Case for unification: “I sense that republicans don’t actually know the answer themselves”

On the subject of polls, I’d blogged Owen Paterson’s thoughts before Alex Kane’s column came online:

My own view is that this is the perfect time for a referendum. Bring it on, in fact! In 1973 we never got the chance to have a proper debate about the realities, consequences and ramifications of Irish unity. As is so often the case the nationalists ran away from it. In one sense, of course, you can’t blame them for not wanting a forensic examination of unification, for once you have sidelined the blarney, mythology and teary-eyed ballads about martyrs and incompetent revolts, you quickly discover that there’s nothing else in their cupboard.

So let’s cut the nonsense and have the debate. If Sinn Fein and the SDLP are convinced that Irish unity really does represent some sort of political utopia then perhaps they should set out the case. Let me put it bluntly: what would ever make me choose to swap my citizenship of the United Kingdom for a newly united Ireland? I only ask the question because I sometimes sense that republicans don’t actually know the answer themselves. Instead, they seem to have convinced themselves that there will come a day when there are more Roman Catholics than Protestants in Northern Ireland and that those Roman Catholics will, when given the choice, choose to vote themselves out of the United Kingdom.

This touches on an important difference between any future Scottish exit from the Union and Northern Ireland’s. In the former case, the destination is febrile, protean and the final outcome can be trimmed somewhat what the maximum number want/will settle for.

In the case of re-unifying Ireland, there’s the tough matter of retrofitting a fragment of the UK to a small but, by its own account, imperfectly formed Republic to which there are limitations as to how it might be reformed to suit the needs and wishes of any prospective northern partners.

,

  • john

    I replied to Alex and your article earlier making it clear that there is no need for a referendum at the moment. I think Alex makes some valid points but the questions he raises mainly why vote for united Ireland? can easily be flipped. He is also certain that a United Ireland will never happen which although unlikely at the moment, to say it will never happen is naive. The world changes quickly, who knows what might happen and how it affects peoples opinions. I do agree with him that debate is needed because at the moment no-one really has put forward a plan as to what unity would bring a new Republic, a federal Ireland, united states of Ireland, autonomy for 6 or 9 counties of Ulster, cantons or god forbid re-partition (should never happen because of the geography and political make up of Belfast). These are all things that need to be discussed

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Alex Kane is right to suggest that intellectually, nationalism is at a low point. Unionism is no better, but it needn’t be. Incumbency is unionism’s only really strong argument.

    The case for a single, sovereign republic is simple, and always has been.

    Matthew 25:14-30

    http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%2025:14-30;&version=NIV;

  • Tannhauser

    But which Tayto crisp producer will emerge ascendant? I’m emigrating if I’m forced to eat Largo Foods’ inferior cheese & onion…

  • Dec

    ‘Let me put it bluntly: what would ever make me choose to swap my citizenship of the United Kingdom for a newly united Ireland?’

    Under the terms of the Good Friday agreement, he wouldn’t have to. Now that’s a starting point.

  • Obelisk

    I find myself agreeing with John in what he has written here and his response to Alex Kane on the Newsletter itself, that you simply cannot predicate the future based on how things are right now, especially as the coming decades promise to bring unbelievable change on a global scale to us all.

    Nearly forty years ago, the UK went to the IMF cap in hand for a loan. Today it’s economy is doing much better, but who is to say forty years from now they won’t have to go the IMF again?

    Right now the Republic’s economy is in dire straits, but a decade ago we had the Celtic Tiger. Who is to say that something similar won’t occur again?

    In the end it’s going to come down to the prevailing mood amongs the Catholic Unicorns, the people who might vote to sustain the Union now out of pure self interest but who have no intellectual or emotional attachment to it in the same way as the Unionst bloc does today. When the inevitable demographic shift occurs and an Irish majority emerges, it may just be a matter of waiting for a set of favourable circumstances before asking for a referendum.

    As for the needed debate on unity, I think it should be held but how can we have it? Few Unionists really want to participate in such a debate. They’d prefer to criticise the people doing the debating as kite-flying fantasists. And without their input all we’d get is Nationalists talking in circles. The only way the debate can really start is if the prospect for unity starts to look increasingly concrete.

  • lover not a fighter

    Its the economy stupid:

    When/IF (wink) the Eurocrat/Technocrat starts to administer economic policy in Ireland there is no way he/she is going to inconvenience themself with this silly little border thingy.

    Except for the incovenient politics no one would have two different institutions administering two different economic policies in a place such as NI.

    I think thats a slame dunk on the Economy except for the inconvenient politics that is.

  • lover not a fighter

    Apologies

    ” in a place such as NI. and RoI.”

  • lover not a fighter

    A genuine confrontation of sectarianism and separation.

    It is my belief that because the N/R/C community has been such a small proportion of the overall population in Britain that there has been no genuine efforts to break down the sectarianism and separation in NI society.

    The actual geographical location of this sectarianism and separation has also been a factor in turning a blind eye and allowing it to continue for so long.

    In a United Ireland the percentage of the population that would be P/U/L simply would/could not allow this situation to persist. It would be up front and personal and would have to be assuaged.

    This sectarianism and separation would not have the geographical remoteness in a United Ireland that it has in the United kingdom.

  • Los Lobos

    “Alex Kane is right to suggest that intellectually, nationalism is at a low point”? Nationalism has never had a high point, be it the Irish variety that shot and bombed the hell out of this place for 40 odd years, or indeed, the BNP variety as espoused by Peter Robinson and Co. “Nationalism” has taken on a new meaning in Northern Ireland, one that suits all Parties who find it useful to paint everything in easily understood “Green/Orange language. But then again that is something politicos do well in Northern Ireland (change the original meaning of words) to make it user friendly for the electorate in order that we keep the “us and them” mindset in place.

  • JoeBryce

    The limits of feasible adjustment should be tested in debate, IMHO. It seems to me that the Ireland26 of Presidents Robinson, McAleese and Higgins seems an entirely different proposition from that of de Valera and Haughey. Unimaginable to take a prominent example until very recently the blistering anti-clericalism of Enda Kenny last year; it’s hard to imagine any protestant being so hard-hitting. Change and reform all around we see, so what limits are there? A shopping list of a new secular constitution enshrining separation of church & state, new national symbols, possibly a new capital in Armagh, and a northern (possibly 9 county) assembly retaining the consocial model, seems attractive to this PUL. For those for whom British citizenship as such is important, the GFA recognises the right to its retention in its full dignity. The siege has been lifted, we can dare to hope: what suits us, should be the question now, not what are we afraid of.

  • PaulT

    Reminds me of Kevin Keegans famous rant while manager of Newcastle. “I’d love it if we beat them….”

    I wonder how many ‘soft’ unionists or nationalists facepalmed when they read that article, that is if they didn’t just turn the page.

    Amazingly for a hack from a political party background Kane just doesn’t get it, that these are the people he needs to win over (or keep) in any debate on a UI.
    Lots of geordies whinced back then and I’d say a lot of marginlly pro-union people whinced reading that bile.

    Bring it on, lets see how normal unonists react to been lectured by Kane. Where’s me popcorn

  • Drumlins Rock

    stop press!!! reunification of Ireland with the UK is coming soon! just watch this leaked broadcast by Enda Kenny!

  • JR

    Come on DR, With comedy gold like that what do you need BBCNI for. That is as good a demonstration as I have seen of how well NI unionists would fit into a UI.

  • Drumlins Rock

    JR, that is very much British humour! Ireland fits right in with the UK !

  • Frustrated Democrat

    This debate is not one that is worthwhile having at the moment, a UI is not on the cards for the foreseeable future.

    However if we continue to move forward at the current pace the reasons for the border will become so blurred that we will de facto have a United Ireland and a United Kingdom at the same time. It may be we have parliaments in London, Dublin and Belfast but co-operation between them for the good of all and the continued Anglicisation/ Americanisation of Ireland will mean that any semblance of a border will have disappeared within a generation.

    We have to accept that Ireland has moved forward into the 21st century and has left most of its shibboleths behind it. I look forward to a close relationship between all the parts and peoples of the island as we work for a better future for everyone in these islands.

    So let everyone set aside their differences on the word ‘United’ and work to make Northern Ireland the best place it can be. We have the people and the resources they just need to be set free by their leaders to cooperate.

  • Republic of Connaught

    Only a fool would try to persuade people like Alex Kane of the merits of a united Ireland. He’s no more a moderate than I am Chinese.

    The genuinely moderate PUL voters in Ulster who don’t see perpetually opposing a unified Ireland as a duty bound part of their ethnic DNA can be persuaded of the logic of a UI when the times comes. It’s all about trust and building the future of Ireland together. It doesn’t need every Protestant or Catholic in Ulster to agree, same as the GFA didn’t need every Protestant or Catholic in Ulster to agree.

  • Zig70

    Just another example of two cultures living side by side and don’t get each other. I’m Irish and I’ll vote that way. Prejudice against the south won’t serve you. There is no malice in it, just the values handed down from my parents.

  • Alan N/Ards

    Now the bad old days of the awful de Valera and Rome rule are in the past (hopefully), maybe it’s time that nationalist’s worked out amongst themselves, what kind of UI they can offer to unionists’s, that will convince us that we can trust them with our childrens future. One thing unionist’s will never accept is Stormont being binned. Not in a million years. A new flag and anthem sounds good. A new constitution. These are the easy ones. Membership of the commonwealth and nato might be a bit harder. Whatever you do, don’t take a leaf out of de Valera’s book and look a gift horse in the mouth, if it ever appears. He was offered NI on a plate during WW2 but turned it down so the free state could remain neutral. It is all about accomodating unionism and he didn’t want to reach an accomodation with them. He wanted dominationation. You have been making that mistake for years and it didn’t work. We are slightly different people than the unionist’s left on the wrong side of the border in 1922. We won’t accept domination. Who knows what the future will hold. If you are really serious about a new start then everything has to be up for grabs. Anything less than that will not lead to a peaceful united pluralist equal ireland. It is all in your court. Pick the right shots and you could possibly win the game….in 20 odd years from now.

  • giantstairs

    lover not a fighter

    Its the economy stupid:

    When/IF (wink) the Eurocrat/Technocrat starts to administer economic policy in Ireland there is no way he/she is going to inconvenience themself with this silly little border thingy.

    Except for the incovenient politics no one would have two different institutions administering two different economic policies in a place such as NI.

    I think thats a slame dunk on the Economy except for the inconvenient politics that is.

    That kind of assumes that the Larne / Stranraer ferry route, or all the other ways goods can flow between NI and GB, is some kind of massive barrier to trade, while the NI / RoI border with it’s different currency and tax regimes either side is scarcely a barrier at all. The logic seems to say that Japan should be administered as four different economic systems and New Zealand as two.

    In fact in many cases the Irish Sea is no real barrier for fresh perishable food, never mind non perishable objects or call centre services.

  • john

    Alan I think we all know that if Ireland joined the war there was no way suddenly Northern Ireland was (a) going to be handed over and (b) the unionists would agree with it. Sure both sides fought in world war 1 for Britain, nationalist believing it would grant home rule and unionists believing it would block home rule. London just gratefully accepting all the help they could get

  • Alan N/Ards

    john

    I’m not saying that unionist’s would have laid down and accepted it, but if de valera had accepted Churchill’s offer, and joined the fight against Hitler alongside the allies who knows how this would have went down with unionist’s. The fact that the british were prepared to conced NI to the south should have been a starting point for de Valera to reach out the hand of friendship to unionist’s. Fortunately for unionist’s he wanted to dominate not accomodate.

    I know thousands of nationalist’s bravely fought alongside unionist’s in WW2 but unfortunately the horrendus de Valera scuppered any reconcilliation with his unionist neighbour by his isolationist policies. I had 8 uncles who fought alongside nationlist’s from the south during the war. The family has a letter from a RC priest from dublin, who served with my uncle in Burma,which was written to my grandmother after my uncle was killed in action. It brings tears to my eyes every time I read it.

  • ayeYerMa

    Indeed giantstairs. A recent irony I heard around the time when the pound and euro were close to parity, and we had floods of southern shoppers crossing the border, was that there were 4 or 5 extra freight ferries per day added to the Larne route to manage the extra supermarket demand.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Alan,

    I am very far from a De Valera fan but I don’t think it’s quite as bad as you paint it. He didn’t care a jot for the unionists but I do not think this was why he refused Churchill’s offer. I would imagine that he did not think that Churchill was being serious, and in any case he believed the price was simply too high to pay to give away neutrality.

    De Valera did reply to Stormont’s cry for help, and he did send up the Dublin fire brigade saying “they are our people”.

  • andnowwhat

    One of the big drivers for Scottish independence is IMHO the memory of Thatcher and the oncoming Cameron policies from a party that Scotland did not vote for.

    NI is even more insane. We can’t even vote for who is or isn’t in government. That’s astonishing when one thinks about it. Now, in a United Ireland one will be able to vote for the party one wants in government.

    If it happens, it will be the first time I will have ever voted in my life. I would partake in democracy but not a 4 yearly sectarian head count that puts a small handful of people in to parliament

  • MrPMartin

    Ireland would need to ditch its petulent and rather morally ambiguous ‘neutrality’, whatever neutrality means in a world where a flap of a political wing in east Asia or the Caucauses could cause an economic or a political storm in Western Europe or N.America and vice versa.

    I dont want a united Ireland anymore than I want NI to become part of Germany or Italy, no matter how much I like those countries, simply because I am both British and Irish. and I see no reason to leave the UK or vote for partitioning the UK i.e the family of nations.

    I’ve nothing against the Republic but I dont want to be culturally or politically part of it. This may seem like anecdotal but it carries a fair degree of weight but every time I watch a political or current affairs programme on RTE, as much as they are well made and informative etc, they are, to me, just that little bit foreign and different in the much the same way I feel when I watch France 24 on Sky.

    Sure, we can unite with France and dream up a strange brew of innovative consitutionalisms etc but why should we bother? Let’s put it like this, what is wrong with being in the UK? What aspect of Irishness cannot be expressed within the UK?

    Britishness is not mutually exclusive to being Irish. It’s a famialial, inclusive term in just the same way someone can be both American and Californian.

    Just why I would want to vote to leave a culturally diverse and despite what sensationalist headlines may think, a wealthy UK to join an impoverished republic, is anyone’s guess but I’m open to persuasion.

    Can republicans persuade me why I should do this? And please dont mention 1916, famines etc. I am British and I am here and I am here to stay no matter the tragedies of the past and no matter how much they shouldnt have happened. I do feel guilt and sadness over what has been perpertrated against Ireland in the past but I’m sorry, I just love Radio 4 and my sense of belonging to a greater entity a little too much and I am not being facetious. I rather think I speak for many of my political and cultural persusasion.

  • Greenflag

    ‘I just love Radio 4 and my sense of belonging to a greater entity a little too much ‘

    You can listen to Radio 4 in the Republic and even watch BBC not to mention most of the TV -Can even do shopping at Tesco’s . Not a big deal . Here’s a recent documentary of young men from Dublin, Kildare , Limerick and elsewhere involved in combat in Helmand province in Afghanistan in the British Army and they enjoy listening to the Wolfe Tone’s rebel music and being as Irish as they want to be . You might broaden your perspective a bit listening to them. You don’t have to be either or and being both can be an advantage . As for your political representation in either the Assembly, Westminster or the Dail it hardly matters in today’s globalised economies where the banksters rule everywhere for now anyway:(

    http://www.rte.ie/radio1/doconone/podcast-documentary-royal-irish-british-army-afghanistan-republic-war-on-terror-taliban.html

    ‘ Let’s put it like this, what is wrong with being in the UK?’

    Nothing . Just as theres nothing wrong in being in a UI or in the present Republic or the present NI .

    History has delivered us where we are for now -not forever -and sometimes one has to go back to go forward and this can be just as true for the UK as for the Republic and indeed also for NI.

  • Republic of Connaught

    “I dont want a united Ireland anymore than I want NI to become part of Germany or Italy, no matter how much I like those countries, simply because I am both British and Irish. and I see no reason to leave the UK or vote for partitioning the UK i.e the family of nations.”

    MrPMartin

    You’re entiled to your own feelings, MrPMartin, and like the GFA I’d be surprised if more than half of northern Unionists ever voted yes to a UI. But it is very odd to say you feel British and Irish and then compare joining the Republic (which is full of Irish people) to joining with Germany or Italy. You are not British and Geman or British and Italian so one would have thought if you feel any sense of Irishness then joining a state full of Irish people could hardly be so foreign as joining a state full of Germans or Italians.

  • IJP

    These debates are consistently depressing because they rely entirely on an ingrained bias determined along sectarian lines. It’s a bit like the way people’s views of the Suarez-Evra incident were skewed by which team they happened support, right through to a selective interpretation of the video evidence of the (non-)handshake – while lots of Liverpool fans put the blame on Evra, the total number of United fans who agreed with them was zero. It all came down not to rational analysis but to a pre-set bias – and so it is with the constitutional question.

    It is interesting, therefore, that we have all kinds of discussion about what may be the case with Britain or the Republic of Ireland economically or with Northern Ireland demographically – yet no one thinks about Northern Ireland economically! Why not? Should we just be passengers in the world forever, fighting each other for power that none of us really has because our economic futures are being determined elsewhere?

    In other words, the constitutional debate is presented as: do you wish to be ruled from Dublin or London – to which people who regard themselves primarily as Irish instinctively say Dublin and British say London. There is no “logic” which is going to tell them otherwise! But it’s the wrong question!

    The real question is how are we in Northern Ireland – thrown together in our wee country whether we like it or not – going to maintain our standard of living? How are we going to take responsibility for our own welfare, control of our own economy, and influence over global decisions which impact upon us (at least in terms of alleviating their impact)?

    By the way, we *have* had the chance to elect the UK government since 1992 and have chosen not to, and giving us the choice of two Dublin-based parties based on a political heritage none of us really shares is hardly an improvement.

    But here’s the thing – most people reading this and reaching for the “reply” button are ready to respond to that last paragraph, but not to any of the preceding ones about our true place in the world and our need to earn for ourselves a living in it. Therein lies the fundamental problem…!

  • andnowwhat

    ROC

    What I love is the idea that a guy in Warrenpoint or Newry is so different from a guy a few miles down the road in Carlingford or that someone from Buncrana is alien to someone from Derry.

    I also love this alien culture thing which was far from evident when I watched the BBC radio 2 Folk Music Awards this evening, with musicians from Scotland, England and Wales in cultural harmony with those from Ireland, North and South.

    90 years isn’t close to being long enough to create such cultural alienation

  • Alias

    IJP, that’s like appealing to mistresses and other kept women to get out and earn a living.

    Subsidy creates dependency. Those whose needs are provided for by the state feel no imperative to provide for their own needs. In NI’s example, the state making people state-dependent ensures they will never vote to dismantle the state that provides for them and that they depend on.

    If the people provided for themselves, what need would they have for the British state? But an economically independent people wouldn’t equal a politically independent state – and that’s where the real problems start.

    This way, all the snouts are in the trough… and happy grunts all-round. The Shinners, advocating a well-stocked trough, are very useful to the British state in ensuring its continued support among their particular constinuency.

  • weidm7

    MrPMartin,

    I guess most nationalists would disagree with your idea of ‘British’ and I’m not sure I fully understand it either, for us, ‘British’ is not inclusionary, it is exclusionary, it does not welcome Irish, Scottish, etc, it forces you to be ‘British’, which in practice means English upper-class. Clearly not to the same extent now but certainly historically, e.g. the school books after the Act of Union teaching people to be ‘good English boys’, the discrimination against local languages and Catholic and Presbeteryian religions. You say you recognise all the tragedies which occured in Ireland, isn’t that a good example of incompetent British rule?

    It is contradictory to me to be Irish and British at the same time, I don’t understand what is ‘British’, in the thread a few days ago, people generally listed English things or television shows as things that are ‘British’, that is not Irish and Irish doesn’t fit into those definitions. Irish refers to culture and shared history, a history that NI doesn’t share with Britain, but does share with the south. When people talk of the ‘shared history’ of the UK and Ireland and use it to argue for commonwealth membership and the like, I don’t understand it, the history I learnt at school, Irish history is very different from the history of England, Scotland and Wales, the only similarities coming from shared political rulers, social history was always very different, even after the Act of Union, there were many laws enacted specifically in Ireland dealing specifically with Irish circumstances, this does not suggest a shared country.

    Can I ask what is so good about Radio 4? What is it about it that makes you feel included and part of the family? If you feel that Sky and RTÉ are as foreign as each other, how is that a rejection of Ireland / the south, surely it’s a rejection of mainland Britain as well?

    On a slightly seperate note, even if you don’t want a united Ireland, do you really think the state of Northern Ireland is well-founded, being formed with almost 50% of the population not wanting to be part of it?

    I don’t understand why you’d want to be part of country where your territory / people represent a fairly insignificant proportion of it to a country where you would make up a good 20% and, by virtue of it’s political system, probably have a party in government every so often.

    I often hear unionists say they would support the southern soccer team over England, I don’t understand why you’d prefer to be part of a country where you don’t feel that affinity with the largest constitutient part of it versus a country you do feel a certain sense of affinity with. This may not apply to you.

    If you’re Irish, wouldn’t you want to be part of an ‘Irish’ state? Wouldn’t your Irishness be best protected in a state where it was the only component rather than one where it was one of many?

    Let’s talk in principal for the moment, i.e. ignoring economic considerations which are transitory.

  • Comrade Stalin

    and like the GFA I’d be surprised if more than half of northern Unionists ever voted yes to a UI

    Just a minor nitpick. The number of unionists voting for a UI will always be 100%, and that will never change.

    If someone votes for a UI they are no longer a unionist.

  • OneNI

    Looking forward to watching Barry McElduff making the case FOR Partition of a small island – Great Britain.
    All those arguments about the economies of scale that would ensue if NI and the Republic mergered go out the window in Scotland eh Barry?
    The democratic will of the people Barry will say is paramount – despite the fact that he endorsed a terrorist campaign that ignored the will of the people of NI.
    By rights Barry and SF should be arguing that the democratic wishes of the majority in Britain should be paramount and Scots should be ignored!

  • tacapall

    “The democratic will of the people Barry will say is paramount”

    Nothing is paramount or democratic when it comes to Perfidious Albion. Unionists would do well to remember it suited Britain to go against the will of the majority of the people of Ireland in 1918 and if need be, to suit its own interests will abandon Unionists in the future. This state from its formation has always been subsidised to the tune of billions each year with little or no return, why would an increasingly multicultural, cosmopolitan Britain want to continuously subsidise a small geographical area that will never be self sustainable.

  • OneNI

    “Now, in a United Ireland one will be able to vote for the party one wants in government.”
    What the German CDU and Social Democrats are going to stand for election in the Republic?

  • Neil

    Let me put it bluntly: what would ever make me choose to swap my citizenship of the United Kingdom for a newly united Ireland?

    Absolutely nothing, and that is surely your point. But then as Dec points out, you wouldn’t have to.

    Another Alex Kane article that should help spell out what a ‘moderate unionist’ thinks like.

    http://www.newsletter.co.uk/community/columnists/alex_kane_old_pals_act_is_out_of_the_question_1_3491906

    Some selected excerpts:

    In other words, could any unionist reading this piece ever imagine a time in which they could look upon Martin McGuinness as a friend?

    If a majority of people on both sides can’t cross the bridges and genuine friendships ‘across the divide’ don’t become the norm, then a shared future and shared society cannot happen.

    Since I asked the question earlier, let me answer it. No, I cannot imagine a time when I would ever be friends with someone like Martin McGuinness.

    Oddest of all, though – because I don’t entirely understand it myself-– I give those answers with a certain amount of satisfaction rather than any hint of regret.

    My translation of Alex’s position: We can never have a shared future or society until someone like me would be prepared to be friends with someone like him, but that’ll never happen and that fills me with saisfaction and not a hint of regret. We’ll never be able to move on because of the type of person I am, and I don’t regret it one bit, and am in fact satisfied that society should remain broken. Way to go Al.

    Everyone whould want a border poll as far as I can see. I’d like to see it because I am a realist, I like to know how high the mountain we have to climb actually is or isn’t. I also want to have the opportunity to deride the NILT survey with actual figures, the same way I can about say, SF support among the voting public. And Unionists think it’s be so far off it’ll put the argument to bed. Who loses?

  • DC

    Is it possible to have a referendum on unification anyway, another reheated debate on this will surely help mask the cold depression of the recession? Call it palliative politics.

  • Neil,

    That’s an uncharitable reading of Alex’s position. Alex does not say that ordinary unionists and ordinary nationalists cannot make friends. Ordinary unionists may not be able to make friends with Martin McGuinness, but Martin McGuinness is not representative of ordinary nationalists. There are many ordinary nationalists out there who don’t think much of Martin McGuinness either.

    What I think Alex was trying to say is that having divisive figures at the top of politics is a barrier to reconciliation – which all but die-hard party loyalists should agree with.

  • IJP

    Comrade

    That’s a very important ‘nit pick’ actually.

    A line like ‘half of Unionists voting for a United Ireland’ proves that ‘Unionist’ and ‘Nationalist’ are cultural terms (exclusive of each other), not political ones. That has consequences we should be honest about.

  • IJP,

    Still not convinced we need new terminology?

  • IJP

    weidm

    You ask some fair questions.

    The reason I would object to being part of the Irish State (not the same as objecting to being part of an agreed new Irish State, by the way) is that I had no say in its foundation, the historical and cultural assumptions behind its foundation are not my own, and as a result I frankly feel no allegiance to it (as distinct from feeling a degree of allegiance to its people, aspects of its culture, and so on).

    If I may say so also, seriously, bin the 20% rubbish:
    a) you are advocating direct rule – direct rule for this part of Ireland is wrong, no matter who the beneficiary is;
    b) 20% is a small, well outnumbered minority in anyone’s book;
    c) Unionists are actually part of the vast majority currently (i.e. UK citizens regarding themselves as “British”); and
    d) it’s nothing like 20% anyway – it was barely 12% at last year’s elections.

    Of those, a) is the most important.

    And also, you can’t ignore the economy or the reality of social segregation, neither of which will be sorted overnight regardless of constitutional settlement.

  • IJP

    Andrew

    Totally convinced, always have been – I just can’t come up with anything satisfactory!

  • Billy Pilgrim

    IJP

    ‘The reason I would object to being part of the Irish State (not the same as objecting to being part of an agreed new Irish State, by the way) is that I had no say in its foundation, the historical and cultural assumptions behind its foundation are not my own, and as a result I frankly feel no allegiance to it (as distinct from feeling a degree of allegiance to its people, aspects of its culture, and so on).’

    As an Irish republican, I agree with every word of this.

  • MrPMartin

    WEIDJM
    some of your argument are specious
    Regarding your assertion that the British people of NI are a tiny minority of the UK assumes we are a people apart from the rest of the UK

    We are not. We are part of a greater whole body of Britons. Going by your logic, you should campaign for independence for Leitrim as Leitrim people exercise little control over the affairs of ROI. 

    As for discrimination against minority languages, that was in the past. Move on. Bad things happened in the past in every country on Earth. 

    I see Ireland as isolationist, not belonging to NATO, the Commonwealth. Is such a policy borne from a high moral principle or just a narrow minded relic of anti Britishness that has thankfully dissipated in recent years. If I lived in such an Ireland, I would feel culturally stranded like an ex pat abandoned in a land I was born in. I rather suspect white Zimbabwe farmers feel a lot like this these days but we mustn’t discuss their plight, must we, in case liberals are offended. 

    My Irishness is founded in my love of the landscape, it’s literature, it’s spirit and it’s people. My Britishness is founded on the same. There is so much enmeshment twixt the two that it seems churlish to see a clean divide where none exists

    Hence my not wanting to be part of an Irish republic as it is founded on an ethos and principles that are alien to me. It is still a country where latent anti civicness exists as civic duty is still felt as something British and slightly shameful and foreign. I actually was told off playfully by a man in Athlone when I picked up litter by being told “aren’t you the Englishman”. He meant no harm but that comment says a lot. 

    I feel more at home in Great Britain. Its multiplicity of cultures , it’s eccentricities, it’s culture, its liberalism and language are what I have been brought up with and admire and love and feel part off. I look at the Houses of Parliament and I feel a sense of civic and historical belonging that I do not feel one single bit for Leinster House. I visit Haye on Waye for its book festivals and eccentric manners. There is no town in Irelad that compares. I visit Harrogate and Bath and wonder at its Roman heritage and beautiful tearooms. I visit the villages of southern Wales and hear colliery folk songs still being sung in its pubs. Songs borne from economic solidarity and civic relevance ; not 4 green fields or nations once again. 

    Britain I have lived in and was welcomed and felt at home. I didn’t lose my accent or deny where I came from. I suspect those with chips on their shoulders and who choose to ghettoise themselves and not mingle, would regard Britain as unwelcoming and cold as they behave in such a way as to diminish and extinguish any welcome. 

    ROI is civically and politically and culturally a different land. I like the Uk. I love the UK. It’s been good to me and for the people of NI ( I know the State got things wrong but didn’t US troops kill innocent people at Kent University without a paramilitary group being spawned? All armies behave like idiots on the streets lets face it. Its not a quintessentially British thing)

    I’m sorry but I have yet to be convinced of voting for a UI

  • IJP

    Billy

    Oh yes, you and I could do a deal no doubt.

    (True) Irish Republicanism and the Enlightenment/Dissenting tradition are really not far apart if properly represented and suitably disentangled from (ethnic) Nationalism of various kinds (not just Irish). Interestingly, I wonder if we’re moving towards a period when it becomes more and more worthwhile realising this (cf. 1798).

    Sadly, few people properly represent them!

  • Comrade Stalin

    Ian,

    A line like ‘half of Unionists voting for a United Ireland’ proves that ‘Unionist’ and ‘Nationalist’ are cultural terms (exclusive of each other), not political ones. That has consequences we should be honest about.

    Yup. It shows how, even subconsciously, when someone says “unionists” they really mean “prods”. Likewise with nationalists.

  • CS,

    I wonder what percentage of those “prods” go to church of a Sunday.

  • Publican

    “they seem to have convinced themselves that there will come a day when there are more Roman Catholics than Protestants in Northern Ireland and that those Roman Catholics will, when given the choice, choose to vote themselves out of the United Kingdom.”

    There have been more Roman Catholics than Protestants in the south since partition, yet there has never been any real move by the population towards a united Ireland. A United Ireland is just good dogma that gets trotted out on ceremonial occasions. Like Roman Catholic dogma in general, it has little to do with reality.

  • Gerry Lvs castro

    Whilst I agree and identify with many of MrPMartin’s views, I think it’s worth adding that the ROI’s track record can hardly fill either Unionists or moderate Nationalists with hope for any future UI.

    From a Unionist perspective:

    The possible reasons have been debated countless times here, but the fact remains that the Protestant community in the ROI plummeted from 10% to 3% in 80 years — in a gradual, depressing decline rather than one precipitous fall. There is little reason to suppose that any future UI would produce any better result and some reason to think that it might be worse.

    The ROI’s history of self goverance has been singularly woeful. Having endured decades of poverty and constant emigration, facilitated clerical dominance, child abuse and self-serving politicians, the state enjoyed a brief period of massive if unrealistic growth, only to crash back to earth with little prospect of short to medium term recovery.

    The rise of SF with their particular brand of insular republicanism, rabid hatred of Britain and tenuous grasp of economic reality can only be described as insane within the context of gaining actual power in the Dail, as opposed to the Stormont paddling pool (where they have proved themselves at best inept). A UI run or heavily influenced by SF would be more of an arctic than a cold house for Unionists.

    SF’s military wing spent several decades hellbent on bombing, shooting and intimidating Unionists into a UI. When they said ‘Brits Out’ they actually meant ‘Unionists Out’ — they simply chose to avoid the fact that nearly one million residents of NI patently wished to remain in the UK.

    Given the above and MrPMartin’s posts regarding Unionist attachments to the UK, the case for ‘persauding’ Unionism into a UI is every bit as pointless as the case for persauding the ROI to join the UK.

  • Publican

    Obelisk – “Right now the Republic’s economy is in dire straits, but a decade ago we had the Celtic Tiger. Who is to say that something similar won’t occur again?” Yet even at the height of the Celtic Tiger there was no overwhelming call among people in the south for unification. Unless a huge section of that population agrees, it will never occour. And no one has yet convinced them that putting up with all the financial and security concerns that attend the annual 12th July is in their interest. They are not a divided people, like the north, and don’t want to take on problems that are really nothing to do with them. Can’t say I blame them either!

    MrPMartin – “I’ve nothing against the Republic but I dont want to be culturally or politically part of it. This may seem like anecdotal but it carries a fair degree of weight but every time I watch a political or current affairs programme on RTE, as much as they are well made and informative etc, they are, to me, just that little bit foreign and different in the much the same way I feel when I watch France 24 on Sky.” Most people in the south feel the same way about the north. And despite a United Ireland been part and parcel of their cultural heritage, no one has yet given them good, practical reasons why they should take on the north and all its problems. There will never be a United Ireland until there is a united Northern Ireland. And even then …

    WEIDJM – some of your arguments must surely have found a home among the millions of Irish people who have made Britain their home over the generations. Why else would so many still prefer to make it their new home rather than, say, the USA? Its not just the British of NI who have found a home in the UK, many from the Republic have happily done so. Which indicates to me that the south still has some way to go to make itself look more attractive to the people of Northern Ireland as a whole, never mind those who value being part of the UK.

    Billy Pilgrim – exactly why so many in the south still see the Irish of NI as not quite their fellow countrymen. Sad, I agree, but there it is.

    There is much further to go – further than anyone in either communities understands – before a United Ireland is even plausible. We have two communities in the north, and the one in the south, all mutually looking incomprehensibly at each other.

  • HeinzGuderian

    A Notion Once Again ??

    ** groans **

  • Neil

    We get this every time the debate comes up.

    They are not a divided people, like the north, and don’t want to take on problems that are really nothing to do with them.

    Can you provide a link to a poll supporting this nonsense? Of course, we’ve all seen the most recent (to my knowledge) poll on southern support for a UI, taken in 2006 and stating support to be at 80%. Perhaps you have a more recent poll of Southern opinion?

    Do you have any proof that the south don’t want us or are you just spouting your opinion without any basis in fact? Provide me a link, as I have provided you with one.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Ireland

    The GFA set in stone what has to happen for a UI to occur. 50% + 1 vote for it in the North, a referendum is held in the South and Bob’s your uncle. No need to convince the poor downtrodden Unionist community that Ireland wouldn’t behave in the same way as Northern irish Unionists when they ran the show. It’s a vote and if you don’t like the result, well, dry your eyes.

    It reminds me tangentially of the NI football selection saga. Unionists don’t like the result so they spit the dummy out. If Unionists don’t like it, it’s self-evidently wrong. Like the attitude expressed above, if there was a succesful vote for a UI and God’s chosen people weren’t happy then we’d still need to talk them round. Bollocks, suck it up.

    I say let’s have the referendum, so Heinz here can crow about how badly we were beaten as it’s never going to happen, or maybe I can crow about how it’s closer than you thought. Why not get some numbers on the board so we can figure out where we stand.

    It’s strange Unionists seem so utterly opposed to the idea in spite of their incredible confidence that it would be a landslide vote to retain the Union. Well if you do why not have the balls to test the water?

  • Neil,

    No need to convince the poor downtrodden Unionist community that Ireland wouldn’t behave in the same way as Northern irish Unionists when they ran the show.

    Yes, that’s EXACTLY what you have to do. Have you learned nothing from history?

    It’s a vote and if you don’t like the result, well, dry your eyes.

    Not even a hint of concern for unionist fears? Not even a modicum of compassion or understanding? No wonder unionists are terrified of the day you’re in charge. Thankfully not all nationalists are so bitter.

  • Barnshee

    “It’s strange Unionists seem so utterly opposed to the idea in spite of their incredible confidence that it would be a landslide vote to retain the Union. Well if you do why not have the balls to test the water?”

    Where do you get the idea that the prod is opposed to a referendum?

    Bring it on– The assembly can surely authorise and run a referendum ? Mind you they just might change their mind when the watch Scotland shit all over the bould Alex when he runs out of road.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    GLC

    ‘…the case for ‘persauding’ Unionism into a UI is every bit as pointless as the case for persauding the ROI to join the UK.’

    This is the position of the Real IRA.

    If you are right about this – that it’s pointless to even try to persuade anyone of the virtues of unification – then why shouldn’t those who want unity just take up the gun?

    (Personally, I think this is a crazy and immoral position.)

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Publican

    The south is not a divided community, as is the north, but that doesn’t mean it’s homogenous, either. There’s a very large constituency there that is very open to the idea that the existing state has failed them, and that it’s time to think of starting afresh.

    It’s a perfectly logical republican position to argue that Ireland today is home to two failed states. They have failed in very different ways, but the myriad miseries suffered by the people over the past century have had very different causes.

    But who can dispute the correctness of Connolly’s prediction that partition would ‘mean a carnival of reaction both North and South (that) would set back the wheels of progress … and paralyse all advanced movements whilst it endured.’

    There are different traditions in Ireland, and huge differences within those traditions too. But the idea that a border could allow us, at a stroke, to never have to deal with those differences, has actually caused the fossilization of the traditions, and the degeneration of the people within them. The results have ranged from the Magdalene laundries to the Shankill butchers.

    But Ireland has known such low points before. Oddly enough (or perhaps not) it’s usually in the north that regeneration begins.

    Someone (IJP?) said earlier that Irish republicanism and the radical/enlightenment tradition are not so different. Indeed the former is the direct creation of the latter. Irish republicanism is the creation of Belfast Protestants.

    Northerners (of both traditions) have always been at the vanguard of progressive, radical and/or revolutionary politics on this island. The fact that we have lived through a century of regression should not blind us to that fact, or convince us that we cannot be such a vanguard again.

  • BP,

    Someone (IJP?) said earlier that Irish republicanism and the radical/enlightenment tradition are not so different. Indeed the former is the direct creation of the latter.

    In theory, yes. In practice, what masquerades as “republicanism” in Ireland is as close to enlightenment liberalism as “unionism” is to the ideal of multinational, multicultural tolerance. Both are fine modern concepts which have been subverted and now serve merely as flags of convenience for our centuries-old tribal conflict.

    Wolfe Tone said “for a fair and open war I was prepared; if that has degenerated into a system of assassination, massacre, and plunder I do again most sincerely lament it”. Ireland’s tragedy is that every idealist since has similarly underestimated the scale of Ireland’s endemic communalism. Every grand political scheme in the last 300 years has foundered on that rock. Why do people keep forgetting that grand political schemes are fragile things compared to it?

  • Neil

    It’s a vote and if you don’t like the result, well, dry your eyes.

    Not even a hint of concern for unionist fears? Not even a modicum of compassion or understanding?

    Not even, correct. How much concern do Unionists display that Nationalists are forced to live in the UK? None, they’re just happy about it, and regularly come along to gloat about that fact. People’s fears are totally irrelevant in the instance of 50% + 1 in favour of a UI.

    Unless you’re suggesting we now, contrary to what we understood to be in the GFA, have to first win a vote on the matter, then do nothing until our Unionist masters decide they’re comfortable with the outworkings of democracy? ROFL etc.

    I understand Unionist fears though think they’re unfounded completely. I know that on this island there is one community with a history of discrimination, gerrymandering and so on. They are the ones that I’m supposed to worry about? Ya know, the ones the beloved British had to pull the plug on their government because of their outrageous sectarian behaviour. Funny.

    No wonder unionists are terrified of the day you’re in charge. Thankfully not all nationalists are so bitter.

    I’ll never be in charge Andrew. I’m just a voter. All I’ve said is that 50% + 1 keeps us in the UK, 50% + 1 can remove us from the UK. We don’t need to worry about anyone’s fears or feelings in that regard, as a democratic vote will make the change regardless of who’s scared.

    I’m rubbishing the idea that this idea of ‘converting’ the other side to Unionism or Nationalism is a waste of time, especially given the mooted 4 year time frame. Incidentally the idea of ‘converting’ the other side is rubbished by Unionist commentors prior to my own comment.

  • Neil

    Sorry, meant to add:

    Yes, that’s EXACTLY what you have to do. Have you learned nothing from history?

    One things that’s mightily CLEAR from history is that 50% + 1 maintains the status of the Union. We now have an agreement that 50% + 1 in favour of a UI will change the consitutional status of NI. And that’s regardless of whether someone converts every Unionist in Ireland within four years, or if literally every Unionist in Ireland is crying their eyes out. That’s the agreement we’ve made.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    Andrew

    ‘In practice, what masquerades as “republicanism” in Ireland is as close to enlightenment liberalism as “unionism” is to the ideal of multinational, multicultural tolerance’

    I think that’s absolutely correct, but it’s also no reason to allow the corrupted version of ‘republicanism’ (or indeed ‘unionism’) to stand unchallenged.

    In the early modern period, a small but growing number of people began to insist on their intellectual independence, beginning with the recognition that the ‘Christian’ church was in fact very far removed from their interpretation of Christianity. From these beginnings grew Protestantism, which in turn was a vital component of the Enlightenment.

    Protestants did not refuse to call themselves Christians, or reject Christianity itself, on the basis that the ‘Christian’ church fell so far short of its professed ideals. Rather, they stood their ground and fought for those ideals, against its corruptors; because the idea was worth standing up for. I happen to believe that the idea of a true Irish republic is also an idea worth standing up for.

    Your point about communalism in Ireland is well made, but it assumes that this is an innate, unchanging and unchangeable fact of life, when in fact it cannot even be understood outside of the connection with Britain. (Even today, we tend to use ‘Protestant’ and ‘unionist’ with a rather telling interchangeability.)

    I’m sure you are familiar with Tone’s description of ‘the connection with England’ (sic) as ‘the never failing source of all our political evils.’

    In the absence of such a connection, the nature of communalism here changes immediately. I know this scares Ulster Protestants, who are almost exclusively unionists (indeed, that’s perhaps the main reason WHY they’re almost exclusively unionists) and both republicans and ‘republicans’ are poorly placed to offer reassurance. So we live with a miserable stalemate.

    Personally, I think this stalemate is, and has been, incredibly harmful to the Ulster Protestant people. (To the rest of the island, too.) It is precisely for this reason that I believe it would be a healthy thing for Ulster Protestants to find renewal in their radical roots, and perhaps, one day, even reacquaint themselves with their unique creation, Irish republicanism.

    I believe this would be a great thing for all of Ireland, and for Britain too. And not in some happy-clappy, letsgetalongerist way. I believe many of the failures of the Irish Republic that does exist (the 26 county version) derive directly from the absence of Ulster Protestants from its jurisdiction.

    ‘Why do people keep forgetting that grand political schemes are fragile things compared to it?’

    I’m not sure that people do forget this important fact. Indeed I’d suggest that central to the moral case for Irish republicanism in the 21st century is the idea that it is precisely through political unity and independence that we can at last break the shackles of communalism. One may not believe that to be true, but one cannot deny that, if it is, it’s a powerful moral argument. In fact, it’s only a slight variation on Tone’s best-known remark, one that has yet to be bettered: ‘to substitute the common name of Irishman, in the place of the denominations of Protestant, Catholic, and Dissenter.’

  • Gerry Lvs castro

    BP: ”If you are right about this – that it’s pointless to even try to persuade anyone of the virtues of unification – then why shouldn’t those who want unity just take up the gun?”

    It’s pretty obvious — the recent provo campaign was by any standards an abject and costly failure. If PIRA, with considerable numbers, weaponry, finance and a modicum of support achieved nothing, what hope for a bunch of die-hards with none of the above?

    SF settled for a pretty horrendous deal as far as Republicanism is concerned — acceptance of the border until a majority in NI vote to remove it, scrapping of Articles 2 & 3, unilateral decommissioning, serving as Brit lackeys in Stormont and endorsing the Police Service of Northern Ireland. If that’s the best the provos could manage, what hope for the Real/Continuity/Whatever IRA?

    As regards trying to persaude Unionists into a UI, SF know as well as anyone that it’s a futile exercise. Hence the appt of Martina Anderson to ‘Unionist Outreach’. A UI will not come through persausion of Unionists, any more than it could have been created by bombing cenotaphs or shooting widows.

    SF signed up for indefinite partition and have spent every waking moment since gurning about it. They still can’t accept that a sizeable majority in NI aren’t interested in a UI, and if they don’t believe it, then we should have a border poll as soon as possible.

  • Publican

    I’ve no problem with a referendum. By all means lets have one tomorrow.

    My opinion is that all forms of republicanism has failed the Irish people. Continuing to follow hoary old ghosts such as Wolf Tone and Connolly cannot but continue to do so. Time for somethng entirely new.

    “Ireland’s tragedy is that every idealist since has similarly underestimated the scale of Ireland’s endemic communalism. Every grand political scheme in the last 300 years has foundered on that rock. Why do people keep forgetting that grand political schemes are fragile things compared to it?”

    Because people are not ideal. Only ideals are. They are constructions that founder in reality because they portray things as certain people would like them to be, not how they are, or could ever be, without mass slaughter.

    That’s why republican idealists from Wolfe Tone to de Valera to Adams have always failed. Tone failed utterly, and the latter two had to severely curtail their ideals to gain real political power. Following the same old path is only going forward by going backwards. Again.

    Like Fianna Fail, the party in its present form will cherish its dogma and make all the right noises, but its all window dressing. Just like FF’s aspirations for a United Ireland after it came to power. An utter waste of some great Sinn Fein talent, but all must bend before the will of the leader(ship). And the leadership has a good twenty years in it yet before retirement.

    The prize ideal of so many Irish people for so long, a United Ireland, has caused more harm than good. Fact.

  • Publican

    Neil – “Can you provide a link to a poll supporting this nonsense? Of course, we’ve all seen the most recent (to my knowledge) poll on southern support for a UI, taken in 2006 and stating support to be at 80%. Perhaps you have a more recent poll of Southern opinion?”

    Then lets have a referendum. I’m all for it.

    But once the reality of who’s going to pay for it begins to sink in, the numbers will sink. Nothing like the spectacle of northern riots – which after unification will be against their police – to cool southern warmth for a UI.

    Most people in the south would like to see a united Ireland, but preferably one without the two communites in the north. They look up here and see too much trouble and strife, while for all its problems their society is much more homogneous, stable, and democratic. Why would they want to take on all these problems when they have enough of their own? They have a united country already for generations, and for most of them that’s enough.

    A UI is part and parcel of the cultural dogma of the south, and one held by all the major political partys. Its a reflex, just like a knock on the knee. Ask if they support it, most will affirm, based on conditioning. Just like northern Irish who think it is the answer to all their problems. Very few of us ever seem to consider its merits, especially given that there is no sign that our neighbours would view their incorporation into a UI any less warmly than they did pre-GFA.

    The north must solve its own problems first, and on its own, before any notion of a UI is credible.

  • Billy Pilgrim

    GLC

    So the only reason not to pursue political violence is that it’s not strategic. That it won’t work.

    Therefore, if one were to believe it MIGHT work, there’s no moral objection with with to concern oneself.

    Presumably there are people in the Real IRA who believe (however much we may scoff) that their violence might lead to a UI. By your lights, this is fair enough.

    While you disagree with their strategic analysis, you have no moral objection to their violence?

  • Neil,

    I’m not questioning the legal basis of the GFA. I am questioning your apparent belief that “every Unionist in Ireland crying their eyes out” is a desirable foundation for a modern society.

    How much concern do Unionists display that Nationalists are forced to live in the UK? None, they’re just happy about it

    So two wrongs make a right? How enlightened.

    BP,

    Your point about communalism in Ireland is well made, but it assumes that this is an innate, unchanging and unchangeable fact of life, when in fact it cannot even be understood outside of the connection with Britain.

    Of course communalism didn’t appear out of nowhere, but it is in a feedback loop, continually reinforcing itself. It is not a lost cause, but neither is it an illusion that will melt away with the raising of a flag on a pole.

    Even today, we tend to use ‘Protestant’ and ‘unionist’ with a rather telling interchangeability.

    Because one is a religious label, and the other a political one, and neither adequately describes what we really mean, which is the overlapping ethnic/cultural identity that has no name of its own. Or at least none that isn’t offensive.

    In the absence of such a connection, the nature of communalism here changes immediately.

    It will take on a new form, certainly. But it won’t just magically disappear, and could possibly get worse. Can you give me an example of an ethnically-divided country whose internal conflict resolved itself upon gaining independence? I can give you a litany of counterexamples.

    the idea that it is precisely through political unity and independence that we can at last break the shackles of communalism

    That is not republicanism, it is nationalism. The root of Irish Republicanism’s corruption is its insistence on putting the nationalist cart before the republican horse. It is only through a shared belief in the common good that we can sustain a stable polity. Democracy cannot work without good faith, and we have none. There is no single Irish nation to form the basis of a nation-state, and the best idea Irish Republicanism can come up with is that a single nation will somehow come about “naturally” once the border is erased. It’s about as convincing as the business plan of the Underpants Gnomes.

    Breaking the shackles of communalism must come first, and that can only be done from the bottom up. Top-down “solutions” do not work. At best, they paper over the cracks for a while. At worst, they can be incendiary.

  • Publican

    Andrew Gallagher – “There is no single Irish nation to form the basis of a nation-state, and the best idea Irish Republicanism can come up with is that a single nation will somehow come about “naturally” once the border is erased. It’s about as convincing as the business plan of the Underpants Gnomes.”

    So good, I reposted it.

  • JoeBryce

    This has been an interesting discussion. Can we take away from the PUL contributors (which, ultimately, is my starting point) that there is some interest in at least thinking about what a possible new agreed Ireland might look like, and from the RNC contributors, a willingness to acknowledge that the actually existing independent Irish state falls some way short of their own ideals? And if that is the consensus, is there not room there in the space between those ideas to start, very, very slowly, and very, very carefully, so as not to re-awaken the sleeping monsters, to flesh out on the one hand the changes that are sought and on the other those that may be feasible? The GFA creates a stable default position to which everyone may retreat if they start getting nervous. We have space and time, dearly bought, to ponder what we actually want, rather than what we fear. Maybe what we need at this stage is a think tank, something like the Cadogan Group, for very early thinking.

  • PaddyReilly

    There is no single Irish nation to form the basis of a nation-state, and the best idea Irish Republicanism can come up with is that a single nation will somehow come about “naturally” once the border is erased.

    A religious faction, the Protestants, have promoted themselves to a ‘nation’ in order to preserve their brand of Unionist politics. In order to keep this state of affairs going they have instituted a brand of Apartheid in order to keep the ‘nation’ separate. The rules of this system are:-

    1) You may not marry a Catholic
    2) If you do, you must take your Papist spouse and emigrate.

    In the event of 50% + 1, and Irish Unification, this rule will be redundant. A lot of the ‘mixed’ population may return. A lot of the ‘pure’ Protestants will move to other parts of Ireland in the course of their work.

    In Donegal, at present, ‘mixed’ marriages, i.e. those between Catholics and Protestants, run at 50% of the total. There is absolutely no reason to maintain religious separation when there is no Unionist gravy-train to reward this practice. I should also mention that in the South of England, I have the distinct impression that marriages between two English people are in the minority, most Southern Englishmen and women marrying a foreigner.

    The only hope for maintaining a separate identity lies with such sects as the Reformed Presbyterians and the Select Brethren. Otherwise, the Unionist and Nationalist factions will be absorbed into the general population in the way that, say Parnellites and anti-Parnellites have.

    Unionists will move heaven and earth, break up families and institute a régime of hate in order to keep winning elections. But they’re not going to do that in order to keep losing elections, are they?

  • Republic of Connaught

    Andrew Gallagher – “There is no single Irish nation to form the basis of a nation-state, and the best idea Irish Republicanism can come up with is that a single nation will somehow come about “naturally” once the border is erased. It’s about as convincing as the business plan of the Underpants Gnomes.”

    Yes but what landmass does this nation have rights to, Andrew? Antrim and Down? Because the other four counties already have, or shortly will have, an Irish nationalist majority in the very near future and thus the keys to secede to the Republic if and when they choose.

    All this fanciful talk of “persuading” Unionists (and their mocking attitude towards it) ignores the obvious reality of the growth of the Catholic community in the north and the situation in Scotland which may bring the UK to an end anyway. The “Unionists” will be lucky if Ireland will take them or they’ll be stuck in some repartitoned two county asylum.

  • Neil

    I’m not questioning the legal basis of the GFA. I am questioning your apparent belief that “every Unionist in Ireland crying their eyes out” is a desirable foundation for a modern society.

    Well let me help you out Andrew, it’s not a desirable foundation for a modern society, and I never said it was. If you want some idea of my ‘apparant beliefs’ perhaps you could start be reading the words I typed. It might give you a better indication than your imagination.

    I was simply saying that it won’t make a lick of difference whether they convert en masse to Republicanism sometime prior to 2016, or if they were all crying their eyes out (context’s everything isn’t it Andrew). Same way Nationalists crying their eyes out won’t suddenly change the constitutional status of NI as things stand. Seems simple enough to me.

    How much concern do Unionists display that Nationalists are forced to live in the UK? None, they’re just happy about it

    So two wrongs make a right? How enlightened.

    You can interpret it as ‘two wrongs don’t make a right’ you can interpret it as righting and existing wrong (my interpretation), or you can interpret it as democracy and equality: the same rules apply for Unionists and Nationalists: winner takes all. It would appear though, surprisingly, that you want the deck loaded in Unionist’s favour: Nationalists must win, and talk Unionists round; Unionists need only win,

    My only point is and has been: should there be a yes for a UI, there will then be a UI. Regardless of whether our Unionist neighbours have a ‘fear’ or not. We didn’t sign up to 50% + 1 then we’ll talk Unionists around, and if they eventually decide to go along with the wishes of the majority we’ll go ahead and do what we voted to do.

  • PR,

    1. So you deny the right of people to self-identify?
    2. I didn’t think there were that many Protestants in Donegal.
    3. Do you honestly believe that communalism only works one way? Seriously?

    RoC,

    Nations do not have property rights. But note that I never claimed Ulster Protestants formed a nation. I claimed that Ireland did not. The two are not equivalent statements. There is no rule that says every individual must belong to exactly one nation.

    Have any of the grumpy brigade above taken seriously the possibility that Protestants/Unionists won’t just cease to exist? Because several of the above comments seem to be relishing in the thought that a UI will make themmuns disappear, and good riddance to them so. BP’s ideology is a bit dodgy, but at least he treats themmuns with due respect. The rest of you just seem to want to beat them at their own game.

    Which is exactly the point of my Wolfe Tone quote above.

  • Neil,

    Straw man. I never claimed that 50%+1 was not the correct legal method. Legality and morality are not the same thing.

    Not even a hint of concern for unionist fears? Not even a modicum of compassion or understanding?

    Not even, correct.

    This is what I was taking issue with. If you cannot show compassion or understanding for your fellow countrymen, then there is no hope. A true republic cherishes all its children equally. The wrong perpetrated against Nationalists was to trap them in a state that had no compassion or understanding for them. Simply turning the tables does not right anything, it just spreads the injustice around.

  • Neil

    The wrong perpetrated against Nationalists was to trap them in a state that had no compassion or understanding for them. Simply turning the tables does not right anything, it just spreads the injustice around.

    You make the assumption that a UI would be similair to pre ’72 NI. I would suggest that that won’t happen, and any fear that Unionists have of being in a UI would prove unfounded, like a cheating husband who always suspects his wife has strayed because of his own guilt, some NI Unionists anticipate their ‘enemies’ in the south would behave like, well, NI Unionists.

    I suspect that FG and FF in the face of a UI would scramble to secure Unionist support to help ward off the common enemy – SF.

  • PaddyReilly

    So you deny the right of people to self-identify?

    Partition is about reserving political power for a particular clique, not about identity. I may self-identify as an Assyrian if I wish, but it is unlikely that I would be able to persuade my children to keep up this pretence.

    Protestants were once about 20% of the population of Donegal. Certainly there were calls to include this county in Northern Ireland. “We should never have let them have Donegal” was a frequent complaint among the more innumerate section of the Unionist population.

  • PR,

    A ridiculous comparison. You do not doubt that Protestants exist and form an identifiable group. They are not claiming to be Assyrians, they are just claiming to be Protestants, a term that you yourself use to identify them. You’re arguing that their religious identity is not sufficient to make them an ethnic group. I agree with you – it is not sufficient. But that does not mean that an identifiable ethnic/cultural group does not exist, it just means that there is more to it than just religion.

    Again I fail to see how a 20% population could form one half of 50% of marriages, unless Catholics were particulary attached to celibacy. There aren’t that many priests, even in Ireland. Of course, you may have meant “50% of marriages involving Protestants were mixed” or some such. You could put this to bed now by providing a source.

    I am tempted to agree that Donegal should not have been left out of NI – not because it deserved Unionist domination, but because it suffered badly from its geographical isolation and a more equal religious balance in NI from the outset might have forced the resolution of the communal issue sooner. Of course, this could easily have gone badly, badly wrong. Counterfactual history is an amusing distraction at best.

  • Gerry Lvs castro

    BP: ”Presumably there are people in the Real IRA who believe (however much we may scoff) that their violence might lead to a UI. By your lights, this is fair enough.

    While you disagree with their strategic analysis, you have no moral objection to their violence?”

    If such a grouping insist on a terrorist campaign, inevitably resulting in longterm imprisonment, widespread condemnation and likely premature death, I rather doubt my moral objection is likely to influence their entirely illogical decision.

    One question which Republicans need to answer is why anyone in NI would wish to exit the UK to live in a state effectively governed for the forseeable future by the IMF? What possible benefits could there be?

    And how exactly is Irishness not being expressed in NI? There would appear to be a thriving and well funded Irish language community, ample provision for Gaelic games and plenty of opportunity for both sides to express their respective cultures.

    Republicanism appears to regard a UI as some sort of miracle cure for Ireland’s age old problems. The ROI’s adventures with the Vatican, gombeen politicians and the EU would tend to suggest otherwise.

  • Republic of Connaught

    “Have any of the grumpy brigade above taken seriously the possibility that Protestants/Unionists won’t just cease to exist? Because several of the above comments seem to be relishing in the thought that a UI will make themmuns disappear, and good riddance to them so. BP’s ideology is a bit dodgy, but at least he treats themmuns with due respect. The rest of you just seem to want to beat them at their own game.”

    Andrew, I happen to genuinely think the Ulster Protestants could have a hugely positive effect on the country if they took up that challenge to reform Ireland from the bottom up and helped build a new country where all colours and creeds feel proud to be from the country.

    But Unionists can’t be forced into taking up the challenge. And sane Nationalists have no reason to go begging, because events will force Unionists into big decisions in the coming years. And if Unionists want to be belligerent and ignorant towards the idea of a unified Irish state then inevitably there wll be re-partition and the Unionists’ children and grandchildren will be the great victims of the whole madness by being stuck in a much smaller re-partitioned state.

  • Reader

    PaddyReilly: In Donegal, at present, ‘mixed’ marriages, i.e. those between Catholics and Protestants, run at 50% of the total.
    That’s exactly as high as it would be for random pairings in two equally sized communities. Random pairings would give a lower figure if the communities were not equally sized. If there were 3 times more Catholics than protestants in Donegal, then those figures would mean that every Protestant was marrying a Catholic. If Protestants were less than 25% of the population of Donegal, then your figure of 50% would mean that Catholics were going unmarried, or that Donegal was importing Prods.
    In short – do you have a reference for your figure of 50%, because it looks like a load of rubbish.