“There is an unwritten law..”

A strong opening from Eamonn McCann in the Belfast Telegraph

Belfast is certainly an Irish town. But it is a United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland town, too. This was explicitly confirmed in the 1998 Multi-Party Agreement and is, surely, morally binding on all who endorsed the Agreement.

True, the Agreement was also explicit that partition would remain only for as long as a majority within the North wanted it so. But this has been the unionist position all along. Ian Paisley spelt it out more than 30 years ago: if a majority in the North voted for a merger with the South, he wouldn’t welcome the development, of course, but, as a democrat, he’d have to accept it.

If the war waged by the Provisional IRA was about partition and the constitutional status of the North, it lost, and the Agreement was acknowledgement that it had lost.

This does not subtract from the right of relatives of people killed directly by the British Army or through collusion with loyalist paramilitaries to protest against a parade such as last Sunday’s, or of opponents of imperialist war to call in the name of decency for its cancellation. It does mean that the ground for objection to the parade put forward by Mr Adams — Irish town, British Army — coming from a pro-Agreement quarter, had no political legitimacy.

This is not a point which has figured prominently in editorial commentary on Sunday’s parade and protests. There is an unwritten law, still at least semi-operative, that no communal leader should be pushed too hard to face up to the implications of the Agreement for his or her ideology. Deft misrepresentation of the Agreement (or ‘creative ambiguity’ with regard to its provisions) continues unabated.

But the ending betrays his own cutting through the more recently imposed ambiguity. Nevermind the imaginary time-limit on the even more recent agreement.

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  • Eamonn: “The Agreement is not the solution but part of the problem.”

    I’ve previously pointed out the contradiction of the 50%+1 ‘tug-of-war’ versus the promise to work together. The tug-of-war continues to be played out.

  • George

    Nevin,
    I agree but I don’t see any agreement involving an “internal settlement” that could prevent this.

    Internalising the problem plays to the worst inclinations of both communities. It reduces the battle to them and us. Of course that’s something that the rest of Ireland and Britain can happily live with.

    For them, the GFA, if it worked, would give them indefinite security. So far they have had a decade. Not bad, they say selfishly.

    What McCann says about the GFA is true and at least he makes an attempt to give a reason as to why we have all this ambiguity and misrepresentation rather than doing what many commentators do and simply state the obvious – that there is ambiguity and misrepresentation present.

    No sh*t Sherlock, there’s been misrepresentation since Tony Blair’s billboard back in 1998. Hell, there’s been misrepresentation since the IRA ceasefire and honking cavalcade in 1994.

  • George, that was why I put forward a devolved administration under shared sovereignty complemented by the merger of Strands 2 and 3.

  • kensei

    It does mean that the ground for objection to the parade put forward by Mr Adams — Irish town, British Army — coming from a pro-Agreement quarter, had no political legitimacy.

    Perhaps Eamonn would like to point out the piece of the GFA that says Nationalism gave up the right to oppose any part of the apparatus of state it didn’t like, or use any constitutional means possible to stop anything we don’t like going ahead. Oh wait, he can’t, and he’s talking claptrap as usual. Which of course Pete, you’re more than happy to push. A Republican is quite happy to take his legitimacy from the bottom up, thank you very much. And SF’s vote certainly gives it a mandate to protest this type of action.

    Second, this is to fundamentally misunderstand the GFA. Which is what you would do of course, if what you really wanted to do was rail against the IRA and the Republican movement in general. Yes the principle of consent was enshrined — at the cost of giving Nationalism the right to veto most of the things it didn’t like. Nationalism got a little piece of sovereignty of its own, in a way that minorities in Scotland, Wales or England simply do not get. Stormont did not organise an official homecoming parade. It would have been vetoed. This circumvented that restriction by organising it at council level. Until Nationalism gets more electoral strength there, there is little chance of nionist-Lite Alliance risking votes by blocking these kinds of moves. But there is a cost there to of a divisive approach to this — approximately 0% chance of seeing any British Army parades west of the Bann.

  • Tazia

    “Perhaps Eamonn would like to point out the piece of the GFA that says Nationalism gave up the right to oppose any part of the apparatus of state it didn’t like, or use any constitutional means possible to stop anything we don’t like going ahead. ”

    At a different point, Michael Collins agred the Royal Navy could stay, and for a reason, and to an oath for the same reason. When you agree to be British, diluted British, codified British, to give them the right to lower age of comsent, abortion, whatever, then you are working for/with the Brit Empire such as it is.

    Ruane is a Brit minister, I’m an anglophile, I wish I was the Brit minister in chage of protecting georgian mansions, or cycle paths, Ruane, is for example, definitely a Brit minister.

    And that army, those sodiers were Brits and Irish, but they were soldiers of the Queen. The GFA didn’t negate that.

    It’s the soldiers of the Queen, my lads
    Who’ve been, my lads, who’ve seen, my lads
    In the fight for England’s glory lads
    When we’ve had to show them what we mean:
    And when we say we’ve always won
    And when they ask us how it’s done
    We’ll proudly point to every one
    Of England’s soldiers of the Queen.

    That is still in, the same way the treaty ports were still in

  • gfa

    I have to say that McCann has always had the capacity to get to the core of, and expose the contradictions within, others’ political positions. Unfortunately for him, he has never fully explained his own.
    Though I have to say that his article is spot on (again).

  • KieranJ

    The sad fact in the north is that the actual fighting was never allowed to be played out to the end.

    Until that occurs, there will never be a solution. Sad to say, this gunfight is not over.

  • the future’s bright the future’s orange

    sure that has to incitement of hatred/violence – are there any moderators on slugger these days?

  • ggn

    I thought E. McCann’s article was very good.

  • Jimmy

    no communal leader should be pushed too hard to face up to the implications of the Agreement for his or her ideology. (Quote)

    When anyone tries to point out the implications espically of failure on the part off the Republican Movement, the Spin Machine kicks in,or Maybe they actually believe the GFA will deliver unity ? coupled with the fact that the Those that vote for Republicanism know a Political ideological failure when they see it, they use the mandate for nothing more than a Massive Damage limitation exercise,(thats what succesive election vitorys by SF was about) who needs to face up to anything when your voting base lives in permanent political denial?.
    Remember that the GFA was the Brainchild of the SDLP and UUP,SFs contribution was extremely limited.

  • Jo

    ‘The sad fact in the north is that the actual fighting was never allowed to be played out to the end.

    Until that occurs, there will never be a solution. Sad to say, this gunfight is not over.’

    [play the ball – edited moderator]

  • Nightbird

    @KieranJ

    The sad fact in the north is that the actual fighting was never allowed to be played out to the end.

    Until that occurs, there will never be a solution. Sad to say, this gunfight is not over.

    You’re a fool. Such fighting (at least sub a genocidal level, which would never be allowed to happen) would simply go on for ever. The only way forward is to find ways to live together. If the aim is a united Ireland then that will require at least the acquiesence, if not support, of people who are presently unionists.

  • kensei

    At a different point, Michael Collins agred the Royal Navy could stay, and for a reason, and to an oath for the same reason. When you agree to be British, diluted British, codified British, to give them the right to lower age of comsent, abortion, whatever, then you are working for/with the Brit Empire such as it is.

    And Collins got the powers that eventually led to the 26 counties getting full independence, and rid of the Royal Navy and the rest. Perhaps you had not noticed the state to your South is independent. It’s a bad example, and what you are engaging in is Principle Beyond Reason. If you can game the system to get what you want, then you can sort out the ideological purity later.

    The British Empire also no longer exists, except in history books.

  • ??

    approximately 0% chance of seeing any British Army parades west of the Bann.

    Posted by kensei on Nov 07, 2008 @ 12:32 AM

    so much for a shared future or an ireland of equals. Nationalsits only cry about equality when they are in the minority, once in the majority its a different story. thats why unoinists should fear a UI.

  • edward

    ??

    No parade is the shared future

    No parade means no one is ofended

  • George

    ??
    The Republic had a joint remembrance ceremony in Drogheda just a couple of days before all the kerfuffle in Belfast.

    Not reported because not an issue. But don’t let that stop you believing what you want to believe about the southern hordes at the gates.

  • ?

    Not reported because not an issue. But don’t let that stop you believing what you want to believe about the southern hordes at the gates.

    Posted by George on Nov 07, 2008 @ 12:30 PM

    George not according to kensei

  • Ulsters my homeland

    “[i]Belfast is certainly an Irish town. But it is a United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland town, too.”[/i]Eamonn McCann

    So it’s a British town too. Have you forget about that Eamonn?

    Did you also forget about the Stormont government offering social housing to the citizens of Londonderry in ’68?, but you choose to forget that and highjack a civil rights march for your own mopery propeganda.

  • kensei

    ??

    so much for a shared future or an ireland of equals. Nationalsits only cry about equality when they are in the minority, once in the majority its a different story. thats why unoinists should fear a UI.

    I have answered you before ??. Which you simply ignored. What you’re doing is intellectual dishonest. It is also intellectually braindead, since you ignoring what I’m actually saying.

    The DUP chose the head on strategy. When the DUP starts treating people as equals, then perhaps many more things are possible — including some form of army parade West fo the Bann. When they pick direct head on fights, then the result is division. People don’t like being walked on or railroaded, and respond accordingly. It takes two to tango, and an “Ireland of Equals” requires the DUP to be content with equality and not supremacy.

  • I have to say that McCann has always had the capacity to get to the core of, and expose the contradictions within, others’ political positions. Unfortunately for him, he has never fully explained his own.

    Posted by gfa

    I would agree that he is a man that can identify the problems succintly(which is a start)
    But I have never heard coherent answers from him
    and he is a bit fond of his own voice if given an opening.

  • ??

    It takes two to tango, and an “Ireland of Equals” requires the DUP to be content with equality and not supremacy.

    Posted by kensei on Nov 07, 2008 @ 02:03 PM

    Please tell me what laws or rights unionists have that nationalists dont? we have the most stringent equality laws anywhere.

  • kensei

    ??

    Please tell me what laws or rights unionists have that nationalists dont? we have the most stringent equality laws anywhere.

    Unionism has certain electoral advantages in places. Nothing wrong with that per se. But if looks to hammer home that advantage in spite of complete opposition to Nationalism, and is totally unconcerned with the sensitivities of celebrating an organisation that killed 300 people in the Troubles and whose general relationship with Nationalism at a lower level was not good, then it hardly has the right to moan when Nationalism uses its electoral advantages in ways that unionism doesn’t like.

    Partnership and equality are more then simply laws: they states of mind, and policy approaches. If you want that, I’d guess Nationalism would be open to it and I would side with those criticising then if they didn’t. But if Unionism wants equality of contempt they can have that too.

  • Ulsters my homeland

    “[i]is totally unconcerned with the sensitivities of celebrating an organisation that killed 300 people in the Troubles”[/i]

    is the organisation you are referring to, the RIR? is it another name change you want or do you just simply have no time for an army of any sort, even when it’s protecting innocent school children from bombs?

  • ??

    and is totally unconcerned with the sensitivities of celebrating an organisation that killed 300 people in the Troubles and whose general relationship with Nationalism at a lower level was not good,

    and yet nationalists dont have the same concern for SF who murdered more catholics than any other group….

  • kensei

    is the organisation you are referring to, the RIR? is it another name change you want or do you just simply have no time for an army of any sort, even when it’s protecting innocent school children from bombs?

    The British Army is the British Army regardless fo subdivision. The UDR hardly had its hands clean in any case.

  • kensei

    ??

    and yet nationalists dont have the same concern for SF who murdered more catholics than any other group….

    SF is not the IRA. Overlapping membership, yes, but not the same thing and peddling the SF/IRA thing is tiresome at this point. People voted for a variety of reasons, at least one of which was that it got the IRA to stop. It is also whataboutery of the highest order. Next.

  • ??

    SF is not the IRA… LOL

  • kensei

    ??

    Don’t take me word for it. If you read up on the extracts of Johnathon Powell’s book, you’ll see he said much the same thing. Overlapping memberships, yes. Exactly the same thing, with the exactly same goals and the same membership and the same thinking? No.

    I know you’ve probably repeated it so much you think it’s fact but sorry, no. The world is a mite more complicated than that. You’d be safer just running with MMG and GA being in the IRA.

  • Ulsters my homeland

    “[i]The British Army is the British Army regardless fo subdivision. The UDR hardly had its hands clean in any case. “[/i] – kensei

    I’m quite saddened by your reply because I hoped you were simply one of those republicans who was against war at any cost, but sadly I fear you just simply want rid of a British army no matter what the public wants.

    would you be satisfied if the RIR was renamed the Irish Army?

  • kensei

    I’m quite saddened by your reply because I hoped you were simply one of those republicans who was against war at any cost, but sadly I fear you just simply want rid of a British army no matter what the public wants.

    I am not a pacifist. War is sometimes necessary though the number of cases I would say is low. Plus I’m not sure I could ever personally do it myself.

    I am a Nationalist and a Republican though. That means I would like the British Army gone. Along with the rest of the British presence. It isn’t personal

    As for “the rest of the public” they are two “publics” here, with different ideas on m,any things. We tried the one with a narrow majority just getting everything it wanted. It did not turn out too well.

    would you be satisfied if the RIR was renamed the Irish Army?

    This is to fundamentally misunderstand sovereignty.

  • Ulsters my homeland

    kensei

    “[i]I am a Nationalist and a Republican though. That means I would like the British Army gone. Along with the rest of the British presence. It isn’t personal “[/i]

    Are you going to force me out? I’m British and I’m present.

  • anne warren

    I always feel very sad at these loggerhead jams and the implacable either/or mindset which leads to a full stop, resentment and stubbornness. All parties have a certain amount of “right on their side”. The RIR had/has an appalling reputation in the Catholic community; the parade was unfortunately an opportunity for Loyalist triumphalism; the anti-war brigade has valid points; the relatives and friends of soldiers have the right, even the duty, to welcome them home. I think NI could have a unique opportunity to act as a bridge between GB and the ROI – if the people could only see beyond “either/or” to “and” and try to implement the best of each tradition

  • Konrad

    The sad fact in the north is that the actual fighting was never allowed to be played out to the end.

    Until that occurs, there will never be a solution. Sad to say, this gunfight is not over.

    It is how it is done in Africa witness the DRC at the moment.

  • Jimmy

    Re:Konrad post 8, p2.

    The fighting was indeed played out to an extent,e.g.we may see Johnny Adair and C company as Knuckle Dragging Morons, but they outshot the IRA to the extent that causualties by Nationalists could’nt be absorbed, they caused absolute terror and fear into the Republican Nationalist Community as many remember, if you accept that they were simply agents off the Brits then that synopsis pays off, The Brits and its agents played out the shooting match to thier favour. This resulted as I have explained many times in previous posts of a Republican war weary surrender,any idea by that movement to think that the ceasefire was anyway Tactical and an end to justify the means are quite wrong.The Solution as you say,was found in the GFA, it was an ultimate surrender and an acknowledgement that Republicanism was out gunned and Out manouvered at every twist and turn, ie it was a disatourous failure,therefore the fighting came to its ultimate end,this is as far as Republicanism is concerned.. ‘The end of Ideology’.

  • William

    I have never had much time for McCann but many of his articles, the one under discussion being an example, are totally correct.

    Adam’s assertion about Belfast being an ‘Irish town’, reminds me of a piece McCann broadcast on Talkback [when he did a weekly slot]. It was at the height of Big Jack Charton’s reign as Manager of the Republic of Ireland Football team. Norther Ireland were playing the Republic of Ireland and McCann’s subject was the many Nationalist / Republicans who supported the Republic’s national team, at that time full of players who weren’t born in the Republic but claimed an Irish connection through a granny / grandfather born there.

    McCann, who writes better than he talks, pronounced in his stacatto delivery, that he would be supporting the only Irish team on the field, that of Northern Ireland.

    Of course, the most famous abuse of the Charlton wheeze re nationality of players, was Tony Cascarina, who claimed to have an Irish granny. In his biography, he revealed that afterwards, he found out she had no Irish connection at all. That, after he had gained 92 Irish caps !!! Ah, well.

  • kensei

    Are you going to force me out? I’m British and I’m present.

    Must we do this every time? I don’t care what nationality you are. In a United Ireland you can continue to be whatever nationality you wish, retain whatever citizenship other countries give you and do what you want within the law. I have zip desire to rule over the hearts of men or move anyone out of their homes.

    So by “British presence” what I mean is that the sovereignty the British now possess transfered back to Ireland — because what I do care about is who makes the law, who administers it and how much influence Irishmen have over it. It does not matter how benign British rule is: it’s fundamentally illegitimate. But you know exactly what I meant, of course. So why be a dick by going with this line, then?