Contract the experience of northern Nationalism over the last forty years to a single word, and it would be ‘separation’. By and large they have lived separate lives. Separate from our neighbours, by school, sport, preferred language and by large scale segregated living. And, often most painfully of all, separate from an independent state to which most would much prefer to belong. In debates on Slugger some nationalists give the impression of living in an idealised parallel universe where political unification is as certain as Darwin’s theory of evolution. Philip Johnson in the Telegraph notes the reality facing the Republican movement is a great deal harsher than that:
For the republicans it means supporting the police in their work; appreciating that the British army is entitled to have a peacetime garrison in the province and to guard it effectively; and to allow the PSNI to rebuild its intelligence network which was dismantled when the RUC Special Branch was wound up. It was the paucity of intelligence on the dissidents that forced Sir Hugh to call in the Army’s Special Reconnaissance Unit to help out.
What is being seen now are the first worrying signs of a deeper split in the republican movement over the tactics adopted by Adams and McGuinness. They thought that by agreeing an accommodation with the British in Northern Ireland, they would make political inroads in the Republic and thereby achieve their goal of a united Ireland through the ballot box rather than the bullet.
But things have not worked out the way they wanted. Sinn Fein was humiliated in the 2007 general election in the Republic, derailing Mr Adams’s “all-Ireland” political strategy. The protest vote in the South is being picked up by the Labour Party rather than Sinn Fein and this trend will continue as the recession deepens. There seems to be little appetite in the south for the ideology of Sinn Fein and membership of the EU has rendered unification of Ireland a redundant aspiration.
Worth noting the Telegraph’s nice new Northern Ireland webpage, complete with a too-short blogroll…
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty