Nation building in Ireland entails a job of stitching rather than an unstitching

Peter Geoghegan had a nice piece comparing and contrasting the constitutional tensions in a range of places across Europe in the Irish Times on Tuesday.. I recommend reading it all, but for our narrow purposes on Slugger, I’d extract this short piece:

Ireland was once at the coalface of any prospective European boundary changes. During the cold war, the Border seemed the most likely to shift in Europe. But the post-Berlin Wall thaw coincided with a change in the Northern Irish dynamic. Calls for a Border poll are muted. Nevertheless, Scottish independence would pose major questions about the long-term future of the UK, and Northern Ireland’s place within it.

This is quite a profound reading of the broader situation. He goes on to document where the real tensions are: Flanders, Lombardia, Catalonia, all wealthy parts of their current countries resentful of what they see as economic laggards in the rest of the country.

The emphasis in all these cases (including Scotland, which is not quite as wealthy just now as it thought it was) is the unstitching the bonds of considerably more than a century.

As Peter notes, the larger debates within EU countries are not particularly marked with ethnic concerns so much as the raw deal as they see getting meted out to them.

In all cases (bar Ireland) separation is an idea capable of releasing huge political energies which may actually end up providing the energy (if not always the resources) needed to create new nations.

In Ireland, the case for separation was won more than ninety years ago. But only for that part of the island the new state could sustainably hold peaceably at the time.

But in its ongoing attempt to ‘complete that revolution’ successful successive Republican groupings have continued to use the same military methods which won them freedom in the south to ‘liberate the north’.

Yet the truth is that what faces Irish republicans and nationalists is not an unstitching process, but a redesign process capable of bringing the disparate parts of the island together.

This is precisely what the partially re-written constitution of the Republic says under the terms of the Belfast Agreement:

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.

That implies stitching rather than unstitching, building rather than destroying, and recognition of the plural within Irish society (echoes of the ‘all the children of the nation’ of the 1916 Proclamation)…

In other words, before there can be further separation, there, by definition, must be an a priori coming together, under (after Tone) “the common name of Irish wo/man”.

That I suspect will require a form of reconciliation which takes that term out and beyond the current sectarian mire of local northern politics. The question is, are there any Republicans willing to take the intergenerational chance on a change they may not live to see?

  • Kevin Breslin

    As far as I am concerned I have an Irish nation, while I do not have an all-Ireland country. A nation is strictly speaking a homeland or birthplace and the island regardless of politics qualifies etomologically.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I think that’s a nice point from Kevin. The “Irish nation” as an imagined (and real) community is there already in many meaningful ways, in terms of the Irish Catholic cultural community, traditions, symbols and so on that span both countries on the island. And even some Protestants have a piece of this at times too. It works fine as is, in parallel to the differing arrangements on sovereignty the people have voted for in the two parts of the island.

    So really there is no need to “unite” the island “politically”, which only means stretching a nice, voluntary, opt-in idea into a broader context in which it doesn’t really work. The “Irish nation” as a separatist, non-British entity isn’t something people with British sentiments are ever going to really accept, nor should they. The only way an Irish nation could be built that would be for everyone on the island would be if it were part of the UK. But I don’t think most Irish nationalists really want unity that much 🙂

  • willie drennan

    I think anyone looking at this from outside would reckon that the most logical and mutually beneficial way forward would be some sort of new political and economical alliance/coalition/partnership/confederation between the UK and the ROI. A partnership in which ROI could function in equal partnership.

    From previously debating this on

    I discovered that the main hostility towards such a notion was related to issues of sovereignty and the monarchy. In other words issues related to the conflicts of the past. In particular the main strenuous objections to the very notion were from Irish Nationalists who reside in Northern Ireland. And totally understandable enough. I was accused by some of being on some sort of spurious mission to achieve victory in the ancient war.

    I would still be of the opinion that eventually there could be creative solutions to our historic tribal grievances: to create a situation where we could all be winners and there would be no losers. I’ll need a bit more time to get my head around it though.

  • Biftergreenthumb

    “A nation is strictly speaking a homeland or birthplace”

    A nation is usually defined a community of some sort rather than a location or land. But I agree with your broader point. We can all be part of an Irish nation without having one government.

  • Biftergreenthumb

    I think the point regarding uniting the people of Ireland means realising that the Irish nation and Irishness is not the sole preserve of “the Irish Catholic cultural community” and that uniting Ireland requires broadening the concept of irishness to include those of us from protestant backgrounds and convincing us that this broadened irishness is something we can identify with.

    “The only way an Irish nation could be built that would be for everyone on the island would be if it were part of the UK. But I don’t think most Irish nationalists really want unity that much.”

    I think the point regarding Scottish independence is that if this ever happens the idea of Britishness would slowly weaken in the hearts and minds of Irish protestants. A weakened Britishness and a broader more inclusive irishness would see a shift in the identities of future generations of Irish Protestants. An independent united Ireland is a far likelier outcome that the ROI rejoining the UK.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    agreed … It will be interesting to see how serious nationalism might be about bringing the Republic more formally back within the British sphere, it is an interesting idea. Though even then there are problems with Ireland being treated as a single unit. I don’t think fundamentally that giving Dublin more input into what goes on in Northern Ireland would be too attractive to many people, if that’s what is involved. You’re always going to have that issue, no matter what the container you use.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I think the key thing to realise is not that this new Irishness needs to include ‘Protestant’ identity – nationalists have a speel for that already and it hasn’t worked on unionists at all – it’s that it has to include *Britishness*.

    And that’s where I think nationalists gulp and look down at their shoes, because they know they have a mountain to climb there with the reworking of Irish identity as popularly understood. It would require a complete re-conceptualising of Irishness, as it currently has really virtually no track record of being comfortable with British identity, symbols and loyalties. It’s theoretically possible for nationalists to reconstruct nationalism in that way, but I don’t see either the appetite or the inclination to do so, on either side of the border. I think they are stuck where they are.

  • Karl

    The idea that ROI would integer more closely with the UK on an basis of an equal relationship flies in the face of reality. The scots are pushing to leave because they don’t feel the union recognises their nationhood and are being diddled financially while the 85%constituent nation feels much the same in addition to being taken for a ride by the 15%. Adding another 10%er to the mix would.only hasten the split but this time with the English to the fore.

    The talk about irish nationalism adopting British nationalist symbols to make it more palatable to British nationalists flies in the face of reason. What is more likely to happen, as the notion of Britishness diminishes with a scotish exit and the money for the unionist project dries up is that unionists will reevaluate their position.

    The reclamation of St Patrick and the irish language, similar social mores in relation to divorce and abortion, similar business outlooks vis a vis corporation tax make NI more in tune with ROI than UK. It’s almost like preparing unionists for it

    With the demographic tide leading to a nationalist plurality in most of NI and SF majorities in some places, unionists will be more likely to entreat with FG on a broad scale than SF in a minority without UK support. It will be unionists.pushing for political union with ROI not SF.

    Already SFs both or none policy has been seen. Poppy sales in councils on the one hand, Storming changing colour on the other. The days of unionists dictating are over
    FG will happily give nato and commonwealth membership in exchange for unionist support in the Dail. If they have any sense, they’ll take it because this will be their last position of strength. The 2021 census will be the initiator for this

  • MainlandUlsterman

    “The idea that ROI would integer more closely with the UK on an basis of an equal relationship flies in the face of reality.”

    “The talk about irish nationalism adopting British nationalist symbols to make it more palatable to British nationalists flies in the face of reason.”

    My very point, so I think we agree! Nationalism’s just not up to it.

  • james

    I’d certainly agree that Sinn Fein seem to have no time whatever for unity, given that they spend most of their time and invest most of their considerable financial resources indulging in a low level but doggedly insistent persecution of those of a unionist persuasion generally and Protestants particularly. I find it somewhat ironic that the best chance for unity lies with a moderate SDLP once again becoming a powerhouse with Sinn Fein relegated to the sidelines as a very minor ‘lunatic fringe’. No doubt some will disagree but, unless one aspires to the removal of the unionist population by force, I cannot see any strategic merit in Sinn Fein’s current devotion to antagonizing the unionists and trying to widen the cracks in society rather than trying to bridge them.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    also, a bit of wishful thinking here, Karl. Haven’t nationalists been talking to themselves for decades about how unionists must surely change their minds? It’s not really engaging with unionists on their own terms though and treating them as equals. The Irish as likely to change their spots as the British, in reality. Why the pressure on us?

  • james

    I think educating our children together would be a step in the right direction. What seems to be going on in the history lessons of many a school here seems to border on child abuse.

  • Karl

    No more wishful thinking than you engaged in with ‘unionists have to do nothing, nationalists must change.’

    But I’m relaxed about it though. But while unionists continue to push nationalist buttons SF will continue to push back with equally childish attempts at one upmanship. The that SF will be doing it more often and in more places. Unionist will play the outrage card until the working classes get locked up, the middle classes stop caring.and the upper classes fly back to civilisation.on the weekends.

    I expect Sinn Fein will up the ante and you will see some of the new.super councils vote to use Irish first or recognise the Dail or fly the tricolour.

    My only point in all this is that unionists will cut a deal with FG with a 20% voting block and side deals rather than with SF on a 50 : 50 basis where.both sides would rather be blind than have the other see.

    Do you see Northern Ireland as part of the union in 50 years time?

  • Karl

    We definitely do agree
    Just like some East. Germans thought after 50 years that East Germany was a nation they had to accept reality that without a state there was no nation.

    The irish nation have survived without a state. The northern irish and to.a.lesser extent the British nation would not survive without a state

    On that basis as the northern irish state wanes so too will the citizens who identify it. SFs agreement to the super council is part of weakening.of.state structures. When all you have left is a choice.between an English state and an Irish state many unionists will choose an irish one. Not all will but all don’t have to.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    yes I do and the stats seem to suggest it will be. The old ‘Ireland for the Irish’ stuff is looking less and less relevant. I think people realise they can have the security of the UK without having to compromise on their cultural identity or political or social rights. It’s the way forward.

    I’m afraid that if they want true unity as they claim – building some new idea of the “Irish People” that encompasses everyone on the island – then it is nationalists who do have to change. They can’t very well have this vision and then require that everyone else do all the legwork to make it happen.

  • Karl

    The stats don’t take into account a tipping point and people’s reactions to it but you could debate that for years.

    My only point comes down to what unionists want to do. Engage with SF and fight a battle every day in an economic backwater losing more battles than they win ad nauseum and have the union flag flying on mandated days or reach an agreement with broader nationalism in ROI?

    I don’t see any other choices given the stats.

    I’m no expert.on unionist views but you think they’ll opt for?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    1. Germany was divided by the victors after WW2, not by its own peoples; and it had prior to that existed as an independent sovereign nation, unlike Ireland
    2. You can’t get the Northern Ireland situation unless you realise British identity in Northern Ireland is almost entirely autonomous, that is, it’s not contingent upon the approval of anyone else, whether in England or anywhere.

    Scotland chose to stay in the UK by a clear majority. If it did go, yes it would be a less attractive UK for everyone including us, but you have to remember our UK-ness, as it were, lives and breathes in Northern Ireland and actually nothing much about that would change.

    You seem to be in danger of trying to wish away a group of people, rather than accepting them and learning to live alongside them. There is no need to seek domination over them, or seek the end of Britishness on the island. Live and let live, surely?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    So you’re saying that we should secede and join the Irish Republic because SF are annoying? Not sure I follow the logic …
    We lasted through 30 years of their “armed struggle” without giving in, I think we can withstand a bit of bluster from our unsuccessful and disgraced former tormentors. It’s actually quite easy, is the irony of it. In fact that’s the only danger really to the Union: complacency.

  • Karl

    It’s arguable to say that in 20 years time SF will be running large parts of northern Ireland and banning, under equality legislation, a lot of things unionists seem to attach undue importance to. Given unionist hyperbole in relation to their culture being decimated by the restriction of flag flying, I am wondering if they would prefer to guarantee aspects under an agreement with broader nationalism. Obviously this would only happen in the wider context of a disapating union. I didn’t mean to imply that.SF would be ‘annoying’

  • Biftergreenthumb

    I’m not sure I agree that Irishness needs to include Britishness.

    Modern DUP style Unionism’s understanding of their British identity is not a natural fact about protestants. Not all Ulster protestants have had a “god save the queen” identity. The united irish men and many Presbyterians were republican in outlook and considered themselves Irish rather than British. Irish/ulster protestant identity is wider than unionism and britishness.

    It’s this lost Irish protestant identity that needs to be incorporated into Irishness. Or rather it is Irish Protestants that need to reclaim our lost Irishness.

    Britishness is becoming unstable. A big chuck of the second largest British nation is eager for independence. If the Scots ever leave, and surely this is a realistic possibility, the whole concept of Britishness will become meaningless especially for people who don’t actually live in Britain.
    In recent years unionists and loyalists have done nothing but disgrace britishness in the eyes of moderate unionists/protestants.

    Scottish, English and welsh nationalism are undermining the concept of Britishness. Surely we’d be better off reclaiming our ancestors’ irishness than waiting for Britian to do away with Britishness leaving us with the ghost of an identity.

  • Karl

    Ireland was not divided by its own people. It was divided by a parliamentary act in another country.
    Northern Ireland like East Germany was designed to provide a predetermined political outcome.
    The sovereignty of Ireland has always been held by the people not its political boundaries. However the german independent sovereign nation you refer to came into existance only 70 years before and changed its borders 5 times. Prior to 1870 and 1807 it consisted of hundreds of countries, nations and.polities. Ireland was no less a country than Germany .

    In relation to your second point, only time will tell. I am not trying to wish away any group of people. I do however see the intransigence and unwillingness to accept reality of a small group of people as holding back the social and economic progress of others. It was ever thus.

  • barnshee

    “With the demographic tide leading to a nationalist plurality ”

    Poite form of ” can`t keep it zipped”

  • Kevin Breslin
  • Karl

    The 1970s wants its stereotype back.
    The 1980s wants its joke back
    The 1990s are waiting for you to join them

  • MainlandUlsterman

    People who want to focus on their Irishness can do so of course, but they shouldn’t have to. You’re right that Britishness isn’t the only strand of identity available to Ulster Protestants but it is one that is important to many.

    With remaining in the UK by far the preferred option among the NI electorate – there’s never been less than a whopping majority for it – identifying with the UK is really not problematic at all.

    I think Britishness is what we make it. And after the big Scotland 2014 vote, the people of the regions of the UK are showing they want it to continue. Who knows what will happen in 50 years’ or 100 years’ time, but for that matter who knows what will happen to Irish identity and unity or any number of other countries.

    Those Irish people who want to cling to the old united Ireland dream do tend to turn the clock back to before the development of British national consciousness in Northern Ireland and imagine they can somehow undo it. But the genie is out of the bottle – and you can’t put it back in.

    The main reason people seem to ask for us to feel less British is to find a way of squeezing Protestants into a form of Irish identity. But for whose benefit? Is it genuinely about what’s best for us – or what’s best for Irish nationalism?

    Again there’s this assumption that Irish identity is somehow more ‘real’ and more grounded than British identity. But both are constructs; any new Irish identity that would include us would be a more recent and fragile construct, surely, than the long-standing British identity that we embrace now. All people and all identities deserve equal respect, surely. So why should we have to change ours? Is asking for that showing it equal respect?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    “Ireland was not divided by its own people. It was divided by a parliamentary act in another country”
    No, it was divided by an act of parliament in its own country, which was then the UK. And this was agreed by treaty between the representatives of Irish nationalism and the British state at the time. Further, it represented the reality on the ground: the people of Ireland were deeply divided in their allegiances and their feelings towards the UK state.
    When a civil war was fought in the South over the treaty, the pro-treaty side won. Then in 1925 the Free State recognised again the 1921 border. It was to do so again as the Irish Republic in 1974, 1985, 1993 and once and for all in 1998, which also included a vote by both the NI and Irish Republic electorates. So I think we can say, Ireland is divided due to the wishes of its own people, not outsiders.

    “Ireland was no less a country than Germany”
    Well it was – it was only part of the UK, not an independent state. Quite a difference.

    British people in Ireland are no threat to the Irish nation that does exist – all that was over a long time ago. It’s time to relax and live together in mutual respect and equality.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    we’ve got one – the Good Friday Agreement. We were promised acceptance of our culture and parity of esteem for it, which is our right – and we’re holding nationalist politicians to that.

    As I’ve pointed out many times, the Kulturkampf by against British identity and culture that Arthur Aughey wrote about 20 years ago has not dissipated. We can mock the flag protestors easily enough for their insouciance, but they are expressing a wider discomfort about an increasingly sneering and deludedly-cocky element to Irish nationalist discourse.

    The attempts at bragging are ludicrous of course, given the hole nationalism is in as an ideology (at least as deep as unionism’s ;-))but that doesn’t make the sneering towards all things Protestant and/or British any less problematic. Many Protestants don’t have the self-confidence I have on these issues – I’m lucky to be educated enough to be wise to it – and the denigration of unionists is negative and destructive for most people who experience it. It is certainly not imagined or hyperbolic.

    At the risk of repeating myself, rather than listen to me on it, read a good piece of academic work in this area, Dr Kirk Simpson’s “Unionist Voices”. For those inclined not to take unionist feelings seriously, it helps explain how ordinary unionists experience life in their own words. Do try and get hold of a copy, it should be required reading for anyone trying to get their heads around post-Troubles unionist attitudes.

  • Karl

    The first Dail predates the government of Ireland act so Ireland was divided by an act of parliament in another country. 1918 general returned less than 25% of the parliamentary seats to pro union parties. You’re right. The people.were divided in their allegiance to the UK state . A minority wanted to stay. The majority didn’t
    The historic injustice has left a festering sore.
    But we’re never going to agree. You’re not going to change. I’m not going to change. Let’s hope there are wiser and smarter people out there who will

  • Karl

    I didn’t think unionists saw the GFA as fit for purpose as a cultural guarantor. There be a lot of jumping up and down around actions seen as part.of the kultur kampf but not prevented by the GFA and in many cases supported by equality reviews. Therein be the crux of the issue, unionist issues with.equality.

    There’s no sneering or looking down on people who spend their time at protests, just bafflement. I’ll give it a read anyway

  • Karl

    Is this the same pamphlet that says the Chinese have the best interests of Tibet at heart?

    You can interpret my comment to.mean whatever you like but no amount of my hopping would ever get me to support a Brits out argument

  • PaulT

    I see the hoary old chestnut of a poll by a student with a clipboard telling us noone wants a UI is wheeled out among the comments, yet every opinion around it on what a united Ireland would look like is different.

    Why do unionists run away from any suggestion of a proper conversation about a UI (or not) or high behind dodgy polls, yet hunt out friendly media stories about a UI around which to debate.

    Why not have a non party political chat about it, that involves everyone, starting with a blank sheet.

  • Karl

    There is, by Chinese people living in Tibet. That’s why they were ‘encouraged’ to settle there. They call themselves Tibetan Chinese and point out their historical links to the land the benefits their presence has brought the heretofore backward society.

    I would not support expelling anyone regardless of race, color, creed, nationality, sexuality, political viewpoint or any other factor you care to define people by.

  • Reader

    Karl: The people.were divided in their allegiance to the UK state . A minority wanted to stay. The majority didn’t
    Fortunately, because of the geographical distribution of those allegiances, it was possible to draw a line that allowed the great majority of people to live in their preferred state.

  • Karl

    Whew. Thankfully they discovered a long term solution which also helped the minorities in both jurisdictions.

  • Karl

    I never mentioned unionists. Why did you?

    Brits is a single word that does not capture the rich nuance of human life, culture, thoughts and ideas that every person carries with them, nor does it reflect the fluid dynamics of these composites that change and ebb as we go about life. Therefore I would not try to classify any person, let alone a group with a single word, and hardly one as loaded as Brits.

    Stay if you want. Go if you want. Go somewhere and come back if that’s what you want. I’m certainly not going to tell anyone what they have to do.

  • Reader

    – with compromises all round, of course.

  • mickfealty

    Here’s an example of a unionist not running away from a conversation:

  • Alan N/Ards

    BGT, There was a time when unionists were happy to call themselves Irish. A century ago our forefathers were Irish unionists. The question needs to be asked as why that changed?

    A number of my aunts and uncles were born pre partition and were obviously protestant Irishmen and women. Yet de Valera told them that the Ireland was a catholic nation and would remain so. They were excluded from the nation by de Valera and his cronies. Nationalists remind us about Craig’s Protestant Parliament for a protestant people speech in 1934, yet de Valera’s 1931 speech is swept under the carpet.

    If de Valera, and the political parties in the south had used the language of the United Irishmen, then Irish protestants might not have felt as alienated from the Irish nation as we do. In fact, republicans in general need to look at the their actions in excluding protestants and unionists from the nation. They have fallen short ( a long way short) of the ideals of Tone and McCracken etc.

    Are the ideals of the United Irish redeemable? That is what republicans/nationalists need to be asking themselves. Maybe a bit of soul searching is needed by the main parties in the south and a bit of honesty regarding their role in excluding their fellow Irishmen/women from the nation.

  • Karl

    Almost sounds civil, but then some wars are described like that as well.

  • Karl

    You jump very quickly from 1798 to 1931 and neglect to point out the role of Presbyterians in Ireland in the intervening 130 ish years. In my view unity would have diluted the extremes in both sides and led to the development of a more mature nation state than we have now. I don’t disagree with your points but there was an historical context to take into consideration.

  • barnshee

    The 1970s wants its stereotype back.
    The 1980s wants its joke back
    The 1990s are waiting for you to join them

    “With the demographic tide leading to a nationalist plurality”

    Where has the “demographic tide” come from other than the inability to keep knickers on and zips up -virgin births? -we should be told

  • barnshee

    “I’m no expert.on unionist views but you think they’ll opt for?”

    Oh probably civil disobedience on a monster scale refusal to pay taxes armed rebellion in prod controlled area especially when the “guards etc” break a few heads
    Ireland back to 1916 1798 1642-take yer pick

  • Alan N/Ards

    The point that I was trying to make was that de Valera confirmed the fears of protestants in what is northern Ireland by stating that Ireland was a catholic nation. The United Irishmen wanted to unite catholic, protestant and dissenter under the label Irishmen. Unfortunately, the founding fathers of the Free State betrayed Tone and McCracken by selling out these ideals. Their loyalty wasn’t to the Irish nation – it was to the Vatican.

    The southern political parties (FF/FG) have their best chance in decades to persuade Northern Irish protestants and unionists that they are part of the nation. But they need to start persuading and SF needs to stop pretending that they can persuade us. Because they can’t.

    Is it possible to be part of the Irish nation while maintaining a sense of Britishness?

    You know, if I was honest, I have no problem with belonging to the Irish nation. My problem is with what has been passed off as republicanism over the past one hundred years. Their brand of Irishness is not something that I will ever embrace.

    Maybe the day will come that we will unite on this island. If it’s a new start with a blank piece of paper then it might have a chance. Maybe, when the generation who suffered the hurt and loss during the troubles have passed on, it will be easier.

  • mickfealty

    Best comment I’ve seen on this came from Alex Massie on the Spectator who said that finally British constitutional history is on the move again nearly 100 years after the Home Rule Bill was passed. The concept no doubt will transform, and it may even disappear. But something will take its place.

    We’re not that different from each other that we can so easily hide from each other. There’s no pre-set way of doing the thing. In fact, I think the fact that people are so quick to put their money on an exoteric influence like what Scotland does, betrays a weakness in the case at home.

    For constitutional republicans the instruction in the new Article Three is clear enough. Get on with building a common public interest within the present and be prepared to go on a journey. But my sense is that we will have a job breaking the old habits of war, and trading off the distrust of ‘the other’.

    Our framing of the future of unionism in Northern Ireland was as a prisoner’s dilemma, in which predictable defaulting would bring limited returns. Co-operation flattens the immediate returns, but builds up advantage over the longer run. In fact, as the Alex v Arlene deathmatch reveals above no one on the Republican side (and I use that in the broader sense, not simply SF) appears yet to be thinking that far ahead.

  • mickfealty


    Are the ideals of the United Irish redeemable? That is what republicans/nationalists need to be asking themselves.

    It is almost the only question worth that’s worth asking themselves. Too many are convinced that if enough ‘Prods’ can be persuaded to take the boat then an ethnic ‘victory’ will just fall into their laps.

    We’ve seen the armed struggle tested to destruction in the late 20th Century. As a unifier of the actual (as opposed to imagined) people of Ireland it, as the Americans say, sucks. It not only failed to unify, it made it much harder for a whole generation to imagine such a thing happening.

    For the same reason I suspect the current alienation techniques are also doomed to failure. But how do you persuade people to drop the impatient mindset of the revolutionary who thinks that victory is always going to be theirs on Tuesday week?

  • Reader

    I have seen unfavourable descriptions of the Good Friday Agreement before, but until now I don’t think I ever saw it directly compared to a war.

  • Reader

    Karl: The first Dail predates the government of Ireland act so Ireland was divided by an act of parliament in another country.
    But the Government of Ireland act predates Irish independence by over a year; until then both parts of Ireland were still in the UK.

  • mac tire

    “Maybe the day will come that we will unite on this island. If it’s a
    new start with a blank piece of paper then it might have a chance.”

    To be honest Alan, I think that’s what many Republicans and some others want. Bolting on the six counties to the 26 counties should not be the prize.
    A blank piece of paper, with everything on the table and everyone sitting around it (so to speak) should be the starting point.

  • Zeno

    “or high behind dodgy polls,”

    Yeah Yeah Yeah………… all the Polls are dodgy and crooked and rigged…….
    cept the ones that put SF at the top.

  • Zeno

    We could have easily had a United Ireland by now.
    The 30 year IRA campaign destroyed any chance of it happening for at least 100 years and Sinn Fein have compounded the problem. SF/IRA are the main reason why we will not have United Ireland.
    In 1968 around 20% of Protestants were interested in exploring the idea………. that is now below 2%

  • Zeno

    Do you see Northern Ireland as part of the union in 50 years time?

    Twice in two days Nationalist/Republican posters have pushed United Ireland back 50 years?
    What happened to 2016? Has the game changed?

  • Zeno

    Unionists are not the problem. They are doing more to push people into a United Ireland than Sinn Fein.
    The problem is, only 23% identify as Nationalist and less than half of them want a United Ireland……
    I can’t blame them myself when you look at who would be in charge.
    When Boris becomes Prime Minister it’ll be great craic.

  • Karl

    I have seen tangential leaps before but never one from the creation of the irish free state to the GFA. I will assume I ve missed an intervening post or two

  • james

    Two issues here. Number 1: it is an overwhelmingly political idea, and number 2: each and every one of the times Adams is cornered on the issue and asked what the real advantages are his famous reptilian eloquence deserts him and it quickly becomes clear he hasn’t really got a clue what the benefits might be. And of course, as he hasn’t told them what to say, his goons like Kelly and Maskey equally come unstuck when pressed.

  • james

    Thank God we didn’t then, given the ferocious glee of the Republican extreme fringes that their numbers are rising and the persecution they seem to imagine they will be allowed to indulge in.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    dodgy polls? What, all of them?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    isn’t there a fundamental problem with even asking the question though? There seems to be a fundamental confusion nationalism has got itself into between (1) political opinion and (2) national identity. The former is open to persuasion and argument, but the latter isn’t.

    Nationalism has to grasp that it is trying to do political discourse with something that is not capable of being politicked.

    If it is serious about building a new nation for everyone on the island, that will have to be a cultural and social endeavour, much more than a political one.

    But I come back to my initial point: the act of seeking to persuade people to change their national and even ethnic identity is itself deeply problematic. (It’s also a completely unnecessary mission, as we have borders now that are agreed by the vast majority of people.) I do think nationalists need to ask themselves how fair they are being, asking another group of people to change ethnic and national identity, while the same nationalists are unwilling to do so themselves. It just doesn’t make sense.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    You could say the same thing about the blank piece of paper with these islands as a whole – why stop at Ireland?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    there is sneering though, I’ve seen it aplenty on here

  • Alan N/Ards

    The big difference between the Nats in Scotland and Nats on the island of Ireland was the Scots had a detailed plan for unifying the people. The Irish nationalists thinking appears to be that everything will fall into place if they win a border poll. They appear to be frightened of upsetting the people of the south, as they might not be happy with the sacrifices they will have to make.

  • Reader

    Karl : I have seen tangential leaps before but never one from the creation of the irish free state to the GFA.
    Unfortunately the reply function doesn’t indent as much as we seem to need. To me, the dialogue went like this:
    K: Thankfully they discovered a long term solution…
    R: with compromises all round, of course.
    K: Almost sounds civil, but then some wars are described like that as well.
    R: I have seen unfavourable descriptions of the Good Friday Agreement before, but until now I don’t think I ever saw it directly compared to a war.
    — If your “long term solution” wasn’t the GFA, then I suppose you were being sarky about partition. Partition was the least-worst option.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    “the first Dail”??!! That old angels on pinheads pseudo-legal “argument” beloved of our honoured armed force Republicans 😉
    So the problem with that is: what authority did the “first Dail” have? It was called in the context of the complete breakdown of consensus over the government of Ireland. It was called by SF after one election result – an election in which they did not call unambiguously for an Irish Republic, btw, nor did they campaign on the use of force for a united Ireland. They gave mixed signals to the voters on what their constitutional policy was and so had no clear mandate for the change they did make. Remember, under Griffith SF had been a dual-monarchist party, not out-and-out Republican – it really was unclear in 1918 what constitutional arrangements SF wanted. Some wanted a Republic, others some form of dominion status or home rule. Yet they took that vote as some kind of licence (1) to declare their MPs could form a new parliament, without having a mandate from the electorate for that and (2) use armed force against those Irish people wanting to stay in the UK rather than go along with SF’s bizarre scheme.

    The reality is, SF’s “first Dail” never governed the whole island or ever at any point held legal or actual authority over what was to become Northern Ireland. Like everywhere else, voters in the six counties did not vote for the first Dail. But here even more so, votes actively rejected Home Rule parties for good measure. And all Republicans can do is curse our region’s voters and demand they agree with other parts of the island. But the jumping up and down got them nowhere in the face of their massive unpopularity in what was to become Northern Ireland. Being unpopular was always SF’s problem in Ulster, not perfidious Albion.

    There was no “historic injustice” around partition. But there is historical irrational grievance-holding to the power fifty.

  • barnshee

    Why not just go away and leave those poor deluded unionists alone

  • barnshee

    Best sweep all those uncomfortable items under the carpet

  • John Collins

    Agree utterly with the last sentence of the last contribution. However a few things worry me
    (1) The clamour for Scottish Independence seems to be growing at pace and the major parties in the UK seem to be making a bigger cock up by the day of dealing with it. (2)that clown Farage and his party will make considerable gains in the next election and may disrupt the UKs membership of the EU which would play right into the hands of Scots NATs. He needs to be tackled head on by the three main parties. (3) The attitude, at least in the past, to Unionist concerns by members of the UK political elite. John Mayor assured them (Unionist MPs) he was not talking to Sinn Fein as ‘it would turn his stomach’ to engage in any such activity. All the while he was up to his ‘oxters’ in talks with them. More recently, in a blatant affront to common sense, a Labour administration refused to treat Ulster separately from the rest of the UK, during farm closures due to foot and mouth being confirmed somewhere in central England. The irony was that if such an outbreak was confirmed just south of the border the market would have stayed open for Northern Ireland agricultural produce.

  • tmitch57

    And the SF rep pulls out the old myth that Ireland is a “small island”: yeah, maybe compared to Greenland, Australia, and Madagascar, but it is still larger than 98 or 99 percent of the islands out there.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Definitely see the end of the UK in 50 years, mainly due to end the K. Polls show most Brits are not keen on wanting the monarchy that long.

  • Kevin Breslin

    The Scottish referendum was about competing unities, the Northern Irish question is about competing divisions.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    If you were asked to devise a strategy and series of tactics that would hold off a united Ireland for as long as possible you could do worse than to adapt SF’s strategy of ‘SF, grievances and nationalism first, UI second’.

    Likewise, planet unionism’s strategy of, well, I’m not sure what it is other than to react hysterically (and predictably) to anything a bit suspicious is the biggest enemy of Northern Ireland’s continued existence.

    We’re stuck in a terrible merry-go-round where unionism can’t advance because its over-reactive nature forces it to become ever more extreme and ever more off putting to moderates of either side.

    Nationalism can’t advance either (on the UI front) because all the small victories over the years have created a small space where people are happy to have the best of both worlds e.g. NHS, Irish citizenship, strong community spirit etc, good schools and this space is inhabited by moderates of a nationalist background (there are a few on this very site methinks).

    So ironically, something like an Irish language act could potentially enlarge this confluence where the benefits of being in the UK meets the trinkets of Irish life and make a UI even less appealing for some.

    If you really want a UI then SF’s image of nationalism, IRA hero-worship, MOPEry and Anti-Britishness is a dead end, if I UI comes to be it’ll be DESPITE SF’s strategy, not because of it.

    The smart money for a UI would be to exploit the idea of Ulster nationalism that is deep seated in the back of nearly every unionists mind.

    That’s a good starting point and one that SF should not be allowed anywhere near as they’d ruin that too…

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    SF: “Duplication of services is BAAADDDDD”

    Joe Sixpack: “Do you’s not support duplication of services in the education sector?”

    SF: “……………LOOK! THE GOODYEAR BLIMP!!!!…………………………”

  • willie drennan

    I’ve just read all the comments on here. I think you have explained reality very clearly and effectively. The simple fact that the majority of people in Northern Ireland see themselves as British needs to be comprehended. We may be the black sheep of the British family: we may have difficulties with aspects of government in the UK, but regardless, we are part of that family.

    The option of Northern Ireland giving it all up is not really on the cards at all. It would mean abandoning our current freedoms and accepting governance from a far-off parliament in Europe. There are no indications that the majority of people in NI are going to change on this in the forseeable future.

    If this could only be realised then we could seriously begin constructive debate on a creative new shared future for all the people on the island of Ireland and Great Britain. A future in which both British and Irish identities would be mutually respected and cherished: allowing for focus on developing a sustainable economic future.