“How many school yards now ring out to nationalist or republican songs like ours did?”

One of the most striking things about Barry Flynn’s great evocation of the IRA’s 1950’s border campaign was the degree to which the shooting of IRA volunteers Sean South and Fergal O’Hanlon seemed to galvanise pro Republic sentiment south of the border. That was reprised with the death of the ten hunger strikers of the early 80s.

But in the absence of conflict and death from Northern Ireland the south has simply presumed all is well and settled and has moved on to its own, more immediate preoccupations. Even the leadership of the largest “Republican” party on the island as recast the relationship between the two parts of the island in striking terms.

Brian Cowen saying earlier this year what I suspect Margaret Ritchie meant to say on The Politics Show this week:

“The genius of all of these agreements is that we are all on a common journey together where we have not decided on the destination. The problem with our ideologies in the past was that we had this idea about where we were going but we had no idea how anyone was going to come with us on the journey.

“We have now all decided: let’s go on a journey and forget about the destination – the destination isn’t really important in that respect. We can all work for what it is we would like ideally to see, but this is not something that can be forced or imposed upon people on either side of the island.”

And he was only following the lead of the boul Bertie before him:

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

In today’s Irish Times, Clare man Brian McConnell notes (highly anecdotally) what he felt has been a change in the outlook of Northern Irish nationalists:

During previous visits to nationalist communities in the North I have always felt something of an inherent tension. Many felt abandoned by the South, and questioned how true our republican aspirations were.

I remember once being tackled for buying the Guardian newspaper, and this from a republican sympathiser who never missed a Manchester United match on television.

This time, though, those tensions had eased. There was a realisation and acceptance from many I spoke to that the notion of a united Ireland, while still something of an obscure political ideal in the Republic, is logistically impossible now. It was refreshing to be able to have an honest dialogue without feeling pangs of guilt for not rowing in behind the green agenda.

The logistics of the post-1994 reality have caught up on century-old definitions of nationalism and republicanism. How many school yards now ring out to nationalist or republican songs like ours did?

That last is a very good question…

, , , ,

  • Séamus Rua

    The weakness with McDonnell’s piece is that he doesnt really understand northern nationalism.

    Even if their was negligable support for a united Ireland in the south, northern nationalist are still unlikely to simply assimilate to Britan.

    The aim of Irish nationalism in north is the survival of Irish nationality in the north – a united Ireland may or may never come, but it is beside the point.

    Even if a united Ireland was “impossible” – it is unlikely that northern nationalism would simply die off with everyone becoming unionists.

  • JH

    I don’t personally see it that way. For a start, similar to the gradual formation of the Republic through policy changes since ’22, the transition of the north into a united Ireland is already happening.

    The notion that we’ll all wake up in a UI is pretty much a logistical impossibility. However, retained union with Britain is also a logistical impossibility since we cost them, and will continue to cost them, approx £10bn a year. The Azores Ruling means that special tax status, or devolution of such powers, would be unaffordable for the foreseeable future, therefore we will remain economically uncompetitive.

    What’s more likely is that the growing nationalist community will force discussion on a paper that can be supported on a cross community basis, which allows a staggered economic withdrawal by Britain and a confederate arrangement to take it’s place. Stormont isn’t stable or confident enough as a government to pursue this yet, but with a growing ‘Northern Irish’ identity replacing the British identity for many people, a confederate Ireland in which the north still exists as a state would be an attractive, sustainable arrangement for both sides. We need to stop thinking about referenda on the border itself, is it not more likely that any such referendum would be on an agreed solution?

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    I dont know about Mr McConnells school playground in County Clare, I can only speak from a West Belfast viewpoint.
    Certainly there is a perceived difference between a “national song” and a “rebel song”. Certainly in Primary 5 we were taught “Clares Dragoons” a pseudo Jacobite song actually written a century later as a republican song. This like “A Nation Once Again” was perceived as ok. “Sean South” was the ultimate in rebel songs and therefore unacceptable certainly in the main venue for youth circa 1966 …a church run hall.
    Theres peculiarities. Not a musician myself but as I understand it Sean South is the same air as “Roddy McCorley”…….not sure if the story about a member of the well known republican family who taught music REALLY did tell the priest “I am not teaching them Sean South.I am teaching them Roddy McCorley” is actually true but it should be.
    Those of us who listened to Larry Gogans Top Ten (radio Éireann sic) in mid 1960s (Monday 6.45pm) will know that rebel songs such as The Dying Rebel and The lonely Woods of Upton were in the charts. Indeed it was a part of showbands sets to feature rebel songs.
    If the Dubliners and Irish Rovers (Canadian residents) did drop rebel songs as a kinda acknowledgement of their negative effect, it does not detract from the fact that the best version of Take It Down From The Mast is Ciaran Burkes vocal……or that “Kelly The Boy From Killane” was sung by a group featuring a now deceased BBC journalist, a current BBC radio presenter and a (then) serving RUC officer. I still have the record.
    Now this is not a mere irrelevant trip down Memory Lane.
    It strikes me that 2010 is exactly like 1966……we are in a relatively peaceful and AGAIN post conflict time. Rebel songs are again safe and nostalgic or irrelevant as people would have thought then.
    Harmless. A bit of craic. Or a Tribute to History.
    Not so sure.
    My recollection is that a lot of those who sang the rebel songs loudest in the 1960s were actually invisible in the 1970s. Those who found them silly in the 1960s added more to the repetoire in the 1970s.
    And in ten years time…..2020.
    I dont suppose any Catholic school is teaching 9 year olds “Clares Dragoons” today. A pity because jacobite songs…whether genuinely 18th century or retrospective are great songs.
    I dont suppose any teens are being taught “Sean South” in Catholic church halls.

    And naturally no Protestant kids are being taught Orange songs…….oh wait thats “different”……its CULTURE.
    Still the joys of Inegrated Education await us. But as Dr Norman Hamilton says “there is no such thing as value free education”

  • JJ Malloy

    “Sean South”, “The Patriot Game”, and “A Dying Rebel” are my favorite Rebel Songs.

    There are some bad ones out there tho.

  • stk

    for £10 billion a year, what does England get out of this deal?

  • JJ Malloy

    “Sean South”, “The Patriot Game”, and “A Dying Rebel” are my favorite Rebel Songs.

    There are some bad ones out there tho.

    I don’t think they equate to being a Republican, at least knowing and liking some of the older ones.

  • Driftwood

    ‘The Famine Song’ is about the best rebel song of recent years. Very funny.

  • Alan Maskey

    My favourite is probably The Croppy Boy, which makes more than a passing and interesting place in Joyce’s Ulysses. These things do sink in to our marrow.
    Clare’s Dragoons. Well, I remember it and the wise Christian Brothers who gave it to us. The earliest song I can remember is The Patriot Game.

    This thing about “Northern Irish” nationialism makes quite a few assumptions. Nationalism is probably stronger in Dundalk than it is among the Maurice Hayes of Co Down.

    The Six counties will not go the way of Kosovo as the Catholics are so many and they have a large and potentially sympathetic hinterland in Donegal, Cooley and further South.
    The tension will stay untll rfreedom reigns and for that and other reasons, Fitzg’ comment is a good one.

  • Alan Maskey

    Funny you should mention that Driftwood as I find it hard to find any Orange song that has a worthwhile tune to it. You should really leave the low level Orange remarks to HeinzGuderian, who has an appropriate name for it.
    Irish ballads do tend to be a bit mushy. Here is the funny Nazi song:

    Famine Song

    I often wonder where they would have been
    If we hadn’t have taken them in
    Fed them and washed them
    Thousands in Glasgow alone
    From Ireland they came
    Brought us nothing but trouble and shame
    Well the famine is over
    Why don’t they go home?

    Now Athenry Mike was a thief
    And Large John he was fully briefed
    And that wee traitor from Castlemilk
    Turned his back on his own
    They’ve all their Papists in Rome
    They have U2 and Bono
    Well the famine is over
    Why don’t they go home?

    Now they raped and fondled their kids
    That’s what those perverts from the darkside did
    And they swept it under the carpet
    and Large John he hid
    Their evils seeds have been sown
    Cause they’re not of our own
    Well the famine is over
    Why don’t you go home?

    Now Timmy don’t take it from me
    Cause if you know your history
    You’ve persecuted thousands of people
    In Ireland alone
    You turned on the lights
    Fuelled U boats by night
    That’s how you repay us
    It’s time to go home.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Ive been trying to find an anti-rebel song called “The Craic We Had the Day We Died For Ireland” for years on You Tube….which is so appropriate for the republican internet enthusiasts. I only ever heard it once on that awful TV show on RTE in afternoon.
    I believe it is by someone called Ding Dong Danny O’Reilly and the Hairy Bowsers. Not sure I entirely approve of alternate comedy versions of Irish history…..but an interesting spect of so called culture in 21st century Ireland.

  • joeCanuck

    Now, here’s a strange thing. I lived right on the border back then and our town did suffer somewhat from bombings (although people smiled when the customs post was demolished). But I have no memory whatsoever of nationalist or republican songs being sung in our playground.

  • Seymour Major

    I have always enjoyed singing rebel songs (and playing them on the guitar) even though I am a not a republican or nationalist. I was handed down the rebel-singing culture from my mother’s side of the family.

    The meaning of the songs never bothered me. I just always enjoy the music. It is strangely ironic that every now and again, I get requests from local people to sing and play at their house parties. Of course, they expect me to include some rebel songs. I do not refuse them. I enjoy entertaining people. The trouble is, you get a bit weary after singing for three hours but the burden has started to ease.

    My sons are both excellent musicians and so, when we go to a house party, they take some of the entertainment burden from me.

    The rebel singing culture is alive and well in the Major household!

  • JH

    Ding Dong Denny O’ Reilly. He also has a song about the Famine called ‘The Potatoes Aren’t Looking the Best’

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Actualy neither do I Mr Canuck. Although technically we didnt have a playground in west Belfast.
    But certainly we sang Clares Dragoons in class and technically “Loch Lomond” is also a Jacobite song of sorts. Likewise “Mo Ghile Mhear” (although re-written by Pearse I believe).
    I also recall in school being taught the difference in venial and mortal sin.
    its a venial sin to shoot a policeman and a mortal sin to miss.

    I dont suppose they teach the Catechism that way now either. Political correctness gone maaaaaaaaaaad.
    Of course that venial/mortal sin thing is actually quite funny in a certain post conflict ironic way but maybe not the value that we need to hand down to kids.
    But an 8 year old in 1960 was an 18 year old in 1970.

    As for the “playground” thing…..I looked on it as a metaphor for childhood in general rather than literally in playground.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Thats actually quite interesting.
    In a very peculiar way I ration myself on rebel songs when typing the rubbish I blog. My playlist on You Tube starts off in neutral stuff….and works its way thru the Jacobite stuff……to the classic rebel stuff…..to the modern doggerel
    and crap that I would never dream of listening to like the ballad of “Paddy Ill Never Forget WhatshisName” .
    And what I post is reflective of the song Im actually listening to.
    Naturally I end my You Tube experience with Amhrán na bhFian,
    But maybe Yeats had got it right. Did some words of his send men out to die.
    I must admit “My Little Armalite” is depressingly catchy.

  • Anon

    How many school yards now ring out to nationalist or republican songs like ours did?

    I am pleased he doesn’t seem to be hanging around schoolyards. Most of my very SDLP friends from Glengormely know at least some rebel songs and they certainly had younger cousins at the gathering. Perhaps it is different in the South, but I’d guess you’d not have to stray too far from well heeled parts of Dublin to hear a few. Depends of course on what you mean by “rebel”.

    There was a realisation and acceptance from many I spoke to that the notion of a united Ireland, while still something of an obscure political ideal in the Republic, is logistically impossible now.

    It’s logistically impossible right this second and that is as true North as it is South. The difference is that there is no talk about unity outside of the principle of consent, so people realise they need their own ducks lined up first. If he thinks the idea is now an “obscure political ideal” then he is seriously misreading the situation. It is assumed the republic would vote yes in any referendum. The current economic crisis is obviously recognised as putting a dampener on things but it’s equally assumed this is a medium term prospect anyway.

  • Sir AJF O’Reilly

    Robert Fisk proved that the U boat thing is a load of rubbish in the excellent Belfast Telegraph. Well worth buying for comprehensive analysis.

  • pippakin

    I think the people in the south want a UI as much as ever, but the vast majority of them want it to be by democratic process. In addition now is if anything the worst possible time.

    As for rebel or loyalist songs in schools: I sincerely hope not.

  • Stephen Ferguson

    There weren’t any Orange songs taught at my school.

    Anyone who fancied an impromptu rendition of The Sash or Derry’s Walls would have earned themselves a week’s lunchtime detention.

    Don’t let that stop your MOPE though….

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    indeed not Mr Ferguson……and I hope you did not spend long in detention…..but I think you miss the point that I did not specify “schools”……I merely implied that Protestant kids are being taught Orange songs thru the youthful bands engaged by that fine christian organisation. ..the Orange Order.
    I am of course gratified that you totally equally disapprove of young minds Catholic or Protestant being so warped by adults.
    It is testimony to your egalitarian nature.

  • Stephen Ferguson

    Here’s what you said.

    “I dont suppose any Catholic school is teaching 9 year olds “Clares Dragoons” today. A pity because jacobite songs…whether genuinely 18th century or retrospective are great songs.
    I dont suppose any teens are being taught “Sean South” in Catholic church halls.

    And naturally no Protestant kids are being taught Orange songs…….oh wait thats “different”……its CULTURE.”

    Not hard to take from that you’re insinuating protestant kids are being taught Orange songs in school.

    I’ve no problem if people want to teach their children rebel/Orange songs at home but neither should be making an appearance in schools.

  • Alan Maskey

    Mo Ghile Mhear is a lovely song, even when Sting sings it. Fitzg, I get the impression from your posts you are the ghost of a dead Jacobite. Were you killed at Culloden by any chance?
    The Branch like to sing rebel songs too. Or drinking songs to give them another name. If you run a bar, rebel or rock music gets them downing the pints.
    Three cheers for Home rule and bottled Guinness as someone said.

    ps: Say Hello to the Provos was a good one, especially in a crowded Provo bar. Or Take it down from the mast. Or that old classic, The Broad Black Brimmer.
    You get to throw your fist in the air, stand on chairs, spill your beer, sing along with the equally tone deaf Wolfe Tones and imagine you are a patriot.

  • Halfer

    Why stop there JH? Why not a confederation of island republics?

  • anne warren

    There were no rebel or loyalist songs in my school . Our musical education consisted of classics, Gilbert and Sullivan, English, Welsh and German/Austrian folk songs.

    Listening to rebel songs and Irish diaspora songs and ballads in later life I was struck by just how skill was employed to impart the social history they contained – just as some of the repertoire of “Loyalist” bands contain a treasure trove of 18th and 19th century hymns and Lowland Scots folksongs.

    I see no reason why they should not both be taught in schools. There is no reason why people in NI should not know where they and themmuns are coming from.

    There is no reason for segration in music

  • Munsterview

    The past is indeed another country and they did indeed do things different there.

    This is not a comparison of like with like : when The Twenty-Six Counties was declared a Republic, the Dep of Foreign Affairs had a very high profile propaganda arm pumping out pro reunification speels that were an essential part of every speech made by Government Ministers, opposition politicians and Irish Diplomats abroad.

    For Goodness sake, even Conner Cruse O’Brien was a Republican back then and actually writing most of these scripts, that is how different the whole ethos was !

    Back then the whole of Nationalist Ireland was singing off the same hymn sheet, so to speak, Irish unity was promoted at home and abroad in an aggressive and in your face way. That position was understandable, after all most in politics and in public life had, gun in hand, fought for that goal, their ideas or Ideals had not changed.

    Look at the ages of many killed in the war of Independence, those who were aged eighteen in their first political blooding in the 1918 election, ( the one after which the four Unionist counties claimed the right to form a breakaway from the overwhelming majority wishes of the Irish people, only to immediately deny that right to two adjacent Nationalist majority voting counties by annexing them to their new statelet the same way as Hitler arbitrarily and undemocratic did a couple of decades later in the Continent) were still only in their mid fifties.

    In the early sixties there was a case involving IRA members before the Cork Circuit Court. The IRA two hundred strong drilled and marched to shouted commands on the road outside the Courthouse while the case was underway. Whatever of 1972, by the mid seventies or at any time there after, all the Republicans involved would be on their way to the Curragh or Portlaois.

    When Twoomey and Co escaped from Mountjoy, a Country and Western Band were lively off the mark with a celebratory song that topped the charts for weeks while a peeved and sober( for a change) Cooney, The Southern Minister for inJustice pleaded with people not to buy the record.

    Just shows how far things have changed can be seen when Pierce Doherty Sinn Fein is the principle defender of the Twenty Six County constitution against Fianna Failure corruption and by giving leadership to a few Fine Gael would be politicians by showing them what should be done when their own leader Kenny abjectly and ineffectually failed yet again to do so.

  • Munsterview

    Not surprised you do !

  • JJ Malloy

    What a sick song.

  • JJ Malloy

    What about that song Kinky Boots? That dumb tune got stuck in my head at one point.

  • JJ Malloy

    Speaking of that Cheiftains album with Sting, i thought their Foggy Dew with Sinead O’Connor was great. She has a fantastic voice.

  • JJ Malloy

    There was that pop song about the Ra blowing up the statue of Wellington that was a minor hit, if I recall correctly.

  • Munsterview

    Fully agreement there Anne !

    ( p.s. regarding Orange culture just what do they do with the bloody goats? I see that one caught the Old Admirals eye recently and aroused, at very least, his interest !

  • Munsterview

    JJ : Given the source what else do you expect !

  • qwerty12345

    I went through Catholic education from 1975 – 1990 and NEVER heard “Rebel” songs at school. In fact I’d go so far as to say such sentiment would have been actively discouraged.

  • qwerty12345

    Well said Anne

  • Munsterview

    At your service JJ, even the chords !

    (G)Up went Nelson in old Dublin
    (C)Up went Nelson in old (G)Dublin
    All along O’Connell Street the (Em)stones and rubble flew
    As (Am)up went (D)Nelson and the (G)pillar too

    (G)One early mornin’ in the year of ’66
    A (C)band of Irish laddies were (G)knockin’ up some tricks
    They though Horatio Nelson had (Em)overstayed a mite
    So they (Am)helped him on his (D)way with some (G)sticks of gelignite


    The (G)Irish population came from miles around
    To (C)see the English hero (G)lying on the ground
    The Dublin corporation had no (Em)funds to have it done
    But the (Am)pillar blew to (D)pieces by the (G)ton, ton, ton


    A (G)crowd of lads and lassies from a dance nearby came out
    To (C)see the bits of Nelson (G)lyin’ all about
    A gussune from the Coombe says we’ll (Em)have to have a care
    In (Am)case the corpo(D)ration put King (G)Billy there

    As (Am)up went (D)Nelson and the (G)pillar too

  • Munsterview

    Stephen, you think that a good thing ?

    There is a saying in mid Munster to the effect that a people without a culture is like a person with mind loss, until both know where they came from, they do not really know where they are, nor know where they are going.

  • Stephen Ferguson

    They can be taught in the home, no?

  • GoldenFleece

    A recent poll in the South suggest only 57% of them want a UI.

  • JJ Malloy

    Ha you got it MV. I just looked it up on youtube, catchy tune.

    I knew it was nelson, the one eyed bastard, I got mixed up with with another english, napoleonic era hero. Good riddance to that pillar tho

  • anne warren

    No good asking me! A lady! what Orangemen do!
    Ask an Orange man what he and his confrères do with the goats!

  • anne warren

    Thank you Qwerty. Hope some people agree with us!

  • Munsterview

    Defeats the objective of the exercise Stephen.

    If culture from both sides is taught and explained to both communities children and there is joint singing of the songs and playing of the music, then there is a much better chance of tolerance afterwards. I have some experience of schools up there, there is a lot that could be done.

    Some weeks back I suggested that the Ireland fund put up a decent prize for joint GAA, Scor na nOg and Young Orange Hall youth musicians representing an area with the winners getting 25k each for their local community centers.

    Rehearsing together and traveling together they will either kill each other or be lifelong friends before the contest is over. Things like that could be used to move towards towards a common exclusive culture.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    We also would have got detention for singing the Sash or anything like that and I agree with Stephen Ferguson, national songs have no place in schools.

    I really hope Brian MacConnell is right about nationalists in Northern Ireland (though I wouldn’t have guessed it from these pages!). Aherne’s words in particular show a mature form of nationalism that deserves respect – that is, a fair and tolerant one that treats everyone equally, without an in-built sense of its own cultural superiority.

    This is what we heard plenty of when the GFA was signed but we hear all too rarely now. Likewise, the less strident forms of unionism have been on the wane too since then and that must be difficult for nationalists. It’s nice to be reminded of what both sides can be when we put our minds to it.

  • Munsterview

    Should have read ‘ non-exclusive culture ‘

  • Munsterview


    Well they cannot keep it up indefinitely…… one of these days a disgruntled goat is going to talk to the News Of The World…… I will even buy it that sunday.

  • Light23

    As a naive 15 y/o I nearly got detention for whistling The Sash. I didn’t actually know that’s what it was… the guy next to me was being unruly and whistling so I joined in. I did recognise the tune though.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    As can be seen by songs learned at Catholic schools in the 1960s, there is a sense of values that are not just about religion.
    As Dr Norman Hamilton said on Saturday there is no such thing as “value free” education.
    Any introduction of integrated education would inevitably replace one set of values with another. Republicans for example who are not necessarily “hugging the altar rails” or “in everything but the crib” might actually have something to lose thru integrated education.

  • Stephen Ferguson

    Not the worst idea I’ve ever heard.

    But who’s going to observe the teaching of Orange culture in St Joseph’s Crossmaglen to ensure it’s neutrality?

    We can see every summer how Nationalists are being brought up to think of it.

    This would only work (if ever) in a world with compulsory integrated schooling. Thanks to Sinn Fein, SDLP and the catholic church that’s as far away as ever.

  • Seymour Major

    I agree with pippakin.

    There are many Irish ballads which are purely love songs. There is no reason why some of them should not be sung in schools. However there are other songs, including many Rebel and loyalist songs, which contain what I would describe as “mature themes.”

    It is all very well to suggest that you want a child to have a broad view of all strains of Irish Culture but shools also have a duty to engender parity of esteem.

    Some of the songs are like alcohol. They should not be supplied in the schools.

  • Stephen Ferguson

    Still more than the current 21% in the North! 🙂

  • anon

    meet me at the pillar
    four green fields

  • anne warren

    I’m sure you will agree that an education in music, like an education in literature, means stepping beyond the emotional appeal to intellectual underpinnings.
    Obviously in a step by step age-appropriate way for school children and students

    Analysing what the words of the song/aria say.
    What’s wrong with trying to gain an insight into what people wrote and sang/sing and why they did it and how they elicited an emotional response?
    How the song/aria is constructed, links to origins of genre and future developments as can be assessed at present,
    How the melody changes with change of instrument, tempo and transposition of key.

    Would it be so wrong to apply this type of discipline to rebel and “loyalist” songs?
    Would it not help people become aware the unquestioning, instinctive, emotional appeal of this type of music in the first place and propaganda of all sorts in the second?
    Would it not help them become more critically aware of what they are hearing and perhaps playing and singing?

    Woiuld all that be so bad as to need prohibition?

  • redhugh78

    Racism alive and well on slugger.
    We obviously have some supporters of Scotland’s shame on Slugger.

  • Halfer

    Oh I’ve got a brand new shiny helmet and a pair of kinky boots
    I’ve got a lovely new flak jacket and a lovely khaki suit
    And when we go on night patrol we hold each others hands
    We are the British army and we’re here to take your land

  • Halfer

    A wholistic process of radical constitutional rearrangement

  • pippakin


    I think the answer is in ‘recent poll’ I did say that now is the worst possible time.

  • Cormac Mac Art

    That’s actually a very good point.

  • Driftwood

    Wellington was Irish, in the ‘stable’ sense. As was Faulkner.

    A geological land mass. A lot of ‘British’ people in Kilburn used to claim they were not ‘Brits’-but ‘Irish’. Now, outnumbered by Asians and Afro-Caribbeans, they fade into insignificance. and become..British.

    So it goes…

  • Cormac Mac Art

    Mmmm .. The problem is that Ireland is already an established country, and I honestly don’t see any great rush here to have Northern Ireland expand our state.

    Séamus Rua’s point (see above) might be more realistic, that some form of northern Irish nationalism will continue to exist. However, it is already a very different nationalism from that in Ireland.

    One, or both, need to face up to something we already know; that north and south are two different political regions, and not likely to be united anytime soon.

  • Cormac Mac Art

    That’s about right, but I’d say that percentage would drop very quickly if the question was put to the country. After all, to be (sadly) brutal, what’s in it for us?

  • pippakin

    Cormac Mac Art

    ” What’s in it for us? ”

    At the moment nothing except more debt and only a fool would think a UI is affordable at this time and possibly for some time. This wretched financial disaster is forcing us to prioritise and some cherished ambitions are going to have to wait, which at least suits the democratic process.

  • Munsterview


    check it out, the format is for the current set up, if the goodwill was there a way can be found to bring in a few more things.


    This is a starting point for information for those who do not know what score is about, it is one of the more accessible sites, googling Scor na nOG will get a plethora of sites.

  • Munsterview

    Now there is a story whenever it will be fully told.

    When the full bill came in from the insurances for the collateral damage the State army did blowing up the base the Goverment was taken aback and Frank Aken was not one bit impressed with the Army ‘professionalism’. Aken is reputed to have said that the Army should have been left in the Curragh and the IRA asked to finish the job.

  • JH

    A confederacy would surely cement the fact that there are two distinct political regions?

    In fact the idea goes against my grain, I’d much rather see a unitary state and the abolition of the northern state forever and ever. But if we’re talking pragmatically that’s not going to work, because it would never satisfy both communities.

    Your reaction is a little bit knee-jerk if you don’t mind me saying. The northern state wouldn’t be expanded, it would simply gain fiscal control and attempt to replace a staggered reduction in British subvention with FDI and private industry. Although I think you like to think that northern nationalism could be contained within the state that’s just not the case. In fact a confederacy would have more chance of containing that element by fulfilling some of it’s aspiration whilst prolonging the life expectancy of the northern state, perhaps drastically so.

    The fact is that while to aspire to be British and retain the link with Britain is perfectly valid, both sides are paying for that aspiration. It is holding us back economically, and will continue to do so. The economic environment has changed drastically in the last 50 years and this arrangement with Britain is now, economically speaking, totally out of date. People here deserve the same chance to aspire as anyone else in the UK / Ireland, but if they want to start businesses they’re tempted by the South’s CT rates or London’s connections. If they want to excel in their careers they have to move where the private industry is, or settle for the civil service. The brain drain is unacceptable, the state is unsustainable and the chance to aspire is practically nil.

  • HeinzGuderian

    ‘Always look on the bright side of life’…………..according to our Great Leader,that was a mainstay,when the going got tough ?? 🙂

  • Munsterview


    Do not assume for one moment that Southern Republicans are satisfied with a Twenty Six plus Six just to make up numbers. The whole damm set up needs to be changed North and South. The Southern Twenty Six counties have as big a democratic deficit as the North has.

    Even more than new politics we need new government structures for both administration and accountability.

    District, Regional, Provincial and National Parliaments incorporating true subsidiary is the answer to the democratic deficit. Power to the people in the true sense of the word.

    Basically any over body should not retain for itself a decision making capacity on behalf of a subordinate body that the underbody is capable of exercising for itself.

    There is even a Papal encyclical on this advocating such an administrative system as the political system most in-keeping with human dignity through power devolution.

    All tax matters, medical cards, state services point of contact etc should be at regional level and no more than a reasonable journey from any point in the region.

    No more of driving from say Waterford to Sligo to sort out a separated mothers allowance, only to find more problems there that have to be referred to Dublin, so another wasted journey there to be referred back to Sligo.

    The district level can be true vocational community and part time, expenses only payment. The regional assembly are a few days a month and paid at average industrial wage. The Provincial Parliament is three days a week while the National Parliament and Senate is full time.

    The first concept of the Senate was a good one, a way of bringing expertise and special interest groups into public life. Instead it became a place to give a platform to politicians on the way up, a parking place for party hacks rejected by the voters, between elections and a rest home for has been politicians about to be pensioned off.

    A true senate could make an enormous contribution with people from credit unions, trade unions, universities etc available. The main National Parliament would deal with national matters only. We could go back to the ‘five fifths’ only Dublin would be the new fifth, dealing with the urban area only.

    There are several areas in the Six Counties where the Unionists would control a majority in the District and even Regional Assemblies. They may even pick up some new membership South of the Border.

    Funny enough anytime I discussed this with South of the Border protestants, I found few willing to consider going back to any form of Political Unionism, whether they would leave their present party allegiances for a new transferred political party catering for former Unionists is another matter.

    Special interest fiefdoms need to be broken up, the legal system is the biggest example of this, we should model our system in a true republican one of elected accountability such as the States and end that bastion of medieval privilege. Likewise the Garda need to be decentralized and under regional police boards with each region under its own commanders with all jobs open on merit in any region to any policeman that have made the grade and is suitable.

    The victimization of Gardai by superiors could be ended, since it would be open to any gardai to sit an exam to get his grade in a Regional or Provincial Educational College graduating police as they would any other profession.

    It is not about just unity, if it was most republicans I know could not be arsed with just that. Connoly said that Ireland as distinct from its people meant nothing to him and while not wholly agreeing with that statement, it is in the right zone.

    Once the concept is embraced there will be one immediate realignment in Irish politics, Unionists, republicans and progressives attempting to have a new order and the three main traditional Southern Parties trying to preserve as much of the old ways as possible.

  • Alan Maskey

    I doubt the wise Chrdsitian Brothers would have apporved of it.

  • Munsterview

    JJ Malloy : Correction 9 November 2010 at 7:50 pm

    Given the posting source, what else do you expect ?

  • Seymour Major


    NO. It is like the history of pornography or ancient erotic art. The argument remains the same

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Fintan O’Toole (no relation to Slugger) is very anti-rebel songs……as befits his position of high priest of the Dublin 4 Overclass in the Irish Times. But it was good to see him bested by the Wolfe Tones on The Late Late Show a few years back.
    Its one of my favourite things to watch on YouTube.

  • Ulick

    “I must admit “My Little Armalite” is depressingly catchy.”

    Written by a teacher from my old school in Lurgan.

  • Finbar Mac

    Folks the country is in all sorts of trouble. Bankrupt, failing states by any measure.North and south.

    It’s really appalling if you think about it eh?

    So where are the modern Christy Moore’s to keep the #$^@$#^ honest?

  • JR

    There were no rebel songs in our schoolyard either. I do remember going on a school music trip where we preformed a number of Irish songs from across the devide including the sash and an irish rebel song which escapes my memory.

    I am a sucker for a good balad though. Favourites of a republican variety would include. Four green fields, Lonley banna strand, Foggy dew, sean south etc.

  • Halfer

    JH I rhino that you and Cormac may have misunderstood me. I meant a confederacy of island republics across the British isles.

    If only the English would ditch their monarchy and reform their political system.

  • Séamus Rua

    I should point out that despite the armed men, the helicopter gunships overhead etc etc.

    I never ever heard a rebel song at school nor even knew anyone who knew one.

  • John Ó Néill

    “How many school yards now ring out to nationalist or republican songs like ours did?”

    Is a question like that not a definitive symptom of a nostalgic romanticism? In an age where, unhappy at having to spend fifteen minutes in the fresh air of a school yard, pale-faced unfit school kids wheeze with concern about their current ‘status’ on Facebook and whether their Youtube playlist is cool enough, they would surely articulate a sense of nationalism (Irish, British whatever) in a completely different way, and from reading Brian McConnell’s piece – a way that would be completely unrecognisable to him.
    It reminds me of people who get teary-eyed over former wonders of the football pitch from some mysteriously more golden era. Then when you get to see some footage, it turns out to be what appears to a dour middle aged man (5 foot 2 but weighing about 15 stone) bobbling a weather-beaten leather ball over a ploughed field before he gets hospitalised by a centre half who looks like a judge forced him to accept a position on the first team or go to jail. All watched by a grey unresponsive crowd. Nostalgia is like claiming historical legitimacy – it tends not to stand up to any serious scrutiny!

  • Anon


    In the short run – increase in both land and sea territory, an influx of cheaper labour that might spur some investment, two good unis, removal of a land border that provides unwanted arbitrage opportunities, complete secutriy control obver the island, some decent tourist sites taht need developed, international goodwill and almost certainly some kind of finacial package between the EU and the UK.

    In the long run if the Republic can recover then the North almost certainly can, and you’d have higher tax receipts more opprotunities for innovation and growth, a chance at breaking FF dominance, a bigger pool for the football team and lots else besides.

    That is in 30 seconds off the top of my head; please don’t go on with endless buts: the point is there are a lot of good reasons if you are open to them. I could equally list a lot of bad things that might happen. On balance you believe the Irish people will do better in control of their own destiny or not, be it 26 or 32 counties.

    Though Republicans need to avoid slipping into a “The North is a sh*thole” trap. It’s counterproductive.

  • quality

    Who wouldn’t want to inherit a country with numerous social problems and still armed paramilitaries?

    It’s easy to talk about democratic process, but there are elements in NI that would easily ignore the ballot box if a UI was even on the furthest horizon.

  • Alan Maskey

    Now John, back off. If you are referring to George Best or Stanely Mathews. Pele and Puskas are hard acts to follow. The older chaps cannot be blamed for the low tech footballs of their day.
    It is nice to hear Clare’s Dragoons being mentioned. God bless the CBS.
    If you read Behan or Joyce, the focus of the ballads doeschange. I have a huge Dubliners collection but seldom listen to it.
    My favourite is Moving Hearts’ Wise Christian Brothers with a certain Christy Moore doing vocals. Mick Hanley, who wrote it, does not like it.

  • Driftwood
  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Just for the record (so to speak) I did not learn Clares Dragoons from any CBS. It was an “ordinary parish run” primary school.
    It was written by Thomas Davis (Young Ireland Movement) in 19th century as was “The Irish Brigade”. So they are not actually Jacobite songs but use the Jacobite experience to promote Republicanism, evoking the Wild Geese etc. CLares “Dragoons” (sic) were actually an Infantry regt which is clearly an error in the song but Cavalry are way cooler.
    The best version of Clares Dragoons (actually the only one) is by Na Casadaigh and much slower than how I was taught. Best version of “Irish Brigade” is the Wolfe Tones. “Jackets Green” (Michael Scanlon) ….theres a WT version but Mary O’Hara (hardly a Republican icon) version is more appropriate…..again this song contains the very basic eror that Sarsfields men did not wear “jackets green”……they were red.
    There is actually a tradition of covert Jacobite 18th century poetry and song, with references to Jacobites such as “Blackbird” etc.
    “Mo Ghile Mhear” is probably the best known. Yesterday I wrote erroneously that this was re-written by PH Pearse. Bad editing. Pearse re-wrote óró sé do bheatha bhaile. which is the version I suspect most are familiar with. If not we are all familiar with “What Shall We Do With A Drunken Sailor”. Ive only heard the original once and never on record. Clancys/Makem is best version but Sinead O’Connors is pretty good.

  • Munsterview

    Currently running in Irish Central…… timing or what, how neat is that ?


  • I have no quarrel with what Brian McConnell wrote in the Irish Times. Mr McConnell’s observations do not have much significance for Northern Ireland. [He is an Eire person who was writing about Eire attitudes.]

    A few weeks ago, Frank Curran died. He was a former editor of the Derry Journal. In the 1980s he made a submission to the New Ieland forum and, in doing so, startled the chattering classes of Eire. He explained to the silly Southerners that a united Northern Ireland was every bit as unrealistic as a united Ireland. The mental cleavage within Northern Ireland was as great as that between north and south – and this mental cleavage was being reinforced by an ever growing residential segregation. The situation described so well and so truthfully by Frank Curran has been reinforced by time and population movement. And given political expression by election results. At the time when Frank Curran was addressing the New Ireland Forum, who would have believed that, within a generation, the DUP and Sinn Fein would become the main unionist and nationalist parties?

    Mr Brian McConnell’s observations are interesting and probably well founded BUT they are of no significance to Northern Ireland.

  • GoldenFleece

    “After all, to be (sadly) brutal, what’s in it for us?”

    Free Cheese?

  • JH

    I could get behind a lot of that MV. Personally I would subscribe to a new model of more accountable Government, particularly where a lot of posts are voluntary. My biggest gripe with the political system on both parts of the Island is that representatives are out of touch with the electorate. I was hugely impressed when East Belfast selected Naomi Long this year because I could not understand how a man earning in excess of £500k p/a could understand the needs of working class people.

    Political salaries should be capped at the average industrial wage plus vetted expenses. It should be a privilege to serve the people, such average wages would ensure only those who truly want to lead will run for office.

    Back to constitutional issue, what I’m proposing, or perhaps predicting, here is a stepping stone to a more sustainable and representative solution to the problem we’re in. That problem is that this state in unsustainable and very poorly designed, economically speaking. If it were a business, someone would be brought in to radically reform it’s corporate structure, I’m simply saying that to provide the capacity for our children to aspire to something greater than public service or emigration we need to take a long hard look at our political situation and see how we can all make a compromise for our own benefit.

  • Cormac Mac Art

    To follow up on what I take (correct me if I am wrong) to be your main point – “Even if a united Ireland was “impossible” – it is unlikely that northern nationalism would simply die off with everyone becoming unionists.” – where do you see northern nationalism going? The SDLP and SF becoming northern versions of FG and FF?

  • Erasmus

    80% according to th Sunday Business Post. Again I would point out that Cormac MacArt does not represent a significant strand of Southern opinion.

  • Erasmus

    It is important to think in flexible and not in absolutist trerms A UI is not the only framework that can give expression to Northern nationalism. There is what Conor Cruise O’Brien (who viewed the prospect with extreme distaste) called CROBIEP: cross border institutions with executive power.

  • Munsterview

    Short therm as another artificial attempt to make an artificial State work, cross border institutions are but a short and medium term solution necessity. However if, as it seems that there is no de facto acceptance of these structures in certain Northern quarters and their effectiveness is curtailed, it will only lead to more disillusionment with the GFA.

    If the GFA is returned to ‘life support’ one more time more than a few Republicans and Nationalists will not be visiting the patient in hospital nor will they be waiting around for a patient discharge !

  • Aklan Maskey


    Back to topic: Here is a resurrected blast from the past. The GAA have a new DVD on sale: archived hurling matches from the 1940s and 1950s with the legendary Nicky Rackard, Christy Ring and of course, the voice of God, Micheal O hEithir.

    I have already mailed my letter to Santa.

  • Alan Maskey


    Back to topic. Santa already got my letter about this.
    and it should be a best seller.

  • Munsterview


    thanks for a positive response. Now will you please set out your stall in some detail like I did and let us see not where you are coming from as much as where you would like to see things going.

    What do you see as an ideal political framework.

    The governance structures I laid out were Sinn Fein policy up to 1986, they were also RSF policy and someone from that source may confirm the current situation.

    By 86 there were influences for ‘democratic centralism’ in Republicanism who were opposed too much localized control.

    As a countryman raised on a farm, I have little use for that concept. I believe that society should be organized from the bottom up, not the top down. Maskey unmasked have mocked me for my ‘ honor of the little parish’ and Knocknagow attitude, but that is exactly the driving force that made the GAA one of the most successful sporting and social organizations in modern Europe.

    The ‘Rockie’s in Blackrock and ‘The Glen’ in Cork or the ‘Cokes or the Kerins’ in Kerry are proof positive that urban areas can foster a sense of community every bit as defined and passionate as a rural village or small town can.

    This same spirit harnessed to politics and social organization could give us a completely new Ireland with real people power. Such a system would also allow unique communities like the Shanlill Road, the Bogside and God help us, even Portadown to preserve their own particular ethos.

    Outside of communities there are also regions such as the Antrim Glens that should be preserved, I do not like the way urbanization and dormitory town commuter ethos has eaten into this unique area.

    Once when enthusing about the late Cardinal O’Fee and his great South Armagh traditional ethos, the then Arch Bishop Cahal Daly reminded me rather forcefully and passionately that his Glens People too had a culture and that furthermore, unlike the South Armagh or my own variety it was far more pluralist and inclusive with a large drollop of Republicanism still there among the protestants even if they did not wear it on their sleeve. Ouch!

    Incidently shortly after he took over as Primate I has occasion to see him when accompaning the mother of an abuse victim. Both wanted me to remain at the meeting. In his pastoral capacity he could not have been more different to the stern forbiding public persona.

    I had been polite and reserved with him during the meeting but had to undergo a rapid mind shift. When he gave me his full attention after the business concluded I said that I would have to begin by apologising for what I thought of him, never mind what I had publicly said over the years. The his ‘churchman’ masked was whipped aside, he gave a loud burst of laughter, sprang acceoss the room and warmly shook hands with me.

    We were then invited to breakfast.There was little he could do for the Mother concerned, in fact he patiently explained what his constraints were. However when she returned to the instution concerned where her child was, all attidutes had changed and the old arrogance of the Religious Order running the services were gone. He got my respect and indeed my affection on that day and dozens of other incidents over the remainded of his life confirmed those first imperssions of that personal encounter.

    Back to the Governance Structures, your thought please as requested, we can at least discuss therotical models free of immediate political issues. I have touched on the first one, Fedralist bottom up of Centeralism top down.

  • Alan Maskey
  • Séamus Rua


    I have my own ideas – but I have not a plan for the nation!