The price of equality in a new deal

If we stand back and examine it, the concept of equality that Marty is raising again is interesting isn’t it? There’s an ambiguity about equality that’s somewhere near the heart of the problem. Equal value per unit certainly, just like parity of esteem – you can’t argue that the Irishness/Britishness is somehow existentially superior to Britishness/Irishness. Is it essential to practice affirmative action or positive discrimination to redress the balance of the past; or does that create a backlash more severe than the orginal problem? And anyway does positive discrimination actually exist for nationalists, or the poor or anybody in this system; or if it is just a level playing field, is it delivering? Through all the chaff, the special pleading, the coat trailing and the venom, I just don’t know and I don’t see any many objective measurements. And what is equality when it comes to the operation of our qualiified democracy? The joint co-equal FMDFM argues one way, Assembly voting has it both ways, parallel consent and weighted overall majority. Where should equality lie here: DUP 33% SF 26%: All Us 60% , all Nats 40%? Any argument that says that Nats get more weight per unit just for signing up to the system won’t survive. Just as any case for unionist majority winner-takes-most won’t work either. It’s a pedants’ paradise and a recipe for fundament oblivion (sorry, disappearing up your own arse; suggesting that mental colonic exploration produces only limited rewards). But suddenly – is exhaustion taking over and can it be true? Is there a tiny patch of blue in the sky as Pete hints and Eamonn now reports, or is Woodward oiling it again ?

  • kensei

    Brian

    Any argument that says that Nats get more weight per unit just for signing up to the system won’t survive.

    Why not? Any system of government relies on the consent of the governed. Given past failures, the price of Nationalist consent was aveto on anything they didn’t like. Iif people didn’t want it, then why agree to it in the first place.

    If we are going back to renegotiate the fundamentals of the agreement, then we need to go the whole way back. Weaker safeguards? Bigger role for the Republic, then

  • Fabianus

    Brian

    “you can’t argue that the Irishness/Britishness is somehow existentially superior to Britishness/Irishness.”

    If I knew WTF you were talking about I probably could.

  • Brian Walker

    kensei,
    Of course I’m not arguing for an end to equal rights and the political settlement of the GFA as you must know. I’m just questioning an over- mechanistic approach to group rights whicn if it’s insisted upon can be self-defeating. What happens in a climate of deep distrust when unionists over-emphasise their version of equality? We have deadlock. As you have seen below, I’ve made a case for an NI Human Rights Bill as basic law. But rights can only get you so far, although its entirely understandable that nationalists put so much stress on them. We also need checks and balances within a rights framework. This what we’ve got, if only we will work it. And, yes, there’s always room for improvement..

  • Over on the blog of Culture Minister Nelson McCausland, the politician who puts cult into culture, he complains about a prominent Irish American who has established a fund to help educate children attending schools in Northern Ireland and who is quoted as describing Patrick Pearse as an inspiration. To further damn this benefactor of education in Northern Ireland, he helpfully adds the point of information that Michael Breen, founder of Mary’s Gift, was awarded an Irish Echo Top Forty Award recently. And, as Nelson adds, the Irish Echo is owned by Belfast Media Group whose Managing Director is Mairtín Ó Muilleoir, a former SF councillor. How helpful can a minister be?

    Here it is from the Minister’s own pen:
    Here once again we see the influence of Irish republicanism on the Irish language movement. It may be argued that Pearse was also an Irish-language enthusiast but Breen does not refer to Pearse’s passion for the Irish language. Instead he describes him as an Irish patriot.’

    This Nelsonian – as in one eyed – view of the world is typical of Minister McCausland. Of course Patrick Pearse is an inspiration for many Irish people as, no doubt Edward Carson is to many Irish people also. Patrick Pearse was an Irish language enthusiast, a school teacher, a barrister, a revolutionary leader, a member of the Supreme Council of the IRB etc, a poet. There’s alot to admire. Edward Carson was a barrister, a political leader, a founder of the UVF, a gun runner. Patrick Pearse took part in a rebellion and lost his life for his troubles. Edward Carson almost took part in a rebellion and gained power as a result. It’s an accident of history but if Nelson is to keep on disparaging Irish HISTORICAL heroes, he should be prepared to defend his own stance with real argument rather than his hint hint, nudge nudge slyness.

    He makes a great play also of citing Mairtín Ó Muilleoir’s SF connections to denigrate Mike Breen’s generosity to Northern Irish schools. He is one to talk – he sits around a cabinet table with SF members – and not just ones who were never in the IRA but the reputed ‘capo di tutti capi’ [As Ken Maginnis referred to Martin McGuinness in a BBC debate once upon a time].

    I hold no brief of SF or Máirtín O Muilleoir and I do think republicans use the Irish language to their own ends a great deal of the time – but I think it’s a bit rich of Nelson to jump on a historical reference to score a cheap political point.

    It points up the hypocrisy of the DUP and their talk of equality and parity of esteem. At every opportunity the DUP will play the Orange card and SF will inevitably play the green – it’s a sickening and very cynical game which gets us and them nowhere fast. If Nelson genuinely wants the Irish language movement to disengage from republicanism – rather than he and his colleagues trying to outdo each other and with nasty rhetoric and sly sectarian acts drive reasonable Irish speakers into the arms of republicans – he should try being nice for a change.

    He could also look at the North South Language Body and its failure to publish accounts for the years 2005-8. Why is this? When he attended a meeting with his southern counterpart, Eamon O Cuiv, in Belfast yesterday, did he raise this issue?

    I made these points and more in a post to the Minister’s own website – but for some strange reason, it hasn’t been approved yet.

    http://theministerspen.blogspot.com/2009/12/marys-gift-irish-language-foundation.html

  • Dave

    [i]Here it is from the Minister’s own pen:

    Here once again we see the influence of Irish republicanism on the Irish language movement. It may be argued that Pearse was also an Irish-language enthusiast but Breen does not refer to Pearse’s passion for the Irish language. Instead he describes him as an Irish patriot.’[/i]

    Well, Concubhar, that is why you will not get British state support for the Irish language in Northern Ireland. Nelson McCausland has no objection to members of the Irish nation promoting their culture as long as they do it in the privacy of the bedroom their own homes.

    State support for the culture of a nation is a hallmark of a nation-state. Quite rightfully, Nelson McCausland recognises that the Irish nation has constitutionally consented to live within a British state, agreeing that they have no right now or in the future to any form of an Irish nation-state. Therefore, that Irish nation, having renounced its right to state support for its culture, are improperly asserting a ‘right’ that they are no longer entitled to. That is bad faith.

    An “Irish patriot” cannot by definition be someone who is loyal to a foreign state, so an Irish patriot would assert the right of that nation to a nation-state rather than renounce it. It is that claim by a nation to a state that upsets the minister. So, as long as the Irish nation in that part of the United Kingdom make no claims to the British state wherein they live, then the minister has no objection to their culture.

    His objection is political, and nothing more.

  • His objection is sectarian and anti culture, nothing less. He is a Minister by virtue of Agreements – the Belfast/GFA and the St Andrews Agreement – which recognise and accept that it is possible to be Irish, British or both. As long he is benefitting from being party to those Agreements – as he undoubtedly is as Minister – he cannot then be attacking the very basis of those agreements.

    So, to add to my opening remark, Nelson’s objection is not so much political as sectarian, anti culture and hypocritical in the extreme….nothing less.

    As for your remarks regarding ‘Irish Patriots’ etc, I regard them as complete gobbledygook….either the Minister understands that he is a minister for all the people or he doesn’t and if it’s the latter, he has no business being a minister….

  • Dave

    Just to add that the relevant international law is Article 1 of the ICCPR and Article 1 of the ICESCR:

    “All peoples have a right of self-determination. By virtue that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.”

    The nation-state is the sovereign territorial entity by which that nation exercises that right. Without control of its state, the nation has no means to exercise that right. Clearly, the British state does not exist to promote any culture or national interest other than the culture and national interest of the British nation.

    In making demands of another state that it promotes your culture, you are making a demand that has no basis in international law. The grant of the request is in fact wholly at the discretion and good nature of local government.

    At any rate, you folks renounced your claim to the territory and your right to self-determination along with it, so it’s all just crying over spilled milk.

    Try asking nicely…

  • The Good Friday Agreement and the St Andrews Agreement are both international agreements which are part of international law – they are not subject to the whims of a one eyed sectarian DUP Talibanist….

  • Reader

    Concubhar O Liathain: The Good Friday Agreement and the St Andrews Agreement are both international agreements which are part of international law – they are not subject to the whims of a one eyed sectarian DUP Talibanist
    Then there’s nothing to worry about, is there? The lawyers and bureaucrats will do the business instead.
    Any day now…

  • William Montgomery

    “All Us 60% , all Nats 44%”

    So its 104% Nationalist and Unionist in the Assembly?

    Might want to check those figures.

  • ClarityNotWaffle

    Fabianus is right. So much for The Great Homegrown NI Communicator, Mr. B Walker, exile extraordinaire. Stop trying to show how “clever” and erudite you are for God’s sake and just make your point, which is ? You’d never know….Prolix and logorrhea come to mind….this stream of “consciousness” would put us all in a coma….
    As for Comment No. 4 about the blood curdling Patrick Pearse, methinks Conchubar might mention a a salient fact which he has conspicuously left out that Pearse was clearly a man with Roger Casement interests in young boys; of course you’re not allowed to say that eh ? And we’re worried about the priests’ scandal ? Pearse was a nut case. Read R D Edwards brilliant biography of him. Chilling bigot and fantasist. Rivers of blood comments which would put the odious Enoch Powell to shame. Thank God non-sectarian Sean O’Casey showed Pearse up for the looney he was in his plays. Pearse lived in a Holy Catholic Ireland which had no place for Unionists whatsoever. They were like Martins to him or Casement, who grew up among them.

  • Concubhar

    Dangerous it is to judge historic figures by the standards of today. Are to call Edward Carson a homophobic bigot by virtue of his prosecution of Oscar Wilde? I wouldn’t say so. The only politician I link with the rivers of blood allusion is Enoch Powell, an arch unionist. Pearse’s thing was the blood sacrifice which is an entirely different thing. He made the ultimate blood sacrifice himself at Easter 1916.
    In the final analysis Pearse’s sexuality is not the issue here. I believe he was entirely celibate and there’s no evidence to the contrary. He wrote poetry which has been read as being suggestive of all sorts – an interest in boys included- but writing poetry isn’t immoral or criminal. Or is it?
    Pearse didn’t as a point of historical fact live in a Holy Catholic Ireland In which unionists had no place. The Ireland he lived in was part of Britain and unionists were the Ascendancy. Holy Catholic Ireland came later and then came Wholly Capitalist Ireland. I think, based on the 1916 Proclamation, in which Pearse had a hand, that neither would have gained purchase if the leaders of 1916 had not been so cruelly executed. The Irish revolutionary movement pre 1916 was a great deal more radical and enlightened than was given credit by the likes of O Casey and certainly more so than that which followed.
    And a final word. Pearse didn’t live as you suggest in

  • Dave

    “The Good Friday Agreement and the St Andrews Agreement are both international agreements which are part of international law – they are not subject to the whims of a one eyed sectarian DUP Talibanist…” – Concubhar O Liathain

    Well you have a gift for language… no doubt. Firstly, the GFA isn’t part of international law. Secondly, you are confusing the GFA with the British-Irish Agreement: the former is just a piece of paper of no legal consequence, and the latter is a treaty between two sovereign states. In addition, you are confusing treaty law with international human rights instruments. There is a binding supranational obligation on the state to comply with the latter, whereas the former obligation is binding only between those states who are party to a treaty – and, of course, there is no sanction possible if either party is in unilateral violation of the treaty. There will be some tut-tuts if you can get other states to tut-tut at the violating state but nothing else. If both parties agree to bin the treaty, then that’s you buggered, innit? There are legal consequences (with varying degrees of political and legal authority depending on the particular right), however, if a state finds itself in violation of an international bill of rights such as the aforementioned ICCPR (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights). No state can agree to be bound by any treaty that is in violation of international law, so it is the provisions of the UN’s UDHR and it’s ICCPR that will take priority over treaty law.

    The British state could not declare that the British nation have no inalienable right to “freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.” It couldn’t practically do it anyway since the British nation decide the government of the state on the basis of a democratic majority (they could simply vote out the government that acts to curtail its right to self-determination and reverse the policy).

    In Northern Ireland, the British nation retains control of the state. Because it is a British state, it’s obligation under international law is to protect and promote the culture of the British nation. The treaty wherein it commits to give ‘parity of esteem’ to another nation is done within the context of that nation being British citizens. Parity of Esteem does not give another nation co-equal ownership of the British state. It is a political concept that addresses how different nations can co-exist within one state in a world where there are between 7000-10000 nations but only 194 states. Parity of Esteem is not promoted by the British state as a transition to an Irish nation-state for the members of the Irish nation in Northern Ireland but as an alternative to it.

    You are no more entitled under international law to demand that the road signs in the United Kingdom are in your national language than any other nation in the United Kingdom is entitled to make that demand.

    When you accuse Nelson McCausland of sectarianism you are unwittingly affirming the political system that denies you your right to a nation-state. How so? Because Nelson McCausland is simply passively asserting the right of his nation to self-determination. By accusing him of sectarianism, you are accusing everyone who asserts the right to national self-determination of sectarianism. Fine, but you should understand that if the assertion of that right is impeded by your claims (and they’re not really your claims since it is the British state that seeks to conflate the promotion of nationalism with sectarianism) then the default position (control of the state by the British nation) will hold without the forthcoming challenge to it.

    Any demand for an Irish nation-state is thereby portrayed as sectarianism. And that is the unwitting delegitimisation of the Irish nation’s right to national self-determination that is being expertly promoted by those whose duty it is to defend the British state. Indeed, the British state, having used the Shinner and Stoop muppets to get the Irish nation in that part of the UK to renounce its right to national self-determination, now uses said muppets to extend its consolidated territory further into Ireland by portraying the right to national self-determination of the Irish nation in Ireland as being sectarianism which must be replaced with the Parity of Esteem model that applies in Northern Ireland (see the relevant chapter of the British-Irish Agreement).

  • Dave

    [b]Continued[/b]

    You, I think, are a nationalist rather than a post-nationalist but you are looking to the wrong state to promote your culture. A nationalist is someone who believes in a nation-state, so most of your comrades in Northern Ireland are actually post-nationalists, having renounced that right for themselves and having been mobilised by the British state to encourage Irish nationalists in Ireland to follow their pitiful example and to renounce it too. In reality, the British state has joint-sovereignty over the Irish language via Foras na Gaeilge set up under the North/South Ministerial Council, and it is using that joint-sovereignty to undermine state support for the language, thereby reversing by stealth the special position given to it by the nation-state of Ireland. Since the game plan is to destroy Irish culture in the Irish state, you should expect the British state to start promoting that culture in the British state.

  • Dave

    “Since the game plan is to destroy Irish culture in the Irish state, you should[b]n’t[/b] expect the British state to start promoting that culture in the British state.”

  • Reader

    Concubhar: Are to call Edward Carson a homophobic bigot by virtue of his prosecution of Oscar Wilde? I wouldn’t say so.
    When did he prosecute Oscar Wilde? (trick question…)

  • Pete Baker

    “And what is equality when it comes to the operation of our qualiified democracy?”

    A very pertinent question, Brian.

    When those who hailed the “indigenous” deal now squeal that the same deal results in unequal treatment – just because they can’t get what they want [or need].

    If it’s unequal, it’s unequal in equal measure.

    Neither of the two designated majoity parties can vote through any decision without the support of the other.

    We have a rigid system in which two rigid parties hold sway.

    For it not to be shaken apart, one or both of those must change.

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Carson,_Baron_Carson

    You’re right Reader – Carson defended the Marquis against Wilde’s libel action – but you get the point….

  • Reader

    Concubhar O Liathain: but you get the point….
    I fully agree in principle that history makes no sense at all if you expect historical figures to act like children of the late 20th Century. (People can be a bit selective in their recognition of this!) However, Pearse was clearly a maverick in his own day too.