The real priority – a future still unshared

Behind the political bellwether issue of policing and justice lies the far more fundamental one of a shared future. Is the Executive going to adopt an integrationist approach or not? Robin Wilson, an acute observer of the theme, gives his bleak analysis. The default position remains one of mutual apartheid. The DUP and Sinn Fein are into yet another round of the blame game. The DUP’s Building a Better Future raids the basic analysis in the Harbinson report and deploys fine integrationist rhetoric but says little about how to bring about action. For instance, what incentives can each side offer the other? The DUP’S Jeffrey Donaldson accuses Sinn Fein of standing out from a growing consensus.( document attached to news release). Sinn Fein’s Martina Anderson insists the DUP’s version amounts to little as it fails to declare respect for other “cultures”. SF’s own document Rights and Respect stresses “ cultures” plural and contains not a word about integration . Both documents are innocent of self criticism. £28.7 million has been set aside as an add-on budget. But any Shared Future programme must be integral to policy at every level. Both parties proclaim that strong leadership is essential but neither is offering it. A deal on P&J could break the logjam. Without it nothing will happen. Why is this basic topic accorded such low priority in wider political debate?

  • Garza

    The DUP and Sinn Fein have no incentive to end segration of the two communites. They know what people do not vote for them because of their radical right or left wing policies but vote for them because they are paranoid of the other side.

    A shared future means that Sinn Fein will end up as sucessful here as they are in the Republic – on the fringes – not exactly an unpleasant thought. And would the majority of unionists buy into the extreme social conservatism and blantant anti-catholic bigotry (McCrea) of the DUP if secragation waned – I don’t think so. And they both know it.

  • Block B

    Brian

    While we’re on the subject of Robin Wilson’s supposedly “acute observations”, it might be worth you ‘acutely observing’ the references on pg 395 and pg 513 of Hanley and Millar’s new book ‘The Lost Revolution’, both of which note Robin as an active ‘Stickie’ in the Workers Party from the early 1980s, alongside the likes of Liam Clarke, Henry McDonald, et al.

    Not playing the man here… simply ensuring that the motivations and antecedents of those promoting the NIO’s ‘A Shared Future’ policy agenda (and there are a number of key people within the senior civil service who will read Hanley and Millar with trepidation) are recognised as being just as relevant to this discussion, as the negative characteristics which the same players purport to impartially ascribe from ‘on-high’ against the DUPers and the Shinners.

  • Dec

    It’s difficult to share a future when both sides envision radically different versions. I would have thought ‘A Shared Present’ was more attainable.

  • Greenflag

    Well they never shared the past, and sharing the present is becoming ever more contentious so why should there be a shared future ? As Dec says above both sides have as mindsets radically different versions of the political future . Both sides know that the chances of persuading their ideological opposites to convert to the right political faith are not just a waste of time and effort but predestined to fail .

    SF are wasting their time with the DUP and vice versa just as the SDLP wasted their time with the UUP during the brief Sunningdale experiment.

    When the Assembly collapses it will be time to consider seriously a fair repartition of NI and be done with it .

  • ulsterfan

    Garza
    “Sf will end up as successful here as they are in the Republic”.

    Sf are insignificant in electoral matters. They claim to be the oldest party in Ireland and with 100 years-of history are the least important.
    If I was a member I would want my money back and start asking what has been done in the last 30 years to bring about a UI and socialism in this country.
    A form of apartheid exists in NI. The OO encourages separation from all things Catholic, while the Catholic Church divides children by means of the education system.
    The GAA operates another type of exclusivity on a cultural and sporting basis.
    None of this is a surprise because we have two distinct communities and the more entrenched this becomes and long lasting this will underpin the Union with GB.
    Why should a Unioinst look south?
    No reason exists and even the short lived Celtic Tiger was not an attraction.
    Long live separation!!!!

  • Brian Walker

    Block B, Re Robin Wilson’s and others’antecedents – so what?

  • Block B

    Read your own lips Brian.

    Your sniffy criticism of the DUP and SF is that their approach is “innocent of self-criticism”. Quite.

    Yet you partially reference one player’s opinion and imply that it is more credible than those of elected political representatives, without considering any other relevant factors.

    Believe me, you’d be doing us all a big favour if you took the time you now have on your hands to investigate the background of the NIO’s ‘A Shared Future’ policy agenda during this decade and then reveal to us how many of those involved in the process – inside the senior civil service and outside in the chattering classes – had/have strong links to the Stickies.

    They’ve certainly been keen to promote it.

    Past is prologue… eh?

  • Brankin

    Those who talk of repartition simply wish to provide violent Republicanism with clearer signposts where to continue their “war”.

    For example the canton of Republican West Belfast would be a base of operations for murder raids on the unionists of South and East Antrim with no fear of police action at ‘home’ on return.

  • Brian
    Good for you for bringing up the topic of a shared future.There is a tendancy to remain in denial about sectarianism (which can kill).

    I think it is a greatly under-estimated advance that,one way and another, the policy and the concept of a shared future is officially there. It makes space for what we need to do. The problem is that our MLAs will only act on the policy when there is enough pressure bottom up.

  • Joe

    Repartition is not desirable…
    for nationalists (they want the whole cake)
    or for unionists (they want the whole wee 6)

    Where would fermanagh unionists be able to fish in peace? Where would the Apprentice boys march? Where would Newry folks do their xmas shopping? What about [i]Republican West Belfast[/i] as the man says?

    Never mind the fact it isn’t anywhere in the GFA.

  • dosser

    Wilson’s putative past in the Sickies is irrelevant as far as the content of Shared Future is concerned. This is not a document promulgated by a reading of Northern Ireland’s ills which inspires a class based solution, as the Stickies would have it.

    Shared Future, and hence Wilson, is more a liberal flavoured rhemedy to a divided society. Wilson and his ilk seem to be influenced by a Rawlsian analysis of social justice, which includes, inter alia, the idea that individual rights usurp group rights, the state should be neutral between competing cultural and a unitary concept to citizenship.

    They believe if they can disentangle individuals from their group identities they will eventualy begin to forge a shared identity and society.

    Wilson’s own writings, reflected in Shared Future, turn this into gobbledegook. He talks of ‘cosmopolitanism’ and ‘interculturalism’ without ever specifying how such platitudes may translate into a cohesive set of policies.

    What’s more, when they do suggest integrationist policies, they get it wrong. Wilson’s penchant for the Alternative Vote as a force to bring about integration has proven to be unworkable as shown by its disastrous consequences in Fiji. John Coakley, professor in political science at Dublin, has recently simulated the effects of AV in Northern Ireland and the results demonstrated that rather than it helping the middle ground, the Alliance Party would be wiped out.

    The problem with Shared Future and the rest of the integrationist mob is that their arguments are so vague and ill thought out that it ruins any opposition to the sectarian carve up at Stormont.

  • Greenflag

    brankin,

    ‘Those who talk of repartition simply wish to provide violent Republicanism with clearer signposts where to continue their “war”.

    Portlaoise can be re opened and the Curragh if necessary . Unionists would have less territory to defend and the British Army would have a much smaller ‘border ‘ to monitor and so too would the Irish Defence forces .

    If Republican West Belfast is too much of a threat to a new Unionist State then Unionists can follow the example of Herr Ulbricht of East Germany and his Soviet allies by building a 30 foot high wall with a no mans land strip with the usual barbed wire atop and electrified fences etc .

    LOok on the bright side though . It’s about the only way that the North will be brought closer to the Republic probably by an average of 30 to 40 miles ?

  • Greenflag

    joe ,

    Repartition is not desirable

    Sez you .

    ‘for nationalists (they want the whole cake)’

    Some do but many ‘thinking ‘ nationalists see the NI cake as being more of a very stale loaf not just in terms of the never ending constitutional conundrum but in terms of it’s economy , society and it’s sectarian riddled mindsets .

    ‘or for unionists (they want the whole wee 6)’

    Some do but many would like to wave a less than fond farewell to South Armagh , South Down , Derry and Tyrone as well as Fermanagh and West Belfast .

    ‘Where would fermanagh unionists be able to fish in peace? ‘

    Same as now in Fermanagh .

    Where would the Apprentice boys march?

    Same as now with Garda protection instead of PSNI.

    ‘Where would Newry folks do their xmas shopping?’

    Belfast -it will still probably be cheaper .

    ‘What about Republican West Belfast as the man says?’

    What about it ? Belfast can be an open city just like Strasbourg or any of the EU cities that straddle both sides of a national border .

    ‘Never mind the fact it isn’t anywhere in the GFA. ‘

    So what ? The GFA had the support of 90% of Northern Irish Nationalists and Republicans whereas barely half of Unionists voted for it .

    At least half the Unionists have never had any interest in power sharing which is down from about 95% against power sharing back at the time of Sunningdale .

    Irish Nationalists and Republicans need to stop wasting their time trying to placate or ‘reform ‘ or ‘convert ‘ Unionism . They would waste less time trying to persuade the Ayatollahs of Iran of the benefits of Christian i.e Infidel Faith .
    They need to focus on a new border line and leave Unionists to their own devices .

    Bring in the EU and or UN and be done with it .

  • Brian Walker

    dosser, RW can look after himself but I point out that his analysis is well sourced and widely discussed in his several comparative studies. Some academic compound words yes, gobbledegook, nope. You perform a familiar blogger’s trick of trying to marginalise the orthodox. I don’t wholly accept Robin’s thesis that the Executive is likely to implode from its own contradictions but I must admit they’re doing their best to prove it. Shared Future thinking as written up by Harbinson is standard stuff. Even the DUP seems to pay at least lip service to it. Integrationist thinking doesn’t abolish difference; it seeks to render it benign. Robin on the contrary, accepts, even embraces diversity and on “the national question” favours variable geometry, as you will see if you read what he has written.

  • dosser

    BW,

    I’m not sure what you mean when you say I’m ‘trying to marginalise the orthodox’. If you mean I have the temerity to be so inconoclastic to challenge the vague and nebulous thinking of Shared Future, so be it. In fact, I don’t think it’s a piece of orthodoxy. It’s assumptions have been challenged on numerous occasions; the fact that you can’t even synthesize the main arguments of the piece is testimony to its woolly thinking.

    As for RW, not subscribing to a shared identity. A recent article in a book on consociationalism clearly displays this. He trumpets the idea of cosmopolitanism, which he seems to think is the bedrock of Shared Future. Cosmopolitanism, as conceived by Kant and others, seeks to overcome the particularity of ethnicity so that a shared allegiance to humanity emerges.

    Shared Future, thus, wants to depoliticize ethnicity by relegating it to the private sphere. The idea is that once people take of the burden of group based allegiances they will create a shared identity in which rational decisions are taken in the the public sphere for the common.

    The fact that such ideal-type scenarios are completely unrealistic, seems to have gone past RW and the rest of the integrationist crew.

    Moreover, as I’ve already said, many of the integrationists ideas about creating moderation have been completely eschewed. They demand AV, yet AV has been shown to exacerbate ethnic fragementation and polarization in places like Fiji. Recent simulations for NI demonstrate that it would, in all likely, destroy the centre ground.

    BW, why do you think that the ideas of RW and the rest of the integrationists are hardly ever applied in divided societies? I may suggest the answer is because they never ever work or are so ill-defined as to be as useful as a piss flavoured lollipop.

    Anyway, I’d be happy to see if you can define what a Shared Future is and how it may translate into a set of credible policies.

  • Clay Davis

    BW,

    Have you read Wilson (2009)? Even Wilford has now abandoned Wilson because O’Leary and McGarry, for the umpteenth time, have demonstrated his ideas to be overly normative and empirically groundless. FYI, AV tends to produce outcomes that are even more disproportionate than first past the post — and the main reason that African Americans have always argued against its implementation in the American South is because it tends to underrepresent minorities.

  • noel adams

    WITHOUT SHARING THERE IS NO FUTURE
    If you need it on screen look up the old startreck epesode half black half white QED

  • GavBelfast

    How many times does it have to be said – these two parties in particular rely for their current “success” and longer-term existence on separateness continuing.

    What should it be any surprise that they pay lip-service to ideas of sharing, integration and mutul respect?

  • dantheman

    “When the Assembly collapses it will be time to consider seriously a fair repartition of NI and be done with it.”

    Hear hear. I see a large repartitoned elephant on the deck of the good ship Ulster. And no, I’m not taking LSD

  • Garza

    Repartition is bullshit. Its all or nothing. As a unionist if the majority of the population of NI want a UI and be ruled by Dublin, so be it, I will leave for other shores and never return like many unionist professionals. I suspect nationalists are starting to panic about the solidification of the union and are crying out of repartition.

  • efeefefe

    I have never seen any nationalist cry out for repartition. What are you talking about? the only people to ever talk about repartition are unionists scared of the nationalist majority.

  • Garza,

    “Repartition is bullshit.”

    Agreed.

    ” As a unionist if the majority of the population of NI want a UI and be ruled by Dublin, so be it, I will leave for other shores and never return like many unionist professionals.”

    As a nationalist, in the event of a UI, I’d like to see people of the unionist persuasion stay, not leave. It’s not as if your culture would disappear in a UI and would probably remain as strong as it is now if not stronger (nationalism is stronger in Derry than Dublin but would likely wilt in a UI whereas “Britishness” would become even more pronounced than it is now).

    However, if you can’t stomach the thought of being ruled by Dublin, then a one way ticket to the “mainland” is probably a wise move.

  • RepublicanStones

    ‘As a unionist if the majority of the population of NI want a UI and be ruled by Dublin, so be it, I will leave for other shores and never return like many unionist professionals’

    If nationalists in the north haven’t left for the jurisdiction of Dublin, what kind of mindset is it, which pens the above sentence?

  • Greenflag

    garza ,

    ‘Its all or nothing.’

    Typical of the Northern Ireland mindset which is why the place is a political no man’s land, a public sector depencency basket case and sectarian power sharing powerlessness .

    Have you ever heard that half a loaf is better than no bread at all ?

    Being a ‘unionist’ professional of course you probably prefer cake 😉

  • Greenflag

    effeefefe,

    ‘the only people to ever talk about repartition are unionists scared of the nationalist majority.’

    I’m a people and I’m certainly not a Unionist . I could’nt be a Unionist for all the tea in China;)

    Far better to have a fair repartition implemented by the UN and then focus on the ‘real’ problems that will beset both parts of this island is this fast changing world .

  • Delquinn

    ‘Nationalists’ left for Dublin in the 1920S, at least in their own minds. Their continued agitation, punctuated by murderous assault, and their refusal to even acknowledge Northern Ireland’s existence (the Orange statlet, the Wee Six, the North etc) represented a mindset every bit as bleak as that of Garza.

    Naturally as befits a culture based on perceived victimhood married to a belief in the superiority of their vision of Ireland Nationalists blamed every woe on unionists.

    Those who suggest that unionists would suddenly begin be cherished in a ‘new’ Ireland simply deny the history of the Republic where, for example, even non-unionists who fought in the British Army in World War I were shunned.

    Garda protecting the Apprentice Boys right to march? Don’t think so. The actuality would be more like the ‘protection’ offered to the attempted ‘Love Ulster’ march in Dublin a couple of years ago.

  • Garza

    Exile1 and RepublicanStones

    Its nothing personal. I don’t like how the Dail is run. Plus, while I like Irish people I dislike Dubliners, they look down on the rest of the people of the island too much. Being ruled from there unsettles me.

    You could convince me to stay in a UI if Northern Ireland is given greater independence within a UI, a state within a state sort of. Better be ruled from Belfast, than Dublin or London for that matter.

    But this is all hypothethical, as I do not think we will see a UI within our lifetimes.

  • barnshee

    “Far better to have a fair repartition implemented by the UN and then focus on the ‘real’ problems that will beset both parts of this island is this fast changing world . ”

    Best to start with a”protype” or trial where we have de facto partition already.

    The prod is no more on the city side in Derry there are only two bridges (well three if you count the double decker) connecting it to the east bank.

    Ring up Cowan and tell him the city side is all his. If that goes smoothly – after all the citizens there vote regularly for it-Newry wouls be next.

  • Garza

    “represented a mindset every bit as bleak as that of Garza.”

    lol cheers Delquinn

  • Greenflag

    garza,

    ‘while I like Irish people I dislike Dubliners’

    LOL I wonder why ?.It’s not because they tell you to your face what a dung heap ‘unionism ‘ is ? is it ?

    Anyway one of the better reasons for having ‘repartition’ is to save gobshites like yerself from having to move ‘countries ‘ 😉

    ‘a state within a state sort of’

    But that’s exactly what yiz have had for the past 90 years more or less and yiz have made such a bag of shit of it that as it is it can’t be fixed , repaired or reformed 🙁

    feckin hopeless shower of incompetents . If the British Empire ever had to rely on youse lot it would never have got past the Isle of Man 😉

  • Garza

    “LOL I wonder why ?.It’s not because they tell you to your face what a dung heap ‘unionism ’ is ? is it ?”

    No. I just don’t like the attitude some of them have that if you don’t live in Dublin your some sort of uneducated hick. That’s all.

    “Anyway one of the better reasons for having ‘repartition’ is to save gobshites like yerself from having to move ‘countries ’ ;)”

    Gobshites? Now now, no need to be uncivil. It tells alot about a person’s arguments when they have to partcipate in childish name calling.

    Repartition is a bad idea because unionists and nationalists are starting to desegregate themselves and mixing. This makes repartition needlessly complicated.

    “But that’s exactly what yiz have had for the past 90 years more or less and yiz have made such a bag of shit of it that as it is it can’t be fixed , repaired or reformed 🙁

    feckin hopeless shower of incompetents . If the British Empire ever had to rely on youse lot it would never have got past the Isle of Man ;)”

    Nice. Classy.

  • dosser

    Greenflag,

    I find your comments quite offensive. Do you denigrate all ethnic groups in the same way or is your vitriol especially reserved for unionists?

  • dosser

    Greenflag,

    Your ideas on repartition are a non-starter. There’s no international agency who seriously countenance partition as a solution to divided societies, unless, such as the case of Czechoslovakia’s so-called Velvet Divorce, the majority of the population seek such a prescription.

    There is no need for repartition in Northern Ireland since the current method of conflict regulation is consociational power sharing, which has been ratified by the two governments and largely supported by the population of NI.

    You are, therefore, on your own with the repartition suggestion. Perhaps it’s time to abide by the old proverb: if seven doctors say you’re ill – lie down!

  • Greenflag

    garza ,

    ‘nice classy ‘

    If you say so .I would’nt but then I don’t have any pretensions in that field .

    dosser ,

    ‘I find your comments quite offensive.’

    So do I 😉 But I can find even more offensive ones if you insist .

    ‘Do you denigrate all ethnic groups in the same way or is your vitriol especially reserved for unionists?’

    I don’t like ‘political ‘ unionism -never have -never will . Individual ‘unionists’ are just people like all ethnic groups . Yer fellow traveller above does’nt like all Dubliners .May you should preach to him about his ‘ethnic’ generalisations first and see where the eejit gets them from ;)?

    ‘There is no need for repartition in Northern Ireland since the current method of conflict regulation is consociational power sharing, which has been ratified by the two governments and largely supported by the population of NI.’

    Fine in theory . In practice this consociational bullcrap appears to be falling flat on it’s face .

    When it does- bring out the repartition map and be done with the permanent political cul de sac that is the current NI State .

    ‘it’s time to abide by the old proverb: if seven doctors say you’re ill – lie down! ‘

    The last doctor who advised me on health matters is now seven years dead . He did’nt practice what he preached.

    Anyway enough guff I have a long list of to do’s before I witness another appalling performance from our national soccer team

  • otto

    I don’t think Greenflag really does believe in repartition.

    In fact (and it’s apt as we’re also talking of proverbs) I think he has the wisdom of Solomon.

  • IJP

    I find it alarmingly hard to disagree with dosser‘s analysis.

    I agree fundamentally with individual rather than group rights; with the point that division along sectarian line costs (and not just money); and with the point that cosmopolitan, open cities and regions tend to do better creatively and economically.

    However, Wilson’s analysis, while academically 95% sound in my view, assumes an “impartial” State by his own admission. In practice, however, the State is not and cannot be impartial – founded as it is on a set of structures and assumptions which are the product of (hundreds of years of) inherent culture, but most of all founded as it is upon people who are themselves not impartial!

    Effectively, such analysis assumes a benign government made up of left-leaning Alliance types and other assorted independents – hence, presumably, his attempts to tamper with the electoral system to achieve one. The obvious problem there is that it requires a suspension of democracy.

    It is certainly clear, as Wilson would have it, that neither “assimilation” nor “multiculturalism” work in NI. The problem, as ever, is what the alternative is, bearing in mind the nature of NI as it is (rather than as academics would like it to be).

  • Brian Walker

    Great see the thread has returned to the intellectual mainsprings of Wilson’s critique of A Shared Future. As I say, he can look after himself. As a mere journalist, I have found the comparative studies of limited help. Emotionally, I find it difficult to treat the kid round the corner I used to play with as having a different “ethnicity” to my own. On the other hand,I realise academics have to put our divisions into some context and category in order to discuss them. I’d like to go back to a Shared Future itself. Pragmatically, as developed by Harbinson, a civil servant, it is a process for sharing resources and delivering outcomes to a divided society equably and economically; It makes key assumptions that contact between communities and the creation of shared spaces are good public things. I would contend that these aims have become orthodox- certainly, all the parties pay lip service to them. The discussion of a neutral state and the intellectual mainspring of individual vs group rights, while stimulating in themselves, does not need to be pursued to the point of deadlock. For me, this discussion proves the Shared Future point, that greater contact would be beneficial, even among intellectuals contributing to this thread. Why not look for a conclusion or a way ahead, rather than leave a vacuum?