Can the slow death of Irish Nationalism be averted?

Two weeks ago during a fleeting exchange with Northern Secretary Theresa Villiers I congratulated her on her government’s radical attempts to dismantle the UK’s bloated public sector and hard-earned welfare state before encouraging a bold expedition of the project where its need is greatest: Northern Ireland.

On a personal and professional level Ms. Villiers came across just fine – approachable, polite, all that stuff – but I was never likely to be smitten since the very nature of her office is an affront to anyone with an ounce of self-respect. Hi, my name’s Ruarai and I’m an Irish Nationalist.

The idea that a reluctant blow-in North London MP is better placed than local people to exercise even one iota of power on this island is an affront. This, essentially, is the core point of Irish Nationalism and, seen this way, it should not be such a tough sell. Yet, as polls on the likelihood or desirability of a “united Ireland” and, more tellingly, the relative lack of heavy-hitters sitting on Stormont’s nationalist benches demonstrate, constructing a coherent, up-to-date, sell-able agenda for all-island based change has never been harder. Why?

Let’s consider the backstory. From a thriving collection of micro-groups and emerging groups, tireless and inspiring community activists and competitive, determined, articulate electoral candidates, Northern Nationalism eventually settled into two dominant and mutually hostile analyses of why Northern Ireland must change and how that change could be achieved (1) The traditional Irish Republican attempt (until – with the exception of “dissidents” – 1994*) to justify political violence as a legitimate and necessary means of rejecting and overthrowing the existence of any variant of a Northern Ireland state, irrespective of any potential reforms, and (2) the NICRA and later SDLP project of prioritizing civil rights based reform of the Northern state through non-violent means.

Today nationalist community activism lives more in the collective folk memory, gable walls and bar songs than ongoing advocacy. Republicans, saving their violence largely for their former comrades, have ‘embraced’ the reform agenda they spent years denouncing. The SDLP – once the party of accomplished “doctors, lawyers and teachers” – today appears more focused on resisting change (i.e. internal party change) than on creating it through anything resembling a new post-Agreement all-island policy agenda.

There is a chance, of course, that Sinn Fein’s future may involve simultaneously holding ministerial briefs in Dublin and Belfast but for those enchanted and intrigued by what the Provisionals might do with cross-border executive power, the party’s ministerial performance in Stormont indicates a disappointing answer: Largely whatever civil servants ‘advise’ them to do. As Gerry Adams has said, they’ll “always be subversives”. Think about that.

The contrast between today’s dreary nationalist frontbenchers and the vibrant, radical and impactful nationalist political culture of 68-98 is clear but comparing the sterility of contemporary nationalist politics with the ongoing usurpation of Northern Ireland’s professional classes by a highly-educated, mobile and growing Catholic middle-class is more instructive.

At a time when Nationalist politics should have more talent and energy to draw on than ever before, Stormont “Ministerial” (please) briefs have been held largely by a collection of note-readers; candidates whose combined extra-political professional experience measures very poorly against the talent residing in its voting constituencies.

Whatever the growing Catholic and non-Catholic middle-class is most motivated by, defining the potential and contours of a post-Agreement united Ireland – i.e. not just playing SF’s romantic subversive or the SDLP’s glorified constituency social worker – then running on that platform for Stormont, Westminster or the Dail appears far down the list.

Given the backdrop of a supposedly at least somewhat-nationalist constituency possessing the education, wealth and professional ‘clout’ capacity to construct, pursue and promote a coherent political critique of the current Northern Ireland state, what explains the dearth of anything resembling such a critique? Why has nationalist interest in mobilizing for radical change decreased so much since the pre-Agreement days?

The obvious answer, perhaps, is that today’s Northern Ireland state is so unrecognizable from the one that incubated the 1960s members of The Republican Clubs, NICRA, the People’s Democracy and so on, that there’s little left to criticize let alone rally opposition to.

Another answer is a leadership gap. How many nationalist politicians can you name who possess the ability, charisma and savvy required to provide and sell a critique of the Northern state? Moreover, how many even try anymore?

Irish nationalism is drifting. Its would-be voters are caught between a secret desire to see just how far Sinn Fein can take their all-Ireland project – and in fairness to Sinn Fein, at least they have one – and a sense that local politics is essentially a theatrical sideshow staffed by empties. The project is being left to two relatively small and, in different ways, dysfunctional political parties north of the border.

John Hume used to scoff at the notion that one side in Northern Ireland could secure an outright victory over the other. If unionist politicians were to lose their permanently pugilistic posture they might just find that some arguments really are easier to win hands down.

*Although the PIRA ended their first ceasefire in ’96 before reinstating it in 1997, this 96-97 campaign was, to paraphrase Anthony McIntyre (from memory and I hope correctly), a negotiating tactic designed to gain Sinn Fein’s access to all-party talks, i.e. a very different, scaled back objective from their decades long “Brits out” campaign.

  • Zig70

    What’s the big concern? Who you pay your taxes to? I live in Baker’s psychosis of an all Ireland identity. Sport, education and religion is on a 32 county basis. When my kids are taught in school the counties in Ireland, they will learn 32. When they are taught the national anthem it is Amhram na bhfiann. Even the orange order are a peculiar thing that can be seen as an Irish oddity. The only thing that intrudes on my psychosis is mainly websites and having to select my country as UK. I would like to see the language promoted more but aside from that there is nothing to radicalise my thinking. This is far from 40yrs ago when I was brought up to believe that the only way you would get a job was with a degree to compete against unionist discrimination. Stories of my grandfather who got promoted for a day until they realised he was a catholic. Those days aren’t completely vanquished but the unionists have been gagged in the stormont merrygoround and can’t cause the same trouble.

  • Today nationalist community activism lives more in the collective folk memory, gable walls and bar songs than ongoing advocacy

    As a Unionist, it is not my place to give advice or even express an opinion on the drift or otherwise of Irish nationalism.

    However, as a general point, today it is true to say in the EU and USA political activism as moved much more down towards the micro and single, achievable target level than the big, more abstract ideas of old.

    So, it is much easier for SF to mobilise anti-Orange demos on a district level for example, than to motivate the same potential *market* for the intangible longer term Irish Unity project.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I congratulated her on her government’s radical attempts to dismantle the UK’s bloated public sector and hard-earned welfare state

    I must say I hadn’t put you down as a Thatcherite.

  • 6crealist

    “I must say I hadn’t put you down as a Thatcherite.”

    Your sister party is happy to plan and implement those cuts.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I doubt that, the Menshiviks were liquidated quite some time ago.

  • Ruarai

    CS – I must say I hadn’t put you down as a Thatcherite.

    And you’d be right. But…

    I was paying Villiers a backhanded compliment. One must look at these things dialectically. Consider:
    1. Why would an Irish or Scottish nationalist not want the Tories’ rampant vandalism towards the social democratic fabric of the UK? The current Tory attempts to simultaneously cut working people loose, transfer wealth from them and then blame them and demonize them for their lot is manna from heaven for those keen to persuade others of leaving the UK. It’s much easier to persuade people to leave Cameron’s UK than, for example, one governed by the Labour Party.
    2. ‘But Ruarai, isn’t this an argument for encouraging an agenda that will leave people worse off just to serve an ideological (nationalist) agenda – a little callous, if you like?’ No friends, it’s not. Let me explain: The current size of the public sector and welfare state in Northern Ireland is having deleterious effects on two things any Irish Nationalist should be concerned about:
    One: Irish Nationalist politics/politicians: a whole generation of legislators with little-to-no private sector experience who’s entire approach to public policy is little more than British State Social Workers hell-bent on preserving an unsustaianable British State subvention that, among other things, is producing a northern economy incompatible with the southern one. Northern Nationalist politicians need to catch themselves on and quit mouthing nonsenses about the state cuts creating “Dicksenian poverty” and get on with the task of building a private sector that can thrive on an integrated all-island basis. (How dare anyone call themselves an Irish Nationalist who doesn’t have as a priority the task of building an all-island economy.)
    Two: Opportunities and incentives for all-island innovative thinking.

    There’s more options in politics/public policy than “Thatcherism” (and outdated term) and “Socialism”: One need not be a Thatcherite to look at the current welfare state and culture in Northern Ireland (and the UK) and recognize that it’s unhealthy: too big, causing more stasis than comfort, more pain than it eases. It’s simply a practical observation.

    So come on Theresa, cut the British appron strings, liberate the six countries from the tit of British dependency and let’s build an all-island economy based on the genius of the Irish people.

  • “The idea that a reluctant blow-in North London MP is better placed than local people to exercise even one iota of power on this island is an affront”

    One could say exactly the same about a North Dublin TD, though.

    Irish Nationalism is not, and cannot be, mere devolutionism. Without a national conception, mere distance and communications links become the only argument for dividing polities. The answer to that, externally, is self-determination: that the people living in Northern Ireland decide its national fate. But that doesn’t address the internal question: how do those people make their minds up. What are their national identities? What is needed to convince people that they are Irish?

    Devolutionism leads down the road to an independent Northern Ireland, not a united island.

    The same is true for the South. More and more, younger generations in the South see the North as foreign. It isn’t in need of rescuing like East Germany was and North Korea is. It’s just there.

    Reinventing Nationalism means convincing Irish people, on both sides of the border, that they have more in common with each other than with those across the water, and as much as they do with those on the other side of their own state. Get Dublin to believe it has more in common with Belfast than with Cork; get Belfast to believe that it has more in common with Dublin than Derry. Then you have a road to unity.

  • Old Mortality

    Congratulations Ruarai
    At last a nationalist who will say publicly what is transparently obvious: that a united Ireland is out of the question without a radical reform of social welfare in Northern Ireland.
    When is SF going to break the bad news to all those people that it assisted into welfare dependency?
    When is the SDLP going to break the bad news to all those teachers, doctors and lawyers that they can’t expect to go on getting paid as if they lived in the home counties?

  • Ruarai

    Hi Richard, thanks for the post.

    On this point: “One could say exactly the same about a North Dublin TD, though.”

    No, not quite. One anecdote that illustrates the huge difference. Setting aside the shared cultural outlook (more similarities than differences), here’s something more concrete.

    Your typical senior Irish government official, elected or adviser knows far more about the north than someone like Ms. Villiers would ever bother to try knowing. Indeed, I’m sure many southern officials and advisors get fed up with “the north” but, in fairness to them, they’re aware, engaged, plugged in. That’s a difference I see time and time again, a difference with southern England that I think nearly all open-minded people in Northern Ireland would, if they saw and felt it up close, come to appreciate what it shows.

  • Ruarai

    OM – obviously I agree, to an extent. But, one massive point of difference: This is not bad news, in my view. It’s just a new way of thinking.

    People in NI will be far better off, economically (eventually), culturally, socially, etc, once we make our own way. The subvention is crushing the spirit of the people creating a politics of fear, reaction and obsessive redistributionists (posing as leaders).

    I’m not advocating rethinking the subvention or reforming the public sector as a route to poverty (I’m not an ideologue) but rather as a step in the direction of real, sustainable prosperity – economically, culturally and socially.

    Root canals, let’s remember, are only done because they have to be and because more sensible steps were not taken earlier. NI hasn’t been flossing; the root canal may be produce a jolt in the short time but better we’ll be better for it…

  • Old Mortality

    Ruarai
    ‘This is not bad news, in my view. It’s just a new way of thinking.’
    It’ll be bad news for those who have to adapt.

    ‘I’m not advocating rethinking the subvention or reforming the public sector as a route to poverty..’
    I don’t think anyone is but it can’t be achieved without a lot of people become poorer in the short-term at least.

    Root canals etc
    A very apposite metaphor.

    One point worth mentioning is that the current state of dependency does not date from the foundation of NI, as the more witless nationalist commentators like to believe, but was the result of benignly misguided policy during direct rule which massively expanded the public sector. In a sense, Westminster has an obligation to undo its errors, particularly as it is impossible for local politicians to achieve unless they contemplate electoral suicide.

  • sonofstrongbow

    What’s the sound of one hand clapping?

    So I accept that I’m intruding into a nationalist debate where ‘Ireland’ equates to ‘economic, cultural and social’ shangri la; but really?

    It may just be a difficult sell to unionists to promote a radical overhaul of the financial underpinning of NI on the basis that it will ease the path towards an “all island” outcome.

    Why would unionists take the pain on those grounds? There’s going to be a big enough challenge trying to wean nationalists away from big (wad) government, and I’m doubtful that suggesting that such a realignment will mean jam in a UI future will swing even that vote.

    However the evidence from today’s Easter events, where raiding the dressing up box appears more of a priority for the DFM’s pals, suggests that the subvention status quo is pretty safe.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Ruarai,

    I was being a little facetious earlier. The article is thoughtful and considered. But I’m less sure of how accurately you have depicted events over the past few years.

    Being a little more serious, a few thoughts spring to mind. Firstly has Ireland really grappled with the whole business of public sector largesse ? I have not been keeping up with all the details on Croke Park 2 and so on, but one thing you will certainly not find in the UK is the government bribing the unions with public money in exchange for their agreement not to go on strike. It also appears to me as if pensioners, in comparative terms, get a lot more from the state than non-pensioners such as free medical care (“medical cards”) and reasonably generous pensions. In the UK pensioners get the same healthcare entitlements as everyone else through the NHS.

    Secondly, has the UK really begun to “dismantle the welfare state” etc as you suggest ? IDS was in the papers this weekend commenting that the government had given up on cutting welfare. The Telegraph article suggests that overall welfare payments are increasing. The infamous reforms have upended the whole way claims are assessed and counted but the net amount being paid out hasn’t been reduced.

    Our problems in NI are serious enough but they are not unique in the UK. It’s true that the Labour government solved unemployment by increasing public sector recruitment in economically-deprived parts of the UK. That means more or less anywhere north or west of Birmingham. The British government have not, as yet, made drastic slashes to the levels of spending here; they are certainly still massively above 1997 levels. Northern Ireland’s annual gross UK government subvention is calculated in the same way – the infamous “Barnett formula” – as it is elsewhere.

  • Ruarai,

    I’ve had the great fortune to have been able to travel all around the world. I’ve always been struck by the similarity in what people want; ability to earn a living and to provide for their families and a hopeful future for their children. Many people in N.I. were denied those hopes because of discrimination on religious grounds. So those people saw their main hope residing in a U.I. where they would be given equal opportunities. Equality has now been obtained, more or less, which is why the imperative for a U.I. has somewhat died away. It’s as simple as that; people just want to get along with their lives and, in a time when we continue to have doubts about our economic future, national politics takes a back seat.

  • märsta

    And why swap a bunch of lying barstewtards with english accents for a bunch of lying barstewards with southern accents? What is the net gain?

  • Mick Fealty

    Great conversation. Im sure this has a long way to roll.

  • Zig70

    Ah, the old confusion of nationalism with socialism. Surely a united Ireland would replace one right wing government with another? I don’t buy into this new federal Ireland crap, which would persist the over governance. The socialist Ireland stuff just comes across as a bit idealistic whenever the south is not one. Replace Storment with a dozen TD’s and 6 county councils sounds the ticket. The first thing I’d do is ban public sector pay above £100k and if they think they can earn more in the private sector then go earn it. The public sector should have more faith in the large amount of money it spends on training and give internal employees a chance. Anyone I’ve met with any sense in the last 10yrs has left the private sector for the public sector. It should be difficult to earn over £40k in the public sector especially considering pay at the lower scales. But then again all that is academic if it is moved to Dublin. Are we asking turkeys to vote for Christmas?

  • Zig70

    The other thing for northern Irish socialists is to stop biting off more than you can chew. Let’s see you fix West Belfast economic plight and then come back with a bigger plan.

  • Zig70

    On second thoughts, West Belfast is too big, maybe start with upper falls.

  • BluesJazz

    Irish nationalism? You mean the Manchester United/LiverpoolFC/Xfactor/The voice/ eastenders/ Rolling Stones at glastonbury/HMV in adminisrtation/ Arkle wins at Cheltenham/ U2/Graham Norton etc type of Nationalism?

    Or the comely maidens dancing at crossroads sort? The one administered from Frankfurt and Brussels.

  • GavBelfast

    Graham Norton is probably not a good example to throw-in there ….

  • BluesJazz

    ok Terry Wogan then..

  • Neil

    Six of one…

  • BluesJazz

    ok Bob Geldof, Bono, Andy Townsend, Tony Cascarino, Nadine Coyle…..

  • FDM

    If you take a cross-section of many of the comments they are littered [directly or implied] with references to socio-economic matters.

    However how does this affect nationalism? If we define it we find these statements.

    “Nationalism is a belief system, creed or political ideology that involves a strong identification of a group of individuals with a nation” wiki

    “patriotic feeling, principles, or efforts: an early consciousness of nationalism and pride

    •an extreme form of patriotism marked by a feeling of superiority over other countries:playing with right-wing nationalism

    •advocacy of political independence for a particular country:” Oxford English

    “1.a sentiment based on common cultural characteristics that binds a population and often produces a policy of national independence or separatism
    2.loyalty or devotion to one’s country; patriotism
    3.exaggerated, passionate, or fanatical devotion to a national community”

    No reference to socio-economic situations at all. The fact is the socio-economic matters are enablers or blocking factors to nationalism. The point being that if the socio-economics conditions are favourable [boom or bust] then they will enable people to give expression to their nationalism. So they are linked symbiotically but are not the same thing.

    Only two factors stop me [blocking factors] from going to watch Ireland play. Money and time. If I don’t make it to the game, its not that I have gone off the idea of being Irish and supporting the team.

    Nationalism and the economy [for want of a better expression] are not the same thing. I see no dimunition in Irish nationalism. I only see differing prevailing socio-econmic conditions influencing the expression of that nationalism.

  • ForkHandles

    “The idea that a reluctant blow-in North London MP is better placed than local people to exercise even one iota of power on this island is an affront”

    This is a great point, but not what you intend. It shows the massive gap between old fashioned ‘nationalist’ thinking and the modern world of skills, ability and administration. You are basically saying that you don’t like someone from another country (or UK region) coming to your country to run things because you think a local person is better. Ability of the local person doesnt matter. There is no real reason why a local person is better. Its a simple ‘we dont like them outsiderrrss..’ tribal mentality. In the modern world people travel all over the planet for a variety of jobs because they are better skilled than local people. In the modern world government jobs are just administration of services and functions of a department. So someone from another region or country can easily be better than a local person.
    The reason that Irish nationalism is fading away is because it is just a long out dated tribal mentality that looks daft in todays world.

  • FDM

    @ForkHandles

    “The reason that Irish nationalism is fading away is because it is just a long out dated tribal mentality that looks daft in todays world.”

    You forgot to preface that with “Please Lord”.

    Most prayers start that kind of sentiment.

  • ForkHandles

    honestly FDM, people just arent into this sort of thing any more.

  • FDM

    @ForkHandles

    “honestly FDM, people just arent into this sort of thing any more

    Really? You use an expression like “tribal mentality” in reference to themmuns and you then state people just aren’t like that anymore? Didn’t you just severely undermine your own unsupported argument with your unsavoury choice of language?

    Anyway that’ll do for today. The rest of the tribe and I with the bones through our noses have to caper around the bubbling pot with with the captured dinner in it.

  • ForkHandles

    you didnt understand what i said. maybe you have a bone through your ear also 🙂
    basically the idea that a person from outside of the area, region or country cannot do a better job than a local person is a simplistic and is just a basic tribal type of thinking. this is outdated to put it mildly.

    local politicans are poorly skilled in administration and have no initiative to improve whatever system they inherit. that is why stormont doesnt actually achieve much. as an example of local policitans ability in the area of communication, I had a good laugh at John O’Dowd a while back on The View when he said “howl on..” to Edwin Poots during a discussion, i think it was on the flegs stuff. 🙂

  • ForkHandles

    “You use an expression like “tribal mentality” in reference to themmuns”

    Actually you are projecting a bit here due to your tribal mentality… 😉 I was referring to nationalist type of thinking which could be from any country. The subject here is specifically Irish Nationalism. I am discussing from the point of an observer who is observing the tribal thinking in others.

  • Why would an Irish or Scottish nationalist not want the Tories’ rampant vandalism towards the social democratic fabric of the UK? The current Tory attempts to simultaneously cut working people loose, transfer wealth from them and then blame them and demonize them for their lot is manna from heaven for those keen to persuade others of leaving the UK

    I am not defending the UK Government here but I think a lot of these words are rather out of place. Assuming that you are referring to current Government policies geared towards eliminating the budget deficit, you really need to ask yourself if there is anything ideologically Conservative about those policies at all. Words such as “rampant vandalism” do not sit very well with people who understand the bigger picture. As to who gets the blame for the accumulation of debt, I would not put all of it on the last Labour Government, let alone blame “working people.” Whoever runs the country will have the problem and will have to make very painful choices for years to come.

    That aside, some of the reasons why Nationalism has become largely decoupled from any drive towards a new sovereign objective are not difficult to identify. Human rights issues are no longer a Catholic grievance. Sectarianism is weakening. As for economics, the “Celtic tiger” has gone and the Republic of Ireland is stuck in a Euro debtors’ prison.

    Contrast the Scots perspective. Their entire population has a complete regional identity which matches its polity and its border. As a region, the Scottish fiscal deficit is nothing like as bad as (say) northern parts of England, Wales or Northern Ireland. They would also be entitled to about 90% of the yields from North Sea energy.

  • Frustrated Democrat

    As someone who is involved in politics on both sides of the Irish Sea the policies, principles and ethos of politicians in Northern Ireland are a far cry form those in GB. Everything in NI tends to be viewed through orange and green prisms and evaluated in zero sum political terms. The border remains the principle that underlays all decision making here, the fact that it will exist for another generation is ignored, just as is the fact that there is close to parity in terms of the two major blocks. A unitary future is not viewed as being helpful to the major parties here and CSI is gathering a thick layer of dust.

    Devolution isn’t working for the good of Northern Ireland. It is therefore time for the UK and Irish governments to accept that the carrot has failed and to get out a very big stick and direct the local parties onto the right path, one that will benefit the wider communities and not the narrow interests of the political parties.

    The SoS will continue to represent all of the people of Northern Ireland at the cabinet table and after a cautious start as she picked up the brief is now fully in command and will make a major contribution to the future of Northern Ireland locally and nationally. Local parties should take note!

  • Barnshee

    “So come on Theresa, cut the British appron strings, liberate the six countries from the tit of British dependency and let’s build an all-island economy based on the genius of the Irish people.”

    And make sure you introduce border controls (its easy —you are on AN ISLAND ffs) to make sure they cant dump their population on you when it goes tits up (again)

  • Republic of Connaught

    Forkhandles:

    “basically the idea that a person from outside of the area, region or country cannot do a better job than a local person is a simplistic and is just a basic tribal type of thinking. this is outdated to put it mildly.”

    In which case you’re surely all for the UK handing over its political power to Germany, considering the Germans are clearly superior than the local British at running a country. Check out the British deficit to confirm that.

    Barnshee:

    “And make sure you introduce border controls (its easy —you are on AN ISLAND ffs) to make sure they cant dump their population on you when it goes tits up (again)”

    There’s million British in Australia. Over 500,000 in Spain. They’re pretty good at dumping a lot of their people inopther countries too.

  • ForkHandles

    Roc, yeah the Germans are quite good at running things. Is there a requirement for UK politicians to hold British nationality, or maybe residency? Probably is some sort of requirement. I would be quite happy to see a German hold a few UK government positions if they were better than any UK locals. Why not?

    I’m sure you realize that we are not talking about ‘the UK handing over its political power to Germany’ just about people from other places holding a job and not locals. Its funny the way you old fashioned nationalists view everything in such a 19th century ruler/ruled, landowner/peasant, power/powerless, master/slave type way 🙂

  • Congal Claen

    Having also just been bailed out, I wonder are the Cypriot Greeks having anymore success persuading their North of the island from uniting with them?

  • DC

    Your sister party is happy to plan and implement those cuts.

    Alliance Party NI and the Lib Dems – loose bloody cannons.

  • Barnshee

    “Over 500,000 in Spain.”They’re pretty good at dumping a lot of their people in an opther countries too.”

    Its my understanding (and indeed my experience) that the “Over 500,000 in Spain. are not economic migrants but seekers after better weather who contribute to the Spanish economy without any negative impact on the Spanis job market

  • Republic of Connaught

    Forkhandles:

    “Its funny the way you old fashioned nationalists view everything in such a 19th century ruler/ruled, landowner/peasant, power/powerless, master/slave type way ”

    What’s really funny is trying to pretend that a secretary of state in Northern Ireland is anything but a viceroy chosen by Englishmen in London. Men who don’t care what the wild natives in the north of Ireland think of their choice because the wild natives have no say in the matter. Ruler/ruled and power/powerless just about sum it up.

    “Its my understanding (and indeed my experience) that the “Over 500,000 in Spain. are not economic migrants but seekers after better weather who contribute to the Spanish economy without any negative impact on the Spanish job market.”

    More than half the British in Australia work, so they’re clearly taking locals jobs, ain’t they?

  • Ruarai

    So, no nationalists – or anyone else – believe the project of building all-island dynamics/momentum/economic integration/a emerging polity/even a trajectory is alive and strong then?

  • Barnshee

    “More than half the British in Australia work, so they’re clearly taking locals jobs, ain’t they?”

    I would presume so -along with the large number of Irish also jumping ship

    (From family experience I have found its difficult to get into Australia –unless you are bringing in skills unavailable or in short supply locally)

  • bogmanstar

    No reason at all why an outsider couldn’t do a better job. I’ve met Brits in Galway and Cork and Germans in Leitrim who would put locals to shame, such is their concern for the local environment and local architecture etc.

    However, those tend to be people who have moved here voluntarily and their commitment to the area they move to is obvious. Whereas the problem with Villers and her ilk is that she’s a Tory toff who has never had any interest in here until her job forced her to look us up on a map. She doesn’t give a fig and is praying that she’ll get a better seat in a re-shuffle. The NIO role is the equivalent of bootcamp.

    I lived in London for a decade and worked in the City. My friends were all English, Oxbridge etc. Charming and very likeable bunch, and their lack of knowledge of all things Irish / N Irish was almost comical. Top Tories like Villiers struggle to empathise with fellow English people North of Watford, never mind empathising with Paddies, of whatever hue. London TV regularly put sub-titles on programmes featuring people with Geordie or Yorkshire accents. My middle-class London mates regularly were confused about whether Dublin was in the North or the South. One night in the olde cheshire cheese pub in Fleet st, a posh bloke asked me, idly curious: “What on earth are we doing there anyway? It’s not as if there’s anything of any value in Ireland”.

    The English generally are well-disposed towards Ireland, but they view us – North South Taigs Prods – with a mixture of indifference, occasional affection and a very discreet contempt. Their mindset is global and we’re a pimple on the backside as far as they’re concerned. You have to live in London to realise how completely unimportant NI is. I wish to god more of our local leaders had lived abroad for a few years. It’s a great way to force people to wise up and to get rid of the victim mentality that nowadays infects both communities.

    The saddest thing for me about Dr Haass is that it shows how colonised / passive we all are. We need an adult figure from outside to restore calm when the weeans start bickering. There’s no-one in the North, on either side, who is capable of stepping outside the silos of their respective histories.

    As for the argument that nationalism is outdated, get real – in relation to Europe, the English are becoming more xenophobic than ever! The English are very nationalistic, as are the Yanks, the French etc. They manage to be so naturally, whereas Taigs or Prods stir in a lot of aggro and defensiveness.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    bogmanstar

    ” I wish to god more of our local leaders had lived abroad for a few years.”

    HEAR BLOODY HEAR!

    PJ O’Rourke comes to a similar conclusion in his book ‘Holidays in Hell’.

    He (and some locals) think that everyone should bugger off for a year or two to help develop a sense of perspective

    (of course many people don’t need a sense of perspective but I’d happily send a few of the leaders from Camp Twaddell on a trip with Karl Pilkington)

  • Ruarai

    Bogmanstar,

    while I’m happy to see you have restarted this thread from some time back, I’m not sure where you got the impression that it was making an argument that “nationalism was outdated”?

    This is a thread specifically about the state of the Irish Nationalist project.

    At the time it was written, one obvious counter-argument could have been from Sinn Fein supporters who measure responses to this question based only on the state of their party’s political fortunes. They could have argued that regardless of the state of other parties professing support for building a new Ireland, SF may well be closing in on having Tanaiste Adams sitting across the table from DFM – or even FM – McGuinness. Whatever such a development might indicate – and could drive – long-term, I wonder how many people still see such a political breakthrough as likely given the current news stories.