Republicans and Unionists both need to look at their directions of travel

For some years now I have been of the view that republicanism needs to take a critical look at the direction it is travelling.  I think, in particular, northern republicans need to take a critical look at the type of Ireland we want to see in the 21st Century.

What does it mean to be an Irishman in the north 2010?  For some it is cultural, for others political and historical, while for a few I suppose it’s remains religious.  For me, it is a surreal mixture of all.

I like the GAA but to be truthful I’d rather watch soccer.  I’m proud of the Irish language but I have no more than ‘cupla focal’.  I go to Mass but am critical of the church hierarchy.  I am proud of my country’s history but applaud the British for their stance in the Second World War.

I like Irish traditional music but love British rock and pop.  I supported the IRA campaign but totally oppose those engaged in violence today.  I remember the leaders of Easter 1916 and the hunger strikers but pay tribute to the dead of the World Wars.  I am a walking contradiction.

I look at unionism and I see a people who are similarly confused – a very Irish type of Britishness.  They are loyal to the Crown but rarely their Government.  But for the first time I saw the unionist electorate reject firebrand unionism, this time in the guise of TUV.

Does unionism genuinely want to work with their fellow countrymen in the north?  If so, then it is up to republicanism once again to show leadership and to travel the extra mile for the national good.

As a northern republican I have increasingly believed that a fair deal and true partnership with unionism would lead to a re-evaluation of Irish unification.  The Ireland envisaged by Tone, Pearse and Sands may no longer be achievable or, dare I say, desirable.

It is clear that the Irish people have agreed to unity by consent only. Northern Ireland is here for as long as unionists want it to be.  That is the reality and no small militant factions are going to change that. However there is a real challenge in this for unionism.

If they want Northern Ireland to remain then they have to take a similar critical look at themselves.  They have to accept that many of their neighbours have no allegiance to the Crown and will only give up on their ideals if it is clearly demonstrated that the Northern Ireland of the future is for everyone.

How could this be achieved?

Recognition of the Irish language would help; no more parades in nationalist areas would be a huge step; neutralising emblems would also play a huge role; real cross border institutions would also be necessary.  But the real challenge is to cut your ties with London – be confident in your strength and the safeguards of the Good Friday Agreement.

Recognise that in London you are a very small fish in a very large pond. I didn’t say it was going to be easy for anyone.

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  • Mr Crumlin, you’re looking at a Unionist/Nationalist problem in the straitjacket of a Nationalist context. I see no shared future in that.

  • slug

    Mr Crumlin I liked it ……. but when I got to the bit about London – the thing is that London is is simpliy a fantastic city in all its diversity and history and the love of that large pond is a major part of my make up.

  • Pete Baker

    “then it is up to republicanism once again to show leadership and to travel the extra mile for the national good.”

    “Once again”?

    Aye, right.

    And then,

    “Northern Ireland is here for as long as unionists want it to be.”

    But, “If they want Northern Ireland to remain then they have to take a similar critical look at themselves.”

    Well, which is it? What exactly do you suggest is the alternative should unionists not follow your prescription?

    And if it’s republican “leadership” you’re looking to, why are you exclusively focused on what it is that unionists need to do? Your “How could this be achieved?” would be better addressed at that “leadership”.

    Idols of the cave.

    “Idols of the cave have their origin in the individual nature of each man’s mind and body; and also his education, way of life and chance events. This category is varied and complex, and we shall enumerate the cases in which there is the greatest danger and which do most to spoil the clarity of the understanding.

    Men fall in love with particular pieces of knowledge and thoughts: either because they believe themselves to be their authors and inventors; or because they have put a great deal of labour into them, and have got very used to them. If such men betake themselves to philosophy and universal speculation, they distort and corrupt them to suit their prior fancies.”

  • John East Belfast

    What, practically, do you mean “cut your ties with London” ?

  • Drumlin Rock

    Crumlin, thanks for your view, as with some comments above I think you have misunderstood the thinking of Unionist community with your conclusions, the ties with “London” are very real, I actually feel more at home there than in Dublin, but without descending into the usual British/Irish debate I think we need work on building on our common identity as Northern Irish, and learn to accept both cultures, such as parading and the Irish Language, we are gradually getting there but may I suggest one way Republicans can really help it along?
    Accept Northern Ireland exists, not the north of Ireland or whatever, yes they are fully entitled to say that should be a region of a UI instead of the UK, but the silly pretense annoys Unionists alot, and reinforced the belief that they will have no place in a UI. BTW this also applies to the SDLP

  • Alias

    Mr Crumlin, it sounds like you’re actually arguing for an independent Northern Ireland but just don’t know it yet. If you are, go for it. You folks have much more in common with each other than either of you have with us.

  • Kevin Barry

    Interesting piece; I identify with a lot of the contradictions you have brought up.

    You have mentioned a number things that Nationalists would love to see; here’s hoping someone can do something along the same lines for Unionism

  • Anon

    As a northern republican I have increasingly believed that a fair deal and true partnership with unionism would lead to a re-evaluation of Irish unification. The Ireland envisaged by Tone, Pearse and Sands may no longer be achievable or, dare I say, desirable.

    No, you daren’t. Thing must likely to actually stop a United Ireland: nonsense like this from people who should know better. Republicans need to go back to first principles – that a unified and independent Ireland gives a more responsive and reflective government, and in the long run leads to a more prosperous, more free Ireland. That goes whether you are Catholic, Protestant or other. It’s not about the cultural stuff; it matters, just not that much.

    Republicans are in big big trouble if this is what is coming out of their base.

  • Gingray

    Drumlins
    I couldn’t agree with you more on the issue of people refusing to acknowledge the existence of Northern Ireland, even if they are not happy with it. However this is a two way street, and as a republican I get a little annoyed when I see terms like Ulster and the province being used to refer to Northern Ireland. Lets have less of the inaccurate names being used, particularly by people who should know better.

  • Mr. Crumlin,

    As a republican, what you need to do is put forward a political platform that a majority can sign up to. There’s no point telling political unionism what to do. If it needs done, then take responsibility and do it yourself. Political parties in NI have got too used to telling each other what they should be doing, instead of actually doing it.

  • Coll Ciotach

    I have no interest in any compromise on an Ireland divided territorially. If that is what is on offer forget it – all duck or no dinner I am afraid.

  • Alias

    The constitutional status quo is “an Ireland divided territorially.” That’s what you all signed up to. In declaring that you prefer the constitutional status quo, you’re declaring that “an Ireland divided territorially” is more acceptable to you than “an Ireland divided territorially.” With that logic, it’s no wonder you got screwed…

  • Mr Crumlin

    Correct – I am looking at this purely from a nationalist/republican point of view.

    If Northern Ireland is to remain (as set out in the GFA) then to bring true stability then I believe unionism needs to go much further. In many ways it is unionism that undermines NI – whether that is through triumphalism and the Orange Order or by calling Irish a mickey mouse language.

    If I am to be convinced I have a future stake in NI then I would require the true hand of friendship from unionism.

    If unionists want to make the opposite argument about their requirements from republicanism before engaging in what an united Ireland would look like, then I’m all ears.

  • Mr Crumlin

    I like London too – its a great city. I also like Dublin and Belfast for that matter.

    I think you know the point I was making. Take as many powers as possible from Parliament to Belfast.

  • Mr Crumlin

    A little pendantic Pete.

    However NI will never be a stable place as long as nationalists and republicans have to scrap for every right we have achieved.

    My point is that unionism could make like so much easier for itself if it became overly generous to nationalism/republicanism. In the same way that if Irish unity was achieved then I believe Ireland would have to reach out to unionism. I can only guess at what that could be – maybe Albert Reynolds idea of one third of seats in the cabinet etc etc.

  • Mr Crumlin

    I can see why you say that but I don’t think thats a runner with either community to be honest.

    I agree we have a lot in common.

  • kevin moran

    I can only assume that ‘shared future’ doesn’t translate well into Irish.

  • So (to take your analogy to it’s logical conclusion) you’d rather starve to death in front of a bowl of chicken soup because you’re waiting for some proper food?

  • Mr Crumlin

    I am not aligned to any organisation or party and wouldn’t consider myself as ‘the base’. I am merely articulating my view that something has to change for the good of the whole country – Catholic, Protestant and dissenter.

    I am simply making the point – as a republican what do I believe unionism would have to do to make NI more attractive. It is up to unionists to say whether this is achievable.

    You may be Mr Republican and the keeper of the faith but I believe it is time for us to publicly accept that NI will be here for some time and while it is I would like to see further change to recognise my viewpoint.

    I am not saying I don’t believe in Irish unity – I am saying that I recognise that unionism is not ready for it and while that is the case NI is here to stay.

  • Mr Crumlin

    That may make you feel a whole lot better but it does not deal with the reality of modern Ireland.

  • Mr Crumlin

    Andrew

    this is my first attempt at lateral thinking on this issue. I think we have all become too comfortable in our cultural bodies.

    As a republican I would offer unionism more than the hand of friendship were they to agree to Irish unity.

    This would range from 12 July as a national holiday all over to changes in the constitution stripping out the special status of the Catholic Church to ensuring unionism is part of the coalition government. Maybe even rejoin the commonwealth – the list could be long!

    But I don’t believe unionism is ready to listen to that – so in the meantime I need unionism to hear what I need to agree to the future of NI.

  • I agree that we’re all too comfortable in our trenches – evidence being that the language that is used by even those trying to step out of them is still couched in tribal warfare: “what unionism needs to do” and “what republicanism needs to do”, as if there were only two sides.

    It is my feeling that the current arrangements will need to bed in for a generation before the constitutional issue can be approached in anything close to a rational manner. Until then, the best thing that all politicians can do is leave the constitution to one side and concentrate on the bread and butter issues that affect everyone. If politicians can shed the image that they’re only out to look after their own half of the community, any final settlement will be easier to swallow.

  • Pete Baker

    I tend to be a little pedantic when presented with a disingenuous and intellectually lazy argument.

    “as long as nationalists and republicans have to scrap for every right we have achieved.”

    There you go again. If you had actually achieved a “right” you wouldn’t be scrapping for it now.

    It’s called politics. get used to it.

    Here’s some advice – start recognising the reality of what was an historic compromise by all concerned.

    Bertie Ahern had some, unusually, wise words in April 2008 on the prospects of a united Ireland under a single administration of government .

    “That can only happen in the long term future. How long that will be I don’t know. If it is done by any means of coercion, or divisiveness, or threats, it will never happen. We’ll stay at a very peaceful Ireland and I think time will be the healer providing people, in a dedicated way, work for the better good of everyone on the island. If it doesn’t prove possible, then it stays the way it is under the Good Friday Agreement, and people will just have to be tolerant of that if it’s not possible to bring it any further.”

  • Coll Ciotach

    The only shared future I am willing to to talk about is the shared future we can have on this island without any borders. the rest is just unionism dressed up in fancy talk

  • Coll Ciotach

    I will not be taking the soup, no matter what the flavour put in front of me as it does not taste good to the republicans of the six counties

  • fitzer

    I have to say I am not worried about whether N.I is part of the republic of Ireland or Britain as long as all it citizen are given similar civil rights

  • Dec

    “Here’s some advice – start recognising the reality of what was an historic compromise by all concerned.”

    Really, all? Surely not the Republican’s who’s leadership you poo-pooed in your first post?

    Well, which is it?

    “Unusually, wise words” from Bertie Ahern – shorthand for a pronouncemment you agree with. You no doubt noted that 5 months later in November 2008, he described unity as an “imperative” and not “an empty aspiration”. Presumably you found that “typically unwise”.

    50% +1 – that’s the reality – get used to it.

  • John East Belfast

    Anon

    “that a unified and independent Ireland gives a more responsive and reflective government, and in the long run leads to a more prosperous, more free Ireland. That goes whether you are Catholic, Protestant or other. It’s not about the cultural stuff; it matters, just not that much”.

    that is not the experience of the 26 county attempt from where I am standing – a protestant community reduced from the high teens to less than 3% and prosperity for 15 years out of 90 and now back to bust.

    If you want to convince northern unionists you will have to do a lot better than that and take a leaf out of Mr Crumlin’s book