Bradley’s latest pitch for nationalist unity puzzles me

It’s apparently straight talk like Denis Bradley’s in today’s Irish News article,” Neither SDLP nor Sinn Fein has credible plan for unity” that intrigues me more than a hundred boilerplate party speeches. His conclusion is in a way unexceptional:

“ Now that the IRA has gone, they might even consider working up a joint strategy for a new and better Ireland – and that might give all their supporters a bit of hope.”

But what prompted the piece, the second in this vein in recent months, beyond Alasdair Mc Donnell’s most recent attack of Sinn Fein? Is it a sign that traditional identity politics are becoming less relevant as the dust of the Troubles begins to settle? Or the opposite, a call for a pan northern nationalist pact? (His memories of Eddie McAteer are a bit rose-tinted: he was indeed “ a decent man” with the gift of a quip, which tended to conceal a deadening conservatism). Or as some have alleged, is Denis hoping enigmatically for the rise of Fianna Fail North? This doesn’t fit the text. Perhaps he’s calling for an end to the arid game of who is the better nationalist and a united grouping that might one day become persuaders for unity through good government? But wouldn’t it be better to break out from behind the old barricades altogether? Maybe Denis wants us to work it out for ourselves; or maybe he’ll develop his thinking further if we ask him nicely. Not for nothing was he once a priest. Adds: so that’s what he was on about. Another puzzle is born. How is this the right time for a serious debate on Irish unity? Greater economic cooperation is surely the creative thing to discuss, leaving the toxic issue of political unity parked.

  • Ultani

    In common with other Republicans/Nationalists Bradley’s political and cultural arrogance is obvious. For him a “new and better Ireland” is something to be arranged between the SDLP and Sinn Fein, the unionists don’t really matter.

    The reality of the situation is that it is the unionists who need to be talked with and indeed persuaded that a “new and better Ireland” will want to include them.

  • Brian Walker

    Ultani, Good point, and one he should address: but surely his record show he thinks more widely than you assert?

  • fin

    Ultani and Brian, do unionists want to have that conversation, who should the SDLP and Sinn Fein speak to, do you mean unionist politicans or the unionist community.

    From experience of slugger in trying to have ‘that conversation’ unionist reasons for wanting to remain within the UK are ‘social and economical reasons’ and a refusal to develop the conversation beyond that – apart from 2 times, once I managed to engage New Blue, and once when Mack blogged on the subject, neither time did any unionist pt forward a convincing arguement.

    The second issue is Ultani’s choice of words, the odd time I’ve seen a unionist engage in a conversation on a united Ireland on slugger their approach is a simple ‘convince/persuade me’ and a refusal to give even a clue as to what would.

    Thirdly, nationalists do not need to persuade unionists on the subject of a united Ireland, they need to persuade a percentage of unionists which added to the nationalist vote will equate to 50%+1

  • Archie P

    50% + 1 with only 2/3% of them Unionists will not lead to a United Ireland….do you want Unionists to do to the Republic which Republic sponsored violence did to Northern Ireland for 30+ years? Your idea would certainly ensure that you did !!!

  • Fin

    Archie, 50%+1 is what is laid out in the GFA.

    Poor arguement anyway Archie, it was discrimination, political exclusion, pogroms and unionist terrorism which sparked the conflict in NI

  • Brian Walker

    Fin,there can be no harm in dialogue but what prompts it? A growing sense of inevitablity that unity is the logical outcome of the GFA and St Andrews? Or a dawning realisation that it isn’t? I suspect the latter is more likely but time and talk will tell. I suspect the SDLP have a road map in mind and hanker after a new pan-nationalist front with the leading southern parties, to reconfigure nationalism to bolster their position vis a vis SF. I accept this may be a viewed shared by unionists but I suspect, by more than unionists. Nevertheless, the SDLP will surely have to demonstrate fairly quickly the immediate relevance of a unity debate at the moment. Their convening power may indeed still be greater than SF, as they are (a) no threat to thr southern parties and (b) they retain good contacts left over from the Hume era. But they will remember the undewhelming response to Gerry Adam’s Green Paper suggestion – and that was before the recession. So who will seriously want to engage with them and about what exactly?

    On engaging unionists, fin, you should think again. Technically, yes, the only possible majority is 50% +1 – but it’s getting to the point of a referendum that counts. No Irish government and people would contemplate a significant ratio of disgrunted unionists within a united Ireland as were disgruntled nationalists within NI. The whole climate would have to change, even leaving aside the legacy of the recession. In any case I doubt if a rush to unity is what the SDLP are on about. What precisely is on their minds, we shall have to see.

  • fin

    Brian, disgruntled is one thing, discrimination is something totally different, I cannot see any scenario where unionists would be discriminated in a united Ireland. As 20% of the population a unionist party could well be a coalition party in the Dail on a regular basis, alternatively I could see a party such as Fine Gael becoming pro-British to win unionist votes.

    Without wishing to be insulting, I feel unionists often look at the history of nationalists in NI and believe that that would be their fate in a united Ireland, which in turn I suppose is insulting to Irish people.

    basically unionisn fucked up in its treatment of nationalists and thats what brought us to where we are today.

  • Brian Walker

    fin, It’s not what you see for them – to which you’re entitled – but what they see for themselves under the agreed consent principle. And what the majorities in both parts of the island want. That’s the democratic form. Right now, unity may be deep in your and others’ hearts but it simply isn’t a live issue in the active political agenda. If Durkan’s speech means more than conference rhetoric, I suspect the SDLP would to explore it to try to make unity less of a vague aspiration and more of a long term project. It isn’t even clear whether it’s a burning issue in the nationalist community beyond the politically passionate (see annual Life and Times surveys, not to be dismissed just cos you may not like what they: majority opinion on both identity bottom lines is persistently softer than the politcal class would like). Weigh unity against social cohesion and what do you get? Referendums would only come at the end of a long and complex process, however much you perhaps would like to get there in a few lunges. Another question is how to make people who think as you do reasonably content without getting your heart’s desire.

  • A load of nationalist twaddle from Bradley.

  • “Now that the IRA has gone”

    Who is Denis trying to fool? Its ‘legitimate’ government of (the island of) Ireland is still in place as is its organised crime and political wings.

    Denis was unable to leave his nationalist baggage at the door when he was vice-chair of the Policing Board so it’s hardly surprising that he’s still wearing the rose-tinted glasses.

  • Greenflag

    ‘Neither SDLP nor Sinn Fein has credible plan for unity” ‘

    Neither have ‘unionists ‘ mainly because they already have their ‘unity’ even if it’s not as secure as it once was with the rest of the UK .

    Bradley I think is trying to make the point that it’s probably better for Irish Nationalism in NI to ‘hang ‘together on the issue of Irish unity than to be hanged separately on the issue by fractious ‘unionism ‘ which fractious though it is on amany issues is at least ‘united’ on the issue of the ‘Union’. In addition a ‘united front’ of Northern nationalists and republicans will be taken much more seriously by all parties in the Republic and will be less likely to treated with the long spoon which they (NI nationalists have been traditionnally served ):(

    A ‘unity’ debate at the moment may seem a bit like talking about a landing on Mars before the rocket to take people there has been built.

    On the other hand as long as ‘Unionists ‘ are excluded from such a debate it can’t do any harm and may indeed help to bring some ‘realism’ to the current worthless and stupid debate over who is the ‘better ‘ nationalist .

    Anyway we all know who the best nationalist is ;). It’s the nationalist who has the largest number of children . On this count I don’t know whether Bradley , Adams or McGuiness scores the highest rating but they could show an example .

    I suppose NI politicians have to be seen to be doing something . As they can do next to nothing on economic issues then all they are left with is rubbish collection and playing to the favourite myth/myths of their constituents . A long winter of discontent may lie ahead .

    Why would ‘Unionists ‘ want to talk about a UI anyway ? It would be like trying to talk to the people of the Irish Republic about ‘rejoining ‘ the UK . Simply a waste of time and a topic for some ‘university ‘ debating society rather than real life politics . If and or when the NI ‘nationalist ‘ voting population starts to approximate or exceed the 50% point that will be time enough to discuss ‘repartition ‘ . Of course some will want to discuss a UI at that point but I suspect that the other 50% of the population i.e unionists will remain much as they are today and as they have been since 1920 -i.e opposed to any UI in any shape or form .

    The best that can be hoped for is economic cooperation and practical neighbourliness on a wide range of issues that effect daily life particularly for those living close to the present border .

  • Seamus MacBrehon

    Arguments about a prospective unionist voting force in a united Ireland are not credible. If ever a united Ireland were to be realized, it would doubtlessly be accompanied by a huge emigration of the Protestant population. The majority of Protestants would probably stay put, but a large minority would not. Even 10-15% electing to leave would drastically affect the demographic balance.

  • Greenflag

    Seamus MacbBrehon .

    There’e nowhere to go to . A mass emigration would leave all would be emigrants almost destitute as in such circumstances property prices would plunge even further than they already have . Only the wealthiest and skilled could emigrate to advantage . For the poorest -social welfare is probably just as good in the rest of the UK as it is in NI . Australia and Canada have closed their doors to those without the right skills or the capital .In addition a mass outflow of ‘unionists ‘ would also be accompanied by a mass outflow of ‘nationalists mainly for economic reasons brought about by the ‘vaccuum’ left by departing ‘unionists ‘. Look what happened in the Irish Free State post independence . The Southern Unionist ‘exodus’ was accompanied by an even greater ‘nationalist ‘ exodus. It is not beyond the bounds of possibility that an NI post ‘exodus ‘ could still have a small unionist majority .

    For the least human and economic upset on all sides – a fair repartition is a much better way forward . I’d rather not have 500,000 alienated ‘Unionists ‘ in a UI never mind 850,000 or as some say a million ? No thanks .Just build a new fence (repartition ) and cut the crap and be done with it . And if that’s too much effort then the lads can indulge in a generation of horizontal ‘productive ‘recreation with their tribal females in order to hasten the great day 😉

    The soldiers of destiny will I regret have to follow the lords’s injunction to be fruitful and multiply their way to unity – because shooting and bombing has been proved to be counter productive , persuasion is a waste of time , and in any event the numbers don’t add up . So there you go . Might as well enjoy it while you’re about it .

    But don’t ask me what’s enjoyable about having 10 or a dozen brats screaming for attention and having to be fed and clothed ;). I’ll leave that thorny problem to be addressed by the members of the RC Clergy who apparently know all the answers to these sort of questions i.e Allah/Jehovah /God knows best 🙁

    There is one small problem with the Lord’s method however . It’s the Mna na hEirinn (Women of Ireland’s) tendency these days to follow the example of all other fat and lazy/secular ladies of the western world by practising family planning and are no longer willing to be used as breeding machines 😉

    I have even heard one of these ‘liberated ‘ women tell a priest who was lecturing on the subject to go do something pleasant to himself (in rather more vulgar terms ) as he (the priest) had’nt a clue about how ordinary people have to live and never would !

    She had a point .

  • DerTer

    I’m almost totally with Brian on this one. Apart from being broadly nationalist, Denis Bradley’s politics have always been hard to pin down precisely, and his piece in the Irish News is in the end little more than a dander round the houses. What exactly does he want? (By the way, I think Bradley is as decent a man as Eddie McAteer was, even if – in both cases – we may not be entirely enamoured.)
    We now have a tenuously functioning version of John Hume’s ‘Agreed Ireland’. The consent principle – first adumbrated by the left in Ireland in the 1940s as the basis on which any peaceful future for NI would have to rest – is now almost universally assented to, and is core to the GFA.
    If I were a unionist, from that ‘consent confident’ position, I would be out preaching to nationalists the virtues (whatever they may be) of remaining part of the UK. If I were a nationalist I would be out preaching the virtues (whatever they may be) of belonging to a politically united Ireland.
    Since this particular thread is essentially about the way ahead for nationalists, could someone (fin perhaps?) carefully and concisely summarise for us the advantages that would accrue to unionists (and of course the rest of us) as a consequence of NI becoming part of a united Ireland?

  • borderline

    The idea that, collectively, Unionists will reflect on their situation, and decide to sign up for a UI after listening to persuasive arguments is pure and utter fantasy.

    There will have to be a clearcut majority for a UI in the North. If this happens, and I think it will happen, then obviously some Unionists will have voted to end the Union.

    Which would mean they weren’t unionists any more!

    So unionist parties are going to be unionists, there’s no point engaging with them.

    A good start has been made in persuading some northern Protestants that they have a future in a UI by not shooting them dead on the roads.

    There’s a fair bit of work left to do yet.

  • HeadTheBall

    “Another question is how to make people who think as you do reasonably content without getting your heart’s desire.” (Brian to Fin, above)

    Many nationalists/republicans on Slugger seem perfectly comfortable with, even supportive of, their neighbours’ “Britishness” while detesting the presence/influence of the British government in NI. For the immediate future should nationalists not drop “unity” in favour of “independence”? I am not talking about a full-on “Republic of Ulster” but just a steady winding back of the UK govt’s visibility and direct involvement.

  • Greenflag

    Der ter,

    ‘If I were a unionist, from that ‘consent confident’ position, I would be out preaching to nationalists the virtues (whatever they may be) of remaining part of the UK. If I were a nationalist I would be out preaching the virtues (whatever they may be) of belonging to a politically united Ireland.’

    Most unionists and nationalists may be following Albert Reynold’s example following that old yarn re the mid Atlantic intervention by the Lord himself as both Paisley & Adams flying to Washington DC .

    The Lord first went to Paisley and offered him whatever he wanted ‘

    ‘Please Lord’ cried Paisley ‘I want you to remove every republican and fenian from Northern Ireland.

    ‘Will do ‘saidthe Lord

    The Lord then went to Adams and offered him whatever he wanted ‘

    ‘Please Lord ‘cried Adams ‘I want you to remove every lickspittle , monarchy loving unionist from Northern Ireland and espeically that arch bigot Paisley and his party ‘

    ‘Will do ‘said the Lord .

    The Lord e thapproached Albert Reynolds who was
    sitting mid plane between both Northern leaders and offers Albert the same deal .

    ‘Thank you Lord ‘ says Albert ‘I could’nt help overhearing the requests of the previous two gentlemen and I was wondering are you actually going to comply with their requests as it seems so harsh ‘

    ‘Indeed I am ‘ said the Lord . Just as soon as I can fulfill your request .

    ‘Oh’ says Albert ‘Well in that case Lord I’ll not delay you , I’d just like a cuppa tea and a biscuit if that’s all right with you ‘

  • Greenflag

    der ter ,

    ‘Since this particular thread is essentially about the way ahead for nationalists, could someone (fin perhaps?) carefully and concisely summarise for us the advantages that would accrue to unionists (and of course the rest of us) as a consequence of NI becoming part of a united Ireland? ‘

    There’s only one real advantage ;). Unionists would no longer have to be unionists which in itself would be a mercy . The same benefit in reverse would apply to NI nationalists and republicans 😉

  • Greenflag

    borderline ,

    ‘So unionist parties are going to be unionists, there’s no point engaging with them.’

    Brilliant observation I thought I was the only one who noticed that 😉

    ‘A good start has been made in persuading some northern Protestants that they have a future in a UI by not shooting them dead on the roads.’

    Sheer genius borderline – whoever would have thought of that one . Imagine people not understanding that when you are shooting at them it’s only for their own good (in the long term of course -in the shrt term they may have to die but hey everyone has to sooner or later so what’s new ) 🙁

    There’s a fair bit of work left to do yet.