On the fallacy of Alex Kane’s foxhole invite to catholics

Thanks to Pete Baker for posting a thread on Alex Kane’s reply to my Slugger post in his Newsletter column as, without it, I’d have remained blissfully unaware of the existence of the piece.

Alex’s article is most welcome, not least because he further elaborates upon his rather contorted vision of a catholic-friendly but Irish nationalist-hostile unionism, therefore presenting me with a second opportunity to expose the utterly delusional nature of his thinking.

Alex conveniently ignores the critical failing of the DUP strategy he is supportive of and which I sought to expose as, essentially, a fraud- namely, that unionists seeking to attract catholic support for the Union whilst not seeking to actively accommodate the Irish nationalist political and cultural identity are guilty of failing to learn the hard lessons of our divided past.

There won’t be any shortcut to the realisation of unionism’s dream any more than there will be a mysterious bypass uncovered by nationalists seeking to convince northern protestants of the merits of a reunited Ireland short of proving the ability to accommodate the political and cultural identity of unionism in that event.    

It is as likely that catholics will buy into a unionist vision of the future as it is that protestants will buy into an Irish nationalist vision at this juncture in our history, and pretending otherwise is indicative of a political outlook which has yet to prove itself capable of adapting to the changing political realities.

The one section of Kane’s article which rings true is the fact that the ancient hostilities and skirmishes between Irish nationalism and unionism have meant that our society remains deeply divided, even when at surface level things may not seem so.

Kane’s rejection of a shared future with his Irish nationalist and republican neighbours highlights the continuing failure of elements within political unionism to grapple with the realities of the post-Good Friday Agreement Northern Ireland, which is all the more troubling given that he clearly recognises the extent of segregation in our society without connecting the dots and acknowledging that breaking down such division will require the triumph of a genuine respect and trust which is incompatible with his vision of a unionist-only shared future.

Whilst sovereignty remains in Britain’s hands, the constitutional framework provided by the Good Friday Agreement has meant and will continue to mean that Irish nationalists will wield as much power and influence within northern society as their unionist neighbours within Stormont.

Like Alex and other unionists, those Irish nationalists and republicans have their own political projects in mind, with short and long term objectives.

Setting one’s face against reality and wishing that were not so may pass for a thought-provoking narrative in The Newsletter, but on Slugger we’re more used to putting ideas to a critical audience ever eager to highlight flaws and expose contradictions.

How on earth does Alex believe that catholics will be convinced to actively advocate the Union if unionists are not to enthusiastically embrace a vision of a shared future which does not seek to triumph over Irish nationalism but, rather, one which seeks to accommodate the political ideology which remains as doggedly identifiable with northern Catholicism as unionism is with northern Protestantism? Does he seriously believe that the call to ‘come join us in our foxhole’ will prove irresistible to a certain type of catholic?

 It is not only an absurd suggestion, but one which is illustrative of a mindset which has yet to realise that Irish nationalists can not be wished away.

British Ulster is dead, and that fact clearly remains as lost on Alex Kane as the notion of an exclusively Irish Ulster is on many in the anti-Agreement rump of dissident republicans.

 As I have argued on Slugger many times before, the objective of intelligent republicanism/ nationalism should be to re-orient politics on an all-Ireland basis whilst seeking to reassure unionists that their distinct political and cultural identity will continue to be respected. Similarly, the objective of a thoughtful unionism should be to find a place for Irish nationalists and republicans within the existing constitutional arrangement.

The ultimate objective of both should be to find political and electoral favour beyond the religious community which historically identified with either political tradition. But history’s lesson shows this to be a formidable task, and certainly not one which can be achieved by simply ignoring the stark reality that religious, political and cultural identities are interwoven in a manner which will ensure that any potential electoral breakthrough for unionism- or nationalism- is achieved through developing an inclusive and adaptable political vision.

Alex’s argument betrays the fact that many of those seeking to dismantle the power-sharing structures at Stormont see it as a means of disempowering nationalists and returning to a form of majority rule.

Alex Kane’s blind spot for the beliefs and sentiments of his nationalist neighbours is such that he doesn’t see the rather large elephant that is the harsh historical and political realities of division and identity in the north of Ireland casting a dark shadow over him as he angrily punched the keys of his laptop whilst producing his article(ain’t that a long name for an elephant!)

He believes political unionism should reject a shared future with their nationalist neighbours simply because they have different long term objectives. Erm, somebody could perhaps inform Alex that this has been the case since the Plantation some years/decades/centuries ago and it hasn’t really worked as a strategy in the interim period….

Alex castigates republicans for having a “concept of a shared future….in which they are allowed to use the political institutions to bolster their own cause.” He then goes on to argue for the destruction of the political institutions as that will provide unionists with a better grip on those political institutions to bolster their own cause.

Go figure.

 Having argued against seeking to construct a shared future with his nationalist neighbours, and for the dismantling of political institutions which empower nationalists to pursue their own cause, he then remarkably states that “Sharing is a two-way, mutually beneficial process. For Sinn Fein, though, their end goal remains the destruction of unionism itself.”

Perhaps Alex can explain if it is not the case that he is arguing that unionism’s end goal remains the destruction of republicanism itself- and hence the rather frenetic gorgonzola line….

With regard to his parting shot, Alex’s selective vetting of the current affairs section of the news has clearly meant he missed Sammy Wilson’s insulting remarks about ‘Seamus’ and the hunger strikers as well as the antics of unionist councillors in Belfast in the past week, ridiculing Irish as a ‘gobbledegook’ language and wailing loudly about the injustices of erecting a sign expressing Nollaig Shona Daoibh to visitors.

But perhaps the ideologically bankrupt vision of unionism ascribed to by Alex views those comments and actions as vote winners amongst northern catholics.

  • Zig70

    Many would probably view the common apathy to the constitutional question as unionist. I wouldn’t. Don’t care which bunch of crooks takes my taxes. But it doesn’t mean I would ever vote DUP. My arse of a brother played rugby and shmoshed with unionists to help his career prospects in the 90’s but even he wouldn’t vote DUP. Though I wouldn’t put it passed him to vote tory.

  • New Blue

    Chris, I think the real challenge for Unionists in Northern Ireland is the re-defining of words like ‘Unionism’, as I have said elsewhere, the concept of Unionism, in a UK wide sense, is attractive to a majority of people living in Northern Ireland.

    If Unionists really want to create a pluralist and tolerant Northern Ireland then removing any connection between faith and a sense of Unionism is essential.

    By creating a sense of ownership which does not rely on religion creates a similar ‘style’ of unionism as witnessed in England, Wales and even large parts of Scotland.

    In the wake of the GFA, and unless there is a wholesale return to terrorism, Unionists should have no ‘fear’ of Nationalists and instead focus on highlighting the social, economic and cultural benefits of ‘real’ Unionism. To achieve this is, IMO, the Holy Grail for modern Northern Irish Unionists.

  • Chris Donnelly

    New Blue
    Though I (naturally) don’t share your political aspirations, I believe you’re essentially right in identifying the need to detach the religious aspect of unionism’s DNA in this part of Ireland if it is to find an appeal beyond its historical reach.

    The flip side is also true for Irish nationalism and republicanism. There is a need to find ways of appealing beyond the comfort zone catholic community, and that will entail an extension of an outreach programme which must continue to foster trust and respect with unionists ‘as’ unionists in the first instance.

  • BluesJazz

    A substantial number of people, especially under 50, and usually well educated, do not regard themselves as ‘Catholic’, ‘Protestant’ or believe any other creation mythology. These terms are no different to being a ‘Pisces’ or a’ Libran’ to educated, rational humans.
    We all used to live in Gondwanaland.
    What is the difference between being British and Irish?

  • Into the west

    How many rounds did you fire off there chris?

  • FuturePhysicist

    I don’t think the issue of nationalism can be belittled so easily BluesJazz – tax, employment, language, freedoms, educational systems etc. can all differ from region to region, the nature of the state, self-determination, the macrosociological shelter/habitat for the regional masses is a critically important need for many. Of course there may be nomads, those who desert this region for friendlier climates being the modern day equivalent. They register their protest at this system in a far better way than the constitutional agnostic does by staying here.

  • FuturePhysicist

    I’m speaking of course of the regional emigrés.

  • Cynic2

    Chris

    Nice to see you working out the frustration of an afternoon spent with P6! You musings on Slugger must be such a relief and comfort. Did the little dears do the transfer test or not? If they did it must be so frustrating to be such an ardent SF supporter and see all those parents rush to try and get their sprogs into the best school and stream. Dont they know Party policy?

    Still, let’s to the matters in hand.

    The real challenge for Republicans is that they equate being Catholic with supporting their cause. All the polls and the votes show that is far – very far – from true. That is why SF ensured that a border poll can never be held unless the Secretary of State thinks it will vote yes ie never can be held. This keeps the myth alive to the advantage of those who would trade on it.

    So lets have a deal, lets now have a border poll to settle. this. Let us see just how many voters (of whatever hue) want a United Ireland

    In the meantime your long diatribe simply seeks to obfuscate Kane’s stinging criticism of your own articles.

    And by the way, simply disagreeing with your world view doesn’t make one ‘ideologically bankrupt’ , no matter how hard you claim it does,

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Unionism is strongest when it isn’t overtly unionist – when it is just about getting on with life in an unfussy way within the country we are in, which is no better and no worse than any other country.

    Irish nationalism depends on the belief that the Republic is in some way a better country for Northern Ireland to be part of. It obviously isn’t. But not because Britain is better; it’s because all countries are of equal value. And all countries are of equal value because all people are of equal value. To suggest some are more worthy is absurd, stupidly chauvinistic and unlikely to appeal outside one’s own ethnie. When unionism goes down the track of going on about how great our country is, it does itself a disservice. And it’s the same with Irish nationalism.

    My own view is that all this is more of a problem for nationalism than unionism, because it goes to the heart of nationalism. Its goal is that British people in Ireland ultimately not just accept Irish rule, but change their national allegiance and identity. Why it wants this is not explained; there is no obvious logic as to why it would be a desirable thing, if Britishness and Irishness are both equally morally neutral. So Irish nationalism as an ideal is internally incoherent. Irish identity is unproblematic, I hasten to add – its only the “reintegration of the national territory” bit where it goes a bit mad. What is legitimate for nationalists is to seek an amended border with us – but that doesn’t seem to be part of the nationalist programme at all.

    Unionism has also often strayed into similar territory, claiming that there is something innately brilliant about Britishness that non-Britons should embrace. I don’t think that at all – being British is just who we are, it’s not good or bad, any more than being Irish is good or bad. I like being British and do get patriotic – but it’s because it’s my country, I don’t think it’s blessed above all other states.

    So the DUP it seems to me needs to grasp that winning people over to unionism, ‘unionism’ itself isn’t going to be attractive, because it has long been associated with tub-thumping about Britishness rather than just living it.

    The best strategy, I would suggest, it to learn from the Alliance Party, many of whom want the union every bit as much as people in the UUP and DUP but who don’t make a song and dance about being Protestant, waving the flag or any of that nonsense. They just get on with it. So DUP, forget about selling the benefits of the union and spend more time making society work and showing a genuine passion to end sectarianism – it doesn’t make you any less British.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Cynic
    I’m going to be generous and suggest that your age has meant you’ve forgotten that children don’t sit the transfer test until they are in Primary Seven…..oh, and the fact that I see the face of Jesus in all my pupils means that I never feel the need to take out any frustrations on Slugger.

    “The real challenge for Republicans is that they equate being Catholic with supporting their cause”

    You’ll find they don’t. Indeed republicans have good historical reasons for being comfortable with a more secular republicanism than unionists do with regard to unionism.

    “And by the way, simply disagreeing with your world view doesn’t make one ‘ideologically bankrupt’ , no matter how hard you claim it does,”

    And, by virtue of that statement, you’ve clearly shown that you either did not read Alex Kane’s article or did and missed ‘that’ serve which I was clearly returning.

  • CommentOnStats

    Alex Kane….. as he angrily punched the keys of his laptop whilst producing his article
    ….
    Alex castigates republicans for having a “concept of a shared future….in which they are allowed to use the political institutions to bolster their own cause.”

    ———————————————

    There are some interesting points in the article, but claiming that Alex Kane “angrily” punched the keys does not help make the points. Whether or not Mr Kane was angry at the time is a fact known to him but not to too many others I suspect.

    The quote from Alex Kane claiming Chris Donnelly’s earlier article contained the words, “pitting of Catholics against their fellow co-religionists.” (re appealing to some catholics to support unionist politics?) also seems to be a point worth adressing.

    Also, it appears from some of the wording that the two authors actually agree albeit in differing contexts on the central concept that bolstering nationalism/unionism is incompatible with the concept of a shared future?

    I beg to differ. For example you can have political parties from ROI and GB organise and compete for votes and ideas in a political marketplace and although the ideologies differ there is in effect a shared marketplace. I thought the idea of the GFA was to facilitate this by allowing people to identify themselves as British, Irish or both. Therefore it seems to me that if you have a geographical area with differing nationalities but compete peacefully for votes and promote their respective cultures then that is compatible with a shared future.

  • Chris Donnelly

    CommentStats

    I’ll deal with your points in turn:
    “claiming that Alex Kane “angrily” punched the keys does not help make the points. Whether or not Mr Kane was angry at the time is a fact known to him but not to too many others I suspect.”

    1. Calm down- allowance should be made for a bit of artistic licence. Adds flavour and all that….

    2. “The quote from Alex Kane claiming Chris Donnelly’s earlier article contained the words, “pitting of Catholics against their fellow co-religionists.” (re appealing to some catholics to support unionist politics?) also seems to be a point worth adressing.”

    Not only have I addressed it, but the entire gist of my article is that by turning against a genuinely shared future, Robinson & Kane’s vision for political unionism is one which remains in the foxholes, refusing to embrace the reality that catholics ‘as’ Irish nationalists need to be made welcome by unionism as a precondition for any realistic hope of catholics actually making the leap to being actively unionist.

    And ditto for Irish nationalism with regard to attracting protestant support.

    Hence the nonsensical idea that it’s possible to simply swing a few middle class catholics round to the unionist way of thinking short of actually taking the necessary- and painful- steps of modernising unionism and finding a place for Irish nationalism (politically and culturally) within the Union.

    “Also, it appears from some of the wording that the two authors actually agree albeit in differing contexts on the central concept that bolstering nationalism/unionism is incompatible with the concept of a shared future?

    I beg to differ. For example you can have political parties from ROI and GB organise and compete for votes and ideas in a political marketplace and although the ideologies differ there is in effect a shared marketplace. I thought the idea of the GFA was to facilitate this by allowing people to identify themselves as British, Irish or both. Therefore it seems to me that if you have a geographical area with differing nationalities but compete peacefully for votes and promote their respective cultures then that is compatible with a shared future.”

    I don’t know how you reach the conclusion that I share Alex’s viewpoint on this as what you’ve stated above has my full support.

  • BluesJazz

    Still ‘prods and catholics’ in the authors worldview.
    Belfast Met College ran a viewfinder that most of their students didn’t give a stuff about mythology/religion.
    Same with ‘nationality’ guff.
    We’re mammals living in the vicinity of the British Isles.
    ‘These islands’ if you want the pc bullshit.
    Sad if the author doesn’t recognise evolution. Hopefully he’s not involved in education in any way.

  • Obelisk

    Part of me is beginning to weary of our endless debating. What’s the real reason I am an Irish Nationalist? Is it the greater voice I believe we’d have in the Dail as 20% of that country rather than 2% of the United Kingdom? Is it the increased economic potential I’d believe we would have if we pooled our resources? Is it the fact that I believe that within a United Ireland our age old conflict could finally be laid to rest?

    Of course not. I’m an Irish Nationalist and I believe those things because I was brought up to believe them. My politics and my ethnicity have fused. I’ll always strive to support a Nationalist position, whether it be to explain away a Mayor’s mistake at an award’s ceremony or see the good in Martin’s performance in the Dail election (and before anyone interjects, that support excludes murderous violence).

    You know what? Unionism in the North of Ireland is the same bloody thing as Irish Nationalism. It’s British Nationalism, where your ethnicity and politics have fused. Like me you’ll always see the best in your opposition and the worst in your opponents. You’ll explain away the gaffes of those you support, whereas a similar gaffe from someone on the other side would have you raging. You are just like us.

    And we can’t grow beyond that. We can all complain about how neither side is capable of expanding beyond their ethnic base and how this renders them intellectually bankrupt but that is a consequence of our history. How am I supposed to sell Irish Unification to a Unionist? How are they supposed to sell Unionism to me? By appealing to the pound in my pocket? We’d just end up insulting each other.

    Alex Kane’s post grows out of the frustration both sides feel at our endless stalemate. As a Nationalist I’m frustrated at our own limitations, the knowledge it will be decades before we could garner sufficient support for unity. I’d imagine what frustrates Unionists is that while the Union is apparently safe, the current set up prevents them from being governed the way they’d prefer.

    Irish Nationalists can’t have their United Ireland, so they prevent Unionists from having the North of Ireland the way they want it, rendering it utterly imperfect. And both sides seek support from a minority of the other side as a way of circumventing their own short-comings and reaching their promised lands.

    So we’ve stalemated, and despite Peter’s speeches or Alex’s opinions we are likely to remain stalemated until some outside stimuli changes the rules of the game.

    And if lift your eyes and look around, those changes are already in motion. How will Unionism promote the Union when the Scots seem to be inexorably moving towards dismantling it?
    How will Nationalists promote Irish Unity when it seems the Republic is slowly, so slowly, being drawn into the beginnings of at least European Confederation, and maybe a full fledged Federal Super-state.

    Both sides will do what they do best. They’ll hold their own, make the right noises to please their own sides about the progress they are making, and outside events will conspire, one way or the other, to break our stalemate.

  • Cynic2

    “I see the face of Jesus in all my pupils”

    I hear he’s almost as popular as Gerry. Still, its great to have an invisible friend

  • BluesJazz

    and I believe those things because I was brought up to believe them.

    Just …sad..
    But hardly surprising.

    The cages are already open, but maybe some like the ciomfort zone.

  • DC

    How will Nationalists promote Irish Unity when it seems the Republic is slowly, so slowly, being drawn into the beginnings of at least European Confederation, and maybe a full fledged Federal Super-state.

    I find that quite appealing, sort of outdoes membership of the UK.

  • DC

    Good analysis there Obelisk. I liked it. It is as Getta Sereny says it is – we all battle with inner-racism within us all.

    http://www.discoveringdiversity.org/student_zone/voices/item_01


    There is however one aspect of racism which I have not seen mentioned in the programme, but which, to my mind, is the most perilous one. Because, undefined by class or gender, and largely without planned intent, it enters, as of adolescence, almost by some kind of insidious osmosis, the minds or spirits of much of mankind. And this is what I would call ‘Inner Racism’.

  • between the bridges

    Thanks to Pete Baker for posting a thread on Alex Kane’s reply to my Slugger post in his Newsletter column as, without it, I’d have remained blissfully unaware of the existence of the piece….cheers CD that brought a smile to my face…

  • MonkDeWallyDeHonk

    Cynic

    “The real challenge for Republicans is that they equate being Catholic with supporting their cause. All the polls and the votes show that is far – very far – from true”

    Really. As someone who was born in the heart of West Balfast and grew up there, I believe that the vast majority of Catholics do favour a United Ireland – however, they are also pragmatic and it is hardly a priority at the moment.

    Your view of Catholics/Nationalists seems to be limited to a NILT poll (that also indicated there was more support for the SDLP than for SF!).

    No offence but I’ll stick to my opinion, it’s a lot more informed about the Catholic/Nationalist community than yours will ever be.

    BTW, if you’re interested in polls. If there was a poll on the “mainland” on maintaining the “Union” with NI – what do you think the result would be?

    I’m pretty sure I know where the overwhelming majority of people would place their bets.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Obelisk,
    Great post. And in your exhaustion with the politics of ethnic blocks lies the answer on how to deal with it: accept that it’s how things have to be in Northern Ireland.

    We need to get over ourselves, we are not so special. But we are two ethnic blocks sharing a region. At the ground level neither group trusts – or is likely to trust in the foreseeable future – that leaders from the other block will look after their best interests. The only answer to that, I’m afraid, is to have the kind of arrangement that was arrived at in the GFA, where the reality of “ethnic thinking” is recognised and built into the system.

    Security that things are not going to change in one or other block’s favour is the prerequisite for people being able to get on better. Stability, basically. For this to happen, Irish nationalism needs to look at its ambitions very closely and frankly change them. Its dynamic towards territorial expansion at British expense is the underlying cause of the conflict; if nationalism can genuinely accept the GFA arrangements as more or less permanent, we’re in a much better place. At times, some SDLP leaders do seem to get that; but here SF is very unhelpful, because its head is still stuck in the old outmoded absolutist nationalism of the past and it strives to untip the balance. And unionists have to give up on any attempt to make decisions affecting nationalists without their consent.

    Without that stability, none of these outreach efforts by unionists or nationalists will stick.

  • Obelisk

    Mainland Ulsterman

    But you know that’s never going to happen. Unity isn’t around the corner, nor is it going to happen any time soon, but consider for a moment from the perspective of a Nationalist what it would mean if we adopted the positions you suggest we adopt.

    It would mean the end of our dream. It’s a distant dream. You’d probably consider it a nightmare, but for us a United Ireland would be a very positive thing. Maybe if we ever get there it won’t be how we imagined it, or the circumstances will have changed so drastically that we won’t recognise what we have got, but it’s something we hope for.

    It would mean settling for the mediocrity of our present situation. It would mean accepting the institutionalising of our eternal struggle, because I can’t see us trusting a majority rules system up here ever again and if Sinn Fein ever lost their minds proposed getting rid of the ‘ugly scaffolding’ I would vote against them.

    It would mean we would have no political objective. It would mean we would have given up. Just because it’s unlikely, doesn’t mean it’s impossible, because even if it looks unlikely now, if we keep working for it maybe we’ll have that one shining day where it all goes our way.

    And anyway.there is value to be had in striving to achieve what is out of reach, than on surrendering on that goal and being content with much, much less.

    You could argue that stubbornly clinging to this goal harms the ideal of the shared future, perpetuates the stalemate. But that is the way it’s going to be. A Shared future is worthless if the pre-requisite of it is for a side to give up on it’s dreams and purpose.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    But that’s just it: if you know your dream is the nightmare of the person you have to live with, to persevere with it is a destructive act. It would be a positive thing for you, but that’s not enough – we have to think of everyone here. As Bruce Springsteen asked, “Is a dream a lie if it don’t come true, or is something worse?”

  • Obelisk

    In my opinion persevering with the Union is just as a destructive act. Yet you ask me and everyone else like me to tolerate it. In such a scenario, whilst I accept the realisation of my dream is a nightmare scenario for you, the continuance of your ideal situation is a nightmare scenario for me. Remember a big part of the selling point of the GFA for me, and for other Nationalists, was we were told the new arrangements were a stepping stone to unity.

    Since someone isn’t going to get the outcome they want, I have every right to pursue my goal in an attempt that my preferred scenario is the one that comes to pass.

    Why should you get to live your dream and get to pretend that what I have to experience isn’t as awful as what you’d experience if my dream came true? If Irish unity would be traumatic for you, how do you think Irish division has been for the majority of people on this island?

  • “we were told the new arrangements were a stepping stone to unity.”

    Obelisk, as I noted back in February (and earlier):

    Fr Alec Reid’s “Stepping Stones” proposals were developed for PIRA by the Redemptorists and prominent figures in the Southern establishment and promoted by Cardinal O Fiach and the Vatican Curia’s Archbishop Rigali.

    These proposals obviously influenced the exchanges in 1998 but you need to read the Agreement to see the outcome. I was going to say final outcome but the 1998 deal has been modified since then. It’s hardly surprising that the Agreement was cherry-picked but selective presentation of the type you refer to built false hopes – and frustration.

  • Drumlins Rock

    Unionist = Protestant, loyalist, anglo/scots, conservative, capitalist, establishmentarian, pragmatic, industrious
    Nationalist = Catholic, republican, gaelic, liberal, socialist, revolutionary, romantic, cultured

    Thats the general perception which is scarily accurate much of the time, we can all switch the words around to find romantic unionists or conservative nationalists, and of course the magical religious ones can be switched, the challenge is can either side cope with –

    Nationalist = Protestant, loyalist, anglo/scots, conservative, capitalist, establishmentarian, pragmatic, industrious
    Unionist = Catholic, republican, gaelic, liberal, socialist, revolutionary, romantic, cultured

    Neither are impossible, and those who fit into neither group comfortable are growing, with opening up being a two way process.

  • Obelisk, MU,

    It would mean we would have no political objective. It would mean we would have given up.

    And there lies the core of NI’s political problems. Everything refers back to one single political objective. It’s either the constitution or utter failure and despair. You have laid out three options:

    1. Unionists give up, Nationalists win, misery for 50% of the population.

    2. Nationalists give up, Unionists win, misery for 50% of the population.

    3. Nobody gives up, nobody wins, misery for 100% of the population.

    Can’t you see the fourth option staring you in the face?

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Mainland Ulsterman

    ‘Irish nationalism depends on the belief that the Republic is in some way a better country for Northern Ireland to be part of.’

    I think this is wrong, though I know it’s a common view among unionists about what Irish nationalism is all about.

    To nationalists the ‘country we are part of’ is Ireland. Nationalists wish to see an end to the division of their country. No patriot could ever be content to see his/her country divided, whatever the country in question.

    None of this implies that Ireland or the Irish are superior, or inferior, to the British, or to anyone else. My love and fidelity to my family is not based on a belief that my family is better than anyone else’s; it’s based on the fact that it’s my family. The same is true of my country.

    Of course, the same is true for unionists, but the country in question is different. (ish.) Hence, the last half-millennium of our history.

    ’(Irish nationalism’s) goal is that British people in Ireland ultimately not just accept Irish rule, but change their national allegiance and identity.’

    Not quite. The goal of Irish nationalism is a sovereign state encompassing the entire country (ie island) of Ireland. Getting the British-Irish people to accept this, and eventually embrace it, is greatly desirable, of itself, and in terms of the goal, but it is not itself the goal.

    Similarly, unionism’s goal is to maintain the union. It is not to get nationalists to ‘change their national allegiance and identity,’ though I’m sure most unionists would be pleased if this were to happen.

    It’s a good thing, that in the current phase of our history, both unionism and nationalism are beginning to try to defeat the other through persuasion and kindness, rather than the former strategies. I’m sceptical as to either side’s prospects, but long may the efforts continue.

    I see no ‘solution’ to a dispute in which two sides have roughly similar levels of both strength and moral legitimacy, but if we can learn to be civil with one another, that will count for a great deal.

  • ayeYerMa

    “2. Nationalists give up, Unionists win, misery for 50% of the population.”

    This statement is completely and utterly false. Please refer to the following pie chart regarding attitudes to the status quo:

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/60/NILT2010_FUTURE2_pie.png

    As you can see, only 9% indicated to have a problem with “Nationalists giving up”.

    The NILT would need a >>50% margin of error for this to not be relevant, and the longer-term figures show nothing different:
    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/79/NILT_FUTURE2.png

    The fact is that people are overwhelmingly happy with the constitutional status quo – it simply isn’t an issue. The UK allows one to be both British and Irish as naturally as being British and Welsh – something Irish Republican separatism simply can’t offer. This means that the stalemate will only end when people stop going out of their way to appease the vocal Republicans, when people stop pussy footing around like Alliance and talking as if anything British must be “offensive” or one-sided that must need “balance”. As people realise that demographics will always mean that our current constitutional position is the only possible way for stability, and realise that Irish Republicanism is only destructive, then the Irish Republican cause of our stalemate can only fade and die. Unionists must be confident about our current constitutional position, ignore the non-constructive PC media commentators in the BBC and Belfast Telegraph etc., and not be ashamed to ridicule Irish Republicanism for the daydream that it is.

    Irish Nationalists, on the other hand, who are happy enough in the UK but really really really want a political United Ireland would be better to try to convince those in the Republic to rejoin the UK too to restore the “Irish nation” – there is nothing contradictory or absurd about this and it would be the ultimate solution for stability in the archipelago. Remember, that the British Royal Standard contains an Irish harp in the lower-left corner.

  • ayeYerMa

    … to add to that, the real divide has absolutely nothing to do with the constitutional position – that is settled and stable and not going to change.

    The real divide that we have is entirely to do with living separate lives, primarily due to the role of religion in forming separate communities. This, therefore, entirely indicates that the approach to religion is real divide that deserves our attention.

    IMO Peter Robinson has it sorted. Would not have said that a few years ago and would cringe if he mentioned “Protestants”, but I would now consider the DUP.

  • aYM,

    As you can see, only 9% indicated to have a problem with “Nationalists giving up”.

    That’s not what the question measured. Just because many nationalists would be content for the union to continue under certain conditions, doesn’t necessarily mean they have given up anything. It just means they have refocused their priorities.

    talking as if anything British must be “offensive” or one-sided that must need “balance”

    Is that “British” as in those things common to all the countries of the UK, “British” as in the pre-1969 Northern Ireland state or “British” as in Ulster Protestant culture? The first one of those shouldn’t be offensive, but the second probably should, and the third could be depending on context and the “balance” that you deride. Unionists are very fond of using the word “British” when they really mean “Unionist”.

    better to try to convince those in the Republic to rejoin the UK too

    Why would they take on such a fool’s errand when there are more likely scenarios?

    I would now consider the DUP

    Which means that Robinson’s strategy of consolidating unionism is working. But what is good for unionism is not necessarily good for NI.

    I agree that Robinson’s integrated education proposals deserve the fullest consideration, but he still has an enormous trust problem and is doing very little to address it. So long as integrated education is seen as a unionist wheeze, nationalists will run a mile.

  • Cynic2

    “It would mean we would have no political objective. It would mean we would have given up.”

    No …you could keep a political objective or aspiration but recognise that in the short term politically its a hopeless cause. In reality that is what SF have done – they just don’t want to admit it!

  • Cynic2

    “we were told the new arrangements were a stepping stone to unity.”

    They told you lies.

  • Drumlins Rock

    stepping stones to disaster more like it, the only real concession to to Republicans was the North South bodies, who so far have delivered a white elephant Autism centre in Middle-of-nowhere-town, a modern eyesore in our most historic city, heartache and distress (not to mention wasted millions) on an un-needed super highway, language bodies that make Italian accounting practices look good, a Canal project that is taking longer than the Panama Canal did to make any progress, Tourism promotion that is often accused of southern bias, light houses remain “British” to all practical purposes, agricultural co-operation that totally screwed NI pig producers last yr, not to mention Irish farmers calling for a boycott of northern produce. Even the original cross border loughs agency hasn’t been trouble free due to changes. I wonder is the Altnagalvin funding as secure and certain as the A5 funding was until recently?

  • Republic of Connaught

    “But that’s just it: if you know your dream is the nightmare of the person you have to live with, to persevere with it is a destructive act.” Mainland Ulsterman

    This is a ridiculous statement. The partition of Ireland might be a dream for 15-18 per cent of people on the island of Ireland (Unionists) but it’s been a long troubled nightmare for the vast majority who always wanted 32 county Ireland united under one Irish government. So are the Unionists going to persevere with their destructive act? Or are they going to do the decent and accept the wishes of the island’s majority?

    Yeah, right.

  • RoC,

    Why do you choose the island as the basis for your majority? Because islands are special? Or because it gives you the result that you want?

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    RoC and Obelisk,
    Given the china shop that Northern Ireland is, I would have thought you might look critically at whether the political objective of victory over the other side is appropriate. The absence of conflict is based on people feeling secure and stable. Seeking to constantly push for constitutional change only introduces a source of conflict where none is necessary.

    Yes, nationalists in NI do have to swallow living in the UK, but really everyone has bent over backwards to make it as painless and un-British an experience as possible. This is not, believe me, the Northern Ireland that unionists want – with former IRA leaders in government, all-Ireland bodies and so on. We have certainly got our way on sovereignty but really it couldn’t democratically be otherwise. There is a rigorously fair balance of political power between the two groups under the GFA and unionists have no plans to seek to break these arrangement or push for greater unionist power at nationalists’ expense. Unfortunately, the same is not true the other way around, where the grand nationalist scheme is to impose nationalist hegemony over unionists, not reach consensus – and that can only be de-stabilising. You don’t have to be a unionist to see the GFA arrangements are sounder, fairer and less likely to lead to conflict than the alternative that nationalist ideology offers.

    Your 15 per cent argument, RoC, is based on erroneous assumptions on international law (i.e. the rules agreed by all states as determining how to proceed with territorial disputes). If you were right, then Russia would be able to take over any neighbouring state simply by asking its own population if it wanted it – they would outnumber the people in question every time. The Republic’s lawyers advised it several decades ago it would fail on this basis if it tried challenging the fairness of the border.

    Billy Pilgrim,
    I think we largely agree, though I think Irish nationalism claims to be about more than just the self-identified Irish nation, it has always been about the whole island – which includes the Ulster British people too and therein lies the problem. Unionism is not the mirror image, as we have no teleology towards achieving some notional single identity – our worldview has no problem with difference. What it needs to work on is respecting the other nationality more but it does not need to work on recognising its difference and we are not trying to change people’s national or ethnic allegiance.

    We view the minority situation as an unfortunate but inevitable consequence of the indivisibility of sovereignty, in a mixed region, similar to other ethnically mixed regions around the world. The minority deserves sympathy for its predicament, but frankly someone has to be a minority and it’s better to have fewer than more people in that situation. Under Irish nationalism, more people would be in that situation, which is why nationalist leaders themselves accept “it would be wrong” (GFA wording) for them to achieve their ends under present circumstances. Of course, if it is just seeking to grow its population then win a head-count, I can’t argue with that – though there would still be an argument, if we are moving the border, not to move it all the way to the sea but find a mathematically more logical position for it. But I accept the GFA assumes that the present Northern Ireland is definitive of the self-determinative unit.

  • Obelisk

    “Given the china shop that Northern Ireland is, I would have thought you might look critically at whether the political objective of victory over the other side is appropriate. The absence of conflict is based on people feeling secure and stable. Seeking to constantly push for constitutional change only introduces a source of conflict where none is necessary.”

    Northern Ireland IS a china shop but only because the founders of the state designed it so. Remember, they didn’t seek to exempt their own people from Home Rule ninety odd years ago, they made a conscious decision to grab as much territory as they could safely dominate including two predominantly Nationalist counties and substantial Nationalist areas in Armagh and Derry. Had the state been designed to exempt the maximum number of Unionists with the minimum number of Nationalists involved, today you’d have had a much smaller North but one a lot more stable.

    You say “someone has to be a minority and it’s better to have fewer than more people in that situation.” It’s a great pity the political forefathers of Unionism didn’t have that foresight. The temerity to then essentially suggest that our pursuit of undoing what we perceive to be a grave injustice is the source of the tension is pretty breathtaking in it’s sheer gall. It may have been ninety years ago, but we live with the consequences of their idiocy and pettiness to this day.

    “Unionism is not the mirror image, as we have no teleology towards achieving some notional single identity – our worldview has no problem with difference”

    I hate to point this out, but the brand of Unionism practised in the North isn’t the multi-cultural sort procliamed across the water in Britain. It’s a mono-ethnic polity the British ethnicity in Ulster has clung to as a reaction towards Irish Nationalism. It is more properly viewed as a British-Ulster Nationalism and from the outside looking in, in regards to certain minorities, the worldview of Unionism has a significant problem with difference whether it be the anti-catholicism of the Orange Order, as exemplified recently by the Constable Kerr funeral issue. Or with accepting the gay minority, as exemplified by Edwin Poots refusal to lift the ban on donating blood in line with the rest of the UK. Or with the Irish Language, as with the issue over the display of a Christmas light saying Nollaig Shona. Or that Mosque in Portadown a few years ago that Unionist politicians opposed.
    I can point to lots of examples where British Nationalism in the North’s worldview has a problem with difference. I’m not saying these are common viewpoints, but they are viewpoints expressed by leaders or authority figures within Unionism. Don’t quote David Cameron or any Tories to me when trying to demonstrate how accepting Unionism is, quote our local politicians, the leaders of local Unionism.

    Maybe it’s important that you believe that Unionism is a grander, more ambitious ideology than Nationalism. That Nationalism is a narrow ideology centred around one ethnicity whereas everyone can be a part of the Great British Nation.

    As I said earlier, Unionism in Ulster IS Irish Nationalism’s mirror image. From my perspective, Unionism in Ulster likes cherrypicking what Unionists in England say to describe themselves, whereas in reality what you offer locally is nowhere near as open minded or as broad. In fact in recent elections, has not the Unionist electorate plumped for a party that is more Ulster Nationalist than Ulster Unionist?

    “Of course, if it is just seeking to grow its population then win a head-count, I can’t argue with that – though there would still be an argument, if we are moving the border, not to move it all the way to the sea but find a mathematically more logical position for it”

    The time for that is long past. I acknowledge its unlikely in the near term or even the medium term. But if the day comes when we actually win a border poll, I certainly expect Unionism to acquiesce gracefully.

  • Republic of Connaught

    Andrew,

    Forget the island then. Let the people of the north of Ireland decide. Let the northern province decide. All of Ulster. Not the part gerrymandered to give Unionists the result they wanted. Though ironically you seem to have no problem with that result.

    MU,

    The idea that nationalists should just accept partition so as not to annoy unionists and cause conflict is comical. Nationalists will pursue their legitimate political goals and in the end democratic numbers will end the border. There are more British living in the Republic than any other group so Unionists won’t be among strangers if we end up with an all island state.

    Although in fairness to you I believe you have advocated re-partition which is at least an acknowledgment that nationalists shouldn’t be forced to remain under UK jurisdiction in counties/areas where they have clear majorities.

  • RoC,

    Ah, so you’ve picked another arbitrary constituency for the sole reason that it gives you the result you want.

    The reason that NI is used as the unit of democracy is because it already exists. If you want to use a different unit, then you need to get agreement on what that unit is. Wait, we already have an agreement that NI is the unit in question. How many international treaties and referendums do you need before you accept this?

  • Republic of Connaught

    Andrew,

    Coming from a northern Unionist, talking about drawing arbitrary lines to give a certain political result is comical in its hypocrisy.

    The undemocratic manner in which NI was brought into existence might be a large part of its problems since its inception, no? Yes it exists, but not because the majority of people in the province of Ulster want it.

    International treaties and referendums are paperwork which means little to the hearts and minds of the people who live in Ireland. The GFA, for example, meant little more to most Irish people than a mass desire to end the endless violence in the north. It didn’t dampen the desire for unification of the country, as any 32 county referendum would show.

  • Obelisk

    RoC

    Whilst my heart agrees with some of what you say, solutions have to be based upon cold hard facts and in this case Andrew is right, you have to work within the six counties area. A discussion on any other area is just a waste of effort and an exercise in wish fulfilment.

  • Republic of Connaught

    Obelisk,

    I don’t dispute it will only be within the six counties the vote will be held.

    But seeing a Unionist take any moral highground about creating arbitrary lines in Ulster to guarantee a political result is comical hypocrisy.

  • ayeYerMa

    Republic of Connaught – the line exists the way it does due to the Ulster British SELF-DETERMINATION being accepted as equally valid as the self determination of Irish Separatists. In fact, if it were not for this line then those of you in the south would not have your 26 county Republic at all.

    This is a boring 100 year-old argument – please give over and accept the pragmatism that was required for stability.

  • Obelisk

    Self Determination as an argument was undermined when your forefathers insisted on an unrestrained landgrab.

  • Republic of Connaught

    Ayeyerma,

    There was no Ulster British majority in Fermanagh or Tyrone, there was an Irish nationalist majority. It seems some Unionists/Loyalists still can’t admit the landgrab that occurred there if judging it by your own ‘self determination’ concept.

    Irish history should teach you 100 years is nothing in the goal of 32 county independence from England.

  • RoC,

    Whatever the rights and wrongs of partition, it’s here now and we have to deal with it. If we make rewinding the clock to some other point in history a precondition for progress we’ll get nowhere.

    And I love it when you call me a Unionist. Do it again.

  • Reader

    Obelisk: Self Determination as an argument was undermined when your forefathers insisted on an unrestrained landgrab.
    And when your own forefathers failed to grab the same land.
    Failing to grab 4 counties and corral a million unionists is no more moral than succeeding in grabbing 2 counties and coralling 500,000 nationalists. They can’t avoid a charge of hypocrisy simply through having failed repeatedly.

  • Obelisk

    I believe that it was the Unionist politicians of the time who are most open to the charge of hypocrisy. After spending a decade bleating about how they would suffer and be oppressed under in a Catholic Dominated Home Rule Ireland, they then turned around inflicted all the horrors they themselves had dreaded on the minority they has ‘coralled’.

    Besides, the Nationalist goal of an all island parliament was never hypocritical as they were quite open about it at the time. It was the Unionst leaders who shouted the loudest about self-determination and then felt able to deny that right to half a million people once they had managed to secure partition.

  • ayeYerMa

    Andrew Gallagher,

    The graph considers the fact that the Union is the status quo and satisfaction with it. The status quo is something that can’t be ignored, and by definition it is Unionist – given the overwhleming satisfaction with the status quo then this means satisfaction with Unionism in its true definition.

    You correctly point to the problems with semantics, but this is the very point that Peter Robinson has made a point to address by aiming to make a disassociation between Unionism and Ulster Protestantism.

    Why are you talking about persuasion of the Republic Rejoining the UK as a “fools errand”, yet are prepared to discuss the even more unlikely scenario of an independent all-Ireland state as a possibility? One always gets discussed but the other ignored. Such an argument is more likely to be listened to in the south if made from fellow Irish Nationalists, rather than by Ulster Unionists. Remember that the early Irish Nationalist movements did not demand a full Republic, nor did the original Sinn Fein, and the original treaty had envisioned an all-Ireland home rule within the UK.

    On your point on integrated education, I think if Nationalists make a stand against integrated education, then that is very bad PR for Irish Nationalism and will put Irish Nationalism in a very bad un-PC light in this age of the PC media. Contrast this to the image boost that it will give Unionism, when it is eventually realised that Unionists aren’t the big bad bogey men after all and actually do desire a genuine integration.

    This is another reason why I dislike the Alliance Party approach. Alliance are effectively Unionists, but act as if the “U” word is something that is bad for PR and must never be mentioned – effectively many in Alliance are being dishonest, in a very sneaky and shifty way – it’s like they are always tiptoeing around “trying not to offend” in case they may damage their pretentious image by daring to give their real opinions. Contrast this to an honest Unionist approach that by demonstrating with actions that Unionism is not some bogey man and that the current Unionist status quo can work well for all in NI.

  • Obelisk

    “Remember that the early Irish Nationalist movements did not demand a full Republic, nor did the original Sinn Fein, and the original treaty had envisioned an all-Ireland home rule within the UK”

    Just remember who messed that up.

    And at the risk of damaging my Nationalist credentials, I would accept the Republic re-joining the UK as a solution to the constitutional issue.

    I don’t think it’s very likely, but for me the issue has always been the division of my country and if that came to pass we’d at least all be together again. If you manage to convince the South, more power to you. In the meantime I’ll argue for removing the border the other way.

  • ayeYerMa

    I have to always laugh at how southern Republicans like Republic of Connaught et al are squabbling over the exact size of land in Northern Ireland. You’d think from the way he’s talking that Northern Ireland was some vast area with some vast swathes of land like Siberia.

    Northern Ireland is a TINY wee place – in European terms we are insignificant and are vulnerable and weak on our own. Talking as if NI’s founders were somehow on a massive land-grab could only come from someone who is being dishonest and from the insular mindset of someone from somewhere just as insignificant, but with a rather over-inflated sense of self-importance.

    Northern Ireland’s land area was seen as the minimum for basic survival. If the exact border was really such an issue then repartition would have been the continuous demand over the years. Instead, what we had was a case of Irish Republicans wanting to “have their cake and eat it too” – wanting self-determination, but also wanting to deny it to others, all out of nothing else than the silly desire to make their country look pretty on a map.

  • aYM,

    You’ve left out half of the definition of (political) Unionism. You have to be in favour of the Union but you also have to prioritise it over other issues. Just because one is content with the status quo does not make one a Unionist, not even by modern, civic standards. You’ll recall that the political barometer websites ask you not only your position on the issues, but also how you rank the issues in importance. This is why the eurosceptic Nigel Farage is not particularly popular with the eurosceptic electorate – not because they disagree with him, but because they think he’s swivel-eyed about it.

    So Alliance are being perfectly honest – they just don’t see the Union as a priority. They’re only “shifty” if you believe they have fervent desires that they are keeping quiet. It reminds me of primary school when I was constantly asked what football team I supported, and they wouldn’t take “I’m not interested in football” as an answer. Some people genuinely aren’t exercised by the same things that you are.

    Robinson may be trying to distinguish Unionism from Ulster Protestantism, but he has no credibility. He was quite content to be deputy leader of Ulster Protestantism for over thirty years. That said, if Nationalist politicians fail to engage with the integrated education debate it would be a disaster – the DUP cannot be allowed to monopolise the idea. If they do, it will set back integrated education for another generation as nationalists come to see it (once again) as a unionist trojan horse, the same fear that scuppered Londonderry’s proposals in the 20s.

    If Robinson wants to ease nationalist fears, then he needs to spell out what he would be willing to give in exchange for catholic/nationalist support. Irish language and culture would be a good start. An honest appreciation of the catholic grammar sector would also help, especially since the DUP claim to be in favour of grammars. Alternatively, SF could draw up their own integrated education proposals – after all, isn’t republicanism is supposed to be a secular philosophy? Let’s get a proper debate going and start discussing the actual issues.

    Why are you talking about persuasion of the Republic Rejoining the UK as a “fools errand”, yet are prepared to discuss the even more unlikely scenario of an independent all-Ireland state as a possibility?

    If you seriously believe that the Republic rejoining the UK is more likely than an independent United Ireland, I don’t think I can do much for you. There is the distinct possibility that it may switch back to sterling, but that merely reverts to the situation pre-1979. There is no unionist movement in the republic at all. The closest it has is the Reform Movement, whose grand scheme is to rejoin the commonwealth – even that causes the susceptible to froth at the mouth. And don’t bring up Michael Ring, everyone down here knows that was sarcasm.

  • Barnshee

    “Why are you talking about persuasion of the Republic Rejoining the UK as a “fools errand”, yet are prepared to discuss the even more unlikely scenario of an independent all-Ireland state as a possibility?”

    Totally amazed that anyone would consider that the ROI would be allowed back in to the UK

  • Reader

    Obelisk: After spending a decade bleating about how they would suffer and be oppressed under in a Catholic Dominated Home Rule Ireland, they then turned around inflicted all the horrors they themselves had dreaded on the minority they has ‘coralled’.
    Except for cultural and demographic obliteration, of course.

    Obelisk: It was the Unionst leaders who shouted the loudest about self-determination and then felt able to deny that right to half a million people once they had managed to secure partition.
    How so? Unless you are suggesting a form of self-determination that could only be met by re-partition; then northern nationalists had repeated opportunities to vote for anti-partionists in Stormont, and then a referendum in 1973. The right to self determination is the right to have your vote counted, not the right to an automatic win.
    And if you *are* suggesting re-partition as the only option that offers self-determination, then note that the Dail rejected a net transfer of land and people proposed by the boundary condition, and that no nationalist or republican party on either side of the border has ever proposed re-partition. You can’t complain of not getting what you never asked for.

  • Obelisk

    “How so? Unless you are suggesting a form of self-determination that could only be met by re-partition;”

    Re-partition is impossible. Horseman did a whole series on the issue once and the best stab halved the North with Tyrone, Fermanagh, the western part of Derry, South Armagh and South Down going to the South, but it fails over deciding what to do with Belfast. Besides there doesn’t seem to be much support for that option.

    “The right to self determination is the right to have your vote counted, not the right to an automatic win.”

    Had this been article of faith for Unionism, then Unionism would have gracefully accepted defeat a hundred years ago. The hypocrisy of discovering the virtue of majority rule and the value of democracy AFTER creating an artificial state with an in-built majority in defiance of the will of the majority is remembered. Whenever a Unionist leader or politician talks of the will of the majority, the fact that we are only here because they thwarted the majority through threats of violence and by appealing to Britain is what I think of.

    “then northern nationalists had repeated opportunities to vote for anti-partionists in Stormont, and then a referendum in 1973.”

    Please don’t be so naive. You know fine well the system was gerrymandered to marginalise Nationalists at all levels and to exclude their representatives from power. Your statement is a hollow one. In fact the very memory of that system is why we insist on maintaining the ‘ugly scaffolding’ of today.

    “Except for cultural and demographic obliteration, of course”

    You have no proof of what would have happened, though I doubt it will take you long to bring up the fate of Southern Protestants.
    I could offer my own wild conjecture on that as well. Maybe if the struggle which lead to partition hadn’t been so bitter some of the terrible things that happened in the South wouldn’t have happened (in no way defending the indefensible by the way, any Southerner forced out against their will was a victim). And if there’d been a million Protestants in the new state whose fears needed assuaging, maybe the whole country would have been a lot better for it.

    What we do have proof of is how the Unionist leaders treated the minority they ended up with, and it was not to their credit.

  • Republic of Connaught

    AYM,

    It doesn’t matter how tiny NI is. The whole island is small. What matters is that if partition was inevitable you should have only got the territory your democratic numbers were entitled to, nothing else.

    Nobody in Ireland rejected Ulster Protestants as part of the country. Who knows how Ireland would have developed if the northern Protestants had accepted Home Rule. You are cocooned in the six counties by choice. And if there was re-partition it would be a lot tinier.

  • Reader

    Obelisk: Please don’t be so naive. You know fine well the system was gerrymandered to marginalise Nationalists at all levels and to exclude their representatives from power. Your statement is a hollow one. In fact the very memory of that system is why we insist on maintaining the ‘ugly scaffolding’ of today.
    I believe that some council boundaries were gerrymandered, and that Stormont kept on an outdated council franchise for 20 years after it had been abandoned in GB.
    But Stormont itself was not gerrymandered. Even being cynical – there would have been no point. You can’t possibly imagine there was ever a nationalist majority in Northern Ireland.

    You also seem to be going round in circles over the scope of self determination. If it was wrong for unionists to include 500,000 nationalists in Northern Ireland, then it would have been twice as wrong to include a million unionists in a 32 county Ireland. When it comes to finger pointing over the land grab, you offered us a very easy target to beat.
    Do you at least agree that the most moral target to aim for was to have the fewest people in the ‘wrong’ jurisdiction? And that unionists got far closer to that target than nationalists would have done if they got their way?

  • Obelisk

    “Do you at least agree that the most moral target to aim for was to have the fewest people in the ‘wrong’ jurisdiction? And that unionists got far closer to that target than nationalists would have done if they got their way?”

    The only reason they didn’t ask for more, say a nine county Ulster based on the historical boundaries, was that in a nine county Ulster they were a minority. Had they been guided by morality they would have asked for a four county North.

    They asked for six, the maximum they could comfortably dominate. In this instance, morality has nothing to do with the choices or mindset of Unionist leaders and you are applying morality to the outcome, not to the intent, when you say Unionists got closer to a ‘moral’ outcome.

    It is also a mistake to draw comparisons between the Nationalist goal and the Unionist outcome. Nationalists at the time sought home rule status for Ireland as a political unit. The entire world, even the British who appointed a Lord Lieutenant to run the place, regarded Ireland as a single political unit. In fact, for most of the Home Rule Carson’s goal was not partition but to prevent Home Rule entirely. Everyone regarded the island as a unit.

    Now, as you’re a Unionist who I assume was born after partition you will no doubt agree democracy is a good and healthy process. By my reckoning the pro-Home Rule constituency outnumbered the Unionist constituency in Ireland by four or five to one. Democratically, they lost the argument utterly. So they changed the rules.

    The reason I can apply the morality standard to the Unionist leaders is that they knew what they were doing when the option of partition was available. They had choice, and they CHOSE domination over self-determination. Forcing Fermanagh and Tyrone against the will of their people into the North is the original sin of the birth of Northern Ireland, where the Unionist leaders did to the other side what they had long claimed would be done to them.

    So I guess, no, I don’t agree with you. I hold the two causes to different standards, given the options presented to them in the context of the time. It was fate that decided that the Unionist cause was handed the power to shape their destiny for their chosen few, and they handled it poorly.

  • unicorn

    MonkDeWallyDeHonk (profile) says:

    BTW, if you’re interested in polls. If there was a poll on the “mainland” on maintaining the “Union” with NI – what do you think the result would be?

    I’m pretty sure I know where the overwhelming majority of people would place their bets.

    British Social Attitudes Survey (i.e. not some dodgy survey commissioned by a newspaper or think tank with an agenda)

    “Do you think the long-term policy for Northern Ireland should be for it to remain part of the United Kingdom or to unify with the rest of Ireland?”

    Year Part of UK Unify Ireland
    1983 28.48% 57.89%
    1984 26.75% 57.75%
    1986 26.51% 56.67%
    1987 26.79% 56.98%
    1989 30.09% 54.76%
    1990 28.69% 55.74%
    1991 28.13% 53.87%
    1993 28.01% 53.48%
    1994 24.08% 59.37%
    1995 28.57% 51.88%
    1996 30.23% 52.26%
    1998 25.80% 51.80%
    1999 26.76% 54.55%
    2000 25.31% 57.02%
    2002 27.08% 48.70%
    2003 27.54% 54.90%
    2004 32.27% 44.64%
    2006 33.98% 38.72%
    2007 32.25% 40.16%
    2008 44.34% 34.98%

    2008 was the last time this question was asked.

  • unicorn

    Mainland Ulsterman (profile) says:

    I think we largely agree, though I think Irish nationalism claims to be about more than just the self-identified Irish nation, it has always been about the whole island – which includes the Ulster British people too and therein lies the problem. Unionism is not the mirror image, as we have no teleology towards achieving some notional single identity – our worldview has no problem with difference. What it needs to work on is respecting the other nationality more but it does not need to work on recognising its difference and we are not trying to change people’s national or ethnic allegiance.

    Obelisk (profile) says:

    As I said earlier, Unionism in Ulster IS Irish Nationalism’s mirror image. From my perspective, Unionism in Ulster likes cherrypicking what Unionists in England say to describe themselves, whereas in reality what you offer locally is nowhere near as open minded or as broad. In fact in recent elections, has not the Unionist electorate plumped for a party that is more Ulster Nationalist than Ulster Unionist?

    It’s 2012 and the conference season is on. Peter Robinson opens with his speech.

    “Ladies and gentlemen I stand here proud to be an Ulsterman, proud to be British and yes also proud to be an Irishman. I believe that it is within the United Kingdom that all these identities can be respected and flourish”

    A few eyebrows are raised…

    A fortnight later it’s the Sinn Fein conference and Gerry Adams opens.

    “Ladies and gentlemen I stand here proud to be an Ulsterman, proud to be an Irishman and yes also proud to be British. I believe that it is within a united Ireland that all these identities can be respected and flourish”

    Gerry Adams exits politics in the manner of Iris Robinson…

    Entirely a mirror image?

  • unicorn

    Chris Donnelly (profile) says:

    “The quote from Alex Kane claiming Chris Donnelly’s earlier article contained the words, “pitting of Catholics against their fellow co-religionists.” (re appealing to some catholics to support unionist politics?) also seems to be a point worth adressing.”

    Not only have I addressed it, but the entire gist of my article is that by turning against a genuinely shared future, Robinson & Kane’s vision for political unionism is one which remains in the foxholes, refusing to embrace the reality that catholics ‘as’ Irish nationalists need to be made welcome by unionism as a precondition for any realistic hope of catholics actually making the leap to being actively unionist.

    And ditto for Irish nationalism with regard to attracting protestant support.

    Hence the nonsensical idea that it’s possible to simply swing a few middle class catholics round to the unionist way of thinking short of actually taking the necessary- and painful- steps of modernising unionism and finding a place for Irish nationalism (politically and culturally) within the Union.

    Irish nationalism (ironically considering how some have tried to justify the IRA campaign in recent times) has a Stormont which is “gerrymandered” to give Irish nationalists 50% of the vote weight when they have 40% of the seats, and vote weighted guaranteed places in government. Quite frankly that is a little more than “finding a place for Irish nationalism politically”. If you want more than that I’m afraid you’ll have to spell it out and justify it.

    As for “finding a place for Irish nationalism culturally” I reject that as a category error. A culture is not a border aspiration. A culture is not a nation. Two nations can have the same culture and one nation can have multiple cultures. A nation is a political contract of mutual loyalty, not a bloodline or a musical repertoire. To accept that then I would have to accept that a person cannot be a Gael and be British, or cannot be Irish and be British, which is something that I am never going to accept. That does not mean that I reject finding a place for Gaelic culture in Northern Ireland, but it should be separate, or at least separable, from a particular border dispute or contract of loyalty to others. Irish nationalism is something for border polls, not for culture and the arts. People with a particular border aspiration whether it be UK, United Ireland, independence, United States of Europe or anything else all have a right to use whatever culture and art they see fit.

    I can accept that Sinn Fein have a right to Gaelic imagery and such but I’ll never accept that someone who considers themselves British doesn’t have a right to Gaelic imagery and such without censure by Irish nationalists. So there is no such thing as “Irish nationalist culture” as far as I can see.

  • Reader

    Obelisk: By my reckoning the pro-Home Rule constituency outnumbered the Unionist constituency in Ireland by four or five to one. Democratically, they lost the argument utterly.
    I’m a Bangorian. I don’t give a stuff how people vote in Limerick, and it wouldn’t bother me at all to discover that they don’t care how I vote either. I do care that you would want to lump us into the same constituency in order to get an outcome you like.
    The only difference between you claiming Bangor, and Stormont claiming Crossmaglen; is that Stormont was willing to concede Crossmaglen in 1925. (Reasonably enough, the Dail didn’t want it.)

  • Obelisk

    ‘I do care that you would want to lump us into the same constituency in order to get an outcome you like.’

    Yeah, me devising a constituency in order to ensure my point of view wins would be totally out of line. Now when was that tried?

    Though given Ireland at the time was considered a single unit, and from my perspective a single national unit, how does the below argument sound?

    ‘I’m a Liverpudlian. I don’t give a stuff how people vote in Birmingham, and it wouldn’t bother me at all to discover that they don’t care how I vote either. I do care that you would want to lump us into the same constituency in order to get an outcome you like.’

    You are basically contending that Ireland at the time was not a proper constituency when by every measure and perspective of the time, and indeed since, it most definitely was.

  • Barnshee

    Obl
    The question is –

    “Do you think the long-term policy for Northern Ireland should be for it to remain part of the United Kingdom ”

    If the answer is no then the

    “or to unify with the rest of Ireland?” is sfa to do with them

    The club can expel members -but it cant tell them where to go.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    RoC,
    “The idea that nationalists should just accept partition so as not to annoy unionists and cause conflict is comical.”
    Why? I really don’t see why you think nationalists have some obligation to push for their utopia at all costs. Hasn’t it already cost enough in human lives?

    Obelisk,
    I recognise a lot of unionism is narrow Ulster British nationalism, I don’t think this is much better than Irish nationalism and I wasn’t defending that. My point was that unionism isn’t an ideology in the sense of requiring movement towards some ideal in the way nationalism is. The two peoples are in many way mirror images of each other but their political creeds, I think, are not. I’m not saying unionism is some amazingly advanced political philosophy, indeed there’s an obvious lack of political sophistication there for the most part. But because its ambitions are limited, I think it finds itself, by accident, more suited to stable power-sharing than nationalism.

    The latter, as you show, retains a belief that at some level it needs to defeat unionism. I don’t think it should think that way. Co-existence and maintaining a balance of power, so that neither community feels under threat from the other, must be a better approach, surely.

    When you say “Northern Ireland IS a china shop but only because the founders of the state designed it so”, I half agree and and half don’t. I think it would have been a china shop anyway, because of the ethnic patchwork, no matter what border you drew. But I do agree we could have had a much better border, with fewer people on the wrong side. They did go for as much territory as they could by county and I think it was a mistake. But I think you would have to admit that, Irish nationalism would have sought to do away with the border wherever it was placed. Until 1998, it was still patronising us Ulster British as suffering from a “false consciousness”. Happily that thinking is now history, as is the claim the border was a wrong committed against the Irish people. That was always nonsense, but it took until the GFA for the leaders of nationalism to accept that. But accept it they did. Not that you could tell from these pages, sometimes.

  • unicorn,

    Of course “Irish nationalist culture” is a category error. Unfortunately, we have so many categories and so few terms in NI to describe them that category errors are unavoidable. Perhaps we need new cultural-ethnic terms to describe “unionists” and “nationalists” so we can avoid mixing up culture and politics, the same way most people gave up using “protestant” and “catholic” as political labels some time ago. “Irish” and “British” don’t quite work – many cultural unionists would consider themselves a variety of “Irish”, for example, and many cultural nationalists would concur. “Planter” and “Gael” are too archaic, and thus too inaccurate, to be useful.

    “Fowks” and “Daoine” perhaps? Although Ulster-Scots and Irish don’t hold equivalent positions in the respective cultures…

    barnshee,

    The club can expel members

    No, it can’t. That would amount to making some of its population stateless, which is an offence under international law.

    reader,

    The boundary commission proposed a net transfer of land and people from south to north. Not particularly surprising that the report was buried.