A United Ulster

I had a fascinating conversation the other day with a man of impeccable Unionist pedigree: Southern Unionist as it happens. His father and uncles had been actively involved in the struggle against Home Rule, active in the arms importation and training sense. What surprised me was his description of their deep and bitter anger at the decision by Edward Carson (a Dublin man, to his shame!) and others to so readily agree to the partition of Ireland. Leaving thousands of Southern Unionists to their fate.

But why were they angry? Hadn’t the thousands who signed Ulster’s Solemn League and Covenant less than ten years before partition at least saved (most of) Ulster for the Empire? That’s what annoyed them: since when had ‘Unionists’ become ‘Separatists’? The same Covenant began by stating that:

Being convinced in our consciences that Home Rule would be disastrous to the material well-being of Ulster as well as of the whole of Ireland… (my emphasis)

The essence of Unionism back then as surely meant the union of the British Isles as the Irish Republic declared in 1916 meant the whole of Ireland. Partition, of course, left neither Unionists nor Republicans with what they had originally wanted.

But my conversation got me thinking. The decimation of the Ulster Unionist party in the recent UK general election points to a sea-change in the political configuration of unionism in Northern Ireland. Many within the broader unionist community are engaged in re-imagining a future direction for unionism in light of these changes. It’s time for unionism to look outward, as it has been put recently.

So here’s my proposal. Why don’t unionists take the opportunity to begin negotiating a new, permanent political re-configuration for these islands, starting now? They have the double advantage of retaining a veto on any referendum on a United Ireland, and a conservative government – their natural ally – in power in Westminster (albeit in coalition). They could negotiate from a position of relative strength (i.e.: relative, say, to ten years time when they might comprise a minority of voters in Northern Ireland).

What would they negotiate? In no particular order, here are some suggestions:

  • a United Ireland on their terms: including quotas for unionist TDs
  • a separate Ulster Authority – comprising the nine counties perhaps, and thereby atoning for the ‘sin’ against so many unionists in Monaghan and Donegal
  • with separate spending and taxation powers the re-entry of the Republic of Ireland into the Commonwealth
  • a permanent inter-governmental secretariat between the new Irish (32 county) and British governments with guaranteed Unionist representation to co-ordinate relevant policy issues (especially vis-a-vis the European Union)
  • Membership of NATO for the Republic of Ireland with closer cooperation between defence forces on these islands
  • The recognition of unionist culture – including the Orange Order – for the purposes of equality legislation etc
  • the rotation of the presidency of Ireland between former Republic of Ireland and former Northern Ireland representatives (though we sort of have that now, come to think of it…)

These are just my thoughts for starters – I’m sure I’ve left off a few key aspirations on the part of Unionists – but it’s an indication of the type of negotiated package I believe they could demand if they were of a mind to do so.

And who knows: it might even be feasible to have it all sorted by Friday, 28th September 2012 – the centenary of the Ulster Solemn League and Covenant. Queen Elizabeth might even pop over to give the new arrangement her blessings. Even Sir Edward would approve I’m sure.

  • Clanky

    Gerard, could you really imagine the Mexicans going for a return to the commonwealth, even if it meant a united Ireland?

  • Clanky

    In their current shell-shocked state the folks ‘south of the border’ could probably be ‘sold’ anything right now that promised a combination of progress/good news/certainty about the future.

    They dropped the original articles 2 and 3 in the constitution as part of the Belfast Agreement without, frankly, a lot of debate never mind soul-searching.

    So yes: membership of the Commonwealth (easier access to Irish emigrants to Canada/Australia/New Zealand?) as part of a package that delivered a United Ireland would be very sell-able.

  • MT

    I have never understood why Ulster Unionists failed to forge links with the devolved Scottish government. Would it be out of the question for the six counties to actually become part of a political state comprising Scotland and NI?

    Alternatively, if they were to negotiate their way into a United Ireland, might it be more palatable if the capital was in Armagh, the seat of the two primates?

  • drumlins rock

    Gerard, I think you are basically saying “unionist accept a United Ireland now before your forced” be really all you have done is hi-light just how poor a deal it would be.

    Qutoas for elected representation is undemocratic and hasnt worked where it has been used.
    Retaining the NI Assembly as it is would be the bottom line, as for 9 counties, most of the Unionist minority were forced out of the other 3 counties since the 26 left the UK, the wisdom of retaining six was tough but right.
    The Commonwealth, sadly, is basically meaningless apart from a token jesture, although even as such I think the Republic should rejoin and make its Unionist residents feel more wanted.
    I personally hate “secretariats” and their like, once again they are undemocratic and either become toothless talking shops or government by committee.
    Dont think NATO is high on Unionist agendas, and as what your suggesting is a UI there would only be the mickey mouse army left.
    Unionist Culture like any other is protected under European law, cant see where anything could be gained there.
    As for the presidents role, its meaningless!

    You are going to have to make a much better pitch than that mate.

  • Brian Walker

    Perhaps this is a solution without a problem?

  • Dear god.

  • Alias

    Or a solution that is a problem. It’s true that you can sell the gullible Irish anything once you sell it to them through their political leaders but the fraud is only sustainable for as long as they believe that their leaders are serving their national interests and not the interests of a foreign state. The best way for the British nation to find itself on the losing side of a civil war with 85% of the territory is to impose itself and its state on another nation in the form of a veto over their inalienable right to national self-determination. Irish quislings make poor Ulster patriots…

  • Tochais Síoraí

    ‘tough but right’ from your standpoint, Drumlins but not that great for the majority nationalists ithat comprised half of the territory of the new NI state, That is slightly more ‘undemocratic’ than quotas (which you are right about)

    Also, can of worms time I know but ‘forced out’ is a gross exaggeration do you not think – that was what happened in post WWII Europe with the massive population transfers in Poland, Czechoslovakia etc. It was a ‘cold house’ alright for Protestants in C, D and M but white flight (along with the ongoing ne temere rule of the catholic church) might be a more accurate description of most of it.

    Better pitch needed, yup you’re prob right there but maybe unionism needs to stop burying its head in the sand as well. 50+1 might never happen.

    But it might.

  • Thats the sort of talk that sends the SNP shivering into darkened rooms.

  • cavanman

    While I’d agree that political reconfiguration is the next great project of the Unionist/Nationlist population, why does any emphasis on Unionist values have to come with a disparagement of Southern values?

    We’ve all had to accept compromises, both in North and South. I swallow the fact that Ulster is incorrectly bandied around but I still have Irish values that preclude me from having notion of wanting to be part of a British State.

    It’s rancid crap to suggest there wasn’t a great deal of soul searching on 2/3 but the strain of pragmatism in the Irish psyche won out. So drop the idea that the Irish nation is somehow going to be led by it’s chequebook as the present crisis is just that….I wouldn’t insult any unionist by suggesting that their values are only as thick as the cash wad being waved in front of them.

  • Driftwood

    their values are only as thick as the cash wad being waved in front of them.

    Cavanman, sums up the SF/DUP coalition precisely.

  • Tomagaddy

    Given the huge economic turmoil that is being and is about to be unleashed across Europe in the next few years isnt now the time for the people of the Republic to consider rejoining the UK?
    They could have a devolved Parliament like Scotland but would gain all the huge economic benefits of being part of a major economic and political player in Europe.
    After all there are very strong cultural, business and family ties between both countries.
    The Irish identity CAN be respected and valued in the present day UK.
    Moreover such a solution would strengthen the hand of the Celtic fringe at Westminster where many of the key political decisions are still made – there could be as many as 50 MPs from the South in such a scenario

  • cavanman

    Do you not find it depressing that the only proposed solution for smaller nations is to flee under the apron strings of someone else?

    As if nationhood was only a given past a certain population size rather than cultural and social factors.

    As if turmoil was a new phenomenon, as if truggle was something the Irish people were completely unaware of?

    In the same way that a DUP supporter in Lurgan would require a seismic shock to see how a Dublin administration helps his identity or aspirations, there’s nothing in UK integration that I can identify as being better for my future or my familiy. There are a huge amount of benefits to be an independent nation willing to decide the nature and method of their reaction to events.

  • My father used to say that if oil was discovered in Monaghan, there’d be a united Ireland within a week.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    I think its a bit early to say that the UUP was decimated in the last Election. But the greening of Norn Iron continued. We now have 8 Nationalist seats, 8 unionist seats, a quasi independent unionist in a maverick constituency and a member of a party (AP) which is neither unionist or nationalist.
    Its a long way from the 12 apostles of my childhood in early 1960s.
    But things are changing. The Unionists like a visible border. There isnt one. They need that sense of going somewhere “foreign” and theres nothing to really indicate “foreign-ness” except the road signs and money.
    No Customs either on the border or walking thru the train at Portadown.
    But the Republic has to some extent left its republican roots and become Yoorpeen. And theres been a certain revisionism of republican ideology. To some extent the primacy of London has been replaced by a primacy of Brussels……when people are interviwed in Dublin streets arguing that Yoorp should have a say in the Irish budget….it undermines the notion of independence.
    So to an extent the Republic is not as scary as it was. It is less Irish. And certainly less scary as it is less Catholic.

    And the North…..well its certainly less Britis and the election results say it all. The Alliance Party is certainly a “status quo” party. It supported a different status quo in its first manifestation. And even in the pre-Alliance days of Brian Walker and GB Newe and the New Ulster Movement.

    Supporting the current status quo is a different thing.
    Much as I used to intensely dislike AP as a bunch of chancers, I am warming to them recently. They might just be capable of providing some kinda bridge to the Future.
    The fall of Norn Iron is inevitable but it wont be like the Night They Drove Ole Dixie Down. Nobody will be singing. Rather it will collapse with a tired but inevitable whimper. Seth Effrikka is the example.
    While Gerry Adams is clearly no Nelson Mandela, Unionism has not provideda PW de Klerk. Turned out Trimble was useless but Paisley ironically saw the way forward.
    Empey a PW de Klerk? Hardly.
    Or Robinson? Hardly.
    The west has already gone……and unionism does as best it can there. And theres a certain shrinkage and oddly the steady drip of a council seat in Banbridge or a MLA in say Strangford or a nationalist MP in South Belfast…is actually more effective than one traumatic event.
    While many unionist people are disengaged or resigned to an inevitability in shopping centres, a new generation of pragmatists might emerge……although the DUP would have to split between modernists and a rump going into a last stand with the TUV.
    For once unionism has shown no great appetite for rallying to the banner of a man like Jim Allister shouting “Traitor!” and “Lundy!”

  • Mr Crumlin

    Gerard – an interesting piece. I would like unionists to genuinely participate in the discussion outlining what a United Ireland would look like and what would their needs would be to considerate it.

    However I do not believe they are, generally speaking,ready for that conversation.

    I recently posted that, if this is the case then unionism needs to make NI more attractive to nationalists and republicans. I believe if we are to have a genuine unity of purpose in the future then it is a decision that needs to be made by unionism.

    The question is do unionists want a UI on their terms or a NI on republican and nationalist terms?

    I may be a lone voice for now but I believe the speech by An Taoiseach yesterday about everyone celebrating and respecting the upcoming anniversaries was a step on that journey.

  • an madra amu

    it all sounds wonderful but in a Hans Christian Andersen sort of way;

    although like many i would favour a UI,i cannot see the majority tradition on this island contemplating a UI where they would be obliged to water down their own nationality in order to accommodate the Unionist minority,concessions such as the loss of the tricoler (despite its non sectarian origins),the loss of the president(if the whole island were to rejoin the Commonwealth),the special position of Gaelige and the changing of amhran na Bhfiann would all be on the table if unity was to be considered acceptable to the Unionist tradition,these may sound like small things but they are also the mark of a distinct independent nation and although the republic is busy selling our sovereignty to the European Union for the price of a pint as we speak it would be far more difficult to sell a return to the Commonwealth to the normal citizen south of the border

  • Greagoir O Frainclin

    They are some demands….. for the minority of folk. The one regarding the recognition of ‘Unionist culture’ is already well established. What more should Irish folk do in order to recognise the ‘great difference’ about the British folk in Northern Ireland …. for we on the whole island are practically part of the UK if ye were to look at the TV, the media, entertainment, sport, TV3 etc… Besides, is there that much of a difference between all the people on the island of Ireland island today? And sure we all speak English too etc…
    But the Irish Republic rejoining the Commonwealth is a no-no … for this is a Republic, when it boils down, bar the credit crunch debt and everything else that might render our independance as meaningless. Queen Liz – regal and all that as ye’s believe, is very welcome to the Republic of Ireland … but at the end of the day we like having our own President as head of state as well as own own government …auld crooked bastards they may be and all that….at least they are of this land.
    BTW, ye’s can keep the pope when he arrives in Britain and ye’s can have Donegal … for they feel abandoned up there 🙂 sure any wonder when folk vote for the likes of Blaney and McDaid up there.

  • OldSod

    There is nothing wrong with the concept of a United Ireland, impartially speaking, just that many are “traditionally” opposed to it and that their worst enemies are “traditionally” predisposed to it. (or vice-versa if you like).
    I suppose it could work in time, once all the old hatreds are put aside and the “troubles” generation are dead and buried. So we are talking about decades, rather than years.

    It would be a would be quite an undertaking, certainly a bureaucratic, financial and legal nightmare. Certainly something that would have to be phased in over many years. It would mean a new state and new overall identity, not the republican heaven or unionist hell both extremes get worked up about.
    We could certainly not make it look like one side triumphed over the other.
    New flag, new constitution, new type of government (devolved?). Police would probably remain the same, but with perhaps a shared high command. Maybe some sort of dual head of state (president and monarch), that citizens could individually choose (much like the choice of oath on Bible/ Koran or solemn affirmation made in court). It would be a largely symbolic choice, reflected only on passports, legal documents, oaths of office etc. Lots of small symbolic things would go a long way.
    I’m sure there many many more matters people would negotiate over for years.
    Who knows. I’m happy enough the way things are, but am not opposed to change on principle if it makes good sense.

  • bigchiefally

    Why would a northern irish unionist want a united Ireland? If they wanted a united Ireland they could hardly be called a Unionist?

    I get the point that years ago, when partition occurred a lot of southern unionists were left hanging when Ireland split from the britain, but there are very few of these people left these days. These days a unionist has no interest in maintaining a union between britain and ireland but rather one between britain and northern ireland.

  • I think, though, this isn’t like Hunter S Thompson watching the Beatnik tide break on San Francisco. The complexity of modern identity has shifted so far from the old trusty labels that the old faithful Lundy chant didn’t work it’s magic. The idea that there is some high water mark that is the (current) line being drawn in the sand just hasn’t worked as a unionist tactic recently. Its funny, maybe the lesson that perhaps change won’t be cataclysmic and scary is a good one since removing fear from that equation is a great achievement in its own right. But I don’t think you can soberly hold onto the idea of the Republic re-joining a commonwealth or ‘British’ displacing ‘Traveller’ as the largest designated social minority in an all-Ireland state just yet. But it is a Friday, so all bets are off!

  • This isn’t the first time I’ve heard people argue without basis that rejoining the Commonwealth would re-establish the monarchy. Tackling this misconception would be a good start. There is no requirement for Commonwealth members to be monarchies. Rwanda joined the Commonwealth last year, and remains a republic, as do the majority of existing Commonwealth countries.

  • Mr Crumlin

    And what would you offer northern nationalists and republicans to convince them they have a furure in NI?

  • Joehas

    “Qutoas for elected representation is undemocratic and hasnt worked where it has been used.”
    Anyone hear of the Westlothian question? It’s working right now in Westminster.
    It was only a list of suggestions, a starting point for debate, not a pitch.

  • Henry94

    Given the huge economic turmoil that is being and is about to be unleashed across Europe in the next few years isnt now the time for the people of the Republic to consider rejoining the UK?

    All aboard the Titanic? In fairness, England needs another Celtic passenger like it needs a hole in the head.

  • joeCanuck

    I thought there was a lot of oil in Monaghan, especially the diesel variety.

  • Greagoir O Frainclin

    Yep, but the Queen is still overall head of state, as she is Queen of Australia, Queen of Canada, Queen of New Zealand, Queen of Scotland, etc…etc.. She is the figurehead and the Head of the British Commonwealth of Nations.

  • The Queen is only the monarch of sixteen out of fifty-four Commonwealth countries. The Queen has no constitutional role in any of the other member states, most of which are republics, just like Ireland. The rule that forced Ireland out of the Commonwealth on declaring a republic was changed less than a year later, so that India could remain a member. Since then there has been no constitutional impediment to Ireland rejoining, and doing so would not give the Queen any constitutional role in Ireland.

    Yes, the Queen is the figurehead of the Commonwealth of Nations, but this is a separate post from the monarchy, and is not hereditary. The next head of the Commonwealth could easily be the President of Ireland.

  • drumlins rock

    strangely that oil would disappear in a week in a UI, maybe it has advantages!

  • Eire32

    50+1 is an inevitability, when, is another question, will it be 20 years or 50 years. You only have to look at the demographic profile of the young to realize this.

    It’s a bit like the Maggie Thatcher scenario, we only have to get lucky once in referendum.

  • drumlins rock

    Health, Wealth & Happiness.

    Well free health anyways, Englands Wealth kindly donated, and a fortnight in Portrush to make you happy. 🙂

  • Greagoir O Frainclin

    Oh okay, that’s grand … so where do we sign up?
    So any money in it for us? … well I suppose for the political class and their cronies morelike.
    At least we might get to stage the games …. we have the new Aviva now, as well as the rest.

  • Eire32

    Excellent post.

  • Um, you do know that there are more republics in the Commonwealth than monarchies?

    There could still be a President of Ireland; Brenda would just be the Head of the Commonwealth.

  • Coll Ciotach

    50% +1 will do rightly

  • Drumlin Rock

    In reality there would need to be two referendums (or is it referendi?) first one in NI only to begin negotiations for a UI, and a second one that would have to be passed both north and south to pass the agreed process. The advantage for unionist would be a second bite at the cherry and a chance to get a deal, the benefit for nationalists, more people would go for it first time if they know they can undo it later.

  • Newt

    To me the Republic is a foreign country, filled with similar people who grew up watching somewhat different TV shows, thinking about somewhat different things, watching somewhat different sports, but not entirely, like Canada or New Zealand. I don’t hate southerners but I see them as foreigners, in a way that I wouldn’t see an Englishman, Scotsman or Welshman.

    Therefore the idea of a southern unionist to me is bizarre. I feel no more kinship really for a southern Protestant, border counties aside, than I would for a southern Catholic. To me they’re both foreigners.

    Same with a united Ireland with devolution within the UK. I would view it as almost as bad as a united Ireland. To me, in my heart and gut, an all island majority rule assembly would be rule by foreigners. People who, though not entirely dissimilar to me are just not playing on the same team, with the same esprit de corps, and cannot truly gel with my values and interests. Avoiding all Ireland majority rule is actually even more important to me than staying British. I could live with not being British, but I couldn’t live with being ruled by a unitary all Ireland polity.

    I also find that I have little sympathy with the idea that unionism should not have “abandoned” the south. The vast majority in the south are obviously of a different national consciousness, and their self determination is invoking the very same principle by which I maintain that Northern Ireland should remain British. For me to begrudge that would make me a hypocrite in my own eyes. 90 years ago there may well have been people in the south who were British in heart and soul, but to me today outside the Northern brogued Protestants in border counties, such a thing would be an alien life form. I could accept that if such a person were to immigrate to Northern Ireland their children could well be entirely of my nation, but they themselves, in my gut, I’d see as being a foreigner, even if they are a unionist.

  • smellybigoxteronye


    What you have posted there in your list is essentially a nationalist win and is not ever ever going to be proposed by any unionist (never!).

    I think also that both sides are overstating that how the Republic joining the Commonwealth is somehow a really big deal. The Commonwealth is mainly symbolic and cooperative – given that other republics are also in the Commonwealth I don’t see why it is such a big issue – importantly it’s also not that big a deal for NI unionists whether the republic is in the Commonwealth or not as it mainly doesn’t affect them and would only be a fairly meaningless symbolic gesture to NI unionists if the south were to join.

    What is of more importance to unionists is that east-west links are maintained. Anything that proposes to remove these in any way will not work for NI unionists – full stop.

    The only such re-structuring where both sides in NI can ‘win’ is a federal British Isles. The east-west links are maintained, along with the extra southern links. The problem here is that those in the Republic aren’t going to support this and put NI’s interests ahead of their own pride. Therefore, the only solution that can work is a NI as it is today with separate UK/RoI jurisdictions and some co-operation between NI and RoI.

  • smellybigoxteronye

    correction – the above should say: “not ever ever going to be proposed by any *northern* unionist (never!)”

  • English Republic

    Yes that’s just what we need, another 50 people meddling in Englands affairs to go with the other 117 foreign MP’s with nothing better to do than impose their will upon the people of England.

  • Eire32

    I’ll support the English Republic, free England!

  • Newt

    It really isn’t. The primary schools were 52% Catholic community background ten years ago and today they are, wait for it, 52% Catholic community background.

    In that decade this strange stasis has been produced by
    A) the % of women of childbearing age of CCB has increased.
    B) the Protestant total fertility rate has dropped
    C) the Catholic total fertility rate has dropped faster than the Protestant, but is still a bit higher.

    Given the opinion poll evidence of how many Catholics would vote for the union compared to Protestants voting for a united Ireland there are plenty of plausible scenarios where a 50%+1 vote for a united Ireland never occurs.

    Census 2011 will be interesting to see whether the CCB proportion of the very young is the same, increasing, or decreasing. If it is decreasing the cat may be amongst the pigeons, but it can’t be changing much. The schools census can show where we’re at as of school year 2009/2010 for those who will be 7 or so as at the 2011 census. The census will only tell us about those younger, who are so often marked as “none” as to make reading the entrails pretty useless anyway.

    For primary schools using

    Protestant sector = “Controlled” + Seagoe Primary School + Drelincourt Infants School

    Catholic Sector = “RC Maintained” + “Other Maintained” + Our Lady’s and St Mochua’s Primary School + St Bronagh’s Primary School + St Josephs and St James Primary School + Bunscoil an Iuir + Gaelscoil Uí Neill

    Integrated Sector = Controlled Integrated + GMI + the six voluntary integrated schools (all have “integrated” in their name)

    The entire primary school population is
    Protestant sector 74,867 45.71%
    Catholic sector 82,382 50.30%
    Integrated sector 6,522 3.98%

    Analysis by sector for the individual years

    Year 7
    Protestant 10,747 46.07%
    Catholic 11,655 49.96%
    Integrated 926 3.97%

    Year 6
    Protestant 10,266 46.20%
    Catholic 11,049 49.72%
    Integrated 908 4.09%

    Year 5
    Protestant 9,928 45.87%
    Catholic 10,825 50.01%
    Integrated 892 4.12%

    Year 4
    Protestant 9,892 45.67%
    Catholic 10,936 50.48%
    Integrated 834 3.85%

    Year 3
    Protestant 9,950 46.14%
    Catholic 10,722 49.72%
    Integrated 894 4.15%

    Year 2
    Protestant 9,959 45.06%
    Catholic 11,265 50.97%
    Integrated 876 3.96%

    Year 1
    Protestant 10,064 45.00%
    Catholic 11,401 50.98%
    Integrated 898 4.02%

    Reception pupils
    Protestant 146 24.75%
    Catholic 410 69.49%
    Integrated 34 5.76%

    Nursery pupils
    Protestant 3915 47.20%
    Catholic 4119 49.66%
    Integrated 260 3.13%

    Yep the primary schools show a Catholic majority, but only a 52% one which isn’t really changing, which is still “Alliance in balance of power” territory, even if we ignore all the older people.

    The 2011 census has some new questions for the head counters to mull over.
    * Citizenship
    * National identity
    * Main language
    * Ability in English
    * Ability in Irish and Ulster Scots

    You can see a proposed census form here,

  • RepublicanStones

    The commonwealth has quite a few ropey members, so the offer to join isn’t really like getting an invite to a elite members club now is it? More Parnell Mooney’s than Lillies. Any word on the USA joining? Is it eligible?

  • This sort of post is the classic nonsense which passes for liberalism amongst some republicans and nationalists. It is essentially unionism is defeated and you should cut a deal whilst you can.

    It is flawed in so many ways:

    Most unionists do not think we are defeated at all and as such why should we walk into a united Ireland. Looking at the RoI politically, socially, economically it looks extremely unattractive so even if we were defeated why volunteer to join a society we find at major variance to what we are interested in. We have no wish to help nationalism reform its state: that state is their business not ours.

    Fundamentally, however, this post reeks of arrogance. Unionists want to remain part of the UK because they are British and wish to be part of the UK. There is really nothing nationalists can offer them to make them feel otherwise. If I were to suggest that the agreement etc. should make nationalists give up their valid aspiration for a UI; I would be being arrogant and condescending to them. Equally this post is arrogant and condescending to unionists. the fact that Gerard does not seem to see that itself speaks volumes.

  • Watcher

    Great post

  • Joe

    We need to get our own house in order down here first. FF are just as much a barrier to an all-island state as the Paisleys of this world. Most Irish people are sickened by their own govt at this point in time, so the idea of hooking on 6 more counties of dubious economic value is in the realm of fantasy right now.

    Don’t get me wrong, I’d like a UI some day, but I wouldn’t trust the current shower, north or south, to do anything other than serve their own narrow interests, which is the antithesis of “unity”. For now I’ll just sit back and watch the North unravel under its own weight, and hope the south can escape from under the yoke of the idiots guide to economics.

  • southdown

    “My nation my nation who speaks of my nation”- McNorris from Henry V Shakespeare.

    Newt you are certainly able to feel what you feel about people in the ROI but the comments you make could easily transfer to some of your countymen in Northern Ireland.

    As for my feelings I tend to feel more and more that nation states are a silly construct. I would not see you as an alien despite disagreeing with your “gut” instincts – I rejoice in diversity.

    I would add that the majority in the south have just learnt to live without the North in their conciousness which is sad.
    Just as it is sad that some in the North are of similar mindset. The peace walls will take a long time to come down it seems.

  • Alias

    A poll on unity in NI held in earnest would deliver circa 78% support for it. Unfortunately for one side, the unity in question would be support for continued unity with the UK. The Catholic tribe thinks that 100% of its constituents would vote to change the constitutional status of NI that they overwhelmingly endorsed, but the reality is likely to be a max of 40%. 72% of NI’s economy is state-dependent. Remove that state and you instantly collapse your economy. Catholics might like the idea of being among the 85% nation in a united sectarian statelet but they won’t vote themselves or their husbands/wifes/childern out of British state employment just to achieve it.

  • percy

    “It is undoubtedly true that until the prejudices of the Protestant and Unionist minority are conciliated …..
    Ireland can never enjoy perfect freedom, Ireland can never be united” C.S.Parnell 1991

  • percy

    oops .. that should read 1891

  • Comrade Archibald

    Ah come on now Gerard… yes southern unionists still feel a wee bit pissed-off at the constitutional happenings of the 1910s/1920s – but sure so do many people.

    To try and wangle the legitimate concerns of today’s Irish-British minority in the RoI into some kind of argument for northern Unionists to give up and merge into a supposedly ‘united’ Ireland is, to say the least, unconvincing.

    Most southern unionists have the same views as most other people on the island of Ireland – an aspiration for a shared future built on mutual respect (and I suppose specifically for southern u’s one which at least acknowledges their own minority role as a small but ongoing 3-5% or so cultural minority in the RoI)

    Rather than forcing the northern unionists anywhere it’s far better, as Taoiseach Brian Cowan alluded to, to build a future where both of the island’s traditions can respect each other and acknowledge each other’s (highly colourful) historical story. That’s the real shared future.

    From unionism’s point of view, such a shared future means building a Northern Ireland within the UK where the nationalist tradition is fully respected.

    From nationalism’s point of view, such a shared future means, as An Taoiseach (and President MacAleese and others…) truly respecting unionism – certainly in terms of recognising the ongoing southern unionist tradition in the south and also in continuing to build on the already positive relationships with the DUP in the north.

  • Battle of the Bogside

    Before partition we were all Irish, that is everyone on this island. After partition we were all Irish, that is everyone on this island. What is the difference between southern and northern Korean people, they are all Korean, just as we are all Irish. It is just that some would like to be foreigners from Britain.

  • Mick Murphy

    You need to get out of the 6 counties more oftenffs,I left Ireland 30 years ago to live in Canada , a country where the population is made up of people from every part of the globe, practicing a myriad of beliefs and customs that add to the fabric of a totally harmonious and wonderful society,Canada works because of respect for other peoples’ rights and an absence of xenophobia.It’s ridiculous to hear that someone from the northern 6 counties could actually consider someone who lives a couple of miles away albeit over the invisible land border to be a foreigner that they couldn’t identify with.I think some reflection and honesty is required to find out what it really is about “southerners” that really repels you,methinks it’s just the usual laager unionist mentality of “we are the people” snydrome.The same mentality that lets you have more in common with the South African Boer or Israeli than a harmless average chap from Monaghan or Donegal.

  • Anonin

    Black mail the Republic into the Commonwealth. The day that happens is a day when Ireland runs red again, no one would stand for that and it’s a sham demand.

  • Mr Crumlin

    You had me interested until Portrush!! God thats a horrible place!

  • Anonin

    “Catholic tribe” – lol, sure smells like bigotry in here.

  • Bulmer

    45 years ago I was first told ‘they’re going to breed us out’.

    It’s a myth. Both communities have roughly kept pace with the other and both have lost large numbers to emigration. Plus ROI is no West Germany!

    But the other flaws in the argument are:

    1. ROI can’t afford two public sectors.
    2. There will be huge redundancies
    3. Turkeys don’t vote for Xmas

    It’s a bit like the Aussies and removing the monarchy. They all claim they are republicans but when it comes to the vote…

    That extra 1 is a long way off UNLESS there is a genuine seachange in what constitutes being Irish. The current SF vision has few takers up the Shankill whatever GA says.

  • union mack

    the north has never been further from unravelling. All sides have a vested interest in maintaining the current progress.

  • Cynic

    No its not. You also assume that all Catholics are nationalists. In past polls and referenda they aren’t but there seems a higher correlation between protestants and the union.

    50% +1 isn’t impossible but its highly unlikely. Even more so in current economic circumstances.

  • Cynic

    What is Unionist Culture or Irish culture? There’s a lot of simplistic stereotyping going on here

  • Cynic

    Who is talking blackmail? Just because you don’t want it doesn’t mean the majority might not.

  • Cynic

    “the prejudices of the Protestant and Unionist minority”

    Pejorative? Moi?

  • Cynic

    “Before partition we were all Irish”

    dear Battle

    Saying it don’t make it so. You are deluding yourself

  • Cynic

    Ok….. you hang around waiting for it ….but bring a flask

  • Cynic

    I am going to stop posting on this one. This is just too easy and unedifying. Like poking caged rats with a stick.

    Must be the weather

  • Battle of the Bogside


  • Battle of the Bogside

    Dear Cynic

    On a previous tread you said that a third of all republicans were agents of the terrorist MI5. I asked you the question, does that mean that one in three republican bombings or shootings were carried out by the British state?

    Saying it don’t make it so. You are deluding yourself!

    I am going to stop posting on this one. This is just too easy and unedifying. Like poking caged rats with a stick.

    Must be the weather!

  • Cynic

    Dear Battle

    I will make an exception for you. Look on it as missionary work.

    On the post you refer to, another republican poster had said that all of SF were Touts. I jokingly said no, only about a third of them. Yes…it was a joke. Humour. Look it up.

    In truth is was probably nearer 10%. And yes, that may mean that there was collusion between the state and republican killers. It also means that by the end of the campaign, outside perhaps South Armagh, PIRA were effectively neutered. If their attacks were stopped they were avoided or they spent that much time internally hunting for touts that they became dysfunctional

    Of course now we are in a new era. I am sure that many of those who were working for the Brits have been decommissioned or passed on. There are probably far fewer informers in the modern Republican Movement.


    I mean it.

    I really do


  • Alias

    Tribalism is what you have when you don’t have a cohesive nation within a state. NI actually belongs in the East, with its constituent unit being the tribe, and not in the West, which is has the nation as its constituent unit.

    Not that the organisational unit of the tribe is uncivilised – just primitive, visceral and ancient, having being replaced in the West by the modernity of nations and their states. Tribes and their fiefdoms are given a special place in NI within the GFA, with the constituent unit of the nation being formally replaced with two separate nations/tribes who must compete/cooperate with each other within a state/territory, with the hope being that the two tribes might merge into one cohesive constituent unit if the elders of each tribe manage to share the tent wherein they jointly administrate the shared tribal territories.

    The religion of each tribe becomes more important to it within this context because it serves to delineate it from the other tribe, assuring it that is isn’t losing an essential part of itself by the confusing cooperation between the tribe’s elders that as replaced the previous feuds. Hence you see the tribe’s elders offering their “allegiance” to the idols of the tribe rather than to the Big Tent. Much like Islam has become more important in the East as the territories of the tribes were violated by foreign states. Islam becomes a constant that plays into the tribal mind-set perfectly, delivering in the post-tribal world the security and certainty that the tribe is used to.

  • Cynic

    poke poke

  • Cynic

    Poke Poke Poke

  • PaddyReilly

    The problem with all these ideas is that they are liable to please neither one side nor the other.

    From a Unionist point of view, it is about as attractive as an offer that, if you agree to being shot, you will be wrapped in the Union Jack and buried with full military honours, in a British adminstered cemetery.

    Turgon says it all with the words Unionists want to remain part of the UK because they are British

    This is of course exactly what they are not, and what they do not want. If you felt you were British, would you not yearn for Britain? What British people mean mean when they say they are British is, get me out of this bloody bog and carry me home to dear old Blighty, well away from these eternally bickering Paddies and their stupid parades. What Unionists mean is, we want to be in charge. In Ireland. Offering them all the facilties that would satisfy genuinely British people will not succeed.

    From a Nationalist point of view, it is equally obnoxious. Protestants are well on the way to becoming a less significant minority than Poles: why should they need special treatment? And the Commonwealth functions as a giant begging bowl for the third world. Why would Ireland want to assume colonialist guilt and have Rwandans turning up on the doorstep expecting to be educated and accommodated? And if you have a British Commonwealth of Nations, what about an Irish Commonwealth, with countries like the US and Canada, to which Ireland has genuine ties formed by migration?

  • lamhdearg

    Paddy we will have to sort this out between us, There is no other option, a united ulster it has to be.

  • lamhdearg

    long term option i mean to say

  • Drumlin Rock

    Go Back PaddyReilly, to Ballyjamesduff, maybe they will listen to the crap you spout down there.

  • Battle of the Bogside

    Drumlin Rock

    Me thinks you spew some crap yourself. Engage!

  • PaddyReilly

    Does that include Ballyjamesduff?

  • Battle of the Bogside

    A united 9 county Ulster?

  • PaddyReilly

    Disbelieving in the prevailing political lie is, I suppose, likely to attract abuse.

    A foreigner, according to the dictionary, is a person of a different language and culture.

    It’s fairly obvious when someone is a foreigner, like French or something. They talk differently, they cook differently, they have a completely different mindset.

    Are you telling me that the residents of the southern side of the Pettigoe road, Pettigoe, County Fermanagh, are so completely different to those on the northern side that you can tell them apart immediately?

    It’s a bit like the word Roman. There are (at least) two meanings to this word. One, the correct one, is an inhabitant of the City of Rome. Another, more doubtful, one is a member of the Catholic Church.

    Now I may genuflect in the same way that an inhabitant of the City of Rome does if I enter a church, but am I the same thing? No, obviously I am nothing like a true Roman, you can tell by my appalling accent and deficient vocabulary when I (attempt to) speak Italian, my dietary habits, and no end of ways.

    If I were to declare that my true countrymen were the citizens of Rome, and the people who lived on the same island as me were foreigners unless they genuflected like me, I would be instantly identified as a basket-weaver. Substitute the two kinds of British and you will fall into the same absurdity, but you will have the strength of numbers to fall back on.

    Ulster Protestants of the Unionist persuasion are not a nation, not a tribe, but at best a faction.

  • Battle of the Bogside

    A minority, as they have always been, fact!

  • Alias

    “And if you have a British Commonwealth of Nations, what about an Irish Commonwealth, with countries like the US and Canada, to which Ireland has genuine ties formed by migration?”

    Not a bad idea actually. However, the history of the ad hoc organisations that have tried to capitalise on the Irish diaspora is that they have been heavily infiltrated by agents the British state in order to ensure that they didn’t have any overt political agenda that might promote the offending concept of a united sovereign Irish nation – with the offence being that such promotion would require the removal of British sovereignty. Hence the leadership of Sein Fein sent one of their British agents, Denis Donaldson, to America to ensure that the power of the diaspora to challenge British national interests was neutralised with such political support being confined to groups that supported the constitutional status of Northern Ireland while pretending to oppose it, rather than directed at demands for a withdrawal of the British state. Other groups have been similarly neutralised, confining their roles to economic or cultural or, where political, in support of the formal rejection of the former right to national self-determination by the non-sovereign Irish nation in the now legitimised and no longer constitutionally disputed sovereign British territory of Northern Ireland.

  • joeCanuck

    The Commonwealth is now meaningless. It was an attempt by the UK to retain some of the financial advantages originally obtained from colonial exploitation. It has been surpassed by other trading blocs.
    Long live Republics.

  • OldSod

    I prefer the monarchy myself,… but how to reconcile that with being primarily “Irish” and maybe just a little bit British?
    Oh to have a simple and uncomplicated national identity!! Woe is me.

  • Comrade Stalin

    The funny thing about what Gerard is arguing is that it is, effectively, a mirror image of what nationalism has already obtained within the UK. Sinn Fein has dropped most of it’s traditional beliefs in exchange for (over)generous provision in the area of culture/language and involvement in government and administration. In fact, the party enjoys a level of access and attention in London that it would likely not obtain from Dublin, especially not from an Irish government it would compete with directly in elections. It is able to apply pressure on the British through the Americans in a way that would not be possible under reunification.

    So if the present “Northern Ireland with lots of baubles to keep nationalists happy” scenario is not a satisfactory permanent solution to nationalist, why would a nationalist really believe that “Republic of Ireland with lots of baubles to keep unionists happy” would be any more satisfactory to a unionist ?

    Given all the progress that has been made in NI in recent years I’m a bit lost to understand what the case is for reunification these days. I can see benefits to reunification alright, especially with economic cohesion, but there are also obvious downers – an obvious one would be the abolition of the Northern Ireland NHS which would not be sustainable alongside the healthcare model presently operated in the RoI.

  • Scamallach

    It’s referenda I think. As I recall from Latin class:

    bellum bellum bellum, belli belli bello, bella bella bella, bellarum bellis bellis

  • HeadTheBall

    Sorry, no.

    “Bellum” is a noun and declines as you say, but “referendum” is a gerund, so plural: “referendums”.

  • RJ

    United Ireland yes within time, but A Unionist Inspired United Ireland
    i feel Sick, i would rater stay in the United Kingdom
    than have a Unionist Inspired United Ireland or an independence 6 Counties whereas the Current Assembly and Executive are keeped the Way they Are, with a Written Constitution, and the Assembly Members Would Act Collectfully as the Head of State like Switzerland, then no Body Gets what they asked for but nobody Losses either, the Unionist aint ruled from Dublin and the Republicans aint ruled from London,

  • Millbag

    There is such a thing as a British republican, it’s not an overly controversial position, and I’m guessing that more than a few people would be in favour of the idea.

    In 2008 the monarchy in Nepal was abolished in a remarkably civilised and non-sensationalist way, perhaps Britain could learn a thing or two from them.

  • vanhelsing


    I admire your cahonas for suggesting just a thing but I think there would remain a few problems, despite your eliquent arguements. Fair play anyway.

    Perhaps in the future someone might consider making a case for the Republic coming back into the Union 🙂

    Would that solve the problem? no that’s right it wouldn’t…


  • Hopping the Border

    Something similar was discussed on Vance’s ATW a while back and someone pointed out that were this the case then in all probability devolved administration would move to Dublin (Dublin rule by the back door!) and it was likely that there would be more than a few people in NI that wouldn’t be too happy about that!

  • Ardmhacha


  • Ardmhacha

    An irish man is irish.

    An english man is English.

    A scottish man is Scottish.

    A welsh man is welsh.

    A Northern Ireland man from a unionist background is? Northern Irish/ British/ Ulster Scottish / confused.