Outsourcing military authority and the attenuation of sovereignty…

Brendan O’Neill of Sp!ked Online has some thoughts on the strange circumstance by which Massereene Barracks was protected, not by members of the British Armed forces, but was instead contracted out to a private security firm. He argues that by outsourcing its coercive authority in Northern Ireland the Ministry of Defence is signaling at best a casual relationship with the province, at worst it’s serious attenuation of British sovereignty here… By Brendan O’Neill

Recent events have confirmed that there are small groups of mysterious armed men in Northern Ireland who seem largely unrepresentative and unaccountable. Not much is known about them. They appear to spend much of their time behind closed doors, only to be occasionally glimpsed brandishing their weapons.

I refer, of course, not to the Real IRA or the Continuity IRA, but to those private security guards – otherwise known as mercenaries – who are paid to uphold British authority in the Six Counties.

For me, the most striking thing about the Real IRA attack on the Massereene barracks on Saturday night was the revelation that the unarmed soldiers were being protected by armed private security guards. This throws up so many questions that it’s hard to know where to start. Why do soldiers, trained by the state to fight wars, need non-state “hired help” to keep them safe? Since when did mercenaries become part of the story in Northern Ireland? What does it say about Britain’s relationship with the Six Counties that it is willing to outsource authority even for security to private firms?

In the flurry of criticism of the security guards’ failure to use their handguns to fight off the Real IRA gunmen, the monumental symbolism of private firms being paid to protect British Army barracks has been buried. The British now appear willing to outsource coercion itself, traditionally the highest form of authority in capitalist society, to non-state actors – even in Northern Ireland, that patch of land where for 25 years the British devoted immense military resources and manpower, and caused so much mayhem, in their jealous defence of their state authority.

Modern bourgeois states have always centralised the means of violence. As Janice E Thomson writes in her book Mercenaries, Pirates and Sovereigns: State-Building and Extraterritorial Violence in Early Modern Europe, “state-builders” sought to “extract coercive capabilities from other individuals, groups and organisations within their territories”, leading to a situation where “control over violence was centralised, monopolised and made hierarchical”. In recent years, however, states have willingly broken up their monopoly on violence. Washington hired security guards for some of the toughest, riskiest operations in Iraq and Afghanistan; and now London employs security guards to protect its own soldiers in Northern Ireland, who are… doing what, exactly? Eating pizza?

The media depiction of the two soldiers at Massereene is striking, too. They are discussed, not as trained defenders of the realm or potential killers for Britain, but as unwitting victims who were let down by their private guards. They just wanted to earn some money, the Sun tells us. Even their future military plans are discussed as something akin to social work: they were about to leave Northern Ireland to carry out “humanitarian reconstruction work in the war-torn country of Afghanistan”, says the Belfast Newsletter. (War-torn by whom, one might ask?) The soldiers are looked upon, not as defenders of the integrity of Northern Ireland, but as a couple of people who were just chilling out as they waited to go and rebuild a bit of Helmand.

It’s hard to find out how many private security guards there are in Northern Ireland. But considering that last year the NIO proposed new rules for “Regulating the Private Security Industry in Northern Ireland”, we can imagine it’s quite a lot.

The Massereene incident unwittingly revealed the peculiar nature of British rule today. British forces have a ghostly presence in the Six Counties; they’re engaged in a kind of phantom occupation. There’s a profound uncertainty as to why soldiers are there: to protect what; to demonstrate what? This strange military situation reflects a broader crisis of political authority in relation to Northern Ireland. It is now 15 years since, in the Downing Street Declaration, the British state declared that it had no “selfish, strategic or economic interest” in the Six Counties. Now it seems to have no military clue, either. Such is its lack of clear interest, of political purpose and internal clarity, that it outsources even military authority to the highest bidder in Northern Ireland.

This is about more than relaxing security in a changed Six Counties. It exposes a profound crisis of the British state. In the past, it was in the Six Counties more than any other place that the British state fought to defend its integrity, deploying militarism, internment, repression and censorship to defend its interests against the challenge of Irish republicanism. Now it has no interests, or at least none that it can define and articulate. It is the crisis of meaning and purpose amongst the British elite which means that even in that “part of Britain” where it fought tooth-and-nail to hold its state together it is now super-casual about military authority and professes to have no interests. The British have effectively withdrawn from Northern Ireland, at least emotionally and spiritually, if not entirely physically.

On the other side, of course, Irish republicans no longer uphold the Irish people’s interests either, and have abandoned their claim of sovereignty over the Six Counties (and the Twenty-Six Counties). Where Northern Ireland was once torn apart by a clash of wildly differing British and republican interests, it is now held together – uninspiringly and patchily – by the absence of real interests, by the absence of any desire to rule or meaningful claim of sovereignty. It is built upon stalemate and exhaustion, peaceful-by-default. It is no longer enough to say “Brits Out!”, since there’s no mass movement to force Britain out and since Britain rules more by default than by clearly defined design or desire. I reckon we need a new language of liberation to reinvigorate the debate, and to put someone’s interests on the table.

,

  • John Terry’s Mum

    its the new way of doing war
    getting increasingly common, don’t take it personally — ever heard of blackwater???

  • Ahoy!

    Sovereignty on the cheap

    Is any of it worth a hill of beans ! !

  • The Impartial Observer

    Interesting article but I think there is a simpler explanation. Since the end of the Cold War the MoD has become a branch office of the Treasury and there has been a program of civilianisation of the ancillary services of the UK armed forces all in the name of “cost effectiveness.” It started when the Major government flogged off all the military houses and nearly all of the military hospitals and it has been continued with relish under New Labour. This sounds to me like a similar initiative dreamt up by accountants who never considered that these security guards would ever be confronted by men with automatic weapons, the guards themselves should not be blamed for what happened at Massereene, but in my view, whatever genius came up with this scheme should have a troubled conscience.

  • Mark McGregor

    It’s a stupid argument. I’m a dissenting republican and I stayed in an british Army housing estate in Scotland during the summer. It didn’t even have guards.

  • cynic

    Mick

    I am sorry but the entire premise of this article is complete bollox.

    First let’s deal with:

    “contracted out to a private security firm”

    First, the base was guarded by the MOD Guard Force. This is an internal unit of the MOD employed to Guard Military bases. Most of the members are ex-service people. The are sworn in as Special Constables in MOD Police and are armed.

    I don’t think that this service has been contracted out in any way.They are fully employed and controlled by the MOD.

    The arguments for using the Guard Force were

    1 the work didnt need full soldiering skills and fitness but ex service personnel were ideal1y suited to it

    2 guard duties bored soldiers but the Guard Force were happier in the work

    3 many regiments were undermanned and using the guard force could free up valuable troops

    4 it was cheaper and

    5 provided a softer image

    Next, there is the sinister development that:-

    “last year NIO proposed new rules for “Regulating the Private Security Industry in Northern Ireland”

    Errr, yes. They are tightening them. In 2009 the Security Industry Authority will take over this role in NI, as it has done in GB for around 3 years. It sets much higher standards on vetting, training etc than NIO ever did and aims to professionalise the industry. The Irish have done the same thing with the PSA in the Republic.

    So your point is what?

    And finally we have

    “There’s a profound uncertainty as to why soldiers are there”

    Well, its very simple. Read the agreement. NI is part of the UK. The UK Government is responsible for protecting NI and keeps a normal garrison there. They live there and train there. They are also available for civil emergencies just like in Finchley. They are British troops in the UK.

  • Gregory

    Civilian establishments don’t require guards really, because it is goes against the rules of war.

    It would be like blowing up horses or a military ban, the idea is beneath the dignity of a respectable fenian,

    or did you mean for wild savages? Like that Zulu business that Michael Caine was in.

  • TAFKABO

    So the Zulus were wild savages?

    Racist much?

  • Rory Carr

    Well it is pretty simple.

    Once upon a time we had a mercenary force such as the Army of the East India Company which murdered those natives who stood in the way of profit for the investors in that company.

    Then the investors suggested to the government (which they by then owned) that it might be more profitable if the costs of the company army might be borne instead by general taxation with the added bonus that any recalcitrance within the ranks could be treated as treasonous behaviour and dealt with accordingly per encourager les autres.

    Latterly, with the end of the Cold war, it has been realised that war itself is most profitable quite apart from the supply of materiel and provisioning (think Fray Bentos during the Falklands adventure) and that profits may as well be made from the supply of personnel as well. The market can be guaranteed, the workforce more compliant than immigrant labour in the food industry, all mistakes are buried and the taxpayer takes up the cost of all failure.

    Modern soldiery in the ‘advanced’ nation states allows that they deserve the appellation, “The Whores of War”, but it is the investors in misery and their lackeys in government who are the pimps.

  • Uriop

    This article is sloppy. The security guards shot were from the Northern Ireland Security Guard Service. They are employed by the Crown, not by a private company. They are not in the least equivalent to Blackwater. They are basically equivalent to PSNI special constables – i.e. they have certain powers equivalent to PSNI officers but more limited. They are civilians, but in the same sense that a PSNI officer is a civilian.

    Contrary to their presence in a NI army base being some kind of signal of the UK government distancing NI or of militarisation it is the EXACT OPPOSITE. It brings defence of army bases into line with mainland UK and is itself a result of demilitarisation. It is a signal that the UK government has treated it’s army bases in NI just as they would one in England or Scotland.

    So not only is the premise of the piece wrong, it’s conclusions are 180 degrees wrong as well.

  • joeCanuck

    Nothing new about this at all. The Roman Empire was doing just grand until they hired the visigoths to defend them. Didn’t really take the goths too long to figure out that they were the only ones with arms.

  • This is about more than relaxing security in a changed Six Counties. It exposes a profound crisis of the British state.

    Agree with other posters this isn’t a particular issue about the British state in Northern Ireland, so much as part of a global trend towards the diminution of state sovereignty.

    Brendan himself has written about it here:
    http://preview.tinyurl.com/dmuyvh

    It,s interesting though that many of the key military entrepreneurs, like Simon Mann and Tim Spicer, served in the North.

  • cynic

    “Once upon a time we had a mercenary force such as the Army of the East India Company which murdered those natives who stood in the way of profit for the investors in that company.”

    Sorry to wake you up but what has that got to go with a group of older ex-soldiers guarding a base in their own country? Do try to keep up with the discussion …and your medication.

  • cynic

    “part of a global trend towards the diminution of state sovereignty.”

    Err …… a state uses one group of its staff in uniform with guns to replace another group of its staff in a different uniform with guns and its sovereignty is thereby diminished.

    Can you explain that one to me?

    “many of the key military entrepreneurs, like Simon Mann and Tim Spicer, served in the North.”

    As did most of the British Army as it was also seen as the place to be for up and coming young Army officers in the 1970s and early 1980s. Seeing some link here is like being surprised that the Pope was once a Catholic priest

  • Uriop

    Tom Griffin

    Agree with other posters this isn’t a particular issue about the British state in Northern Ireland, so much as part of a global trend towards the diminution of state sovereignty.

    Can you explain to me how having special constables guard army bases is “part of a global trend towards the diminution of state sovereignty”. It seems to be about as relevant to being so as is the decision to allow nurses to now prescribe certain drugs.

    The only issues here are ones of competancy and cost cutting.

  • cynic

    “It is no longer enough to say “Brits Out!”

    It never was. Over 1 million Brits live here. You were deluding yourselves with slogans and the Prods let you.

    Sad that it took 35 years and 3500 dead to realise it was all futile and that neither side could decommission the existence of the other

  • cynic

    PS its nice to see that the wesite is serving up a Banner Ad for this for the website ” Meet Military Singles Today”.

    We may convert some of you yet!

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    re. “have abandoned their claim of sovereignty ”
    Yes they have swapped the totally useless artices 2 & 3 for a change in the constitutional status of Norn Iron which now includes a consitutional link to the ROI and recognition of the Irish Nation. Norn Iron is still coveted by the people to its South – but it is obviously not coveted by those to its East.

    re. Troops
    The stationing of British troops and the flying of British flags and other Brtish symbols are correctly rationed in Norn Iron with intent to remind the people, as the GFA states, that they are part of the Irish nation and that the British are more than happy that the Unionist population start to behave accordingly.

  • Uriop/Cynic

    Obviously if Brendan is incorrect about a private firm being involved, then my point doesn’t apply. I hadn’t seen the comments questioning it until I reloaded the page after posting.

    As did most of the British Army as it was also seen as the place to be for up and coming young Army officers in the 1970s and early 1980s. Seeing some link here is like being surprised that the Pope was once a Catholic priest

    Perhaps the more interesting, if not necessarily more surprising, aspect is that so many of the top mercenaries are ex-British officers.

  • Pete Baker

    Tom

    Thanks for that link.

    I was wondering where the “mercenaries” line came from, as well as, frankly, the majority of the arguments in Brendan’s article above. It’s clear now that they were, after all, imposed upon the situation rather than emerging from any analysis.

    It’s just a pity Brendan thought he could readily transpose arguments he had previously made against the US’s extra-military activity in Iraq to Northern Ireland today.

    Perhaps he would have been better advised to have factored in Martin McGuinness’ proxy role there too?

  • Uriop

    The stationing of British troops and the flying of British flags and other Brtish symbols are correctly rationed in Norn Iron with intent to remind the people, as the GFA states, that they are part of the Irish nation and that the British are more than happy that the Unionist population start to behave accordingly.

    The GFA does not state that unionists are part of the Irish nation. It states,
    “It is the entitlement and birthright of every person born in the island of Ireland,… to be part of the Irish nation. That is also the entitlement of all persons otherwise qualified in accordance with law to be citizens of Ireland.”

    “the birthright of all the people of Northern Ireland to identify themselves,… as Irish or British, or both, as they may so choose, and accordingly,…. to hold both British and Irish citizenship.”

    I am NOT a member of the Irish nation, and the GFA expressly entitles me not to be so. See the use of the non exclusive “or” above.

  • Pancho’s Horse

    How come when an immigrant lands in America he is Irish/Italian/German and then his children are Irish/Italian/German AMERICAN and the third generation are AMERICAN but you pissheads who haven’t lived in Britain for 400 years are still British? I know the old argument about horse and stable but are there still British in the Khyber Pass and are the British Royal family still Germans? Very confusing. And is Britain a country? Or is the UK a country? Step forward the Angles and the Saxons till we see what yez look like.

  • picador

    I believe Simon Mann is currently stationed in Equatorial Guinea.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    Uriop,

    I put it to you that you are part of the Irish nation given the following “the people of the island of Ireland exercise their right of self-determination”.

    If we were to use a term to cover these Irish people who are entitled to exercise their right to self-determination – I put it you, my fellow Irish countryman, that Nation would be well suited.

  • Uriop

    @Pancho’s Horse

    It’s the same difference as between someone saying they’re Canadian and not Québécois, if part of Quebec were granted independence (quite likely actually if Quebec becomes independant that it will be partitioned, the native peoples in the north prefer to be part of Canada and already have a lot of autonomy but I digress). Particularly people from the English speaking community in Quebec or the native community (also mostly English speaking) would most likely do so, though no doubt the odd French speaker too (hence it’s like our own religious division, not precise).

    I am part of the British nation, I am Irish in that I am from a land mass called Ireland but I am not part of any Irish nation, in the same sense that I’m European and not part of any pan European nation, nor would I become one if the Eurozone decided to turn itself into a nation state by consent by all parties (for example). A handy hint is included on most maps of the world, where the island called Ireland is divided between two states as to reflect the popular will of the majorities of those living there.

    My right to not be part of an Irish nation is parallel, equivalent and equal to that of any Irish nationalist to not be part of a British nation, whether UK identified or British Isles identified.

    This is not merely an existential construct but a reflection of empirical sociological reality. Hundreds of thousands of people in Northern Ireland have no concept of belonging to an Irish nation and hundreds of thousands of others do not have any concept of being part of a British (whether pan British Isles or pan UK) nation. Since all nations are artificial (word means “man made”, consult dictionary if necessary) and are created in the firings and linkages of the synapses of members of the species Homo sapiens the presence of two sociological nations on this island is an empirical reality, currently also reflected in in formal legal nationality.

  • Reader

    Pancho’s Horse: How come when an immigrant lands in America he is Irish/Italian/German and then his children are Irish/Italian/German AMERICAN and the third generation are AMERICAN
    Don’t you mean USAian, or are you using USA and America as informal synonyms?
    Pancho’s Horse: but you pissheads who haven’t lived in Britain for 400 years are still British?
    That’s what it says on the passports. It must be at least a little bit official.
    And how about those people who have lived in a part of the UK for 200 years who *don’t* regard themselves as British?
    Pancho’s Horse: Very confusing.
    I sympathise. A nuanced, multilayered identity isn’t for everyone. Just stick the one simple label on your forehead until you are ready to embrace all of the components of your identity; if ever.

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    Uriop

    re. “I am part of the British nation, I am Irish in that I am from a land mass called Ireland but I am not part of any Irish nation, in the same sense that I’m European and not part of any pan European nation”

    The difference betwee Europe and Ireland in relation to Nationhood is that Europe does not have the constitutional right to determine your constitutional future – Ireland (North and South) does – so it it is logical to refer to you as part of the Irish nation – although you wish to exercise your right (consented to by people of Irealnd) to have British citizenship.

  • iluvni

    Is it not simply that this ‘softer face’ was part of the deal to get Sinn Fein to say yes to policing etc.

    As a consequence, we had the ludicrous situation where highly trained soldiers were left vulnerable to attack simply for political reasons.

  • Uriop

    @It was….

    I put it to you that you are part of the Irish nation given the following “the people of the island of Ireland exercise their right of self-determination”.

    The full section reads,

    “(iv) affirm that, if in the future, the people of the island of Ireland exercise their right of self-determination on the basis set out in sections (i) and (ii) above to bring about a united Ireland, it will be a binding obligation on both Governments to introduce and support in their respective Parliaments legislation to give effect to that wish”

    sections (i) and (ii) read

    “The two Governments:

    (i) recognise the legitimacy of whatever choice is freely exercised by a majority of the people of Northern Ireland with regard to its status, whether they prefer to continue to support the Union with Great Britain or a sovereign united Ireland;

    (ii) recognise that it is for the people of the island of Ireland alone, by agreement between the two parts respectively and without external impediment, to exercise their right of self-determination on the basis of consent, freely and concurrently given, North and South, to bring about a united Ireland, if that is their wish, accepting that this right must be achieved and exercised with and subject to the agreement and consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland;”

    Therefore the people of Ireland (the island, not the nation, whether or not they are the same thing) were not granted a right of self determination as defined by “the freedom of the people of a given territory to determine their own political status or independence from their current state” as per Wikipedia
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-determination
    by the Good Friday Agreement. Rather they were granted “their right of self-determination on the basis set out in sections (i) and (ii)” which thankfully I won’t repeat for brevity.

    This does not make the people of the island of Ireland a nation. One could argue as a matter of opinion whether “the freedom of the people of a given territory to determine their own political status or independence from their current state” holds if and only if something is a nation. Plenty would argue against that. This is a massive issue of controversy in international law.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-determination#Defining_.22peoples.22

    However “their right of self-determination on the basis set out in sections (i) and (ii)” certainly does not, of necessity, make something a nation. It actually contradicts the “classical” concept of national self-determination.

    There is only ONE way in which Irishness is privileged and unequal to Britishness soverienty wise in the GFA. That is that the people of Ireland must consent to unity, whereas the people of the UK don’t get a vote, only those of them in NI do.

    So

    A) People of Ireland – yes
    B) People of Northern Ireland – no
    it’s no go

    A) People of Ireland – no
    B) People of Northern Ireland – yes
    it’s no go

    whereas
    A) People of Ireland – yes
    B) People of Northern Ireland – yes
    C) People of UK – no
    it’s a go

  • joeCanuck

    That’s what it says on the passports.

    Would that be the passport that says “United Kingdom of Great Britain AND Northern Ireland”?

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    Uriop

    I was not making a point about the limits or otherwise of Irish self-determination as set out in the GFA but that it was correct on the basis of that self-determination to refer to the people of Norn Iron as being part of the Irish Nation. That holds.

  • NCM

    Brits out, mercenaries in???

  • Uriop

    The difference betwee Europe and Ireland in relation to Nationhood is that Europe does not have the constitutional right to determine your constitutional future – Ireland (North and South) does – so it it is logical to refer to you as part of the Irish nation – although you wish to exercise your right (consented to by people of Irealnd) to have British citizenship.

    It does NOT have the constitutional right to determine my constitutional future. As I explained above the only special thing it has the right to do is that it can refuse NI joining with the RoI, but it has no veto on the maintenance of the UK. All that it has the power to actually *DO* is refuse NI joining with the RoI. On any other matter it’s opinion is irrelevant.

    In the constitutional jiggery pokery of the GFA the UK signed away it’s right to maintain NI in the union PROVIDED NI voted to join with the Republic of Ireland (voting to become independent or part of Taiwan doesn’t count). However, this is the granting of a right to set{the people of NI}, but grants no rights to set{the people of Ireland}, only a privilege that the people of set{Taiwan and NI} does not have. A right permits you either to do something or not have something done to you. Someone else being able to do something with you but not with someone else is not a right, it’s a privilege.

  • Uriop

    joeCanuck

    Would that be the passport that says “United Kingdom of Great Britain AND Northern Ireland”?

    Yes the one that says “United Kingdom of GREAT Britain and Northern Ireland”

    The word “great” in this case not meaning “super”, “fabulous”, “wonderful dahling” or “fandabidozy” but rather as a synonym of “greater” meaning “the larger part of”.

  • joeCanuck

    I know that Uriop; Channel Islands, Sark, Isle of Man etc.
    But what does that have to do with the Northern Ireland bit?

  • Reader

    JoeCanuck: Would that be the passport that says “United Kingdom of Great Britain AND Northern Ireland”?
    yes, the very same one that says “Nationality: British Citizen”. And – hey – there’s that word “Nation” embedded there too.
    By the way – are Hawaiians ‘American’? Why?

  • Uriop

    joeCanuck

    I know that Uriop; Channel Islands, Sark, Isle of Man etc.

    But what does that have to do with the Northern Ireland bit?

    Very, very bad examples. Northern Ireland is part of Britain IN EVERY SENSE that the Channel Islands are and in more senses besides. The Channel Islands are not part of the British Isles (geographical) or the UK, while NI is part of both, hence you lumping them with Great Britain is doubly wrong, they’re not even included on the statement on the passport under discussion, though they are part of Britain.

    However my point was that having “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland” on a passport says not a jot about whether Northern Ireland is part of Britain or not, because Great Britain and Britain are different terms, while ironically using the term “Great Britain” in itself actually implies that England, Scotland and Wales ARE NOT the entirety of Britain, in the same way that someone saying “greater London” implies that there is something that they are not talking about that is also part of London, the exact opposite of the point you were inferring.

    Of course this is all a load of old bollix. Britain is a synonym for the UK, GB and UK + Crown Dependencies and all uses are acceptable acording to OED or any reputable dictionary. I just wanted to point out to you that the Great in the title actually meant something, and something going against your implication to boot.

    So even if we wanted to be as literalist as Bob Jones, use of the phrase “Great Britain and Northern Ireland” says nothing more about whether Northern Ireland is part of Britain, not part of Britain, or part in and part out of Britain, than use of the phrase “Greater London and Kent fishing club” implies that Kent is part of London, not part of London, or part in and part out of London.

  • Uriop

    Ooops, brain fart. It’s the opposite meaning of “great”. So the analogy is not “greater London” but is as in “Gran” in “Gran Canaria”. Hence replace the above with “Gran Canaria and Tenerife fishing club”.

    That’ll teach me to read before I post!

  • joeCanuck

    Reader,
    are you trying to tell me that the passport of that great country to the south of mine says “United States of America and Hawaii”?

    Uriop,
    That is the most convoluted piece of (false) reasoning I have ever heard. Next you’ll be telling me that there’s not a single person in Northern Ireland who could be called Northern Irish!

  • Uriop

    It does NOT have the constitutional right to determine my constitutional future. As I explained above the only special thing it has the right to do is that it can refuse NI joining with the RoI

    This leads to an interesting question. What does section (ii) actually imply? It seems to imply that consent must be concurrent, however the only details of a referendum in the agreement concern NI. Does this mean that following a referendum result in NI for unity another would have to be held
    A) in RoI only
    or
    B) in all of Ireland?

    If A then consent would not be concurrent.

    If B would that mean that nationalists would have to win two consecutive referenda in NI (one in NI only, the second with NI as a subset)?

    If not then we could have the bizarre situation whereby the RoI votes for unity, NI votes for unity and the people of Ireland as a whole vote against unity.

  • Dave

    It’s not one of Brendan O’Neill’s better articles. He is right about a ‘human interest/soft focus’ media spin on the British army rather than on the harder aspects of what it actually represents in NI, but when was it ever otherwise? I don’t see how he can extrapolate from his (apparently wrong) example about employing the private sector that the British government is suffering an existentialist crisis about its NI sovereignty post-GFA, particularly when it has expanded the role of the intelligence agency by which control over its sovereign realm is most effectively maintained in NI and has continued its policy of maintaining control over the people by making them state-dependent via subvention, etc. It also misses a key point that it is now impossible for the British state not to micromanage its consolidated territory, falling back into its disinterested pre-Troubles ways, because the whole process can only ever be sustained by such micromanagement. That may yet, of course, be its undoing, but that’s a different story.

    Uriop, there is an even more definitive way to prove that two separate claims to self-determination equal two separate states and not one claim to national self-determination. Simply ask what would happen if the two states voted on a unity poll with the majority in the Republic voting ‘Yes’ and the majority in NI voting ‘No’. The poll would be defeated because the minority would have vetoed the majority. Since self-determination is a collective right and always the will by the majority, you cannot have a minority vetoing the will of the majority, so you cannot have national self-determination under the GFA process. So Sammy is talking his usual Shinner nonsense.

    “I was not making a point about the limits or otherwise of Irish self-determination as set out in the GFA but that it was correct on the basis of that self-determination to refer to the people of Norn Iron as being part of the Irish Nation. That holds.” – It was Sammy

    It doesn’t. It withstands scrutiny like a gazebo withstands a hurricane. A state cannot confer its citizenship as a birthright on a foreign state, nor confer nationhood upon its citizens. If you read the British-Irish Agreement, you will see that you have the right to declare yourself as a member of the Irish nation and also a right to seek citizenship in its state.

    However, both require action on your part, so it is not conferred by default, i.e. it is not your actual birthright (something that is yours by default and therefore requires no opting-in on your part). Because the GFA formally recognises Northern Ireland as a foreign state, the Irish state cannot declare any ‘birthright’ on its foreign citizens. That would, of course, simply be offensive to those whom you have now formally recognised as members of the British nation, rather than as a different tradition within the Irish nation. Two nations mandate two states.

    As it happens, the Maastricht Treaty gave you more citizenship rights than the meaningless cosmetic exercises in the GFA did. 😉

  • Uriop

    If not then we could have the bizarre situation whereby the RoI votes for unity, NI votes for unity and the people of Ireland as a whole vote against unity.

    This does sound bizarre, but is it really impossible? A united Ireland could be negotiated on conditions that go so far to attract unionists that a close to 50:50 split in both jurisdiction might be not impossible. Something, like, for example, making the Queen head of state of a united Ireland, as the SNP propose for Scotland, making it like Australia or Canada.

  • earnan

    Many American military bases here in the states have private contracting companies guarding the gates. It’s just cheaper.

    Although they usually have shotguns or rifles or some sort as opposed to handguns

  • T.R.O.H.V.M

    ‘So the Zulus were wild savages?

    Racist much?’

    Well thats how the british empire viewed them isn’t it?

    As regards the Great Britain issue. Didn’t ‘britain’ originally refer to England and Wales with ‘Great Britian’ meaning the incorporation of Scotland. Hence Great Britain actually means ‘Greater’ Britain….which as we all know is England Scotland and Wales. Unfortunately for some the term Great Britian incorporates no part of Ireland.

  • Dave

    Why is it bizarre? It is exactly the same situation as would apply between any two states that might consider merging (if, for example, Portugal wanted to merge with Spain). Both states have their own claim to self-determination, either exercised by parliament or plebiscite, and so both are subject to the veto of the other.

    The trick in the wording of the GFA and it the presentation of it to the nationalist community was to obfuscate that what was actually being signed up to was the formal declaration of two separate states rather than a unified state. In other words, the opposite of what the nationalist community were led by their own leaders to believe that they were signing up to. Those who didn’t buy it were reassured than formal acceptance of that was simply a tactic that would lead to Irish unity rather where it actually lead, so they were encouraged to see it as a transitional arrangement – as if constitutionals, legal agreements, protocols, treaties, etc, were a mere irrelevance rather than the basis of the enterprise. It was really just a con job.

    In regard to unity, I wouldn’t vote for it on any terms other than extending the constitutional structures that currently govern the Republic into Northern Ireland, along with a guarantee from the British government that they will subsidise the cost of integration over a ten-year period. A federal republic would not allow cost benefits that accrue from scale to materialise, so that isn’t a viable option. I also support a democratic republic, not a monarchy, so I won’t be voting for any embrace of the British monarchy.

    The northern nationalists have been led to see unity as the end in itself rather than as a means to an end. So, rather than unity being an Irish nation-state for them, it now means extending the legitimacy of the British rule in Northern Ireland established in the GFA (but not voted on by anyone in the Republic) into a territory where it has no legitimacy whatsoever, with the citizens of the Republic agreeing to dismantle their nation-state and place themselves among the stateless nations of the world, accepting that, as the northern nationalists did, they also don’t have any legitimate right to self-determination. Self-determination is a collective right that expresses the unfettered majoritive will of the nation, so it cannot be subject to the veto of any other nation, any other state, or to any minority interest.

    Anyway, it doesn’t matter what the northern nationalists offer, as they are not the representatives of the Irish government or have any democratic mandate from its people to speak on their behalf – nor do they have any financial investment in the Republic, so they would not be granted any executive imput as they would give away the Republic’s wealth and national rights in order to best serve their own self-interest.

    You are confusing the British state with the British nation. Nobody in the Republic of Ireland has any intention of ‘uniting’ with a foreign state. That would be treason, and political suicide for any party who proposed it in the Republic. Irish nationalism regards unionists as being a member of the Irish nation, not of the British nation. That is what they mean by “the nation” insofar as they refer to NI at all, meaning that there are two traditions (as expressed on the flag) but only one nation (as declared in the constitution).

    If you do not regard yourself as falling under the banner of the Irish nation, then why would you seek to unify with it? That would be deranged. If you regard yourself as being British, then vote to remain within the UK. Why would you ever consider doing otherwise? You would not, of course. Two nations cannot share one state, which is why all nations (bar a few that are stateless and have the scars to prove it such as the Aborigines and the Palestinians) have their own states. If you are British, you also have your own homeland (an entity called GB already exists). The Poles in Ireland also have their own homeland which is they are not permitted to declare that they are in need to a “shared” state which the Irish must accommodate by making itself formally stateless. While we’re nice down here, we’re t that nice. Besides, the northern nationalists kindly gave up their right to national self-determination so that you could have a second homeland as a British person. You’d be a damn fool if you didn’t hold on it. 😉

  • Dave

    ^^^ In reply to Uriop

  • Uriop

    As regards the Great Britain issue. Didn’t ‘britain’ originally refer to England and Wales with ‘Great Britian’ meaning the incorporation of Scotland. Hence Great Britain actually means ‘Greater’ Britain….which as we all know is England Scotland and Wales. Unfortunately for some the term Great Britian incorporates no part of Ireland.

    Nope. It goes all the way back to the Greeks who named the whole archipelego Britanniae. Brittania was used by the Romans from the 1st century BC for the British Isles taken together, including Ireland.

    It only gained official currency in English in the 15th century as the English and Scottish came together, it deliberately resurrected the old Greek term for the British Isles as a whole, and prefixed it with Great with the same meaning as “Gran” in “Gran Canaria”. The point of this being to find some term to describe England and Scotland taken together. The use of “Britain” to describe only England, Scotland and Wales is a later bastardisation of Great Britain through abbreviation. Though it has by now long obtained enough common currency to become accepted within dictionaries etc., though not to the exclusion of it’s other meanings, while the Republic of Ireland has now been excluded from the term for obvious reasons. Britain originally meant the British Isles including all of Ireland.

  • Uriop

    @Dave

    I do agree with a lot of what you say, though I don’t agree that any Irish nation ever “owned” another homeland in order to give it to me. By current international law standards the UK “owned” the entire island of Ireland (any call’s from you for an independent Chechnya or South Ossetia?) and only agreed to give the larger part of it away provided there was a compromise that left those parts where most people wanted to stay British, British. The creation of Northern Ireland was legitimate, just as if Spain today decided to give the Basques independence but hung on to Navarre.

    However you’re wrong on one thing. The people of the Republic of Ireland did vote on the Belfast Agreement.

  • Uriop

    The trick in the wording of the GFA and it the presentation of it to the nationalist community was to obfuscate that what was actually being signed up to was the formal declaration of two separate states rather than a unified state. In other words, the opposite of what the nationalist community were led by their own leaders to believe that they were signing up to. Those who didn’t buy it were reassured than formal acceptance of that was simply a tactic that would lead to Irish unity rather where it actually lead, so they were encouraged to see it as a transitional arrangement – as if constitutionals, legal agreements, protocols, treaties, etc, were a mere irrelevance rather than the basis of the enterprise. It was really just a con job.

    I fail to see how anyone could have misunderstood the constitutional position in the agreement. It’s spelled out clearly from the start. It’s a reasonable compromise. It can be viewed as a transitional arrangement if one desires, but the terms are clear, persuade a majority in NI for unity in order to get your transition. If they misunderstood anything then perhaps it was the likelihood of unionists being persuaded, or the results of the next census after 1998. The rules were laid out as clear as day though.

  • Dave

    “The creation of Northern Ireland was legitimate, just as if Spain today decided to give the Basques independence but hung on to Navarre.” – Uriop

    It was wholly illegitimate as it went against the democratic will of the majority. It is also illegitimate under international law: see Article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the UN’s Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples.

    By the way, I never claimed that you believed that the Irish nation had a right to self-determination (in fact, I implied the exact opposite) because that is a right that members on the British nation tend to reserve exclusively for their own nation, denying it to others.

    Most unionists who tout the line that Ireland would be more acceptable to them if only it was less Irish and the Irish nation was stripped of its (illegitimate) right to national self-determination do so not because they have any intention of voting themselves out of the UK and into a united Ireland but because they wish to encourage the Irish nation to self-censor its own nationalism, continuing a process that their own plantation has its origins in and that is deeply rooted in their culture. Within the local NI context, they see this deliberate tactic of insincerity as a means of encouraging northern nationalist to believe that unity may one be possible if they continue to forsake their own national rights and act as de facto unionists who will promote this pro-British ethos under the curious guise of promoting a nationalist agenda.

    “However you’re wrong on one thing. The people of the Republic of Ireland did vote on the Belfast Agreement.” – Uriop

    They didn’t. They voted on the 19th Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland. Nobody in Ireland cast a single vote in support of the GFA.

  • Wilde Rover

    Uriop,

    “It only gained official currency in English in the 15th century as the English and Scottish came together, it deliberately resurrected the old Greek term for the British Isles as a whole, and prefixed it with Great with the same meaning as “Gran” in “Gran Canaria”.”

    My understanding was that the “Great” in Great Britain was used to distinguish the island, Britannia major, or Greater Britain, from Britannia minor, or Lesser Britain, modern Brittany.

  • Uriop

    “However you’re wrong on one thing. The people of the Republic of Ireland did vote on the Belfast Agreement.” – Uriop

    They didn’t. They voted on the 19th Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland. Nobody in Ireland cast a single vote in support of the GFA.

    From your own link, the first line of the 19th Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland reads as follows,
    “1. The State may consent to be bound by the British-Irish Agreement done at Belfast on the 10th day of April, 1998, hereinafter called the Agreement.”

    Directly from the Taoiseach’s website, the present constitution of Ireland,
    http://www.taoiseach.gov.ie/attached_files/html files/Constitution of Ireland (Eng)Nov2004.htm

    Read article 29, section 7. That was put there by the vote of the citizens of the RoI. It’s still there. They voted to put it there, then the RoI government agreed to their part of the bargain in 1999.

  • Uriop

    http://tinyurl.com/ynwh7c
    for the present constitution of Ireland.

  • Uriop

    My understanding was that the “Great” in Great Britain was used to distinguish the island, Britannia major, or Greater Britain, from Britannia minor, or Lesser Britain, modern Brittany.

    No, that’s an idiosyncratic use by a man called Geoffrey of Monmouth from the 12th century. He uses Britannia Major NOT Great Britain. The first recorded use of the phrase Great Britain was not until the 15th century. There is no evidence that it was a derivative of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s writings on “Britannia Major”. Why would it be, they’re different words? It was simply taken from the old Greek and Roman terms for the British Isles and prefixed with “Great” as in the same meaning as Gran in Gran Canaria.

  • Link

    ‘Nope. It goes all the way back to the Greeks who named the whole archipelego Britanniae.’

    Sadly uriop Aristotle himself said…

    “…in the ocean however, are two islands, and those very large, called Bretannic, Albion and Ierna….”

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Britain

    Great Britain, once more for the back of the class, does not incorporate any part of Ireland.

  • Uriop

    @Link

    No one is arguing that Great Britain incorporates any part of Ireland. I am certainly not, any more than that Gran Canaria incorporates any part of Tenerife. However the entirety of Ireland was included as part of Britain, or the cognate terms from which Britain was taken from the Greek and / or Roman name for these islands. You confirm this above.

    Ergo,
    “Northern Ireland is part of Great Britain” is never acceptable, whereas,
    “Northern Ireland is part of Britain” is acceptable.

  • It was Sammy McNally what done it

    What IS clear is that Britain, in the GFA, ceded its RIGHT to determine the constitutional future of Norn Iron to the people of Ireland North and South. British legislation has been replaced with agreed British and Irish legislation.

    The GFA also CHANGED the constitutional position of Norn Iron by legislating for a substantive link between the Dail in the South and the Executive in the North and making this link a mandatory part of the system of governance in Norn Iron.

    Agreement on what constitutes the Irish Nation is obviously complicated by the fact that the term does not have a legal basis but although Republicans (North and South) would always have included the people of Norn Iron in their view of the Irish Nation, the GFA includes implicit British support for that view by passing the constitutional right to determine the future of Norn Iron from themselves to the people of Ireland.

    Unionists will disagree (as they have been doing about everything over the last 30) that they are part of an Irish Nation – during which time there has been no indication that the Union is anything other than a very, very embarrassing relationship for Britian and one where undying love, devotion and loyalty travels in one direction and money and legislation not to the liking of Unionists travels in the other.

  • Link

    once again with feeling…..

    “…in the ocean however, are two islands, and those very large, called Bretannic, Albion and Ierna….”

  • dewi

    “Nope. It goes all the way back to the Greeks who named the whole archipelego Britanniae. Brittania was used by the Romans from the 1st century BC for the British Isles taken together, including Ireland.”

    Farther back than than Uriop. Pytheas not only circumnavigated he visted (Stonehenge amongst other attractions). He took back Brettannike from our Brythonic “Prydain” which he picked up from the natives – at the time for what it’s worth it would have referred to the Eastern islands only.

  • fin

    NI is not as much a part of the UK as the Channel Isles, because the UK is actually part of the Channel Isles.

    The islands were part of the Duchy of Normandy, when England was conquered in 1066, the Channel Isles are all that remains of the Duchy today. But as they part of the winning side at the time the UK is part of the Channel Isles.

    One of the Queens titles is Duke of Normandy and this is her title on the islands (not Queen)

  • Reader

    Comrade Stalin: are you trying to tell me that the passport of that great country to the south of mine says “United States of America and Hawaii”?
    No – I’m pointing out that you are prepared to call Hawaiians American even though they don’t live on – or even near – the American continent.
    Now – switching analogies and looking north – are Canadians also American?

  • Reader

    fin: But as they part of the winning side at the time the UK is part of the Channel Isles.
    Which would be ironic, because the channel islands aren’t part of the UK, and the title comes from well before the widespread adoption of the nation state. As for titles – the Queen is also Queen of Canada, but that doesn’t make Canada part of the UK. (In fact – I’m waiting to be told if Canadians are really American)

  • fin

    Reader, You didn’t read my post.

    The queens title on the Channel Isles is Duke of Normandy,

    The queen is the Duke of Normandy, the Duchy of Normandy conquered England, hence the UK is a part of the Duchy of Normandy, the Channel Isles are the Duchy of Normandy, hence the UK is a part of the Channel Isles.

    Parliament is opened using Normandy-French

    regarding Canada, the queen (Duke of Normandy) holds ultimate executive authority of Canada, hence although not a part of the UK Canada is also part of the Duchy of Normandy and therefore Canada is also a part of the Channel Isles.

    Not sure where you going with ‘nation states’ but regardless I think you are getting confused here as well do you mean sovereign states. The reason I ask is that neither Canada, the UK or even England are nation states however they are sovereign states.

    Are you saying that because of the emergence of ‘nation states’ at the end of the 19th century all previous claims to territories are null and void, ie NI?

  • joeCanuck

    Reader,
    Hawaiians are citizens of the United States of America.
    Most Canadians regard themselves as North Americans, since we are part of that continent, like the Mexicans, although fewer Mexicans consider themselves North Americans so far as I am aware.

  • Driftwood

    Didn’t take too long for a thread on security guards on British Army barracks to end up in the long grass of Hawaiians being Americans.
    Hey Ho

  • dewi

    Driftwood = it’s called the Five-Oh Law…..

  • Harry Flashman

    Oh Jesus wept! Not the “you’re not British coz you live in Ireland, no I’m not, I am British coz I live in Northern Ireland” argument? For fuck’s sake fellas, it’s the most tediously mind numbing argument there ever was and it is the sure-fire sign of an infantile mind to continue it.

    If you live in Northern Ireland you can be both British and Irish.

    OK?

    End of….

    Now to the substantive issue, I too was shocked to hear that soldiers no longer do sentry duty at their barracks, assuming that mounting guard went along with saluting and wearing boots as simple facts of life of being a soldier, but having read a bit more I can see the logic.

    These security guards can be more accurately regarded as “reserve” troops, ie not front line specialist soldiers but ex-servicemen who can be issued with basic weapons and told to watch the gates thus freeing up active troops to concentrate on more technical issues and training (the men at Masserene were after all engineers and not simple infantry).

    I read an interesting article in this week’s Times which discussed the ‘decline’ of the British manufacturing sector and which pointed out that the huge growth of “service workers” was in fact partly due to manufacturing industries tendering out ancillary duties. Thus catering and transport workers who previously would have been classified as industrial workers are now more accurately labeled according to what they now do because they are not directly employed by manufacturing employers.

    Something similar is happening in the armed forces where fewer people who work in that sector are directly employed by the Services even though in the past they would have been. It’s not new, in the Falklands remember a huge amount of front line ships (and indeed aircraft) were in fact “STUFT”; ships taken up from trade. Can one imagine the massive expense involved if the Navy had been expected to keep transport ships of the capability of the QE2, Canberra and Atlantic Conveyor on standby for decades and decades?

  • Pancho’s Horse

    Harry Flashman, just because you use the americanism ‘end of’ doesn’t really carry a big pile of weight.In this region you can’t be both Irish and British. You can avail of British or Irish citizenship as in many other setups throughout the world but if you’re born in Britain you are a naturalized British citizen whereas the pissheads born in Ireland, who for whatever reason, want to be a subject of the House of Saxe Coburg Gotha, then allowances have been made, and they get citizenship.And the Great in GB is in fact to distinguish it from Brittany. End of. And at the heels of the hunt, who gives a flying f**k what mercenaries guard what mercenaries.

  • joeCanuck

    most tediously mind numbing argument

    No argument from me, Harry. Just pointed out what it said on the front of my UK passport when Uriop seemed to forget or not know it.
    I’ve never denied the right of anyone in N.I. to consider or call themselves British, either before or after the GFA. In fact, I have on occasion defended that right here on Slugger.

  • Reader

    fin: Are you saying that because of the emergence of ‘nation states’ at the end of the 19th century all previous claims to territories are null and void, ie NI?
    No – I am saying that irrespective of the successes and failures of William of Normandy, the Hanoverians and a load of Plantagenets; Normandy, the Channel islands and Canada are not part of the UK – or vice-versa. And Betty doesn’t think that the local title ‘Duke of Normandy’ amounts to a territoral claim.

  • Reader

    joeCanuck: Hawaiians are citizens of the United States of America.
    I asked – are they Americans?
    joeCanuck: Most Canadians regard themselves as North Americans, since we are part of that continent,
    North Americans, but not Americans? How can that be?

  • DUB

    Dave,

    Northern Ireland is not a state.

    Ireland can make any citizenship laws it wants as it is a sovereign state.

    If you look at Irish passport application forms you will discover that “Ireland” on it refers to the whole island and that there is no declaration section as there used to be for northerners. Now we all just tick born in ireland and send in our birth cert.

    Check out the Irish citizenship and nationality acts 1956 to 2004. There is nothing any more about northerners having to “Declare” for Ireland. They are Irish citizens from birth.

    You talk a lot of rubbish about the law and i suggest you go and do some serious study before you post here again, Your ignoranace if frightening.

  • joeCanuck

    do some serious study before you post here again

    Reader could do with the same advice. If he went to his library and consulted an atlas, he might discover the difference between a state (as in United States of America), a country as in Ireland or France, and a continent as in Europe or South America.

  • Reader

    joeCanuck: Reader could do with the same advice.
    Hardly. Geography is easy – but this is all about disputed terminology.
    So just answer the questions please. Are Canadians American? Are Hawaiians American?

  • fin

    Reader, you’re been silly, of course the Duke of Normandy has a claim to England and the UK, the Normans won it fair and square in 1066. If Brenda didn’t believe she had a claim to the UK she’d hardly be inclined to reside there would she.

    Yes, I’m aware that the Duke of Normandy lost the Duchy that existed on mainland Europe but I am not aware of them ever granting independence to the UK.

    Been of Norman stock myself I will resist all attempts to grant the UK independence from the Duchy of Normandy.