Northern Ireland will continue to be a source of indecision for @UKLabour, even under Corbyn

Useful corrective by Aaron Edwards to those thinking that Jeremy Corbyn’s election to the leadership of the Labour means he has a free hand to deal with Northern Ireland to use at his (or his Shadow Chancellor’s) discretion:

In many respects Corbyn’s appointment of other members of the party’s left-wing, anti-partitionist members, to key positions in his shadow Cabinet shows how difficult the road ahead may be for those in Northern Ireland who share a vision of Labour Party organising on a more inclusive UK-wide basis.

Regardless of the Corbyn shadow Cabinet’s personal preferences for a united Ireland, it would be a strategic error for the Labour Party and its supporters to assume that everyone shares this outlook.

If Corbyn is serious about making Labour truly electable, then there is a need for him to engage all Northern Irish, Welsh and Scottish Labour members and supporters in a dialogue about how best to rebuild and re-energise their party across the entire UK.

Even though the English political class (of whatever party political complexion) have wished to keep Ireland at arm’s-length, the deep ethnic divisions and continuing political instability demonstrates that an Irish problem has always harboured the potential to become an English problem.

Tired, cliched rhetoric of giving “Ireland to the Irish”, which has traditionally emanated from the British Left, is devoid of an understanding of its own party’s history, or of realistic political ideas aimed at resolving the “Irish question”.

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  • David Crookes

    If Mr Corbyn becomes PM tomorrow, he will learn the lesson that every incoming PM has to learn. There is an uncrossable gorge between what you want to do and what the Grown-Up People will allow you to do.

    The GFA and its face-saving afterbirth still constitute the only show in town, so a government led by Mr Corbyn will not bring a unified Ireland any closer.

  • Kevin Breslin

    There’s a lot of assuming that they’re assuming going on here.

    Generally my impression is that one’s own opinion on Northern Ireland was a personal matter when it came to the Labour Party, and the official policy has always been in recent years the support of the principle of consent.

    Think of the opposite, Imagine a Labour party where every individual has to behave in a sycophantic manner to Northern Ireland, that it should avoid partisan opinions on the “Irish Question” and support only Northern Irish people who don’t have partisan opinions and takes a “middle of the road” when it comes to thinking about the region.

    Even the Alliance Party doesn’t do that, there are open self identifying nationalists and unionists within that party.

    You get a very formulaic Labour Party who’d be duty bound to avoid real Northern Irish/Irish people like the plague for fear of undue influence.

  • Robin Keogh

    It is completely irrelevent what any Labour member feels about partition. The principle of consent has dealt with that issue firmly with all parties and both governments signing up to it. However, if a poll was to be called on the border, a Labour government led by JC could behave in a way that was favourable towards a UI outcome. They could commit to financial support for a number of years, they could also wave the Norths share of the UK national debt, they could really put the squeeze on the NI fiscal deficit filler and they could also network Europe and America for additional financial assistance and grants. A pro UI london governemnt made-up of whatever politcal colour could very easily become very inventive should they decide to do so.

  • Nevin

    Aaron’s article would have been submitted before Vernon Coaker’s statement was broadcast:

    Vernon Coaker [BBC World Tonight 21:55]: “I don’t share the views expressed by John [McDonnell] nor would I want to be associated with them. That’s why before taking up this role I sought and received reassurances from the leader of my party that it would be me who speaks for my party on Northern Ireland and that our policy would be a bi-partisan approach based on the consent of the people in Northern Ireland as expressed in the Good Friday Agreement and subsequent agreements.

    The bi-partisan approach is unlikely to bring much comfort to victims.

  • the rich get richer

    Northern Ireland is costing a fortune ! ! !

    Somebody needs to come up with an Idea to stop this continuing to happen.

  • Sergiogiorgio

    A JC Labour government with NI thrown into the mix – what our American cousins call a cluster****.

    A fantasy…it will never happen and you can quote me on that.

  • Nevin

    “After the appointment of Morgan Phillips as general secretary of the Labour Party in 1944, British Labour moved more closely to align itself with the NILP .. Thanks to the close financial and fraternal support of British Labour, the NILP had made a serious electoral breakthrough by the late-1950s. .. Disappointingly, the party’s advance was halted by the unionist regime in the mid-1960s.” .. Aaron Edwards

    How sound is Aaron’s analysis of NI politics? I’ve had a quick look at NI election results from 1929 to 1969. NILP had a very good election in 1945 [66k] followed by a poor showing in 1949 [27k], just after the re-branding of the Dublin administration. 1962 [77k] was its best year, a big improvement on 1958 [38k], but support declined in 1965 [66k] and 1969 [45k]. Its fortunes and misfortunes do not parallel those of the UUP – both improved from 1958 to 1962 – but at times of constitutional ‘excitement’ – 1949 and mid-1960s – NILP has felt the unionist-nationalist squeeze.

    “Even though the English political class (of whatever party political complexion) have wished to keep Ireland at arm’s-length” .. Aaron

    His labeling is outmoded. London and Dublin both appear anxious to keep Northern Ireland and its problems at arm’s-length. I view the Chief Constable’s remarks as an effort to shore-up the institutions following DCS Geddes’ press conference.

  • Granni Trixie

    For goodness sake, of course it is appropriate for Labour (or Alliance) members to hold various views about UI.
    What is contentious are expressions of support for physical force or “understanding” which appears to legitimise the campaign of intimidation and violence.
    As we see, such expressions by individuals in Labour leaves it
    hostage to fortune and undermines Britains claims/ role to have “no strategic or selfish interest” Ie an honest broker.

  • Barneyt

    It would be interesting to see the results of a poll (restricted to England – as the dominant member), say with a 10,000 sample, that asked the question, “Should we keep Northern Ireland in the UK?”

    Some might say, “There would be no UK without them”, some might say, “We can’t lose any more of the Empire….does does mean we should give away the Falklands?”, others might say, “Well, its not our decision, it’s theirs.”

    I know its not much of a sample, but I lived in England for 21 years, from North to South. I cannot be certain if I met anyone who demanded that Northern Ireland remain part of the UK. I accept there may be some skewing involved here and that those with strong opinions in keeping NI British may not engage on the subject.

    I’ve said this before on this site, but the overwhelming opinion I detected was that Ireland is Ireland (regardless of the division) and everyone that lives over there is Irish.

    I always thought, that must be very disconcerting for any Northern Ireland native that considers themselves British and only British. Had they asserted this, they would have been met with, “Listen, you sound Irish, you look Irish and you live in northern IRELAND” …you are Irish.” I’ve witnessed that on many occasions.

    Ask such a question, and I believe you could get at least a 70% swing towards the frozen option…”Let it go…let it go…”

    Ask the question again with a little addition…, “Northern Ireland costs England approximately £10bn net each year to maintain and remain as part of the UK. Should we keep Northern Ireland in the UK?”.

    My guess especially in the current climate would be a 90% swing towards offloading and channelling these funds inwards. Soon they would count the historic costs of the lives lost in Northern Ireland, to stop the Irish from killing each other…..and then wipe their hands (if of course they could)

    Of course you could say, I chose by own community whilst living in England and surrounded myself with like-minded people. It would be a fair point as folks tend to ghettoise. I have mixed with Torys and some to the right of that, Liberals and Labourites and also those on the left :-). Not much variation in my findings or in what was offered up to me. I didn’t always provoke the subject. “The phrase, what are we doing there!” still resonates in my ears.

  • Barney

    “the deep ethnic divisions”

    This phrase is nonsense, there is no ethnic division in Ireland the idea is deeply offensive. It’s symptomatic of a racist ideology used by supremacists to justify undemocratic practices.

    I doubt whether anyone is able to explain exactly what this ethnic division is supposed to be.

    Edwards use of this phrase and his “wishful thinking”about electoral reality renders his opinion, at best, questionable.

    I have seen this ethnic division argument regularly used on this site and am amazed that no one challenges it.

  • Virginia

    If you asked the other 49 States world you like to keep Mississippi the answer would be no, Same for Canada, where there is one province that is least liked… but luckily it doesn’t work like that in Democratic countries.

  • barnshee

    I see all those parades brandishing union flags and the burning of tricolours are mirages

  • barnshee

    NI gets the tax it raises and not a penny more

  • Kevin Breslin

    I guess Paul McCartney and the rest of the Beatles found a way back from that.

  • Granni Trixie

    As We have been taken over by events now that an apology of sorts has been forthcoming . is this ..the way back? Besides,, if memory serves me well, whilst the Beatles expressed support for self determination don’t think they actually expressed support for the IRA ( bit ike stance of Troops Out Movement).

  • Kevin Breslin

    Not support, particularly given the pacifistic views of the band members (Lennon and Harrison most notably) but certainly there was sympathy.

  • eamoncorbett

    The GFA is dying on its feet with just about all the participants taking a chunk out of it , it was the answer in 98 but times have moved on , SF have a totally different view of NI in the future than Unionism , unless this circle is squared then no one is going anywhere.

  • eamoncorbett

    Didnt Macca sort of apologise for that song a few years back , stating he didnt fully understand the situation , but then who does.

  • aquifer

    Like support for PR, this is a good litmus test for Corbyn’s cabinet. Revolutionary putsch or inclusive social democracy? Principled support for the consensual GFA, or expediently or tribally bending to the will of the urban Irish in British Labour Party branches?

  • jessica

    I would say a high percentage in england arent even aware northern ireland is part of the UK.
    apples and oranges to us, but green paddy and orange paddy to them
    if enough of them realised the financial cost to them the british government may not have any say in whether they or not leave
    We need to make them pay to rebuild the economy after 40 years of neglect to manage the conflict they were part of before they do get their marching order from the English electrate
    it will come a lot sooner of scotland leave

  • jessica

    The future of NI will not be down to SF or Unionism
    It will be down to economics.
    How much longer will GB be prepared to pay the price now there is a peace settlement?

  • jessica

    Those who wish to remain irish, see the tricolour as the flag of ireland, see the irish language as their native tongue whether they speak it well or not, see the GAA as an integrtal part of their culture, st Patricks day as their saints day etc…

    Then there are those whos ethnic roots trace back to GB. Some were left in the new free state while the majority remained in the new NI state controlled from westminster due to their inability to treat their ethnic neighbours with anything but contempt.
    They celebrate orangemans day, for half of the year, have an unhealthy fetish with union jacks and detest anything irish to a degree they are borderline cultureless, hence the dependancy on historic celebrations of marching and an astonishing willingness to allow their children speak with the grammatic abhorance that is ulster scots.

    There are also other ethnic groupings such as traveller and other nationals, but those are the two mainstream.