The Constitution Once Again

The Constitution Once Again

Worthwhile politics are about change. Barack Obhama came to office on a promise of change and hopefully he will do what he can to effect change in the U.S.A. David Cameron and Nick Clegg both campaigned on a message of change in the recent elections. That is welcome news. We must wait and see the nature of the change that will emerge. Politics can change history. It will be of interest if politics can change the history of voting in the U.K.

To turn to our dismal local politics, is there a politics of change there? I didn’t hear a call for change from that quarter. Sinn Fein want a Socialist Republic for all Ireland but in that we are waiting for a Godot that will never turn up. Politics is the art of the possible so Sinn Fein should stop flogging the dead horse of an impossible Socialist Republic or any Republic. In other words Sinn Fein should change. The D.U.P. are out to maintain the U.K. Constitution at all costs and if change is hinted at the response will be –no surrender and not an inch. In the current election there has been another sectarian referendum on the constitution, as have all elections here been referenda on the constitution since 1921. So there is no change. It’s the constitution once again

The socio-constitutional set up gives a state that has two conflicting heads of state involved, two conflicting national flags been flown, two conflicting national anthems being sung, with two conflicting national passports being recognised as valid. The communities in the cities sulk in ghettoes behind peace walls with the kerbstones painted either red white and blue or green white and orange. But in N. Ireland this set up is accepted as the norm because it is argued— the people are like that. But this attitude typifies the demeaning politics here which says— accept the way things are and can’t be changed so we are stuck with politicians who can’t give a vision of a new and better Ireland as a country as it ought to be. But in the socio- constitutional set–up of the state, N Ireland is unstable and will be prone to violence.

There is now the hype that with the G.F.A. and the S.A.A the constitutional question is settled but the constitution still lies at the heart of all elections here. The change that is needed is constitutional change. I personally see as the only way forward is the change of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to the Federal Kingdom of the Sovereign of Ireland and Great Britain or vice versa depending upon ones point of view. I have published some work on this but my friends say that in doing that I’m throwing my shoes at the clouds. I see that in the constitution suggested for all Ireland sectarianism will wither away but my friends insist sectarianism is so deep rooted in the Irish Psyche and like invasive Japanese Knotweed, it simply can’t be pulled up but even so I soldier on.

There is the further hype that the only concern of the people is the economy The evidence of election results puts the constitution at the forefront of the people’s minds. In that, I’m not knocking economics. As someone with a formal background in the discipline of economics I would be the first to stress the economy as vital to the well-being and livelihood of the community. But basic economic realities have to be faced by our politicians. The size of the state is a factor in its economic growth performance. Small states tend to be poor states The state of Northern Ireland is small and this could be a factor in its lack of a vibrant private sector and its over reliance on the public sector. If David Cameron makes N. Ireland an enterprise zone that could help.

For a state to enjoy economic growth and prosperity the state should be stable. In N. Ireland the constitution isn’t agreed so the state is unstable. In an unstable state the economy is pushed to the wall.

For a state to grow economically the state should specialise in that aspect of its economy in which it has a relative advantage. Ireland, North and South, has a relative advantage in the production, manufacture and marketing of food and that should be made the country’s specialisation and its economic base. That shouldn’t rule out a know-how driven private sector in engineering pharmaceutics electronics and tourism with a reliable banking system that lubricates the wheels of industry commerce and households.

All of that however is by the by until we get politicians and a politics that promote radical change especially of the constitution because it’s the constitution that divides the people here and partitions the island.

Michael Gillespie

  • People did want a change in the UK, probably not those we are threatened wioth.

    40% preferred Brown in a crisis to Cameron (36%) and Clegg (12%) so that change will be regarded as a mixed blessing.

    Only the Tories (47% of MPs) and their Lib-Dem cohorts want a 5 year Parliament and a change in our constitution to require a 55% vote for a No Confidence motion to be carried in the Commons. Funnily enough the Tories plus the Lib-Dem payroll vote gives them a tiny overall majority.

    Having misled so many as to their natures and intentions those who claim to have won the election set about retaining their grip as any totalitarian would, with a big procedural fiddle.

    Didn’t Hitler come to power with 31% support in an Election and go on to bigger things?

  • Greenflag

    ”Small states tend to be poor states’

    Denmark , Luxemburg, Norway, Switzerland, Israel , Finland , Austria , Belgium , Netherlands are all small states and yet apart from Israel I believe they exceed the larger European states such as Germany, France , UK and Italy in terms of GDP per capita . Then there is India , China , Pakistan , South Africa , Ukraine , Russia , Mexico , Brazil , Indonesia etc etc who are all ‘large ‘ states with huge populations many multiples of the above smaller states but all way down the list in terms of GDP per capita

    ‘ my friends insist sectarianism is so deep rooted in the Irish Psyche’

    Your friends are wrong . Never mistake a pimple for the pox or vice versa . The NI State was built on sectarian roots and in it’s construct and first 50 years of existence sectarian roots were deepened and political differences aggravated. When the NI State disappears or withers away the sectarian roots will decay also .

    ‘I personally see as the only way forward is the change of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to the Federal Kingdom of the Sovereign of Ireland and Great Britain or vice versa depending upon ones point of view.
    ‘ I have published some work on this but my friends say that in doing that I’m throwing my shoes at the clouds. ‘

    Your friends are right . Most Irish people recognise the close economic and social and historical relationships which exist between both islands and believe in continuing to develop those relationships . Both islands are part of the EU and are part of a common labour market . We share many of our values with Britain and in an increasingly secular Ireland that will probably longer term make both islands more similar than dissimilar . However there is still the ‘legacy of history’ which is not as easily changed .

    From this point in time it’s difficult to see how longer term the individual nation states will function politically within a future European Federation but it’s perhaps in that context that both Ireland and the UK will find a better and less anxiety ridden relationship with each other .

    There may come a time when the Irish nation as a nation and people will say ‘sod this independence for a lark -we’d be better off as part of the UK ‘

    While that may have been historically and economically true in the first 50 years of independence it has become increasingly less true in recent decades -the current economic crisis notwithstanding . When all is said and done Ireland remains despite it’s current position within the eurozone whereas the UK is exposed to the predelictions of international currency speculators and investors who will drive down the UK’s currency if the new Government does not take immediate action on the deficit -regardless of the impact on most people in Britain .

  • Alias

    Every opposition party campaigns on a policy of change. If they didn’t they’d simply tell voters to return the present incumbents. The vague mantra of change might be “a good thing” when it applies to the internal workings of states such as a change of government (although the vacillating idiots who vote according to such whims rarely pull a treat from the Lucky Dip bag) but it is criminally stupid guide to apply to the fundamental principles that underpin the workings of a state.

    A constitution is a function a state and a state is a function of a nation, and all are a function of the right to self-determination. If the two nations of Irish and British are to each to have a right to self-determination then that will require the continuance of two constitutions and two states. Two nations equal two states. The GFA consolidates two nations, and while folks may have voted for it guided by a vague desire for change, they actually voted for an arrangement that is not one-nation, one-state solution but a continuance of the status quo.

    It might be sweet to those irredentists who never recognised the right of the Irish nation if 85% of the population of the “island of Ireland” and 100% of the population of Ireland decide that they should be subject to the veto of another nation and its state and accordingly give up their inalienable right to self-determination and dismantle their nation-state to facilitate that renunciation of national rights, but even if that treachery transpires, it won’t last a generation.

    It is more likely to be the case that the rise of English nationalism will put an end to the union, as they become ever more sick and tired of pampering a bunch of fickle ne’er-do-wells and their wholly unmerited sense of entitlement. If that happens, the Irish, being a charitable nation, will probably consider some federal Ireland wherein the British nation can have some level of autonomy.

  • Alias

    Typo: “….those irredentists who never recognised the right of the Irish nation to self-determination persuaded 85% of the population of the “island of Ireland” and 100% of the population of Ireland…”

  • Greenflag

    Ironically Dave Cameron’s election and his coalition with the Liberals seems to have knocked back the rise of the little englanders . The BNP and UKIP all lost votes in an overall higher turnout . It’s entirely plausible that had Gordon Brown cobbled together Scotland/NI/Wales plus Lib Dems and the London region in a ‘progressive coalition’ that that might have sparked off a rise in English ‘nationalism ‘

    Self determination is all very well in theory . As I’ve said before what does it mean in practice for any small or indeed large nation when it comes face to face with the IMF and/or the international banking cartels and credit rating agencies ?

    As for the fickle n’eer do wells -a read of Dermot Scally’s report yesterday in the Irish Times on the fiscal realities of many German cities is worth looking at .

    Apparently some elected Town Councillors in Wuppertal when faced with a 1,000 page contract from a banking consortium which was offering a ‘bridging loan’ to help the city through it’s revenue shortfall just signed the papers .

    How many people read the 30 odd pages (up from 1 or 2 -20 years ago ) on their credit card agreement s?

    BTW there won’t ever be a Federal Ireland . We have enough government . For any British ‘nation’ in Ireland given it’s geographical concentration in the North East I’m sure an accomodation would be reached if it ever came to that .

  • Alias

    There is only one option for unity under the British Irish Agreement, Greenie: a federal Ireland within the UK.

    That is the option that is currently being progressed via Strand 2 (Ireland/United Kingdom Ministerial Council and British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference) and 3 (British-Irish Council) of that Agreement. Strand 2 gives the United Kingdom sovereignty over key political, cultural and economic institutions of the Irish state (including the Irish language). This sovereignty is now managed jointly with the UK, with that nation and its state holding a de jure veto over all of the functions of the Irish state that are transferred to it. Thus the principle that the Irish nation does not require and is not entitled to self-determination in order to manage its internal affairs is established. This veto by a foreign nation and its state can be seen as the emergent government of a federal state wherein two non-sovereign nations can share the state.

    There is no option provided in the GFA or the British Irish Agreement for a sovereign Irish nation – only for a sovereign state (not the same entity). Article 1 (v) imposes a binding constitutional obligation on the government of any unified entity to act with “rigorous impartiality” between the two competing nationalisms of Irish and British. Any government that is required to act with “rigorous impartiality” between two competing nationalisms cannot be partial to either nationalism, so that rules out an Irish nation-state and makes the Irish nation at all times subject to a veto held by the competing British nation.

    This competing nation which is to hold this veto is also to hold a competing nationality under Article 1 (vi). While the British nation is not required to identify itself as Irish, having the alternatives to “identify themselves and be accepted as Irish or British, or both” it is not specified in the treaty whether this rejection of fidelity to the Irish nation allows for an either/or option in regard to nationality or if that option is confined solely to the nation. It is hard to see, however, how the British nation could reject its status as a part of the Irish nation if it was required to accept Irish nationality. It is therefore more likely to be the case that The International Court of Justice will have to interpret this part of the treaty between the two states. It is hard to see how it could not decide that the either/or option in regard to the nation must be extended to an either/or option in regard to nationality.

    If that is the case (and it is likely to be pre-determined as such, hidden thusly within the treaty), then there is no option in regard to unity other than to re-unify within the United Kingdom, using British constitutional structures to manage the issue of how one million residents of the state who would otherwise not be its citizens could be managed by that state.

    So that is the path to re-integration into the UK as set out in the GFA. Indeed, the UK itself is an alliance of non-sovereign nations who have a “shared future” within a “UK of equals” with “parity of esteem” between them so the whole gist of the GFA is simply about promoting British constitutional structures.

    On the other hand, if the English wise-up within the next few decades and boot the parasites out of the union then all bets are off since it won’t be possible to enforce a treaty with a state that no longer exists. If that occurs, then it will be a case of devising a structure whereby the British nation in a corner of Ireland have some degree of autonomy over their internal affairs.

  • Alias

    Typo: That is the option that is currently being progressed via Strand 2 (Ireland/United Kingdom Ministerial Council) and 3 (British-Irish Council and British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference) of that Agreement.

  • You have a strange, twisted conception of “sovereignty”, Dave. Strand 2 institutions are not subject to British sovereignty – they are controlled entirely by politicians from NI and the RoI. David Cameron is not invited. Just because NI remains part of the UK does not mean that all of its actions are controlled by the UK government. That’s what devolution is all about – autonomy of action.

  • Greenflag

    alias ,

    ‘if the English wise-up within the next few decades and boot the parasites out of the union’

    I would’nt worry it’s never going to happen . When it comes to matters Irish or Ireland -English political wisdom has always been in short supply if not almost entirely absent . If booting out the ‘economic ‘ parasitical regions in the UK were to become English policy then the UK would be reduced to south of a line from the Wash to the Bristol Channel . Despite the overweening greed of the City of London’s financially ‘astute’ genii I don’t see them getting away politically with such a scenario . NI is too small to matter either way in the overall UK context .

    As AG says your use of the term ‘sovereignty’ has a dated fell to it in this ‘globalised ‘ world . I could say ‘it’s the economy stupid ‘ is what really matters but that would be labouring the point .

    The GFA is the only deal. The current NI power sharing Assembly is the means . If and when any referendum is held and if the result was for a UI -I don’t have the slightest doubt that the British Government would be only too glad to pack the bags . They can benefit more from a UI at peace and politically stable and as a major trading partner .

    Whether the ‘defeated ‘ in such a scenario i.e the unionists would accept such a result or would try to subvert or prevent any move to a UI is a matter for unionists to decide . They are imo capable of going either way .

    I can’t see a Federal UK & Ireland on the horizon any time soon if ever . But on a practical level I can see increased cooperation between both states with a lessening of historical antagonisms and with people continuing to move back and forth between both islands as they always have .Far better for the English to leave the Irish (North and South ) to resolve their internal issues on this island . Absolutely no point in exporting those issues to England /Britain where they have little or no relevance . I can see rejoining the Commonwealth as a symbolic step of reassurance to those of British origin in Ireland and I see Irish participation in NATO or in a formal mutuall defence alliance with the UK as only common sense in both islands interests.

    But do I want to see an Irish political party hold the balance of political power at Westminster ? No way. Not good for Ireland and not for England/Britain either . Could it ever happen ? Not in my time but who knows what the world will look like politically and economically a century from now ?

  • Michael Gillespie

    Green Flag

    I would point out to Green Flag that the smallness or largeness of a state are relative. N. Ireland is relatively very small in relation to the North European states listed and these states are relatively large enough to sustain an economy that gives a comfortable standard of living to the people. N Ireland is relatively very small and this smallness is a handicap to the state in providing the people with a comfortable standard of living but has to rely on grants. The North European states listed are also stable. N. Ireland isn’t and that is a further handicap to economic growth in the private sector here.

    I had better explain where I’m coming from. I’m a pragmatist who lives in an observable country not a theoretical one. As a pragmatist I’ve no time for theorists who expound cloud- cuckoo- land cock-eyed theories in a high jinks of intellectual gymnastics and mental contortions usually backed up with a battery of statistics In Ireland such theories abound about the country. Politics should be based on observation not on theory. Theory is the curse of Irish politics.

    To quote Green Flag

    “ When the N. Ireland state disappears or withers away its sectarian roots will decay also”.

    This is old- hat dog-eared Republican theory and is part of the Republican wish list. A pragmatist would point out that there exists an observable Protestant community in Ireland the bulk of whom are loyal to the Crown in varying degrees of intensity. A pragmatist would also point out that loyalty to the Crown is a praiseworthy human attribute, which should be fully given free expression and public display in a democracy. Catholic Republican theory would suppress and crush Loyalty to the Crown as can be observed in the 26 county Republic. In that state Protestant loyalists have left so that such loyalists are observably as scarce on the banks of the Shannon as Sioux Indians are on the banks of the Mississippi. It is this knowledge of the fate of loyalists in an Irish Republic that maintains N. Ireland as a state constituted apart. If the state of N. Ireland is to disappear a new constitution for all Ireland will have to be drawn up which recognises the human right to express loyalty to a reformed Crown through out an Ireland in which there is no inconsistency in being loyal to a reformed Crown and in being Irish. That isn’t theory; that’s pragmatism.

    Green Flag also writes: –

    “ The individual nations will function politically within a future European Federation but it is perhaps within this context that both Ireland and the U.K. will find a less anxiety ridden relation with each other”

    This is a rehash of the cock-eyed theory put around by John Hume many years ago that a post – nationalist E.U. would sort out the Irish problem. The Provisionals blew up this theory, when, master minded by Republican theory, they embarked on a lunatic campaign to bomb U K Constitution in Ireland out of existence and bomb a Socialist Republic into existence. This lunacy was defeated and a defeated Sinn Fein
    opposed to the E.U. now sit at Stormont, Republicans in theory only, but in their observed behaviour as M .L .A. ‘s are now crypto- unionists propping up a right wing Union Jack Unionist Assembly happy to feel their wallets being made fat by the British Exchequer. That isn’t theory; that’s pragmatic observation.

    John Hume also made the pragmatic statement — We are a divided people–. A pragmatist would ask – What divides us?— A pragmatist would answer—The Constitution –.A pragmatist would ask—What can be done?—A Pragmatist would answer – Scrap the damned thing and put something better in its place— That’s pragmatism.

    The theory of a Federal U.K. is also canvassed. America is constituted as The Federal United States. In this each state is subservient to a powerful central government in Washington A pragmatist would ask, would the notion of subservience to a powerful Westminster go down well in Scotland and Wales and is that the trend in those countries. Surely not but subservience could be perfectly acceptable to backwoods unionists in N. Ireland.

    In my pragmatic published writing I advocate the constitution be changed to The Federal Kingdom of the Sovereign Nation of Ireland and Great Britain or vice versa with a reformed Crown as Head of State for the Federal Kingdom That is doable in the pragmatic published National Government of Ireland Act which envisages a close friendly peaceful working relationship of cooperation coexistence and coequality between the two islands. A subservient relationship in a Federal U.K. would be a completely different kettle of fish.

    Michael Gillespie