Leinster Says No

Today’s Sinn Fein conference in London on ‘Putting Irish Unity on the Agenda’ begs the obvious question: whose agenda?

The contributors are overwhelmingly from Britain and Northern Ireland, and there are no elected Irish representatives (TDs or MEPs) down to speak. It reminds me of one of those family moments when the adult siblings are debating what they’re going to do with their ageing mother, whilst all the time their mother is in same the room – compos mentis – increasingly irritated at being treated like she’s not there.

It might be worth the conference participants remembering that Article 3.1 of the Irish Constitution (adopted after the Good Friday Agreement) reads:

“a united Ireland shall be brought about only by peaceful means with the consent of a majority of the people, democratically expressed, in both jurisdictions in the island.”

In other words: if a majority of people in the Republic of Ireland don’t want a United Ireland then it doesn’t matter if a majority in Northern Ireland do want one.

An unlikely scenario, perhaps. But a survey by my own company just last month (for a book I am writing), asked a representative sample of Irish adults whether they agreed or disagreed that ‘on balance it would be better for people on both sides of the border if there was a United Ireland’. A slim majority – 55% – agreed (29% agreed strongly): but only a minority of those living in Dublin agreed (47%).

Sinn Fein might anticipate new leverage in Northern Ireland as the largest individual political party, but short of a coalition with Fianna Fail post the next general election in the Republic they won’t have anything like the same sway over opinion in the south. Though that’s a scenario that can’t, of course, be ruled out …

  • GEF

    “a united Ireland shall be brought about only by peaceful means with the consent of a majority of the people, democratically expressed, in both jurisdictions in the island.”

    What would happen if United Ireland Republican/Nationalist parties Sinn Fein and SDLP decided to merge with Ireland’s Fianna Fail and Unionist parties UUP & DUP merged with the UK Conservative Party prior to the coming 2011/12 Stormont assembly elections?

  • Gerald

    I agree the conference is about exclusion, as far as I can judge no speaker has been invited who does not support the peace process 110%. I do wonder why people bother to turn up at such events when all they do is reinforce ones own opinions, much better to have a raft of differing opinions and ideas, then we might all learn something.

    The whole problem with the Peace Process and reunification is the British version of how people should proceed forward is all the MSM and participants like SFG are interested in.

    GEF

    The unionists and British government would find a way to crash power sharing.

  • The above should have read SF not SFG.

  • Stephen Ferguson

    I’ve been saying this for years. People in the South generally do not care what happens in Northern Ireland as long it doesn’t interfere with their day to day lives. Irish unification is a romantic pipe dream for some – but not something they are willing to sacrifice cuts to their front line public services to pay for.

    Unfortunately the rest of this thread will be filled with comments like:

    ‘Ah, sure you can’t trust them old opinion polls…’

    ‘I always tell fibs to pollsters so I’m sure everyone else does…’

    ‘This poll probably didn’t have a big enough sample…’

  • Marcionite

    you can’t trust them old opinion polls

  • Marcionite

    I tell you what would be an interesting debate, one between SNP, Plaid Cymru, SDLP and SF. SF would need to explain to SNP/PC why Ireland needed physical force nationalism whereas Scotland/Wales didn’t and then compare contrast how close each of the nations above are to acheving full independance.
    Did the existance of the IRA infer that Scottish nationalists did not love their country as much because there was no Tartan RA? ditto for Wales

    I know from time to time small organisations like the SNLA and Free Wales Army were formed but these groups were just a dozen nutter with no support whatsoever and thus withered on the vine.

    Would Irish republicans claim that Irelands history was more brutal than Scotlands or Wales?

  • Medillen

    Marcionite,

    Our history’s are very different and our roads to freedom from interference in our country (yet incomplete)have been shaped by the environment and events that pertained. Other than our nationalist goals, similarities end.

  • Jaggers

    Well in 2012, FG are likely to be the biggest party and a coalition with Labour would see them in Govt. The Greens are, like fossil fuels, diminishing rapidly in the polls. However if NAMA and the general economic recovery are competently handled, FF may be forgiven and FG may get flak for being a fairly ineffective Opposition (despite their substantial mandate and their present leads in the polls). Then the prospect of a FF and SF coalition does indeed become a prospect – FF, “The Republican Party” and SF, yes they are closely related at that level but their economic and social principles might be a shade too different, mind you the same might have been said of the Greens.
    With SF in government with FF, it wouldn’t be long before FF were fielding candidates in the North.
    Staging posts indeed….

  • Lugs Brannigan

    This poll probably didn’t have a big enough sample…

  • manichaeism

    I always tell fibs to pollsters so I’m sure everyone else does…

  • Marcionite

    If there was one mistake Irish people made, it was not to undergo The Reformation like Scotlsnd/ Wales did.

  • manichaeism

    Yea, it would be marvellous if we were exactly like Scotland and Wales now!

  • iluvni

    Fuck me, dont say Gerry is away this weekend too?

  • Mack

    Gerard –

    A slim majority – 55% – agreed

    If a nationalist majority emerges in the north, that would be regarded as a significant majority there.

    on balance it would be better for people on both sides of the border if there was a United Ireland

    This is a slightly different question to asking would they vote in favour of a United Ireland. E.g. It’s possible to feel that a UI would inflict costs that you would be willing to bear for nationalistic / idealistic reasons.

    I agree with your general thesis. The owners of the concept of a United Ireland is a party that isn’t particularly relevant at all south of the border and is entirely lacking in credibility with those opposed to a United Ireland north of the border. Taking this and demographics into account, I would guess it’s safe to say a UI is not imminent..

  • Greenflag

    Gerald O’Neill,

    Can we be told how big the ‘representative’ sample was ?

    While it’s true to say that people in the Republic
    are/were never against the idea of a United Ireland it’s also true to say that it has not been a major political pre-occupation as evidenced in the Republic’s recent elections .

    The ‘economic ‘ facts of life in recent times have also impacted public opinion on this issue which will be a non issue for at least the next decade.

    I think it’s fair to say still that a majority of people in the Republic would still vote for a UI not because of any ‘ideological ‘ or political bent but mostly just to put the poor ‘bastards ‘ up North (all of them Unionist and Republican/nationalist) out of their mutually self reinforcing political misery 😉

    There are of course those who believe that both sides in NI actually enjoy each other’s political misery so much that they would’nt know what to do if it suddenly disappeared.

    And then there are some who may be coming around to believe that if both sets of ‘miseries’ were ‘repartitioned ‘ in Northern Ireland then the sum total of ‘misery ‘ on the island would be reduced . Presumably a smaller NI State with a 10 to 15% Nationalist population would be a much less miserable and trying affair for most Unionists and for 600,000 plus Irish nationalists not having to deal with the current NI State and recalcitrant ‘unionism’ would also be a welcome release ?

    I’ve been told I’m wrong though by both sets of ‘les miserables ‘

    The NI parties need to look to Holland to learn how to come to agreement/disagreement in Government .

    Marvellous people the Dutch and an example to Northern Ireland 😉

    After 15 hours of inter party negotiation in a voluntary coalition Government is forced to resign over the Afghan war .

    In Northern Ireland after 40 years of effort including several years of talks about talks and then no talks at all at all, and then even when agreement is reached in theory it’s not seen to work in practice, and the last 100 hour marathon talk in between DUP and SF which even dragged in both British and Irish Prime Minsters for several days and after all that the survival of the current Assembly is still up in the air and may be brought down not because of a war bit because of a small parade through a small town in Armagh which nobody ever heard of until about 10 years ago and which most people are desirous of not hearing about ever again ?

    I think the Dutch way of ‘negotiation’ saves everybody a lot of time , money and wasted effort 😉

  • Ulick

    Tweet from the conference:

    Doherty – we still need to overcome Free State mentality in the south #ldnirishunity

    I’d also add that we still need to overcome the partitionist mindset amongst many northern nationalists and republicans.

  • Marcionite

    a UI right now would be a disaster economically. What’s so special about a UI anyway? It’s an obsession based on folk songs and psychopathic utterings of blackguards like Pearse.

    A UI should be an aspiration but never a main plank of any party. When Doherty the Provo wants a UI put on the international agenda, what is his intention? Does he not know a UI couldn’t happen without unionist consent? How does putting this on any agenda work towards getting consent.

    SF are a party of murderers and supporters of murder. They’re currently only against violence as a tactic and not out of morality. To be blunt, SF still think it was justified to bomb The Abercorn hotel restaurant leaving two young women dead and many without limbs. SF still think those who burnt the diners to death at La Mon hotel are heroes and worthy of veneration. SF still think it was justified to murder Protestant workmen in Kingsmill.

    SF have never said violence is wrong and immoral. Wake up you bunch of Chamberlains and naives, this is a party of fascism and murder and poverty.

    Who really gives a fig about who rules who as long as we have jobs and are able to go about our business. those who obsess about soveriegnty issues are unhealthily obsessed and indulge in a form of political dungeons and dragons. Sad, pathetic, self indulgent, petty and simple

    noone but bigots and pea brains worry about parades and borders.get a life.

  • Alias

    The answer you get is dependent on the question you ask and on the ignorance of the person that you are asking. It is assumed that a united Ireland is still a nationalist agenda but that is a profoundly mistaken assumption.

    A united Ireland had the purpose of extending the right to Irish nation self-determination to the Irish nation who were denied that right by being partitioned within a British state – of creating a united 32-county independent, sovereign nation-state where no other nation held a veto over the exercise of that right to [b]self[/b]-determination.

    It now has the opposite purpose of extending the now legitimised veto that another nation holds into Ireland. It is proposed that the nation-state be dismantled and replaced with a de facto replica of Northern Ireland, wherein this other nation can exercise its veto under similar dysfunctional consociational/constitutional structures as apply in Northern Ireland. In effect, the agenda is about Northern Ireland annexing Ireland rather than vice versa.

    A nationalist is someone who advocates a state for his nation, with the state being the sovereign territorial entity by which the right to self-determination is exercised. You cannot be a nationalist when you advocate that another nation must hold a veto, so those who advocate that are what Hume called post-nationalists, i.e. a nation that has renounced its right to sovereignty.

    A post-nationalist in NI demands the surrender of the Irish nation’s claim to sovereignty over the formerly disputed territory, so it may be discarded as a device that was designed to remove the competing claim to the British territory of Northern Ireland – post-nationalist means post-sovereign which means accepting British sovereignty by no longer challenged its legitimacy.

    An “Ireland of equals” that has two nations with “parity of esteem” between them is an Ireland that is no longer a nation-state, with the Irish nation agreeing to be a non-sovereign nation. The British nation will, of course, have a validated right to self-determination since Great Britain will continue to exist, so it is simply the Irish nation that must surrender its right to unfettered self-determination. Equal national rights mean equal sovereign rights, so the British nation must have equal ownership of the state. In reality, this is only achievable by Ireland joining the UK. However, it could also become a mini-UK under a confederated Ireland wherein the British nation is given a veto over the state and thereby given a veto over the right of the Irish nation to self-determination.

    None of these idiocies will work, so even if one generation is tricked into them by concerted propaganda, the next generation will exit them, leaving the minority British nation dangerously exposed to the massive displeasure of the constricted majority nation.

    Irish nationalism always asserted that there was one nation but two traditions. That was changed by the British government in the GFA to formally recognising two nations with two sets of co-equal and competing national rights. Two nations cannot share one state and both have a claim to self-determination within it since the two competing claims merely cancel each other out. Two nations mandate two states, so your fabled GFA flushed any prospect of a united Ireland down the pan, replacing it with an Ireland divided between two competing nations.

    In reality, there were always two nations so the vision of Irish nationalism of a united Ireland was always a fiction. It remains a fiction, and any attempt to make it a fact with two constitutionally equal nations would be a fast forward to civil war. It is now only promoted by the Shinner touts as a means of undermining the stability of a competitor country to their paymasters and by those who don’t see what it is no longer about promoting Irish national self-determination but about removing it.

  • Lugs Brannigan

    55% seems seriously low for people in ROI in favour of a UI. It depends on how you phrase the question I suppose. “Would you vote for a properous, dynamic, peaceful united Ireland?” 80-95% would say yes.

    Of the 45% who apparently don’t want a UI how many would favour a federal solution? There are several models of federalism and they should be examined. Perhaps a 5 state model with Leinster, Munster, Connaught, West Ulster and East Ulster. With the Irish President and British Monarch sharing the role of Head of State in the two Ulster states.

    NI (with a 60% nationalist majority in 60% of the territory) will not survive in the long term so it’s in all our interests north and south to discuss the future.

  • DerTer

    Alias
    You’ve already told me – on another thread yesterday – that I have no grasp of the notion/concept of national self-determination (you didn’t put it as nicely as that), but this seems to me to be – even in your terms – the pot calling the kettle black. I’m willing to learn, so please: (1) identify and explain the philosophical roots of the kind of national right to self-determination that you advocate (or, better perhaps – since I don’t have to be any nicer to you than you have been to me – you constantly bang on about); (2) define nation (non-territorially, if you please, since geography is so limiting a template within which to define national rights – just think about the Iberian peninsula); and (3) kindly apply your right to ‘national’ self-determination to pre-colonised Ireland, which was of course little more than a patchwork of personal fiefdoms, bailiwicks, and so-called kingdoms – and none the worse in cultural, economic and social terms for that.

  • LabourNIman

    The kind of ignorance shown at this meeting is just usual NI politics for these parties – lets only make NI work if it will lead to a UI.

    Why? Why can’t they let NI just work? Why does it have to have a price?

    Scottish nationalists are happy to see a devolved parliament benefit their people and should a decision be made to have a referendum then they will make a decision then. Until that day it is BAU.

    Conall made a good attempt of hiding his parties hardening stance on UI but ultimately his message is the same – we must convince unionists and non-aligned voters that a UI is the only way we will prosper as a people. Why?

    But then, maybe I’m just a bit p@ssed off that so many politicians will gather in London but not talk about our education crisis or economic problems and how to fix them. No, they just harp on about the constitutional issue and hope no one will notice.

    So much for new politics from the sdlp.

  • Erasmus

    I’ve been saying this for years. People in the South generally do not care what happens in Northern Ireland as long it doesn’t interfere with their day to day lives. Irish unification is a romantic pipe dream for some – but not something they are willing to sacrifice cuts to their front line public services to pay for.
    As a southerner I have to say that I find comments like this irritatingly misinformed.
    If a referendum were held in the ROI it would pass 3:1.
    This poll from 2006 puts the figure at nearly 80% support in the ROI for Irish unity.

    http://archives.tcm.ie/businesspost/2006/04/02/story13121.asp

  • Alias

    DerTer, I’m always happy to help but I suspect that you have a mental block on this subject so it may well be a case of ‘in one ear and out the other’. 😉

    The right to self-determination is defined under international law in the first article of the UN’s ICCPR and in the first article of the UN’s ICESCR as “All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.”

    The function of the state is to serve as the sovereign territorial entity by which the right to self-determination is exercised by the nation. Without a state dedicated to the purpose, the nation is not able to exercise its right to “freely determine their political status and freely pursue [its] economic, social and cultural development.”

    This is why sovereignty is inseparable from the right to self-determination. If you renounce your claim to the territory wherein your right was to be exercised then you rather obviously renounce your right to self-determination. That is what the catholic tribe in NI were led to do.

    Now, apart from international law, the right to self-determination is defined under national law in the first article of the Irish constitution as “The Irish nation hereby affirms its inalienable, indefeasible, and sovereign right to choose its own form of Government, to determine its relations with other nations, and to develop its life, political, economic and cultural, in accordance with its own genius and traditions.”

    Obviously, Ireland exists for the purpose of allowing the Irish nation to exercise the right to self-determination. The ‘self’ in self-determination refers to the nation in question and not to any other nation. In allowing another nation to hold a veto over the right of the Irish nation to exercise its right to self-determination, you are cancelling that right and making it subject to the discretion of another nation. Rights are entitlements, and not subject to the discretion of third parties.

    In regard to what a nation is, that would only be relevant if a particular nation did not have a validated right to self-determination and wished to make a claim for sovereign territory under international law. Since the Irish state exists, its nation also exists and may be defined under its nationality laws (The Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 2004).

    In terms of the relationship between a nation and a nationality: a nation that is non-sovereign cannot, obviously, have a nationality that is a function of its nation. For example, the Welsh, the Scots, the Northern Irish, and the English are all non-sovereign nations so they share British nationality. The catholic tribe in NI have agreed to live as a non-sovereign nation so nationality has no relevance to them other than as British citizens.

    A nationality is a function of a sovereign state, so Irish nationality is a function of the Irish state, which is itself a function of the Irish nation’s right to self-determination.

    Now, in practical terms, a nation may be defined by which state it is loyal to. So, loyalty to the Irish state would be a good clue that someone is a member of the Irish nation and a good clue that unionists are not. They, of course, are loyal to the British state.

    So what then is a nationalist? It is anyone who agrees with the international law as it is set out the first article of the UN’s ICCPR and in the first article of the UN’s ICESCR, i.e. that all nations have a right to self-determination. If you don’t believe in a sovereign state for your nation then you are not a nationalist. Post-nationalists is the lamentable political space that is now occupied by the catholic tribe in NI.

  • Alias

    Just to add to this that it is no longer in dispute under international or national law that there are two nations on the island of Ireland. Both states signed a treaty stating this (the British Irish Agreement) and Ireland also formally renounced its territorial claim to the sovereign territory of the United Kingdom. This was also made explicit in that there are two rights to self-determination on the island of Ireland. One nation equals one right to self-determination, and two rights to self-determination equals two nations. Also, if there was one nation, then a minority have no right to veto the will of the majority. Since it has such a right, it is indisputable (except to the duped) that there are two nations. So it is really rather pointless to harp on about one nation when there isn’t one but two.

  • Gaining useful information from these polls is like reading tea leaves. Opinion polls by themselves do not predict the outcome of an election or referendum; you need to correct for all sorts of biases. We have sufficient experience to be able to correct for biases in normal elections, but a border poll is unknown territory. Until it happens, there’s no telling what will come out.

  • Raymonds Back

    F*** Leinster. What about giving The Pale back to the Brits and re-uniting the rest of the country?

    (it’s late and I HAVE been drinking…)

  • Stephen Ferguson

    “I’ve been saying this for years. People in the South generally do not care what happens in Northern Ireland as long it doesn’t interfere with their day to day lives. Irish unification is a romantic pipe dream for some – but not something they are willing to sacrifice cuts to their front line public services to pay for.
    As a southerner I have to say that I find comments like this irritatingly misinformed.
    If a referendum were held in the ROI it would pass 3:1.
    This poll from 2006 puts the figure at nearly 80% support in the ROI for Irish unity.

    http://archives.tcm.ie/businesspost/2006/04/02/story13121.asp

    Posted by Erasmus on Feb 20, 2010 @ 11:06 PM

    But, erm, the poll mentioned in the original post says 55% and it’s from 2010. Surely the most recent poll is relevant???

  • Mack

    Stephen Ferguson

    But, erm, the poll mentioned in the original post says 55% and it’s from 2010.

    It doesn’t though. It puts the percentage who think it would be better for people on both sides of the border if there were a united Ireland at 55%. Which is not the same thing at all.

    Southerners voted overwhelmingly for the Good Friday Agreement, my guess is that another referendum backed by all the parties in the south would get the same result (& if it didn’t have wide spread political backing, it would never be run in the first place)..

  • RJ

    My Nationality of Irish doesnt come from the South it comes through been born on the Island of Ireland i can also claim Englishness [or British whatever] through Ansestary who give the South the Right to Decide who is and who is not Irish,
    im Loyal to the Irish Republic and the Irish Flag so therefor im part of the Irish Nation nobody can tell me Different, United Ireland is Different Thing tho i want to see one but not until weve Bankrupt the English Government for all there worth lol only joking a i see a United Ireland someday but im not in a Hurry got more things to worry about like Getting bread in my Cubard and Milk in my Fridge,
    the United Ireland i would like to See would be A Confederacy agreed by Treaty between the north and South which if in Future the Governments of Both may Consent the Confederation can be Transformed into a Federation and the Queen can stay Head of State of the North and the President can stay head of State of the South but thats away off say about 2025 or maybe Earlier
    if Gerry and Martin play their cards right, but 2016 is just a Pipe Dream you never know but lets wait and see,
    but the Best thing for the Assembly and Executive to do is do its dam Job like Investing in the Economy and On Public Services,
    a United Ireland Can Wait, the Norths Governance cant, its been 88 Years a United Ireland can wait a few more give it 10 Years then come back and see,