Are we having a shared future, or are we not?

Pete Shirlow and Duncan Morrow ask what on earth is going on? One week a shared future is on, the next it’s not.

  • “Are we having a shared future, or are we not?”

    Mostly not – so far as those bound by dogma are concerned. A large majority of our elected representatives are firmly tethered to their respective constitutional aspirations. Peter and Martin will mouth nice words but their actions belie their words.

    Niall wandered out into no-man’s land – and panicked. I was about the same age as him when I got involved in Corrymeela in Ballycastle and JCSS in Coleraine. However, I’d had the good fortune to pass through QUB during a relatively liberal era – and I didn’t grow up ‘on the front line’ where self-preservation created very difficult choices.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Nevin, I think we are actually moving forwards quite fast, the two examples given, with the Lord Mayor he moved it a bit then took a step back, he is taking flack for the step back not the move forwards so in future stepping back will be harder not the moving forwards.
    The same with the Orange and Catholic funerals, Tom Elliott took a step forwards, others tried to drag things back, but crucially have failed, with Tom and Danny cleared surely it now impossible for any other Orangeman to be forced or pressurised out of the Order for attending a Catholic funeral, that is actually a massive step forwards every one seems to have missed.
    The troubles were always an insurmountable barrier, and will remain so to many, but there is much of society moving on, its trying to ensure that too many dont get left behind will be the problem.

  • Coll Ciotach

    The so called shared future is just a repackaging of unionism. This time the offer is that they will allow Katlicks to join in, so long as they become unionists of course. So I am not interested. I want a shared future within Ireland, not interested in a Northern Ireland at all, shared or not.

  • Eddie (Eamonn) Mac Bhloscaidh

    Coll Ciotach,

    Yes, unfortunately this ‘Shared Future’ nonsence is nothing more that the whole treat them like Protestants and they will live like Protestants.

    If we surrender our Culture and Nationality we can share in the future.

    No thanks.

    We are accepted as Equals as Irish or not at all.

  • “The so called shared future”

    Coll Ciotach, the ‘tribal’ contexts are different: for Unionists it’s in the UK; for Nationalists, a UI. Perhaps I’m wrong but it seems to me from the BCC exchanges last night that SF seems to find it the most difficult to step ‘outside the box’ when it comes to welcoming dignitaries from ‘the other tribe’.

  • Mick Fealty

    Before this goes all instinctive and tribal, can I ask you guys to lay OUt why shared future is unionist? I detect echoes of some parts of Alex Kane’s piece the other day.

  • Eddie (Eamonn) Mac Bhloscaidh


    A shared future is not unionist, its the opposite in fact.

    However, thee ‘Shared Future’, is simply a unionist state for a unionist people.

  • Mick Fealty

    Can you lay that out in contrasts?

  • Dec

    ‘Before this goes all instinctive and tribal, can I ask you guys to lay OUt why shared future is unionist? ‘

    As it’s implicit to the current constitutional settlement – hence my own preference for infinitely more realistic and attainable ‘shared society’.

  • Eddie (Eamonn) Mac Bhloscaidh

    I can and will, cant just right now but I do feel that nationalists should get the finger out and articulate a truely inclusive shared future.

    If they dont, the “Shared Future” just looks like a unionist victory lap and an attempt as assimilation rather than inclusivity.

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    Does a shared future mean a recognition and respect for all traditions, their symbols and culture? Is there going to be an across the board equality in seeing this through?

    I suspect we will continue to have lip serivce paid to such sentiment while in reality some symbols and traditions will be more equal than others.

  • Mick Fealty

    Just been back to a part of Slugger we lost in a nasty server accident in the summer of 03. It’s part of an interview I did with David Brewster (you can still pick it up here) in preparation for The Long Peace document we published in May of that year. It concerns an unusual insight certain pessimism that has historically existed amongst Unionists re that ‘shared society’:

    You have places like Belgium where there’s a workable arrangement. If Prods would get it into their heads whether they’re 50% plus one or 50% minus one, with the numbers that they’ve got, with the common agenda, nobody can push them around.

    The mentality is as soon as your town gets to have a slight Nationalism majority, everybody packs up and leaves.

    Crumlin 20 years ago was a Protestant town. It certainly isn’t now, partly because of expansion from West Belfast, but as soon as that happened, horror of horrors, we’ve got a Roman Catholic housing estate – last one leaving, please turn out the lights.

    That dynamic may have altered somewhat with the rise of the DUP, but I think I still detect traces of it still persisting in the behaviours at council level at least. The shift needs to come in the capacity for each party to pursue their aspirations, but build stuff rather than knock them down.

  • between the bridges

    ‘shared future’ is never going to be an OO GAA team or Sons of Ireland Fb leading the 12th, but we are moving forward tom Elliott apologised for offending ‘good SF’ voters and the young mayor apologies for offence ‘he may’ have given.
    small steps but still steps in the right direction. We are moving into unknown waters where the union can only be maintained with the support of non PUL but equally UI will only be achieved with support of non CNR. God forbid that we end up in an in utopia that is slugger where offence can’t be given to anyone!!

  • Mick Fealty

    But Pat, it seems to me quantifying what ‘seeing it through’ means is important, when we also have to run a competitive democracy. There are some things it just ain’t decent to share with your opponents.

  • keano10


    If you are attempting to elevate increased shared housing as a key dynamic within a “shared future” then that’s laudible but sadly it’s a practical impossibility in many areas in the North.

    Many people simply dont want it for all sorts of diverse reasons – fear, mistrust, Religous prejudice to name but a few.

  • Mick Fealty

    Not all Keano. I just thought it was an interesting (if now historical) explanation of one weakness in the dynamic driving this ‘thing’.

  • Pat Mc Larnon


    within a competitive democracy the supposed slight on the army cadet wouldn’t have registered, even at local level.

    In terms of buying into a shared future there is nothing to stop individual parties putting forward and actually working their own policies in that regard.

    In terms of the cadet incident once the Mayor had decided to participate in the ceremony from the off then the painted smile and the straight handshake were the only logical outcome.

  • Republic of Connaught

    ‘Sharing’ a small six county statelet like Northern Ireland is like two heterosexual men ‘sharing’ a one bedroom apartment. They can’t both sleep in the bed so one will end up on the floor. So they fight for the bed.

  • Rory Carr

    I am not sure that I quite understand, Republic, but why is it that “They can’t both sleep in the bed ” ?

    Is the bed too small? Can they not buy a larger bed? Twin beds? Or bunk beds if lateral space is at a premium.

    Or is that that they simply do not like each other? Perhaps one is a squatter and he would do best to return home to his mummy (that is if she will still have him.)

  • The yokel

    and fight for the bed… until one day they go to church where they hear the bit about Jesus saying “love thy neighbour as thy self”, so they go home stop fighting and share the bed – not in a gay way of course.

  • Cynic2

    We will probably have two of them

  • … paid for by our ever considerate neighbours on each side.

  • Republic of Connaught


    Who gets the bed is ultimately the one who holds the power. The day there is two beds or bunk beds in that cramped little apartment is the day we have official joint sovereignty.

    Until then Nationalism is on the floor.

  • The yokel

    More like the one that holds the power gets the bed, and at the minute our MLAs (god bless ’em) can even decide whether to go to IKEA or not.

  • Dixie Elliott

    At first it reminded me of Miss Piggy on one of her rants…

    Then I couldn’t believe that the SF Mayor of Belfast, Niall Ó Donnghaile was allowing himself to be berated publicly on TV like some errant school boy. He should have at least told her that her ‘Boys’ were killing women and children in Afghanistan and Iraq only for the freedom to plunder the national resources under their feet.

    This shared future is only about sharing political power until Republicanism tries to creep into the halls of Stormont or Belfast City Hall…

    Then it’s out with the sabre-rattling.

  • Chris Donnelly

    I don’t think anyone has reason to do anything but embrace the laudable objective of a shared future, and it ill behoves any thinking Irish nationalist/ republican or unionist to believe their ideal constitutional objective can be obtained prior to that aspiration being realised.

    That being said, what can’t be denied is that there are conflicting versions of what constitutes a ‘shared future’ which has led to considerable cynicism with regard to the application of the term.

    The ‘shared future’ has been invoked by the Loyal Orders to assert the right to parade wherever/whenever they please, and it has been employed as a reason to justify moving away from dealing with poverty on the basis of objective need- not to mention as an excuse to reject addressing the chronic housing shortage in north Belfast.

    But that merely puts the onus on those of us genuinely interested in creating a shared future based on the principles of partnership, mutual respect and equality to ensure that our version of that shared future is realised through implementing practices such as power-sharing at local government council level and promoting through words and deeds the vision of equality for both traditions in the north of Ireland.

  • Zig70

    A bed analogy, good god. I know some blokes who would rub thier bare arse on the bed to get it. I would be more pessimistic, large sections of our society don’t interact except with a Downton Abbey style politeness. They just don’t understand each other. Even when you have mixed marriages the conversation can be different depending on who is present.

  • “the laudable objective of a shared future”

    Chris, APNI is about the only party promoting a shared future. The four main parties put their constitutional aspirations ahead of other considerations.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Chris, APNI is about the only party promoting a shared future. The four main parties put their constitutional aspirations ahead of other considerations.

    That would be precisely because the accommodation of those constitutional aspirations is central to developing the trust and confidence for people of both persuasions to buy into a shared future.

    The notion that ‘ignoring’ the main issue would solve things has long since had its day.

  • Shared Future is not necessarily unionist…….but its outworking effectively is unionist.
    We really make too much of “Shared Future” as something that is defined for us.
    My future is shared……..with those that choose to share it.
    It is a micro thing.
    And if everybody did that…….would there really be a problem?

    Yet a Shared Future is too often taken to mean that this is where History ends. We just get on with it. and effectively stop working towards any Aspiration. As unionists have effectively attained their Aspiration in 1922, and nationalists have effectively been chipping away and undermining that aspiration for as long……then accepting that History has stopped is more suited to unionism…..lets be frank here the unionists saw the Good Friday agreement as a barrier to a united Ireland. Nationalists see the opposite. It follows that the outworking of that Agreement should be influenced in this way.

    I dont think unionism has every really understood the full outworking of “parity of esteem”. Indeed as I said in 1998 when Trimble signed up to Parity of Esteem……it was the great “Gotcha” moment. There was no turning back from that……….eg Irish language, the full ramifications of Irishness, ……..a Shared Future has at times been seen by me at least as a unionist device to regulate, codify and limit Parity of Esteem.

    At the beginning of this week, the Mayor of Belfast tried to impose a limit on Parity of Esteem and was loudly and rightly condemned.
    People marched to the City Hall to protest. Mayor apologises. He got it wrong (and thats the very best interpretation that can be put on it)
    Yet the week ended with unionists trying to limit Parity of Esteem with the Christmas message debacle.

    Is that a Shared Future? A young woman can be marginalised in the City Hall. Seemingly thats put right.
    But Irish speaking citizens can be marginalised….they speak a foreign language after all (as one unionist councillor put it).
    If the Shared Future is one where the Mayor must put aside his position on a uniform he sees as foreign then it has to include one where unionists cant get worked up about a “foreign language”.
    To accept the first and reject the second would mean that the outworking of a Shared Future is indeed “unionist” in tone.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Shared Future is not necessarily unionist…….but its outworking effectively is unionist.

    You guys are thinking about this all wrong.

    There is no government policy decision that cannot on some level be labelled as either nationalist or unionist if we are of the mindset that such labelling is necessary and if we choose to associate the outworkings of it with the past decisions of our tribal leaders.

    That’s why for example we have this bizarre nonsense where academic selection at 11 has somehow ended up being a unionist concern. Or, apparently, anyone who crosses a picket line must be a unionist. It is a nonsense. There will be no “shared future” until we stop perpetuating things in this way.

    If the Shared Future is one where the Mayor must put aside his position on a uniform he sees as foreign then it has to include one where unionists cant get worked up about a “foreign language”.

    I do agree with this part.

    It has to be said, though, unionists aren’t as shouty about Irish as they have been in the past. I’ve noticed the buses going up to West Belfast have bilingual destination displays on the front. Time was, there would have been a massive hullabaloo over Translink and it’s “republican agenda” – and it might have been the unionist Lord Mayor doing the complaining.

  • Cynic2

    ” ‘Boys’ were killing women and children in Afghanistan and Iraq only for the freedom to plunder the national resources under their feet.”

    What natural resources are you talking abiout? Dust? Opium?

    There is nothing else there and even if we found something it would be hopelessly uneconomic to mine in that hellhole

  • Cynic2

    “they go home stop fighting and share the bed”

    If we share it can I buid a partition down the middle and can we negotiate binding international agreements on key constitutional issues like

    1 crumbs in bed
    2 nocturnal gaseous discharges / greenhouse gas emissions
    3 duvet posession
    4 snoring

    These will of course have to be overseen and guranteed by an independent international body acceptable to both sides.

  • “the accommodation of those constitutional aspirations is central”

    Chris, my suggestion was shared sovereignty, a devolved administration, the merger of strands 2 and 3 and the parallel development of relationships with our neighbours across these islands. However, in 1998, we were offered a 50%+1 constitutional switch instead – a ‘solution’ that guaranteed the tug-of-war/mutual veto/duopoly dictatorship that we’ve ended up with.

  • Chris Donnelly


    Personally I think your idea was- and remains- an excellent one.

  • Chris, here’s one I prepared earlier – just 18 years ago 🙂

    The first article appeared in the press; not sure about the second.

  • Dixie Elliott

    Cynic2 ….

    “What natural resources are you talking abiout? Dust? Opium?

    There is nothing else there and even if we found something it would be hopelessly uneconomic to mine in that hellhole”

    Afghanistan – A War for Natural Resources

    This war has been presented to the court of world public opinion by the western mainstream media as a war against Islamist extremism, directed against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in order to eliminate the threat of Islamic terrorism and institute western-style democracy in Afghanistan. […]

    Afghanistan, situated as it is bordering China, Russia and Iran is well-known to be located at a Central Asian strategic centre-point for pipelines, and very important large oil and gas reserves. However, it is much less well-known that the country has vast mineral wealth and huge untapped gas reserves.

    It wasn’t until June 2010 that the American public were made aware of these vast reserves of natural resources in Afghanistan.

    Mineral Wealth

    According to a joint report by the Pentagon, the US Geological Survey (USGS) and USAID, Afghanistan is now said to possess “previously unknown” and untapped mineral reserves, estimated authoritatively to be of the order of one trillion dollars (New York Times, U.S. Identifies Vast Mineral Riches in Afghanistan – NY, #See also BBC, 14 June 2010). (1)

    Read more…

    Therefore Cynic ‘Our Boys’ are killing people for more than the dust under their feet