, the fact that many of its grass roots supporters will find this long complex way forward all very boring. Whilst this approach may help Alex Maskey whisper pseudo liberalism up the Malone Road, it is less likely to be effective to other parts of SF’s potential or actual constituency. It is particularly likely to receive a poor reception in the socially disadvantaged urban parts of the province which are seeing little obvious benefit from the love in especially with SF supporting a fairly right wing budget, effectively failing to beat the unionists on the 11 plus and seeming to make no progress on things like the Irish language.

For these groups a good bit of Prod bashing might help to remind them that SF is still there for them: that has not been corrupted by power, that it still likes nothing better than annoying “the Huns” whilst of course all the time remaining a completely non sectarian organisation.

It is in this context that “Unionist Engagement” must be seen and it was indeed a stunning success. However, that was a good few months ago and new wheezes keep need to be being produced to keep the troops happy. The “cavalcade” for Londonderry was, I am sure, tremendously good fun and was a nice piece of regional MOPEry for Londonderry; however, it did not address the need for and the benefits of, a good prod bash.

The Limavady escapade by contrast was a practically perfect piece of “Unionist Engagement”. After having spent a year (and it is unclear how much money) finding the “offensive” items (not helped by the failure of any of the council’s employees to report any offence); it was necessary to have some fun with these discoveries. Simply removing the mug, dragon etc. might have caused no irritation by themselves. Hence, it was necessary to remove them with a great fanfare. Simultaneously removing an object with republican resonance (a book on the Hunger Strikes) might, however, have led to the possibility that SF could have been seen as petty but it might not have elicited adequate “unionist engagement” (read outrage). So the quite brilliant ploy of removing the statue of Mr. Massey, the former PM of New Zealand. By proclaiming that this individual represented one side of the community because he was an orangeman (clearly much more important than his having been PM of New Zealand) unionist “engagement” was practically guaranteed. Just to ensure adequate “engagement” it was also revealed that the councillors used the internet to establish whether or not he was unacceptable. This raised the “engagement” to quite epic levels.

Subsequently we have had, from some quarters, the suggestion that an alternative strategy would be to erect a statue to a famous resident from the nationalist community. Whilst that is not of itself unreasonable “tit for tat” statue production does seem extremely silly. By this logic if Magherafelt Borough Council wished to erect a statue of Seamus Heaney they would also have to erect one of a leading citizen of the area who was from the unionist community. Whilst in the current political arrangements we seem to have two (or even four) of lots of things; having two statues every time we want to honour someone descends to truly epic levels of silliness.

As it is removing Massey’s statue was an effective way of guaranteeing unionist “engagement”/outrage. The fact that it also offended some people in New Zealand is of course of little importance to Sinn Fein. Had the statue been of an American president, however, one wonders if Sinn Fein would have taken a somewhat different line.

Following this announcement there was then the episode of Sinn Fein councillors being abused by protestors. Any violence, intimidation or other criminality is clearly unacceptable but for SF this had the added benefit of permitting them to play the victim again; a further triumph for MOPEry.

Hence, we see that the Limavady episode was the practically perfect vehicle to please a certain section of the republican support base; combining as it did Prod bashing and MOPEry wrapped up in a pseudo politically correct mantle of promoting a “neutral working environment” just to keep any concerned outsiders happy. Limavady and the “cavalcade” are both vitally important aspects of keeping together the coalition which brought SF to power. SF is well aware of the dangers of allowing their hard line, disadvantaged supporters to become disillusioned. Yes they can tell people that the current arrangements are a step in their on going to and fro struggle for a united Ireland (and I believe that they do actually believe it). However, SF knows that some of the support base will find that too long term, too esoteric. As such these episodes of MOPEry and “engagement” are just what is needed.

The SF leadership are not fools and the republican movement very rarely execute their activities without significant prior thought. I have no doubt they thought through La Mon and Enniskillen and I have no doubt that these apparently silly episodes were also carefully planned. Whether or not the planning of these episodes was led by the same people I will not comment on.

  • lib2016

    OOPS! Last line had more to do with another thread. Sorry!

  • PaddyReilly

    I would like to raise a point that Turgon makes in his opening:-

    I have no doubt they thought through La Mon and Enniskillen and I have no doubt that these apparently silly episodes were also carefully planned.

    This, someone has already pointed out, shows his conspiracy theorist style of thinking. La Mon, I think I can safely say, shows the validity of the cock-up theory of history. Whoever the bombers were, I do not believe that they put all that effort into bombing a dance of Collie Dog fanciers. They must have believed that some other party was holding an event there: the RUC, the UVF, or even Spiney Norman. Only the fact that Collie dog fancying seems to be segregated on sectarian grounds in Ireland stopped them from scoring a spectacular own goal which would have closed them down for ever.

  • Democratic

    “Only the fact that Collie dog fancying seems to be segregated on sectarian grounds in Ireland stopped them from scoring a spectacular own goal which would have closed them down for ever.”
    I try to stay away from ad hom’s but does anyone else also think PaddyReilly can just f*ck right off for that pathetic attempt at humour…

  • willowfield

    PADDYREILLY

    I think you are broadly correct in your interpretation of the Census results. All the demographic trends are against Protestants:

    (1) Higher RC birth rate
    (2) Higher Protestant death rate
    (3) Higher Protestant emigration
    (4) High immigration from RC countries like Poland.

    There can only be one outcome from those trends and that is a decrease in the Protestant proportion of the population. Unionists have their head in the sands on this one.

    The only part of your analysis with which I would take issue is in respect of those children recorded on the Census as neither being of Protestant nor RC community background. You imply that this group will divide fairly proportionately among into the “secular” Protestant and RC communities. Whilst I agree that within this group there will be significant numbers of children from either bloc, my intuition is that “secular Protestants” are likely to be more numerous than “secular RCs”, simply because RCs are generally more religious than Protestants (“Ethnic Protestants” are more likely to be non-church-going and non-religious).

    That said, I don’t think it really makes that much difference and I would also highlight another dynamic, namely that the “bulge” in the RC population coincides with the generation which will now be having its own children, therefore there is likely to be another increase in the number of RC babies.

    I don’t think it’s clear that there will ever be an RC majority, but I think it is clear that Protestants will lose their majority, creating a situation where neither religious bloc has a majority and the “non-determined” become crucial.

    How these “non-determined” vote will determined whether or not there is a vote for a “united Ireland”. Some will fit obviously into either traditional community bloc and vote accordingly; some will deliberately view themselves as separate from both and choose not to vote; others will make their own minds up on rational grounds.

    All of this is to nationalists’ advantage because unionists (certainly under DUP leadership) have so far shown little interest in appealing outside the Protestant volk.

    BREADA

    Why would a unionist wish to have a flag that representing a small part of their country and another country

    So that there could be an appropriate flag to represent Ireland on relevant occasions (e.g. rugby matches)

    … particularly when such a flag could (and probably would) be interpreted as being a sop to t’other side?

    I don’t see how it would be so interpreted. Judging by some of the views expressed here, I would think it more likely to be the other way round: it is nationalists who seem to object to the idea of a neutral all-Ireland flag.

  • Breada

    So that there could be an appropriate flag to represent Ireland on relevant occasions (e.g. rugby matches)

    Does the green flag with the Shamrocs in the centre not count?

    I don’t see how it would be so interpreted. Judging by some of the views expressed here, I would think it more likely to be the other way round: it is nationalists who seem to object to the idea of a neutral all-Ireland flag.

    My point was that, whilst the intention of a flag or symbol may be a neutral one, it most likely wont stay that way. Because, whilst a lack of recognition for the importance and legitimacy of each communities respective flags does not exist (as you have demonstrated by refusing to accept that, from a nationalist perspective, the Irish Tricolour is not simply the flag of the nation state ‘Ireland’ or a refusal to concede the legitimacy of the Union Flag in NI) then sufficient respect for the opposing identities does not exist for a flag representing that respect to be successful. Must as it would be nice if it did, but im afraid this is the reality.

  • PaddyReilly

    Re: Collie dogs.

    I quote from the following website:-

    http://www.iraatrocities.fsnet.co.uk/lamon.htm

    “All who died were attending the Annual dinner dance of the Irish Collie Club and were Protestant Civilians.”

    Let me assure you that there is nothing Protestant about an affection for Collie dogs. Most of the Collie dog fanciers in Ireland are Catholic farmers from rural counties.

    Perhaps you misunderstand the word ‘fancier’. I quote from the dictionary: ‘a breeder for points.’

    So at the Annual Dinner Dance of the Irish Collie Club, it seems no Catholics were present. From this I conclude that Collie dog fancying seems to be segregated on sectarian grounds in Ireland. If this were not the case, then the La Mon bomb would have affected a broad swathe of the population, perhaps even members of the Republican movement from South Armagh. In this case, it would have been as fatal for the perpetrators as the Real IRA bomb in Omagh has been for that organisation. Comprendo?

  • willowfield

    BREADA

    Does the green flag with the Shamrocs [sic] in the centre not count?

    I’m unaware of such a flag, but it sounds like a reasonable design to me.

    My point was that, whilst the intention of a flag or symbol may be a neutral one, it most likely wont stay that way. Because, whilst a lack of recognition for the importance and legitimacy of each communities respective flags does not exist … then sufficient respect for the opposing identities does not exist for a flag representing that respect to be successful. Must as it would be nice if it did, but im afraid this is the reality.

    That is your opinion rather than the reality. We don’t have such an agreed flag so we can’t know what the reality would be.

  • Breada

    Willowfield

    That is your opinion rather than the reality. We don’t have such an agreed flag so we can’t know what the reality would be.

    Perhaps, but out-and-out saying that it was a mere opinion would have weakened my argument. Besides, on a rather conservative note, if the will for agreed symbols is there, surely we would have them already and not have all of the controversy that we do at rugby, cricket, etc.!

  • Ulidian

    Does it need stated again?

    The Legaly recognised flag of the country of Northern Ireland is the Northern Ireland flag or Red Hand Banner. Recognised by Europe and the rest of the world as our National Flag! Accepted at the same time as the flags of Canada, Australia, NZ et al etc etc.

    The Tri colour is not acceptable on Patricks day, he has his own!

    Another wee point might be that no church ever made Patrick a Saint! And he never ventured outside of Antrim, Down and Armagh!

  • PaddyReilly

    WILLOWFIELD

    Well I’m glad we agree on something.

    I don’t think it’s clear that there will ever be an RC majority, but I think it is clear that Protestants will lose their majority, creating a situation where neither religious bloc has a majority

    Here I feel that the improper change of subject from the election returns to the census is leading us into absurdity. There are no ‘religious blocs’ with ‘majorities’: we are not going to have a vote on transsubstantiation.

    What this means is that Unionists will lose their majority, and the returns from the last election indicate that they already have: Unionist parties scored around 48-9%, so the good will of the ‘non-determined’ is already crucial.

  • kensei

    “The Legaly recognised flag of the country of Northern Ireland is the Northern Ireland flag or Red Hand Banner. Recognised by Europe and the rest of the world as our National Flag! Accepted at the same time as the flags of Canada, Australia, NZ et al etc etc.”

    It has no current legal position, being created in 1953 for a Parliament that does no longer exists. the coat of arms on which it was based was granted in the twenties but I believe this also has no official capacity being again tied to the previous parliament.

  • willowfield

    BREADA

    Besides, on a rather conservative note, if the will for agreed symbols is there, surely we would have them already and not have all of the controversy that we do at rugby, cricket, etc.!

    Partly true: we don’t have them in rugby or GAA and I would say that is because the will is absent from the nationalist side. It is the Southern-dominated IRFU which insists on a chauvinistic flags-and-anthems policy, for example; and the GAA, of course is overtly uber-nationalist. But in cricket – and hockey, I believe – neutral all-Ireland symbols are used.

    Regarding a new flag for Northern Ireland, there is will neither on the unionist nor the nationalist side, unfortunately.

    PADDYREILLY

    Here I feel that the improper change of subject from the election returns to the census is leading us into absurdity. There are no ‘religious blocs’ with ‘majorities’: we are not going to have a vote on transsubstantiation.

    I think you know, Paddy, that in Northern Ireland there is a very strong correlation between religious affiliation and political opinion: between the RC community and the nationalist community and between the Protestant community and the unionist community. Take 100 random RCs and you’ll probably get 95 nationalists: take 100 random Prods and you’ll probably get 95 (maybe 90) unionists.

    What this means is that Unionists will lose their majority, and the returns from the last election indicate that they already have: Unionist parties scored around 48-9%, so the good will of the ‘non-determined’ is already crucial.

    That is true and it wasn’t the first election in which unionist parties didn’t have a majority. (Of course, come a referendum many non-voters would come out to vote, and many “non-aligned” voters would vote either way. Of the current non-aligned voters, I’d say most would be soft unionists.)

  • willowfield

    What “legal position” does the Union Flag have?

  • Ulidian

    Kensie,

    Its status has not changed it remains the same because the country of Northern Ireland still exists! Dont be a numpty! Just because a government changed doesnt mean that the flag lost its official recognition!

    I think you just had a homer simpson moment mate!

  • nineteensixtyseven

    This nonsense enters its second or third week and people still misrepresent the point of the audit. *Yawn*

  • RepublicanStones

    Another wee point might be that no church ever made Patrick a Saint! And he never ventured outside of Antrim, Down and Armagh – ulidian

    correct me if im wrong but those places are in ireland !

    tell me when did st George ever set foot in England?

    hows that dunces hat fit?

  • kensei

    “Its status has not changed it remains the same because the country of Northern Ireland still exists! Dont be a numpty! Just because a government changed doesnt mean that the flag lost its official recognition!

    I think you just had a homer simpson moment mate”

    No, you did.

    The flag was created in 1953 based on the earlier arms for display in the coronation of Elizabeth Windsor. It was used to represent the Northern Ireland Parliament. It was the flag of Northern Ireland, in a de facto sense but it was never de jure. I don’t believe there is any legislation proclaiming it to be the official flag. The Parliament it represents no longer exists, and it has no official status.

    Some sports use it, notably football. That may or may not continue.

  • The Dubliner

    Ulidian, Kensie is right. The flag was not de jure, and became defunct under the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973. Which, incidentally, is the Act which affirmed the ‘Principle of Consent’ stated by the British government in its Ireland Act 1949 (which was in response to Ireland declaring a republic):

    “It is hereby declared that Northern Ireland remains part of Her Majesty’s dominions and of the United Kingdom, and it is hereby affirmed that in no event will Northern Ireland or any part of it cease to be part of Her Majesty’s dominions and of the United Kingdom without the consent of the majority of the people of Northern Ireland voting in a poll held for the purposes of this section in accordance with Schedule 1 to this Act.”

    http://cain.ulst.ac.uk/hmso/nica1973.htm#section1

    So the PoC (then derogatively called the Unionist Veto) was the status pre-GFA, with the difference post-GFA being that nationalists agreed with it. Having agreed with it, Northern Ireland should have its own flag and its own sports teams, etc, which are independent of the Republic of Ireland and free from propagandistic obfuscation. Perhaps the first challenge of nationalists and unionists in Northern Ireland as they peruse their ‘shared future’ should be to agree on a new flag for Northern Ireland? Baby steps first, baby. 😉

  • willowfield

    The flag was created in 1953 based on the earlier arms for display in the coronation of Elizabeth Windsor. It was used to represent the Northern Ireland Parliament. It was the flag of Northern Ireland, in a de facto sense but it was never de jure. I don’t believe there is any legislation proclaiming it to be the official flag. The Parliament it represents no longer exists, and it has no official status.

    What legislation proclaims the following flags to have “official” status?:

    – the Union Flag
    – the St Andrew’s Cross
    – the St George’s Cross
    – the Welsh flag.

    THE DUBLINER

    So the PoC (then derogatively called the Unionist Veto) was the status pre-GFA, with the difference post-GFA being that nationalists agreed with it.

    Nationalists agreed with it before GFA. It was only the Provos who changed their minds at the GFA.

    Perhaps the first challenge of nationalists and unionists in Northern Ireland as they peruse their ‘shared future’ should be to agree on a new flag for Northern Ireland? Baby steps first, baby. 😉

    AGREED

  • iain

    Eranu
    what astounding bollox.

    “if people in the north east came into the republic then they’d better start loving the gaaaaah,”

    when is the last time you attended a Gaaaah (as you so condescending put it) match? If you don’t attend do the police come ‘round to your house’?

    “thinking the ‘ra of the early 20th century were heroes”

    Why shouldn’t they?

    “start supporting celtic”

    Do you own a Celtic top (you must do as you are now obliged to support Celtic)?

    “and growing a massive chip on their shoulder towards people from the neighbouring island.”

    Well, they have issues with the UK in my experience (though not as much as they used to), but then the British state has behaved badly in Ireland for centuries and even up to living memory, though more recently its Unionists that have disgraced the reputation of Britain in Ireland. However, I’d be interested to know if you’ve seen annual burnings of the union Jack in, say, July in Dublin or Cork. Have you listened to Southern politicians equivalent to Trimble or Laird ranting on about how pathetic Britain is, or members of government accusing Ian Paisley of being the supernatural anti-pixie. Or southern politicians wading in to prevent Irish nationals playing for the NI football team if they see that as their team ;o)

    “if you think thats a bit harsh then look at how hostile alot of southern posters are to anything that conflicts with their views.”

    Well possibly, but then you say

    “the NI us and them thing gets a bit OTT some of the time on this site. if you actually live in NI you will find that most (normal) people get on quite well with each other and have alot in common. Ranters are a tiny minority.”

    So NI contributors on here represent the minority whereas Southern contributors representative of the entire country!

    “But the fact is that most people of whatever religion in NI have very little interest in the south and most people in the south have very little interest in the north. No big changes on the horizon as far as I can see.”

    I have many Irish friends, and visit the Republic regularly, and my observation is that the Southerners are interested in NI. Certainly the main news on RTE carries stories about NI, and I believe that the main party in the Republic is going to organize in NI. It seems to me that the average Dubliner (for example) will think about Ulster as much as he thinks about Munster. Not very much because Dublin is the center of the universe obviously, but he’ll still be interested in both.

    Finally, if its such a drag living in the Republic you should leave!

  • kensei

    “What legislation proclaims the following flags to have “official” status?:

    – the Union Flag
    – the St Andrew’s Cross
    – the St George’s Cross
    – the Welsh flag. ”

    All UK Flags are de facto rather than de jure. The difference with Stormont Banner of course, is that all of the other flags are in widespread use by the institutions of state and have widespread acceptance without challenge. AFAIK The Stormont Banner is not in use by any institution of government, and it is rejected by about 45% of the population here. The prospect of its future use by institutions of state is approximately nil, since it will fall to the Nationalist veto. This somewhat weakens its case to be the “de facto” flag, since that translates as “in practice” or “in fact”, since outside of a few sporting contexts, it has no official use.

    Now, I don’t expect you to get past the first sentence of that, since that’s the only bit that says what you want. And you really should stop replying to me.

  • PaddyReilly

    My twopennorth on flags.

    The practise in reasonable and modern countries these days is not to overdo the flying of national flags. When I spotted the Bundesfahne in Berlin, I guessed correctly that the building it was flying over must be the Reichstag (i.e. ye Parliament Building).

    I’m trying very hard to rememember when I last saw one in London. There is one at Marble Arch, but it is accompanied by the Irish Tricolour and all the other European flags. Otherwise- maybe over military buildings or something. Certainly not on or in town halls. So if Limavady were to follow the sensible priciples set by English local government, there would be no flags, and no Union flags about the place at all. This I believe is what they are trying to achieve.