Paul Bew on re-unification and a generation shift in Tory attitudes to Northern Ireland


Professor Paul Bew, now a Peer in the British upper house, talks about the iterative development of the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly; responds to Barry McElduff’s Census suggestion and the Republic’s on nationalist confidence in a re-unification project; the discreet negotiations following the pattern of previous rounds; and some very interesting remarks on the change in the way the new generation of Conservative politicians look upon Northern Ireland.

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  • Couldn’t comment – should’nt

    It’s refreshing to hear someone who can and does talk sense, has thought his views through and presents them in an intelligent and coherent fashion

  • George

    Interesting to think that Professor Bew thought at one stage that holding a border poll would strengthen the centre ground, and by that he means the Ulster Unionists.

    This of course after he chastises others for failing to read the GFA, which states that a poll cannot be held for at least another seven years and not that polls have to be held every seven years subsequently on a rolling basis.

    Strangely for someone who presents himself as an expert on the details of the Agreement that he seems to have failed to read the all of the GFA himself, including the reasons behind holding a border poll in the first place.

    Let me quote it so that he doesn’t repeat the error in future. We wouldn’t want him continuing in the same boat as those slipshod journalists.

    “the Secretary of State shall exercise the power
    under paragraph 1 if at any time it appears likely to him that a majority of those voting would express a wish that Northern Ireland should cease to be part of the United Kingdom and form part of a united Ireland.

    The option of a border poll is not there for shoring up the “centre ground”, and is most certainly not there to help the UUP.

    Why on earth does Professor Bew think it would be?

    Also, on what basis does he justify his view that remaining in the Union (the view of the UUP) represents the centre ground?

  • kensei

    Border polls being potentially unpredictable is true. But unpredictable I think, in ways beyond that which he imagines. It’s not simply that less Catholics might register a vote for unity; a significant geographic split could create unknown internal pressures.

    The economic argument rings true, but I think he’s overlooked the cuts that are going to be taken here, first by the natural process of overall budget cuts, second by the expiry of special arrangements for the North, and third likely by a reducation in public sector unemployment. We are insulated to an extent at the moment, but the UK Government si runnign insane deficits. Not taht I don’ think this is a good thing at the moment, but it won’t last. And high unemployment might erode that argument.

    I think he’s toltally wrong ont he Tories, obviously. It is nothing but destabilising. He’s right that goign over the heads of Unionists is not a good thing, in general, but Unionism has had to be pulled kicking and screaming to agreement on several occassions and it may remain occasionally necessary. What happens when they must take positions on parades, or symbols, or any one of our million bunfights. I really doubt the strategy of brushing over it will stand the reality of battle. There is a lot of potential to fuel dissident fire.

    not taht they care, given thsi si much mroe about Scotland and positioniong for middle England than anything to do here.

  • elvis parker

    Kensei anything that happens in terms of cuts, unemployment in NI is going to have a mirror image in the Republic And it could conceivably be worse

    Your idea that the way to a stable political society is to exclude people from engaging in the mainstream politics of their country just so that you can beat them into line is at best self-defeating. In a deomcracy you should endeavour to lead people not over-rule them

  • smcgiff

    ‘Kensei anything that happens in terms of cuts, unemployment in NI is going to have a mirror image in the Republic And it could conceivably be worse’

    NI has a far larger Public Sector to be whittled down than the ROI.

    And a look at the current UK deficit should make it clear that the UK is in almost if not the same amount of trouble as the ROI.

  • Greenflag

    Overall Professor Bew sounds plausible enough although his personal political views shine through as is to be expected . His noting that an SF FM would be unacceptable to many Unionists should unionist party division deliver such a vote – was not countered by any hint that a DUP FM could be conceivably unacceptable to many nationalists ? His attempt to downplay the significance of FM/DFM as a co -equal position may not ring true for many unionist voters . If they can’t stomach an SF Justice Minister how much more likely will be they to reach for the magnesia at the prospect of an SF FM ?

    While overall his comment on the economics of the current situation as they reflect the politics of any UI rings true, his finding that the UK is less isolated than the Republic does not find resonance in the currency markets whereby the Republic is part of a currency that is shared with 400 million people , whereas the UK pound is probably the number one target for international currency speculators and given the current state of UK finances and an upcoming election the ‘wolves ‘ will be gathering no doubt to capitalise on a repeat performance of the last Tory ‘devaluation’ achievment of the early 1990’s:(.

    His comment on current Conservative attitude to NI as compared to past attitudes seemed unclear . The Tories are about ‘middle ‘ England and their current ‘interest’ in NI is as it always was – ephemereal at best, but at worst destabilising as Unionists should remember from 1972 and Nationalists from the 1920’s . Well we’ll see come the election as to whether UCUNF heralds the dawn of a new day for NI or a return to as you were . My money is on the as you were .

  • kensei

    elvis

    Kensei anything that happens in terms of cuts, unemployment in NI is going to have a mirror image in the Republic And it could conceivably be worse

    The Republic is having and will continue to have a hard time, but it won’t be a mirror image. As pointed out, smaller public sector, more dynamic economy. Could be worse, could be better, I’m not sure. Could be very much worse for a while then very much better. Just pointing out he makes assumptions which can’t be taken for granted.

    Your idea that the way to a stable political society is to exclude people from engaging in the mainstream politics of their country just so that you can beat them into line is at best self-defeating. In a deomcracy you should endeavour to lead people not over-rule them

    I don’t care if the Tories get every NI Consituency. It’ll still be an irrelevance in the grand scheme. but anyway, I’m not imposing anything. I’m simply stating the Tories move is destabilising.

  • Nordie Northsider

    Not sure about Bew’s observations on new attitudes to the North among younger Tories. He seems to be suggesting the following: more sympathy towards Nationalists among people of Patten’s age who remember Stormont and, on the other hand, more pro-Unionist attitudes among younger Tories whose abiding memory of the North is the IRA campaign. I see no evidence for such a divergence. I think it’s more accurate to say that most Tories were always ideologically and culturally hostile to Irish nationalism but that they had to make certain compromises while in power.

  • fair_deal

    “the new generation of Conservative politicians ”

    That claim seems to me to be wishful thinking. Conservativehome did significant survey work of the next generation of Tories and came to the conclusion that they were “Barely Unionist”.

  • fin

    on Youtube the next video was a ‘tribute’ to George Seawright, the funeral footage at the end is awash with OO sashes.

    If there is a border poll, both sides need to pitch the opposition for votes.

    At the moment unionism slags off SF’s attempts to ‘reachout’ to unionism, HOWEVER, in return they give nationalists the TUV and Jimhadists like Turgon.

    For nationalists its simple, a united Ireland would do nicely, alternatively unionism can give generously to convince enough nationalists to vote for the union. Win Win

    For unionists its not the same, maintain the union by giving to nationalists OR lose the union by joining a united Ireland. Lose Lose.

    Most of the talk on Slugger is centred on nationalists second guessing unionisms shopping list for a united Ireland, OO marches etc.

    Have unionists considered what might have to be given to nationalists to maintain the union.

    What will unionist give?

    The border poll will stack up as a comparison within unionism of what they will be offered in a UI against what they will be left with in the union.

    Add in the finances, which Paul omitted to mention, which is the RoI generates its own income, NI exists with ‘pocket money’ handed out by the English taxpayer. The HMG at the time of a border poll can turn the cash on or off.

    The cash is already been turned off! and I’m guessing that a Tory govt, would make a big deal out of turning NI into a enterprise zone with low tax AND take the difference out of the pocket money allowance.

  • Greenflag

    nordie northsider ,

    ‘I think it’s more accurate to say that most Tories were always ideologically and culturally hostile to Irish nationalism’

    And don’t ever forget it !

    I would no more expect a dog to learn to play poker than I would expect a Tory to care a jot about Ireland (North or South ) other than whatever is politically expedient in the here and now.

  • bob wilson

    Bew’s actually under-estimates the change. The current Conservative leadership and Party are strongly in favour of bringing Northern Ireland into the political mainstream.
    Previous leaders like Major and Howard and to some extent Thatcher wanted to keep NI at arm’s length.
    Hague, Cameron, Paterson, Gove and others have long been supporters of NI Conservatives

  • fin

    dogs can’t learn to play poker until they learn not to wag their tails when dealt a good hand, so whats the Tories excuse is it a tail wagging dog scenario

  • fair_deal

    fin

    “What will unionist give?”

    What exactly did you think the last 15 years and all the changes in Northern Ireland were about?

    Bob

    Gove I accept considering his record and writings.

    Hague? I can’t remember anything in particular from his time as leader as regards NI or NI Conservatives could you exemplify that.

    Paterson and Cameron are unknown quantities with time telling (and an election) whether actions will match words.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    Good interview. He is always good to listen to, if only partly because Unionists don’t generally do intellectual because I suspect, intellectual often leads to compromise and drift.

    But Bew, was (is?) a UU man and close advisor to Trimble and so some elements of ideology should be expected and perhaps a bit of propagandising on behalf of that party.

    With his background in mind some of his analysis seems a bit self serving – like suggesting that the Englezes only knocked Unionism into line on one occasion – we have the original Stormo being binned, the Anglo Irish Agreement and force feeding (or gently encouragement as we all have to pretend it is post Hilary’s visit) of the GFA and STA to name a few.

    Perhaps he’s right about the new breed of young Tories, but without putting forward any basis for these observations surely post GFA (which largely reflects the Tories own view of no strategic interest) Norn Iron looks more and more like a foreign country, with many MPs not taking their seats and Marty and Robbo being treated like visiting heads of state as they head in to Downing Street from what is effectively now an internationalised zone – more Hong Kong than Kent. Most British people have a deep sense of shame about their role in Ireland and although Tory MPs are something of a funny privileged bunch, most of them are probably ordinary decent chappies and probably feel the same.

  • SilverParrot

    It’s only natural that the association unionism = discrimination must fade with time. Simply because blaming people for their ancestors either literal or political is unfair and disingenuous. After all if someone said that they would never vote for the tories because of their previous position on votes for women they’d be considered a nutjob, and rightly so. Discrimination is not on the table. It cannot form the basis of present political choices. Unless marching rights or the lack of them, “bruscar” stickers on bins and the colour of post boxes is what passes for “discrimination” these days.

  • there now

    SilverParrot on Oct 21. Excuse me but your full of crap no one in this lol occupied six counties is wired to forget in fact were hard wired to remember everything. Sad but there you go lol .

  • there now

    Anyway it’s all bollox some Peter Mandelson type in 1 3 6 10 15 years’ time with the stroke of a pen in Brussels will decide for administration purposes e.g. tourism water charges whatever that the border must go and go it will. So ho hum to the fekin lot of ye so in the mean time carry on writing some like Carr are good craic and some like turbon are demented but that’s the way it goes. Now for din dins.

  • Frustrated democrat

    The position of the Conservatives is widely either not understood or completely misunderstood.

    The politicians of the 1980’s made mistakes, Thatcher admitted she made a mistake with the AIA and Cameron has apoligised for it as well.

    There is a new breed of Conservatives in the 21st Century who have accepted that NI is not in the fast track out of the UK and really want to keep it as part of the family.

    Paterson has spent more time in NI in the last 2 years than his predecessors in the last 12. He has started to understand the nuances of political life in NI by talking to people from all backgrounds and by talking stright to them. He has therefore seen a country with potential, that has settled the border question, and has sold the message to his colleagues hence the regular vists of Cameron and Hague.

    I have no doubt the CU vision for NI will be rolled out in the coming months and the vision will probably be to get NI back on the road to a vibrant economy with sustained growth over a long period without destroying where we are. It will not be a vision imposed from on high but one agreed with their partners in the UUP. There will have to be cuts in certain areas but I think the overall benefit to NI of a CU Government including local MP’s will be a long overdue shot in the arm for NI.

    The electorate have to have that message explained to them regardless of their background so they can decide if that is where they want to go or not.

  • fin

    Fair_Deal, intersting answer, and pretty much what I expected. So come a border poll the unionist pitch to nationalists is ‘thats your lot, take it or leave it’

    BTW, I actually asked what unionism would give, not what HMG gave.

  • Greenflag

    frustrated democrat ,

    ‘There will have to be cuts in certain areas but I think the overall benefit to NI of a CU Government including local MP’s will be a long overdue shot in the arm for NI.’

    Too low down I’m afraid – A shot in the head for NI is more likely 🙁

    ‘Thatcher admitted she made a mistake with the AIA and Cameron has apoligised for it as well.’

    Why apologise for Thatcher . He’ll soon enough be apologing for his own mistakes starting with the UCUNF ‘strategy ‘ . He’s already losing the UK Jewish vote with his exit from mainstream EU Christian Democrats and his new ‘alliance’ with a plethora of ex nazis and racists in Poland and other eastern european countries !

    ‘ It will not be a vision’

    That’s all it ever will be I’m afraid . No sooner will Cameron be elected than NI will be returned to as you were and always will be -a backwards offshore economic burden that has to be borne because it simply can’t be off loaded without making Mother England look like an abusive parent!

    The Tories don’t have any answers for Ireland -North or South -never have or had and never will . They have only ever contributed to division and instability across the entire island.

    Anyone who is taken in by the latest fad in political spin and hype will I’m sure be just as disappointed come 2015 as they are today if not more so

  • Fair Deal

    Conservativehome did significant survey work of the next generation of Tories and came to the conclusion that they were “Barely Unionist”.

    I think I said to you at the time that it was hardly the most nuanced of questions they posed:
    “The Union should be defended at all costs”

    I also don’t think it should be defended at “all costs” but I wouldn’t describe myself as “barely” Unionist.

    With regards the Border Poll, you shouldn’t seek to persuade your political opponents to your cause because in 95% of cases you’re wasting your time; the vast majority who’ve voted pro-Union or Irish nationalist at the last election will vote the exactly the same way in a Border Poll whatever bribes are on offer.

    It’s the present-time “pissed offs”, “don’t knows” and “don’t really cares” who need persuading and in the vast majority of cases they’ll follow the best economic argument.

  • Greenflag

    O’neill ,

    Your comment above in 22 contains just one error but is otherwise as they say on the nail .

    I’d say in 99.99 % of cases trying to persuade politcal opponents would be as you say a waste of time .

    And the non aligned will either stay at home or vote for the status quo.

  • frustated democrat

    Greenflag

    It is always sad to see people mired in the past and unable to lift their heads and look to the future.

    Cameron, Paterson and their colleagues now have a team of local people in NI who want a better future here for EVERYONE, it is up to the voters to help them by voting for local policies for local people.

    You may not like the fact that they support the union but that is the way it is, others want a UI and that is their right. It doesn’t mean they can’t work together now to improve NI for all their supporters.

  • DC

    It’s simple why people do doubt the Conservatives can be radical progressives – the clue lies in the name and a certain tendency to conserve: retro-futurist style.

  • Erasmus

    [i]What a fool I was! I was only a puppet, and so was Ulster, and so was Ireland in the political game that was to get the Conservative Party into power.[/i]
    Edward Carson, 1921.