“The Resurrection of Hungary: A Parallel for Ireland”? No, fortunately not.

Within the restraints of 140 characters, he somehow manages to deliver a full range of cod fireside homilies; GAA-related similes stretched well beyond their natural snapping point and (naturally) playground stylee anti-Brit insults… but nevertheless for his myriad of Unionist followers on Twitter Barry McElduff is a must-read, the gift which simply refuses point-blank to stop giving.

There have been so many to choose from but the comment which has caused perhaps the greatest mirth to his pro-Union devotees side was last year’s revelation, whilst on a trip to the Dáil Eireann, that he was in fact not only the MLA for West Tyrone but also its Teachta Dála; a privilege also now (according to Baz anyway) enjoyed by Paul Maskey, the recently elected MP for West Belfast.

Once we’d all picked ourselves up from ROFL, It was patiently pointed out to him by the more literal minded amongst us that claiming a seat in the Republic’s parliament was a tad presumptious seeing that the Dublin government doesn’t permit him the right to vote even in their Presidential elections.

Despite his misplaced bravado, Barry knows the truth and it’s clear this denial of voting rights does rankle with Irish nationalists and Republicans living in Northern Ireland and, to be honest, I have sympathy for their position- after all, is there any real value in being the citizen of a nation if that nation does not permit (or perhaps even trust) your contribution towards the governance of that nation? To put the attitude of the Republic’s government towards their Northern supposed brethren in perspective, 29 of 33 Council of Europe member states allow non-resident citizens to vote; globally, over 110 states including both the US and even Iraq presently grant it.

The standard argument consistently utilised against granting the franchise to not only Irish citizens living in Northern Ireland, but also those who are resident overseas is the ‘no representation without taxation’ mantra. Well, yes, there is a definite objective logic there but that surely is also a logic valid for the 29 European countries which do permit their citizens, no matter their residence, the exact same right? This is a debate which has been held several times on Slugger before (most recently here) but I thought it might be interesting this time to ponder what may be the real reasons why the Republic’s government is reluctant to extend the franchise by drawing comparisons with events presently unfolding on the other wing of the European Union.

This is the point at which the title of this piece (and also, not coincidently, the title of Arthur Griffith’s influential book on how he saw Ireland’s political future developing in the early years of the Twentieth Century) becomes relevant.

In Hungary there is presently governing the kind of right-wing, irredentist, ethno-nationalist government not seen in the Republic since perhaps the days of Charlie Haughey. Its Prime-Minister, Viktor Orban, just like Haughey, is also the supreme political opportunist. Throw into the mix some three million ethnic Hungarians living (or *stranded* as Magyar ethno-nationalism would have it) in the countries surrounding Hungary “proper” and a comparison of sorts to our present position here starts to take shape. Another relevant parallel with “Ireland” is that many of those Hungarians living outside modern Hungary, concentrated in ethnically homogeneous areas within Szekelyfold (Transylvania, Romania), Felvidek (S. Slovakia), W Ukraine and Vojvodina (Serbia), see themselves and are regarded by Magyar nationalism as the true standard bearers of the Motherland and are consequently more than likely to vote for any right-wing, irredentist, Magyar-nationalist party which is prepared to give them the option of doing so.

So… what is the Hungarian government proposing, just conveniently as their popularity starts to plummet within its own modern borders? Why, not only the granting of Hungarian citizenship but also the right to vote in the country’s election if the individual can tick all the appropriate *identity* boxes (e.g.  language knowledge, the “right” ancestry).

 In all the regions likely to be affected, the different ethnic communities (including also Europe’s biggest minority, the Roma) have since the collapse of communism lived separate lives but generally also in peace with each other- the “shared spaces” which create so much problems in N. Ireland to a large extent don’t exist… but then neither do our trademark “Peace” Walls.  That situation, in all likelihood, will continue but the proposal is starting to created problems on the ground: the Slovaks have threaten to rescind the Slovakian citizenship of anybody on their side of the border applying for Hungarian citizenship and the right to vote; the Ukrainian secret police have (allegedly) being keeping tabs on applicants and the always gently simmering pot in the mixed Romanian/Magyar towns such as Targu Mures and Cluj-Napolca has just started bubbling that little bit more vigorously.

But that is of no concern to Mr. Orban and his Fidesz party. They genuinely regard a Magyar living anywhere within the region of the historical “Greater Hungary” as being exactly the same as one who lives in Budapest and, more importantly, genuinely believe that they are also entitled to exactly the same rights. The rise in communal tension along the borders suits both his combative style of nationalism and with the added influx of potential right-wing, nationalist voters to the electoral roll from beyond the country’s borders, then the granting of that voting right makes perfect sense from both an deeply-held ideological and party-political point of view.

This, however, is where the comparison of the latter-day “Resurrection of Hungary” to the situation in the Republic and Northern Ireland starts to fall apart and also explains why the “the ‘no representation without taxation’ excuse for not granting the franchise to its citizens living in N.Ireland is a convenient but false one.

Can you imagine any Irish Taoiseach in 2011 when speaking about “his fellow countrymen” over the border saying, as Orban did this week,  it is “sad” “nationalistic viewpoints” are regarded with “suspicion” in the rest of the European Union?

 Or that:

“It is not nationalistic feelings but artificial ideologies that we should fear”?

Can you imagine any political party in the Republic (bar Sinn Fein of course) being prepared to sacrifice community relations in Northern Ireland for the sake of short-term, domestic, partisan gain?

Does the Republic’s political establishment value or fear the views (as potentially expressed through the ballot box) of its citizens living north of its border?

Are they firmly convinced there is a political, cultural, social and economic gain to them or the wider country to be achieved by introducing 300,000 plus Northern nationalists into their electoral melting pot?

No, no, no, no and most definitely no again.

Orban has proven if the will is there to provide voting rights for a nation’s citizens/”kinsfolk” living beyond its borders then, regardless of the wider communal, social or economic damage, it can be delivered; the European Commission last week said this topic belongs to the sphere of “national autonomy”.  The Republic’s mainstream political establishment simply do not possess that will- for the vast majority of us, on both sides of the border, for a whole host of reasons I think we should be grateful that is indeed the case. If I were however an Irish nationalist living in Northern Ireland, I would still find this truth rather distressing.

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  • orly

    And what if all the unionists could vote too. That could become interesting.

  • perseus

    oneill got any quotes from his twitter which fit your description , in paragraph 1?
    or some anti-brit side-splitters?
    Having glamced at 50 or so it was all normal MLA stuff
    I spotted this one, from 2 weeks ago:
    “Hard to believe some of the archaic, sectarian rules which still govern the Orange Order”

  • Blissett

    ‘, that he was in fact not only the MLA for West Tyrone but also its Teachta Dála;’

    Im too lazy right now to respond to the rest of this, but he’s hardly that far off, for the ‘literal minded’ among us.

    Teachta – member, deputy
    Dáil – assembly.

    Actually its struck me as odd given the way shinners use words so carefully, that they call the assembly the tionóil or the chomhthionóil, rather than a ‘dáil’

  • Rory Carr

    I don’t know which option intrigues me more – the fact that Orly finds the possibility that “unionists could vote too” (in RoI elections) “interesting” or the notion that he somehow imagines that there might be a situation whereby only nationalists were given such a franchise.

    There is also the small matter of how on earth he imagines such a limited franchise could be established but I don’t suppose he has given that much thought.

  • ForkHandles

    Since I lived in the Republic for a decade or so I could perhaps provide an answer to the Northern Nationalist who wonders why they are not included in the Republics affairs. Its because you are constructing a world in your mind where borders don’t matter and vague feelings are actually what is real. This type of world does not really exist. The people in Republic know where the edges of Ireland are. Ireland (the country) these days mean the ROI. (That’s why the Ireland rugby team is considered the ROI national side in the south, yes that’s true..). People north of the border are from Northern Ireland. This is a reality that the Northern Nationalist has yet to come to terms with. They haven’t yet accepted that they are from Northern Ireland, they still cling to the vagueness of ‘I have an ROI passport, Im part of the ROI…’ Its just not true. I think they are still stuck in the sectarian mentality where they can’t come to terms with identifying themselves as coming from the same place as their protestant neighbors are from. I know this simple sectarian thinking is something more and more people are getting beyond, but it is the basis of why many in NI think what they think, they need to be opposite of what them’uns are like. They probably don’t even realize it… Its sad and pathetic isn’t it?…
    People in the ROI have no interest in Northern Ireland and certainly don’t want the detestable type of person that is the standard NI political person having anything to do with their society.
    All the philosophy and pie in the sky dreaming really doesn’t translate to anything outside the Northern Nationalists mind. People in the Republic are concerned with normal real world issues. They don’t want people from another country poking their bitter nose into their affairs.
    Sorry but that’s the truth…

  • SK

    “They don’t want people from another country poking their bitter nose into their affairs.”

    I suppose that’s why we made an Ardoyne woman our head of state- because we view people from her neck of the woods as ‘foreign’

    I guarantee you that we care more about Northern Ireland than the average ‘mainland’ Briton does.

  • lamhdearg

    i dare say, that if london was willing to pay for an election eire would go along with it.

  • qwerty12345

    Forkhandles Im sorry I just cant not lampoon your tiresome little rant. A unionist telling nationalists that they need to get real and accept they are not what they are. Catch yourself on.

    Heres the mirror image of your spew. how does it read?

    “People north of the border are from northern Ireland. This is a reality that the northern unionist has yet to come to terms with. They haven’t yet accepted that they are from northern Ireland, they still cling to the vagueness of ‘I have a British passport, Im part of Britain…’ Its just not true. I think they are still stuck in the sectarian mentality where they can’t come to terms with identifying themselves as coming from the same place as their catholic neighbors are from. I know this simple sectarian thinking is something more and more people are getting beyond, but it is the basis of why many in nI think what they think, they need to be opposite of what them’uns are like. They probably don’t even realize it… Its sad and pathetic isn’t it?…”

    Yeah it really is.

  • perseus

    ooh that is soo good qwerty..
    a good friend is like a mirror.

  • Master McGrath

    FH you are right on the money I think.
    One of the most striking things for the years of the ‘troubles’ was the underlying concern that the North might actually arrive as a problem to be resolved by a country that had no actual strategic or selfish interest, or ability, in actually doing so.
    SF will do not too badly politically in the south so long as there is never any return to violence but the sad truth seems to be that for the majority of their vote, both Compliant and whatever sort of Dissident Republican shade it is, there really is no easy home in a state that has grown away from the limited certainties that fuel SF’s politics in NI.
    The Republic can deal with the idea of Northern Unionists being shoved into a state they do not wish to be in as an intellectual idea but the notion of having to deal with a constituency of Northern SF ( the O’Taliban) supporters who are more fundamentalist Irish than anyone who has ever been before dropping into their society rightly fills them with horror.
    The state of the Irish economy makes the poloitical change less and less a possibility let alone a probability any time in the future at all.

  • ForkHandles

    qwerty, the point is as you say, what do nationalists think they are? They think they are part of the ROI. People in the ROI think nationalists are part of NI. The reality is, nationalists are part of NI. Its as simple as that.
    You try to reverse what i say, but you are trying to make out that people in NI think they are part of Britain, which is the island beside us. They do not. We are part of the UK. This is the sort of moronically simple rebuff that renders slugger the home of sad people that do not live in the real world. It’s a laughing stock…
    This entire post is the typical slugger attempt to include completely wrong views of events from other countries around the world, and then somehow make it fit in to a 2 sided local view where everything is based on a person’s religion or last vote. Frankly reading slugger is like observing a lab experiment of primitive organisms..

  • qwerty12345

    “qwerty, the point is as you say, what do nationalists think they are?”

    They dont THINK they are anything they just ARE and what they ARE is Irish. Plain and simple. Their nationality is not the gift of any state neither the Republic of Ireland nor ( thank god) Britain. As someone who I presume is British you should really try to grasp this. YOUR identity is defined by YOU if there were a UI in the morning you would not stop being British.

    “They think they are part of the ROI. People in the ROI think nationalists are part of NI”

    Uh they dont think they are part of the ROI they KNOW they are part of the Irish nation that is both sides of the border and outside of this island. You really need to get over your nation state fixation. As far as the POLITICAL relationship between ROI and northern nationalists goes thats complicated, but largely irrelevant as to how northern nationalists will continue to be WHAT THEY ARE. If you think that they are going to somehow be converted to unionism or belief in the northern state you are sadly deluded. This will become more clear to you as nationalist political clout within NI grows and grows. Stay tuned you are in for some interesting times.

    As for people in the ROI thinking nationalists are “part of” NI. Id remind you that they endorsed a treaty which gives these people you claim are outsiders citizenship of their state.

    “The reality is, nationalists are part of NI. Its as simple as that”
    Yes they are, but they are also part of something larger and for the vast majority of them that vote thats what informs where they put their x.

    The rest of your post is just insulting poop. If slugger doesnt do anything for you and if people on here are “primitive organisms” why dont you find somewhere else to spend your time. its obviously being wasted amongst the likes of us.

  • aquifer

    “And what if all the unionists could vote too. That could become interesting.”

    Could have saved the country from Charley Haughey and his ilk.

  • Greenflag

    Arthur Griffith’s proposed model of a duel British /Irish monarchy along the lines of the Austro Hungarian Empire ignored some of the main factors on which the latter was based .

    In the Austrian Hungarian Empire the Austrians were number one in the hierarchical scale with the Hungarians in the number two slot . The rest -i.e Czechs , Slovaks , Slovenes, Serbs, Bosnians , Ruthenians , Croatians , were at the bottom of the pecking order .

    The Trianon Treaty in 1918 was for Hungarians just as bad an imposition as Versailles was for Germany with one third of Hungarians being outsourced by the Allied powers to the new ‘countries ‘. Many of these countries had had ‘independence ‘ struggles of their own prior to WWI but none had succeeded bar Serbia and that was against the Ottoman Empire . The Hungarians got little sympathy from the rest of Europe for their plight in 1918 mainly because during the long years of playing second fiddle to Austrian overlordship they had became the ‘bete noire ‘ i.e the bad cops in the eyes of the various South and West Slavic tribes. In some respects a mirror image of the generalised view of ‘unionism’ in Ireland -1800 to the the present . The treatment of Hungarian minorities in these smaller states post 1918 varied with the worst being the outlawing and forced attempt at ‘Romanisation’ by the certifiably insane dictator Ceaucescu prior to the collapse of communism in the 1980’s.

    The origin of this ‘tribal’ conflict goes back 1500 years to the time when the ancestors of todays Hungarians barged into the Pannonian plain and set up a separate kingdom dividing the northern slavs, the poles and czechs and slovaks from the southern slavs i.e the serbs , croats , bosnians etc .

    And for a while it looked as if the Hungarians might even overcome the Holy Roman Empire (i.e Germany & western europe)

    The Hungarians are a proud people and having spent some time there I can heartily recommend Budapest as a place to go visit and if you are a fan of Brahm’s Hungarian Dances and proper goulash and you enjoy a ‘black humour second to none -then Hungary is the place .

    As for their ‘politicians ‘ ? Well look at our own ffs – All over the world the politicians are in thrall to the international financiers and banksters anyway .

  • Greenflag

    ‘Its as simple as that.’

    Would it were so FH but alas the human organism even the NI human organism is somewhat more complex than a primitive lab microbe in an agar dish.

    It’s taken the better part of 40 years to get these eh NI simpletons (your word ) to agree a complex political settlement with the assistance of at least three outside governments those of the USA , Ireland and the UK.

    ‘Frankly reading slugger is like observing a lab experiment of primitive organisms..’

    Inadvertently you have touched on a topic behind which lies a much of the world’s present day political and economic problems -i.e the ever growing trend for those who sit atop the political and economic hierarchy to view ‘humanity ‘ -all of it including most especially their own citizens as ‘voting ‘ or non voting ‘ organisms -which can be experimented with by politicians and policy engineers and international institutions such as the ECB and IMF as the need suits and by need I mean the ‘need ‘ of a minority of the world’s banksters and their political sychophants to continue to be able to gouge out whole economies and people’s for their personal profit .

    As for nationalists in Northern Ireland , I’d guess they are Irish who just happen to be living in a foreign state i would’nt crow too much though . Some day and perhaps sooner than you might think you might find yourself in the same situation .

    Of course if you are just a primitive organism in a lab experiment you’ll hardly notice anyway eh?

  • Forkhandles,

    “This entire post is the typical slugger attempt to include completely wrong views of events from other countries around the world, and then somehow make it fit in to a 2 sided local view where everything is based on a person’s religion or last vote”

    I did point out where I felt the comparison falls down (ie the attitude of the respective mother governments towards their citizens living beyond the borders) but do you seriously believe that our own particular situation then is 100% unique with no comparisons to be made or lessons to be learnt (or taught) elsewhere?

    And as far as I’m aware, the reading of Slugger, like any newspaper, is still a entirely voluntary choice with the added bonus that Mick doesn’t charge you for you wandering past. If this post bored you, then umm.. I won’t force you to read any of my future ones, fair enough?

    Greenflag,

    Thanks for filling in some of the gaps.

    In some respects a mirror image of the generalised view of ‘unionism’ in Ireland -1800 to the the present

    I’d agree with you regarding the “demonisation” of the Hungarians within the region but curiously enough the more doctrinaire Magyar nats that I’ve met there, once they know where I’m from, would claim an affinity with the “oppressed” of British Ireland (ironically the terminology used in the old commie text-books).

    The Hungarians are a proud people and having spent some time there I can heartily recommend Budapest as a place to go visit and if you are a fan of Brahm’s Hungarian Dances and proper goulash and you enjoy a ‘black humour second to none -then Hungary is the place .

    I’d second that recommendation but I’d also suggest (with careful planning) that a trip into the regions beyond the borders is also a very enjoyable experience. The scenery in Szekelyfold in particular really has to be seen to be believed. And are you sure you meant Brahms and not Liszt or Kodaly?

    As for their ‘politicians ‘ ? Well look at our own ffs – All over the world the politicians are in thrall to the international financiers and banksters anyway

    Ironically (again) Orban’s study for his PhD at Oxford was sponsored by George Soros, not only an international financier but a Hungarian Jewish one to boot… it’s something Orban rarely boasts about nowadays;)