Nationalism’s rudderless drift?

Over at the Guardian I’ve a piece which posits the idea that Sinn Fein’s difficulty over the summer, marks not a crisis as such, but a sense of drift from Northern Irish nationalism’s long term goal of political unification of the island. Sinn Fein appears to have met its political match in the DUP and the SDLP seems unsure of what it stands for these days, other than the completion of the Agreement. Not everyone will agree that there appears to be little or no practical strategy for bringing about constitutional change by peaceful and civil means. So I’d like to throw it open to the floor and ask, if there is a strategy, what is it?

  • Greenflag

    paddyreilly ,

    Good post above and belated thanks for the info on Nuala O’Loan’s personal background in England a fact of which I was unaware . It explains a lot and tells us that there is truth in her remarks but of course as Raven points out it’s not a ‘blanket ‘ truth .

    Re the above post it’s ‘realpolitick’ generally but you do reduce everything to ‘economic interest’ which is not always how ‘history’ works out . I would not underestimate the power of the ‘theocrats’ among Northern Unionism .

    While I agree that trying to persuade Unionists re a UI is a waste of time -I’d like to see our political parties do the ‘numbers ‘ so that ROI taxpayers can see the ‘facts’ . Waiting for Godot is all very well if he never turns up but should he turn up some day in a distressed state requiring long term financial, psychological and political rehabilitation then that’s a horse of a different colour.

  • Greenflag

    Driftwood ,

    ‘Where did I go wrong Greenflag? ‘

    About 7 million years ago plus or minus a couple of hundred thousand years 🙂 Our ancestors were happy enough swinging from branch to red branch and then some ‘genius’ decided to let go, dropped to the ground and started a trend .

    But don’t take it personal . It was’nt so much a case of your ancestors leaving the trees -more a case of the trees leaving them . The ‘savannisation ‘ of the regions either side of the tropics made it an uncomfortable region for tree swingers . Those who refused to adapt to the new environment found that swinging from one great height to another had disadvantageous consequences otherwise known as instant death or broken limbs which qualified one for being the main entree on the nearest predators lunch menu . Thus the cleverer ones learnt to stand upright , make tools and eventually finessed in the art of killing members of their own species and other animals from a distance . No other animal has achieved this level of expertise .

    Alas there is no return to the reputedly peaceful and environmentally friendly though probably much exaggerated ‘ Eden ‘of our tropical tree living past. Although when I read of the statements and ‘exploits ‘ of some of our latter day evangelicals and born agains it seems that many seem to be making an attempt 🙁

    An ‘excess’ of religiosity when mixed with politics has been highly correlated with the demise and the accompanying decline stages of all Empires from the Romans in the 4th century AD to the Spanish /Dutch hegemony of the 17th to the British of the late 19th to the USA in the 21st.

    And if it can do that to Empires why should it be any different for smaller states?

  • PaddyReilly

    I would not underestimate the power of the ‘theocrats’ among Northern Unionism

    True, but in my experience God has a marked tendency to make demands which serve the economic interests of those who serve Him. Each government, each Nationalist movement and each Empire is run by and for a political clique or bandwagon.

    What the various parties disgree over is immaterial. It could be religion, it could be nationality, it could be football teams or as Swift would have it, the correct way to crack an egg. What is important is to create a party and a class of potential beneficiaries.

    An Independent Ireland is a racket which initially benefited FF/FG politicians, Catholic clergy, Irish Teachers, Gaelic games organisers, to some extent small farmers. (The Welsh hillfarmers are very badly treated by the British government).

    Then there is a whole class of people who neither benefit not lose out. Green party and Labour party politicians can function under either kind of regime.

    Then there were persons who did not benefit from Irish Independence: Tory MPs, certain members of the RIC, most of the owners of ‘Big Houses’, Church of Ireland Rectors, Cricketers, purveyors of Imperial memorabilia, anyone drawing an income from the garrisons. My gt grandfather sold horses to the British Army, but sensibly contrived to peg out before Independence; in any case, the horse trade was doomed. His children and grandchildren adapted to the new economy.

  • Mr E. Mann

    >the only change to the constitutional
    >issue is unity. Joint sovereignty is pie
    >in the sky stuff.

    RS, believing that you can win permanent victory in a zero sum game against an evenly matched opponent is “pie in the sky stuff.” Cutting a deal in which each side gets half of what they want is pragmatism.

  • Greenflag

    paddy ,

    ‘Each government, each Nationalist movement and each Empire is run by and for a political clique or bandwagon.’

    Overall -yes it’s the way of the world – the further back we go in history the ‘cliques’ were usually numerically smaller relative to the entire population . 25,000 Normans carved up 11th century England and Wales with 2,500,000 natives . Having had the ‘crap ‘ beaten out of them by the Normans, the English (once the Normans had been assimilated -thank also to you you Black Death) – eventually did unto others as had been done unto them and so the Welsh , Scots and Irish got it in the neck . And thus it has always gone around the world from one rising empire to the next falling one in the eternal great game .

    However over the past 200 years due to rising living standards and educational levels among the ‘masses’, and widespread acceptance of certain inviolate human rights we progress slowly but surely or at least we seemd to up to the mid 1970s . Since which time there has IMO been a gradual and now speeding up of ‘retreat’ in ‘relations ‘ between capital and labour with the former now exerting ever more preponderant political power right across both the developed and developing worlds .

    The ‘beneficaries’ of the Irish revolution were in the main the rising middle and lower middle classes of Irish nationalism . Those who lost out ‘relatively ‘ were the urban working class mainly Catholic but also many of the poorer non professional and non business owning protestants who had been favoured or considered more loyal by the ancien regime .

    Since the French Revolution the history of revolution, crudely put, has been that of the rising tuppence halfpenny’s who had escaped bottom of the deck rural or urban poverty refusing to countenance a return to ‘tuppenny ‘ status by taking up arms against those who would try to do just that . Thus we see the American Revolution as not only being just about the grandiose high principles of Independence but also protecting and advancing the gains of the newly emergent trading and commercial class of Colonialists .

    It was the ‘bankrupted ‘ lower middle class who put Hitler into power with the acquiescence of the middle class who had seen their ‘equity’/life savings disappear due to ‘financial services manipulations ‘ 1920’s style .

    Protestant Catholic rivalry and enmity in NI has been largely a case of the tuppence halfpennies looking down on the tuppences . While around the world in most polities that would be accepted as a ‘normal ‘ condition of life , in Northern Ireland the economic divide was accentuated and given a sharper edge by differences in religion and constitutional loyalties . Now that there has been to an extent a ‘levelling ‘ up it should not be surprising that many of the former tuppenny halfpennies are feeling aggrieved .

    Que sera .sera .

  • German-American

    I don’t really get the analogy between Northern Ireland and Scotland, or at least I think it is a few decades premature. When 69% of Scots polled believe that Alex Salmond “stands up for Scotland”, surely that indicates that the vast majority of Scots, whether SNP voters or no, agree that there is a thing called “Scotland” worth standing up for. Devolution may have strengthened peoples’ perception of Scotland as an entity distinct from England and the rest of the UK, but the idea of Scotland as a entity in its own right, with its own priorities and needs, has always been there, muted though it might have been at times.

    For a similar dynamic to play out in Northern Ireland I suspect that the people of NI, both unionist and nationalist, will have to develop a similar sense of NI as an entity worth standing up for, even if they disagree politically on the particular constitutional arrangements that would be best for NI. If/when that shared understanding is present (and only then), it’s at least possible to imagine a party like the DUP deciding that it’s worth seeking some sort of formal affiliation with the ROI, not because they share the dream of a unified Ireland but because they’re “standing up for Northern Ireland” and think they can get a better deal out of Dublin than out of London.