Can Northern Ireland pick up where it last left off in the 1960s?

Nice piece from Alex Kane:

The year 1963 was an interesting one. The Beatles released their first album; Harold Wilson became leader of the Labour Party and spoke of a “new Britain that is going to be forged in the white heat of this revolution”; Martin Luther King delivered his “I have a dream” speech; President Kennedy promised a Civil Rights bill and “the kind of equality of treatment that we would want for ourselves”.

A new generation of young nationalists – many of them inspired by King and Kennedy – were entering teacher-training colleges and Queen’s University. The world was changing and O’Neill wanted Northern Ireland and unionism to be part of that change.

He didn’t succeed, of course. The widespread differential in employment patterns were long in the setting and pitched the interests of two classes of people in Northern Ireland (broadly pro and anti state) fatefully against one another.

Controversialist outsiderly figures like Paisley and Craig merely dropped the match onto well paraffined lumber.

By the end of that decade, the state almost collapsed under the weight of its own democratic contradictions, and saw some of the most traumatic events of the whole troubles: the uprooting of 1000s of citizens who then sought safety in their own single identity silos.

Reform of employment laws have substantially (though not entirely) erased the differential in employment and educational opportunities. Single identity communities are now concentrated in areas of high public housing density.

The Republic is no longer a foreign country. Cross border policy, if anything, is being led by the actions of hard line Unionist ministers like Ed Poots in search of means to support the delivery an expensive health service through resource sharing.

Even educational institutes which are not officially integrated are slowly integrating pupils from both communities into their student bodies. It’s hard not to think that the citizens of Northern Ireland are actually well ahead of the capacity of its political parties to lead.

You sometimes get the impression that people in authority still think we are all back where we were in 1969. Living with the conflict – and the politics it produced – allowed many of us to take comfort in a number of simple binaries that are just not sustainable in peace time.

Escaping them won’t be easy. But the answers will only come by politicians who are prepared to act by moving decisively through the middle by putting policy concerns first, and framing constitutional issues in the far term.

  • FuturePhysicist

    There’s an Alliance employment minister and a 23% youth unemployment rate, equal with Cyprus’s … I’m sure with enough banter about shared future and brow beating the scared people behind peace-walls or waving flags or putting down flags that the problem no longer exists and that the middle class have started to feel the pinch the working classes have been putting up with for generations.

    You have made your living from the politics this region has produced Mick, don’t think for a second that you’ve got a solution for it. Without the guns of the IRA and the UDA you would be a pauper.

  • Mick Fealty

    I don’t – not even for a second – think I do FP.

  • Otto

    I’ve worked for a number of multinational businesses. All of them thought culture was important to commercial success.

    Successful businesses and successful economies come from integrated societies.

    FP are you blaming Mick for wanting to make a difference or blaming him for the problem?

  • “Escaping them won’t be easy. .. putting policy concerns first, and framing constitutional issues in the far term.”

    Those who took the trouble to vote in the 2011 Assembly elections gave the advocates of ‘far term’ constitutionalism a clear message, they endorsed 9 of the 108 successful candidates. Escape is nigh impossible under the terms of the 1998 Agreement.

    “Even educational institutes which are not officially integrated are slowly integrating pupils from both communities into their student bodies.”

    This is (middle-class?) parental choice in action but the vested interests have still produced three area plans, behind closed doors, for post-primary education in the Coleraine district, instead of the requested one. Will the Minister send these interests away with fleas in their ears or will he endorse the apartheid approach?

    “The Republic is no longer a foreign country.”

    Ireland still views itself as a competitor in the tourism market despite the existence of the joint Tourism Ireland marketing initiative; DETI was allegedly given one day’s notice of ‘The Gathering 2013’.

  • Otto

    What’s “Far Term” mean?

    If it’s further constitutional development – perhaps weighted majority voting and official opposition that was in the DUP manifesto, not just those of the 9 UC MLA’s.

  • Otto, the other 99 MLAs are either pro-UK or pro-UI. The 8 AP MLAs and 1 Green are essentially neutral on the constitutional question.

  • Greenflag

    No -it can’t go back to the 1960’s even if just to pick up where it left off . That’s not how the world works . While the constitutional problem has been solved albeit temporarily the economic challenge facing NI and not just NI is of an entirely different scale from that facing society in the mid 1960’s .

    The fact that Alex Kane notes that it seems as if people in authority (not just politicians then -think the RC Church /the Orange Order , the UUP among others ) are still in 1969 mode is not extraordinary in itself .You could accuse Ipolitical leaders generally of being about 25 years behind the ‘internet ‘age per se -with some few exceptions . The economic policies which worked in the 1960’s won’t return NI to any upgrade in it’s political evolution towards a normal democracy . I can’t think of anything that would -bar the demise of the state itself – and even that would provide no magic or quick solution to the regions ‘economic ‘contradictions in terms of reducing state sector dependency.

    There is no going back and going forward will require the kind of political and economic leadership that Northern Ireland has never had in it’s history but then that leadership for most of it’s unionist dominated political existence was only ever drawn from 25% of it’s population in theory (unionist males ) and probably much less than that -the 5% landed gentry and former army and legal establishments etc.

    So perhaps under this new dispensation -other -more versatile ,tolerant and innovative minds from the less conservative and less blinkered sections of NI society will get a chance to direct it’s problematical future .

  • “While the constitutional problem has been solved”

    Greenflag, I wouldn’t describe a constitutional tug-of-war as a problem ‘solved’. ‘Going forward’ is a favoured cliché of the spin merchants.

  • Greenflag

    Future physicist .

    ‘There’s an Alliance employment minister and a 23% youth unemployment rate, ‘

    Would’nt make a blind bit of difference if the Employment Minister was SF , DUP, SDLP or UUP .The Youth unemployment rate and the general unemployment rate is determined more by our economic directors -namely the biggest world bankers and their political puppets in Washington , Berlin , London and yes even Dublin and only in the subventioned state to those in Belfast .

  • FuturePhysicist

    And based on the argument that “division” is at fault are those Unionist bankers or Nationalist bankers? Isn’t “national debt” a constitutional question? Wasn’t it “national debt” that started the Jacobite-Williamite wars behind a lot of the sectarianism in Ireland?

    People can look back at the past and see that at least we’re not starving yet like those in the Siege behind the walls or those enduring the Famine, then perhaps it might take the “No surrender/Tiofaidh ár la” spirit to get us out of it.
    .

  • Greenflag

    Nevin ,

    Fair point but I’ll take a tug of war using ropes as a solution given the context , in preference to a couple of more generations of gunfire and wasted lives

    Going forward is not an expression I normally use as it seems to presume that going backward is not a possibility .It is of course but only under exceptional conditions and even then it can only be a temporary stay as economic and political realities eventually drag the recusants back to the future .

    The Luddites lost . The same future awaits any remaining political luddites out there in that neither here nor there political entity . HIgher up the political evolutionary ladder the fate of western democracy now rests on the ‘money ‘ men of international finance and the corporate plutocracy .

    The public interest be it in health or education is under attack everywhere -even in Ireland (ROI) from a Labour Minister ?

    What a spinner and not even a shinner ;)?

  • DC

    by our economic directors -namely the biggest world bankers and their political puppets in Washington , Berlin , London and yes even Dublin

    and it’s all going to implode.

  • Greenflag

    @ Future physicist

    ‘are those Unionist bankers or Nationalist bankers’?

    They have allegiance to only one master -Mammon .They are not even ‘capitalists ‘ .They are a protected species who can and are permitted to destroy millions of lives around the world only to be bailed out by our ‘elected ‘politicians at the expense of European and American taxpayers .

    The neo con right condemns the Welfare State or so called nanny state but you’ll never hear them demanding reform of the banking sector that is anything more than cosmetic .The harsh truth is that our politicians left right and centre have been bought and sold by those interests to a degree that most people are unaware -If they were aware there would be a world revolution .

  • Greenflag, London, Dublin and Washington have invited our MLAs to expend even more energy in this tug-of-war so the rope could well break. Back in 1963 I don’t suppose many folks anticipated the misfortune that was about to befall us here.

    I’m not sure what you mean by ‘higher up the political evolutionary ladder’. The uncovering of sleaze in Ireland led me to look at the potential for sleaze here ….

  • Comrade Stalin

    I think to blame a minister with less than two years in office for high youth unemployment is a bit unreasonable, and doubly so when such criticism is not accompanied by a suggestion of what action the minister could have taken to stop it.

  • Greenflag

    @ DC

    ‘and it’s all going to implode.’

    We could get to have a major ‘open ‘ global currency war first instead of the current ‘hidden ‘ conflict .

    And here’s another former Reagan ideologue ‘who has just written of the ‘error ‘ of trickle down economics . Better late than never one supposes .

    Have not yet read the book but the interview is worth listening to if anyone is interested in what’s really happening in world financial circles in 2013 as opposed to the ‘noises ‘ being made by the politicians of right or left .

    http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2013-04-03/david-stockman-great-deformation

    Lest I’m accused of diverting the thread -thats not my intention .It’s just that neither NI’s future or indeed the Republic’s or the UK’s or the Eurozones will be going anywhere soon unless the root cause of financial mayhem is addressed by world governments acting in unison and being under pressure to do so by their electorates .

  • DC

    greenflag

    there’s going to be a massive squeeze on pay and public services and quality of life for all across uk and ireland.

    cue: ‘yes! we have no bananas’.

    you might like to check out this link:

    http://newleftreview.org/II/71/wolfgang-streeck-the-crises-of-democratic-capitalism

    At this point, it seems clear that the political manageability of democratic capitalism has sharply declined in recent years, more in some countries than in others, but also overall, in the emerging global political-economic system. As a result the risks seem to be growing, both for democracy and for the economy. Since the Great Depression policy-makers have rarely, if ever, been faced with as much uncertainty as today.

  • Greenflag

    Nevin ,

    ‘I’m not sure what you mean by ‘higher up the political evolutionary ladder’. ‘

    I was referring to those States i.e the UK /ROI/ France ?Germany /Sweden /Australia etc etc who would under present economic and political circumstances be considered to be more ‘advanced ‘ in terms of democracy than the current NI or it’s predecessor .As you can deduce from events reported on the web – sleaze – is an international phenomenon and not restricted to this island or the neighbouring one . Transparency International has a ranking table which displays a league table for states worldwide .
    NI alas is not mentioned being part of the UK figure but I’m sure you can guesstimate where it would be in rankings if it was a stand alone entity . I’d guess given the political history somewhere in the mid 30’s on the table ?

    Heres a couple of sites that might be of interest .

    http://cpi.transparency.org/cpi2012/

    http://www.transparency.org/news/pressrelease/20121205_ireland_suffers_sharpest_drop_on_corruption_perceptions_index

  • “Controversialist outsiderly figures like Paisley and Craig merely dropped the match onto well paraffined lumber.”

    The confrontational approach of the likes of Paisley, Craig, Hume and Devlin ripped the scab from the slow healing that was commencing in the mid-1960s, the era that gave us the likes of Ray Davey and the Corrymeela Community.

  • FuturePhysicist

    I think to blame a minister with less than two years in office for high youth unemployment is a bit unreasonable, and doubly so when such criticism is not accompanied by a suggestion of what action the minister could have taken to stop it.

    I’m not blaming him but it is his responsibility and in those two years youth unemployment has increased by 155%, if that is to continue, Farry can forget about being an MLA in the next six to eight years as Northern Ireland will simply not be paying tax being in a full blown out depression.

  • tacapall

    http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/822/problemqz.png/

    Like all conflicts there are hidden parties who pull the strings of the combatants or interested parties as is shown above, the result being perpetual conflict. Who benefits from this conflict and how Ireland as a country in its own right and its people evolve is controlled by the same people and its pretty obvious who is pulling the strings.

  • Greenflag

    @ DC thanks for the link -no time right now but will later this evening –

  • USA

    Mick,
    You describe the Orange State of the 1960’s as having a
    “widespread differential in employment patterns”. This makes it sound as if it was simply an economic issue, with no discrimination and no sectarian component. Yet surely you are well aware of the internationally discredited, morally bankrupt and undemocratic nature of the Orange State.
    You then say “the state almost collapsed under the weight of its own democratic contradictions“. Democratic contradictions? Are you kidding? To describe the Orange State’s widespread and institutionalized social, political, and economic discrimination as mere “democratic contradictions” really is unacceptable.
    BTW ….the state did collapse, the “parliament” at Stormont was prorogued by the British government. The sectarian flag of NI represents an apartheid state that no longer exists.

    To answer your initial question about picking up again in the 1960’s. The simple answer has to be no. Why would you go back into a sectarian state? The structure and culture of the Orange State meant by the late 60’s the place was at boiling point. You stated as much yourself when you described the Orange State as “well paraffined lumber”. Why go back there?

  • sonofstrongbow

    There is no doubt that sectarianism was present in NI in the sixties. Unfortunately for nationalists (who somehow believe themselves always to be on the side of the angels) it existed in both communities.

    However the only “sectarian state” on the island was the Republic.

    That Catholic Ne Temere decree, requiring the children of a mixed marriage to be brought up as Catholics, was enforced by state law, most famously in the Tilson v Tilson case when the President of the Irish a high Court ruled in favour of Ne Temere on the grounds of the “special place” the Catholic Church occupied within the state.

  • USA

    SOS,
    Firstly let me state the obvious and remind you the conversation is about NI in the sixties, not the ROI. The clue is in the title of Mick’s post. Secondly, to claim that one side was as bad as the other is factually incorrect and there are mountains of data to prove you wrong.

    As you insist on dragging in straw man arguments, how about the current British position that no Catholic shall ever be Monarch or Prime Minister? Now stick to the topic BottleOfStrongbow.

  • A large part of the 23% unemployment rate comes because a large part of an entire generation or two generations of youths of working-class backgrounds spent The Troubles getting their craic from throwing rocks and bricks at each other and in other types of economically unproductive activity. Thanks to the welfare state they then grew up and provided role models to their children. NI is facing the same problem as South Africa where a generation of township youths dropped out of school in the mid-1970s and mid-1980s to fight apartheid. When the struggle ended they lacked the education (which was of a very inferior quality to begin with) to provide employment in a freer economy. All those youths that Gerry, Martin, and Ian revved up during The Troubles are now the parents of a new generation of unemployed.

  • tacapall

    So what your really saying tmitch57 is that most of them unemployed people were just stupid lazy people who fed like parasites off the British nation and bred new parasites to do the same.

  • socaire

    I remember attending a 50th Commemoration of 1916 in Coalisland in the company of the new generation of young Nationalists and all they did was scoff and jeer at Ruairí Ó Brádaigh and his talk of the military campaign which was inevitable. This seemed to be the general feeling at the time but 2 – 3 years later these same young people were to take up arms against what they saw was the Stormont “government” – a rotten sectarian anti Irish anti Catholic outpost of Britain. All the Catholic schools were getting pro Stormont literature. The IRA was a laughing matter. What happened in those 3 years?

  • Reader

    USA: As you insist on dragging in straw man arguments, how about the current British position that no Catholic shall ever be Monarch or Prime Minister?
    Here we go again. Do you have a reference for your claim about the Prime Minister? And if so, could you pass it on to the Conservative party, as they don’t seem to be aware:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iain_Duncan_Smith

  • Reader

    tacapall : So what your really saying tmitch57 is that most of them unemployed people were just stupid lazy people who fed like parasites off the British nation and bred new parasites to do the same.
    Surely one of your proudest claims on Slugger, repeated recently, is that you are a determined and ideologically driven parasite on the British taxpayer? (You may not have used those precise words). Perhaps there are others?

  • Reader

    Socaire: This seemed to be the general feeling at the time but 2 – 3 years later these same young people were to take up arms against what they saw was the Stormont “government” – a rotten sectarian anti Irish anti Catholic outpost of Britain… The IRA was a laughing matter. What happened in those 3 years?
    I’m not sure that this was your point, but those people in 66 would have looked back at the utter failure of the border campaign a few years earlier, and could see that – in 1966 – there was no catalyst for a serious campaign of violence. They weren’t wrong – there was nothing inevitable about the drift to violence in 1968/69, it was a mismanaged crisis that blew up in everyone’s faces.

  • tacapall

    Reader ensuring it cost as much as possible for your opponent is not the same as being a parasite, one is through choice as a means to an end to defeat an enemy while the other is a way of life, you know, like the monarchy, but people who have an opinion on what a parasite is, especially a loyalist, wouldn’t agree with me on the queen bit though.

    Has there ever been a Catholic prime minister of Britain ? So could this Catholic prime minister if there ever was one, choose and appoint senior members of the church of England ? Could he advise the queen of England on ecclesiastical matters ?

  • Zig70

    The mistrust? Too nice a word, judging by the comments here and the fact we have moved on 40yrs then hate is a more appropriate word.

  • socaire

    Reader, what was the crisis, what precipitated the crisis, who mismanaged it and how did all the militants arrive on the scene so quickly? After the ‘mismanaged’ border campaign, republicans were as scarce as democrats in the DUP so how did a full blown war start from nothing?

  • Neil

    Alex looks back wistfully with his rose tinted specs and thinks ‘could we pick up…’. Could we pick up at a happy time in Unionist history when jobs were plentiful, housing was as guaranteed as political power.

    Could we pick up at a miserable time in Nationalist history when we had no political power, and all the discriminatory, sectarian trappings of the orange one party state. A time described by Trimble when NI was a cold house for Nationalists.

    No thanks Al. Forward from our position now (which is as a financial basket case) is much preferred. Maybe one day we’ll be self sufficient here, but in the mean time the message to Gideon should be you broke it, you bought it.

  • Reader

    tacapall: Reader ensuring it cost as much as possible for your opponent is not the same as being a parasite, one is through choice as a means to an end to defeat an enemy while the other is a way of life…
    “enemy”? That’s putting it a bit strongly, isn’t it? Your actual enemies are your near neighbours who would vote differently from you in a border poll. And those people include those who would like to have a united Ireland, if they didn’t fear it would be an economic basket case because of the costs of maintaining the 6 counties.
    You are getting money at the expense of both the productive and the needy, while damaging the cause you profess to support. The union is safe in your hands.

  • Reader

    tacapall: Has there ever been a Catholic prime minister of Britain ? So could this Catholic prime minister if there ever was one, choose and appoint senior members of the church of England ? Could he advise the queen of England on ecclesiastical matters ?
    There has not been a Catholic PM, though I don’t think that was seen as Iain Duncan Smith’s main flaw as leader of the Conservative party. The rest of your questions are petty. Why would a Catholic be any worse at those tasks than the various Non-conformists, Presbyterians and Atheists who have performed those (nominal) functions? At least a Catholic would know what a Bishop is for.

  • Gopher

    It always amuses me that Northern Irish politicians and commentators are stuck in a portrait of Dorrian Grey nightmare in relation to the sixties. They never want to move on, never replaced, always looking back to the sixties when they or their ideal were most beautiful (sic). Its tragic. They have all become what they railed against and are impotent to improve because they still yearn for that portrait of the sixties which haunts their every turn. The epochal events around the world have come and gone and our Dorrians remain

    I will give the rest of our Domestic and European partners credit politics evolves and pragmatism prevails. Europe started working together quicker after WWII than we have after GFA. Wheras we have the politburo of Dorrian Greys

  • tacapall

    Reader the enemy of republicanism is the monarchy and the British establishment. I beleive Ireland had no choice and has always opposed being classed as a dominion of the English throne. Irish republicans making it as financially draining as possible for the British establishment keping their presence in Ireland can be viewed as non violent opposition, a perfectly legitimate tactic.

  • Life as a parasite can be reasonably comfortable but only up to the point when the host dies. Is it totally safe to assume that no future UK government will decide that the words of the GFA be changed slightly so that N.I. will remain as a part of the UK only so long as the people of the UK agree, unless they decide otherwise in a referendum. Do we know what the result of such a referendum would be right now were it to be held under such revised terms?

  • David Crookes

    Agree 100%, Gopher. And here is where RK’s television history is most frightening. Take away some of the hairstyles, add a few mobile phones, and many of the Orange-intransigent-protest-never-never-never-not-an-inch bits are perfectly up to date.

    It isn’t only the never-cubed brigade. An informed person was talking to me today about the UUP. The party leader is a sensible man who knows what needs to be done, he said, but most of the UUP members inside and outside Stormont are locked in the 1960s, believing themselves to be the natural party of government.

    Some UUP members, and some SDLP members, regard the parties which have taken their places as ill-behaved and presumptuous upstarts.

    Yesterday I watched many thousands of starlings wheeling over the Lagan in a kaleidoscopic cloud. Their speed and coordination were astonishing. Biologists talk about the ‘group mind’ that operates in such a circumstance. Can you have a group mental disease? Like wilful Rip-van-Winkelism?

    People tell us that we need more young people in politics, but some of our young politicians are Young Fogeys of various kinds. You make a sharp point about Europe. In Europe, the moulds were all broken. We were lucky. Our moulds survived…..

  • seamusot

    Iceland is a country of just over 300,000 hardy souls which is now successfully emerging from national financial meltdown. It made deals with creditors (ultimately) and has set its course on prudent future self-reliance. Our 6 counties wishes its hallmark to be that the current constitutional fig leaf must remain because in a nutshell nobody else to afford to fund our parasitic ways?

  • Comrade Stalin

    FuturePhysicist:

    ’m not blaming him but it is his responsibility and in those two years youth unemployment has increased by 155%

    It sounds an awful lot like you’re blaming him to me. If you’re not blaming then what are you doing ?

    Yes it is his responsibility and yes he has to come up with the solutions, within the framework of the executive and devolved government.

    , if that is to continue, Farry can forget about being an MLA in the next six to eight years as Northern Ireland will simply not be paying tax being in a full blown out depression.

    I trust you arrived at this conclusion following a detailed analysis of the economic data, rather than pulling hyperbole out of the sky and trying to pass it off as an argument ? If so perhaps you could share it with me and explain why exactly you think the crisis we are in now is worse than the crisis faced in the mid 1990s.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Reader,

    I’d have thought there would be a minor constitutional crisis in the event of a Catholic PM, given that the Prime Minister exercises the royal prerogative to appoint Church of England bishops on behalf of the Queen, which is clearly a situation which could not arise. We discussed this a while ago here on Slugger and someone pointed out that the matter would probably sort itself out in the event, which I agree with, but it’s still an issue.

    I still suspect that Tony Blair deliberately delayed his own conversion to Catholicism until after he left office for this very reason. As I recall there were a few grumbles around Westminster about the fact that he was even married to a Catholic and attended Mass. Not serious grumblings of course but it was mildly controversial. If I was a practicing Anglican I’d be rather disturbed at the idea of a closet Catholic appointing my bishops and I think I’d want the matter resolved, so it’s odd that it hasn’t been.

  • Comrade Stalin

    BTW, before I go to bed, I might point out to our American contributors here that the prospect of President Kennedy’s election in 1960 brought with it public controversy over his allegience to the church, to the extent that Kennedy had to publicly repudiate the idea that he would be taking instructions from the Pope. True, that was some time ago; but this ain’t a problem which is unique to the UK in practice.

  • BluesJazz

    CS
    You seem to think Stephen Farry actually has a job.
    He doesn’t.
    Education is the responsibility of Michael Gove, and employment Ian Duncan Smith.
    Both are currently trying to get the donkeys out of the ditch.
    The (laughably) devolved ‘minister’ will then rubber stamp their paymasters policies. And carry on with his pretend job. How much is he paid to rubber stamp?
    Please don’t tell me he has a department full of staff to prtend they have an input?

  • USA

    Reader,
    Not exactly sure why you provided the link to Ian Duncan Smith. Is it because he was Catholic PM of Britain? Hmmm….

    Lets start at the beginning – remind me again exactly how many Catholics have been PM in Britain?

    I would also refer you to the above post from Comrade Stalin as it is correct on all counts. The Anglican church still has a “special place” in British society, just as the protestant faith had a special place in the sectarian Orange State.

    So again, stick to the point. The topic is NI in the 60’s.

  • USA

    CS,
    Yes you are correct about JFK, indeed more recently O’Bama had his religious affiliations brought into question. Many of his detractors still claim he is a Muslim.
    Regardless, both men were subsequently elected President. As you well know there have been no Catholic PM’s in Downing Street or at the big house at Stormont. However, I hope this will change in my lifetime, and it will probably be in the North first.

  • @tacapail,

    What I’m sayiing is that much of the working class for some thirty or forty years spent its time either attempting to “liberate themselves” or to prevent others from doing that. This then creates a norm. It is very similar to the problem that South Africa contends with.

  • Reader

    USA: Not exactly sure why you provided the link to Ian Duncan Smith. Is it because he was Catholic PM of Britain? Hmmm….
    Lets start at the beginning – remind me again exactly how many Catholics have been PM in Britain?

    Starting at the beginning is where you mentioned “the current British position that no Catholic shall ever be Monarch or Prime Minister?” However, there is no restriction preventing a Catholic from becoming a PM. The party that has governed for half of the last century made a Catholic its leader – do you know something they don’t? Have you found any reference to back up your claim?

  • Reader

    Comrade Stalin: I’d have thought there would be a minor constitutional crisis in the event of a Catholic PM, given that the Prime Minister exercises the royal prerogative to appoint Church of England bishops on behalf of the Queen, which is clearly a situation which could not arise.
    Since the task is carried out under close guidance from insiders, I suspect it might be a bigger problem for the PM than for the State. A bit like signing off on abortion legislation, then.

  • Comrade Stalin

    BlueJazz,

    Change the record. The current one’s broken.

    USA,

    I think Reader mentioned IDS because he would have been Prime Minister had the Conservatives won an election with him in charge. Of course, they had to get rid of him because it became immediately obvious that he couldn’t win one.

    There’s the possibility of a Catholic First Minister in the not too distant future, couple of decades maybe. This process is presently being accelerated by the DUP who seem to be working hard to turn off their own voters, which will artificially inflate the nationalist vote in the assembly elections.

    Reader, fortunately Prime Ministers don’t have to worry about abortion policy at the moment, they can even abstain or vote against their own party’s policy at present without raising too many eyebrows.

    I can imagine a few people in this neck of the woods who might be rather displeased to say the least that a Catholic was appointing their bishops. Lot of Anglicans in the Orange Order. And to be fair they’d have a point. It’s the principle of the thing.

  • sonofstrongbow

    I expect only a very few people actually think the PM sits down and mulls over the theological qualifications of potential bishops, or archbishops for that matter.

    In common with much of the workings of Government in the UK the PM’s role in church appointments is symbolic protocol and the religion, or none, of the person in office would cause no one to cry foul.

    Has anyone ever questioned the religious fervour of a PM and complained that a perhaps in effect nominal Christian is making church appointments?

    The Crown Appointments Commission, made up of senior clergy , submit a shortlist of candidates to the PM. Even this is not as open to a PM’s personal whims as first may seem the case as the precedent set over many years is that the PM picks the person named first on the list, in other words the person chosen by the Church itself.

  • Tony Blair became a Catholic as soon as he left office and he had been talking about converting since about halfway through his term. If it had not been for the negotiations in NI and the effect that a conversion would have on the perception of his impartiality, he might well have converted while he was still in office. So it can be argued that it was the IRA that prevented Britain from having its first Catholic prime minister. Interestingly, had he converted the Republicans would probably have continued not to really trust him because he was British and the unionists, or at least the DUP, would not have trusted him because he was Catholic.

  • Comrade Stalin

    sonofstrongbow,

    I know in practice it’s not a problem. But at the end of the day you would still have a Catholic appointing Anglican bishops. That doesn’t sit right.

    tmitch, I think that’s all a bit ridiculous, the world does not revolve around the peace process in NI. I think he carefully avoided conversion in office in order to prevent distractions or controversy in general terms, but had he done so I doubt it would have made any difference whatsoever to how things worked out here.

  • ForkHandles

    “You sometimes get the impression that people in authority still think we are all back where we were in 1969″

    Only the old ones that grew up in the troubles decades and can’t adjust to anything else.

    ” But the answers will only come by politicians who are prepared to act by moving decisively through the middle by putting policy concerns first, and framing constitutional issues in the far term.”

    Yes this is true of course. The problem with NI politicians has always been an inability to get off the starting blocks and start taking action. There is always the going round and round at the starting line announcing intentions as above, but never actually doing anything. Then repeating the same sound bite reworded a little and then never actually doing anything.

    Politician’s Tip of the day:
    Using education as an example. Announce your detailed plans on how to provide a number of schools across NI to cater for present and future needs and pupil numbers. Incorporate costs and savings. Show how your plan is the best one to provide for academic and vocational (or whatever) types of education for local areas and all of NI, and so on. Talk about these details on TV. Only then go into the detail of how you have included an increasing number of integrated schools and how you will promote and steer future planning to increase integrated education to meet the ideal of removing sectarian division and so on.
    Come up with the detailed plans and incorporate the ideals such as integrated education into them.

    Don’t make another moronic announcement of “We must work together to… blah blah blah” and have absolutely no plans or ideas to follow with.