Slugger O’Toole is undoubtedly the most successful blog site and the ultimate soapbox for debate in Northern Ireland at the moment: a Speaker’s Corner in downtown Cyberville for New-Age ranters. Not too sure if Slugger would let the likes of me have a blog on this site or not?
If I could get on there I would have to be very careful what I said as Slugger’s followers love to challenge and even ridicule: especially anything that might be from a Unionist perspective.
If I could get a blog on there, one thing for sure, I couldn’t mention parades: or that I feel we should all be permitted and encouraged to celebrate our differing cultural identities in a respectful manner.
It would most definitely not be a good idea for me to suggest that the Parades Commission’s rulings on the Twaddell Impasse are illogical and perpetuate division: that their actions demonstrate naive belief in, or acquiescence of, the big Trojan horse bluff.
Or, to go a bit further and suggest that the Northern Irish middle-class adversity to the Unionist working-class marching band culture is unhelpful: or even obstructive towards reconciliation, understanding and mutual respect. No, that would be a complete waste of blog space.
Similarly, it would be a bad idea for me to argue that the timing for the political decision on changes to flying the national flag at Belfast’s City Hall was all wrong and that the issue should have been debated as part of the bigger picture: as part of an effort to translate the Belfast Agreement into a single narrative instead of the ingenious two. And to point out that this again was all tied up with the Trojan horse would also be futile.
No: highlighting such opinion would get me certain attack and ridicule on a Slugger response page. What I would highlight rather, if I got the chance, would be the need to look beyond our current divisions that are so securely entrenched in the dysfunctional Stormont. Politicians can spin as much as they like but we really are stuck in a political abyss that benefits nobody but the politicians. A creative exit strategy is required.
Slugger just might afford me the opportunity to express my views on the need for a restructuring of government in the British Isles: a federalisation of regions to provide greater regional fiscal control within the framework of a united nation. And, wait for it: I would also suggest that we need to consider the currently EU-controlled Republic of Ireland in any political reshuffling of the British Isles. Oh I know: I hear you.
Let’s face it though the times they are indeed a-changing and this is a sign that academics are also tuning in to changing times. We’ve just recently been through an agonising Scottish Referendum which had potential to break up the United Kingdom. I am very grateful that this campaign for Scottish independence was unsuccessful as it would have deprived all of us in the UK the opportunity to have a civilised debate on our collective future.
The next big issue for the UK of course will be around the UK’s membership of the EU. It seems pretty evident to me that unless Westminster can negotiate a whole other arrangement with the EU then a majority will be voting to get out. For many this will seem to be the only option but as with the Scottish Referendum it would bring potential for difficulties and division within these islands.
First of all, how would the Scots react, and would this bring about calls for another referendum on whether or not they would separate from the UK and sign up to rule from Brussels? But just as significant: where would that leave us in Northern Ireland? We could end up with a real border again: between the UK and the EU, right across of our wee island. This would be wonderful for the smugglers but somewhat inconvenient for the rest of us.
For now, the ROI seems to be quite content with its subservience to their grand masters in Brussels: no doubt causing the revolutionary insurgents of 1916 to turn in their graves. This situation already affords a dense bureaucratic curtain of smog to ensure the cover up of dodgy dealings on both sides of the border.
The lofty ideals of accountability and transparency in government have blown off with the westerly winds across Europe: a UK out of the EU and a ROI even further in the grip of the EU would create an even thicker curtain of smog for corrupt bankers, government ministers and bureaucrats to act behind. Not to mention the bad guys of course.
I can appreciate, for Irish Nationalists, it does sound idyllic to still strive for a united Ireland with one government and one currency and all that. Life could be so much simpler, eh? Big problem though is that the majority of us folk in Northern Ireland are opposed to the notion of a Dublin, Brussels or Berlin controlled All-Ireland that would be politically separated from the rest of the British Isles.
This has been the determination of the people in this part of Ireland for the past couple of millenniums and the status quo looks set to be maintained for at least another millennium or two.
So, in the scenario where the British part of this island would no longer be part of the EU the border would surely need reinstated for a whole host of logistical and legal reasons. No one seems to be talking about this yet: time to get our thinking caps on.
Is a confederation of states within the British Isles unthinkable? Ireland has long since demonstrated that it can be a strong independent state that could easily co-exist on equal terms with any other state within the UK. And, after all, we’ve had a century or so to get over why Ireland and Britain fell out in the first place.
Surely a new political alignment of UK and ROI would make sense? With more devolved regional economic control surely achieving accountability and transparency in local government would be easier? Could that fresh political environment then not more readily facilitate local, and national, pride and desire for local economic growth?
Okay there would be wee logistical obstacles such as international laws, currencies and debts to the EU: but the way things are shaping up across Europe there are going to be big upsets happening soon anyway. And of course there would be other wee hiccups over details like royal families and presidents and things.
Perhaps that could be sorted by calling it something like the Confederation of the UK and ROI: with each region or state deciding if they wanted a portion of their taxes to go towards supporting a royal family or not? Basically if you didn’t want to pay up you wouldn’t get a queen or a king.
Traditional Ulster-Scots musician, storyteller and writer.