The Queen’s Visit and Impact Assessment

‘The week that Anglophobia died’ was the headline on the Irish Times article by that splendid columnist Fintan O’Toole(1) at the end of the Queen’s hugely successful visit to Ireland. Citing Frank O’Connor’s poignant story of Irish volunteers in the war of independence executing captured British soldiers who a few days earlier they had been addressing as ‘chum’, O’Toole said O’Connor’s story suggested that ‘left to themselves, without the interventions of violence and power, Irish people and English people get on rather well. It is cruel circumstance that has blighted a naturally decent relationship. Queen Elizabeth’s visit was essentially about bringing home the reality that those circumstances have changed for good.’

O’Toole concluded that we, citizens of Ireland, had now been freed from the ‘crippling insecurities of false choices. Before the choice was to hate England or to be a West Brit. Now there’s the healthy option of simply getting on with the neighbours’.

He said this would have two long-term effects: firstly, to free Irish energies to concentrate on our real problems, starting with getting back the sovereignty that was won from the British but lost to the European Central Bank. Secondly, to redefine what it is to be Irish. ‘That new identity has to be positive rather than negative. But it also has to find a way to include Britishness. Those on the island who value the British part of their identity have to know that, for everyone else, British is not a dirty word.’

Pointing out how little public sympathy there had been for the hard-line republican protesters against the visit, former Fianna Fail Minister Martin Mansergh (one of the main architects of the peace process) observed: ‘The truth is that the old ideology of ‘Brits Out’, timetable for withdrawal, occupied Ireland etc has been made obsolete by the success of the Good Friday Agreement.’(2)

May was a good month for contemporary Irish history in other ways. The Northern Ireland  Assembly election was positively boring in its ordinariness, lack of incident, and preoccupation with bread-and-butter issues. The only serious outburst of bigotry, by new Ulster Unionist leader Tom Elliott against Sinn Feiners at the Fermanagh-South Tyrone count, was roundly condemned by all sides, including his own. Even though the DUP and Sinn Fein consolidated their hold on their respective tribes, Alliance also did well.

In Scotland the Scottish National Party won a famous victory partly by not over-emphasising their separatist credentials, which was compared by commentators to the way that Sinn Fein had hardly mentioned the North in their Southern election campaign in February. Moderation and common sense and an emphasis on cooperation and partnership seem to be breaking out everywhere.

In this atmosphere of friendship and pragmatism between Britain and Ireland, unionist and nationalist, the rather immobile concept of North-South cooperation for mutual benefit needs to be taken out again, dusted down and injected with a badly needed infusion of new energy.

Can I suggest that one way forward could be in the unlikely-sounding area of ‘impact assessment’?  Over the past year my CCBS colleague Ruth Taillon has been doing some highly innovative work – along with partners in the Euro Institute in Kehl in Germany – in developing a method to help policy makers and project promoters to decide whether or not a cross-border approach to tackling a particular problem in Northern Ireland and the Irish border region would bring ‘added value’ beyond what might be achieved in a single jurisdiction. This has been funded, as is so much of the Centre’s work, by the EU INTERREG programme through the Special EU Programmes Body, and is also part of the work we are doing with colleagues in the TEIN network of cross-border universities and institutes in 10 European border regions.

This is cross-border cooperation at its most sensible, practical and mutually beneficial. It works on the basis that you only do cross-border cooperation where it brings real added value to assist governments, businesses, local authorities, health and education bodies and ‘grass roots’ communities who want to solve a common problem or exploit a common potential. Examples of this kind of cooperation are building cross-border roads; upgrading the Belfast-Dublin railway; doing certain health specialties, such as radiotherapy and ENT, on a joint basis; undertaking cross-border university research; providing information for people crossing the border to live and work; local authorities treating adjoining border areas as one region for tourism promotion (as Louth and Newry and Mourne are about to do); and working together to dispose of waste.

These are good examples of North-South cooperation that has worked over the past decade. We in the Centre for Cross Border Studies, and in our ‘sister’ organisation, the International Centre for Local and Regional Development, believe there are many other areas where it makes plain common sense to come together to solve mutual problems, particularly in the delivery of public services. We make no apology for beating this drum over and over again. I will return to it in a future ‘Note’.

Andy Pollak

1 The Irish Times, 21 May

2 Sunday Business Post, 22 May

  • Turgon

    “The only serious outburst of bigotry, by new Ulster Unionist leader Tom Elliott against Sinn Feiners at the Fermanagh-South Tyrone count”

    Well also in May we had Sinn Fein appointing a convicted murderer as a special advisor to the disgust of everyone apart from Sinn Fein.

    Still think that Tom Elliott’s was the only “serious outburst of bigotry” eh Mr. Pollak or does republican bigotry not count as “serious” in your book?

  • To be fair to Andy, he was specifically talking about the election. Also, the recent Sinn Fein appointment doesn’t exactly come under the heading of “bigotry”. Crassly insensitive, to be sure. But condemn it for what it is.

  • Turgon

    Up to a point a fair comment. However, the appointment was as a direct result of the election. Also the crass insensitivity was symptomatic of the bigoted mindset of Sinn Fein. Since Tom Elliott’s comments were spur of the moment whereas McArdle’s appointment was considered, I would submit that the McArdle appointment is a much clearer example of bigotry than Elliott’s comments. As such I think my criticism of Mr. Pollak’s comments remains valid.

  • socaire

    Another way to look at it. Sinn Féin made a pragmatic business decision to appoint who they thought was best but Tom Elliott spoke from the heart. And, anyway, it is Sinn Féin’s business who they appoint not the little busybodies who haunt the media for something to be offended by. Nobody seems to be ashamed of Bomber Harris.

  • Dilettante

    There’s a certain underlying tone to that article you linked to that undermines its overall message. It overstates the significance of the week to the British, especially with the notion that Britain is now resigned to simply being a normal country. We still punch well above our supposed weight in world affairs and show no intention of stopping.

  • socaire

    Examples of ‘crowing’, please? And us po’ colored folks are well used to being sniggered at by our white massa. But we try to rise above it because we are the disposessed.

  • Turgon

    “we try to rise above it because we are the disposessed”

    There is significant competition for this week’s MOPE of the week award.

  • socaire

    You people use the word ‘escheated’, I believe, O Turgon. As I often say, you’d think that guests in another person’s country would show more manners. Anyway, the ‘Os’ and the ‘Macs’ are strutting and swaggering in the halls of Stormont and it sure doesn’t lie well with ‘all right thinking’ and ‘decent’ people.

  • Turgon

    Ah yes we are guests because of the plantation. Remind me how old you were when you were forced from your lands in the 17th century?

    That must make you about 400 plus.

    Please continue with that ethnic gibberish. It is pretty classic racist xenophobic fascism.

  • socaire

    And uninvited guests at that! But contrary to popular opinion, we, natives, don’t hate the English or the Monarchy or Prorestants. We do loathe and detest the interference of the British State tentacles as they try to manipulate all aspects of life here in their last colonial rump.

  • Turgon

    Ah yes as long as we behave and do what you want it will be okay. However, terms like dispossessed are interesting. Clearly you feel you are entitled to some of your land back or some sort of compensation.

    As to not hating protestants: try telling that to the relatives of the assorted victims of the republican sectarian murder campaign. You may call it whataboutery but it is necessary to point out that in actual fact the hatred of Protestants led to Kingsmills, Darkley, Enniskillen, Frizzell’s shop, Douglas Deering. The list goes on and on.

  • socaire

    Remember the Yeomen, Turgon? The ‘civilians’ that the land owners were able to call on to subdue the natives? Well, they weren’t hated because they were Protestants they were hated because they were thieves. And I don’t agree that hatred and sectarianism were behind the incidents you mention. If it had suited the Provisional Alliance they would have slaughtered Catholics just as readily – as they attempted in many of their political purges in Belfast and other places. Don’t kid yourself. If the UDR had been black muslims they would still have been targets. If the intent was solely to slaughter Protestants then look how many opportunities were missed. And your isolating yourself from the troubles here does you no credit. Ask not for whom the bell tolls …………

  • Turgon

    “Remember the Yeomen”
    No nor do you. Now stop this childish ethnic nonsense. Actually no you believe it: that much is obvious. Indeed you are now MOPEing for lost generations whom you feel were oppressed and take upon yourself their oppression. Intergenerational cross century MOPEing is a new and impressive concept. It is also called racism by many.

  • socaire

    No, Turgon, we are not the most oppressed people. But we were oppressed. We are now up of our knees at last – thanks, I might add, to the new sense of fair play that Britain has decided will exist in this colony. As the chosen people and one of the lost tribes surely you would not begrudge us belated fair play in our own country. Equality can only improve us all. Starting to sound like Madame Pussycat. Gotta stop.

  • gréagóir o frainclín

    Anyway, Queen Elizabeth II’s visit to the Republic of Ireland was a huge success and Fintan O Toole sums it up well.

    The ‘whataboutery’ history lessons here are always entertaining!

    BTW…. as I’ve said before it is odd how some so called republicans in the north soley define ‘Republicanism’ as a hatred of all things British. What about such basic Republican tenets (from eons ago) as Liberty, Equality Fraternity for all folk,…… including British folk too. A hard fact for such pseudo republicans to swallow is that 800,000 folk that class themselves as British live in NI today. They ain’t going no where, so accept it and live and let live!
    Don’t live in DENIAL!

  • Mick Fealty

    Dear God people! Impact assessment! Take you squalid faction fighting to where it is appropriate!!

  • “lack of incident .. The only serious outburst of bigotry”

    Andy, the Elliott outburst was certainly an incident but I also disagree with your interpretation. I’ve only met Tom on one occasion – I was invited to attend one of the leadership debates – and I spoke to him briefly. Others who were at the Omagh count claimed he reacted to references about the UDR. It seemed to me that he lost the rag and the MSM made a meal of it.

    The Grapevine informs me that there was a far more significant series of election related incidents in the Kingdom of Moyle and several members of the MSM have chosen not to publish their carefully researched accounts.

    By the way, did you carry out an impact assessment on this ‘promotional’ blog? 🙂

  • Turgon

    Up to a point a fair comment. This thread has become somewhat derailed. However, that is in large measure Mr. Pollak’s own fault. He made an extremely partisan throw away comment about Tom Elliott. I and others picked him up on it and the thing degenerated from there.

    I am in no way man playing but observe that if Mr. Pollak wants to write pseudo scientific analyses here as his title suggests and his footnotes further sugegsts, then he needs to tighten up his work and not leave glaring points of little relevance to the rest of his piece.

    If he strays from his selected position into party politics, gets jumped on for it and the whole thread takes a turn which Mr. Pollak may not like (we do not know as he rarely comments on his threads) he has at least in part himself to blame.

  • Drumlins Rock

    “This is cross-border cooperation at its most sensible, practical and mutually beneficial. It works on the basis that you only do cross-border cooperation where it brings real added value to assist governments”

    Andy, skipping the first un-necessary and biased half of your thread, which has derailed the real subject, lets deal with Impact Assessments, has any proper independent (properly independent that is) assessments been carried out of the practical benefits of existing cross-border projects, ie. Middletown Autism Centre, Foyle Fisheries, the Ulster Canal, etc. not to mention my pet project you hint at the A5WTC and the negative impact it has on many.

  • Drumlins Rock

    PS. I agree with Turgon’s comment above, would like to move it on, but I would hope Andy responds to these thing before long, in the spirit of Slugger O’Toole, if you post it you must defend it.

  • tuatha

    One of the aims of the EU, more observed by ignoring than implementing, was than Europe become a nation of communities.
    Pity about that damn GFC though the Tiger would have succumbed to financial mange even without it.

  • “Now there’s the healthy option of simply getting on with the neighbours”

    Andy, that choice has been there for Ireland-26 for several generations, not just with England, the non-state, but all of the neighbours.

    By the way, you could bring a little more clarity to the conversation if you didn’t hop about between Ireland-26 and Ireland-32. For example, your paragraph three has a sentence on Ireland-26 and the remainder on Ireland-32.

    Are you struggling in your choice of hat: Irish Nationalist and head of the Centre for Cross-Border Studies?

  • JR

    If it wasn’t for that squalid faction fighting you wouldn’t have a website.

  • socaire

    Yeah. I thought it pretty rich for Mr Fealty to mount his high moral horse when he owes his living/position to the factionalism that exists here and to the wit and expertise of the combatants.