The Homeric madness of ‘two narratives’ and Northern Ireland’s political psychosis…

Call miracle self-healing:
The utter, self-revealing
Double-take of feeling.
If there’s fire on the mountain
Or lightning and storm
And a god speaks from the sky
That means someone is hearing
The outcry and the birth-cry
Of new life at its term..

The cure at Troy, Seamus Heaney

In the Irish Times, with forensic accuracy, Malachi O’Doherty highlights why much that passes for political discourse in Northern Ireland has failed to develop into a functional (not to mention sane) democratic debate:

“Those who point the finger at one party or cause need to have evidence and need also to accommodate, if only to refute, alternative perspectives if they are to be credible.”

Refute: “to prove a statement or theory to be wrong or false; disprove”. As, I think, Newton Emerson has already pointed out, this word is now a commonplace in the political lexicon of Northern Ireland’s non debate. It stands in where a functional argument (which rarely materialises) ought to be.

This also goes some way to explain why the Stormont administration has, even after six years, has failed to produce anything (beyond copious amounts of PR) resembling a partnership government.

Exhibit A: what Steven McCaffrey calls the mother of all log jams.

It also clears the field for the predomination of ‘self aggrandising half-truths’; which (because both ‘narratives’ live permanently and resentfully apart, much as in war) can never tested or confuted in the public space. And this ‘half truths’ have become axiomatic to what passes for even the most senior public discourse here. 

Malachi has examples aplenty:-

So we have myths that Catholics in the North were victims of pogroms, that the IRA defended the Catholic population, that it was an army representative of a community (a community which actually gave most of its votes to parties opposing it), that Northern Ireland was a colony, that Britain had a vested interest in dividing the population and used a puppet government to do so, that Ulster loyalists held a special place in the affections of the British monarchy, that the UVF of the modern period has roots in the Somme, that there never was discrimination, that paramilitaries were only ever in it for the money, that British soldiers were fine and decent people or that they were barbarians, that Catholics were subservient to their church, that the Vatican directed the IRA, that Ulster Protestants are one of the lost tribes of Israel, that the Republic is scheming to swallow up the North, that destiny is set and Irish unity is part of it, that the removal of the flag over the City Hall in Belfast is an affront so appalling that it must be reversed or that the removal of the flag means nothing really and those who protest are only whingers and scroungers.

These ‘disconnected narratives’ resemble the Homeric (or pre democratic) self conceptions of the warrior, in which good and evil are shared prejudicially between ‘them’ and ‘us’.

But Ajax, the eponymous war hero of Sophocles’s tragedy, ends up going mad on contact with a Greek society already transitioning away from war and into the more urbane brutalities of democracy.

In a such age (however long or short it lasts), the simplified binaries of war are poorly equipped to fulfil the broad democratic demands for collective action.  Such action requires not revenge but a refreshed commitment to the long hard road.

And, dare I say it, compromises along the way.

If you try to cure evil with evil
you will add more pain to your fate.

Ajax, Sophocles

  • between the bridges

    Another friday thread!! yes mick we all know it wasn’t all themuns fault but we are hardly going to tell themuns that coz themuns blame usuns for everything as it is…ergo it’s all themuns fault…

  • Mick Fealty

    I didn’t intend it as a head melter, but I thought Malachi’s piece deserved a half decent foil…

  • Alias

    It is going to take another half century or so to fully reverse engineer the missing Northern Irish nation. It is ‘missing’ because the State came into existence before the nation. The proper order is for the nation to come into existence and to make declaration of a right to self-determination which may or may not be realised via a nation-state. In other words, for the nation to exit before the state rather than for the state to exist before the nation. There are several thousand nations in the world but only 194 states so not all nations achieve self-determination. With NI there is a mock right to self-determination (that can be repealed by the ‘mother’ parliament) but no nation to exercise it. They would know how lucky they are if enough of them were Northern Irish. At any rate, the ‘shared future’ and now the ‘shared past’ stuff is all about engineering the missing nation. The ‘creative ambiguity’ is not to tell them that as they’re unlikely to support an agenda that has the purpose of eradicating their current sense of national identity but they’ll all get there in the end.

  • Mc Slaggart

    A “Malachi” the collective noun for “straw men”.

  • Mc Slaggart

    I find Malachi treats Belfast as though it was the “north”.

    His examples are particularly interesting in that respect. for example “Catholics in the North were victims of pogroms”???? I did not know this claim. I know their is an issue around Belfast for some historians but that is not “the north”.

    The “IRA” in West Belfast was the same as the “IRA” in Free Derry?

    “British soldiers were fine and decent people or that they were barbarians”

    I never met anyone who would have had either view of the “British army”. People talked in terms of regiments…. ie UDR

    ” Ulster Protestants are one of the lost tribes of Israel”

    🙂

  • sherdy

    Mick, You must be on very shaky ground if you’re basing your story on Malachy.
    Forget about the Friday Fables from now on!

  • sean treacy

    Malachi really knows it all,doesnt he.His every word must be listened to as if he is the greatest living authority on our 40 year “nightmare”.Such is his incisive knowledge that he was wheeled out on tonights news to inform us that a church group run by Fr Alec Reid was “a good place to meet girls”! That really summed up the life of the most courageous individual I ever came across in my lifetime.Why could they not pay a proper tribute to Alec without interviewing a man who had so little to say.

  • DC

    They should interview Willie Frazer on Fr Alec Reid’s passing.

  • Mick Fealty

    Erm, subject in hand folks!!

  • sean treacy

    The “subject in hand” is you promoting oDoherty at every turn around and not allowing anyone to question his credentials as “the great authority” on all that went on here.

  • Charles_Gould

    Those are ad hominem comments Sean.

  • Charles_Gould

    Sean

    My understanding is that on Slugger O’Toole, that if an argument is put forward for discussion, it is appropriate to discuss the argument. But it is not appropriate to make negative comments about the person who is responsible for the argument.

    On the whole, it is best on Slugger O’Toole to address the argument not attack the person making the argument.

  • looneygas

    Mr. O’Doherty’s “argument” seems, at worst, a lot of puffed up self-promotion(I am sooo moderate), and at best, a very extreme method of appealing for people to come in from their extremes.

  • Charles_Gould

    So far the comments aren’t really addressing the core argument that is posited in the article.

  • Mick Fealty

    Sean,

    Since, at least, 2005: http://goo.gl/3wHBR.

    [You too Looneygas…]

  • sean treacy

    Mick ,as I have said before :ARE YOU HAVING A LAUGH ? You have indulged in unrelenting vitriol against Gerry Adams in thousands of posts and then have the affrontery to talk about “not playing the man”.

  • Mick Fealty

    Thats not a defence. Cutting this short now. Off topic comments go, cards to follow!

  • ” The proper order is for the nation to come into existence and to make declaration of a right to self-determination which may or may not be realised via a nation-state.”

    @Alias,

    Apparently you’ve never heard of the term nation building. Also, there are many states that are not nation states. The nation state is a kind of 19th century ideal. Look at the UK–which nation is it a state of? The English? The Scots? Or the Welsh?

  • Alias

    tmitch57, you’ve heard of it but apparently don’t know what it means. It means consolidating a nation that already exists within a state by using the tools of common nationalism, not creating a nation that doesn’t exist. With Northern Ireland, the state came into existence before the nation. The engineering effort therefore is to reserve engineer the nation.

    Certainly nation-building now plays a role given that the nation can now be said to exist (with polls showing that around a quarter of the population identify themselves as members of a nation that did not exist when the state was created). That nation-building will require the eradication of the dividing myths that Malachi refers to and the creation of a shared myth, and it will also require the eradication of the predominance of identities that are not Northern Irish.

    The nation-state is the cornerstone of established international order and law, with its primacy declared in the first article of the ICCPR. Any state which is not a nation-state de jure (America, Spain, the UK for examples) can only function when they organise and operate as a nation state de facto. To this end the many nations of America share a common nationality and of American; the nations of Spain share a common nationality and nationalism of Spanish, and the four nations that comprise the UK share the common nationality and nationalism of British. In effect, they all ‘ape’ the nation-state.

    Indeed, even the emergent nation of European – which presents itself as the enemy of nation-states – is in fact modelled on the nation-state. There can only ever be one right to self-determination per nation; and, as the state is the means by which self-determination is exercised, there can only ever be one nation per state to which any more than one nation within a state give their allegiance. Hence, the common nationality and nationalism of American, British, Spanish, etc.

    Those that don’t share that common nationality and nationalism would be excluded from self-determination in exactly the same way that the nations in Northern Ireland who are not British or Northern Irish are excluded. As the nation-state remains the predominant concept mechanism in international law and in its practicality, that is why Northern Ireland is to become – or, more accurately, to ape – a nation-state and why the reserve engineering of the missing nation is in full state-sponsored swing.

  • Raymonds Back

    On topic: the state of Northern Ireland was imposed upon the nation of Ireland; it is therefore for the nation of ireland to decide whether or not it wants to get rid of it, keep it or modify it. So ask the nation of Ireland – all of it – and do not count the answers in two piles corresponding to the articificially imposed state. There seems to be sizable proportion of Irish people who fortuitiously did not have the state of Northern ireland imposed on them who are quite happy with that and would vote to keep it that way, but the votes must all be counted as a single entity. The referendum on Scotland’s independence, for example, is not going to be put simultaneoously to the population of the nation of Scotland and to the population of the remainder of the current United Kingdom.

  • Alias

    To put it in simpler terms: the problem in Northern Ireland is that you have two nations competing with each other for control of one state. In other words, two nations seeking to exercise self-determination. There are only two solutions to this problem: (a) split the territory into two states, or (b) merge the two nations into one. There are no other solutions.

  • Mc Slaggart

    The ‘two narratives’ is a funny way for grown up to try and discuss the political realities facing the people of the “north”. This is the stuff of BBC policy and primary school books.

    A simple example of the gulf of narratives from a political perspective would be to compare how Gerry fit viewed the politics of his age to that of John Hume.

    Today the Ajax’s who sits at Twaddell camp do so not because they have a different “narrative” from anyone else. They like the Ajex of old just don’t like the modern world they find themselves in.

    You can understand why when they read

    “Malachi

    So we have myths…., that the IRA defended the Catholic population, that it was an army representative of a community”

    Yet an IRA leader is one of the leaders of their county.

  • Raymonds Back

    Alias, what exactly are the two nations you mention? If one of them is the ‘nation’ of Northern Ireland, that must have been born fully-formed on the same date as the artifical state, as before that all unionists were Irish unionists and described themselves as such. Didi anyone else notice that the soldiers interviewed by Panorama all referred to the place they were murdering in as Ireland?

  • Mc Slaggart

    Alias

    “two nations competing with each other for control of one state”

    A simple question would you purchase Northern Ireland and pay for its upkeep?

    No one is looking at the purchase or sell side. Everyone is just trying to work out how the hell to make that place cheaper to run.

  • Barney

    Alias that is complete fascist crap

  • Alias

    “Alias, what exactly are the two nations you mention?”

    Irish and British. The latest census puts it as 25% of the population with an “Irish only” national identity, 40% of the population with an “British only” national identity, and 21% of the population with an “Northern Irish only” national identity. Clearly, however, the Irish nation is declining as one of the two principal nations in Northern Ireland, as it is gradually being replaced by the engineered Northern Irish nation.

    “If one of them is the ‘nation’ of Northern Ireland, that must have been born fully-formed on the same date as the artifical state, as before that all unionists were Irish unionists and described themselves as such.”

    I haven’t a clue what that is supposed to mean: do you?

    Certainly the unionists are nationalists but they are British nationalists. It is their view that the British nation should be the sovereign nation within the jurisdiction and therefore should hold the sole right to national self-determination. They do not believe that this right belongs to the Irish nation within the jurisdiction. As it happens, the majority of the so-called Irish nationalists within that jurisdiction also agreed to the legitimacy of that constitutional position when they endorsed the GFA. Of course they were led to believe that they were doing the opposite when they formally renounced up their former right to national self-determination as members of the Irish nation so are they even Irish nationalists? Technically, they’re not since advocacy of the right to national self-determination is central to the definition. They’re culturally Irish but now constitutionally British.

    “Didi anyone else notice that the soldiers interviewed by Panorama all referred to the place they were murdering in as Ireland?”

    You’re now grasping at straws. It matters not one iota what a squaddie thinks about the realm: it only matters that it is the duty of his employers to defend it.

  • Alias

    “Alias that is complete fascist crap”

    If it is then all states are founded on the principle. It is stated in the international law as: “All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.” (Article 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights)

    The right is exercised by a nation within a state, not within a dream in your head.

    It is again stated in Article 1 of the Irish Constitution as “The Irish nation hereby affirms its inalienable, indefeasible, and sovereign right to choose its own form of Government, to determine its relations with other nations, and to develop its life, political, economic and cultural, in accordance with its own genius and traditions.”

    It doesn’t mention anything about giving a veto to any other nation(s).

  • Raymonds Back

    Alias: I do know what it means; thanks for asking 🙂 Before Partition, there was no such thing as the nation of Northern Ireland, and there is still no such nation. The tendency of squaddies – and everyone else in England – to refer to this place as Ireland is a major hint to unionists that they are not considered part of what you term the British nation. There is no British ‘nation’ either: the four nationalities within the United Kingdom are: Scottish, Welsh, English and Irish – as the name implies, the Unitied Kingdom is a conglomeration of nations. My point about unionists before Partition calling themselves Irish unionists related to their self-identification as Irish; you seem to have misunderstood the term to mean ‘people who wanted irish unity’. The further point being it is quite legitimate to be Irish and want to be linked politically in a United Kingdom – take James Joyce for example. The Irish nation which affirms things in article 1 of the Constitution shouldnot be split into 2 parts when counting votes on matters reagarding its choosing of ‘its own form of government, etc.

  • Mc Slaggart

    Alias

    The output of quantitative of a census does not give qualitative results.

    As an example I will use the bold “Malachi O’Doherty”as an exemplar. I do not know what he put in his census but I would bet a large amount of money it was “Northern Ireland”. This does not mean he would not include the people of Donegal in his definition of “Northern Irish”.

  • Mick Fealty

    RB,

    If Article 1 is important, what do you make of Article 2?

  • Mc Slaggart

    Alias

    “culturally Irish but now constitutionally British”

    “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn” I have had both British and Irish passports and still managed to be myself. Culturally virtually everything in northern Ireland is Irish. (including the Orange order)

    The problem for northern Ireland is what is its Raison d’être for existence? What government agency will not in the years to come have to operate across a wider scope than 6 counties?

  • Greenflag

    How many ‘nations ‘ are there in Northern Ireland ?

    According to Alias there are 2 . British and Irish
    According to a survey there are 3, Irish , Northern Irish ,and British.

    According to some sluggerites there are even British Irish i.e those who feel they are part of both “nations ”

    There are even some who describe themselves as Trinitarians i.e British , Irish and Ulstermen . And there are some who would add a fourth mark to that by referring to themselves as also European .

    But British is not one nation but 3.5 – English , Scottish ,Welsh and Irish (that part of Ireland where a British minority live )

    Alias lives in a world of his own a simplistic black and white -legalistic zone where there is no gray . But even the law is at times grey .

    The real world contains a lot of grey even the world of Northern Ireland.

    They all share a common humanity -well at least most of them I guess 🙂

  • Barney

    Alias
    Its still nonsense, there is no NI nation to be reversed engineered into existence.

    The problem with this theory and others claiming some sort of ethnic difference is that there is absolutely no basis in reality for them. I understand that Unionism needs a creation myth to explain away the undemocratic nature of the ideology but I dont know where they are going to get it from.

    O’Doherty is just stating the obvious the problem with NI is that the rational for it is pure sectarianism anything else is a falsification.

  • “The Homeric madness of ‘two narratives’ and Northern Ireland’s political psychosis…”

    ‘Psychosis’ – ‘a lack of insight and self-awareness’ – and ‘madness’ are inappropriate words; the two opposing constitutional aspirations are quite rational and easily understood by students of NI politics.

    The 1998 50%+1 constitutional ‘settlement’ has consolidated a significant diminution of paramilitary violence but, predictably, has led to stalemate and to horse-trading in the OFMDFM.

  • Greenflag

    @ barney

    ‘ the problem with NI is that the rational for it is pure sectarianism anything else is a falsification.”

    Partly true -theres also fear , insecurity and money (subvention ) and that old stalwart inertia . When you mix that lot with historical and present sectarianism it does create problems which are not easily resolved and may perhaps never be resolved .

    Personally I don’t believe NI politics will ever be truly constructive or even partly progressive until the State itself is history and that may not be for another generation or two or never so in the meantime be kind to your friends in the swamp despite political differences .

  • Raymonds Back

    Mick

    I have no problem with Article 2; I have an obvious problem with article 3, though.

    But the Irish Government should have long ago removed the new articles 2 & 3 and restored the old ones due to the fact the Good Friday Agreement is NOT being implemented (as it is entitled to do in legislation). When executive ministers have refused to attend meetings of all-island bodies, that should have been proof enough of the non-implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, and proof of a breach of the ministerial oath come to that.

  • Alias

    “Before Partition, there was no such thing as the nation of Northern Ireland, and there is still no such nation.”

    Incidentally, what were the aims of Irish nationalism before they became solely side-tracked by unity? Unity, as you note, is a post-partitionist creed (that had zero to do with the original aims of nationalism). You’re also contradicting yourself here: you dismiss self-identification as a valid practice (for those who self-identified in the census as “Northern Irish only”) but a few lines below sees you change tack and recognise self-identification as a valid practice. Which is it to be?

    “The tendency of squaddies – and everyone else in England – to refer to this place as Ireland is a major hint to unionists that they are not considered part of what you term the British nation.”

    It is more likely to be a reflection on the poor quality of a British education. You might also surmise that their tendency to call Ireland “Southern Ireland” (as a means of differentiating it from Northern Ireland) shows a hard-line unionist commitment to the former Government of Ireland Act which first used those terms. Both are idle fancy.

    “There is no British ‘nation’ either: the four nationalities within the United Kingdom are: Scottish, Welsh, English and Irish – as the name implies, the Unitied Kingdom is a conglomeration of nations.”

    The mind boggles…

    “My point about unionists before Partition calling themselves Irish unionists related to their self-identification as Irish; you seem to have misunderstood the term to mean ‘people who wanted irish unity’.”

    Really? How could someone want an end to partition before partition?

    “The further point being it is quite legitimate to be Irish and want to be linked politically in a United Kingdom – take James Joyce for example.”

    Very true. Some Americans wanted to be governed by the Soviet Union, for example, but they were generally smart enough to keep that to themselves.

    “The Irish nation which affirms things in article 1 of the Constitution should not be split into 2 parts when counting votes on matters reagarding its choosing of ‘its own form of government, etc.”

    This shows zero understanding of how self-determination works. Before I get to that, it really shouldn’t need saying that if British unionists wanted to participate in the process of Irish self-determination then they would be advocating re-unification and restoration of that right, wouldn’t they? In other words, they wouldn’t be promoting British self-determination in opposition to Irish self-determination.

    I think I said somewhere earlier on this thread that there is only ever one right to self-determination per nation. For example, you cannot have one part of nation deciding one policy and another part of the nation deciding a different policy where only one policy can be implemented, e.g. one decides that there should be a state pension and another decides there should be no state pension. So you have a collective right and all members of the nation exercise it. They do that by electing a government within their state to implement the policy, and they decide it by voting for it. They are then said to exercised their right to self-determination. So it is not possible to have more than one right to self-determination.

    Now, where you had a murder gang that was sponsored by the British state, such as the Shinners, the State used that gang to undermine the right of the Irish nation to self-determination. The gang claimed that it alone held the right to form a government (the means by which self-determination is realised) and that the Irish nation held no such right. You can what happened there when two rights to self-determination were claimed: the murder gang declared a phony ‘war’ with its illegitimate right and the Irish government used its legitimate right to implement the opposite policy.

    Of course the unionists are welcome to join the Irish nation and to duly exercise their right to self-determination as members of it but to try to join it and to, at the same time, deny the right of the Irish nation to self-determination is a contradiction they’ll never make without the comfort of making it from within the United Kingdom.

    The notion that two nations can share one state is shown by Northern Ireland not to work. 15 Years after the new Stormont you still need two actual nation states, Ireland and the UK (a nation-state for the British nation) to try to prop the unworkable farce up. Without stable nation-states supporting you your farcical little bi-national experiment would have collapsed long ago. Maybe the Yank can keep it all going for a little while longer so you can sell your blueprint for Nirvana to others, eh?

  • Raymonds Back

    Hi Alias

    I do not have a blueprint for Nirvana, or foe Narnia either for that matter. My position on this derives from logic and pedantry. As follows: the Irish Nation = all the people on the island of Ireland. This nation was artificially divided by the Government of Ireland Act, and has not voted as a single entity since. If a question on the self-determination of the Irish Nation is to be put, it should be put to the Irish Nation as a single entity and counted as such. Mind you, I do not think that will ever happen, but I do think it is the only logical position. As for nations and nation-states, how do you expect the Basque Nation to ever constitute itself into a nation-state, stuck as it is in two separate nation-states, both of which ignore it and which are not in conflict with each other? If you could come up with a definition of Britishness as a ‘nationality’ it would be a great help to both the ‘fleggers’ and the UK government. Be careful though; make sure your definition of British Nationality still holds after the departure of the Scottish Nation from the political entity of the United Kingdom.

  • Mick Fealty

    Which bits are not working? And can you say what your problem with Article 3 is?

    Who if anyone in NI is compliant with Article 3?

  • Barney

    Alias wrote
    This shows zero understanding of how self-determination works.

    Perhaps you could explain how self determination works, my understanding is that independence is either granted by the occupying power or achieved by the representatives of the new state gaining a mandate and then fighting a war of liberation.
    Another possibility in that a third party granted independence.

    The unionist position is that there is/was no occupying power so this self determination must have been gained through mandate. If loosing an election gives one a mandate then why was the six counties not salami sliced?

    This pure blood stuff is such a ridiculous argument it borders on fascism.

    A better argument would be to ditch the stormfront stuff and go with the pre partition position.

  • Greenflag

    Alias,

    “It is more likely to be a reflection on the poor quality of a British education.”

    So to call Ireland ahem Ireland is a reflection of a poor quality British education ? I guess the British will be aghast to know that their good friend Alias considers 99.9% of Brits poorly educated .

    Where do you come up with this crapology Alias ?

    At the Aviva Stadium today Ireland will be Ireland and on the BBC the game against New Zealand will be Ireland v New Zealand ,Nobody in Britain will give a hoot where in Ireland the Irish players come from they will just be happy to see anybody and that includes Ireland defeat the All Blacks .

  • Greenflag

    @ Alias ,

    “The notion that two nations can share one state is shown by Northern Ireland not to work. 15 Years after the new Stormont you still need two actual nation states, Ireland and the UK (a nation-state for the British nation) to try to prop the unworkable farce up. Without stable nation-states supporting you your farcical little bi-national experiment would have collapsed long ago.”

    I’d have worded it differently . I’d have said to try to prop up the somewhat unworkable farce , A bit too harsh a judgement given the background of political instability and uncertainty not to mention the future uncertainty that NI will enjoy for the next generation or more . But as politics is the art of the possible in the rest of the world perhaps Northern Ireland can make politics the art of the impossible ?

    Fifteen years is too short a time by NI standards for change to take root -it’s barely half a generation . In a province where 1690 and 1916 are in real political time just last year July and Easter 15 years is nothing .

  • “tmitch57, you’ve heard of it but apparently don’t know what it means. It means consolidating a nation that already exists within a state by using the tools of common nationalism, not creating a nation that doesn’t exist.”

    @Alias,

    If you read most modern historians of the American Revolution, American or British, it is doubtful that an American nation existed at the start of the Revolutionary War. The core of what would become the nation were of ethnic English or Scottish origin and were fighting against the Crown for their rights (from 1688) as Englishmen or Scots. The process during and after the war was to create a common political mythology to turn the British Americans into just Americans and absorb the other European groups living in America such as Dutch, Germans, and French. One American president, Martin Van Buren, grew up speaking Dutch at home rather than English.

    In Iraq there were three separate main ethnic groups: Sunni Arabs, Sunni Kurds, and Shia Arabs. After independence everything was organized around the Sunni Arabs, who were a minority. Now Iraq is going through a nation building period. If the Shia are smart, they won’t repeat the mistakes of the Sunni, but they already appear to be doing so.

    In Afghanistan there has never been a consolidated nation, but a collection of ethnic groups with the Pashtun, living along the border of Afghanistan and the Northwest Frontier Province of Pakistan as the dominant group. If the Pashtun emerge as the ruling group following the American departure they will then have to decide if they will attempt to create an Afghan nation or leave the country as a collection of ethnic groups.

    “To put it in simpler terms: the problem in Northern Ireland is that you have two nations competing with each other for control of one state. In other words, two nations seeking to exercise self-determination. There are only two solutions to this problem: (a) split the territory into two states, or (b) merge the two nations into one. There are no other solutions.”

    Northern Ireland is a frontier area between two consolidated nations: Great Britain and Ireland. It emerged as the area dominated by those wishing to remain part of the United Kingdom once Ireland asserted its independence. It never gelled into a single nation and it seems doubtful that it ever will. Without a common school system to teach the political myth of a single nation, two competing narratives will remain in place. As can be seen here by the reaction to O’Doherty, there is no wish by republicans to create a new common mythology, but rather to make The Troubles conform with the existing nationalist and republican mythology. The same can be said of loyalists.

    So the constitutional future of Northern Ireland is dependent on demographics and the relative state of the Irish and British economies. Fortunately for the unionists, the Irish robber barons and FF have done nearly as bad a job managing the Republic as the unionists have done of managing Northern Ireland. It should be interesting if nationalists don’t vote en masse to join the Republic once they become a majority, republicans will then have to create a new myth to explain this. But if and when a 32-county Ireland is created it could take generations to absorb both the loyalists and the republicans of the North in it. Both will be loathe to surrender their narratives, which will be at odds with a much more nuanced narrative that will be created by historians in both Britain and Ireland of The Troubles.

  • Charles_Gould

    I doubt if its sustainable to have two “equal” narratives. There is always the question of what the truth is. That’s not *so* hard to establish.

  • Raymonds Back

    Mick

    are we talking about Articles 2 and 3 of the same document? Article 3 of the Irish Constitution (which I am talking about) starts as follows:

    ARTICLE 3
    1 It is the firm will of the Irish Nation, in harmony
    and friendship, to unite all the people who share
    the territory of the island of Ireland, in all the
    diversity of their identities and traditions, recognising that a united Ireland shall be brought about only by peaceful means with the consent of a majority
    of the people, democratically expressed, in both
    jurisdictions in the island. Until then, the laws
    enacted by the Parliament established by this
    Constitution shall have the like area and extent of
    application as the laws enacted by the Parliament
    that existed immediately before the coming into operation of this Constitution. …

    It is the ‘in both jurisdictions’ part I have a problem with.

    As for examples of the Good Frday Agreement not being implemented, and the Irish Government consequently being legallu entitled to re-instate the original articles in the Constitution, I gave you a few examples above … but here is another one: do you recall Trimble’s constant threats to pull the house down? And then the actuall pulling down of the house and the restoration of Direct Rule? That is an example of the non-implementation of the Godd Friday Agreement.

  • BifterGreenthumb

    Raymonds Back “…the Irish Nation = all the people on the island of Ireland.”

    My granny lives on the Island of Ireland. She’s English. There is also loads of Chinese, Polish, Scotish, Australians etc that live on the island as well. Do they all count as Irish?

    There is no such things as nations. ‘Nation’ is a political, not a scientific, concept and as such only exist as part of nationalists ideology.

    There is no one thing that all irish people have in common that makes them irish. The irish nation, the British, the French etc are political fictions. All that exist are individual citizens of organisations called states.

    “This nation was artificially divided by the Government of Ireland Act, and has not voted as a single entity since. If a question on the self-determination of the Irish Nation is to be put, it should be put to the Irish Nation as a single entity and counted as such. Mind you, I do not think that will ever happen, but I do think it is the only logical position.”

    The irish nation is not a single entity. States are made up of individual human beings each with their own ideas about how they should live their lives. Ireland was partitioned because how it should be governed was disputed. It wasnt some act of tearing ‘the nation’ in two. One group of individuals wanted one thing and another wanted something different. Partition was a solution to this dead lock. a bad solution perhaps but a solution all the same.

  • Barney

    BifterGreenthumb Wrote
    One group of individuals wanted one thing and another wanted something different.

    Its a great solution, let those who lose the election decide the outcome.

  • BifterGreenthumb

    @ Barney

    I’m not making any value judgements as to whether partition was a good thing or a bad thing. The history of NI may suggest that it was a bad thing. But who knows what would have happened in Ulster if partition didn’t happen? It’s impossible to compare what did happen with what didn’t happen.

    My point is simply that poetically describing the nation as a single entity that can be artificially torn into parts is objectively nonsense. Nations don’t actually exist. They are not entities. They can’t literally be torn apart.

    Raymonds Back said that the question of the self-determination should be “put to the Irish Nation as a single entity and counted as such” and that this “is the only logical position”. My point is that this is not logical at all. This conclusion is based on aesthetic considerations not logical ones. The irish nation, like all nations, only exist in the political imaginations of nationalists and trying to justify practical political policies on this kind of poetic language is morally dangerous. You start off trying to justifying a united Ireland with the language of “healing the wounds of partition” then end up talking about foreign elements “polluting the purity of the nation” etc Before you know it you’re stuffing people into gas chambers.

    Political thinking should be pragmatic or ethical not poetic.

  • Barney

    I agree that pure blood theories are extremely dangerous.

    Of course nations exist in the same way that love exists, one cannot touch or taste it but one knows if its there or not. Granted the map doesnt have to be tidied up to suit some aesthetic but I have yet to hear the logical democratic basis for partition.

    The reality is that partition is the major unresolved political question on this island its a practical not an aesthetic problem.

  • BifterGreenthumb

    “I have yet to hear the logical democratic basis for partition”

    Partition is a historical fact. It happened. the rights or wrongs of why it happened are currently irrelevant. The only rational considerations that could justify reunification are whether the individuals that live in each jurisdiction would be better off in some way than if we maintain the status quo. Talk of the “unity of the nation” is poetic nonsense that is used to appeal aesthetically to people’s irrational tribalism.

    “The reality is that partition is the major unresolved political question on this island its a practical not an aesthetic problem.”

    Partition is only an unresolved problem because of people’s irrational commitments to the idea that the irish people are a single entity with a manifest destiny to rule the whole island of ireland under a single government that represents the will of the nation.

    If neo-nazi loyalists and romantic irish nationalists gave up their irrational commitment to their respective nationalisms partition wouldnt be considered a problem. It would simply be a fact; one that could be changed if practical, pragmatic, rational considerations showed that we would be better off as part of a united ireland.

    The constitutional position of NI is not the major unresolved problem on this island. Sectarianism, nationalism, tribalism and the belief that the consitutional question is so important are the real unresolved problems. A united Ireland or continued union with Britian wont resolve these issued.

  • Barney

    BifterGreenthumb wrote

    “Partition is a historical fact”

    I don’t think anyone is denying that we are still living with the consequences of that decision.

    The second I see someone describing another’s belief as irrational I know they don’t have an argument. The entire world is irrational, Monarchy is irrational, anything that doesn’t come out of a science lab is irrational. Hell man I went to see a movie at the weekend I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, it was irrational nonsense.

    Almost every political decision in the north is framed by partition starting with the party one vote for.

    To deny that is to live in fantasy land.

  • babyface finlayson

    BitterGreenthumb
    “Political thinking should be pragmatic or ethical not poetic.”
    True but not the whole truth.There must be some room for feelings of belonging, identity and social bonds.
    If you proposed to a woman (assuming you are a man as most of us here are) saying;
    ‘”Madam due to practical pragmatic and rational considerations I feel we should be wed” I doubt it would be well received. Our connections to people and places is surely more than just poetic nonsense.
    I distrust overt nationalism and patriotism,it is the thin end of the wedge leading to notions about noble Irish or evil warmongering Brits and yet I like being Irish and feeling connected to the history of this place.
    In that context I hope for a United Ireland someday, but I would not spill one drop of blood to get it.

  • Greenflag

    @ tmitchell57

    ” But if and when a 32-county Ireland is created it could take generations to absorb both the loyalists and the republicans of the North in it. Both will be loathe to surrender their narratives, which will be at odds with a much more nuanced narrative that will be created by historians in both Britain and Ireland of The Troubles.

    Not at all. I’d give it 10 years -worst case scenario 20 . The rationale being that those who have decided in advance that they could never accept or live in a UI would mostly leave the country and those who remain would want to make the best of it .

    In the aftermath of the Irish Civil War in 1922/23 many of the Republican Irregulars (the Anti Treaty side ), and a large number of Ultra Loyal Unionists left the country and the State quickly settled down to rule by the Free State Government .

    While circumstances may not be strictly comparable I can see a smaller scale repeat of a similar scenario in the event of a UI . Hopefully an agreed UI will be such that few will feel the need to leave . As for the local NI narratives ? I’m pretty certain that within a decade both sides would see the benefit of a less divisive narrative -moreover one which would make the political and economic future for all a common objective for all regardless of creed or ethnic backgrounds.

    As to Afghanistan and it’s nationhood ? It appears from reading the morning news that Mr Karzai is much less keen on retaining the American presence in his country than the Americans are . I wonder why ? Could it be that For all their tribal ethnic differences the Afghans would prefer if neither Russians nor Americans nor British tried to tell them how to live their lives ?

    Meanwhile I read in the WSJ that two of the USA’s allies in the Middle East i.e Saudi Arabia & Israel are not happy with the ‘deal ‘ with Iran .

    But then how many of the USA’s above mentioned ” Allies ” Saudi Arabian and Israeli armed forces lost their lives in fighting Al Quaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan ?

    Answer = 0

    The USA’s real allies i.e the UK , France , Germany and other countries lost hundreds of soldier’s lives in the effort to keep Afghanistan from becoming an “Al Quaeda ” state .

    But the WSJ (Wall St Journal ) doesn’t mention their (UK,Germany, France ) welcoming of the Iran agreement .

    Yet again I wonder why ?

    In the former Soviet Union a standard joke i.e true commentary on the USSR’s two major news organs Pravda (Truth) and Tass (News ) was that in Pravda there was no Tass and in Tass there was no Pravda .

    The WSJ in it’s current guise adds a whole new dimension to the old Pravda /Tass USSR joke . I’ll eventually come up with a word for that dimension . Orwell would have called it Newspeak -Goebbels would have called it Propaganda but neither is sufficiently descriptive .

  • Greenflag

    @ baby finlayson

    “but I would not spill one drop of blood to get it.”

    well said .

    I hope that the reverse would also apply i.e

    ” and I would also not spill one drop of blood to prevent it”

  • babyface finlayson

    Greenflag
    Certainly the reverse would apply.

  • antamadan

    Greenflag. Your tone seems a bit too satisfied with a big chunk of unionists leaving Ireland if there is a U.I. I thought that type of thinking was long gone.

    However historically British ‘Empire Loyalists’ left the US for Canada in their droves, and I think the British left India after independence also. The Whites left Zimbabwe etc A certain amount left the south of Ireland after independence also, but of course it was a short trip to move North. To me any UI will come ‘dropping slow’ and that way will hopefully be a more solid UI without the fears including irrational fears of a sudden change. To me to lose the unionist culture in a UI would be the same loss as the Irish language

  • Greenflag

    @ antamadan ,

    You have either misread what I wrote or you misinterpreted my comment and perhaps your tone dial needs some adjustment . I don’t recall expressing any satisfaction with any future scenario in which large numbers of unionists leave NI and thus by implication a UI. My tone was matter of fact .

    What I did say was that a smaller scale repeat of what happened in the aftermath of 1920 is a possibility .I also added that hopefully an agreed UI will be such that few will feel the need to leave . An Ideal solution would have nobody leaving but indeed many returning from both communities from where they emigrated over the past couple of decades .

    As to your comment

    “A certain amount left the south of Ireland after independence also, but of course it was a short trip to move North.”

    In truth the vast majority who left -departed for the Commonwealth countries of Canada ,Australia, New Zealand , South Africa and a few to the USA . Very few went to the North as per Marcus Tanner in his book ‘Ireland’s Holy Wars ‘ If anyone is interested I recommend they read Chap 14 of said book the chapter titled “A Tendency towards Defeatism ‘ Mr Tanner clears up the standard operating myths held by both sides in NI regarding the Protestant and Catholic demographic experience in Ireland North and South in the years 1861 to 1911 nd from thence to 1926.

    “To me to lose the unionist culture in a UI would be the same loss as the Irish language”

    I’d have to disagree at least in part . There are some parts of what is called unionist or loyalist “culture” which I’m sure many thinking ergo rational Unionists would be happy to lose . I refer to the tyre burning , kerb painting , uber flagging of lamposts etc etc element. And there re some parts of what is called republican “culture ‘ which would be no loss either . In this instance I refer to the abusive use of the Irish Language as a stick to berate ‘themuns ‘ which in my personal opinion is culturally much worse than ‘kerbing ‘ as it defiles a cultural heritage which belongs to everybody on this island and indeed to the world.

    As to any UI coming dropping slow I’d tend to agree that thats probably the most likely scenario at this time . At the same time I personally would rather have it over and done with so that all the people on this island can focus on the very real social and economic development issues, without the background noises of partition and local NI recent history forever muddying the waters so to speak .

    .

  • Greenflag

    @ babyface finlayson,

    As I’m being accused of being off tone I feel I need to atone for my offtoneness with antamadan above ? . It’s one of the downsides of the blogosphere I guess 🙁

    I guess you too were a half tone off on that first drop of blood . At the risk of a groan I’ll just say you have now a tone d and are now fully toned for any further drops of blood 🙂 .

    BTW these references to tone are not to be mistaken either subconciously or otherwise for any connection with that great Irish patriot and far seeing idealist Wolfe Tone of immortal memory etc.

  • babyface finlayson

    Greenflag
    You asked a question I answered it.
    Nothing to atone for as far as I’m concerned, apart from the bad punning.

  • Greenflag

    True enough .

  • DC[8.26]Willie probably thinks Fr Reid used to be a singer in the velvet underground.

  • FuturePhysicist

    The only thing worse than participating what you feel is a non-debate is trying to debate an end to it, as you obviously need the lifeblood of the debate to make that argument. I am ashamed of myself for merely having to state that out loud.

    If it wasn’t for Orange vs. Green this blog would dissipate due to lack of creative thought!

  • “While circumstances may not be strictly comparable I can see a smaller scale repeat of a similar scenario in the event of a UI . Hopefully an agreed UI will be such that few will feel the need to leave . As for the local NI narratives ? I’m pretty certain that within a decade both sides would see the benefit of a less divisive narrative -moreover one which would make the political and economic future for all a common objective for all regardless of creed or ethnic backgrounds.”

    @Greenflag,

    As antamadan pointed out the existence of NI was a ready relief valve for many unionists in the Free State. I see the model for a future UI as South Africa. Many Afrikaners have the same attitude as republicans in NI: they don’t really accept the state but won’t be driven from what they regard as their own country. They haven’t changed their beliefs. In South Africa the Afrikaners were successful at getting their idea of group rights, i.e. cultural rights for ethnic minorities, incorporated into the 1994 constitution. With their own school system they will continue to educate their children with their own historical narrative. Those who are the most intellectually curious will do their own reading and investigation and possibly come to different conclusions in time. But most will probably simply accept the version that they were taught in school and that their parents believe in. If South Africa begins to fail economically, as appears that it might be the case under Jacob Zuma, this is even more likely to occur.

    The culture in Ireland is probably now closer to that in Britain in terms of religious attitudes than it is to NI. So both Protestant Evangelicals and conservative Catholics will have a shock.

  • Barney

    Tmitch

    With that post you have demonstrated that you know exactly nothing about Ireland. The country that most resembles South Africa is Israel/ Palestine.

  • Greenflag

    @tjmitch,

    “As antamadan pointed out the existence of NI was a ready relief valve for many unionists in the Free State.”

    I’d have said for some . As I pointed out above most left for the Commonwealth countries. .Protestant emigration from Ireland (North & South ) had been underway since the 1860’s in particular after the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland which had a major financial impact on the rural protestant population particularly in the south and west . Catholic emigration continued after the huge exodus of the mid 19th century . The 1912-1922 Troubles era and it’s aftermath , given conditions of political but more importantly economic uncertainty accelerated emigration of unionists but also did not slow down catholic emigration to any extent .Those who went to Northern Ireland were generally from the lower middle and working class who had lost out as a huge number of middle class catholics began to emerge from the late 1700’s . Those who ‘serviced ‘ the big houses were no longer needed and there were few economic opportunities elsewhere .

    Unionist emigrants from the south and west along with catholic fellow countrymen mostly emigrated for economic reasons and for their children’s economic futures. Some of course left for political reasons and that was’nt restricted to ‘unionist ‘ protestants . A large number of castle catholics and police also left -preferring to serve elsewhere in the then Empire.

    I know Africa at least the southern half -Botswana , Zimbabwe & South Africa very well having lived there for many years and I witnessed the good and bad of constitutional and non constitutional change .

    South Africa is extremely different from NI -In the first instance the sun shines a lot and in my personal experience pre and post apartheid most South Africans tend to be more positive about their political future than people in NI. Afrikaners are just one ethnic/cultural minority among probably twenty others . You have the “English speakers (who are an amalgam of English/Irish and other european immigrants and then ther are the Zulus (8 million ) the Xhosa (Mandel’s tribe ) and the Motswana (formerly Bophuthatswana) then the Basotho , Cape Coloured , and many others .

    Unlike either the Republicans or Unionists in Northern Ireland who each identify with their fellow countrymen in the Irish Republic or the UK the Afrikaner does not identify with any other country outside of South Africa . Their cultural and linguistic connections go back to the 17th century but they remained “immune ‘ from the later European enlightenment . The nearest language to Afrikans in Europe is actually Flemish not Dutch and the Afrikaners tend to be predominantly of Dutch?Flemish/French/German origin .

    I would have to agree with Barney above that Israel Palestine is probably a much closer fit to Apartheid era South Africa than Northern Ireland ever was or will be .
    No less a person than former US President Jimmy Carter has written about Israel and it’s seemingly continuing desire to turn itself into a pariah state . I have close family members who hve visited Israel several times and they hold less than praiseworthy views of how “Palestinians ‘ are treated in that country.

    Why Israel is ‘hated ‘ by all it’s neighbours and some 1 billion Arabs is one of the existential questions of our time . There is apparently nobody as anti semitic as the semitics themselves 🙁

    As to South Africa’s economic future ? They might look to Ghana & Botswana rather than to Zimbabwe . The economic challenges facing all the poorer African countries are enormous but they will be overcome in time . South Africa has more resources than most and that perhaps is why it’s wealth distribution is extreme .

    But then I read that Iceland had 1 homicide in 2009 , Ireland had 54, and the USA 39,000 . South Africa like the USA also has a very high homicide rate .I guess the conclusion to draw is where there are huge differences in wealth and income distribution then you are going to have a high homicide rate and prisons full to overflowing .

    In comparison to the last two examples Northern Ireland is closer to Iceland than it is to either South Africa or the USA .

  • Greenflag

    continued from above ,

    “The culture in Ireland is probably now closer to that in Britain in terms of religious attitudes than it is to NI.”

    That may be but I’d suggest that Britain is much more secular than either the Republic or NI but that the gap with the latter is greater .

    I’m guessing that probably 50% plus of NI Protestants are non churchgoers and probably a slightly smaller number of NI RC’s mostly in the younger age groups among the latter .

    Evangelical protestants and conservative catholics are now a minority in both states . In NI because of the the aging demographic profile of most of that community and ditto for conservative RC’s in the Republic .

    But there remains a large number of both denominations who while they may not attend church regularly or only for the ritual baptisms/marriage / funerals etc nevertheless number themselves as Catholic or Protestant . In NI this is predominantly ‘politics/culture ‘ induced whereas in the Republic it’s mostly out of a wish not to offend their elderly folks sensibilities .

    But it’s much more ok to be a self identified atheist in the Republic or Britain or France or Germany , than it say to be such in say the USA or Saudi Arabia or Iran .

    Thats been my experience anyway

  • FuturePhysicist

    Mick, I saw a glass of water and an open fire in a room … Bizarrely I did not see steam coming from the fireplace or the glass dispute the fact that fire and water when combined produces steam.

    The logic here is stupid, many people = many narratives. Stop being so socially autistic.