Nolan, Prime Time & a United Ireland: Three challenges for pro-Irish Unity advocates

I was a contributor to last night’s novel joint BBC/RTE production, Ireland’s Call, which brought together two of Ireland’s most famous broadcasters, Stephen Nolan and Miriam O’Callaghan, to look at a range of issues and how they are perceived by people across the island and from both political traditions in the north.

I thought it was a useful exercise, though I’d quibble with a number of things.

Polls conducted in Northern Ireland are notoriously unreliable, and this one at times stretched credulity to its limits- the figures for national identity for the city of Belfast were highly suspect, with a city populated by a greater number of nationalists than unionists apparently registering a 56% British and 29% Irish/ 10% Northern Irish profile.

But that’s to be expected.

Polls like this are more useful for raising questions, framing discussions and analysing the differing responses from the world of politics and beyond.

I thought the angle taken from the outset by both presenters missed the point in relation to the short and medium term objectives favoured by all groups of people- nationalist, unionist and southern: namely that bedding down the system of devolved government in the contested entity that is Northern Ireland offers both the best opportunities to secure a better, prosperous and peaceful future than all remember from the past, but also that both unionists and nationalists recognise that a successful and stable northern state is a prerequisite for the securing of their longer term objectives of either sovereignty residing in an all-Ireland context or continuing to reside in a UK context.

From the perspective of an Irish republican and northern nationalist, I was completely at ease with the poll outcomes, for reasons that I’ll now outline.

I believe that northern nationalists are, and have always been, very relaxed about the time frame for the attainment of their ultimate political objective of Irish unity. This lack of urgency has been further encouraged by the deeply held sense that northern nationalism is experience something of a halcyon period in its existence. The age of turmoil that characterised the onset of partition, when northern nationalists found themselves crushed as a hapless minority in a Protestant British state, constructed in the image of Unionism, abandoned by a southern nationalist elite preoccupied with the daunting task of state building, has been consigned to the dustbin of history. Northern nationalism now sits increasingly as an equal in the northern state, its past narratives, perspectives on the present and visions for the future finding an airing and legitimised alongside the traditionally superior (in terms of presentation and official legitimacy) British and unionist narratives like never before. Northern nationalism has now firmly established itself within civil society and predominates many professional fields in the north. This generation of northern nationalists have confidently asserted their sense of Irishness like never before. For nationalists, Irish unity may be in the distance, but things are moving the right way- and that’s what counts.

Yet we aren’t remotely approaching the point in which a credible campaign for Irish unity could be mounted and won in the short term, and that not only needs to be accepted but also provide the  incentive to act for political parties and others committed to achieving Irish reunification.

As someone strongly supportive of a united Ireland, my interest in this blog is to outline what I have believed for quite some time now to be the imperatives for united Ireland advocates in the time ahead.

The mission of the current generation of pro-Unity political leaders is three-fold:

  1. Reorient politics onto a north-south axis by developing all-Ireland political parties who, by their nature, will devise, articulate and seek to implement policies and initiatives which are to the betterment of the people of Ireland as a whole, bringing together north and south and pro-actively highlighting the benefits of politics beyond the border. From last night’s programme, it remains apparent that only Sinn Fein have the desire at present to do this, and having invested a generation into cultivating support for the party across the southern state, Sinn Fein is now poised to register its greatest electoral performance in the southern state since 1918, with the real prospect of being in government in north and south simultaneously either in the 2016 Leinster House election or the subsequent election. Fianna Fail have publicly committed to begin contesting elections in Northern Ireland from 2019, and such a development has the capacity to transform all-Ireland politics, with the arrival of the South’s Establishment party bringing with it a knowledge of governance and broadly centrist/centre-right vision which would compete with the all-Ireland leftist vision and politics of Sinn Fein. The competition for votes ensuing can only be a good thing for the nationalist project, which requires a plurality of all-Ireland voices articulating the case for unity through real political ideas.
  2. Make the north of Ireland into a viable and economically successful political entity. That statement might appear to stand traditional republican rhetoric on its head, but in reality it has been the logical assumption driving mainstream republican strategy since Sinn Fein signed up to a Good Friday Agreement incorporating a Stormont assembly and power-sharing Executive. For the record, it is nonsense to talk about the South not being able to afford the North. Of course it could, and the peoples of both states would remain relatively affluent citizens of the First World. A more accurate context and therefore challenge for nationalists is to create the conditions within which the transfer of sovereignty from a UK-context to a united Ireland-context is one which does not significantly impact in a detrimental manner to the wealth and quality of lives of the nation and its people, a scenario in which it would be much more likely to win the battle for hearts and minds on the doorsteps in any unity referendum. That means bringing Northern Ireland to a place where it is almost self-sufficient, with all that entails in terms of transforming the economy over the forthcoming political generation.
  3. Writing into the United Ireland narrative a formal place for the perpetually contested entity that is Northern Ireland. Another sacred cow for some, but for thinking republicans one thing is clear: winning a united Ireland referendum will not be possible unless the vision of what Irish unity might look like moves from the abstract into the concrete. This includes dealing with how to address the reality of the rights and entitlements of the British and unionist people of the north. To that end, I would contend that the answer is already with us. Whether we like it or not- and I include unionists in the ‘we’ as well as nationalists-, we were left behind by the British of Great Britain and Irish of the 26 Counties to continue a quarrel over identity and place some 95 years ago. The north is now, and will continue into perpetuity to be, a contested entity, a hybrid state peopled by stoutly and proudly Irish and British communities whose identities may overlap but may also continue to remain completely separate. In order to address that reality and allow for the rights and entitlements of the Irish nationalist and republican people to be respected in a UK-context, the Good Friday Agreement provided for constitutional and political architecture to respect all three strands of identities that pertain in this society: British, Irish and Northern Irish. Winning a united Ireland referendum will involve demonstrating in a comprehensive manner how we aim to provide for the same safeguards for the British and Unionist people. The answer, to my mind, is staring us in the face. The continued existence in a jurisdictional sense of the northern state, with some regional powers, in an all-Ireland framework would allow for the minority rights currently existing for nationalists to be provided for unionists, removing the ‘fear’ of the unknown which always plagues those articulating the cause of constitutional change but also providing an effective means of ensuring that those more comfortable with a northern Irish identity, multi-layered or stand alone, would feel respected and attracted to a united Ireland model.

But that’s just my thoughts. Let’s hear yours.

 

  • William Carr

    “Amhrán na bhFiann” well that can go for a start. has to be the most inappropriate National Anthem in the world.

  • Croiteir

    Invest NI has escaped from East Belfast

  • Croiteir

    It was written to celebrate the monarchs cure from an anal fistula – surely you are not expecting laughter and roses?

  • Croiteir

    Be kind Paddy

  • Croiteir

    About 50% of sme exports

  • Croiteir

    Not a problem with returning to the commonwealth if we can have the House of Wittelsbach returned to the throne, out of the question? well you started it.

  • Gaygael

    So – your version of republicanism will only lose allies and soft unionists.

    Are you are sure you are not a unionist sock puppet?

  • Paddy Reilly

    The thing about soft Unionists is that they are Unionists. They will always vote for the Union in preference to a United Ireland. Change the national anthem, flag and join NATO and the Commonwealth and they will still vote for the Union. That is what Unionists do.

    May I remind you that this branch of the thread was started by one TruthtoPower, who has since admitted that he is a Unionist pure and simple and is not actually interested in joining a United Ireland within the Commonwealth and NATO.

    So the message for Unionists is: try democracy. Instead of using behind the scenes manipulation, try forming an alliance with like minded people in the rest of Ireland to vote for it. If what you are seeking is good and beneficial—a better health service for example—you will obtain it. If it is merely an archaic relic of a long disappeared Empire, you won’t get it and don’t need it.

    You, Gaygael, remind me of a Methodist Chapel in Wales who had purchased a new organ. The organist was told to make copious use of the Bossanova beat button when playing hymns to attract young people into the congregation. The result was:-

    1) Zero young people were attracted into the congregation.

    2) Many older music purists left in disgust.

  • OneNI

    But Tony I dont think it will be that easy to get the 26 counties to rejoin the UK..

  • OneNI

    Many of the ‘Irish Catholic’ community are originally from Scotland – Hume, Adams, etc can we send them home too 😉

  • Croiteir

    thanks

  • Croiteir

    Doing what James?

  • Mark Hayden

    I’ve had a lot of the same thoughts as you TruthToPower

    I’m a nationalist. I realise that in any United Ireland major concessions will have to be made to the Unionist culture and I’m totally fine with that. I’ve always viewed unionists as my countrymen and their Britishness doesn’t threaten my Irishness at all. I don’t need to inflict my Gaelic culture on them. We need Irishness to be a civic identity rather than an ethnic one.

    It’s very frustrating when people talk about a United Ireland in terms of the south absorbing the North. I’d see that as a wasted opportunity. Why not combine the best of both? Why not have a quasi-federal arrangement with strongly empowered local government to make decisions in local matters like language on signage, parades etc?

    We nationalists must accept that a debate will need to be had on a lot of issues;

    The Irish language – Can we really demand that this be taught as a compulsory subject in East belfast? No. I love the language and will send my kids to gaelscoileanna but that’s a choice for each family

    The commonwealth – I can’t see any reason not to join. Apart from the trade benefits it would serve as a vehicle to maintain a formal link with Britain, which is hugely important to the second largest community in Ireland.

    NATO – The Irish state isn’t neutral, contrary to popular belief. But the rationale for not joining NATO was that Britain occupied part of our country. With that no longer the case, what’s the excuse for not contributing to western security? Please note; NATO members are not required to join pre-emptive wars.

    The flag – The symbolism of the tricolour is perfect, but the fact is that post-troubles it means something very different to Unionists. Why bicker over it and make them feel defeated! We all know the potency symbols have in NI. A new flag for a new state – lets just stick St Patrick’s Cross on an emerald background. Actually, I don’t care what the flag looks like. I just think the symbolism of making a new start is important.

    A bill of cultural rights – A list of guarantees, written into the constitution, that all traditions will be respected.

    The Health Service – I’m not sure of free-at-the-point-of-use is sustainable anywhere in the long run. Even a token charge would dissuade abuse of the system. However, an all-island health policy is something we really should be working on already. Creating two systems in such a small place would be unthinkable if someone were to suggest it now.

    A secular constitution – The best way to ensure religious pluralism

    The Head of State – I like electing my president. Not everyone agrees. The Monarchy is fairly popular in Canada, NZ etc. Could they play the same role here? I’d vote against it, but I think it’d be a narrow win for my side.

  • Paddy Reilly

    The talk is not of sending anyone home. Lord Coleraine suggested that the Ulster Protestant community has “a bigger vested interest” (than the Poles and Chinese) because it has no homeland to return to. I suggest there is no effective difference. Hume and Adams, should things become too tight for them where they are, have the right to take refuge in Scotland.

  • Paddy Reilly

    94.375% of statistics are made up on the spot. 43% of Unionists have horns.

  • Gaygael

    The essence of being soft means they can be persuaded. Them and the growing group of others. Without both, your project is doomed to fail.

  • Paddy Reilly

    The most powerful argument is that you are outnumbered. I do not wander round the streets of Norfolk and Devizes campaigning for an end to the monarchy, the removal of the Union Flag and and the teaching of Irish. I do not attempt to interrupt coronations and Royal Weddings. I respect the will of the majority. I expect that sensible Unionists will do the same.

    As for the ‘Others’, I cannot imagine that Chinese, Hindus and Muslims will be impressed by Ireland joining NATO or changing its National Anthem, so that is a very silly argument.

  • Paddy Reilly

    As I see it, in 30 years time, two young boys will be discussing:-

    “I just found out my grandfather is a Prostrate-gland, umh Procedent, Process-ant or something.”

    “Really? What’s that?”

    “I dunno. He used to belong to a party called Lutenists or Uterus or something.”

    “What did that do?”

    “I dunno. But it makes you very, very grumpy.”

  • Zeno

    Classic Stage 1 Denial Paddy.

  • Gaygael

    Who is outnumbered? Others are a far bigger group than Muslims, Hindus and Chinese. It’s the many and ever growing number of younger ‘catholics’ and ‘protestants’ that are few up with you and your balaknisation arguments.
    Nationalist parties are below 40%.
    We are a collection of minorities in the North. Its a reality that everyone must get used to.

  • Mark Hayden

    This is slightly tangential to your point but isn’t someone being forgotten here? The English taxpayer.

    We often hear unionists saying, almost gloating, that the Republic couldn’t afford the 10 billion pounds NI gets from Westminster. Are they just expecting the English to hand that over every year forever?

  • mac tire

    There was no ‘long term’ question. There was however, an ‘in your lifetime’ question – I suppose that is what you are referring to.

    57% of northern Catholics answered yes to that one, not 27%.

    As Paddy said, “94.375% of statistics are made up on the spot.”

  • Cahir O’Doherty

    Can I just throw in a phrase that’s influenced my thinking on Irish unification. ‘From the Palace to the Aras.’ In other words, the existing devolution framework that exists in Northern Ireland should be kept, but power devolved from Dublin rather than London.

    Also, it’s a (half) rhyme, which helps.

  • Greenflag 2

    Take it up with Dr Morgenroth . If you struggle keep struggling . The facts don’t go away . As for the trade gap i’m not surprised . The private sector in the Republic is probably 20 to 30 times the size of the NI private sector .

  • Greenflag 2

    I don’t care for monarchy no matter where they’re from -suit yourself

  • Paddy Reilly

    With opinion polls, the percentages of the answers are weighted by the questions. In elections, the percentages are weighted by the structure of the elections, and the number of different candidates presenting themselves.

    This is where the Euros come in. 100% of the (3) candidates returned are either Unionist or Nationalist. These elections are pure demography, there is very little politics. At the moment, two of them are Unionist and Northern Ireland has grounds for the continuance of the Union.

    But if two of them became Nationalist, those grounds would disappear. This would require 20,000 more Nationalist votes, and 20,000 less Unionist. Can this happen in 5 years? We will see. It all depends on turnout.

  • Paddy Reilly

    You are right. 82% of Unionist have horns.

  • Gaygael

    Good god Paddy. You never respond to anything I say, just dodge onto the next point.
    good luck with electing 2 nationalists in Europe 2019

  • Paddy Reilly

    So it’s young Catholics who are desperate to join NATO, the Commonwealth and change the flag and anthem? Good luck with that one. I have always worried that they will get impatient with lack of progress and start supporting RIRA or the like.

  • Gaygael

    So every time I present to you a declining nationalist vote, you Segway into something else.

  • Nigel Watson

    Hi Paddy

    Just joined after last nights Nolan/Primtime show & have been reading some posts. I have the following observations on your post

    1. don’t think it is sensible to conclude that because someone votes for SF or SDLP they would vote for a UI in any border poll. The recent survey simply confirms what has been known before

    2. The “50.1%” strategy seems doomed to fail…effectively you would be asking voters in the south (who would have to agree to UI as well) to take on board 1m unhappy Prods. I work in sales…your pitch is “more taxes & 20% unhappy citizens”…surely the survey last night highlights what a bad UI strategy that might be

  • Paddy Reilly

    I see. You believe in the declining Nationalist vote. But there is no such thing. If you add extra parties into the mix, then the percentage voting for SF + SDLP will diminish, because of the votes that go to PBP, Greens, NI21, etc.

    But these people are not spot changing leopards. They have not converted to Unionism: they merely wish to have some political life which was not determined for them when they approached the font. If it comes to a straight choice between UUP and SDLP, they will choose SDLP, just as those who were UUP before they became Green will choose UUP. This is why the Euros are important: they force the voter to decide between the two sides, not leaving any minor parties in the running.

    Equally, one must point out that Unionism is subject to the same erosion, in non-European elections.

  • Paddy Reilly

    Well shall we start with your stats. There aren’t a million Protestants, and they aren’t 20% of Ireland’s population. The figures are here.

    http://belfastmediagroup.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/Screen-Shot-2013-05-21-at-14.29.37-15.54.432.png

    Given the rising Catholic population and declining Protestant population, the expected cross-over point, when Catholics outnumber Protestants, is one year from now.

    I assume that the movement to unite Ireland will not get underway before then. Only a majority Catholic NI will vote for a UI. But how large does that majority need to be?

    So the question is, to what extent does Catholic = Nationalist = voter for a United Ireland?

    My examination of the constituencies in Northern Ireland tells me that there must be some correlation. West Belfast (80% Catholic) will always elect a Nationalist MP and Strangford (17% Catholic) will never do so. Even when one goes to Stormont elections, the MLAs returned are very much predictable from the religious returns, West Belfast returning 5 SF and 1 SDLP MLAs.

    But there can be a time lapse. Having 50.1% of the constituency Catholic does not guarantee a Nationalist will be returned, not with the same certainty that 80% does. There does need to be a period of consolidation. I would assume that Northern Ireland would not be fit to be absorbed by the Irish Republic until there are more Nationalist MPs. North Belfast and Upper Bann for example. There needs to be 2 Nationalist MEPs in the Euros and a Nationalist plurality in Stormont.

    Is it sensible to conclude that because someone votes for SF or SDLP they would vote for a UI in any border poll? One could also ask is it sensible to conclude that because someone votes for DUP or UUP they would vote against a UI in any border poll? The same logic applies.

    My answer is that once any of these conditions apply, we have a voluntary non-binding universal opinion poll on reunification “Would you vote for a United Ireland? Yes No” given away to every elector at every election, national, provincial or local. That way we can gauge the exact moment when a referendum become viable.

  • Tochais Siorai

    Donegal, Cavan, Monaghan governed from Belfast, you say.

    They’ll be dancing in the streets when they hear about that…….

  • Tochais Siorai

    Paddy, the nat vote is stagnant and has been for a while. The demographics should suggest otherwise and maybe in the long term, who knows? But it’ll need something different which the current lot aren’t providing. SF have ceilinged and the SDLP are in a slow decline. Neither look like they are going to reverse the trend to come within an asses roar of a 2nd Nat seat in the next Euros.

    And bearing in mind the performance of the nationalist reps on the Nolan / Prime Time programme it isn’t hard to see why.

  • TruthToPower

    Ok let change the capital to Omagh

  • James7e

    I’m asking whether Irish Republicans feel they would be/are somehow morally entitled to discriminate against a minority, should they find themselves in a majority. That seems to me to be the implication there.

  • hovetwo

    How many people of working age are on Disability Living Allowance in Northern Ireland?

  • Zeno

    The last figure I remember seeing was 180 thousand on Sickness Benefits. I think DLA is different.
    EDIT*
    202 Thousand are on DLA. I thought that was different from sickness benefit but apparently not.
    http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/northern-ireland/fears-over-a-growing-culture-of-dependency-after-dla-claimant-count-soars-to-200000-31028832.html

  • Zeno

    Obvious typo Mac.

  • Nigel Watson

    Hi Paddy

    I’m new to this lark so apologies for my slightly sloppy stats…seems that everything is on track for UI & no need for any introspection on the current approach!!

    I’m sure you are right & that southern voters will be very keen to vote & pick up the tab and whatever number of grumpy prods

    Just for your info…I’m a northern prod who doesn’t think UI is a bad idea…I think that proper unionists will be delighted to read your response & will make them feel more secure in the union with the UK…I think that is perhaps a good thing if it helps to stabilise northern politics but can’t see how it progresses the idea of UI from a dream to even a proposition that could be put on a ballot

    Can I ask… What date do you think UI will be achieved, based on your detailed analysis?

  • Gaygael

    Ok. Nats and republicans with any sort of vision will realise that they need to build alliances with the ‘others’ and soft/liberal unionists.
    By the way, in people are giving first preferences and X to ‘others’ it’s hard to label them as nationalists. If they were, they will out their first or X against a nationalist party.
    And less people are doing that. As repeatedly evidenced.

    And you mention the euros. 2009 versus 2014
    Nats 42.2% and 38.5%
    Unionists 49% and 50.9%
    Others 8.8% and 10.6%

  • scepticacademic

    I think quite a lot of moderate/liberal-minded ex UUP voters have been voting Alliance in recent elections. I suspect many will still be (small ‘u’) unionists if/when it comes to a UK v UI poll.

  • Croiteir

    No one mentioned discrimination against unionism or even alluded to it that I am aware of. Cannot possibly think were you got the idea that a majority would treat a minority in Ireland in such a way from.

  • Croiteir

    Deal

  • Reader

    Gaygael : By the way, if people are giving first preferences and X to ‘others’ it’s hard to label them as nationalists.
    Much as it goes against the grain for me to agree even a little with Paddy Reilly, I don’t really agree with your point above. I am sure there are nationalists who vote for ‘others’, just as I am a unionist who usually votes for ‘others’.
    It’s just that I’m fairly sure that ‘nationalist’ no longer implies all that it used to imply. Hence the stats.

  • Paddy Reilly

    When Anna Lo was eliminated in the 2014 Euros, her vote redistributed as follows:-

    Dodds (DUP) 5.8%
    Attwood (SDLP) 44.6%
    Nicholson (UUP) 12.6%
    Allister (TUV) 2.9%

    The rest went down the plughole.

  • eamoncorbett

    It’s a pity that Joint Authority wasn’t on the agenda on Nolan / O Callaghan show with the British and Irish governments supervising a reduced Stormont .

  • eamoncorbett

    How much do you think it will cost to run NI if SF remain half the government , a UI is not on at the moment but let me tell you one thing I’m absolutely certain of , Sinn Fein will not govern NI in a proper fashion if it remains totally within the UK. Remember what the senior cop said , the Army Council are still in charge . No other region of the UK would accept that situation but NI has to because of its history.

  • Gaygael

    I except your much more fluid interpretation. I was putting it in opposition to Paddys very binary approach.
    I’m sure there are others that vote nationalist and unionist depending on the context. If its a Noami versus Gavin context…or if a local councillor helps them out, or they vote in an otherwise tactical way such as through preferences.

  • Zig70

    Not quite 71% against, 13% don’t knows that neither can claim. I’ll quote Alex Kane on 30% unionists that will never persuade in a million years, my guess is that is higher. Still only need 11% more accounting for turn out. I think it is a hand worth playing. I don’t think anyone has made a decent argument of it yet, just need a decent leader in nationalism. Enda Kenny certainly isn’t it from a unifying perspective unless we are unifying against him. Arguable the opposite holds and a decent leader for the union will keep the tide at bay. Don’t see that chariot either.

  • James7e

    “If unionism fails to engage then the stark truth is nationalism will give you what it wants if the referendum is passed. Better for unionism to negotiate when they have something to offer rather than when they haven’t. Starkly put – vae victor.”

    Fairly clear.

  • Zeno

    If they don’t play ball Direct Rule will be imposed.

  • Zeno

    With the Don’t knows taken out it’s 41% v 59 % and not now but some vague time in the future. The numbers are not there and show no sign of ever being there.

  • Zig70

    You see, while we have polls worded in a certain way that puts the status quo at the heart, nutters like me will still have hope. I still think that if you asked the question ‘should Ireland be reunited’ then I could say ffs. Even then SF as main opposition in the South and FF increasing the nationalist vote in the north could change the game considerably. My Dad used to say you wouldn’t see it in his lifetime. He’s having second thoughts on that one. I totally take your point, work to be done.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    How’s about Dungannon instead?

  • Nigel Watson

    Hi Paddy

    Just scrolling through lots of threads (sadly it beats Strictly!!)…I love a good abstract argument as much as the next man & do feel a compulsive need to respond to any point made by anybody with a contrarian opinion…but seriously have you not looked at the survey results (or indeed talked to any ordinary non political types) and thought…”oh maybe, just maybe, republicanism is on the wrong track”?

    For those supporting UI…33% of southerners would support UI if it meant higher taxes (it seems inconceivable that this would not be required)…the figure is 11% for NI (on the same basis).

    With such data it seems hard to conclude that 90% of the island are nationalists (in any meaningful sense of the word)…I think the only clear conclusion (not terribly insightful) is that humans typically favour the status quo, unless there is a compelling reason to change…true of Irish, British, Poles, Chinese & any other group you care to mention

  • Nigel Watson

    Hi Dexter

    I’ve been looking for many years for someone to articulate a CONCRETE plan for what UI might look like…your thread above us the nearest I have come to (FYI…I’m a persuadable northern prod)…so thanks

    The problem is that northern nationalism seems total committed to increasing NI’s dependency on state aid from the UK…this may be totally understandable in the mindset of “our job is to get more stuff for Catholics”…but only makes a UI less likely

    I assume they are all logical people & most of them seem smart enough…the only logical conclusion for me is that they just don’t think a UI will ever happen so carry on with current focus (with a bit of token UI talk to keep those who do care happy enough)

  • Paddy Reilly

    A Free day gives me time to answer some of your questions.

    In one year’s time, in December 2016, the Catholic population of NI will exceed slightly the Protestant one. Some have complained that I have not taken into account that this is the whole population, not the population over 18 and able to vote. But the differential between underage Catholics and Protestants is small: there are about 20,000 more of the former. It would take just another two years before this advantage is eroded: we don’t have to wait for the whole 18.

    So the 2019 Euros are probably the first election which Unionists cannot guarantee winning on the strength of the demography of their 1921 land-grab. They will thus be obliged to resort to the power of their rhetoric. So as the Unionist majority/plurality gets thinner and thinner, so Unionist noses will get longer and longer.

    Opinion polls will show that support for a United Ireland, previously running at only 2% even among Sinn Féin voters, is now down to -50%.

    The UK subsidy will be shown to be greater than the GDP of the UK. The tax bill for the 26 counties for the 6 will be even greater.

    You are correct in that there is a certain Conservatism among all people, deriving from a fear of the unknown, the uncertainty which makes us rather bear those ills we have, than fly to others that we know not.

    A Catholic majority would, initially, attempt to work within given structures. But it will soon be apparent that this will get them nowhere. Unionists don’t do inclusivity, they don’t do reconciliation. Their reaction to a Catholic majority will be more Orange parades, more roadblocks, more flag protests and more petitions of concern, prepared years in advance.

    Eventually it will be apparent that there can be no freedom and no non-Unionist majority rule within the United Kingdom, and Northern nationalists will be obliged to seek incorporation within the Irish Republic in order to exercise the most basic political rights.

  • Paddy Reilly

    Correct if the Queen was only dropped in NI, but I am talking about what would happen if an attempt was made to have it dropped in England at the behest of Gerry Adams.

  • Nigel Watson

    Hi Paddy

    Thanks for the detailed response

    Sounds good…Catholics just need to keep breeding

  • Paddy Reilly

    No, they don’t. The big jump in the Catholic population happened immediately after the passage into law of the Fair Employment Act. Since then the Catholic birth rate has come down, and is only very slightly higher than the Protestant one.

    A look at the breakdown in the census shows that the Protestant advantage is all in the elderly bracket. It’s only the over 50s who are keeping Protestants, and presumably Unionism, in the majority.

    http://www.hscbusiness.hscni.net/pdf/population_age_religion.xls

    So it’s more a matter of elderly Orangemen needing to keep dying off.

  • Nigel Watson

    Hi Paddy

    Well spotted…you are right, Catholics keep breeding, Prods keep dying off at the current rate & then UI

    When I discuss my politics with friends (Catholics & Protestants) the usual response is to find the idea of a UI hilarious. I still feel that you need to spend a little more time with ordinary non political types (worryingly they have the same number of votes as you & me…despite their apathy)…I think you’ll find that to call every catholic a pro-UI voter is somewhat optimistic

  • Paddy Reilly

    …and I think you’ll find that to call every Protestant an anti-UI voter is somewhat optimistic.

    But this leads us to the thorny question of what you think will happen when Northern Ireland’s electorate is majority Catholic.

    I suppose it will start something like Belfast Council: Sinn Féin the largest party, Alliance holding the balance of power, very gentlemanly office rotation. Then, when the majority try to do something very mild and insignificant, like reduce flag flying to the UK monarchist norm, all hell will break loose and (at least a vocal minority of) Unionists will insist on (imagined) constitution above majority rule and democracy.

    But I have already stated my opinion that we should have a voluntary non-binding universal opinion poll on reunification “Would you vote for a United Ireland? Yes No” given away to every elector at every election, national, provincial or local, so we can gauge the exact moment when a referendum becomes viable.

    For some reason Unionists always shy away from this, remembering urgent appointments, citing the great cost. Funny that, paper doesn’t cost that much, and election tellers work for free.

    You, having once cited minor opinion polls, now have withdrawn to pure anecdotality: the opinion of the electorate of Northern Ireland is to be settled on the basis of your (no doubt scientific and unbiased) conversations with your friends.

  • Nigel Watson

    Hi Paddy

    Seriously Paddy…you win, we’re on the match to a UI…all my friends will be laughing on the other sides of their faces!!

    I’ll be comfortable enough

  • Nigel Watson

    apologies…”march”…the curse of auto-correct!!

    Sleep tight

  • Skibo

    Nigel ever noticed how a small stream can evolve into a massive flow. I believe the idea of a UI does not have the ability to enthral the masses at the moment as most think it cannot happen. As the dominoes start to line up and the next Stormont election will be another, the possibility of a UI grows and with it the belief it could happen. Like a seed it will grow, it just has to be nurtured. The introduction of FF after 2019 will attract politically conservative minded nationalists and soft Unionists to the possibility of a UI. Should FG join the crusade, I expect this to be the natural home of Unionist voters in a UI. It is coming.
    7% voted for a UI in the short term in 2012. In 2015 it is up the 13%. It is only going the one way.

  • Nigel Watson

    Hi Skibo

    Fair points, but I think that the danger of projecting current trends into the future is clear to us all…when ice hockey came to Belfast it’s crowds grew at amazing rates, if these rates had continued we would all be watching ice hockey now…of course we are not

    Gathering “low hanging fruit” is a sensible plan, but not the same as gaining a majority

    It is also possible that as the prospect of a UI grows the reality will then come under more scrutiny which may (or may not) put people off

    My motivation on the MB is to see if any CONCRETE plans are being formulated on UI. It is perhaps early days, but most of what I see (yourself excluded clearly!!) is “political tennis”…the hitting back & forward between politicos of small political points. All good fun I’m sure but not quite what I was hoping I might find

  • barnshee

    “Invest NI has escaped from East Belfast”

    Unfortunately Family credit Housing benefit DLA etc appear to be trapped in Foyle West Belfast Newry and Armagh

  • Paddy Reilly

    Not actually. If I were Martin McGuinness and had managed to work my way up to First Minister, I don’t think I’d be in a hurry to have Ireland united and myself possibly reduced to an ordinary T.D.

    I did ask: what do you think will happen when Northern Ireland’s electorate is majority Catholic? This is not just a rhetorical question. I have an idea, but obviously cannot know. If you have any suggestions, they are worth expressing.

  • Nigel Watson

    Hi Paddy

    Nearly 30 years ago I moved into a student house as the only prod with 6 new uni catholic friends…2 culchies from south Armagh, 1 from west Belfast, 2 middle class & 1 who´d been burnt out of 3 houses in south Belfast.

    Mostly my interests were sport & girls, hadn´t spent a lot of time thinking about politics but as a Ballymena boy I probably had the idea in my head that all catholics wanted a UI & agreed with the pope on all social matters…oooohhh how VERY wrong I was

    If the views expressed by my friends had been given at a DUP conference of c1988 they would have been considered unacceptable even by the DUP!!!

    My opinion on UI is really unchanged over a long time…I don´t think it is a bad idea & can even see distinct positives…but human nature being human nature I just can´t see it happening…why would a 45yo catholic working in the NI civil service risk what they have?…why would a 45yo living in Kildare vote for a UI?

    I just don´t see the strong driving force that makes the benefits worth the effort/risk

    Just on your belief that nationalist voter = UI supporter…I have work colleagues who live in Barcelona, they vote for pro-indepence parties, but would not vote that way in a referendum…they want a “better deal with Madrid”. I think the SNP has a similar “issue”

  • Paddy Reilly

    You seem to be a victim of your own propaganda. At home, you are told that Home Rule is Rome Rule and all Fenians are fanatical Catholics. When you find this isn’t true you are reassured: though you should know that opinion in Republics like Italy, France and Ireland is scarcely monolithic and ranges between Ratzinger and Robespierre, between Daniel O’Connell and Daniel O’Donnell. However, you also feel that you are able to deduce your roommates’ voting behaviour in a referendum which, 30 years later, is yet to take place. Given that we have a secret ballot, I can’t see how that could be the case.

    I assume that they did not decorate their wall with images of the Pope and the B.V.M.. But did they actually cover them with pictures of Lord Bannside, the Queen and General Kitchener? Did they spend their time mapping their careers in the RUC and British Army? If not, I think you’ll find that your view of their view on a United Ireland may be distorted by wishful thinking on your part and politeness on theirs.

    To be in favour of a United Ireland you don’t need to spend your life waving a tricolour. You don’t need to participate in politics at all. All you need is, at some time in the future when the necessary conditions are all in place, to walk into a polling booth, look at a ballot paper, think whether you want yes or not and choose yes.

  • Nigel Watson

    Hi Paddy

    Thanks for your detailed response

    Just to remind you…I’m far from anti-UI, so not sure how wishful thinking comes into it. My first vote (when 18) was for the SDLP, which my mum thought was a great idea, while my Dad a lifelong Alliance voter was fair enough…not sure that’s really a “Fenian hating” home environment, but I guess I’m probably deluded &!wrong on that as well

    You seem pretty committed to the idea that demographics will deliver UI…my feeble attempts to try & suggest that it will take a bit more are clearly doomed. My efforts to suggest that most people in most places are really quite conservative on big changes & indeed that UI might be a big sell in the south have also failed

    I’m lucky…I have a good life, not going to get to excited either way…I’ll carry on cycling, my kids will carry on doing well at school, UI, GB, NI don’t care that much but it would be nice if we could all live together in this small part of the world

  • Paddy Reilly

    That’s not what I said at all. I am reasonably satisfied that demographics will deliver a majority Catholic Northern Ireland. One year from now, in fact: though it may take a couple more years to make that a majority Catholic voting population, and even more time to make that a majority Nationalist voting population. But a United Ireland is a political, not a demographic event, so I couldn’t say. That’s why I recommend a universal non-binding opinion poll sheet to be given away at elections.

    But the question I asked is this: what do you think will happen when Northern Ireland’s electorate is majority Catholic? This is not a rhetorical question. What do you think will happen in Stormont when 1) Unionists form less that half the MLAs and 2) When Nationalist MLAs outnumber them; and possibly 3) when Nationalist MLAs outnumber all others? What sort of dynamic will develop?

  • Nigel Watson

    Hi Paddy

    I don’t mean this in a pejorative way…but all our MLA’s are just not really up to the somewhat boring challenge of delivering “good governance”…they all fall back onto the politics of division because that’s really “their thing”. The recent farce over our inability to rationalise teacher training showed this in a truely alarming way…we are short of money, but we continue with 2 separate systems paying for our kids to go & teach English kids!!!…I wish them well, but why are we effectively subsidising the English education system

    I don’t see any parties with any ideas how to tackle our dependency culture, I don’t see any parties with a desire to grow the private sector, I don’t see any parties who want to put the past behind them (all want “the other side” to move on, but not themselves)

    In summary don’t see much changing whoever has “the majority”…my kids are almost thru school, 1 might stay here, the rest will live in England, for me & my wife Belfast will be a pleasant place to live out our lives, we are lucky that ineffective public provision is an annoyance but we can look after ourselves

  • Skibo

    Nigel, I too want to see the structure of a UI and how it will affect all in society. I can see winners and losers in both. Contraband across the border being the main loser.
    I don’t see any winners or losers in constantly hurling abuse and remember Gandhi’s saying “an eye for an eye and the whole world goes blind”
    My main hope is to see economists join this discussion to properly analyse the present situation and forecast the future. At present SF seem to be the only ones prepared to put their head above the parapet and as it is, SF it gets ignored by 60% of the population. If Queens were to produce such facts they may not be ignored as easily.
    Mick has put up a post, Economics of a united Ireland. Interesting how it is closer to SF figures than Arlene Fosters.
    Zeno is deriding some of the facts but I welcome that because at least he is considering the information.

  • pablito

    @paddyreilly:disqus Well there are certainly more people in Ireland who speak Chinese and Polish in every day conversation than there are who speak Irish. I don’t have a dog in this fight. The people of Northern Ireland can really decide for themselves what they want to be. But Paddy Reilly’s way of thinking is never going to persuade the likes of TruthToPower that Unionists have a safe future in a UI.

  • Paddy Reilly

    And rightly so. TruthtoPower is a died-in-the-wool Unionist, who has no intention of changing his allegiance in return for Ireland in NATO, the Commonwealth, etc. His intention in raising this topic is to sow dissension in the Nationalist camp, not to negotiate the terms of a United Ireland.

    He is playing an old old boring game which I call Grandfather’s Chest. It is from a song in which a woman wants to marry a soldier, who declines because he lacks some item of clothing, etc. Each verse ends with the woman stealing a new item from her grandfather. After she has transferred the whole of her grandfather’s belongings to the soldier, he advances a new excuse: he is married already. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rx6N3-_GKt4

    So as TruthtoPower is not going to be persuaded, there is no point trying. One should instead concentrate on how local variation can be allowed in Newtownards, rather than trying to impose changes on Dublin.

  • pablito

    Time is on the side of the Nationalists and sooner or later a United Ireland will come. Joining the Commonwealth would be irrelevant, but NATO is another matter. Ireland is part of the Western world and of the Anglophone world economically, culturally and even politically. Neutrality is as anachronistic as Commonwealth. I only hope that allowing variation in Newtownards will be enough to prevent another costly civil war.

  • Paddy Reilly

    Yes I’m sure. It’s just that I believe in democracy and human rights: I think it best that matters such as the Commonwealth and NATO should be debated in the Oireachtas and voted on there by the representatives of a sovereign Irish nation, not imposed on us underhandedly as part of a ‘settlement’. However, as the cost of uniting Ireland has to be covered first, the new, 32 County Irish Republic would not be in a position to undertake costly overseas adventures.

  • pablito

    I don’t think the cost of uniting Ireland would be in as prohibitive as some people predict. I don’t think the British government would renounce all financial responsibility on day one without a considerable period of transition. And there would be a lot of international good will for the new state to succeed, once it’s proved that unification is the democratic will of the Irish people. So the UK, the EU and perhaps even the US would undoubtedly act as financial guarantors for a transitional period in which the 32 county state found it’s feet. My worry would be more about another civil war caused by a large number of disgruntled unionists. I do believe that they would be a small minority, and that the majority of unionists would work with the system. After all, it isn’t 1922 when Rome Rule was a defining identity of the Irish Free State.