Even Unionist leaders must lead

You can see the dilemma facing unionism especially the UUs, from recent articles by two of the most seasoned observers of unionism around. Looking back at the Ulster Unionist record as Tom Elliot takes over, Ed Curran dismisses fashionable media opinion (whatever that is) and believes the Fermanagh man may be the right leader for the “mainstream conservative church going Protestant rather than the secular liberal.” And so he may be. Ed points meaningfully to Jim Molyneaux’s long tenure from 1979 to 1995.

As Sovereign Master of the Royal Black Institution and an arch-conservative, he held his party together on traditional unionist values of loyalty to Queen and country. I remember asking Molyneaux one Friday afternoon in the party’s old HQ in Glengall Street how he managed to keep Paisley at bay. He replied: “I simply ‘out-Right’ him.”

Molyneaux, the most personally decent of men, (now 90)  elevated dithering into an art form without managing to conceal the split in his party between the devolutionists and integrationists. And until 1985, he was spared the ordeal of a serious Initiative (if we discount, as we surely must, the farce of the Prior Assembly in the wake of the hunger strike). How unionists used to dread Initiatives!

O’Neill, Faulkner, and finally Trimble, all comparative activists, fell like ninepins and the hopes and needs of at least two generations were squandered . But so also fell Jim Molyneaux in the aftermath of the Anglo-Irish agreement and the first public stirrings of the peace process. Unionists began to realise they needed to negotiate ( P Robinson very much included).  Jim was no longer the man.

So immobilism may have its attractions but it isn’t the answer. Powersharing came 35 years after it was first mooted, and was accepted only grudgingly by unionists. Every leader who moved an inch either took the Damascus road or was Nixon going to China. And then was slung out for his trouble. So even was Paisley,  although in a muffled sort of way. The DUP share much with the UUs, ” the heavy lifters, ” but have always learned from their worst  mistakes. 

While these days unionists in both parties turned their backs on the leaders who accepted powersharing, they nonetheless have accepted their legacy – as if they knew they were right but hated them and themselves for it.   How much better they might have faired if they’d held together and blamed Adams and Co more than they blamed Trimble (for all his lack of party management skills).

We can understand the doubts and hesitations (although the opportunism of the DUP was deeply unattractive.) But  immobilism is hardly the most attractive face to present to voters. With the political deal more or less sealed, something has gone out of the old dynamics on both sides. Professor Henry Patterson put it like this in the Newsletter.

If the Union is secure then unionism is too often reduced to the narrow sectarian imperative of making sure that the ‘Shinners’ do not get too much their own way. The result is certainly not ‘civic’ and it is clearly not very electorally appealing either.”

“Civic unionism” I take to refer to the thousands of   pragmatic Protestants who had public sector jobs under the old system or were identifiably  “moderate” unionists in business. For years such people wouldn’t have been seen dead admitting to voting DUP, similarly public sector nationalists for Sinn Fein. Is this still true? Do they vote a little shamefacedly for the m or not at all?

If so, there is a serious gap between the majority parties and the nomenklatura, the elite. This may go some way to explain the scarcity of ideas for modern government common to all parties, except to some extent, Alliance.

Tom Elliot joins the other leaders. So are they all, all in favour of a shared future now, as they are all, all honourable women and men. It is not enough to typify your voters; you have asked to lead them. Lip service is not enough for task ahead. “Civic unionism” is not enough. It’s surely “civic politics” now.  I’ll be reviewing the approach recommended by Oxford Economics when it starts raining again.

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  • Munsterview

    “…….. Instead, it has declared that you have the right by birth to apply for Irish citizenship and not Irish citizenship by birth…….”

    There is a de jura and de facto situation.

    De Facto, anyone born on the Island of Ireland always was and still is entitled to an Irish passport.

    Article 15 of UN’s UDHR declares that “no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality”.

    Again De Facto anyone in Northern Ireland holding a British passport can also hold an Irish passport. I do not know what the strict De Jura situation is, but in practice there are thousands of Irish Americans who hold dual citizenship.

    There are I imagine tens of thousands of Irish Republican born Irish people now living permanently in the UK who now hold a British passport. In fact among the old age pension Irish generation there, there are probably more holding a UK passport than as when they emigrated the Irish one was not required and so was never applied for subsequently.

    In a United Ireland situation I could not see any objection to anyone on this Island holding a British Passport no more than they do now do an American one.

    For republicans it is not a matter of the Irish Republic absorbing the Six Counties. Ideally such an event will provide the opportunity for a New Constitution for a New Thirty Two County Republic that all can support.

    It is my personal hope that such a constitution in such a situation would have a properly decentralized Provincial, Regional and Local government structures that would have true local democracy for the Aran Islands as much as it would East Belfast !

  • Alias

    You spew more waffle than I do! The issue isn’t dual nationality: it is default nationality. A birth-right, by definition, requires no action on your part because you are born with it. If you are born in Northern Ireland then you are born with British nationality, and not with Irish nationality. You may subsequently acquire Irish nationality subject to action of your part (by doing “any act that only Irish citizens are entitled to do.” – Irish Nationality and Citizenship Act 2004) and subject to the discretion of the Irish state. As it requires action on your part (or by another acting on your behalf) then it is not a birth-right. Hence “you have the right by birth to apply for Irish citizenship and not Irish citizenship by birth.” You also have, as you always had, the right to renounce your nationality and the right to acquire another nationality to either replace or complement your existing nationality. You could not, however, as someone born British in NI, renounce your British nationality without first acquiring a new nationality as you do not have the right declare yourself to be a stateless person. You must also renounce your British nationality by following the appropriate Home Office procedure if you no longer want to hold it, so the act of acquiring Irish nationality does not by itself mean that you are no longer a British national. Not that the right now granted by the Irish state to British-born nationals in NI to acquire Irish nationality means very much since you already hold EU citizenship (which you cannot renounce) and which entitles you to live and work in any EU state.

  • joeCanuck

    Alias and MV,
    Does any part of what you are arguing about have any relevance to “normal” life?
    Do either of you also know how many angels can fit on the point (head?) of a needle?

  • Brian

    “You and I have been down this road before – you think Partition was “a travesty of justice” and I think it was a totally reasonable solution to two groups sharing a particular piece of earth but who have distinct loyalties, religions and economies and who also had distinct geographic concentrations.”

    Sinn Fein (of 1917-22), like the Irish Party, did not want the country to be partitioned, the former for nationalistic reasons and the latter for economic reasons. The reality, however, was that partition was a question beyond Sinn Fein’s control not primarily because of the military power of the British state, but because the political polarization brought about within Ireland itself over the last 35 years was very real. Just as Ulster Protestants always resisted the Catholic politics of the Irish Party, so too did they react against its ‘Ireland a Nation’ rhetoric by essentially developing, albeit with the Tories’ patronage, their own sense of nationalism, which was based upon parallel socio-economic and religious standards to the Irish Party’s sense of nationalism, and identified equally with the Empire.

    Sinn Fein, being an outgrowth of the an Irish-Irelander Catholic middle class, was not only no more appealing to Ulster Protestans than the Irish party had been, but its very character meant that it was certainly not equipped to deal with the previous 35 years of political polarization on the island, which, being a party of young ‘Irish-Irelanders’ with a very shortsighted and confessional view of the past, Sinn Fein did not even understand. So long as this was the case nothing was likely to change in the relationship between ‘north’ and ‘south’.

  • Alias

    Well, Joe, if you want to chat about your varicose veins and the price of a head of cabbage then you should join Pippakin’s forum.

    While I would never accuse you of being brainwashed (as you know), it does appear that your amateur attempt to depoliticise political discussion in the matter of the renounced national rights of NI’s non-sovereign nation coincides with the state’s imperative that said non-sovereign nation should also forget all about said renounced national rights and knuckle-down to administering British rule…

  • joeCanuck

    Well, I don’t have varicose veins (or as a chip shop in Bangor when I lived there announced in a handwitten note on their door to explain why they were closed “Due to Voracious veins”) and if you try to serve me cabbage, I may vomit over you.

  • joeCanuck

    And don’t be pessimistic; only another 6 years to reunification.
    Time for bed for me; it’s 12:30 and I have to be up in a few hours to view Europe’s victory over those arrogant US golfers.
    Hooray McIlroy and McDowell.

  • joeCanuck

    Oops; Harrington too of course.

  • Munsterview @ 1:28 am

    And they say rust never sleeps.

    I wasn’t totally ignoring your post: I was just bored by the mindless reiteration (not by you) of catchpenny slogans.

    Then, of course, we are so far off topic for this thread, I feel embarrassed by what I’m now typing.

    I guess that Diarmaid Ferriter has something to say: for the moment I seem to have mislaid my copy. The hunt begins.

    I know there is at least one academic study of the history of TB, and published out of the Great Contae na Mí , no less. I had to look it up to find it: nice nod to the Brontë sisters on the cover, if I’m correct.

    I’m vaguely asssuming there are several problems in answering your precise question. For example, we’d need to consider —

    * When did TB become a notifiable disease? Was that about the time it became recognised as infectious (late Victorian period)?
    * Who (if anyone) was responsible for collecting statistics when they became available?

    I suspect, such figures came through the local authorities who ran the sanitoria under the 1929 Act. I think that only applied in England and Wales, so in NI at least we may be back to the Poor Law Institutions. That, therefore, leads to a further thought:
    * When did such statistics become collected on the basis of the dual jurisdiction of Ireland?

    Now, a stage further: the BCG vaccine only became available (again I think) after WW1, and was not in general use until post-WW2.

    I’m profoundly suspicious of any explicitly-Unionist commenter who habitually compares NI/RoI statistics. I’d have thought a more useful marker of the achievements (or lack of them) of the NI administration would be against GB figures.

    In the case of TB, as I said in an early post on this thread, NI was slow off the mark compared to the rest of the UK (and notably so in comparison with England and Wales). I think (sorry about that tedious repetition, but I’m somewhat out of my comfort zone here) that by the mid-’50s the figures (NI/RoI/GB) were pretty much in step. Today, I see, UK and RoI incidences of TB put both countries fairly respectably on the world ranking; something like 12 cases per 100,000 population. In parts of Inner London, however, that figure rises to 40+/100,000.

    It’s exchanges like this that make me suggest the politics.ie forum system works better than these “open houses”. Perhaps we might continue this elsewhere?

  • Munsterview


    “………Do either of you also know how many angels can fit on the point (head?) of a needle?……..

    Query not precisely formulated within sufficiently rigid parameters to attempt providing an answer. However once the following information is provided I will consider your request.

    a) define pin, give the diameter and length.

    b) give the material or alloy composition, titanium alloy e.g. superior in load bearing capacity to brass
    c) define point i.e. …..long taper, short taper, moderate taper etc relative to length.

    d) for head give diam. at base and at top of aperture and specify type opening ends i.e.. flat, half sphere etc for head top and base

    e) give length of aperture opening and cross section measurement of opening side walls at narrowest point

    f) specify thickness of top of aperture opening to head of needle, describe finish, ie flat, rounded domed etc,

    g) pin material finish ie standard or high polish etc as this will effect grip capacity.

    h) describe pin orentation for excercise ie vertical, horizontal ,suspended etc, ( note : angels gravity exempted)

    i) describe pin presentation method, e.g. held in bench vice etc. and if suspended specify tensile strength of hanging medium, length of same, load bearing capacity of anchor point etc.

    j) angel nomenclature too general, culturalize being context ie Christian, Islamic, Jewish etc.

    k) specify angel types involves ie all from same order or mixed groupings, if mixed specify
    l) are fallen angels included in exercise ( tendency for non benevolent human cooperation, especially OO types, always insisting in marching off somewhere they are not wanted and totally resistant to normal human interface ), this could adversely effect the ability to conduct the exercise indefinitely!

    Once you have supplied the foregoing information allowing parameter definition, then I will reconsider your request.

  • joeCanuck

    Very witty MV.
    But, sorry, it was a trick question. There are no angels.

  • Munsterview


    As they say in my home culture, “you’ll wake up dead too some morning’!

    Do you know that to the present Radio Na Gaeltach when announcing deaths say ( literal translation} ” gone on The Way Of Truth this evening is John…..etc and then the funeral details are given.

    As the Carpenter’s Son said….” This world is a bridge, use it to cross over, do not build your house upon it “

  • No angels?

    You mean to say we drowned all of them in those pints of stout?

  • SK

    “To be honest a big part of me would say that if the 26 counties is open to taking on board the Bogside and South Armagh they are very welcome to them – do you think they would be up for it ?”


    At least you’re conistent.

  • SK

    ” All of the nationalist parties want all 32 counties, and they would need votes from Derry and South Armagh to bounce North Down and Antrim into the republic. Everyone except you and Greenflag regard it as a price worth paying. Two birds in the bush are worth one in the hand.”


    I’m a nationalist at heart, and can understand the protestations of “all or nothing” that emanate from both sides. Half measures are best avoided, lest history repeats itself at some later date.

    I only put forward the repartition scenario because I was curious to know whether unionists like JEB are willing to accept that- according to their logic- massive swathes of Northern Ireland are entitled to do exactly what their forbearers did back in the 20’s. Something tells me that many of them would not be quite as amenable to the idea as JEB seems to be.

  • Reader

    SK: I only put forward the repartition scenario because I was curious to know whether unionists like JEB are willing to accept that- according to their logic- massive swathes of Northern Ireland are entitled to do exactly what their forbearers did back in the 20′s. Something tells me that many of them would not be quite as amenable to the idea as JEB seems to be.
    The problem is that hypothetical questions don’t really compel direct answers. You risk getting flippant, extremist or politically correct answers according to the nature of the people you question. As you probably saw!
    However, the most extreme answer a unionist could give isn’t going to outdo the extremism of the standard nationalist answer, “32 counties or bust”. Which is functionally equivalent to the traditional unionist answer “not an inch”.

  • John East Belfast


    I am not a re-partitionist and in answer to your question

    “I was curious to know whether unionists like JEB are willing to accept that- according to their logic- massive swathes of Northern Ireland are entitled to do exactly what their forbearers did back in the 20′s.”

    The answer is No and there is one very simple reason – it is called the Belfast Agreement.

    I signed an Agreement for a 50+1 decision deciding the future of Nortern Ireland and I will honour that.

    Indeed if anyone has been qucik to tear that Agreement up it has been nationalists like Henry who said that a resumption of violence could be justified if it could get the right result this time. I have also noticed other commentators saying that if demographics dont look like they are going their way then they would opt to save a few more counties for the ROI.

    Therefore I think you will find the pressure for Repartition will come more from nationalists than unionists if the former dont think they are getting the right result and dont have the patience. Indeed you rarely, if ever, see unionists on here talking about re-partition.

    On my part I will honour the Agreement except in the following circumstances

    1. There is a substantial geographical concentration of nationalists who want to leave – above – with tongue in cheek – I said if the ROI wanted South Armagh and the Bogside then I wouldnt stand in their way

    2. If there is a sustained campaign and/or attrition of Repbublican violence undermining NI from the outside. I didnt sign up to constitutional Republicanism on the inside and the militant version on the outside

  • Munsterview


    “…….However, the most extreme answer a unionist could give isn’t going to outdo the extremism of the standard nationalist answer, “32 counties or bust”. Which is functionally equivalent to the traditional unionist answer “not an inch”…….”

    Not an apt comparison : unionists are prepared to preserve their ‘not an inch stance’ up to the very eve of national re-unification on this Island.

    Unionism to defer the inevitable, are willing to preserve a current dysfunctional regime and obstruct any forward movement politically until as with the current power sharing arrangement, they are left with no alternative.

    Republicans do not just want Six Counties annexed onto the existing Twenty Six with the same corruption, ineptitude and golden circle exploitations as is the existing situation over all Thirty Two. The ‘permanent government’ of senior civil servants, is a mirror image of the corruption in the elected government.

    I did not include Roman Catholic Church Establishment as the latter under its current regime has little positive to contribute on social issues whatever of religions ones. The other churches have seldom taken a radical anti-government on anything.

    Fianna Failure had their cultural active service units ready to go and over the border singing rebel songs in republican cultural centers led in at least one case by a former County Council big wheel that as Fianna Failure whip, blocked every motion in support of A~armagh Women prisoners and later Long Kesh long kesh political prisoners also.

    A civil was was fought and won in the Twenty Six County Free State by Armed Force Nationalists against republicans to maintain the same social conditions under the photo-fine Gaelers as existed under the British Regime.

    The New Civil War has already started in the North : for decades unionist farmers, commercial fishermen and their processing industries have had the Irish Government office doors wide open for then in their dealings with the EU. Their fifth colm is already stealing the ground from Sinn Fein by enticing any high profile, no baggage social or sporting figures that they can get hands on in mid Ulster.

    The aim is the same, get thirty two county reunification but with the same social structure as currently in the South. If East or West Belfast think that they have it bad, let them take a trip to Limerick, make contact with community leaders and take a tour around Myross.

    This do not effect the UUP, Farmer Tom and his kind will fit in with the Fianna Failure RDS set just the same as Jerry Collins and Ken McGuniess did in their time.

    Unionists, working class and otherwise can make a significant difference and have a significant influence in shaping a new Ireland. In 1798 a fine presbyterian generation as radical and determined as any Nation was ever blessed with, gave leadership and inspiration to a downtrodden Irish people. Those emotional links are still there in Irish Republicanism.

    Republicans, Working Class and other Unionists can meet and and shape the new Ireland we all hope for our children and grandchildren or they can wait to be shoehorned into some Fianna Failure Thirty Two smoke and mirror abomination where the present will extend into the future.

    ‘……We cannot change history; these people too moulded the Ireland we live in today. Living as we are in the ‘open wound of history’, it is perhaps difficult to be as objective about our past as we sometimes should be. However, until such time as those who would claim to speak for Gaelic Ireland, or for any form of new Ireland, show the same generosity to all Irish men and women of the past, who made a contribution to our country and loved it sincerely, then future intent, however admirably sounding or nobly expressed,must remain suspect………”

    I wrote the above quotation as part of the introduction to a book dealing with Anglo Ireland over twenty years ago, so I cannot be accused of writing for slugger optics !

    When and if protestants begin to negotiate their future inside an all Ireland framework, they can deal with the Kenny, the Lenihans and the Cowens for more of the same or they can meet republicans with open hands and be treated likewise to build a New Ireland that will be as true to the ideals of that fine, lost presbyterian generation of 98 as it will be to the men and women of 1916.

  • John East Belfast


    “the very eve of national re-unification on this Island” and “defer the inevitable”

    Forget your arguments about the struggle for what type of New Ireland you think is on the horizon please tell me why you think – anytime in the near or even near distant future – 50+1% of the NI population is going to take a match to whatever wealth it possess and vote itself out of the Union ?

  • joeCanuck

    It gets boring after a while, MV.
    Protestants (for want of a better word) aren’t going to vote for cultural (in the broadest sense) extinction, ever.

  • Munsterview

    In the world weary remark of McMillian ( I know the feeling) Events dear boy events !

    The route mainstream republicans came to power was armlight and bomb, then armlight and ballot box and finally ballot box only, where the armlight presence detracted from political expansion into non traditional republican areas to the extent that it had to be dropped.

    Sinn Fein will continue to grow in the North despite the British MI5 and other State dirty tricks and the encroachment of Fianna Failure dirty pr…., well it rhymes with micks!

    While the majority of the then active republicans at the ceasefire period were either in favor of the GFA or passive towards it, that is not the current situation, I will not quantify it but former activists who have now lost confidence in the GFA are a far more significant number than they were.

    Where is the inspiration in the current power sharing for any idealistic young Nationalist or Republicans, Sinn Fein can window dress Stormount or play hurling with Carson’s Ghost for the optics, but almost a decade and a half from the cease fire, politics are still deadlocked as while republicans are clearing up the last log jam, unionists are beavering away building another further upstream.

    The growing dissident threat and increasing numbers show where that is heading. The political establishments in these Islands are not much interested in Peace with Justice, they are interested in peace as in absence of war only. That is no longer enough for most young republicans or nationalists, they will force events in their own way.

    Events dear boy, events and not votes will decide next stage of the game as far as the dissidents are concerned. People like me can no longer sell what the GFA will deliver at some future date in an ideal time. These promises and potential appear very threadbare indeed before what actually has been delivered.

    Sammy will have his taunts, Gregory will have his jibes, SF will stay stymied, sluggerites will exchange a few view,………… meanwhile in the real world in a shed West of the Bann……. !
    (hint…..unionists financial matters are not a primary consideration of the group there )

  • Munsterview

    Even mighty Sparta could not hold its alienated class in permanent subjection.

    Unionist concerns may still be Sinn Fein occupations but after the outworking of the GFA, they no longer register with a far greater number of republicans that political commentators of media generally acknowledge!

  • joeCanuck

    ..growing dissident threat and increasing numbers..

    Where are you getting your numbers from? Has there been an election that I haven’t heard about?
    As previously said, are you whistling in the dark or pissing into the wind?
    Or just doing your usual wind up?

  • Alias

    “Sinn Fein will continue to grow in the North despite the British MI5 and other State dirty tricks…”

    It is Shinner spin that it was a valiant uphill struggle on their part to be permitted by the “securocrats” to sign up to the legitimacy of British rule and to be assist in its administration when the reality is that is what their handlers directed them to do, even helpfully ‘neutralising’ those within the Shinners who didn’t see things that way. Still, since said securocrats also vetted all of the members of the murder gang via control of PIRA’s ISU, they were careful only to allow members to join what would be dumb enough to buy such lines…

  • joeCanuck

    There’s nothing quite like going to bed with a conspiracy theory in your head. Depending upon your predilections, you can go to sleep very quickly with a surreptitious smile on your face or lie awake all night, getting up from time to time to check under the bed.

  • Munsterview


    While I was on the computer to North America tonight, there was a large car bomb in Derry that has apparently done considerable damage at the rear of a bank at De Vinchi place!

    When I wrote ‘……meanwhile in a shed etc.”…… I was not aware of what happened in Derry. However West of the Bann has been on a count down for something like this for quite some time now.

    ‘whistling in the dark or pissing into the wind’ I wish I bloody well was !

    Yes I do wind up perhaps more than I should but never on serious matters that could involve life and death situations!

    Unlike Yeats I do not want to wonder if…… ‘words of mine send young men out to die’…… to the contrary I have been warning where unionist silly buggers in Stormount and MI5 silly buggers outside was leading.

    Last winter I was asked as usual by my English friends for an assessment of where the peace process was at, as I usually am over a weekend conference there. I was not optimistic and when asked to summarize I said that we would have working politics in Stormount by summer or a return to car bombs by autumn.

    I am totally pissed off at the squandered opportunities on Stormount. I have just taken down a cutting from my notice board where Martin McGunnness condemn the killing of the two British soldiers and said of the dissident vols. that did it…… ” these people are traitors to the island of Ireland ”

    Martin could have said many things about those killings : Martin do not do anger, he is too long in the tooth for that; he is careful about what he says and knows the effect words can have. Dublin, London and Washington probably demanded ‘ a strong statement ‘ as another sop to unionists.

    Once I heard it my heart sank, I knew that Martin would get an answer in his own back yard and one that would reverberate around the world as his statement did. To night he was given it.!

    That Internationally more or less cancels the ‘Clinton Effect’ last week and certainly will in America !

    While there will not be another Omagh situation deliberately caused, the potentials for it to happen are always present. This risking of multiple loss of human life and massive destruction of property is something we could and should have put behind us.

    Just as it was predictable that it would happen, so too is the response; ramp up security, clamp down on Nationalist areas and piss off another young generation of republicans !

    Who cares?

    Unionists will still play their obstructive silly bugger politics and MI5 their games while the North sleepwalk into the past. Earlier this evening I shared a meal with a mature professional person with Northern roots who was interested in a professional position post going in Derry.

    I advised against it, to day this person will not need advice, Derry is off the list of choices. How many more professionals, investors and industrialists will think likewise ?

  • Alias

    And there’s nothing like ignorance of reality to make a good state-supporting simpleton, Joe. I suggest you acquaint yourself with (a) the British agents who controlled PIRA’s ISU; (b) the role of the ISU in vetting all new members of PIRA (see rule book), and (c) A Secret History of the IRA by Ed Moloney.

    If you ever do trouble your little noggin with reality, Joe, then you will probably wonder why you persisted for so long in speaking out of an orifice that normal people reserve for pooping.

  • John East Belfast


    That is a very disappointing post.

    I asked you how you were going t persuade 50+1 % of the population to vote for a United Ireland and you responded with what could only be described as a sinister dissident threat.

    However if that is your line now – and you should be honest about it – how do you think the current crop of IRA are going to suceed this time where PIRA failed ?

  • Munsterview


    There is a disconnect here and quite a big one, that post was addressed to joeC. Joe as ex pd is as opposed to latst night bomb as I am even if we are opposed from different viewpoints we still share many over lapping areas of concern and have mutual appreciations of certain underlying forces.

    In the UK at that conference I described, when I gave my pessimistic read on the immediate political future of Northern Ireland politics as I see it, each of those English or other people there discussed and teased out the implications of the various things I said until they had a grasp of the situation.

    John believe you me there was little sympathy for unionism there, one person even advocated De Gaul’s Algerian solution if that is what it took to ‘bring peace to Ireland. I was in the ironic position of ruling that out completely and trying to present a ‘decent unionist’ viewpoint.

    One major difference between their viewpoint and yours is that they had no difficulty in accepting that spooks there were continuing a Low Intensity War and carrying out some policies put in place by ‘yes minister types’ not controlled by elected parliament.

    At a previous conference the man sitting next me and one I had shared quite few conversations with over the weekend weekend with was a former British Army Major who had served in Northern Ireland. The sad fact is that I had more of a meeting of minds with that man that I can with the average poster of your background here on slugger.

    On the way back I shared the journey with a C of I Cannon clergyman friend now in his seventies. We discussed the North and yet again his view of contemporary unionism and where the ‘brains’ of it had led protestants to were more extreme than mine.

    I was pissed off over that bomb last night for any number of reasons but the main one was that people that you agree with in principle whatever of tactics gleefully pulled the political rug from under Martin McGuniesses feet at every opportunity also diminished his authority in his own community.

    Good authority do not come from a gun or a ballot box only, it also has that indefinable ‘x’ factor that cannot be quantified and is only identifiable by it’s presence or it’s absence.

    Martin had that in spades. He had it with dissidents and more important he had it with a significant group of republicans who while not agreeing with Sinn Fein and the GFA were never the less were willing to adopt a wait and see attitude.

    Well they have waited and they have seen and many have decided to come down off the fence. More will follow.

    Last night’s car bomb will not be the last and that is not a ‘sinister dissident threat’ it is the inetiavble consequence on the unionist politicians acting on behalf of their electorate refusing to operate the GFA as the Irish, British, US and the EU framers of it intended it to operate.

    We that supported it pleaded to give politics a chance, post Omagh politics got a chance and what was produced since? That bomb last night blasted my hopes as much as it did yours.

    However you can take that up directly with the dissidents and you will find that you are starting from a common position, they are not listening to the concerns or advice of Sinn Fein either. They have lost patience with the antics of the monkey and taken things up directly with the organ grinder.

  • joeCanuck

    Now, now. Less of the potty talk.
    I know about the things you mention and I have Moloney’s book on my shelf.
    I’m starting to think that our main differences come down to 2 words – Control and Infiltration.
    You think MI5 is controlling the gangs; I think that they have simply infiltrated them to gather information, as they did with PIRA.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit


    Get a grip, didnt you know that Canary Wharf, Manchester et al were inside jobs by British intelligence – fiendishly cunning them fellahs were in how they controlled PIRA.

  • John East Belfast


    I wasnt referring to your response to Joe – I was referring to your “events dear boy events” comemnt.

    What other events did you have in mind ?

  • Comrade Stalin

    If there is one thing that Nationalists, Republicans and Catholics North and South agree with, it is John Humes statement after Bloody Sunday…..a united Ireland and nothing else will do !

    Which we all know is bollocks given the advent of the GFA. But what do you care ? All you know is the rebel-song soundbites.

  • Reader

    Munsterview: Unionism to defer the inevitable, are willing to preserve a current dysfunctional regime and obstruct any forward movement politically until as with the current power sharing arrangement, they are left with no alternative.
    If we actually agreed where “forward” was then much of the heat would go out of these discussions. Until then, you needn’t expect much movement in spite of all of the pushing and shoving.

  • Munsterview


    “…..You think MI5 is controlling the gangs; I think that they have simply infiltrated them to gather information, as they did with PIRA…..”

    Joe, the vast majority of the IRA volunteers are brave, honorable men and women that know every time they leave their family home on republican activity, they are at very least risking long terms of imprisonment. The other risks are an incapacitating maiming or early death arising ‘in house’ from their own activities or externally at the hands of security forces.

    However much IRA activities are disputed, unless there is some appreciation of the caliber, sincerity and dedication of the average volunteer historically and currently, there can be no reality in the discussions about the dissidents.

    At the ceasefire three main groupings emerged in the IRA, a majority willing to go the political route even if it meant deferring the unity goal, a minority that had no confidence in politics and wanted to continue the armed struggle and a significant influential section who while skeptical that the Brits would allow ordinary democratic politics to operate, adopted a wait and see attitude.

    This centre group had reservations about the IRA operations and structure as well as the GFA . Once members of this grouping had a chance to interface regionally and nationwide and compare notes, more and more things just did not add up.

    Full credit where credit is due, the British action of compromising and controlling the IRA’s own internal security was one of the greatest coup in Counter Insurgency or Low Intensity Warfare of by State forces anywhere in the Western World since the WW2.

    The likes of Donalson have been presented as little more than guys that made the tea and occasionally ran a wee message. That did not wash then or will not wash now. Nor was Donalson the only one, other leaders in other areas were confronted about people close to them who because of personal character defects and other reasons were, security risks. Those who were not listened to put their personal security first and just stepped back or stepped out.

    Just because militant republicans did not wash their dirty laundry in public do not mean that thorough examinations have not taken place. That centre group ( according to media interviews ) has restructured and developed new strategies and tactics that take account of past mistakes. These also take into account the contemporary and future situations.

    All dissidents are lumped together in public perceptions and deliberately so by the securiocrats in the struggle for hearts and minds. The reality is far different.

    The ‘real’ IRA were chips off the old block and brought in all the problems of the organization that they broke away from including compromised structures and activities.

    The ‘Continuity IRA’ are ….well the Continuity and I do not think too many in MI5 or their political masters are loosing too much sleep over their threats to the status quo!

    I do not see this regrouped centre block as being infiltrated or controlled by MI5. The attitude of these regrouped IRA to politics is simply this, we who supported the GFA argued that normal politics could work once a representative democratic process was established. It did not, the hurlers on the ditch are becoming the players in the field.

    We got democracy after a fashion : unionism refused to work it and whatever goodwill existed in the republican side has long been sucked clear. Even if at this eleventh hour all parties operate it, I think at this stage too damage may very well have been done for the set up to have any credibility with the mass of nationalist voters.

    Outside Stormount MI5 have continued Low Intensity Warfare against Sinn Fein, mainly by political means but also by armed loyalist pseudo gangs targeting and terrorizing catholic families so the impotence of Sinn Fein to prevented it can be demonstrated.

    The visceral ‘put our man in to keep their man out’ may keep up party voting numbers but the hope for a new beginning is gone !

    ItwasSammy…… I do not deny the reality of British Infriltration. However that is a long way from mantaining that every Millitant Republican is MI5 controoled. Most cannort or would not be compromised. Penetration and controol of key political opponents and parties is as old as time itself and that cannot be guarded against unless it is first accepted and recognized !

  • Munsterview


    “…..Dont knock it – it could be a chance to get shot of Cavan……”

    Forget Cavan !

    Derry for Dublin 4 ? No great attitudinal or mindset changes involved!

    PS …….Any use for an ex-Taoiseach up there, we just found one in a kitchen press down here last weekend ?

  • Munsterview


    “……..However if that is your line now – and you should be honest about it – how do you think the current crop of IRA are going to succeed this time where PIRA failed ?……”

    John, I have been around this mulberry bush a number of times, so much so that as Joe posted, it is getting boring.

    So the PIRA failed ?

    1) The 56 / 62 campaign ended in a complete and absolute IRA defeat.

    2) Most IRA went home and what was left took the organization well to the left.

    3) The reorganized IRA at the end of the sixties had decided to disarm and scale down.

    4) The IRA as Southern State and Brit intel knew would have only 100 in the armed section

    5) The IRA leadership was fully co-operating with KGB ‘worker revolution plans.

    6) The IRA had began to mobilize the mass protest around cross party populist issues

    7) The IRA issues were South, fishing rights etc and Civil rights in the North.

    8) The IRA disengaged from 69 Derry as soon as possible and abandoned Belfast.

    9) The IRA Vols. who were inactive flocked back and took back their organization.

    10) The IRA majority, known as the Provos and republicans were marginal to politics.

    11) The IRA used bomb and bullet to blast themselves to the political centre

    12) The IRA used bullet and ballot box to grow and consolidate their place in the centre

    13) The IRA decided to use ballot box only as the bullet was counter-productive to aims.

    14) The IRA in pursuit of its goals accepted that a United Ireland would have to be deferred

    15) The IRA negotiated the GFA and its own redundancy as an Armed Force.

    16) The IRA leaders and commanders got elected as Sinn Fein representatives

    17) The IRA through Sinn Fein got a cabinet position in the Regional Government

    18) The IRA through Sinn Fein became the the biggest national political party

    19) The IRA through Sinn Fein got one of their most senior men Joint First Minister

    20) The IRA through Sinn Fein are but one election, two at most from De Facto PM.

    21) The IRA through Sinn Fein are still perusing the same All Ireland Unity goals unchanged!

    22) The IRA through Sinn Fein have, albeit late, delivered to their supporters as promised.

    The PIRA are where they intended to be once they took the decision to go down the political route. The reason that unionists are refusing to engage in normal political democracy is they know if the will Sin Fein will have them for breakfast.

    Fur coat unionism has gone back to the future : even two fifths of its existing membership realize that road is the road to political irrelevance and oblivion.

    Working class unionism have, putting the matter as kindly as possible a serious leadership deficit and intellectual challenge. If most were hanged for imagination, they would die innocent!

    Alliance small u unionism is little more than a rest home for unionists who cannot kick the habit

    In 1969 the Nationalists were inconsequential and begging for a few paltry rights and republicans did not register as a political nuisance much less a political force and now one of the IRA most Senior ex-Commanders is about to become regional PM.

    When he looks around his cabinet table, many faces there will be the same as once sat around the table planning the IRA campaigns and strategies that brought about this reality.

    The British Army, the originators and experts in Low Intensity Warfare with all the NATO hardware of a modern Army at their disposal had to admit that they could not win the war against the IRA. The British army task was to break the IRA and MI5’s to prevent the emergence of Sinn Fein as the dominant Nationalist political party in the North.

    I will let a wider slugger readership decide this one between us John and I rest my case. I will, as I have said, nnot be revisiting this argument again, merely referring to it!

    This is the last time that I will spell out the republicans route to power, I will just refer to this piece in future.

  • John East Belfast


    I think points 14 and 15 are the key ones for me where the militant republican balloon was punctured.
    I always thought republican success would be measured by Brits Out and a 32 County sovereign republic not an acceptance of partition and a transltion to constitutional nationalism

    However you are all over the place – i asked you how you thought the Diissidents would succeed where PIRA failed but you dont think PIRA failed at all.
    The dissidents obvioulsy dont think that is the case.

    Anyhow I asked you that because I was enquiring from you what these “events” you were talking about that would eventually lead to a United Ireland – ie points 23 onwards – would you care to extrapolate therefrom ?

  • Munsterview


    “…… how do you think the current crop of IRA are going to succeed this time where PIRA failed ?

    I cannot answer that, despite my past and current support for the GFA I have been accused here even by Nationalist posters of supporting what are referred to as ‘The Dissidents’

    I cannot speak for the dissidents !

    All I have done in regard to the dissidents is first off, identified the conditions and situations that led to dissident rise.

    Secondly I have cautioned about dismissing the dissidents in terms of numbers or ability.

    Thirdly I have suggested that the millitary organization that former IRA activists who have been mainly inactive since the ceasefire have structured is very different in character from the flawed model used by the pre-ceasfiere IRA.

    If every time I attempt to explain IRA structures and thinking, the message cannot be separated from the messenger, then I can simply, as I am sure many partys would prefer anyway, cease to comment on these matters.

    As to how they will succeed : I personally do not think they will. Neither do I think……. in present circumsrtances……….. that any furder republican armed force is justified in persuit of political goals.

    The use of force to bring forward the event of a United Ireland by a decade or two at the price of another largscale millitary campaign is just not justified. I agree with Churchill’s dictum that ” Jaw, jaw…….is better than…….war, war!

  • John East Belfast


    “…… how do you think the current crop of IRA are going to succeed this time where PIRA failed ?

    I cannot answer that ”

    So yesterday when you spoke about “the eve of national re-unification” and unionists “denying the inevitable” you were just kite flying ?

    I specifically asked you after your post yesterday how you were going to get a 50+1% NI vote for Irish Unity anytime soon and to define your “events dear voy events” response but it is pretty clear you havent got a strategy at all ?

  • joeCanuck

    Let’s say that it takes 2 generations to deliver 50% + 1 voters in favour (I don’t think that would be unrealistic given that a 50% +1 nominal Catholic population will not deliver it). What will the world look like then remembering what it looked like 60 years ago? Will anyone care or will everyone be too busy building sea walls?

  • Munsterview


    Re 14 & 15

    These questions were discussed from when the dust settled on the Hunger Strikes up to the 1986 Ard Fheis. At that stage the Adams Line, which was the result of a collective decision, prevailed. It did not just prevail on the day, it had been argued over and discussed for the previous two years.

    The ‘Rory O’Bradaig line’ knew that fight was well and truly lost the year before. In fact if the Nothern Leadership were not so concerned about unity, they could have got the previous Ard Feis to succumb to what Rory described as ‘the constitutional disease’

    Those who walked out and formed the Continuity IRA believed that the IRA should fight all the way to the conference table.

    Those who constituted the majority and stayed behind accepted that the IRA as an active armed force playing an active part in the freedom fight was fast approaching it’s sell by date.

    It is a unionist myth that they forced the IRA to use peaceful means, war is but politics carried on by other means : once the conditions for achieving goals by political means are established, there is no moral imperative for continuing a war.

    The second consideration is that any revolutionary organization going through a three stage process. bullet only, ballot box and bullet and ballot box only have a dichotomy situation towards the end of the second stage as the armed campaign impeded political expansion to encompass those agreeable to the goals of the organization but opposed to armed action.

    IRA / Sinn Fein by taking the decisions they did in 86 were also prepared and preparing for 96 and instilling confidence in their support base that republican goals could be achieved by political means only.

    A commitment to politics also meant not dictated goals but deferred goals achieved by persuasion and negotiations. Political Prisoners the world over know one political reality : you break jail or jail breaks you !

    Recall the poem, lines to Athea from prison by a Caviler Officer to his thirteen year old daughter…….

    If I have freedom in my Love / and in my thought am free / then angels alone that soar above / can know such perfect liberty.

    The Northern Leadership and most of their followers had used their time in jail to make inward journeys and emerged deeper, more reflective and philosophical than when they went inside. that shared experience also created a true republican family for Adams generation as it did for Lemase’s generation.

    John you have so much to learn about the real character of the Northern republican leadership that I do not know where to start. I do know where they will finish and my support is not based on blind faith or pointless hope, I have seen them in home and conference hall and I liked what I have seen and I have confidence in their spirit first and secondaly their abilities.

    Then again many of my English friends have had also to revise a few things about me. While the only Irish Person in a English Continental touring party some years ago one of the party jokingly suggested that it should be called the IRA bus as most seemed to have been converted. The last thing I wanted was to go to France and talk politics, in fact I tried to avoid it but as they had a real live republican they were having none of it.

    I said no different to what I have written here!

  • Munsterview

    Comrade S

    You got the opportunity some posts back for a serious exchange and did not take it.

    I admit that I was surprised to find that Alliance Unionism could harbor reactions normally encountered and usually associated with the cruder aspects of DUP gutter Loyalism.

    However since other Alliance posters have not seen fit to disagree with you in this, I must tolerate the fact that you are an acceptable voice to Alliance and consequently alter my perceptions of that party and it’s standards to the lowest common dominator.

    However on the positive side I will give you full marks for self awareness and personal insights, your tag of Comrade Stalin was most aptly chosen. Cheers!

  • joeCanuck

    Has this thread got seriously off track? Weren’t we talking about unionist leadership?

  • Alias

    “I do not deny the reality of British Infriltration. However that is a long way from mantaining that every Millitant Republican is MI5 controoled. Most cannort or would not be compromised. Penetration and controol of key political opponents and parties is as old as time itself and that cannot be guarded against unless it is first accepted and recognized !”

    There’s a few fallacies in there. No one claim that very member of the PIRA murder gang was a tout. It was probably no more that 30% of them, although no more than a handful of key agents in leadership roles would be required to control the murder gang.

    For example, the FRU had over 100 active informers on its books. Now let’s exclude how many informers that MI5, MI6, the RUC’s Special Branch, etc, had on their books and how many were on the books of other interested states. Given that PIRA had no more than 300 active members at any one time, and assuming that those active informers on the FRU’s books were evenly split between catholic and protestant murder gangs, then 17% of PIRA’s members were listed on the FRU’s books as active informers.

    A murder gang that was fully state-employed rather than a proxy would be a little incriminating, wouldn’t it? You need the muppets to sing the rebel songs on the bar stools and the muppets who will be seen in their community as genuinely anti British state, so you need to allow these members to join your murder gang. It is completely farcical of you to think that ‘state-sponsored’ and ‘proxy’ means the same thing as state-employed.

    Now, to come back to the small number that would actually be required to achieve some policy by a top-down process: two in key roles, such as Adams and McGuinness, would be sufficient. Once you tag your up-and-coming boys in the organisation that you want to infiltrate, you assist them up the ladder of leadership as best you can. Then they can appoint more informers to other key roles in the organisation. The folks, for example, that appointed British agents to run PIRA’s Internal Security Unit and kept them in place for two decades when standard counterintelligence procedure is to rotate those roles in order to avoid infiltration of them were none other than Adams and McGuinness. So you have your boys at the top and you can use them to appoint more of your boys to other key roles.

    PIRA’s Internal Security Unit was the unit that was responsible for detecting British agents within PIRA. Since British agents controlled the ISU, they controlled it in order to ensure that British agents were not detected within PIRA – or, more accurately, to ensure that the key British agents were not detected since others that had outlived their usefulness would be expendable. Since PIRA had no means of detecting British agents in its ranks, it rather obviously follows that British agents had the free run of the organisation.

    Now, you say that the possibility infiltration by the British state should have been known to the leaders of PIRA, and indeed it was since they formed the ISU to detect it. But why then did the leaders of PIRA appoint British agents to run the ISU? And why did they not rotate those roles in accordance with universal counterintelligence procedure? Are Adams and McGuinness especially stupid?

    Now the British state via its agents in PIRA’s ISU murdered over 50 members of PIRA that those British agents claimed were other British agents. Many of the families concerned disputed that, and many fingers of suspicion were pointed at the British agents that ran PIRA’s ISU but the leaders of PIRA, Adams and McGuinness, ignored all of that because they had appointed the British agents and one of the key functions of those agents was to protect British agents within PIRA such as Adams and McGuinness.

    That isn’t to say that those British agents appointed by Adams and McGuinness would have known that they were appointed by British agents. They just pass on the information to their handlers like Adams and McGuinness do, and it is those controllers who make the decisions with few informers within PIRA knowing who the other informers are.

    Since British agents were vetting all new members of PIRA, they would have passed the names to their handlers who would have given the okay or otherwise. The important consideration of the security services here would be to prefer a member that had vulnerable points that would enable him to be controlled either directly or indirectly. An example of direct control through VPs would be recruiting a kiddie-fiddler to PIRA and then blackmailing him to become an informer, and indirect control would be recruiting members with low intelligence

    If you think that the security services used its control of PIRA’s vetting procedure to ensure that only committed and dedicated and highly intelligent terrorists who could present an uncontainable threat to British national interests were allowed to join and not the exact opposite then you’d have made the ideal member of PIRA…

  • joeCanuck

    I have no idea of whether or not the 2 leaders you mention were “controlled”. But neither do you. I doubt it (I’m not a supporter of SF) but it’s impossible to prove a negative so there will be some who will believe, others who will disbelieve.

  • Alias

    I think it more likely that Adams and McGuinness did grasp the importance of counterintelligence to the success of the murder gang rather than they did not grasp it, and that is why they undermined it by appointing British agents (which might be ragarded as poor judgement) and failed to rotate those positions as is universal counterintelligence so as to avoid the long-term infiltration they expereinced (which may be regarded as cretinious stupidity that wrecked their organisation). Since neither are stupid, there is only one likkely option.

  • Munsterview

    One : I note your assertions and I have no comment to make on them.

    Two : The levels of infiltration on the military and political side by Brit Intel is as inexcusable as it is still inexplicable and is a collective dereliction of duty by the leadership towards its general membership !

    Three : other than some spook spilling the beans republicans are unlikely ever to find out just how far Brit penetration and influence extended. I neither deny or excuse what happened in this regard!

  • Brian

    Take away S. Armagh, and none of those successful 90s mainland campaigns get off the ground. That was one place where the Brits could not infiltrate. They often looked at other IRA units with contempt, and still do, particularly those in Belfast.

  • Munsterview


    We are in a feed back loop here and one of the things I am very conscious of, is not to provide any information that the spooks could use to fine tune their own operation in any way. In these circumstances I am limited as to what I can say even if I had that information to share. I am after all but another poster venturing an opinion on these matters In fact you seem to be much better informed !

    Anyone working on the assumption that the IRA was a top down streamlined operation have read too many spook and informer accounts . The conditions and make up of Belfast was different to Derry and both were different to South Armagh. West Tyrone was different again !

    Dublin was totally different to Cork and that was different to Kerry or Limerick. Most FF dynasties in the twenty-six counties came from Republican families, look to that organizational structure in theory and practice and what FF has overground was a closer example to what the IRA had underground than any idealized model.

    I had a meeting in the seventies with a man who later came out as a well known Garda Informer. The information he requested should have been outside his ‘need to know’ I simply went for a piss and diid not come back. I also reported his unwarranted curiosity and indeed his excss spirit consumption at that mid-day meeting as a security breach and said if I was forced to meet with him again in any capacity that personally I was gone for the hills!

    I did not have to, I gave the same information directly to some other trusted colleauges in other regions and after that nothing was taken for granted when he came into an area. Checks and balances ! People are not fools, basic common sense and carefull practices were all it took to avoid most problems. New volunteers became encultured quickly in the South under good O’C or they went to jail under incompetent or careless ones!

    It was always more to do with local conditions than organizational ethos per se.

    Thankfully the ISU writ did not even run into all areas in Northern Command never mind Southern Command ! Far too much is being read into the dept and the success of the British control through the ISU.

    While British penetration should not be understimated, neither should it be over estimated, or that of the South either for that matter !

    However the details of this British penetration and debacle is for the IRA as an organization to deal with and in the time honoured way of these things, I am sure that whatever was learned of the scale and methodology of British penetration by the non GFA supporting IRA inquery has been taken on board and implemented.

    As for not rotating our Italian friend……. that owed as much to the same bloody cronyism rampan through out other Irish organizations like the Church, the banking system and other political parties as it did to any great conspiricy.

    Just look at current Fine Gael : Enda cannot do the business but he and the rest of his crony deadbeats are too well entrenched to shift !

    I am not denying that the Brits tried and sometimes succeeded in placing malleable people in key positions but I also would not be one bit surprised to know that local regional O’C were taking in members after their own local vetting without reference to Southern of Northern commands right up to the ceasefire and after.

  • Joe Bryce

    Sorry for the delay in replying. The Da Vinci bomb heart sickened me. It is precisely my point: anyone from my tradition opens discussion, we get swatted. Scarcely surprising so few do. Any return to violence is completely counterproductive. Please let us stop it from happening.

    OK, that was an intelligent and thoughtful response. I disagree that Stormont or the Dail should be forgotten. They are both local institutions and IMHO our debate is about their inter-relation.

    I note, and am heartened by, your views on the shortcomings of the Republic as was. I have also seen, to be fair, quite vigorous expression of opinion that the Republic could have been secular, and that its failure to be so may be as much the fault of my political tradition as of yours. I do not find that hard to believe.

    What I suppose I was trying to say to both you and to JEB was, OK, that was then, and we won’t agree about that, but can we possibly agree about the future? Laying my cards on the table: I am an Ulster Scot, and I am not persuaded that the Union is forever. That is, it may be forever between Antrim and Galloway, but one day quite soon it may end between Carlisle and Dumfries. At the very least, these relationships are fluid, negotiable, and have visibly shifted in recent years.

    If the Saltire leaves the Union flag, how can St Patrick stay there?

    Haughey, who was a crook I admit, spoke of IONA, the Islands of the Nortn Atlantic. The acronym resonates with the feritlisation of Ireland with Scotland going back two millenia. How do we feel our way to a common future, and what might that look like?

    That is the debate I want to see. It ought to be an occasion for joy and celebration. Like O’Neill, recently quoted on this blog, I do not know whether I am Irish, or British. In my case, I do not know either if I am also Scottish. If we all approach each other with respect, cannot we all agree?

    Look at how far we have all come since the ceasefires. If violence starts again, dialogue ends, change freezes – and that is not I think in the interest of a single living soul.

  • Munsterview


    “…..Sorry for the delay in replying. The Da Vinci bomb heart sickened me. It is precisely my point: anyone from my tradition opens discussion, we get swatted. Scarcely surprising so few do. Any return to violence is completely counterproductive. Please let us stop it from happening…”.

    Thanks for replying, Simple dissection of the above to begin with.

    1) “………The Da Vinci bomb heart sickened me…..”

    I would have said that……. ” it quite disheartened me and was a grave cause for concern ”

    2) “……It is precisely my point: anyone from my tradition opens discussion, we get swatted…..”

    I would have said……. ” Jesus as usual just when I appear to be getting somewhere with Boyce and a few more, we have another bloody bomb and that is the end of that for a few
    more weeks ”

    3) “……Scarcely surprising so few do……”

    My thoughts……I know how this will seem to unionists, bombs and bullets again with MV giving them intellectual cover, what is the point of even attempting dialogue, they are all the bloody same ?

    4) “……Any return to violence is completely counterproductive……”

    Qualified in in regard to specifics but in general agreed !

    5) “……..Please let us stop it from happening…”.

    Qualified in regard to specifics but in general agreed !


    Any return to violence is completely counterproductive : peace to the Brits is an absence of war….. to return to an ‘acceptable level of violence’ the Brits will make concessions in British interests without regard to the effect on the general local body politic. They have already offered talks!

    Please let us stop it from happening……… : not by all out ‘security methods’ that always fail. Deal with the main problems that are within the remit of current politics to deal with that would show politics can work.

    All it takes as a first step, is a Ministerial Order to task the Intel forces with intelligence collection only and bar them from involvement in actual politics such as operating Loyalist pseudo gangs and undermining Sinn Fein and other Republican / nationalists groups to inhibit their growth.

    Justice to be done, must be seen to be done. Peace as an absence of war and little else has little attraction or direct benefit for republicans, the further removed from the power centers they are are

    Getting CS gassed or Plastic bullets from the PRSNI instead of the RUC was not what the struggle was all about for the ordinary people.

    “…..Laying my cards on the table: I am an Ulster Scot, and I am not persuaded that the Union is forever.

    “…….Haughey, who was a crook I admit, spoke of IONA, the Islands of the North Atlantic. The acronym resonates with the fertilization of Ireland with Scotland going back two millennia. How do we feel our way to a common future, and what might that look like?…….”

    “……..How do we feel our way to a common future, and what might that look like?……”

    The first thing that I would say about that is our future is far too important to leave it to politicians only to decide. That incidently includes Sinn Fein. Sinn Fein like every political party on this island has Party Interests that shape its politics and Sinn Fein’s way forward is just that, Sinn Fein’s agreed agenda.

    In the South there was a golden circle of decision makers/ beneficiaries who ran the country for their selfish interests and ran it into the ground!

    These very same decision makers then decamp en mass to the McGill summer school or the Merriman Winter School etc. from Dublin Four where the same collection of wasters that screwed up so monumentally in the actual practice of governance, give their views on a “New Ireland’ as if the old and existing one had absolutely nothing to do with them.

    A bit like the Royal Household going to Balmoral and going ‘Scottish’ for a few weeks it is all for optics and recration, the character remains the same !

    So Joe, one concrete proposal here, they must be a few more like you around, I am not alone either. How about slugger hosting a one day conference, not for politicians or the usual talking heads but for people who can make a contribution from experience and debate the future structures and forms of governance on this island.

    No pre conditions, just the starting point that we are all living on this Island of Ireland and how do we make it work for the benefit of all.

    One immediate contribution Slugger could make in this regard is to make a permanent thread available where aspects of this debate could be carried on in an ongoing basis and let the discussions go where they will.

    I can even suggest a good slogan for the organizing theme., the three ‘C’ ….. Conference, Conciliation and Consent !

    I can also suggest a name…… The All For Ireland League !

    What I am proposing is what the All For Ireland League was doing from its foundation in 1909 to the 1918 at which point they had been overtaken by events.

    The principle objective of the Leauge……’ The union and active co-operation in every department of our nation of all Irishmen and Women who believe in the principles of domestic self government for Ireland ‘ and among other objectives was…..

    ‘Garauntee to the protestant minority for all their rights and liberties!’

    The AFIL leauge got eleven elected MP,s in the 1910 election and all the MP’s Catholic and Protestant, IRB and Unionist ( they had all ) were men ……’ whose deep conviction was that the success on an Irish Parliment must depend on it being won with the consent rather than the compulsion of the Protestant minority’

    Any problem with that Joe ?

    If unionism is a broad church so too is republicanism. My grandfather was of the AFIL tradition. There is an interesting historical inrersect here, so too were Jack Lynch’s parents. He was recruted by Fianna Fail once he had achieved a high sporting profile but his political instincts were not Fianna Fail tradition.

    In the Arms Crisis when the Haughy / Blaney / Boland faction were pushing for a Irish State Intervention in the North and push came to shove Jack Lynch came down not on the side of Fianna Fail millitants but in favor of his AFIL childhood home principles.

    The rest as the saying goes is history.

    If interested google DD Sheehan MP and select the main site in the W/Pedia, all the information on the AFIL is there. DD book ‘ Ireland since Parnell. is also available as a free download and is well worth a read.

  • Joe Bryce

    I do not doubt your bona fides, and it is clear you do not question mine, or JEB’s.

    I think we do need a broader forum, as you suggest, and |I think it should be all-inclusive; and by all, I mean all, including all those who currently feel left out. I wholeheartedly agree there have been no successful security responses in the past and there will never be any in the future. I personally feel that a forum of this kind would find room in it for Scotland, since what I envisage over time is a renegotiation of all relationships in the islands; but perhaps you would feel that already suggests a unionist agenda.

    I frankly think all politicians are the same but also that most normal people are content to leave them to get on with it as we all have better things to do with our time. But it is precisely the kind of more civic intercourse that I think we need.

    I think the underlying trends are towards political change. The Republic is now frankly more secular than the North, albeit the state power of the church could do with some further dismantling. The Union is becoming looser, Scotland already has an SNP government, King Charles III will not have the legitimacy or popularity of his mother. Europe has provided the context in which change has taken place in Ireland since 1973 and that is going to continue. Provided the ultras allow it to happen, the border will melt away, cross-border bodies will develop organically in line with the real economic and cultural needs of society, there will be an SF First Minister. The only thing that might stop those changes from happening is a resumption of republican violence.

    It may be safer just to allow change to happen along those lines but a forum for ongoing dialogue may indeed be useful.

  • Munsterview


    “……Provided the ultras allow it to happen, the border will melt away, cross-border bodies will develop organically in line with the real economic and cultural needs of society, there will be an SF First Minister…….”

    In general agreed !

    “………The only thing that might stop those changes from happening is a resumption of republican violence……..”.

    Qualified agreement ! There are currently two main additional impediments from a republican perspective.

    The first is the apparently free hand MI5 has to undermining its credibility and hense its expansion to the parties natural political limits within Northern Ireland.

    The second is the attempt by the DUP to stymie and neutralize cross border All Ireland Institutional and indeed progressive politics in the North generally having tactically decided that no progress and moribund politics was acceptable to proven Sinn Fein progress.

    GFA supporting PSF Sinn Fein would see all three as obstacles to political progress.

    “………It may be safer just to allow change to happen along those lines but a forum for ongoing dialogue may indeed be useful……..”

    We just had an attempt ( assuming that it was sincere and not for optics) by Sinn Fein and the DUP, two parties that came to power by street protests and demonstration, to completely curtail street protest. Parties interests are about taking, holding and using power!

    Sinn Fein are no different and I would be as wary of Sinn Fein antics in this regard as I would any other political grouping prepared to but party before people !

    Meanwhile we have Fianna Failure operating a fifth column in Mid Ulster to checkmate Sinn Fein on an All Ireland Basis, to expand their ‘brown envelope chancer culture Northwards and to be in place that in the event of another collapse they can say to the unionists, here boys, it is us or them uns…… which do you want.

    Joe….. we are being sleepwalked into a Thirty Two County version of the Fianna Failure Twenty-Six model…… that is what the Southern and British Establishment want as a default choice. In that event they will find a few Jackie Healy Ray Unionists to do business with…….they always do.

    That is why independent debate about a New Ireland structure and politics should start now and is urgently needed !

  • Drumlin Rock

    MR, of those 70% frequent/regular attenders my guess would be 80% are also regular voters, whereas of the 30% rare attenders probably the majority are rare voters too. You cant ditch the 70% to chase the 30.

  • Mike

    A little aside SK – as I’ve commented on here and other forums previously, it’s funny how in some people’s minds GSTQ is never sung, it’s always “belted out”. It’s a phrase that crops up a fair bit.

    Can be interesting to look out for this terminology as a little insight into the poster’s thinking…