What Now Nationalism? Slugger & Lighthouse Summer School event (Aug 15)

nat As you may be aware from the Slugger twitter feed, we have teamed up with the organiser of the inaugural Lighthouse Summer School in Killough (Co. Down), the Irish News’ Political Editor, John Manley, to organise a discussion on the theme of ‘What now Nationalism? Plotting the roadmap to a united Ireland.

Ahead of the event, I had an article published in The Irish News yesterday, setting the scene for the discussion. It has been reproduced in full below.

The reasoning behind the event is to hopefully trigger a discussion within and amongst avowedly nationalist political parties regarding their intentions for planning the case for unity and how they envisage plotting a course that brings us nearer that destination.

Representatives of Fianna Fail, Sinn Fein and the SDLP will form the panel, articulating their own thoughts on the key question regarding the future direction for nationalism. I will also be making a presentation at the commencement of proceedings.

The event is open to the public and will begin at 10.30am in Killough Youth and Community Hall.

_____________________________________________________________________

The 2015 Westminster elections delivered a disappointing result for nationalist parties in the north of Ireland. The combined percentage share of the vote obtained by Sinn Fein and the SDLP was the lowest for a Westminster election since 1992. This performance was not an outlier either.

In the current electoral cycle, the combined performance of the two nationalist parties has been the worst at elections to each of the legislative institutions (Westminster, Europe and Local government level) since the ceasefire era of the early to mid-1990s.

At the Westminster election in May, the combined nationalist percentage of the vote fell below 40% for the first time at a parliamentary election since 1992; Sinn Fein lost Fermanagh & South Tyrone and the party’s share of the vote fell in 15 of the 18 constituencies; the SDLP barely managed to hold onto South Belfast and watched its share of the vote decline in 13 of the 18 constituencies.

In last year’s local government elections, the combined SF-SDLP share of the overall seats as well as votes declined for the second consecutive election at this level, whilst the combined SF-SDLP share of the vote in the European election was the worst since 1989.

Similarly, the last Assembly election in 2011 saw the number of nationalist MLAs elected decrease for the first time since the Good Friday Agreement launched the power-sharing institutions at Stormont in 1998.

The only conclusion that can be drawn from all of the evidence available is that fewer nationalists are bothering to vote than at any time since the Good Friday Agreement ushered in a new era in northern Irish politics- and this in spite of demographic data illustrating that there are now a greater number of nationalists amongst the overall electorate than at any time in the history of this state.

Yet, ironically, it would be utterly wrong to conclude from this that Nationalist Ireland was experiencing a crisis.

Indeed, the post-ceasefire and Good Friday Agreement period will be remembered as the halcyon age for northern nationalism, a time when nationalists in Northern Ireland secured an increasingly equal footing in the political, social and economic fields, as well as asserting its place more centrally within the Irish Nation.

The consociational arrangements at Stormont mean that the two communities in a practical and symbolic sense share power and responsibility equally, with mutual vetoes and a Deputy First Minister for a First Minister personifying the delicate balance of power that prevails. The transformation in policing culture remains a work in progress but the irreversible nature of the direction ahead for that organisation is clear.

The presidency of Mary McAleese, the emergence of Sinn Fein as an all-Ireland party, the mainstream exposure afforded Irish nationalist cultural and political identity within northern society, the rise of an assertive nationalist professional class in the north, the unprecedented success of Ulster GAA teams at all-Ireland level and even the regular involvement of northerners in the Republic of Ireland international football team all bear witness to a time when northern nationalist confidence has soared due to the sense that it has established a firm footing within the Irish Nation whilst also transforming the Orange State into one shared between the colours of Orange and Green.

Where we are now might not be the Promised Land, but it is better than any terrain previously inhabited by northern nationalists, and that can explain to a degree the growing electoral apathy from a nationalist people content with a new status quo.

Yet the raison d’etre of Irish Nationalism and Republicanism remains to secure sovereignty on an island wide basis. Moving from a shared and increasingly equal Northern Ireland, in a United Kingdom context, into a sovereign united Ireland scenario is the task for this generation of Irish nationalists and republicans.

17 years on from the Good Friday Agreement, is there any sense that the political parties advocating Irish unity have conceived of plans to plot a discernible course to unity?

  • Jag

    What “representatives of Fianna Fail” will be attending?

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Is it time for ‘nationalism’ to move aside for pragmatic ‘re-unificationism’?

    Irish ‘nationalists’ have been the majority on the island since day one and are now still no closer to ‘their day’ than one or two decades ago given the (often incredibly exaggerated) number of people from the Catholic community who are moderately satisfied with the status quo.

    A political ideal such as the one romantically depicted by many nationalists and republicans should be able to find some sort empathy from the Protestant middle class and those of a non-unionist-Protestant background, yet this is seemingly not the case.

    Something is wrong.

    But what exactly?

    And furthermore IF the downside of current nationalist strategy was highlighted would nationalism listen?
    http://loyalistsagainstdemocracy.blogspot.co.nz/2014/04/what-nationalism-doesnt-get-or-maybe.html

    The task should be easy enough, but…
    Dr McCann on this site has the scary potential for a pragmatic re-unification strategy and I think the over-the-top reactions his blogs get from some unionist quarters are a clue that he might be on to something (it’s important to shout him down as a Brit-hating foamy mouthed nationalist, lest he be listened to).

    in the mean time though, perhaps Irish nationalism is as harmful to re-unificationism as British nationalism is to unionism?

    Just sayin’ like…

  • Dan

    What a depressing summer school event. As if the weather wasn’t bad enough, imagine being signed up to go to listen to that collection of deluded head bins….all desperately trying to kid themselves that, outwith themselves, anyone is remotely interested in a united Ireland….and they’ll be able to come up with a plan to convince Unionists that their future lies with Dublin.
    I mean, if the unprecedented success of Ulster GAA teams doesn’t change minds, what else could……

  • Nevin

    “In last year’s local government elections, the combined SF-SDLP share of the overall seats as well as votes declined for the second consecutive election at this level”

    This combined share isn’t the whole of the pan-nationalist vote. For example, in Moyle in 2011 almost half of the republican-orientated vote went to independents. How significant is this drift to harder line nationalism?

  • Brian Walker

    Even though Chris has laid out challenging and self-questioning themes, why do I feel lightly depressed at the prospect of such a conference? In
    a purely nationalist benefit is there any chance that delegates will be candid
    or will they compete over which is the best visionary nationalist? I fear the latter. A similar unionist event would do the same only worse, probably. I hope I’m wrong. Where are Fine Gael and Irish Labour by the way? Any Independents?

    Is it abundantly clear that in campaigning mode both nationalisms in the North are essentially expressions of communalist rivalry. If only the London and Dublin parties would only admit it, they are in a world apart

    You think otherwise? Try going for agreement at the conference to hold dual referendums on unity north and south if the Assembly were to vote in favour of unity in principle. .It would be interesting to see the response.The result could unlock other possibilities.

    Try also to create a new version of the very old numbers game. Debate on this is overdue. Are nationalist parties ducking it to avoid seeming to be triumphalist or are they afraid they’d still lose?

    Can nationalist parties switch opinion from acceptance or toleration of the status quo to support for unity? Only then can the consent principle nationalism has signed up to operate in favour of it.

    What are the incentives for all in the North, unionists included? The people of the Republic? Could it be achieved without renewed instability?

    What would unity offer that the present set-up doesn’t? Is the only answer the end of the British constitutional link? Is that a problem any more? A
    century on since the first era of partition, does anybody still imagine that any
    loyalty other than Irish unity is a false consciousness worthy only to be dismissed or overthrown by force or economic pressure?

    I realise this analysis irritates nationalists when deployed to back up the sort of unionism that pretends Ni is as British as Finchley. If you see
    politics as a zero sum struggle between nationailsms, it hands unionism the victory. But might not it’s re-working in the transformed all- Ireland and British-Irish contexts become a way ahead allow us to get with the really urgent business of living better together? The hankering for unity strikes me as the answering posture to insular and defensive unionism. . It’s surely not beyond our wit to forge a common interest, based on the best of both.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Senator Thomas Bryne… The invited speakers are on the poster.

  • chrisjones2

    Sounds like the Nationalist Equivalent of an Orange Order Away Day ….and just as interesting but with better sandwiches

  • Jag

    Thanks Kevin, Senator Byrne is the FF candidate for Meath East and is considered a shoe-in for the next election. He’s also one of the most prolific politicians for media appearances of late.

    Interesting that FF is attending this ahead of their unambitiously timed launch in NI in 2019.

  • Janos Bingham

    What’s the sound of one hand clapping?

    Irish nationalism back in its comfort zone talking about a ‘united Ireland’ which excludes themuns.

    They never miss an opportunity to wield the old green mallet and give the Yeatsian “wedge” a good thwack

  • Andrew Gallagher

    But of course the one thing they won’t be doing is calling any of their fundamental assumptions into question. So long as irish nationalism and ulster unionism hold some semblance of a balance of power, neither will fall into an existential crisis deep enough that they will seriously reexamine their tenets. No progress has ever come from a group of true believers talking amongst themselves.

  • Brian Walker

    Interesting thought Andrew, that each needs the other – although in a way they always did i.e. rampant Paisley and the Provos.

  • mjh

    You are right the SF-SDLP share is not the whole pan-nationalist vote.

    However the trend is much the same whether you look at the SF-SDLP share or the whole pan-nationalist vote.

    If you attempt to ascribe other parties and independents to the nationalist, unionist or centre camps on the basis of which group they mainly share their transfers with, or other clues where transfer data is not available (such as the party they left before becoming independent or the contents of their public statements) you get a likely pan-nationalist total of 43% for 2014 and 41% for 2011 LG elections.

    This places the Workers Party in the pan-nationalist group, but by a relatively narrow margin, and also People Before Profit – although the evidence for the latter is very thin and it is not impossible that future results may suggest that they be re-ascribed to the centre.

    As far as the Independents are concerned, they are a small part of the pan-nationalist vote. They accounted for 5.6% of the nationalist vote in 2011 and 6.2% in 2014.(2.4% of the total vote in 2011 and 2.6% in 2014).

  • murdockp

    My background is that of a Nationalist. I am aspirational, I believe that education and betterment for me and my family is important, frankly I don’t care who is in government or what colour the flag is as long as we have decent public services and the place is safe. I gave up on religion years ago and see myself as neither catholic or protestant, although NI society does try to decide this for me.
    I consider myself a liberal but am not conservative, I sit right bang in the middle and I see myself as a united Ireland ‘agnostic’ if it doesn’t happen I am not bothered, If it does happen I will deal with the consequences if it ever comes around.
    Lots of people I know are the same. In terms of voting I will not be voting for SF as I don’t believe in this twisted version of socialism where a large part of the population does not work and I will never, ever vote SDLP who I find nauseating and as a liberal I will never vote for the unionist parties which leaves Alliance and the jury is still out for me on that one.
    In short, my considered view is the nationalist share of the vote is falling as the parties are only interested in continues ‘sectarian’ issues, to left wing and ineffective so people just aren’t voting.
    We need a new centrist party.

  • barnshee

    “17 years on from the Good Friday Agreement, is there any sense that the political parties advocating Irish unity have conceived of plans to plot a discernible course to unity?”

    1 Government of ROI at least nominally in favour

    2 British Govt ” no selfish or economic interest” in stopping a “UI”

    3 SF & SDLP very keen

    What could bring it on Ah I know “A Lighthouse Summer School ”

    The long painful journey to the recognition that the Ulster Prod and his experience at the hands of his alleged “fellow Irishmen” is the barrier that the “summer school” (associated with the usual outreach tripe) and all “the kings horses and all the kings men” have yet to see never mind jump

  • murdockp

    Irish nationalism for me is like a student who has just fallen out with mum and dad and wants to go rent a room in his mates house. All is fine and dandy until he finds out he has to pay rent, bills and his mother wont be there to make his dinner in his new digs.
    Irish unification is also a great utopic vision, but one the most diehard republicans find out there will be reduced benefits and no National Health Service and school books have to be paid for, they quickly return to being closet unionists.

  • Robin Keogh

    This is a really good Idea and hopefully marks what will be the beginnings of a much wider debate on irish unity. I have noticed in the Irish media and elsewhere a notable lift in the duscussion regarding Irish unity and a willingness amongst people to treat the subject more seriously than before.

    The cynicism and childish mocking on this thread is a reflection of fear more than anything else and reminds me how sensitive a topic it is for many. Hopefully people will become more involved reasonably as time goes by regardless of constitutional views. Looking forward to Saturday.

  • The discussion yesterday on Radio Ulster of Irish nationalism’s “millenarian streak” regarding Irish unity struck a cord with me. I do feel that Irish unity is the north’s long-term direction of travel, but McGuinness’ claim of its “inevitability” does highlight the concern that Irish nationalists are simply expecting its realisation one day.

    Northern Catholics are on the rise, with there being more Catholics at every age category from 0-39 years of age according to the 2011 Census. However, the age-old demographic argument is undermined by the fact that 10.3% of northern Catholics stated they had a British-only identity, and further 26.9% saying they’d an Northern Irish identity.

    Surely the demographic argument is weakened by the fact that 37.2% of northern Catholics in the 2011 Census did not select Irish as part of their identity at all? In light of this, referring to religious census figures as to a growing market of Irish nationalist voters seems short sighted, due to there being a significant minority of Catholics within the six counties who don’t translate into being culturally Irish.

  • Robin Keogh

    What we can really tell about the term Northern Irish is that those respondents see their identity more closely linked with the island of Ireland rather than the Island of Britain. It transverses religious identity which is a good indication that the old tribal connections might be in decline. However voters still opt for one side or the other at elections which suggests community background plays a big part at least when it comes to political affiliation. 60% of the population declare as non British which is odd given that NI is supposed to be ‘British’. Whether or not that 60% would be willing to support Irish Unity remains to be seen by way of a vote which is a long way away. But those of us who are wedded to Irish Unity need to come up with a plan. Hopefully the above event will mark the beginning of divising such a plan.

  • Glenn Clare

    Sounds like the type of event were the assembled republicans who obviously can’t find anything better to do. Feel the need to try and keep this dead horse just alive once more by giving it another flogging by talking about a united Ireland to the converted. They will look like nodding dogs on the back shelf of a run down old banger as they chant right on comrade.

  • Robin Keogh

    Nothing for you to worry about then eh

  • Croiteir

    That wasn’t a launch date it wa a date for entering elections, they have launched in various counties for some time now – 5 or 6 years

  • Croiteir

    What a stupid date to have it on – could they picked a worse one? Apart from the 12th?

  • sk

    “Irish nationalism back in its comfort zone talking about a ‘united Ireland’ which excludes themuns.”

    How many Catholic unionist MLA’s? How many Catholic unionist MP’s? How many catholics consulted when organising “unionist unity” candidates or “graduated responses”?

    You can get off your high horse there King Billy.

  • just watching

    Hahahahahaha

  • just watching

    I agree there is nothing to fear it needs to be talked about

  • just watching

    are you sure it will only be true believers what about those who may be curious who my be converted remember tone Emmet ect ect

  • barnshee

    Time for a “border poll”
    PS whom is paying for this bun worry?

  • Nevin

    “What we can really tell about the term Northern Irish is that those respondents see their identity more closely linked with the island of Ireland rather than the Island of Britain.”

    Robin, I don’t recall a question about the ‘island of Britain’. Can you clarify?

  • Robin Keogh

    Geographical association

  • Nevin

    So what was the question?

  • Robin Keogh

    Now Nev, go find someone else to play your childish games

  • Nevin

    Robin, there’s no need to be so tetchy. I thought it would have dawned on you that ‘British’ in that census referred to the United Kingdom and ‘Northern Irish’, for some, would be part of the UK just, as for others, it would part of the Irish nation.

  • Robin Keogh

    One of the many things that dawned on me after the census was the number of British Citizens who no longer identify as British.

  • Glenn Clare

    You’re right I won’t worry. Head nodding in approval.

    Do you know when I will worry, when the shinners / provos stop being a single issue party, stop weaponizing every issue, make politics work and stop demonizing the Orange Order. So I suppose I do have nothing to worry about.

    This is a Trojan horse that is being flogged to death and the basterd’s like me will can watch this one trick pony graze on the green grass and produce more gas.

  • Nevin

    We’re very parochial in NI; my strongest identity is a local one. It seems that ‘Irish’ is even less popular than ‘British’. IIRC I selected British, Irish and Northern Irish.

  • Robin Keogh

    Lots of issues but you are blinded by an obsession over just one. The oo are capable of repelling the Queen and the better together campaign, they demonise themselves. I didnt know you were racist and a sectarian homophobe – if thats what u mean by bastards. Green grass is tasty.

  • Robin Keogh

    Irish and northern irish formed the majority over british. Continuous decline.

  • Nevin

    As a nationalist, you should be concerned that ‘Irish’ is so far behind ‘British’. The Provisional Republican Movement must take the ‘credit’ for much of this.

  • Gopher

    “People who were born in one of the EU accession countries accounted for 6.2 per cent of the usually resident population aged 25-34.”

    “Of particular note was the low proportion of usual residents born in the EU accession countries who were aged 35 and over (27 per cent), including 25 per cent of those born in Poland and 27 per cent of those born in Lithuania.”

    “The highest average household sizes related to those households in which the HRP had been born in Asian or EU accession countries, including: the Philippines (3.35); Lithuania (3.08); Poland (3.01); India (2.98); Latvia (2.95); China (2.85); and Slovakia (2.81).”

    “People who were born in one of the EU accession countries accounted for 6.2 per cent of the usually resident population aged 25-34. Three-quarters (76 per cent) of this cohort were or had been brought up as Catholics, 10 per cent as Protestants, 1.0 per cent in Other religions, while 13 per cent had no religion.”

    There is absolutely no mystery about the 2011 census. True Northern Ireland will have a Catholic majority but it certainly wont have an Irish Nationalist majority. The GFA was an exceptionally good deal for nationalism.

  • Robin Keogh

    Actually it doesnt concern me in the slightest. If Dubliners or Corkonians were given the option of describing themselves as such over Irish in the the census, I am pretty sure what the majority would choose. Ticking a box on a census form has no obvious consequences, ticking a box in a constitutional referendum does, and that is what matters at the end of the day.

  • Robin Keogh

    The majority -as it were- and its influence, only matters when if comes to casting their vote. You cannot say with any certainty that there will not be an Irish Nationalist majority. The cohort you refer to above may be swayed to support Irish Unity and/or their children might be so inclined. The jump in the overall Catholic population was in the region of 80k while the Protestant population declined by 20k. We know that voting patterns strongly correlate to ethno religious background so it is fair to suggest that their will be a majority nationalist voting population within the next twenty years.

  • Zeno

    The normal discussion on Irish unity goes, it’s inevitable, it’s only a matter of time.
    When you ask for evidence of this inevitability, you are told that Catholics will soon be a majority. 50 + 1 and all that nonsense. When you point out that being Catholic does not automatically mean you are in favour of UI, you are told that when it happens, this majority, the Catholics will all suddenly decide to become Nationalists.

    There are at least 5 things preventing a United Ireland,
    1, is Sinn Fein. They have too much baggage.
    2, is this attitude that it’s inevitable. It really isn’t. You are going to have to convince people who now favour the union. There is no other way.
    3 is no one seems to be able to describe it. Some say we will reunite with the ROI, others say No, it will be a completely new country.
    4, No one has made a decent economic case.
    5, Hundreds of thousands of Unionists will vote against it. Even if a tiny percentage of them decide an “armed struggle” is the way to go. The sectarian murder gangs will be back on the streets. Who is going to risk that for something that no one seems to be able to describe, or explain how it can be afforded?

  • Robin Keogh

    SF will never deliver Irish Unity alone. It will take a concerted effort on the part of all pro UI parties such as SF,SDLP,FF etc.to come together and produce a vision of a future Island state. Then and only then will the conversation really begin and grounds for a poll be created. With FF planning on contesting assembly elections from 2019 creating another all – Ireland party structure and the continuing demographic change predicted to change the outcome of future elections. (If we can get them out to vote). The only thing that is inevitable in our lifetieme is a vote on the border, especially if people like the future Labour Leader have anything to do with it. The sectarian murder gangs will be dealt with pretty swiftly in a joint British/Irish effort, if they materialise at all which I doubt very much given the lack of technology and discipline within loyalism. The threat of Unionist Violence against the wishes of the majority was successful once before in a different world to where we live now. The people are sovereign, they will decide and their will be done either way.

  • John

    Sure the Southerners HATE Northern GAA.

  • JohnTheOptimist

    The decline in the nationalist vote in N. Ireland began when Sinn Fein became the largest nationalist party (circa 2001/02). The decline has gathered pace in the last couple of years. In the 1999 Euro election, the total nationalist vote was over 45 per cent. Last year it was 38 per cent. This is the direction in which Sinn Fein is leading nationalism in N. Ireland. It is going nowhere.

    This ought to be a golden period for nationalism in N. Ireland. First, the Catholic population is at an all-time high as a percentage of the N. Ireland population and increasing every year. Second, averaged over the past 30 years the Republic of Ireland has had the fastest-growing economy in western Europe, and is now richer than the United Kingdom – after a recession that was slightly worse than the EU average, growth at 2-3 times the EU average has now resumed and looks set to continue for the foreseeable future. Third, just across the water in Scotland, with which N. Ireland has numerous links, nationalism is triumphant and it is unionism that is in crisis.

    Sinn Fein’s current domination of nationalism in N. Ireland is proving disastrous for the overall nationalist vote. Their identification of nationalism with revolutionary marxism and tribal sectarianism is alienating large numbers of moderate nationalists and completely turning-off moderate unionists. What is urgently needed is a party that can campaign for the positive benefits of an independent Ireland, in the way that the SNP campaign for the positive benefits of an independent Scotland. Such a party should eschew sectarianism, tribalism and violence, pursue intelligent pro-enterprise economic policies, and, while actively campaigning SNP-like for the positive benefits of an independent Ireland, should go out of its way to promote cordial relations with the unionist population.

    Sinn Fein should disband and they and the moribund SDLP should be replaced by a new nationalist party along these lines. From the point of view of achieving the goal of a United Ireland, the entire Provisional Sinn Fein/IRA movement has been a disaster. Their campaign of terror and violence achieved nothing, other than to damage the wealth-creating potential of the N. Ireland economy and make it more dependent than ever on largesse from Britain, the need for which is now a major obstacle in the way of loosening the ties between N. Ireland and Britain and increasing those between the two parts of Ireland. While, as I said above, their post-violence domination of nationalist politics in N. Ireland is proving disastrous for the overall growth of nationalism.

  • Zeno

    The ROI haven’t been able to prevent gang killings. A man has been murdered in Belfast tonight and Dissident Republicans are still exploding bombs. I don’t think you understand the hatred. When there was 14,000 Soldiers on the streets and 7000 Police, sectarian murder was an almost nightly occurrence. If you lived in North or West Belfast I don’t think you would dismissing it so easily.

  • mac tire

    Dan, you let me down there because you were doing so well – weaponizing, demonizing – you let me down with no Trojanizing.
    I guess you lost your zing.

  • mac tire

    Pffft, more ‘threats’. And Europe and the wider world will just stand back? And if the vote was for unity then Britain will accommodate it, irrespective of a few lunatics, so they’ll get no support there like the did in the past.
    Democracy? Sure weren’t we all told, all our lives, that it rules. The people will decide not a few lunatics.

  • The ‘Northern Irish’ identity is up for debate. I personally am not totally sure what it means, due to its meaning being open to interpretation.

    Whilst it possibly signifies a distinctly non-British identity alongside that of Irish for some, it could also be argued that Northern Irishness, by definition, is a recognition of partition, a declaration of difference from people of the 26 counties.

    It would be helpful to see research being carried out into what exactly this thing ‘Northern Irish’ actually means, and more specifically why those who identify with it do so, because we’re otherwise just speculating.

    Regarding a plan for Irish unity, I really struggle to see how Irish nationalists will see through to Irish unification via anything other than the demographic waiting game.

    I am critical of the demographic argument in relation to its short sighted assumption that a Catholic background breeds an Irish person, but what else has Irish nationalism got to hope for other than waiting until the proportion of distinctly Irish-identifying people from the Catholic community are a majority in the north?

    I’m aware of my somewhat defeatist attitude regarding any future possible progress regarding unionist outreach, but what exactly is Irish nationalism actually doing right now/has done since 1998 that can illustrate that my scepticism isn’t without good reason?

  • I’d like to see research into the political attitudes of these Catholic immigrants, particularly the children and young adults due to their lives being largely lived so far in northern society, because I simply don’t know what they are for.

  • I’m curious to know what the raw figures are regarding the anti-GFA strain within northern Irish nationalism. The absence of the likes of Éirígí or RNU in recent six county-wide elections such as the 2015 UK general election and the 2014 European Parliament election undermines efforts to understand the level of support that this element of Irish nationalist politics has.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    What he said.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Belfast City Council 2014 Elections : SDLP – 10,892 SF – 31,822 Eirigi/RNU/OtherRep – 3104 9% of Republican Vote

  • Robin Keogh

    I agree with u regarding the term Northern Irish, a bit of research here would do no harm. As for outreach i think we would be wrong to assume that there has been littl happening on either side. Plenty of Unionists and Natio alists are involved in cross community initiatives. But i take your point regarding demographics. It would be far more benificial if we could see unity arrive on the basis of agreement rather than 50+1. Nationalism needs to get to work if it is to cinvince Unionism a new Ireland would not be a cold house for them.

  • mjh

    Éirígí and RNU each put up 2 candidates in 2014 LG elections.

    These 4 District Electoral areas were all in Belfast. Between them they took 2.1% of the total vote in Belfast, this represented 4.6% of the “pan-nationalist” vote there.

    The 4 DEA’s in which they stood accounted for 70.5% of the total Belfast “pan-nationalist” vote. They took 6.6% of the “pan-nationalist” vote in these areas.

    On this evidence the electoral support for dissident republicanism would seem to lie somewhere between about 5% and 6% of pan-nationalism.

    In Derry & Strabane the evidence is slightly less straightforward since no overtly anti-GFA nationalist party stood. But a number of Independents sometimes described as dissidents, or who had previous links with groups opposed to the GFA, did stand. Between them these independents took just under 9% of the total vote and about 12% of the “pan-nationalist” vote.

    The difficulty is that this does not necessarily mean that 12% of nationalists in Derry are anti-GFA. Firstly, candidates standing under the Independent label can attract a higher proportion of personal votes from those who disagree with their political position than party candidates. Secondly, not all of them may have campaigned on an overtly anti-GFA platform. For example, Dermot Quigley who was elected in Ballyannett campaigned strongly on the need for a detox centre and his Facebook page did not even mention the GFA.

    On the other hand it may be possible to argue that an organised overtly anti-GFA party may have been able to gather a higher proportion of the votes.

    Personally I would read the evidence as suggesting that dissidents would probably have about the same share of the pan-nationalist vote in both Derry and Belfast – with the possibility that it is marginally higher in Derry.

  • Janos Bingham

    My comment alluded to the absurdity of discussing a “united Ireland” without the minority on the island being involved. It could have been an opportunity for supporters of a UI to reflect on what exactly they mean by ‘uniting’ the island.

    Or my comment could have simply been ignored if there was no desire to address the point.

    Of course this is by far not the first time in our history that Irish nationalism has tried to ignore the minority and gone down its favoured ‘ourselves alone’ path.

    This is in sharp contrast to the situation that has developed in Scotland where petty ‘nationalism’ has been sidelined in favour of the promotion of a positive narrative about an ‘independence’ that accommodates all.

    You chose to catcall from a position firmly planted (not an inch) in whataboutery territory; and rather underlined my point in the process. I suspect you also couldn’t help yourself from making the sectarian “King Billy” jibe either.

    Still as the thread has developed it seems you are not alone. ‘Outbreeding’ and facing down themuns it would appear is the way to go for some nationalists. So you can take whatever comfort you can from that.

  • Nevin

    That quote sounds like an act of desperation, Robin. Folk in Northern Ireland do show an affinity for the place but their identification with the UK is far stronger that their identification with the island of Ireland. Sinn Fein is definitely stronger in its promotion of a constitutional referendum than other nationalist parties but, because of its association with violence and organised crime, it’s also the weakest salesman.

  • Zeno

    So you agree that there would be a backlash and innocent people, mostly Catholics would be murdered? Or do you think nothing will happen?
    The vast majority of people here are just not interested in United Ireland and no one is doing anything to persuade them they should be. So I don’t think we need worry about it any time soon.

  • Nevin

    Mark, you can look at the 2011 results for Moyle. SF and the two independent republicans, Padraig McShane and Colum Thompson, were all fishing from the same pools and the independents obtained close to 50% of the first preference vote. Although each had issues with SF, Colum subsequently joined the party.

  • Robin Keogh

    And u sound like you are desperately trying to square a circle. There are many ways to skin a cat and if 60% of the population reject the British tag in a place that is supposed to be as British as finchley then there is no obvious answer to how they might vote on unity which is the key point. I accept your argument regarding SF however events such as the one being held on Saturday will give us a clue as to the possibilities of all interested parties coming together and presenting a united position.

  • Nevin

    Robin, I used the figures from the census; you introduced the maketyup ‘island of Britain’. I’ve not looked closely at choices made in other parts of the UK but I’ve found the following re.Wales:

    “Nearly two thirds (66 per cent, 2.0 million) of the residents of Wales expressed their national identity as Welsh in 2011. Of these 218,000 also reported that they considered themselves to be British.”

    Perhaps NI is more ‘British’ than Finchley! 48% in NI ticked the ‘British’ box and I see no ‘rejection’ boxes.

  • Reader

    mac tire: Pffft, more ‘threats’.
    I’m sure Zeno doesn’t regard his comment as a threat, though it is tiresome the way he routinely rolls the comment out every time we have a discussion about a UI. I am sure neither government and few voters will be much influenced by the chance of a bit of extra hassle from the sort of people who already cause trouble anyway.

  • Zeno

    It’s not a threat, I’m just pointing out that people will take that into consideration if it does come to a vote.I certainly will, but then I remember what it was like and know the number of psychopaths in Belfast and the long history of sectarianism that goes back 400 years. The hatred isn’t just going to vanish.

  • Robin Keogh

    Grand so

  • Robin Keogh

    There is no point in asking Unionism to vecome involved in a serious discussion about Unity until nationalism gets its house in order and has something concrete to present. Its not at all about ignoring the minority, far from it in fact. There have been numerous nationalist conversation on irish unity involving unionist speakers such as Jim Allister at trinity collehe and Basil McRea at Queens University. The above event from what I can see is an opportunity for nationalism to measure where they are on the issue of unity. Try not to assume the worst intentions are at play. Give a little.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Add in Dee Fennell in Belfast to get to my 3104 Votes !

  • Nevin

    Well, your identity ‘analysis’ doesn’t hold water. Will you have any more joy finding common ground with the FFers?

  • Robin Keogh

    Yes i agree, it might be a case that those individuals and ‘others’ might dissasociate with the ancient quarrel and adopt an indifferent political position.

  • mjh

    Good point T.E.

    If we add in the vote for Fennell (who stood as an Independent in Oldpark, as did an RNU candidate) we get “dissident” votes in Belfast accounting for:
    2.8% of total Belfast vote
    6.4% of total Belfast “pan-nationalist” vote
    9.0% of the “pan-nationalist” vote in the 4 DEA’s where “dissident” candidates stood.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Thanks mjh this is my calculation too ! Being from Belfast sometimes I show my bias by not looking outside this political cirlcle. Thanks for the other figures outside Belfast ! I think we shall get a better feel regarding the subject in 2016 Assembly Elections !

  • Sprite

    the anniversary of the Omagh bombing – another great blow for Irish unity

  • In light of this 9% of the pan-nationalist vote, I wonder why dissident Irish nationalist groups don’t unite into one organisation like the TUV did, channeling all anti-GFA sentiment to them in elections.

  • mjh

    Probably two reasons.

    Firstly, the support for dissidents may well be a lot lower than 9% of total “pan-nationalist” in NI as a whole. They have only stood in a small number of DEA’s and it is reasonable to assume that these are their strongest areas.

    Secondly, they may not find it easy to agree sufficiently among themselves to unite into a single party. For example in Oldpark only half of the RNU candidate’s votes transferred to the Independent Fennell. Nearly a quarter did not transfer at all. The biggest chunk of the remainder went to SF, with even the SDLP picking up a few.

    Even if they did unite, on these figures they would probably score no better than the TUV – one MLA and a handful of councillors. And they would probably be very lucky to pick up the MLA. The reason for that is that they would probably find it difficult to get transfers in which case they would need to hit close to the 14% of the total first preference vote (i.e. well over 14% of the “pan-nationalist” vote) required for a quota in a Stormont constituency.

  • barnshee

    “What we can really tell about the term Northern Irish is that those respondents see their identity more closely linked with the island of Ireland rather than the Island of Britain”

    Just plain wrong —Northern Irish = not associated with the Republic of Ireland not associated with its citizens er no way

  • The Devil’s Advocate

    Possibly the best analysis of the state of nationalism I have read in a long while, well done.

  • I’m particularly curious to know what they’re standing is in the West Belfast constituency. I’m convinced that the 6,798 votes for PBP’s Gerry Carroll in the 2015 UK general election was partially helped by dissident Irish nationalists, given the 1,026 votes in Black Mountain DEA and 730 votes in Collin DEA for Éirígí. Where else would those 1,756 votes go in 2015?

    No doubt there is intra-dissident disagreements that undermine efforts to form a unitary party, but ultimately it makes more sense than the current disarray of splinter groups and independents all largely singing from the same anti-GFA hymn sheet.

  • Will McConnell

    I agree up until the last paragraph – I don’t see Sinn Fein disbanding any time soon. But they are morphing into a more “credible” party – note that I’ve put this in inverted commas – with the anti-water charges/anti-austerity stuff and candidates like Mairtin O’Muilleoir

  • Pete

    Does Alliance not fulfil the role of a centrist party?

  • Will McConnell

    This has been stewing for a while, so forgive the spleen venting.

    I attended the Belfast Féile event last week. I was amazed and delighted by the warmth and sense of community, and really interested to hear a hearts and minds insight into Republicanism.

    A few things struck me

    I’d not been to the Falls Rd much before this – I was raised protestant on the Lisburn rd, with unionist parents. I would call myself a moderate nationalist, for a variety of reasons which I will get into below, but was always turned off by what I perceived as the Marxist jingoism of Sinn Fein – “the brits did this to me and I will never forget it” kind of thing. But I was struck by the elegance and compassion of families who spoke about their loved ones, and their attempt to pursue closure through democratic engagement. I was too young to realise just how much hurt and pain was caused by both sides in the Troubles, and “legacy” is not a buzzword to me anymore but now a crucial prerequisite to our moving out of a past we’re stuck in.

    Secondly I was struck by how intellectual and international the Republican community is or claims to be – and, genuine or not – I realised that any political movement that even remotely associates with intellect and rationale will gradually evolve into something pluralist, nuanced and inclusive. I realised that in a few years, educated Unionists will have nothing to fear from Republicans, in a dialogue based on rationale. All that other flag waving gun totting stuff will fade away. Marked against the distinct anti-intellectualist streak of many in the DUP, the cause of stalemate is clearer than ever.

    Finally. What kind of country do we want to live in? I heard a lot of people lecturing on the roots of Republicanism. Are the roots of Unionism (and, yes, Loyalism) so well known? From my history books, the Unionists of the 1912 covenant had legitimate enough concerns about Home Rule to lead the effort to create a breakaway state. Things like the influence of the catholic church & marxism, industrial wealth (and we were wealthy, remember that the UK was the world’s only superpower at that time). Now those concerns have largely disappeared, but the fear remains.

    My proposal is that moderate nationalism engage moderate unionism on what a new island nation would actually look like. Would there be federal power? The NHS? The BBC? And I believe Republicanism will evolve to catch up with that. The DUP will evolve or die, and they don’t seem to believe in evolution, so…

    In most people’s imagination a united Ireland looks like Northern Ireland just getting absorbed into the Republic overnight – I think this shows up our lack of imagination. Most people don’t even want that, particularly in the Republic. in reality there’s an opportunity for a new constitution, a viable bill of rights, a secular non-sectarian state, where all the issues of Unionism are concerned. I believe we should be working towards that.

  • Paddy Reilly

    But the Irish Republic does have a National Health Service. The only difference is that people who have money, have to pay when visiting a G.P. Also, Benefits are much higher. Using Amazon.co.uk, school books can be acquired cheaply secondhand.

    Moreover, while appreciating the economic strain of having to pay rent when moving out of my parents’ house, I found it was worth every penny.

  • Paddy Reilly

    Almost half the planet has received independence from Great Britain. I am trying very hard to think of one where murders committed by gangs of pro-British diehards became a problem. This is because, once GB has given you independence, there is obviously no going back. Perhaps you can name a few?

  • barnshee

    Where has GB left a majority behind?

  • barnshee

    The British have gone civil strife will be inevitable the Guards will kill a Prod probably in a riot and DeFacto repatriation will follow

  • Robin Keogh

    Or, the british will have gone two years after the vote having cleared the area of sectarian trouble. The gaurds/police force will enforce the rule of law as laid down by the regional prod/Cath government in belfast in line with federal law. The president lord carlysle of the Ulster Unionist party will encourage peace and cooperation across the Island with the support of all governments in the commonwealth of nations. The Queens envoy in Belfast will ask her Majesty and the Irish president to officiate at the opening of the new parliament buildings in Armagh city.

  • Paddy Reilly

    It’s not going to leave a majority behind in NI, though there may be a local majority of Protestants in Lisburn, Carrickfergus, etc. So directly comparable would be suburbs of Capetown, where there was a White, Anglican majority.

  • mjh

    Well, as T.E. said, we will have to wait for 2016 for a definitive answer to that question, assuming that a “dissident” stands in West Belfast.

    Your supposition that PBPA gained some 1st preference votes in 2015 as a result of the absence of dissidents is perfectly credible. Although it is equally possible that the dissidents gained protest votes in 2014 that would have gone to a PBPA candidate had there been one.

    Or maybe a large portion of the dissident vote stays at home when they have no candidate available.

    We simply don’t know.

    What we do know is that PBPA and the dissidents are miles apart politically. Indeed PBPA has shown itself quite capable of drawing support from both sides of the traditional divide because it campaigns exclusively on bread and butter issues on a left-wing platform, with no constitutional agenda.

    On the basis of the 2015 vote PBPA are far ahead of any dissident group and are actually well placed to capture a seat in West Belfast at the next Stormont elections,

  • Gingray

    Yup, couldn’t agree more!

  • Paddy Reilly

    Well you live in hope. But an examination of the data and its comparison to the voting returns suggests that British = definitely Unionist, Irish = definitely Nationalist, Northern Irish = less certain. People who characterise themselves as both N. Irish and British are probably Unionist, those who do not probably Nationalist.

  • Zeno

    Half the Planet didn’t have the Shankill Butchers. They didn’t have the UVF who murdered any Catholic when the IRA killed someone. They didnt have the UDA/UFF Yabba dabba do any Taig will do. They didn’t have loyalist mobs who have kicked to death many many young Catholics, sometimes in full view of the Police. I could go on, but what’s the point when you obviously think a United Ireland will be a lovefest.

  • barnshee

    Er Northern Irish = definitely not Southern Irish

  • Paddy Reilly

    The words you use that give the whole game away are ‘in full view of the police’. Loyalist Murder gangs could operate in NI because the RUC did not care to intervene. On the other hand, when a UUP MP complained to Margaret Thatcher that three men were IRA members, they were shot dead 3 days later.

    How things will work out when the boot is on the other foot is a completely different matter.

  • Zeno

    So you accept that there are people who will commit murder given even the flimsiest excuse but refuse to accept that there would be a loyalist paramilitary backlash and that people will die on the streets? You think we will all live happily ever after in the new nirvana? Note that the IRA are reported to have have killed 32 people since the ceasefire and the Security Forces aren’t turning a blind eye to that.

  • Paddy Reilly

    What would Loyalist Paramilitaries, in the event of a United Ireland, be trying to achieve? There is no feasible goal that they could be working for.

    Police methods have moved on since the days of the Shankill Butchers. We now have DNA testing and omnipresent CCTV. By the time a United Ireland is achieved there will probably be compulsory universal GPS in cars.

    As for Loyalist Paramilitaries, if the United Irish State uses the same methods that the British one did, there could be internment, Diplock Courts, or state sponsored assassination gangs.

    Besides, do you think hatred lasts for ever? It wasn’t long after the restoration that the Roundhead and Cavalier families started to intermarry.

  • Zeno

    ” By the time a United Ireland is achieved there will probably be compulsory universal GPS in cars”

    Cars? we’ll all be using Hover Boots OR Teleporting to the shops.

  • Gopher

    I can say it with certainty

    As I have explained before you just dont get 80k new Irish nationalists on a falling indeginous birthrate since the 2001 census As Ive have also explained before the number of non believers rose in areas like North Down, Ards, East Belfast etc etc etc lapsed proddy, lapsed proddy, lapsed proddy. Operation Banner ending removed probably 25k (Soldiers their families and support staff) people from Northern Ireland. The 2011 census is crystal clear once you take off the Kelly glasses. It was obsolete the minute it was published.

    There is no Irish Catholic demographic majority in prospect now if it was ever possible given the birth and death cycle, the economic crash wiped out all hope with huge immigration. Like I said there will be a Catholic majority but they will be made up of nationalities from all over the world and dependant on HMG. Nationalism has no idea how to change that dependancy other than saying “Sure it will be grand”

    The Irish Catholic population is at its zenith presently and nationalism just lost the 2015 general election. The electorate rose by 70k and nationalism did not get one of those votes. Voting patterns as you say tell you something, to everyone except an Irish nationalist that is.

  • Tochais Siorai

    In most places they didn’t have a majority in the first place.