More soft politics over Easter – but what’s the beef?

The response to Gerry Adam’s “seven goals” in Slugger shows that the union/ unification theme can still assert its old pull.  This will no doubt be reinforced over the holiday by Martin McGuinness’s appeal to republicans to engage in “practical ways of giving expression to the unionist sense of Britishness within a united Ireland” and his earlier speech to the PSA in Belfast. These Easter orations can be seen partly as a response, conscious or otherwise, to Peter Robinson’s call for great engagement with nationalist traditions although they are also probably designed to  help position Sinn Fein in the shifting polity of the Republic. What’s the beef in all this? The political tones may be getting softer but on the essentials, there’s no real change in treating the poles of continuing Union or Unity as a zero sum issue.  Pace John Hume, territory finally matters.  So is it all humbug? I think – hope – not.

Does anybody else sense that the warmer words on both sides suggest that the whole traditional topic that still gets so many of you going is beginning to acquire a sepia tinge and is being slowly consigned to history? In other words, that the frames of reference are starting to shake; and that the political leaders are beginning to sense this and are trying keep up with  new as yet inchoate trends of opinion that are slowly leaving them behind?  The forces on both sides that impelled agreement are imperfectly understood and should not be left to the parties alone to define. They began to lose their unique initiative when they closed the deal. Some sort of new future which neither of them by their very nature can define beckons. Its emergence depends on a different dynamic which power sharing itself may ever so slowly be creating. This is not to dismiss the need  to give the remnants and other legacies of paramilitarism and dispossession on both sides of the community great care and attention. The “language of profound change” has not yet been embraced.   At the same time, critical concepts like “managed sectarianism” and “continuing the war by other means” may still have force but are starting to feel a bit dated, even though the rough beast that may eventually supersede them has still to take shape.

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  • JoeBryce

    I profoundly agree with this. The following has changed: in republicanism / nationalism, the collapse of the moral authority of the Church and the self-assertiveness of the state in relation to it; on the unionist / loyalist side, the imminent if not independence then at least enhanced autonomy of Scotland and, sadly, the realisation that the present head of state cannot reign forever; and on all sides, the recognition that economics demand change, in the 26 because of the Euro and in the 6 because of the vulnerability of a bloated public sector to pending cuts. We need to start all talking about what arrangements are going to suit us, and there is no vast divergence of interest any longer between the two communities in relation to that.

  • andnowwhat

    We, as has all the UK, have big problems and bigger ones coming down the line. The UK is kept out of the virtual poor-house by the city and a handful of industries such as arms.

    There are emerging markets in Asia and South America with a hard working, educated, motivated workforce. George Osbourne clicks his ruby slippers in the hope of a recovery because, well, it always happened in the past. We’re no longer smarter, better equipped than the rest. No, now we’re sluggish and spoiled by the supremacy of our past.

    Hearing Sammy Wilson’s comments a few weeks ago was heartening. They could have came from the SDLP, SF or the UUP depending on what day of the week it was, and that’s how it should be. We need total cross bench co-operation to selfishly protect our people from the ideologues of the tory party, stop playing the academic nonsense that New Labour brought in and re-establish polytechnics so Peter and Martin can show foreign investors that we have something unique from GB in our worforce.

    We/they all have to get together and make something happen. A little something to illustrate what I mean;

  • emanonon

    The two major political parties are responsible for much of what has happened here since 1969. The ranting of Ian Paisley and his attacks on the Civil Rights marches and other sectarian actions enabled the IRA to grow in strength. The current SF leadership were despite what ever denials they now wish to use were the head of a sectarian killing machine which they knew from early on was doomed to failure.

    Now as the parties age their respective leaders want to forget their past and have a reconciliation with those who were their enemies.

    The rest of us who took no part other than as victims have to sit and watch the spectacle of those who jointly created the troubles airbrush their past and take no responsibility for their actions.

    However that is what we voted for and we can only hope that they can persuade their followers that we do indeed have much more in common than we have holding us apart, it is the very least they owe us.

  • FuturePhysicist

    There is the argument that outside the Gaeltact areas the sense of feeling British is by no means under threat already. And even in the Gaeltact some of the best of the newest Gaelgoiri do so in what would be termed British accents. The presence of large numbers Poles, Chinese, Iranians and Lithuanians and other groups has made plain identity politics look very insular (though to be honest both nationalities have long historical presences in Ireland going back to the Wars) and I feel that the majority of people in both islands are welcoming the change.

    Being British in Ireland you are simply another commoner, Orange Order marches are treated with a maturity and respect there. There are still more footballers born from England, Scotland, Wales joining the national football teams than the “poached ones”, The Anglo-Irish are revered, only the bank chain is hated. Let’s remember that one of the most celebrated people in Ireland, Arthur Guinness was a Unionist, and a Tory to boot.

    Diplomatically Ireland and Britain are on closer pages now than they have ever been. They have to be, there’s as much British debt in Irish banks as there is Irish debt in British banks. Added to this there are institutions now where Unionism can define its own relationship with the south through its political leadership. Frankly (no pun intended) it’s a surprise why there hasn’t been an “Irish Sea” tunnel or a Bridge between the islands set up already.

    I honestly think you can walk through many of the streets of Dublin with a Rangers shirt and a sash around your neck singing God Save the Queen, with an LVF beanie and a on your head, a giant Red foam hand on your hand and just be treated like a character. Even the visceral hatred of the Catholic Church and the Republican movement is getting as common in the South as it is in the North.

    Culturally I think bar a few xenophobes, and a few hooligans Irish people respect other cultures the way other cultures respect them. I do feel perhaps there are areas of political and social life such as education where more could be done to assist non-Catholic schools, and perhaps more people from outside of the Irish speaker/Catholic/Revolutionary Socialist/Celtic definition of ‘Irishness’ could ascend in public office … not that being Celtic, Catholic, Revolutionary Socialist or an Irish speaker is a foreign thing in the island of Britain.

  • FuturePhysicist

    Hearing Sammy Wilson’s comments a few weeks ago was heartening. They could have came from the SDLP, SF or the UUP depending on what day of the week it was, and that’s how it should be.

    I think both the DUP and UUP realise these days that Hibernophobic unionism is self defeating Unionism on three fronts, 1. The North needs its economic and political partnership with the “Irish Republic”, because in modern Europe, in modern Europe isolation is dangerous. 2, to appeal to the “Irish but Unionist” bracket and the so called unicorns. 3. Many unionists still believe the Republic might end the divorce rejoin the union, many feel more at home there than in nationalist areas.

  • FuturePhysicist

    the second in modern Europe should be in the Modern world.