Are we settling for a society where the dominant communities are going to remain separate?

One thing I learned from an earlier life working with collective forms of narrative is that stories (and histories) don’t just end when someone says they do. The world did not stop with the Belfast Agreement, nor yet the St Andrews Agreement. Brandon Hamber in the Bel Tel has some useful questions in this regard:

As the agreement has unfolded, what has become apparent is that what reconciliation means to different parties is not clear.

The original commitment to promoting integration has also waned. Politicians’ inability to agree an overarching policy to promote integration is evidence of this.

One of the reasons why this policy has not been agreed is because there is no commonality on the vision of what society we are working towards.

Is the goal one of ‘thin’ integration or deeper social transformation? Are we going to settle for a society where the dominant communities are going to remain separate and, hopefully, equal, co-existing in negative peace? Or are we seeking more profound change, where all aspects of life are integrated?

Co-existing and sharing society might be an acceptable goal in the short term, given the history of conflict. But is it enough?

As I noted some years ago, I have to say that I doubt that such a narrow vision will suffice in order to aleviate the problems in those areas currently suffering the brunt of sectarian violence:

Perhaps the longer term answer will differ the one currently on offered. Or perhaps not. Much as many of us are inclined to see it as an end in itself, the Belfast Agreement was just a beginning. Nothing about history is as inevitable as politicians would sometimes prefer us to believe.

  • BarneyT

    Is there any truth to the fact that traditional official unionists are abstaining and the DUP are just mopping up what’s left? I’m sure someone has stats that can back this up or dispel the notion. Has there really been a substantial UUP to DUP swing in recent years? Are the DUP genuinely one of the dominant forces?

  • BarneyT

    I’m still experimenting with the flag thing..hence the new avatar. I added a harp, a hand from the original ulster flag and thickened the st pats element. It has taken on a very different flavour I think. This flag thing is not going to be easy.

  • Barnshee

    “Are we settling for a society where the dominant communities are going to remain separate?”

    yes

  • JR

    Was at a very encouraging talk last night. “Protestants and the Irish Language”. It seems there is a scheme happening at the moment where pupils in some protestant schools are given an afternoon taster session on the Irish language. Those that like it can go on and do a further course, one afternoon a week for six weeks.

  • FDM

    I was wondering if people could provide examples where you have two balanced communities and it works well in terms of a nation state?

    My natural selection instincts would lead me to believe that ultimately one side becomes dominant, with the other becoming absorbed [and non-identifiably different] or more or less extinct.

    I really don’t know the answer to that and I am open to well supported examples.

  • BarneyT

    My gut tells me that unionists will have to find a bit more Irish in themselves if they are to settle fully into life on island of Ireland. The siege mentality has to disappear. Even a cursory examination of the Irish language is a step in the right direction and for me, claiming a stake.

  • BluesJazz

    Horse owners seem to be stable people.

  • Republic of Connaught

    “Are we settling for a society where the dominant communities are going to remain separate?”

    That was inevitable with the creation of the six county state, Mick. To trap two ethnic tribes, of similar numbers, in a small confined geographical area and put them fighting against each other for control of the state both culturally and politically was a recipe for.. the abnormality of Northern Ireland.

    Within an All Ireland context, Protestants are less than 15 per cent of the population. Which means there is no valid contest for control of the state because the Protestants are a small minority. Which in turn means the national government of a 32 county Ireland can afford to be extremely open and generous towards that minority because there’s no reason to be otherwise.

    That generosity of spirit cannot happen in an internal Northern Ireland context. The tribes are two evenly matched and the ‘struggle’ for control of the NI state is constantly in motion and will never have a real ‘winner’ while NI exists.

    An All Ireland state is the only way NI people will ever be given the chance to participate in a normal society. While the NI state exists, it’ll be all about Catholic versus Protestant in the numbers game and the cultural, policial dominance the numbers bring.

    .

  • Old Mortality

    RoC
    ‘To trap two ethnic tribes, of similar numbers, in a small confined geographical area and put them fighting against each other for control of the state both culturally and politically was a recipe for.. the abnormality of Northern Ireland.’

    Except that they weren’t similar in numbers when Northern Ireland was created, unless you think a roughly two-to-one ratio is similar.
    Quite unpredictably and inexplicably, the minority, in spite of constant persecution, social and economic oppression, flourished numerically. This is almost certainly a unique phenomenon in western Europe during the 20th century.

  • Greenflag

    @ ROC ,

    ‘All Ireland state is the only way NI people will ever be given the chance to participate in a normal society.’

    Probably.

    ‘While the NI state exists, it’ll be all about Catholic versus Protestant in the numbers game and the cultural, policial dominance the numbers bring.’

    True enough with the exception of a small number of people who are able to cross the political and religious divide without fear from either their opposites or their own side .

    As for the numbers .The glass is falling hour by hour and the really important numbers -those for the economy and the future prospects for the younger population in Northern Ireland ? Well those numbers are managed/finessed etc etc from London . The eh locals (politicians ) can’t be trusted you see and that’s not just Thatcher speak . It’s the conventional wisdom of her majesty’s establishment on all sides of the Commons .

    NI will remain stuck between two worlds for the foreseeable future -One dead and it’s successor powerless to be born . The main function of the GFA is to ensure the dead one remains buried and the whatever new one emerges after how many decades has sufficient political midwifery services to bring about a successful birth .

    In the meantime -its as good (or as bad ) as it gets .And it could be much worse which thankfully it isn’t.

  • Republic of Connaught

    Old Mortality:

    “Except that they weren’t similar in numbers when Northern Ireland was created, unless you think a roughly two-to-one ratio is similar. Quite unpredictably and inexplicably, the minority, in spite of constant persecution, social and economic oppression, flourished numerically. This is almost certainly a unique phenomenon in western Europe during the 20th century.”

    It wouldn’t have taken a Protestant genius to look around Ireland in 1921, OM, and see that Catholics tended to have bigger families than Protestants. That didn’t bode too well for the 2:1 Protestant majority within a small area of Ulster, especially with the close links between Donegal and the rest of Ulster bringing more Catholics into the six counties anyway.

  • Greenflag

    @ Old mortality ,

    ‘ This is almost certainly a unique phenomenon in western Europe during the 20th century.’

    Perhaps in western europe in the 20th century but not in Ireland . We are told that Cromwell drove the Irish to hell or to Connaught in our histories .During the period 1550 -1700 it’s estimated that a third of the entire population of the island was killed or starved from war induced famines according to English historian Pepys (he estimated some 680,000 deaths ) yet hardly a century later by the 1770’s the Irish were once again the vast majority of this island’s population so much so any remaining efforts at ‘conversion ‘ of the population to protestantism was seen as futile .

    There have been situations outside Europe in which certain populations replace other populations due to differential reproduction rates and conflict /political /economic issues .

    Despite ‘defeat ‘ in the Boer war by the British the Boers eventually became the politically most numerous white tribe in South Africa by 1948 -This was achieved by differential reproduction rates in the main as well as a slow trickle of emigration by English speaking South Africans to the UK , Australia etc .

    I believe another instance of an indigenous population being out voted by immigrants has been in Fiji where the Indian minority has now for various reasons become the majority .

    All of these situations can and have led to conflict and political upheaval . Some have been managed better than others . A quick survey around the western world today would see all the major countries facing reductions in population as they are nowhere near the number needed to replace those who are leaving this mortal coil . Japan is one of the most obvious examples where it’s population is expected to drop from 120 million to 65 million by 2060. Italy is another case .Only France and Sweden (and the UK ) have been successful in avoiding population decline -but in all of these cases it’s been due to the fecundity of their immigrant populations .

    Even the USA would be in population decline if it were not for the 35 million immigrants (12 million of whom are ‘illegal” )

    Both Northern Ireland and the Republic manage to maintain stable overall populations only because of the contribution (some 20% in the Republic and 10% in NI) of births to immigrant mothers.

    The economists and politicians haven’t yet addressed the issues which will be faced by these societies as they age. But one can expect less violence , less creativity , less demand in the economy and conservative stagnation .meanwhile the younger cohort of workers will be expected to pay for their elders in higher taxes etc ?

    A ticking timebomb and not an easy one to defuse .

  • antamadan

    Old Mortality:

    Poorer people have bigger families around the world. A good unionist policy would be to support positive-discrimination and wealth-transfers to ensure the Gaels become wealthier than the descendants of the British settlers, and then have smaller families.

  • ayeYerMa

    Old Mortality, there is no “unique phenomenon” here other than it being a perfect illustration of the number of porkie pies told by those droning on about their “oppression” and “persecution”.

  • ayeYerMa

    Old Mortality, the only “unique phenomenon” of such statistics here is the perfect illustration of the number of porkie pies being told by those droning on about their “oppression” and “persecution”.

  • ayeYerMa

    On the actual question, as long as the SYSTEM continues to encourage it, award will always be given for encouraging separation.

  • aquifer

    With first past the post people are faced with adult decisions about ‘least worst’ candidates, but the PRSTV electoral system ensures that extremists always get in.

    A winner takes all system of political funding and a broadcast permit system favouring incumbents ensures that there are no new challengers.

    The extremists have the British Security forces as a diaper to soak up any blood than results from their sectarian strutting.

    Sinn Fein are pursuing a successful strategy of sectarian separation on the ground, unchallenged by Unionists, whether or not this strategy is just a hangover from the army council requirement for safe areas from which to launch armed expeditions.

    Teresa Villiers has it right. The Brits should refuse to pay for this squalid and dangerous nonsense.

  • “Although there is an agreement in place, the actual root of the conflict – the constitutional question – has not been settled. This is yet another reason why we need to keep building social integration.”

    It seems not to have dawned on the professor that it’s the responses to the unsettled constitutional question that prevent such integration; nationalist attrition continues as does unionist reaction.

    “as the agreement has unfolded, what has become apparent is that what reconciliation means to different parties is not clear.”

    The DUP and SF positions are quite clear: the former views reconciliation in a UK context, the latter in a UI context, and neither in an NI one.

    Some parents promote and support integrated education but our politicians and religious vested interests ensure that the latter will determine future outcomes. I’ve previously drawn attention to the three area plans for Coleraine district post-primary education rather than one.

  • tacapall

    “As the agreement has unfolded, what has become apparent is that what reconciliation means to different parties is not clear”

    I think its perfectly clear Mick.

    http://www.communityfoundationni.org/download/files/8923%20-%20STEPS%203%20%28D2%29.pdf

  • FDM

    @acquifier

    “Sinn Fein are pursuing a successful strategy of sectarian separation on the ground, unchallenged by Unionists, whether or not this strategy is just a hangover from the army council requirement for safe areas from which to launch armed expeditions”

    I wonder do you actually believe any of the BS that you write or is the truth a contrivance hat you can convince someone else to believe?

    Who used taxpayers money in a sectarian leaflet campaign directed solely at protestants in an attempt to repopulate the Oldpark area with said protestants? That’ll be Nelson McCausland. Last time I remember Nelson wasn’t a member of SInn Fein. I believe he calls himself a “unionist” and is a member of the DUP.

    Who was convicted THIS WEEK of a sectarian pipe bomb attack on a Polish Catholic family in order to influence them to separate themselves from a) if possible their lives and/or b) from the protestant area they were living in? That’ll be DUP election candidate John Smyth. Mr. Smyths father was a a DUP councillor [for over 10 years] who was convicted of UVF crimes in the 1970s.

    Mr McCausland again [remember not Sinn Fein but DUP] was accused in court this February of sectarian decision making over the Girdwood housing development. QC Barry MacDonald said “The simple reason for the decision was he (Mr McCausland) didn’t want 200 Catholic families moving into this area. The minister’s decision was motivated by improper collateral purposes: a restriction of the expansion of the Catholic population in north Belfast and to counter the decline of the Protestant population.” Pretty damning stuff.

    Mr McCausland and Guy Spence [ahem DUP again] are currently attempting to prevent Cliftonville supporters from walking down [their traditional route, no sense of irony here] Skegoneill Avenue in order to access the Seaview football ground for games on the Shore Road between the Reds and the Crues. Mr McCausland seems to have a problem with Catholics walking through what he perceives as protestant turf. Mr. Spence was centre stage at the fleg protest which precipitated the cancellation of the last scheduled Crues-v-Reds game at Seaview. Clearly the targeting of the Reds game is because Cliftoinville are perceived as a “Catholic supported side”. Which underlines the sectarianism at the centre of the fleg protestations [pardon the pun there]. Mr McCausland, Mr. Spence and MP for the area Nigel Dodds [ahem DUP again] ALL failed to condemn the protest and the targeting of the Cliftonville support. Whereas Mark Langhammer, Crues director was vitriolic in his criticism of the protests and those surrounding it and agreed that the game had been deliberately “targeted” and that this was a “vindictive act”.

    So in short acquifier why don’t you run your own partisan sectarian monologue down the road. Why not choose Skegoneill Avenue, its home turf for you apparently, or so says Nelson?

  • BarneyT[2.23] The red hand represents the current unionist position but it’s wrongly fixed as open, when to accurately represent the TUV and DUP attitude , it should be really show a fist.

  • Barnshee

    “Within an All Ireland context, Protestants are less than 15 per cent of the population. Which means there is no valid contest for control of the state because the Protestants are a small minority. Which in turn means the national government of a 32 county Ireland can afford to be extremely open and generous towards that minority because there’s no reason to be otherwise”

    We have already seen the results of the “genrosity”

    http://www.academia.edu/485160/History_Ireland_Book_Review_Gerard_Murphy_The_Year_of_Disappearances

    http://www.wesleyjohnston.com/users/ireland/past/protestants_1861_1991.html

    No thanks

  • weidm7

    Barnshee, what do you think of the riots in Limerick in the 1930s and the actions of the state, represented by the Gardaí? A bit of background: they were anti-Protestant riots in reaction to similar anti-Catholic riots in Belfast. In the southern riots however, the Gardaí risked their lives to protect Protestant shops and homes, luckily few people (maybe none, I forget the details) were driven out of their home and businesses didn’t have to shut.

    Here’s an article on the issue by a lecturer in History in UCD: http://www.theirishstory.com/2013/01/01/a-limerick-riot/

    Would this article alter your view at all on the fate of Protestants in the Irish Free State and later Republic?

  • Barnshee

    “Would this article alter your view at all on the fate of Protestants in the Irish Free State and later Republic?”

    I think the number of protestants left in the ROI (2% of the population??) answers your question

  • JR
  • Republic of Connaught

    Barnshee:

    “We have already seen the results of the “genrosity”

    You’ll have to send me your time machine if you want me to live in the past with you. I live in 2013.

  • aquifer

    FDM

    “So in short acquifier why don’t you run your own partisan sectarian monologue down the road. Why not choose Skegoneill Avenue, its home turf for you apparently, or so says Nelson?”

    I said -Sinn Fein are pursuing a successful strategy of sectarian separation on the ground, unchallenged by Unionists, whether or not this strategy is just a hangover from the army council requirement for safe areas from which to launch armed expeditions-

    My contribution is not sectarian but based on fact. Unionists are not challenging Sinn Fein’s policy on this, as they are clearly at it too, gerrymandering Lisburn for example, and I condemn attempts by bigots to reserve underpopulated Belfast areas for Unionists.

    Sinn Fein’s ‘contribution’ to the governments strategy for community cohesion was instead a recipe for sectarian separation, a kind of cultural apartheid. In the Education department they did not effectively promote integrated education.

    If I fail to criticise the DUP on these issues, it is due to my low expectations for a selfish sectarian clique who destabilise the country at every turn, rendering the Union with Britain untenable.

    Sorry if you have misunderstood, but my facts stand without any reference to North Belfast.

  • Barnshee

    “You’ll have to send me your time machine if you want me to live in the past with you. I live in 2013.”

    A poor side step of the historical data.

  • Republic of Connaught

    Barnshee;

    “A poor side step of the historical data.”

    You’re living in the past, like so many others like you in Ulster. Do you judge every country in Europe by what happened in them 100 years ago, or just the south of your own country?

    Why don’t you come into the 21st century. Go spend time in Cork or elsewhere and make your judgements based on this century that we actually live in. The MOPE propaganda just makes Ulster folk look stuck in the past and totally ignorant of all the changes in Ireland and the rest of the world in the last 100 years.

    What was that statistic again about the huge number of six county people who never even leave the province. Sad, really.

  • BarneyT

    Danielsmoran – I understand inny (ulster provincial flag) and outy (loyalist flag) thumbs are significant too. My flag now looks more loyal than the previous avatar. It takes little to push such an emblem into one domain or the other which demonstrates to me that we have to come up with something very new if we are ever going to get a united ireland and a representative flag.

    On this particular posting however, we have to hope that the Irish nationalist\republican numbers multply sufficiently to create a significant Irish majority in the north and combine this with a determination to accommodate all and not to turn the tables on the new minority. Thats the only way the stalemate will be broken.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    BarneyT
    Dude.
    When you talk of an ‘inny’ and an ‘outy’ thumb and it’s associations/perceptions, well, is that not jut a myth (about a myth, as it were)?

    There must be loads of ‘non-republican innies’ about? Ulster bank? (or is it an outy, I’m abroad and can’t mind).

    “My gut tells me that unionists will have to find a bit more Irish in themselves if they are to settle fully into life on island of Ireland. The siege mentality has to disappear. Even a cursory examination of the Irish language is a step in the right direction and for me, claiming a stake.”

    I agree entirely.

    Ironically, there is the smallest chance that this Ulster-Scots malarky may do so inadvertantly.
    They’ve gone so far down the Gaelic road in terms of pipes, dancing and what not that it’s only a matter of time before some of them start getting all into the ‘clan stuff’ and as I found out in my Scots Gaelic class (yes) some of the clan societies have pledges that bind the swearer to help secure the future of the ‘Gaelic tongue’.

    Once you’ve got stuck into Scots Gaelic it’s a slippery slope to Antrim Gaelic and ‘old Irish’*

    Plus most Gaelic speakers in Scotland are Free Presbyterian: “DOES. NOT. COMPUTE.” springs to mind…

    With regards to the communities remaining separate, well, what hope is there when there’s so much hostility to integrated edukayshun?

    Check this beauty out from an SDLPer:

    http://www.newsletter.co.uk/news/catholic-schools-not-to-blame-1-5021813

    *Not 100% on that last part so I’ll bow to the more learned types here who are knowledgable in the history of the Gaelic languages

  • Barnshee

    “You’re living in the past, like so many others like you in Ulster. Do you judge every country in Europe by what happened in them 100 years ago, or just the south of your own country?”

    1 Its not “my country”
    2 I HAD relatives across the 26 –Cork to Donegal, Dublin to Galway Small farmers shop keepers smattering of professionals Their descendants all live in the North, GB or further afield

    They all told the same stories Boycott, ostracism and intimidation figures prominently.( had an uncle describe his school experience being “sent for a walk” when the RC Bishop arrived—and this a lot less than “100 years ago”)
    A “country” where the Roman Catholic Church had special position ?

    Having effectively eliminated those inconvenient protestants bleating that you don`t do it any more is risible.

    Changed -tell that to the husband of the unfortunate woman dead in Galway because “Ireland is a Catholic country”

  • FDM

    @Barnshee

    Lets accept for the sake of argument that everything you have said there is true.

    The demographics reach a tipping point in next 2-3 years. Most estimates that I have seen calculate 2016 as the year. The mandate [note not a UI vote] is extrapolated to go nationalists +50% of the votes by 2023-24, which is only 10 years away.

    If you vouch that all these horrible things happened in the Republic, what will happen with the SF in the driving seat in the six counties?

    What will you do?

  • Barnshee

    “What will you do?”

    By then I will have joined my relatives (6 feet under prob)
    Sad that I will not see the panic in the ROI if unity” arrives with a disaffected minority running around with 15-20% of the seats in what passes for a parliament and shitting on present structures

  • ForkHandles

    “The demographics reach a tipping point in next 2-3 years.”

    you do realize the idea that Catholics are gagging to be part of the ROI is shown to be false in every opinion poll? they more and more prefer to be part of the UK. the reasons are the same as everyone elses, its simply the better country to be part of. infact the idea that your thinking is governed by what religion your parents were, is seen as a bit daft these days. only the over 60s on slugger still think in this way, to most peoples amusement!

  • FDM

    @ForkHandles

    Can I intersest you in some straw? Oh, I see you have enough already for your the men you are building there.

    Compare and contrast what I said:

    “The mandate [NOTE NOT A UI VOTE]”

    and your response

    “that Catholics are gagging to be part of the ROI is shown to be false in every opinion poll? they more and more prefer to be part of the UK” , id est the UI vote.

    Two different things obviously.

    So I am talking about MANDATING politicians here and you are talking about a referendum. So the questions then have to asked are who are you talking to and what are you talking about? I don’t see any opinion polls saying that said Catholics are lining up to vote for “unionist” parties? The BBC poll post the census release couldn’t find a single Catholic out of all those polled who would vote for them! Not one. The voting trends are there to be interpreted and people are quite welcome to challenge the numbers and dates I gave above. I am saying that by 2023-24 you are going to have 50%+ nationalist representation in this region.

    My question is therefore, isolating the UI issue, have you countenanced the fact thay you are going to have get used to a SF leadership of “our wee country” and that nationalist politics is going to dominate governance here within single figure years?

    Or are millionaire Catholic golfers to rescue you from all those nasty SF bogeymen?