Queens visit: The Irish question finally resolved (adv Unionism)?

That’s what Alex Kane thinks. Or at least:

…the ‘Irish question’ – which has bedevilled British/Irish relationships for centuries and has been the longest running political sore of the Queen’s reign – has now been resolved to the satisfaction of both governments, as well as the satisfaction of the majority of people in the Republic and Northern Ireland

And he also puts his finger on an increasingly obvious reality of the post Belfast Agreement post Peace Process”™” world, by quoting from a letter written in to the Irish Times last Thursday:

‘While her visit is seen as a coming-of-age for the State and in many respects this holds true, one cannot but feel that the events of the last few days have only further endorsed the partition of this island. The wedge between Southern and Northern nationalists has deepened.

As the Republic pursues its independence and rightly so, our Northern nationalist brethren are increasingly being cast adrift. There is a noticeable arrogance in many Republic of Ireland citizens towards their Northern Ireland counterparts. Events of the last few days would seem to only heighten this – and strengthen the Union.

And he comes up with a Unionist version of Gerry’s next page. Naturally it looks very different from what the Sinn Fein President has in mind:

I noted earlier that politics here will continue as usual if left alone. That would be a bad thing in its own right, but it would also represent another missed opportunity for unionism. If the case for Irish unity has diminished since 1998 (and I think it has) then it surely makes sense for unionism to display more courage and confidence? This is authentic mammon versus bogus god territory and the pro-Union family needs to understand the strength of its current position.

The peace process was always a five act opera: get everyone to acknowledge that a deal was possible; get the so-called political extremes to sign up to it; secure support from voters on both sides of the border; build a devolved system that would last; and, finally, create new era, post-conflict politics. Well, the fifth act has been reached and unionism has the advantage. Let’s not blow it this time!

  • This is what I call a ‘methodological nationalist’ analysis in that it interprets the fate of the union, purely in terms of developments in Ireland.

    To offer a ‘methodological unionist’ analysis, the big story in the territorial politics of these islands is the SNP’s overall majority in Scotland. The Queen’s visit arguably helps the SNP in that it shows that good relations are possible between independent nations in these islands.

    Also, its worth pointing out that it was a northern nationalist, President Mary McAleese, who invited the Queen, and by all accounts, felt quite strongly personally about it.

    I’ve no doubt there is some basis to the feeling of isolation that Alex Kane describes, but it would be a mistake to conclude from that that reconciliation between unionism and southern nationalism is not in the interests of northern nationalism.

  • otto

    How exactly does the Queen’s reception by the Irish state advantage unionism?

    It disadvantages accusations of British Colonialism. It disadvantages the last dregs of No Surrenderism. It may even disadvantage Ardoyne isolationism.

    But how is “The Union” made more secure by a more open conversation about inter-state co-operation in Ireland and greater credibility for the promise of a warmer welcome for British-Irish identity in a united Ireland?

  • otto

    And what Tom said

  • USA

    Unfortunately Alex Kane is spinning this using red, white and blue yarn. Simple fact is it’s too early to tell what way the whole thing will play out.

  • An interesting piece of pro-Union spin by Alex Kane 🙂

    The ‘Irish’ and ‘Ulster’ questions have been around for a very long time. Even so, under-informed politicians and commentators, even historians, often fail to appreciate the significance of the nuances.

  • SK

    For Alex Kane to argue that the status quo represents a permanent ‘settlement’ is somewhat disingenuous. The mechanism for change has been agreed upon, but that is all.

    Incidentally, it’s hard to speak of a ‘wedge’ when it was an Ardoyne woman who spent the week showing our visitor around.

  • Mick Fealty

    Tom,

    My only argument there is that this funny union was put together separately and it may also fall apart separately. It didn’t unravel in NI, and it further recovered in Wales.

    What happened in Scotland was remarkable and probably, IMHO, irreversible. But to borrow from the housing market Salmond is a first time buyer of independence.

    Irish nationalism (and for now that substantially means northern Irish nationalism) is in a chain. A very complicated chain in which the tribalism of NI politics adds a particularly difficult to negotiate component with southern buyers.

    Technically, warming of relations between northern Unionists and southern nationalists should work in northern Nationalists favour; only (outside that remarkable ambassador of the people of Ardoyne, who is technically FF BTW) they do not seem to be an active party to that loop.

    Robinson has been. And moreover it has been obvious for some years (for those of us who cared to take notice) that he personally has seen the need to become a player in closing that loop rather than leaving it as nationalist only business.

    It is a little early to be definitive about where we are headed on any of these matters. Perhaps SF’s southern reps will bring in a much needed southern perspective to SF’s decidedly northern leadership (which has been in situ ever since it ousted the previous decidedly southern dominated leadership back in ’86).

    If it tells us anything it is that those antennae were either not being listened to sufficiently well, or they are not long enough in the serious game of politics south of the border.

  • Kane suggests that with the unionist position vindicated as he sees it, he asks if unionist politicians could show more confidence , but I fear this is too much to expect as, for them, it isn’t enough for the statelet to be ‘British’ it must give them indefinte control of it for themselves. They have little future on that score as the days of all powerful unionism are closing . Castlereagh and Beldfast councils expose their insecurity

  • SK

    “But how is “The Union” made more secure by a more open conversation about inter-state co-operation in Ireland and greater credibility for the promise of a warmer welcome for British-Irish identity in a united Ireland?”

    Contrast Alex Kane’s observations with the image of a dozen smiling orangemen posing for pictures under a tricolour at islandbridge.

    If this is a “five act opera” as Alex implies, then the fat lady is still yet to sing.

  • Mick Fealty

    SK,

    It would if that is what he had said. But it is not.

    In fact, in the two last paragraphs he specifically warns unionists that they must seek to build on their current advantages, to ensure this is real climate change rather than just a temporary shift in the weather.

    It makes good sense for Northern Irish unionists to establish strong credentials with the southern nationalism; most obviously because it is logically what each ‘party’ signed up to in GFA/SAA.

    And so long as they don’t lose touch with their Unionist base in doing so, it ought to strengthen their authority with a southern populus that previously relied on the witness of northern comrades who too often refused to spurn the opportunity to cast their own neighbours as mindless bigots.

  • OneNI

    The sensible course for a self confident unionism might be to develop issue based politics in common with the rest of the UK. The UUP could make themselves relevant again by mergering with the UUP.. Except their Leader Tom Elliott crowed about how he spurned the offer of a merger from the Prime Minister!
    Perhaps some in the UUP will reject the trend towards irrelevance?

  • OneNI

    ooops
    The sensible course for a self confident unionism might be to develop issue based politics in common with the rest of the UK. The UUP could make themselves relevant again by mergering with the Conservatives.. Except their Leader Tom Elliott crowed about how he spurned the offer of a merger from the Prime Minister!
    Perhaps some in the UUP will reject the trend towards irrelevance?

  • Mick Fealty

    madra,

    That analysis held in 1973/4/5/6 etc. Right up to 2007.

    Today we have a DUP minister rather ostentatiously saying he is going to find the money from somewhere to build that cancer unit in Derry.

    I’m afraid that long productive rhetorical nationalist road is has run out of tarmac.

  • Henry94

    It is a bit early for an end of history argument on the national question. What is clear is that the real division is within the north. Everybody else will go along with anything the two communities agree yet progress is slow because they agree on so little.

    But let’s take it at face value. Nationalists are trapped politically in a dispensation they do not care for but the economic argument is working against them because of a huge subsidy to partition from London.

    In that context they are likely to seek solace in their culture language and sport as alternative outlets for their identity. That is no threat to a victorious Unionism who will have their self-confidence measured by their willingness to accommodate not by their ability to bluster which was never in question.

  • It seems pretty clear at the moment that the change from UK to UI will be made by choice not force. I think the DUP have recognised this and are behaving accordingly. I doubt they can rewrite not just history but character but time will tell.

    SF antennae have been sleeping through the marked change that has taken place in the south and which will happen in the north – with or without them.

    As I have said before republicanism is not in the sole ownership of SF and its vision may well be carried further into the north by other more enlightened partys.

  • Obelisk

    I know what I want to say. I want to say it eloquently, with facts to back me up, to put my case as to why Alex Kane is wrong on this one convincingly beyond doubt.

    Except I can’t. All I have is my own point of view along with my own pre-conceptions and all that would come out if I tried to predict the future would be a spiel of wish-fulfilment and half baked prophecies.

    Sort of like what Mr.Kane has produced here. He started from the premise that the Union was safe, and then proceeded to talk about how Unionism is in decline. This is a faulty premise from which to start from, as the Union clearly isn’t safe, due to the large numbers of people who vote for parties who state quite explicitly they’d like to end the Union.

    On a personal note, I don’t like the way he talks about a ‘deepening wedge’ between Northern and Southern Nationalists. It’s the first I’ve heard of it.
    Of course, it’s probably in the interests of some people to argue that a Northern Nationalist is very distinct from a Southern Nationalist, that they are different blocs entirely. That’s taking the wish fulfilment too far of course.

  • Mick Fealty

    Indeed Henry. But they agree on the Belfast and St Andrews’ agreements combined. And a new RPA should sort out the outposts of Castlereagh and Lisburn.

    Let’s not pretend that these are not huge leaps forward.

    What they agree on internally, is a matter for the electorate in Northern Ireland. How slowly those internal matters go is also a matter for them.

    One thing though, that should not be missed in all of this… In recent weeks and months, Robinson has been leapfrogging both the TUV and the UUP in terms of his cross community engagement.

    Having been to Requiem Mass for Constable Kerr, I am not sure we can rule out further affirmation of ‘native’ language culture and sport from Mr Robinson on the basis that what does not kill you politically will only make you stronger.

    It’s about time Nationalism began to rebuild its own intellectual capital base rather than constantly having to reply upon Unionism to turn up with crap ones (and the media to constantly turn their customary blind eye).

    You know what happens to armies that insist on fighting the last war…

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Mick

    “It’s about time Nationalism began to rebuild its own intellectual capital base”

    What does this intelligent-sounding remark actually mean? Can you clarify?

    I’m sorry to say Mick that a BA, two Masters’ and a doctorate leave me unable to understand what you’re on about half the time.

  • Henry94

    Mick

    But they agree on the Belfast and St Andrews’ agreements combined. And a new RPA should sort out the outposts of Castlereagh and Lisburn.

    Welcome positivity.

    One thing though, that should not be missed in all of this… In recent weeks and months, Robinson has been leapfrogging both the TUV and the UUP in terms of his cross community engagement.

    Agreed completely. I wondered why Alex Kane didn’t cite him as an example.

    You know what happens to armies that insist on fighting the last war…

    That’s a very frightening sentence but I know you mean it politically. In that sense I do believe nationalism has a broad consensus on a road map road-map but to proclaim it certainly wouldn’t help. We were through that with the New Ireland Forum. It was widely seen by Unionism as aggressive and a similar exercise would bring a similar result.

    If for example the southern parties had put their support behind Sinn Fein’s campaign for a united Ireland it would probably have only helped the TUV.

    The message to unionists like Alex Kane from nationalists has to be, if you’re happy, we’re happy for you. Let’s see the colour of your self-confidence.

  • Dec

    Billy

    I think Mick means becoming more proactive and productive in order to increase the value of Nationalism but I could well be wrong. Though I’m still reeling from the inference that the TUV were engaged in some form of cross-community engagement.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    The royal visit has signified the new place were are now in. No-one really knows whether this new place is closer to unity or whether it is in an ever more secure union, but everyone knows it’s better than anywhere we’ve been before.

    It’s a tough one for both sides, the proposition that this good place we’re in may be closer to the other lot’s aspiration than to our own. Neither side can know for sure that it isn’t, though of course each will spin it their way.

    What’s interesting is that, extreme fringes aside, neither side wants to wreck the nice place we’re in, even if it might be further down the other lot’s road than we might once have thought tolerable.

    Whatever happens in the future, we can hope that it can happen relatively quietly.

    But anyone who says either constitutional future is now inevitable or impossible is just spoofing.

  • SK

    Mick,

    Alex Kane has always portrayed the Agreement as a resolution in its own right, rather than a means to achieving one. With all its talk of ‘the Irish question’ being ‘resolved’, this article continues the trend.

    It makes strategic sense for unionists to cultivate their relationships with the south, but such a détente does no harm to nationalism.

  • Mick Fealty

    Dec,

    Thanks for saving me from making yet another smart Alec comment. That is it, beautifully and concisely put!

  • Langdale

    Henry94 (re. 3.21pm post):

    Henry, Kane wrote about Robinson a couple of weeks ago and did suggest that he thought Robinson would push ahead with an increasingly cross-community approach over the next four years.

    Also, Kane has long pushed the line that unionism needs to be more proactive in selling the benefits of the Union.

    LP

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Dec

    “I think Mick means becoming more proactive and productive in order to increase the value of Nationalism…”

    Thanks Dec. But what does that actually mean?

    For my tuppence worth, I actually think the coming decade will see something of a culture war in Dublin. It’s often forgotten that for some of the signatories of the Proclamation (Pearse and MacDonagh particularly, Plunkett to a lesser extent) the Rising was as much a cultural stand as a military one, designed to shock the population from its utterly colonized intellectual and moral torpor, and to destroy the corrupt, parasitic toadies who dominated its intellectual elite.

    In many ways, the Irish people of 2011 are bedevilled with many of the same problems as those of 1916, and while I do not envisage violence on the horizon, it would be naive to think we can go on like this much longer.

  • Henry94

    Langdale

    Thanks for that.

  • OneNI:

    “The sensible course for a self confident unionism might be to develop issue based politics in common with the rest of the UK. The UUP could make themselves relevant again by mergering with the Conservatives.”

    In contrast to the nationalism/unionism debate, integrationism/devolutionism really ought to be settled by now. And this is one area, where I think there is a useful parallel with Scotland and Wales, although I take Mick’s point that the dynamics are distinct.

    Nobody has prospered in any of the devolved parliaments by emphasising UK politics. Contrast the disaster of UCUNF with the success of the DUP’s more particularist brand of unionism. Also, it is telling that Alliance has kept its distance from the Lib Dems at Westminster.

    Likewise in Scotland, Labour prospered as long as it was seen to be the leading devolutionist force. The subsequent attempt to construct a cordon sanitaire around the SNP, prioritising the union above all else, led directly to the decapitation of all the Westminster parties.

    To answer Mick’s point, Labour prospered in Wales by pursuing the opposite strategy, in a coalition with the nationalists that won a referendum for more powers.

  • George

    While her visit is seen as a coming-of-age for the State and in many respects this holds true, one cannot but feel that the events of the last few days have only further endorsed the partition of this island. The wedge between Southern and Northern nationalists has deepened.

    Taking Alex Kane means southerners when he talks about southern “nationalists”, I, as a southerner, would say the exact opposite.

    The wedge between us and northern nationalists has never been smaller and it’s decreasing all the time.

  • Mick Fealty

    That’s the letter he’s quoting from the Irish Times George.

  • OneNI

    I would agree with George the gap between folk in the South and northern nationalists is decreasing – more and more nationalists in the North are accepting of partition too and some are even beginning to recognise the benefits of the Union.
    This doesnt mean they dont want recognition of the Irish identity or culture however

  • Billy Pilgrim

    OneNI

    “more and more nationalists in the North are accepting of partition too…”

    Any evidence for this claim?

    If only there had been an election recently, presumably SF would’ve been given a good drubbing by the increasingly-partitionist nationalist voters…

  • George

    Mick,
    I assumed if Alex is quoting from it, he agrees with it.

    Anyway, I’ve just checked up and that letter was written by a person living in Duncairn Gardens in Belfast. Take from that what you will.

    I don’t know if his view should be considered representative of how northerners and southerners view their relationship with each other. I’ll leave that to the others to decide.

  • “get the so-called political extremes to sign up to it”

    Level playing fields? It seems the leaders of the ‘political extremes’ have fallen foul of OFCOM: breach of the advertising code [pdf file]. Could the OFCOM report have been deliberately withheld until after the election?

  • Mick Fealty

    Sure. Do me a favour and google the quote. Be good to see who did say it. I’m on taxiing duties for the next two hours.

  • augustiner hell
  • Mick Fealty

    George,

    Here’s the letter. It’s by a native southerner now living in Belfast:

    Madam, – As a proud native of the west of Ireland and now resident in Belfast, I thought I would be indifferent to the visit of Queen Elizabeth II to the Republic. However, witnessing this historic occasion, I grew increasingly uncomfortable. While her visit is seen as a “coming-of-age” for the State and in many respects this holds true, one cannot but feel that the events of the last few days have only further endorsed the partition of this island.

    The wedge between Southern and Northern nationalists has deepened. As the Republic pursues its independence and rightly so, our Northern nationalist brethren are increasingly being cast adrift. There is a noticeable arrogance in many Republic of Ireland citizens towards their Northern Ireland counterparts. Events of the last few days would seem to only heighten this – and strengthen the Union. – Yours, etc,

    BRENDAN CORRIGAN,

    Duncairn Gardens,

    Belfast.”

  • augustiner hell

    oops, however link still seems to work.

  • Mr Crumlin

    I do believe that Dublin and London both think the Irish question has been settled.

    In particular, Dublin has always seen its role as ‘looking out’ for northern nationalists. It never really actively sought unification – it was more interested in getting a good deal for northern nationalism within the UK – to be able to live in the NI state as equals. That has more or less been achieved.

    One of the big changes is that the UK govt has now adopted a similiar role – they no longer actively promote the union but ensure there is an internal (can I call it Irish?) solution – they have pretty much disengaged, politically anyway.

    I do believe unionism has a huge opportunity to convince nationalists that its ok to be Irish within the NI state. Can unionism break from its traditional negative, not an inch attitude? I hope it can. Just as I believe unionists would have to be treated generously in a UI, then unionists should be over compensating the nationalist traditions. This could be a cead mile failte for Irish in NI; it could be marching away from nationalist areas; it could be working closer with Dublin in areas of mutual benefit. A big example would be one police service for the island – can unionists break through to see the real benefits of such a move?

    For a while now I have belived that Irish unity, in its truest form, would not be achieved anytime soon.

    I believe that by working together it will become increasingly obvious that our future lies by building the relationships on this island. And perhaps one day unionists will agree that their true friends live on this island – not the other one!

  • Mick Fealty

    All good stuff Mr C, except they can’t get county constabularies to merge in England, so I don’t quite see how one police force over two jurisdictions, two legal codes and with separate sources of sovereignty has a pup’s chance of getting to first base.

    This is why I push the idea that nationalism needs to come up with some fresh intellectual capital and play to win its fights, not have its impractical ideas shot down from the start and then rely on the compliance of the media to put the blame on ‘intransigent’ Unionism.

    The education row was a perfect case in point. SF grabbed poor fit legacy ideas generated and proposed by direct rule ministers rather than start from a position of striking an ‘indigenous deal’ that would retain the best of what we have whilst building in greater equality of education across ability scales and attractive and useful ways of cross border resource sharing…

  • I agree with Mr Crumlin to the extent that I think an island wide police force is inevitable. The difference between here and the English police is this one is closely governed by politicians and I believe both sides are, quietly, keen on it, which is not to say that there might not be other, less obvious forms of surveillance maintained separately, by both sides

  • Mick Fealty

    Pip,

    “I believe both sides are, quietly, keen on it”

    You do? What grounds do you have for that belief??

  • JAH

    Mick Fealty wrote
    “What happened in Scotland was remarkable and probably, IMHO, irreversible.”

    Really? I think we’ll find out how irreversible it is when he goes for a referendum. Didn’t Salmond believe Scotland should emulate Iceland. And didn’t RBS actually succeed? Who is his role model now?

    I also couldn’t disagree more with Alex Kane’s wish fulfilment. Events can change very quickly as well as sentiment. Ireland has known plenty of periods of relative calm before another storm. Look at the Easter Rising or the 68 Civil Rights march for starters.

  • Mr Crumlin

    Mick

    I’m not talking about it happening overnight but having two police services on a small island is silly – plus it would totally undermine the dissidents.

    Anyway it was just an example of the new thinking needed in unionism.

  • perseus

    we’ve got some capital here, dunno if its fresh, sounds ok to me.
    Henry94 invites us to consider how if unionists are happy, we’re happy too ;
    but lets see your colours.
    ( are you going to be confident enought to be inclusive)
    That fits with Billy Pilgrims:
    the closer we get, the closer we get
    that could cement partition
    or it could mean unionists go the whole mile

    let’s see where friendship takes us ..
    methinks mischievously there’s more psychological
    pressure on unionists than they cares to admit.
    How much do you love us then Alex?
    6 kisses or 26 xxx

  • Mick Fealty

    As Mr Crumlin says it will not happen overnight, but I believe the signs are there in the increasing cooperation, which is continually being talked up. It seems that when it comes to investigating crime the border is already a fuzzy area. I think it amounts to what might be called plenty of circumstantial evidence.

    The other thing is if you can see Mr Baggot or any replacement standing up to a strong breeze never mind the combined forces of British and Irish persuasion, you have a better imagination than I. I did say it need not include other methods of law enforcement.

  • Henry94

    Mr Crumlin

    I think unionists may struggle with the concept of Irishness within the state as that inevitably involves an overspill into the Irish state. The angry reaction to footballers wanting to play for Ireland is an example. Apparently NI fans are boycotting the match this week in protest against the concept of Irish men wanting to play for Ireland.

    They insist that nationalists accept the concept of “Northern Irishness” which of course us a subset of Britishness and a completely unionist concept. It would be great if such issues could be resolved on the basis of the individual choice outlined in the GFA rather than having to get rulings from outside bodies.

    Winning the battle of the border involves losing on everything else. I think nationalists get that. We know that if the border was to go unionists could ask for anything including an absolute right to march, a new flag, anthem etc and Commonwealth membership. They would have it all.

    But as long as they are winning the battle of the border the onus on Thame is to make concession to the captive nationalist people. Power Sharing is of course the main one and that’s a done deal but more generosity on smaller issues like sport and culture would make for a happier minority and a more relaxed society. Perhaps one day even the Queen will look as happy in the north as she looked in the south. Now wouldn’t that be something.

  • Mick Fealty

    Henry,

    I’m glad you mentioned the controversy over international football (soccer, I think you mean ;-)).

    Despite the fact that anyone now who holds an Irish passport has a right to play for the Republic, the truth is that with exception of the Derry area, most junior players in Northern Ireland have to use facilities, clubs and funds provided through the auspices of the IFA.

    The IFA remains the home association for the vast majoirty of the territory still known as Northern Ireland. The ‘Ireland’ of which you speak is the post GFA team formerly known the Republic of Ireland. With the exception of Derry City, the FAI still administers the 26 only, not the 6.

    There was a principle of ‘natural justice’ at play here. But that took a back seat to the preferred top line narrative that this was about Irish citizens being denied their right.

    It’s a perfect example of Northern Irish nationalism grabbing the lower hanging fruit and in the process alienating the very group of people we are now told (by Mitchel McLaughlin on 7 Days last Sunday) hold the key to unlocking a new all island republic.

    As for the idea that the majority have some moral obligation to give without some kind of quid pro quo, well good luck with that. It can work if you can get unionists to buy into it.

  • It could be argued that the journey towards the tangibles of Irish unity has been suspended but the intangibles are all within reach as indeed most of them always were. It is possible and pragmatic to mix and match the tangibles and intangibles of both the British and Irish jurisdictions, over compensating with one when the other is not wholly achievable. Curiously as demonstrated elsewhere when a tangible has been achieved, it is usually popularly devalued thereafter but that is acceptable in a democratic society. One thing of note about intangibles, people often value these moreso than tangibles, and will even die for them. So it is a little short sighted and frankly complacent to predict post conflict politics, better to state that we have entered a period of pre conflict tolerance and let it serve as a warning.

  • antamadan

    Four green fields at last.

    I refer of course to Connacht’s inclusion in next season’s Heineken (European) Cup. No tears folks, no need for that.

  • Henry94

    Mick

    The facilities argument isn’t a strong one. Would an English child living in the north be turned away from local participation because he wouldn’t qualify as an International. That’s not why people organise sport. Otherwise people would represent the league they played in. 

    I think I understand your low-hanging fruit argument now from that example.  You  would like to see nationalists courting unionists by offering them concessions and not risking alienating them by asserting our own rights. The pay off then would be somewhere down the line when a self-confident unionism does what exactly? 

    I’m trying to think of an example where that approach ever worked for any minority. It is more usual that by insisting on equality the group who were oppressed converts members of the dominant group to the concept of equality. 

    It’s working too. How many unionists would now vote for a return to an Orange State?  I don’t know but I suspect it would struggle to break 50%. Maybe the Life and Times people will ask sometime. The real roadblock to a united Ireland in my opinion is the economic argument. That is what nationalism needs to be thinking about. 

  • Mick Fealty

    Henry,

    It was not my intention to re-run that argument, just to point out that there was more the IFA’s position than was portrayed by the victorious party.

    My limited point is more that an English child growing up in NI using IFA facilities is much more likely to play for NI than England. Politically Irish soccer associations relations with one another are qualitatively different from that with England, since they have the same common root and throughout their history have had different understandings on player eligibilities.

    It’s interesting you still use the word concessions. But not only are they elected to the administration; they are one of the two most senior powerholders (political bondholders, if you like).

    Some things will still require negotiations, but mostly what we need is smart ideas; esp in a context where PR is looking for climate change on constitutional matters and there are positive opportunities as well as the negative ones we witnessed last time out.

    The pitch should be more to grow the cake not cram as much down your communities’ necks as you can fetch for them. My suspicion is that this is a lesson which is slowly being learned by the Ministers themselves.

    But it does not appear to be something the leadership is overly comfortable with at this time.

  • “warming of relations between northern Unionists and southern nationalists”

    Mick, this is reminiscent of SDLP-speak. Equality was a buzz word during the course of the Royal visit, equality between London and Dublin. It would appear that Peter Robinson is echoing the Unionism of a century ago: equality between Belfast and Dublin. He’s pretending that he’s not in a duopoly oligarchy with Martin McGuinness.

  • Neil

    My limited point is more that an English child growing up in NI using IFA facilities is much more likely to play for NI than England.

    Two points, one – no he isn’t. Why would you think that a player who got a place in an England squad full of amazing footballers with a good chance of some success over a career opt to play for NI? No chances of winning anything, no superstars and the lingering whiff of sectarianism from the fans. I think you disrespect the average Englishman there, they understand NI Loyalists not a bit.

    Second, that disregards the situation here somewhat. We are Irish, living in a British jurisdiction against our will. We support the Irish (32 county) team, and if we are lucky enough to be able to play well, we’d like to turn out for the team we love, not the one that hates us.

    In regards the queen’s visit having magically resolved all outstanding issues in NI, I would point out that at this stage our political violence level is on the rise. I would point out that the Irish Times survey indicated a 50/50 split in ROI support for the queen’s visit, rising to a mere 65% in the Irish Indo (a paper with a comonly accepted pro British Unionist editorial line). The line sold by the BBC and RTE that this is a universally supporrted visit is plain wrong. At best more than one in three actively opposes her visit. Good luck finding that nugget on RTE/BBC.

    As I said to VH the other day, to guage the actual real level of support for the queen’s visit I’d wait and compare it O’Bama’s. Well, I can go ahead with that. The primary differences appeared to me to be a) the thousands of people cheering at Obama compared to the queen standing in a ghost town with the noise of protests wafting on the air b) the fact that clearly a large number of people dislike her enough to warrant sealing manholes and taping up post boxes.

    I think given time people will look back on this and recognise the post-Diana like hysteria that some people got into before the facts were even close to being in. The most succesful part of her visit was that she got out of here with her skin intact. In general the analysis now seems to suggest a lack of interest at best in the queen, hostility at worst, and those 50% – 65% of people who don’t actively oppose her visit but couldn’t be arsed to show up to welcome her. Unlike Obama, no one really cares.

  • Mick Fealty

    Neil,

    Oh no, I’m not going down there. Mine was an illustrative point to illustrate a more substantive one I was making.

    Besides, you’ve just inserted a condition (ie that a certain hypothetical individual was good enough to play for England), which rather draws us even away that larger point, which is that these are exceptions: the rule is that most people going through IFA facilities on the way up will be, by and large, only too pleased to play for Northern Ireland.

    The winning of the right to play for the Republic for Irish passport holders remains an exception which has not substantially changed the reality or customary practice of how soccer is arranged in Northern Ireland.

    It also reads, as a lot of the material coming out of Nationalist discourse does, as a compensatory measure rather than a token of any serious ambition to change the status of NI. Paradoxically this would likely demand a bunch of counterintuitive measures aimed at building confidence and respect between north and south.

  • Mick. By the time I read your reply to my last post , I had decided to end my two and half years on political foru,nms as I found I was ofteern repeating myself. I was first on slugger in March 2009 but after the rwevamp, had to re-register as this handle. [formerly ‘danielmoran]. To answer your point about nationalist rhetoric, it has indeed tended to be rather predictable. I think Poots had his cue from FM/DFM during the campaign so I expected yesterdays clearing for the Altnagelvin unit. Anyway, best regards.

  • George

    The problem with the Northern Ireland football team is that it is just that: a team for Northern Ireland.

    The Good Friday Agreement set it out: British, Irish or both. The concept of being Northern Irish was studiously avoided, and for good reason.

    It’s United Kingdom or United Ireland, no succour will be given to any entity that promotes the concept of a separate Northern Ireland.

    Also, Irish citizens living in Northern Ireland always had the right to play for the Republic, the atmosphere created by the GFA merely made it easier for young players to make that decision.

    Unfortunately for the IFA, they are an anachronism in the post-conflict era, albeit a very important one.

    Due to their importance to a large number of people in Northern Ireland, there is naturally anger and resentment but there is no mileage in supporting the “Northern Ireland” concept for anyone who doesn’t have a dog in that particular fight.

    The emerging tolerance from both sides is directed solely towards the Irish and British identities.

    The IFA have a long, hard and lonely road ahead of them and no amount of anthem changing, flag altering or hairshirt wearing will change that.

  • Mick Fealty

    George,

    That’s a perfect example of the kind of ‘magical thinking’ I’ve been referencing. The IFA hasn’t gone away you know?

    Since I was a kid, people have been talking about a UK team. George Best might have gotten to lift a World Cup, etc., etc.

    But soccer in the UK has a privilege not granted anywhere else I know of. Their constituent parts play as though they were independent nations.

    You can call it an anachronism, for I guess that’s what it is. But it is the way things are done in the United Kingdom. And that is were NI remains until the majority of its population say otherwise. Then and only then, can you expect to sue for terms of the IFA (or the FAI)’s surrender.

    Until then you might as well shake a stick at the moon as believe the GFA has anything much to say about how soccer is organised.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Mick

    “The IFA hasn’t gone away you know? … Since I was a kid, people have been talking about a UK team.”

    No, but the world is changing around the IFA, and it is powerless to stop it. What’s happening now is not idle chat about all-Ireland or UK teams. We are now seeing northern players heading for Dublin. It’s only a couple of years since Darron the Pioneer Gibson, but already the IFA has lost perhaps half a team’s worth of lads who could probably get a start with NI. This has not happened before, this is not same-old same-old. The trickle has become a stream and is getting more flood-like all the time.

    “But it is the way things are done in the United Kingdom. And that is were NI remains until the majority of its population say otherwise. Then and only then, can you expect to sue for terms of the IFA (or the FAI)’s surrender.”

    You are conflating the existence of the state of Northern Ireland with the existence of the IFA. The two are entirely separate matters. The IFA and FAI could amalgamate tomorrow and it would not mean the constitutional position of Northern Ireland had shifted one iota. Equally, there could be a united Ireland tomorrow and the IFA and FAI would still be in no way obliged to amalgamate.

    “Until then you might as well shake a stick at the moon as believe the GFA has anything much to say about how soccer is organised.”

    This is correct, but it contradicts your previous argument. As you say, the GFA says nothing about how football should be organised on this island. Therefore there’s no reason why even a partitioned island could not have a single footballing body, as is the case with most other sports.

  • otto

    “The emerging tolerance from both sides is directed solely towards the Irish and British identities.”

    Wha’? Are we supposed to be intolerant of people who define themselves as Northern Irish?

    Do you have some instructions on how we check we’re properly subscribing to one of approved “Irish and British identities” so as to avoid your intolerance.

    And someone should tell RTE.

    “The Northern Irishman led by four going into the final round of the Masters at Augusta last week but blew his advantage by shooting eight over par.”

    http://www.rte.ie/sport/golf/2011/0417/malaysianopen.html

    Rory has to self-define as British or Irish. Anything else won’t be tolerated!

  • Billy Pilgrim

    I should add that so far, it has only been players from a nationalist background who have declared for the Republic. (I think I’m right in saying?) This is disastrous enough for the IFA, but the real existential crisis will come when some promising youngster from a unionist background declares for the Republic.

    It will happen eventually, particularly if the Republic manage to achieve some level of success, and when it does, after the initial vilification dies down, that youngster will be followed by others. At that point it will be pretty much game, set and match for the IFA, no matter what the constitutional position of Northern Ireland.

  • Mick Fealty

    Billy,

    I said I did not want to down this road, and I have. My apologies.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Fair enough.

    Always the surest way to derail an interesting discussion is to introduce football matters.

    Perhaps it’s worth opening a thread on the issue, since it has been in the news quite a lot lately?

  • George

    Mick,
    And that is were NI remains until the majority of its population say otherwise. Then and only then, can you expect to sue for terms of the IFA (or the FAI)’s surrender.

    Until then you might as well shake a stick at the moon as believe the GFA has anything much to say about how soccer is organised.

    It has nothing to do with changing the constitutional status of Northern Ireland, the IFA’s surrender or how anything is organised. The IFA are just caught in the middle of all this.

    It has to do with how people see themselves and what version is promoted and what isn’t.

    Post GFA, we are seeing the promotion of British or Irish identities with the “both” option, for whatever reason, currently lagging behind and being occupied by the likes of Ruth Dudley Edwards. Northern Ireland barely gets a look in.

    There is a reason for why things are developing in this way. The constitutional shift is fraught with danger and instability for Irish nationalists and the island as a whole but the cultural one to an all-island Irish identity or a British identity within it isn’t.

    That is why you had 28,000 Irish citizens living in Northern Ireland in 1998 and you have around 400,000 now. That is why we have to Islandbridge and Boyne projects.

    Otto,
    just like the IFA, Rory McIlroy can state the importance of the Northern Ireland concept and of course he can define himself by it if he so wishes. Indeed, when asked if he was British or Irish, McIlroy replied:

    “I’m Northern Irish, I hold a British passport”.

    Which sort of makes my point, could you imagine him saying he’s Northern Irish because he holds an Irish passport. Northern Ireland is not a stand-alone concept and, more importantly, is not encouraged or cultivated to be by either the British or Irish governments.

  • Henry94

    I think I have to take the blame for mentioning football in the first place. Let keep it for the match on Wednesday.

    Otto

    Wha’? Are we supposed to be intolerant of people who define themselves as Northern Irish?

    I’d be just as accepting of someone calling themselves Northern Irish as British because they amount to the same thing. If you are Irish you accept the right of the Irish people to define the nation. If you don’t accept that then you can call it anything you like.

  • otto

    “If you are Irish you accept the right of the Irish people to define the nation”

    I hadn’t heard that definition. So anyone who replies “Northern Ireland” to “where are you from?” is a Brit?

    If you’re “British” are you allowed to accept that the Scotsman has more say over Glasgow than the Englishman?

    What if a Northern Irishman says it’s ok for Scotland to secede. Is he still a Brit or does he become English?

  • I think I have to take the blame for mentioning football in the first place. Let keep it for the match on Wednesday.

    Henry,

    Or even tonight;)

  • Mick Fealty

    George/Henry,

    Have a look at this: http://www.ark.ac.uk/nilt/2007/Community_Relations/NIRISH.html

    Scroll to the bottom. According to you the 81% of Catholics who think of themselves in one degree or another other are not really Irish. Take away the 38% who say ‘not very’ and you still have a whopping 43%.

    Henry what you say certainly holds mostly for those active in politics. But it does not hold for the people themselves, who are a great deal more nuanced on the matter of what makes an Irish man or woman.

    You are playing pretty close to Marx’s definition of ideology as a means of social control.

  • Henry94

    Otto

    So anyone who replies “Northern Ireland” to “where are you from?” is a Brit?

    No that can be a geographical or legal response but if someone is asked their nationality and they don’t say Irish then I take them at their word and we don’t have the same nationality.

    oneill

    Or even tonight;)

    I just found out and I’d missed four goals!

  • Mick Fealty
  • märsta

    Mick, this is the second time that I marvel at your point of view. The first time was your reaction to that poor man being beaten to death in Coleraine a few years back.

    Now, its your intolerance of Irish people playing for Ireland.

    It really is bad form.

  • Mick Fealty

    This reaction?

  • George

    Mick,
    aah, the dreaded NILTS Survey, there is always something in it for everyone.

    We could just as easily pick the question next to the one you cite:

    How important is it to you that you are British/Irish etc?

    Those who answered very important:

    British Irish Northern Irish
    26 29 19 % in 2008
    28 39 20 % in 2009

    As you point out, the survey you quote seems to indicate on the one hand that in 2007 a massive 81% of Catholics think of themselves in one degree or another as not really Irish while just 2 years later 39% of the entire population of NI think being Irish is very important (the maximum ranking they could give – 10 on a scale of 1 to 10).

    Now considering the Catholic population accounts for around 40% of Northern Ireland’s population and 39% considered Irish as very important…. etc etc…

    Or else you could just take the NILTS survey with one huge lump of salt.

  • Henry94

    Mick

    What if they say both

    I’d ask them who their head of state was. If they again said both I’d ask them how they’d vote in a border poll. If they said they’d abstain I tickle them until they came down on one side or the other.

  • Mick Fealty

    Hmmm…

    George, you were citing the address of a guy who wrote to the Irish Times yesterday as a reason to question his veracity.. Then you provided Wee Mac’s response to a question to suggest if one self defines as N Irish one is in fact British…

    Now you are questioning social research over singular anecdote as a reliable way of charting something close to the vernacular truth…

    I’m arguing that declaring yourself Northern Irish is neither considered treasonous nor a minority ‘sport’ (pardon the pun) amongst NI catholics.

    The figures there don’t even remotely support your assertions here…

    Now let’s be clear (our friend märsta seems confused about what my position on all of this): as you know better than most George (since you blogged freely on this issue from the top of Slugger whilst all these issues were being settled at UEFA), I don’t care one way or the other.

    I only referenced it as an example of nationalism treating Unionism as an enemy it has to defeat. It’s just my view that that may build up the player pool of the Republic of Ireland team, and affirm the right of northern born Irish citizens to play for that team, but I don’t believe it will move NI an inch closer to a UI.

  • Mick Fealty

    Henry,

    We both know that the figure in a border poll would not be favourable to a UI, right now.

    I’d suggest therefore that there are separate top and bottom line figures that matter. Those who answer Irish to your question in the robust terms in which you choose to put it to them.

    And then there are those who define themselves Irish but consider the Queen as their head of state. Somewhere in this second pool are the numbers that give you a majority in some future border poll.

    Night all…

  • märsta

    i was referring to your reaction in this thread:

    http://sluggerotoole.com/2009/06/03/verging-on-the-obscene/

  • JR

    I firmly believe that if Britain removed our block grant for a few years many if not most Unionists would vote for a UI in a border poll.

  • Mick Fealty

    märsta… and?

  • tacapall

    The Irish question is hardly resolved, the Queen was here to do buisness along with her prime minister and foriegn secretary followed a few days later by the president of America. – I wonder at what cost this will be to the Irish people.

  • Reader

    JR: I firmly believe that if Britain removed our block grant for a few years many if not most Unionists would vote for a UI in a border poll.
    You’ll be sure to let us know when the Celtic Tiger is going to be in a position to open the bidding war for our hearts, minds and wallets, won’t you?

  • märsta

    And it was my moment of clarity.