Towards a Sinn Fein First Minister – how we got here

There has recently been some erroneous reporting of the situation surrounding the election of the First and deputy First Minister. It might be useful to outline the issues.

The relevant legislation is section 16 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998. That section originally had a total of 6 lines that governed the election in subsections one two and three. The procedure was that any two MLAs were to be jointly nominated by two other MLAs for the offices, and the Assembly had to approve the nominations with the support of a majority of Unionists and Nationalists.

That was pretty simple. The Assembly had ownership of the offices, could dictate who held them, and was at liberty to replace them as it saw fit. If the offices couldn’t be filled within a period of 6 weeks, the Assembly was dissolved and an election was held.

However section 16 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 was totally pulled apart by section 8 of the Northern Ireland(St Andrews Agreement) Act 2006. It is now a complicated mess of three parts, with different provisions consequential to each other contained in different parts. The Offices of First and deputy First Minister are now solely in the gift of the leaders of the biggest parties of the two designations. The Assembly has no role in the selection, ratification or re-appointment of the First or deputy First Ministers. In a nutshell, the leader of the largest single party in the Assembly is asked to nominate the First Minister, and the leader of the largest party of the other designation (which is messy in itself, in that MLAs and not parties designate) that is asked to nominate the deputy First Minister.

The Parliamentary passage of that clause is quite interesting. The Bill was pushed through the Commons in one day, the 21st of November 2006, and through the Lords the next day. The debate in the Commons began at 3:30pm and ended when time ran out according to the accelerated passage procedures at 10pm. The Bill had many amendments tabled to it, two of which related to clause 8. The Liberal Democrats amendment would have removed the offending sections of the clause, and the Lady Hermon/Conservative amendment would have required the Assembly to have a say.

As can be seen, the debate of six and a half hours managed to only get through one of the two dozen or so amendments selected. None of the amendments to amend clause 8 were called.

The passage of the bill in the Lords is a more interesting story however. Lord Trimble tabled an amendment to Clause 8, which was called for debate. His amendment number 6 would have, like the Lib Dem amendment in the Commons, removed the offending paragraphs from clause 8, and pretty much kept the Belfast Agreement method of electing (as opposed to selecting) the FM and dFM. Lords Brown and Morrow (DUP), voted for the amendment, with the government majority ensuring that it did not pass.

The next vote however, was on whether clause 8 should stand as a part of the bill at all. Voting against keeping the clause in the bill would have left section 16 of the Northern Ireland Act totally untouched, and retained the Unionist veto on who was First Minister. Lords Browne and Morrow voted to keep clause 8 in the Bill. They therefore voted to change the election of the FM and dFM to the present system.

Below are Lord Trimble’s remarks on what effect that would have.

What that would mean in effect is that if we had the Assembly election and a majority of the Assembly Members returned were unionists, but the unionist vote was spread over several parties with the result that one nationalist party had more Assembly Members than any one of the unionist parties, that nationalist party would nominate the First Minister. So, having set out a process in new Section 16A whereby the First Minister will come from the largest designation—the largest group as between unionists and nationalists—it is now suddenly turned on its head if, in the vagaries of the election, one nationalist party gets more Assembly Members than any one of the unionist parties. To put it crudely, and I am sorry to have to do so, it seems that this is a simple fix. It was probably done at the behest of Sinn Fein and the DUP, the result of which will enable the DUP to go around Northern Ireland saying “Vote for us or else you’ll get Martin McGuinness as First Minister”, and will enable Sinn Fein to go around the country saying “If all nationalists vote for us there’s a chance we’ll get Martin McGuinness as First Minister”. It is a crude device which people will say is the result of the law, and it will be used to polarise the electorate. You can imagine the effect that that is going to have on politics.

It is quite inappropriate. The original proposals were better. Indeed, best of all were the provisions in the Belfast agreement which provided for a joint election of the First and Deputy First Ministers. That meant that there had to be agreement between the relevant unionist and nationalist parties on who would be elected. As a consequence, it meant that we would have had a say. It was my intention, bearing in mind the options it offered, that if we had a situation where Sinn Fein got more seats than the SDLP so that the Deputy First Minister would come from Sinn Fein, I would have used the influence given by the joint nomination to ensure that the individual who was nominated by Sinn Fein was someone likely to command respect across the community as a whole and thus able to carry out his functions effectively. That was the advantage of the original provisions.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I would have used the influence given by the joint nomination to ensure that the individual who was nominated by Sinn Fein was someone likely to command respect across the community as a whole and thus able to carry out his functions effectively.

    SF love it when unionists dictate to them and tell them what to do. As such, it’s a system that works incredibly well.

  • Medillen

    This was a DUP demand at St Andrews founded in their arrogance that they would always have the numbers ah well obviously a huge Sinn Fein concession at the time. Bad negotiators eh,

  • iluvni

    St Andrews should have been subject to a referendum.

  • Harry J

    ffs quoting trimble.. the man let the IRA out of jail!!!

    St Andrews should have been subject to a referendum. ……….

    why? the GFA ws and yet the Ulster Unionists went ahead and broke every promise they made before the referedum – remember no guns no government

  • Marcionite

    Harry J it’s not guns but the will to use them. SF have lots of bread knives at home but noone asked them to hand them. This is old talk anyway..

    As for the point Michael Shilliday makes, its a valid point and Trimble’s assessment of it is spot-on. It made for polarisation.

    The original OFMDFM rules as per GFA were adequate. While one may understand the need for St Andrew’s, I do not understand how any political party could have seriously objected to the principle of largest party of largest designatin getting FM post.

    Does anyone know why the DUP objected to this in principle as such? We know why they objected to this in terms of narrow party expediency but did they at least attempt to peddle some kind of principled objection to the GFA rule?

    However, let’s look at this rule change another way, it may encourage the moderate parties to get their act together and form a merger themselves to outflank the extremes. However, how would such a merged entity designate itself?

    Is it allowed for members of one party grouping to split designations?

    Such a merged entity could force yet anoher renegotiation to give the non-aligned bloc a veto and even a 2nd post of DFM perhaps.

    SDLP/PUP/left wing of UUP – if you are reading, this is the way forward.

    I agree the GFA is flawed in institutionalising sectarianism but it was a necessary eggshell. I think the time has come for the moderate parties inside the egg to club together and break the shell to form the birth of non-sectarian politics which could cast the designation-basis to the corner of obscurity

  • Medillen

    SDLP/PUP/left wing of UUP.

    Good luck

  • joeCanuck

    There is no chance that the DUP or SF will agree to anything that might strengthen the other party this side of an election.
    Something that might work is to have the whole “cabinet” (hopefully smaller) designated by the largest party of both designations (or non-aligned largest or second largest party) and for there to be an official opposition with relevant expenses, perquisites etc.

  • Marcionite

    Medillen perhaps but most MLA’s read this blog and any worthwhile ideas are worth posting.

    Everyone I don’t mean to preach but should a new organisatin be formed that comprises the more reasonable supporters and/or members of all parties to act as a catalyst for helping likeminded souls who actually are within the highly fenced political parties to come together and discuss such kernals of ideas?

    Such an organisation could act as a political primordial soup, waiting for the lightning of an idea to invent the living cell of a healthy body politic.

  • koan

    Michael, the revised mechanism may be messy, but in the eyes of the ‘ethnic entrepreneurs’ in whose image both the GFA and the StAA were created, the logic of the revision is consistent and inexorable. It has been stated many times now that we did not inherit a democracy from the ‘Peace Process’ but a transformation of the conflict….and this explains why the political class will continue to drift apart from the concerns, passions and identities of an up and coming generation for whom politics is best left to those who wish to make a spectacle of themselves.

  • Alias

    Good post. A question I’d like an answer to is who changed the method of appointing the First Minister and Deputy First Minister from the method outlined in the St Andrews Agreement to the method that appeared in the Bill and the Act?

    Here is the method agreed as it appears in Annex 1, Article 8 of the St Andrews Agreement:

    “An amendment would be made to the 1998 Act on appointment of Ministers in the Executive. The Nominating Officer of the largest party in the largest designation in the Assembly shall make a nomination to the Assembly Presiding Officer for the post of First Minister. The Nominating Officer of the largest party in the second largest designation in the Assembly shall similarly nominate for the post of Deputy First Minister. The d’Hondt procedure will then run, as already set out in the 1998 Act, to fill the Ministerial posts in the Executive.”

    http://www.nio.gov.uk/st_andrews_agreement-2.pdf

  • Alias

    Err, Annex A, Article 9 (Strand One issues).

  • The only way out of this whole mess is to vote for parties that will actually sort it out. The dupes and sf have already proved themselves incapable. Most Unionists are already voting Conservative & Unionist, as has been seen in the last few elections. Now it’s up to nationalist/republicans to see if they can vote for a moderate party, rather than a terrorist linked extremist party. If they can’t and Stormont comes down, then so be it, lets just have integration, direct rule, and it will show that nationalists were not able to support a party capable of bringing deadlock to an end.

  • Driftwood

    II
    Spot on. If the vicar of dibley parochial council (Stormont)is inept,and it is, let it go. We have a Northern Ireland Office and a Select Comittee for NI affairs at our National Parliament. That should suffice for 2% of the UK populace, never mind 26 local councils and a vast multitude of quangoes duplicating every facet of life here to the point of bureaucratic smotherment.
    Integrationist Direct rule from a Conservative administration is the only way forward that can work for ALL of us, bar a few loony SF /P-RIRA and DUP separatists. We shouldn’t let these parochial bigots dictate the agenda.

  • Stewart

    I don’t understand what moderate unionism is?

    Is it marching behind Reg Empey & co. in their sashes & their terrorist supporting bands in july?

    Is marching behind banners glorifying UDA & UVF terrorists regarded as mormal in this society?

    Will Cameron be over in July 2010 to march behind the UVF bands as the Orange Order exercise their right to celebrate their ‘tradition’ as they pass by the homes of the victims of loyalist murder squads in Ardoyne?

  • Garza

    The DUP got unionism into this “hole”, it is their fault, no-one elses, and played into SF’s hands. They are paying for their arrogance and their willingness to play orange vs green.

    Whether Martin becomes FM or not is irrevelant to me and many other unionists. Martin McG IS FIRST MINISTER as is Peter Robinson, one can’t do something without the other, hence why its called powersharing.

    Sure many republicans will get their egos stroked as a cat may purr when you stroke it, but it means nothing. A United Ireland will not come any closer with a SF FM, it might bring a border poll closerwhile unionism goes through transition, but any unionist and the majority of nationalists know how that will turn out.

  • georgieleigh

    Excellent and exclusive analysis Mr Shilliday.

    And great comments, particularly by koan.

    Credit to Slugger, this thread.

  • someone

    Stewart,

    Moderate unionism would be none of the above. The OO comprises c.35k out of population of c.1.8m – most of us unionists are not members, do not watch their parades, and are rather embarrassed that people think such things are associated with unionism.

    As a unionist I am Irish, which as far as I’m concerned is a type of British same as Welsh, Scots or English. I think it is really sad that some unionists have abandoned that in the face of SF propaganda and deny that Irish is the adjective for them. If I had time I’d learn the Irish language for fun as I consider it my heritage, and sometime I might watch some GAA if I knew friends who were going to cheer the local team. I want NI to be a prosperous and peaceful part of the UK, and seen that way by HMG not as a “problem” to be dealt with!

    As for the DUP I just wish they’d agree this P&J package and get back to attempting to govern NI – but I think they are not up to it and prefer the limelight of a crises. What really pisses me off is that I can’t vote the incompetent muppets out of the executive. Which brings me to a question for you – how from a nationalist point of view can we move away from this ghastly mandatory coalition to something that both provides better government and democracy yet deals with your historic fears of “majority rule” or whatever?

  • someone

    Yes I forgot to say I don’t see what the problem with a SF FM is? For a start they are co-equal anyway, are they not?

    Really I am sick of current unionist politicians – I hope this UCUNF thing works!

  • 0b101010

    Towards a Sinn Fein First Minister

    Lift up one of your colleagues’ many sashes (if you aren’t wearing one yourself) and dry your eyes, we’ve had a Sinn Féin First Minister for years. We got there because a quarter of the voters put him there.

  • John Joe

    Maybe I misunderstand irony, but surely designing a structure to give the largest group the leadership role and limit the capacity for effective opposition was the original Northern Ireland template? Once you establish that principle it’s hard to shake off, or am I the only one who has noticed that?

  • Panic, these ones like it up em.

    Posted by 0b101010

    ” Towards a Sinn Fein First Minister

    Lift up one of your colleagues’ many sashes (if you aren’t wearing one yourself) and dry your eyes, we’ve had a Sinn Féin First Minister for years. We got there because a quarter of the voters put him there. ”

    Some Unionists would need the two joint first ministers to hold hands during statements and press conferences and to kiss before and after for the penny to drop.

    It may help to regularise (modernise) the homophopes attitude to homosexuality which would be a bonus.

    Thats it we really need, a first couple be it hetrosexual or homosexual.

    Is there any Nationalist and Unionist couple out their with the credentials.

  • Henry94

    someone

    As a unionist I am Irish, which as far as I’m concerned is a type of British same as Welsh, Scots or English.

    That is a view of Irishness which is rejected by the vast majority of the Irish people. And if a people can’t define themselves then they don’t exist as a people and the term has no meaning at all.

    You can’t be part of the Irish nation and reject its definition of itself. If you don’t even accept our right to opt for self-government then you are not Irish in any meaningful sense of the word.

    You can believe that Ireland should be part of Britain and still be Irish but only if you accept the right of the Irish to make that decision.

    The defining characteristic of unionism is not support for the union but the rejection of the decision of the people, the Irish, on the question. That puts them by their own choice outside the nation.

  • John Joe

    Panic (I know it was a typo, but…), somehow I think proposing a homophope as FM or dFM would certainly change the tone of the current debate.

    The bottom line is that every ‘political’ solution in NI, including the fudging partition to selectively localise outstanding Anglo-Irish issues, was based around selective inclusion. Practically all the political structures have failed due to an inability to reconcile selectivity with the mindset it engenders (sectionalism, protectionism etc). There wasn’t a real problem with FM election procedures until the realisation that there was a distinct, rather than abstract, possibility of a SF FM.

  • Panic, these ones like it up em.

    Posted by JohnJoe

    ” Panic (I know it was a typo, but…), somehow I think proposing a homophope as FM or dFM would certainly change the tone of the current debate.

    The bottom line is that every ‘political’

    solution in NI, including the fudging partition to selectively localise outstanding Anglo-Irish issues, was based around selective inclusion. Practically all the political structures have failed due to an inability to reconcile selectivity with the mindset it engenders (sectionalism, protectionism etc). There wasn’t a real problem with FM election procedures until the realisation that there was a distinct, rather than abstract, possibility of a SF FM. ”

    My post could have been clearer (sorry)

    Further clarification:

    I believe that what we need is a first couple.

    Now as women are unlikely to keep/or get the top job we really will have to have a first male couple.

    We could make a great social leap in one joint step if this couple were a homosexual civil partnership. It will take something of this magnatude to get the politicians to catch up with social change in the general populace.

  • ding dong

    Henry94 – thanks for rejecting the Irish Unionist, a concept that has been about for at least two centuries.

    The problem remains that the definition given by the so called “Irish nation” is one that seeks to exclude rather than include – it now flys in the face of the previous argument – “you were born on the island of Ireland thus your Irish”

    There is no conflict in being Irish and being a Unionist but there is a massive conflict with being the “politically Irish” and being Unionist because the later form refuses all alternative political definitions

    But thanks for excluding us anyway maybe we need to change the name of this part of the island so as to differentiate ourselves from the irish – if Hatia can do it so could we!!

  • “Lords Browne and Morrow voted to keep clause 8 in the Bill.”

    If they had voted against would it have affected the passage of the Bill? I shouldn’t think so. Isn’t this Unionist squabble akin to bald men fighting over a comb?

    IMO the change will continue to weaken the position of the centre ground parties as campaigning around an Assembly election will focus on the FM post.

  • fin

    Whats the difference in been an Irish Unionist and a Unionist from Northern Ireland who considers him/herself British, or is it the same as the Loyalist V Unionist smoke and mirrors, merely semantics.

    Are all Irish Unionists British by default?

    What would the position of a Unionist be in a united Ireland, British and wanting union with Britain OR Irish and wanting union with Britain (so that they would then be British)

  • Marcionite:

    There is no requirement for all members of a party to designate the same, only a limit on when (re)designation may occur.

    Henry94:

    That is a view of Irishness which is rejected by the vast majority of the Irish people. And if a people can’t define themselves then they don’t exist as a people and the term has no meaning at all.

    “If you’re not a nationalist, then you’re not really Irish”? That’s exactly the mindset that pushed Unionists away in the first place. The majority may not agree, but that doesn’t make the minority opinion illegitimate. Have we learned nothing?

  • Henry94

    Andrew

    “If you’re not a nationalist, then you’re not really Irish”?

    Why are you using quotation marks when you are not quoting what I said?

    Here is what i did say

    “You can believe that Ireland should be part of Britain and still be Irish but only if you accept the right of the Irish to make that decision.”

    Unionism could be an absolutely integral part of Irish politics but it rejects Irish politics. Either you are Irish and we decide together or you are British and you impose your will by force.

  • IanR

    Do those unionist-leaning commentators who are opposed to the current system think that Alex Salmond should be Scottish First Minister?

    Salmond leads the party in the Scottish Parliament with the largest number of MSPs.

    However, if you think in terms of unionist-nationalist designations, the number of MSPs of a unionist persuasion (those from the Labour, Conservative and Lib Dem parties) greatly outnumbers those of a naionalist bent (SNP and a few minor parties like Scottish Socialists).

    So presumably unionist commentators on Slugger think it is anti-democratic for Salmond to be holding the First Minister’s post in Scotland?

  • Henry94:

    Forgive my paraphrasing. Let me quote you verbatim:

    And if a people can’t define themselves then they don’t exist as a people

    And then you say:

    Unionism could be an absolutely integral part of Irish politics but it rejects Irish politics.

    These views are incompatible. Either a disagreement over national identity is manageable within the political system or it is not. You can’t have it both ways.

  • someone

    I find it fascinating how certain republicans take it upon themselves who is entitled to call themselves Irish – they seem to want to constrain identity into rigid little catagories defined by themselves (or rather inherited from the 19th centuary political philosophy of “nation-states”) instead of recognising the diversity of overlapping identities that each human possesses.

    In answer to someone else back a wee bit who seemed confused re Irish Unionist vs Unionist from NI etc. – all synonymous as far as I would see it: Irish=of the island of Ireland, Unionist=considers oneself British and seeks to maintain the UK.

    I’m Irish, I’m a unionist, and if that doesn’t fit into your mental catagories then I politely suggest that it may in fact be your catagories that are wrong, not my identity 🙂

    Anyway noone dealt with my original question: how, from a nationalist point of view, can we move away from this ghastly mandatory coalition to something that both provides better government and democracy yet deals with your historic fears of “majority rule” or whatever?

  • Kevsterino

    someone,

    You ask how from a nationalist point of view how to move away from this ghastly mess. I am paraphrasing you here, but just a quick note. From a nationalist point of view, the answer is reunification of the island of Ireland.

  • LabourNIman

    I think it’s more an issue of who will become first minister. I’m all for SF having the spot of they are the biggest party, as long as it isn’t someone with the background that Mcguinness has.

    SF wants to act like a real, building bridges party? Make someone like Michelle Gildernew FM. But they won’t because they still want to throw it in the faces of unionists..

  • Reader

    Kevsterino: You ask how from a nationalist point of view how to move away from this ghastly mess. I am paraphrasing you here, but just a quick note. From a nationalist point of view, the answer is reunification of the island of Ireland.
    Only because you prefer that ghastly mess to this ghastly mess.

  • georgieleigh

    henry94,

    Who made you arbiter of what is and isn’t Irish?

  • Henry94

    georgieleigh

    Who made anybody? We are all entitled to an opinion. To me the Irish are the people who give their allegiance to Ireland. If the country votes to join the EU you accept it. If we vote to join the UK you accept it and if it votes to leave you accept it. It doesn’t mean you have to agree. An Irish unionist would be somebody standing up in Dail Eireann and proposing that we rejoin the UK and accepting the subsequent vote. They wouldn’t have to be Gaelic or republican. Just Irish democrats.

    The people who hive that allegiance are my fellow countrymen, the Irish and people who do not give it and in fact veto it are not my fellow countrymen. They can call themselves anything they like but they don’t mean what I mean by Irish and I reject their definition.

    If Scotland voted to leave the union tomorrow those who voted to stay would still be Scots but if they used English military power to carve the country in two they would be either British of traitors.

  • PaddyReilly

    Anyway noone dealt with my original question: how, from a nationalist point of view, can we move away from this ghastly mandatory coalition to something that both provides better government and democracy yet deals with your historic fears of “majority rule” or whatever?

    1) You have an elected Stormont as per usual.
    2) After electing to Stormont there is a further election of a Council of Ministers
    3) To be nominated for election to the Council you have to have won a seat in Stormont
    4) The ministers are elected by PR by the electorate of the whole province
    5) There are 9 of them
    6) For the time being this results in 4 Nationalists, 4 Unionists and 1 Alliance
    7) You just leave them to get on with it.

  • either British or traitors

    There’s no room in that dichotomy for a genuine difference of opinion?

  • Henry94

    Andrew

    but if they used English military power to carve the country in two they would be either British of traitors.

    That’s a bit more than a difference of opinion. That’s taking arms against a democratic decision.

  • Henry,

    There’s more to democracy than majority rule; surely NI is evidence enough of that.

  • Henry94

    There is more to democracy than majority rule but even for that you need to accept that a majority exists. Let’s take the north. The majority can’t rule but they have the say on the constitutional position. But if we are all Irish then that say should belong to that majority.

    It is only because unionists exclude themselves from Irishness in any meaningful sense that we have the division at all. Otherwise they would be as interested in having Kerry in the UK as having Derry. They would be advocates of the union for the whole of Ireland and their input would have given us a radically different history had they said yes we are Irish and if the majority are for Home Rule we accept that. No 1916, no partition, no IRA no troubles.

    No Catholic domination in the south, no Orange state. What a nation we would have been. What a nation we could still be if we came together as Irish people. That door will never close but you have to walk through it.

  • consul

    Anyway noone dealt with my original question: how, from a nationalist point of view, can we move away from this ghastly mandatory coalition to something that both provides better government and democracy yet deals with your historic fears of “majority rule” or whatever?

    I’ll have a go anyway but I better qualify this straight away. I’m from the midlands, Leinster so maybe the north of the border republican would not agree with this I don’t know. I assume you mean by something better a conventional majority government vs a minority opposition where 50% of the house or better is required to form a government. Well we have identified that the nature of the political make-up of NI, the tribal thing and that is the kernel of the problem in that the conventional system would be liable to leave one tribe completely in power and the other crowd completely out in the cold. Not so much as a bird-life act much less an ILA. So if the ussuns and themmuns parties can’t be trusted you need a significant change in the political set-up in NI.

    The problem is none of the bigger parties are the sort that everyone could conceivably buy into. It’s that constitutional thing I believe. Clearly a different breed of party is required if your ambitions for conventional politics are to be realized. A different kind of animal. Yeah you know what I’m going to say. The cross-community party. With candidates and electoral bases from both tribes. A world where individuals are nationalists and unionists but parties let citizens make up their own minds. They take the position that the PoC is the correct way to proceed. That would be that unless or until it is gauged that a majority might be in favour of a jurisdiction transfer the matter is parked. In the meantime said PoC party deals with all other issues and commands trust from all sections because it is made up of all sections. And it is this that ensures that people don’t get dis-enfranchised. This is what makes conventional politics possible.

    And it’s been discussed at length in fairness although just how eager to facilitate real change some of it’s would be champions are I don’t know. When they talk of ‘normalisation’ they’re talking about something completely different. They seem to think that normal politics means everyone becoming a unionist. So nothing changes, it’s the same issue as always, the constitutional one. They’re trying to present the two tribes with catholic and protestant as the pertinant labels and are ignoring the fact that unionist and nationalist are the more crucial components to the individuals politics. Not saying a lads religion didn’t often colour his political outlook, but as descriptive terms go wrt politics, people are unionist or nationalist not catholic or protestant. So this other game of sharades is not about monumental change because it is only for one tribe and is therefore not a cross-community initiative. Oh yes catholics can join. But this is neither here nor there because nationalists cannot. Unionists only. One tribe. Sure Sinn Féin are just as cross-community as that. I’m sure a protestant could join if he wanted to. A protestant nationalist. Only a few of them either.

    You see theres just no indication that anyone from either side has any interest in operating in the same party as one of the other shower. People in NI seem to be fed up with the nature of the political set-up there but they’re awful attached to the tribal mentality that renders it absolutely necessary. If you want to achieve this goal then it’s clear what sacred cow will have to be sacrified. I don’t think senior politicians on either side or many of their senior voters are realistically going to change their entire thought process at this stage. A person’s world view is hard-wired certainly by 40. Maybe the younger ones coming through will decide they want to do things differently, I don’t know. But one things for sure, unless or until that change takes place, and it might be a while, I’m afraid your stuck with the ghastly mandatory coalition.

  • Alias

    Henry, the problem with your Redmondite vision of Home Rule within the UK is that it is a British vision that is designed to secure its sovereignty over the territory of Ireland and that is misrepresented via that State’s puppets, the Shinners and ilk, as being an Irish vision.

    To secure it, the Irish nation must accept – as the British state has long declared – that it has no right to a nation-state or to self-determination. Instead it must accept that its destiny is fettered by a veto held by the British nation, and that this veto must be constitutionally linked to the British state.

    In reality you are a unionist who has confused himself with a nationalist. The agenda that you and Her Majesty’s puppets proffer is one where the United Kingdom via its sovereign territory of Northern Ireland annexes Ireland rather than one Ireland annexes Her Majesty’s territory of Northern Ireland.

    Just as the former nationalists in that region have been led by the British state to formally renounce their claim to a nation-state and to self-determination in return for a few self-serving concessions within the British state, they are now being led to argue that the Irish nation should follow their dismal example and also renounce its right self-determination, dismantling its nation-state and replacing it with a replica of Northern Ireland.

    It was the case that unity had the purpose of extending the right to self-determination to the members of the Irish nation who were denied the exercise of that right by partition but HMG cleverly used their puppets in Northern Ireland to redefine unity as being the end in itself rather than the means to the end that it previously held.

    For the former nationalists in Northern Ireland (and they are no longer properly defined as nationalists when they have renounced their right to a nation-state and to national self-determination), unity is now seen as the end in itself. For the British government, however, it is seen as the means to a different end.

    Since those former nationalists have formally renounced their former right, what then is the purpose of Irish people supporting unity of the two separate jurisdictions? It serves no purpose other than promoting British national security interests.

    Should we unify because we want to allow another nation that detests Irish culture to hold a veto over us or should be unify because of an irredentist longing to rejoin our “motherland” or should we unify because we want to financially support a bunch of quarrelsome freeloaders? It can’t, of course, have the old nationalists purpose related to self-determination since this is no longer applicable. There is, of course, now no purpose to unity other than undermining Irish nationalism.

    Because those former nationalists have renounced all rights to nationhood as members of the Irish nation, they are now stuck within a British state. They can no longer argue that they have a right to what they have renounced or that others have a veto over what is renounced. Why then do they even want to unify? No reason at all other than a selfish calculation that it is better to be in a bigger sectarian state where they can be 85% of the one nation rather in a smaller sectarian state where the competing nation is in the majority.

    Or perhaps they want to unify because they think Whitewall wrote the GFA as a blueprint for Nirvana and they now feel a missionary zeal to share this blueprint with the Irish nation?

    You traded your national rights for some privileges within the British state and now you find that you have no hope of ever being able to persuade the British nation to renounce their national rights. So what do selfish and deeply desperate folks do? Exactly what the Security Services expected you to do: sell the British rule to the Irish rather than sell Irish rule to the British.

  • someone

    consul,

    Interesting comments. So if we accept unionist/nationalist as fundamental division which can’t be changed any time soon, where do we go if we seek normal issues/socio-economic based politics?

    A thought, and not one I have thought through, and not one I can see an easy path to achieving:
    An NI Conservative Party with two wings, one nationalist on unionist, and an analogous NI Labour Party. They formulate all policy/manifesto/etc. jointly between each wing of their respective parties, thus mitigating against the “majority rule” problem, except on the sole question of the constitutional position of NI on which point each candidate designates their position. Either one or other party gets in and the other forms a proper opposition. Alliance could always do an analogous Liberal Party third option.

  • consul

    Well I think Labour are uniquely well positioned to begin a long process of sowing organic roots deep into the fabric of the region’s society. This is because Labour are indigenous in the UK and the Republic so could not be construed as partisan on the other matter. I think that if either the Irish Labour party and NI Labour merged with a Northern leader for the Assembly or just developed official links, such a party would naturally take the Labour whip at Westminster; the relationship with Gordon Brown’s party there on the same basis as Scottish Labour or Welsh Labour. On the right the NI Conservatives could do it but the emphasis I think would need to be solely based on the Conservative ethos, if they want to attract nationalists then obviously unionism isn’t going to be conducive to that. Then they take the Tory in London. Or FG could aim for that niche supporting the Tories in London. Or a completely new party who knows. The name of the party doesn’t matter, it’s what’s inside the tin that counts. Now there’s no point in pretending that this is all achievable within a couple of summers. That would just be airy fairy nonsense. In order to succeed at any task in life you have to be realistic about both the scale of the task and the nature of the task. If you don’t correctly identify both of these then you’re doomed to failure before you start. First of all public opinion would need to be shaped towards ditching constitutional pressure groups for your socio-economic based politics. So the local media is instrumental in promoting that idea if it is to gain any meaningful traction. Your ideas on different wings, probably need to be on a transitional basis while the local parties try to build up the nat wing to parity as they already have the start of the unionist wing. But in the fullness of time I think their product should be give us a mandate and we’ll end designation. I think it would take many years, provided of course that those who lead opinion choose to back them. And they would have to build a presence from practically scratch to compete for up and coming generations. But if people were prepared to role the sleeves up and get their hands dirty well the transformation it would have on northern society could be quite profound. It won’t be instant coffee though.

  • Greenflag

    henry94,

    Interesting comments tho very black and white with a lot of truth . Lots of folks don’t like to hear the black and white version unless is suits

    Under your dispensation could somebody be for instance a half traitor ? Anyway at the very least should Ireland (all of it ) not be part of the UK for defence purposes ?.

  • Henry94

    Greenflag

    Who did we ever need defending from besides them?

    I think Ireland should take its place with the other democracies in a mutual defense pact. We should have been in NATO all along in my opinion.