Eastwood: A new North doesn’t mean an economy based on smuggling of diesel, cigarettes or waste.

First delivered in the form of a speech to endorse Pete Byrne as Councillor for Slieve Gullion in Crossmaglen on 28th January in this piece SDLP leader Colum Eastwood calls for an end to the visionless drift that has plagued nationalism since the signing of the Belfast Agreement in 1998. 

There is a wave of change coursing its way through the SDLP. People have noticed, and they’re paying attention. This is a party which is being talked about again; and being thought of seriously once more.

So I want to talk about the SDLP’s nationalism and about how we will make Northern Ireland work whilst building toward a new, reunified Ireland. 

This is the basis of our new vision of Progressive Nationalism. But in setting out this vision for a New Ireland, we have to be honest with ourselves and others.

It hasn’t been an easy few years for those of us who wish to act as persuaders for the re-unification of Ireland. Although I do not necessarily subscribe to the authority of opinion polls, particularly on an ideal as vast and enduring as Irish unity, they can have an effect on general morale.

It is for this reason that it is now so important to intensify thought and debate around the journey toward reunification.

Currently, the collective voice of Irish nationalism and republicanism is failing to convince enough people that the interests of their future lie in a new, reunified Ireland. I don’t think we should be afraid to admit that, in fact I think it’s much healthier that we do.

So where does the problem lie and more importantly where do we go from here? Let me suggest two principles which should be at the heart of any reunification project.

Irish nationalism and republicanism, the belief that this nation remains incomplete, is not the monopoly of one party, one group or even one generation.

Irish unity is the epitome of a big idea requiring big debate. It is only natural that its needs will be fed, informed and put into action by a broad and diverse church of people.

The SDLP do not own this cause. Sinn Féin do not own it either. Let no-one ever tell you otherwise.

Since this plurality of contribution is so vital nationalism and republicanism must not descend into the preserve or the possession of fundamentalism or fundamentalists.

The ultimate display of such fundamentalism is its expression in the form of violence. This has distorted and degraded the ideals of Irish unity and has unnecessarily delayed the political reunification of this island.

Never, never again can violence be used to corrupt the ideals of a New Ireland.

It is imperative that all of us who believe in Irish reunification hold true to this and that we actively oppose those few who still cling to the folly of death and destruction.

Cultivating an appetite for change

If we stand by those two principles, we can then properly get on with the task of actually persuading for unity.

That, of course, will be no easy challenge.

In a more globalised world, heavily influenced by a particular political hegemony, it is increasingly difficult to convince people of the possibility for transformational change.

People are sceptical as to what politics can actually achieve. That can be seen almost tangibly, hence the cynicism and apathy faced by most of the western world’s body politic.

In this political context, it can be difficult for an electorate to break free from the shackles of the familiar.  The unnatural partition of Ireland is no longer in living memory.

Northern Ireland is now our ‘familiar’. So how do we stimulate and spark a political momentum and desire beyond the ‘familiar’?

Building a New North

We think there are two steps on that journey.

In the North, Nationalism must leave behind any crumb of comfort in the idea that Irish unity can be advanced through the North’s economic and social weakness.

We have often been quietly comfortable with the notion that the Northern state would eventually wither and fall apart and partition would inevitably and naturally end.

However Nationalism’s sneaking regard for the idea of ‘a failed political entity’ ended with the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.

Although many have been slow to grasp the significance of that new state of affairs, people should understand this to be a major departure for Northern Nationalism.

Our mission is now set.

Our aspiration to share political union with the rest of the island is now inextricably linked with our ability to build a shared and successful social and economic framework here in the North.

That means building up the strength and knowledge of our economy. It means giving our young people the dignity and security of a job and creating an infrastructure which can support our people.

Building that new North doesn’t mean building an economy based on the smuggling of diesel, cigarettes or waste.

There are no ‘good republicans’ who are involved in that kind of criminality and equally there are no ‘good republicans’ who implicitly support it.

There are no ‘good republicans’ who are part of a criminal elite. 

You can’t claim to hate the border if you, and a vast organisation, have spent a lifetime profiting from that border’s existence.

The SDLP is committed to building a real economy which gives all our young people the chance to live and work here. We are committed to creating a society with which the South would be happy to integrate.

To do so we must accept the new reality of Nationalism.  We now have a selfish and strategic interest in making Northern Ireland work.

A new attitude in the South

The second step on this journey involves civic and political life in the 26 counties. In the South, an evolution of thought and action must take hold.

The bedding down of the institutions at Stormont should not have been the beginning of a leave of absence for the South’s civic and political involvement in the North.

This betrays the spirit and logic of 1998.

The historic reconciliation of the Anglo-Irish conflict, through the signings of our political agreements, marked perhaps the greatest political change to the 1937 constitution.

In building a post-crash Ireland, the South should understand and re-engage with its responsibilities and its attachment to the North of the country.

The South is a fundamental part of who we are but, equally, we are a fundamental part of who they are too. That spirit can’t just express itself on All-Ireland Sunday in Croke Park.

It needs to be broader and more extensive than that.

That cultural and community attachment cannot be allowed to drift as we build for political unity across the island.

Putting flesh on the bones

Most importantly, building a New Ireland means putting flesh on the bones of the idea. Rhetoric will not tear down the border. It won’t even put a dent in it.

Our people, unionist, nationalist and the many who now don’t subscribe to either of these categorisations, have to be given a much fuller and firmer idea of what is meant and imagined within the context of a New Ireland.

Unionism needs to understand how it will be welcomed into it. How their identity, their culture, their political representation will be respected and retained in a reunified state.

They need to feel reassurance that they’ll feel, and be made to feel, a sense of belonging.

But what is too often forgotten is that Northern Nationalism also needs reassurance as to what the structures of a New Ireland will look like.

How will our hospitals operate, how would our education systems integrate, how would our taxation rates, our business rates, our domestic rates evolve?

If we’re not serious about answering these questions and many, many more, then we’re not serious about creating a New Ireland

That is what Progressive Nationalism is serious about.

It is now the job of our new Progressive Nationalism to answer these questions and to put flesh on the bones of what a New Ireland will mean for us all.

That’s the task I’m setting out and the challenge the new SDLP will meet under my leadership.

It is a huge job of work. But the enduring challenge of reconciling the division of this island deserves no less of a commitment.

Those who hold these values, and those who hold the aspiration of building a New Ireland, should join us in this challenge.

We’ll do it together. Because there is no other way.

, , , ,

  • Ernekid

    This is a good start and its in the right direction but it’s time for Eastwood to put some more meat on these rhetorical bones. Lets see the SDLP form proper alliances with the political parties across the border. The republic’s political landscape will shift at the end of the month. It’s time for Eastwood to make his move and take advantage of that.

    The development of Cross border cooperation has stalled in recent years. It’s time for nationalism to pursue the development of proper cross border cooperation and cross border bodies in areas like Infrastructure, Agriculture, Health services and education. If Northern Ireland wants to be competitive internationally it needs to be a full part of the island wide Irish market.
    If you want a United Ireland there needs to first be extensive cross border links that essentially make the barriers of partition irrelevant. The ball is in Nationalism court here, Unionists don’t really have an effective argument against cross border cooperation that makes the all-island economy more efficient and better place to do business.

  • New Yorker

    Eastwood states: “Currently, the collective voice of Irish nationalism
    and republicanism is failing to convince enough people that the
    interests of their future lie in a new, reunified Ireland.” Maybe the people are not really interested in reunification at this time and you are ignoring them. Or, maybe you know best and the people will rightly ignore you.

  • chrisjones2

    ” The republic’s political landscape will shift at the end of the month.”

    Want to bet?

    “It’s time for nationalism to pursue the development of proper cross border cooperation and cross border bodies in areas like Infrastructure, Agriculture, Health services and education. ”

    No place for unionism in that then …so with Government in de Nurth that only works by consent how do you propose to do that? Its a dead duck.

    “Unionists don’t really have an effective argument against cross border cooperation”

    They dont have to. They just have to say no and there is nothing you or SF or the SDLP can do. I stress I am not advocating that – just pointing out that you utterly ignore the realities

  • murdockp

    I thought this was a particularly poor speech as it is still stuck in United Ireland Lala land.

    We all know that in order to align Ireland for Unification, £2,000 per man, women and child needs to be culled from the budget and I see no mention in the speech of the words efficiency or cuts

    Aligning public expenditure is a pretty important step in achieving Irish unification, look at the West / Est German merger which cost upwards of £200bn but sadly cutting public expenditure by Socialists is like asking a drug addict to give up heroin. Great idea in theory, but the reality is somewhat different

    The policies of SF / SDLP will never deliver a United Ireland not that I want on as we would be poorer for it, but as a neutral SF’s policies are so extreme and so left wing, that they are nearly making it a certainty that a united Ireland will never happen. The irony of course being they are actually delivering unionist policies given thier core support is welfare dependant.

  • runepig

    A good start would be to cut ties with Unionist UK Labour and foster cooperation with the SNP and PC, not to mention SF.

  • Nordie Northsider

    No need to be so arch: the Republic’s political landscape already has shifted. Fine Gael are going into an election seeking a return to power as the main political party for the first time in the history of the State. Labour will be in third place and Fianna Fáil are not obviously a candidate for government. Sinn Féin will win seats not held by Sinn Féin since the 1920s. What more do you want?

  • Anglo-Irish

    In what way exactly would you be ” poorer for it “?

    Do you mean poorer in being able to sponge off the state or do you mean it in some metaphysical ‘loss to the soul’ way?

    Because as I’m sure you’re aware, the citizens of the Republic of Ireland enjoy a better standard of living than the citizens of the UK.


    If I was attempting to persuade a reasonably minded logical member of the PUL community in NI to consider reunification I would go about it by pointing out a few pertinent economically related facts.

    For instance, I would point out that although the Free State/ROI started out from a far worse position than every other part of the UK apart from the south east, it has outperformed all of them over its period of existence.

    I would also point out that all political decisions taken by the UK government are taken with the intention of benefiting The City, Westminster and Big Business with the remainder of the state being an afterthought, and that is a major reason why Ireland has been able to leave Scotland,Wales,Northern Ireland and the North and West of Britain in its wake.

    I would also argue that the inclusion of NI into a reunified Ireland would be a positive move, and that the country would benefit and forge further ahead in future.

    Given the democratic advantage of Proportional Representation the PUL community would have their views fully expressed in a UI.

    Who knows, if the famed hard headed pragmatism of the PU community is in fact true, then maybe if they had accepted democracy back in the day the financial crash may not have happened in Ireland and everyone in the country would be better off.

  • Barneyt

    Labour in Third? Surely FF and SF will context 2nd and 3rd places…with the Labour party doing well to get out of single figures. Have I missed some Labour resurgence?

  • Barneyt

    One could argue that he has provided Unionism with an “out” on this

    “We are committed to creating a society with which the South would be happy to integrate………. We now have a selfish and strategic interest in making Northern Ireland work.”

    How will Unionism respond to that?

  • Urban Elder

    A thoughtful (and substantial) piece from the young buck.

    As Chris Donnelly often points out, political nationalism has become stale and incapable of positive discourse about it’s ultimate objective. There should be no shame in pursuing a United Ireland or a United Kingdom (despite what the Alliance and Green types say!) as long as it has a substantive political programme. Nationalism has so far failed to do that.

    So it’s good to see Eastwood starting to shape that element of our politics. The reunification of the island is something that can gain ever more popular traction but it’s an idea that needs room to breathe and grow. Hopefully this is the start of that process!

    The ‘twin pillar’ approach puts some water between him and Sinn Féin’s old school nationalism too. The kind articulated by Jude Collins which suggests that the path to unity runs through the collapse of the Northern state under the weight of economic and social strain (a view he is entitled to). By contrast, investing in the success of the North, increasing island wide prosperity and creating positive change on the issues which occupy people’s minds first and foremost (health, jobs, education) will give the constitutional debate room to flourish.

    Either way, it’ll require something more substantial than a speech in Crossmaglen or a Slugger post to generate movement. We’ll watch with interest.

  • John Lindsay

    As someone who’d like to see a genuine Labour Party emerge in Northern Ireland I’d welcome that. Perhaps they could rebrand as the Progressive Nationalist Party and give up the pretence of being a social democratic or labour party

  • Robin Keogh

    This is great and something that i have been discussing with fellow shinners and some buddies within FF. Irish Unity is still the goal of all true nationalist and republican parties on this island. SF cannot deliver it alone, it needs the attention and cooperation of all those interested in its realisation. I look forward to working with the SDLP in this regard should i ever have the privilage.

  • Discuscutter

    Unless the SDLP merge with FF or FG (one in ten million chance) it will be going nowhere and will never dictate change.

  • Eastwood’s leadership it seems is continuing with the pretence that the SDLP is indeed an Irish nationalist party in the pursuit of Irish unity.

  • Nordie Northsider

    My mistake – Labour will most certainly be in fourth place. The point stands though – Eastwood is right to say that this election changes the political landscape of the Republic.

  • Neil

    Have to say, I haven’t noticed Eastwood’s leadership at all, this being about the second time I’ve heard his name since he was elected.

    There is a wave of change coursing its way through the SDLP. People have noticed, and they’re paying attention. This is a party which is being talked about again; and being thought of seriously once more.

    Keep saying it Colm, someone might believe it. Seems more like “meet the new boss, same as the old boss” to me.

  • Gingray

    Eastwood is 100% right here, SF do not have a monopoly on Irish nationalism/republicanism even tho they would try to pretend otherwise.

    But he is hardly enthusing the voters just yet.

  • The idea that the SDLP is “being thought of seriously once more” is not something to take seriously. We’ll see how much notice and attention is being paid come the 2016 Assembly election.

  • LiamÓhÉ

    Absolutely, but it is up to everyone to ensure cross-border cooperation, with elected politicians often the slowest movers. I see this through direct cooperation between cities from both jurisdictions, all-Ireland cultural events, and joint economic programmes. Micheal Martin talked of working around and ignoring the border, and there is truth in this, but it must come from all aspects of civic and economic life from as far as Kerry and Wexford, as well as Armagh and Down.

  • murdockp

    How can any country with left wing socialists versus right wing free marketeers be United? The wealth generated in the Republic was largely driven by free trade. SF have contributed little to this and from what I observe never will as you are all about control and big government and anti business. These are the barriers to you ever getting real power just like the British labour party.

  • murdockp

    You cannot remove that level of government subsidy with out some one some where feeling pain in NI given we have no real economy other than a bloated civil service.

    Ask your self if you were in power in ROI, would you take on a state where you have to spend 2 grand a head more than you would on you own people. I wouldn’t touch the place with a bargepole unless it’s economy and government spending was realigned.

  • Anglo-Irish

    Ask yourself if you were in power in Britain would you want to get rid of NI and at some point the subsidy?

    The solution is to taper off the subsidy over an agreed period.

    Northern Ireland has no real economy but look where the Republic came from.

    Not only had it gone through a war and a civil war it was left with virtually no industry and whiskey the one product that it exported to a country not influenced by Britain was devastated by the imposition of prohibition.

    Virtually all its exports were therefore to Britain which took full advantage of the situation.

    Despite all of that Ireland developed its economy in a far more efficient manner than any part of the UK with the exception of the south east and City of London.

    Either the Irish are superior in some way to the population living in those other areas or the difference has been the lack of interference in ROI business by Westminster.

    Take your pick.

  • murdockp

    Northern Ireland chose socialism. That is the fundamental problem here

  • murdockp

    If Eastwood was truthful he has to curtail government spending. That is fundamental to unification

  • Anglo-Irish

    The UK government is going to curtail spending for all of us.

    The administration in NI can only play the hand it’s dealt and spend the amount it’s given, that amount will reduce gradually over the years and at some point people are going to notice the difference with what’s happening next door.


  • Anglo-Irish

    There have been times when Britain chose socialism but then reality dawned.

    It’s a nice idea but who’s going to pay for it?

  • murdockp

    It is an interesting PhD title. Will socialism or free enterprise deliver Irish unification?

    All socialism will deliver is high government pay and big pensions.

  • Anglo-Irish

    Economics, combined with pragmatism and reality coupled with British desire to get rid and Ireland’s desire to do the right thing will, in the end deliver reunification.

  • Robin Keogh

    Well that is exactly what the south has and the place is pretty united. Many countries have political cleavages far greater than Ireland and they manage to function very well. In any event, most commentators will tell you that SF have moved from being a far left socialist party to a left social democracy style platform. Moreover, countries that offer a distinguishable choice to their electorate are far more in line with the principles of democracy that states with party’s that simply ape each other to the point where there is no distinction.

    SF have not been in governemnt in the South and have only recently risen in popularity to the point where they can have an impact through the possibility of governemnt on further growth and prosperity. As foir big governemnt and anti business. Lets be clear. Ireland is a member of the EU and you can be as left as you like but the country is still responsible for acting in line with the various treaties signed including the fiscal compact which restricts spending and borrowing in line with growth. The EU is a free trade area so whether SF is in governemnt or not, free trade and a pro business prioritization is unavoidable.

    The people will decide and this election points to a possible doubling of SF seats with a dozen more set up for the next outing. There are those who said SF would never have more than half a dozen seats, so I wouldn’t be overly confident that the party will never be in government.

    Finally, have a read of the party’s manifesto. Wil do you no harm.

  • Jollyraj

    “It’s a nice idea but who’s going to pay for it?”

    Could say the same about a United Ireland. Why on earth would voters in Ireland want the potentially ruinous expense of NI being welded onto their country? Could impoverish them for a generation. Not to mention the social side effects of all those wicked unionists about the place.

  • congal claen

    Hi Anglo,

    Prior to Independence Ireland was approaching the GDP of the rest of the UK, despite the devastation of the Famine. At the time the UK was one of the leading economies in the world. After independence, the UK wrote of the RoI’s share of national debt. Then in the 30s the Republic defaulted on the Land bonds. Despite having all debts written off the Republic now has greater debt, per head, than the UK. $60k vs $39k. This without the cost of WW2 (although receiving the benefit). As “a reasonably minded logical member of the PUL community” I respectfully decline your kind offer and wish to offer you a reciprocal offer of reunification with the rest of the British Isles.

    The financial crash in the Republic actually shows how alike all the people of these isles are as it was all because of ridiculous property investment.

  • Anglo-Irish

    Dublin was the second largest city of the Empire and yet had the worst slums of any city in the UK. The distribution of wealth between those at the top and the rest of the population was unacceptable.

    The idea that some slight improvement in some conditions in some areas meant that all should be forgiven and forgotten is risible.

    Too little, too late.

    After the war of independence virtually all of the industry in the country was situated in the NI region and Britain used its advantage of being Ireland’s main market to full advantage.

    To take one instance Irish butter was purchased in bulk and packaged under British company names to be sold at a significant profit.

    Tony O’Reilly was responsible for the creation of the Kerry Gold marketing strategy that returned the profit to the producers.

    Are you seriously trying to argue that Ireland hasn’t outperformed all of the UK apart from the south east?

    As for debt you are aware of this I take it?


    Why don’t you offer reunification to the USA, India ,Kenya , Israel, Cyprus et al?

    Surprising how many nations had people who were prepared to fight and die to rid themselves of British rule, what with it being such a wonderful thing an all.

  • Anglo-Irish

    For some reason I don’t find it at all surprising that you appear unable to comprehend that some people are prepared to do the right thing even if it is to their personal short term disadvantage.

    And. as I keep pointing out, Britain wants rid of the problem and therefore will be prepared to continue to provide some support on condition that it will eventually see an end to its involvement.

    Or are you under the impression that the current situation is going to be acceptable for evermore?

  • Jollyraj

    You keep repeating this “do the right thing” mantra. What, in your opinion, makes it the right thing when a majority in NI have been very clear over the last 50 years or more that they don’t want it. And it isn’t at all clear that a majority in Ireland even want it. Why are you, a person who has chosen to live in the Uk, so bitterly eager to strip others of the right to do so?

  • Anglo-Irish

    First of all, a ‘majority’ brought about by fiddling the boundaries in order to create a majority in an area never before separated from the rest of the country isn’t a ‘majority’, it’s an undemocratic stitch up.

    Secondly. following the signing of the GFA and the referendum in the ROI it has been accepted that there will be no change in the current situation until such time as the majority in NI vote for it, and no one is trying to say that it should be otherwise.

    Pointing out a few facts such as NI isn’t wanted by the British for blindingly obvious reasons and yet will be accepted back into the rest of the country because that’s how it should be isn’t being ” eager to strip others” of any rights.

    Explaining that the population of NI would have a significant say in an all Ireland government whilst they are insignificant in a UK context is a simple fact.

    Providing proof that the standard of living in Ireland is higher than that in the UK is pointing out facts also.

    The fact that you don’t like it is your problem not mine.

  • congal claen

    Hi Anglo,
    As countries industrialise, people move to the city and with rapid population increase inevitably slums are created. Dublin is no different in that respect. It still happens today. However, there was an attempt to address it. The wide streets project is what makes Dublin the enviable city it is today with Sackville Street (O’Connell) at it’s heart.
    The slight improvement that you mention was threefold from about £12.50 in 1864 to about £32.50 on the eve of WW1.
    As for the butter. What do you think Apple do with their iPhones. Should the Republic turn them and their tax away?
    As for the debt, the link you provided isn’t too far off what I suggested it was. The RoI debt is 50% higher per capita or do you disagree?
    The US, etc were not united with the UK.
    And BTW, when you mention the nations fighting off the British, remember a lot of those Brits were Irish. In the US War of Independence it was the “orange” Irish fighting for the Continentals whilst there were quite a few “green” Irish fighting for the British.

  • Jollyraj

    “Following the signing of the GFA and the referendum in the ROI it has been accepted that there will be no change in the current situation until such time as the majority in NI vote for it, and no one is trying to say that it should be otherwise.”

    Of course. As it should be. Which is great news for those of us who favour staying with the union. But rather rotten luck for yourself, and for the rump within SF who actually still seem to want, and actively work towards, the old dream of a UI.

  • Anglo-Irish

    There was an attempt to address it, well maybe there was but as I said, too little too late.

    My Irish grandfather was born in 1868. History isn’t always as ancient and forgettable as some would like.

    As for Irishmen fighting on the British side they fought on just about all sides, as Emily Lawless so eloquently put it ;

    War battered dogs are we,
    Fighters in every clime;
    Fillers of trench and of grave,
    Mockers bemocked by time,
    War-dogs hungry and grey,
    Gnawing a naked bone,
    Fighters in every clime
    Every cause but our own.

    And in the American War of Independence they did provide the father of the American Navy which went on to become the most powerful navy the world has ever seen.

    It wasn’t just the ‘orange’ was it, it was numerous nationalities including the French none of whom had much time for the British and their Hanoverian allies.

  • Anglo-Irish

    You need to disabuse yourself from the erroneous idea that I personally give a rats arse as to what you believe is good news or bad.

    It matters little to me if you wish to continue with your benefit sponging existence and reliance upon a country that doesn’t want you or regard you as anything more than an unfortunate negative leftover from the end of empire.

    What will be will be, and in about 30 years or so a united Ireland will come about as a result of economics and demographics encouraged by the British wanting it.

    The PUL community have come a long way from a position of hegemony with absolutely no chance of a UI to the present position of having to rely upon ‘Themuns’ wanting to remain in the UK.

    When the British have gradually reduced the subsidy year on year and the gap in standard of living between the ROI and NI becomes even more apparent than it already is what will be the incentive for people who consider themselves to be Irish to remain in the UK?

    Still, if it makes you happy, you keep whistling in the wind.

  • Old Mortality

    ‘And. as I keep pointing out, Britain wants rid of the problem …’
    Name one significant political figure in the UK outside the left-wing fringe of the Labour Party who has expressed a desire to be rid of NI?

  • Brendan Heading

    There are no Irish nationalist parties “in pursuit” of Irish unity.

  • Brendan Heading

    There should be no shame in pursuing a United Ireland or a United Kingdom (despite what the Alliance and Green types say!) as long as it has a substantive political programme.

    I’d like to take you up on this.

    Firstly nobody is “pursuing a united Ireland”. Pursuing something suggests you are making an effort to make it actually happen. Nationalists are making no effort to persuade people to reunify Ireland, and that is reflected both in terms of the nationalist share of the vote falling and in an ongoing decrease in the overall number of nationalists voting.

    As you note, neither of the nationalist parties have a “substantive political programme” when it comes to NI. Sinn Féin have a programme in terms of the Dáil but nothing worth talking about in terms of government up here. I have no idea what the SDLP would do if they found themselves in government and doubt there is much that they would seek to change.

    And yes, there absolutely is shame in spending all your time and effort talking about Irish reunification, which isn’t going to happen for many decades at least. In particular I fail to understand why nationalists love to spend their time talking about a united Ireland to other nationalists which is the real problem here – nationalists and unionists prefer to preach to the converted and fight among themselves rather than persuade non-supporters to join their cause.

    The reason why Alliance and the Greens don’t take a position on the constitutional matter is because it is a waste of time. Nationalists and unionists have their constitutional positions assigned at birth and go through their lives defending their birth-tribe, refusing to critically evaluate their own position, and insisting that other people define themselves on the same lines. Vote for that ? No thanks.

  • Greenflag 2

    ‘Northern Ireland chose socialism. ‘

    Did it ? Where ? The fundamental problem is that it’s government is a mandatory coalition with little real power because the ‘real government ‘ at Westminster does’nt trust them to wield such power in a non sectarian manner .
    Its as good as it can get until the place is wrapped up and dispatched into history as a failed experiment .

  • Greenflag 2

    ‘Will socialism or free enterprise deliver Irish unification?’

    Neither .

    Changing demographics and history and the way of the world will most likely but there are no guarantees . World War 111 or another major economic recession can always impede the march of history .

  • Anglo-Irish


    Quote on the 3rd of November 1989 and 9th of November 1990 are relevant, a year apart, one admitting that the problem was unsolvable and the other accepting that NI can leave without British objection.

    Peter Brooke is a Conservative who served under Thatcher.

    You think that politicians are in the habit of making statements that might make them a target for nutters?

    Politicians, as I’m sure you know, say things that are politic but not necessarily true.

    I happen to know that Roy Mason acted tough but told the Irish that there would be no objection to reunification.

    The man who told me that is someone that I’ve known for over thirty years and a man who knew Mason extremely well having been in his home on many occasions.

    Can you name a significant British politician with no connection to NI that has expressed a strong wish for NI to remain in the union since the GFA?

    Aside from politicians I can assure you that there are very few English people who hold any great affection for the place.

  • murdockp

    SF are extreme left wing to people who are self employed or run businesses. One thing I can be pretty sure to place a bet that SF wont be in government.

    Voters only go socialist on the way down and are capitalists on the way up.

    GDP is on the way up at present. No point in arguing, let’s just count the votes instead.

  • Anglo-Irish

    Has it occurred to you that the reason nationalists don’t spend time talking to unionists about a UI is because they know them too well?

    Could it be that they are aware that any such conversation would be a complete waste of their time and liable to end in acrimony?

    Maybe they have quietly considered the situation, weighed up the probabilities, and realised that time and demographics are on their side.

    Perhaps being sensible people and having witnessed what annoyed ‘loyalists’ are capable of they have decided not to poke the bear until the time is right, at which time any ‘effort to persuade’ will be somewhat superfluous.

    Just a guess, what do you reckon?

  • murdockp

    Reunification, when was the country ever unified other than Elizabeth I , my old Irish teacher use to tell us stories about the black pigs Dyke and that ulster under the O’Neil was always separate from the rest of the country but what the helll do I know.

  • eamoncorbett

    I think the only thing that will upset the constitutional applecart on these islands will be Brexit or maybe Scotland’s departure as a result . Colum Eastwood is correct that a dysfunctional NI is an obstacle to unity but a settled happy NI would have an equal effect , why fix something that ain’t broken .
    The Sinn Fein tactic of a battle a day at Stormont and the disruption that goes with it alongside a more than willing adversary in the DUP could in the long term have the effect of the imposition of Joint Authority.
    Both the strategies of the SDLP and SF depend on Unionist reaction , I have seen no evidence since 1998 that Unionists will react to anything unless they are pushed .
    The DUP ,UKIP and Tory Eurosceptics almost look like one party now ,
    that does not bode well for the future of NI politics .

  • Brendan Heading

    Could it be that they are aware that any such conversation would be a complete waste of their time and liable to end in acrimony?

    If you are making the point that it is a complete waste of time to try to persuade the people who currently don’t support a united Ireland to start supporting it, then I agree with you. So why bother doing it at all ?

  • Anglo-Irish

    Exactly, why bother?

    Having a bit of a laugh pointing out a few things to people is one thing but trying to actually change their mind is pointless, which is why I stick to the former and don’t bother with the latter.

    Attempting to change the mind of most members of the PUL community would be like attempting to persuade a supporter of a football club to support their fiercest rival, and it would be similar the other way around you’d think, so lets wait til the referendum shall we?

    Demographics will trump wishes, maybe not the first time around but eventually, and that will then be that, no persuasion required.

  • congal claen

    Hi Anglo,

    Dublin is essentially a British looking city. Name just one thing that has improved Dublin in anywhere near scale and ambition since independence as the wide street commission.

    The point about Irishmen fighting for the UK is that when you complain about past British misdeeds you’re actually criticising your own people. You can’t walk away from it. It’s already been done. While your at it you might want to claim the support given to fascist Spain that nationalists conveniently forget.

    As for the us war of independence the vast majority of Irishmen were of an orange hue and is well accepted as fact. Hence the signatories to the declaration, the presidents, etc of ulster Scots descent. Where are the green Irish equivalents?

  • Urban Elder

    I agree with you that no nationalist party is pursuing a united Ireland, that’s why I think the piece from Eastwood is useful as an opening to a discussion or process.

    I’m not sure either of the nationalist parties can be accused of “spending all [their] time and effort talking about Irish reunification”. The lack of discussion has been a key element in the failure of the idea to grow in any legitimate way.

    Didn’t Eastwood also say recently (maybe it wasn’t him, in which case I’m claiming the poetic lingo for myself) that his vision of nationalism is one that isn’t a demographic of birth but a demographic of belief? We’ll see how that plays out though.

  • Anglo-Irish

    And London is essentially a Roman and Palladian European looking city you muppet meaning that Dublin is as well.

    The Anglo-Irish identity kind of gives the game away don’t you think? Both of them are my own people.

    Were you under the impression that I wasn’t aware of the fact that both the British and Irish are both my people?

    Where are the green equivalents?


    By the way, has it never occurred to you that the only time your people ever managed to distinguish themselves on the side of righteousness was when they were fighting against the British?

  • Gaygael

    Do you honestly belive this?

    The nationalist vote is in decline, northern Irish identity is on the up, and there is a downturn in nationalist turnout.

  • Jollyraj

    Perhaps it is you who needs “to disabuse yourelf from the erroneous idea that” most people who actually live in NI “personally give a rats arse as to what you” bitterly and incessantly demand we should decide to do about our constitutional future. If, as you constantly harp on about, you actually do live in England then as you yourself acknowledge you simply don’t have a vote on the matter. Demographics doesn’t really come into it since Catholics can vote as they see fit in any referendum. It seems to me that your fervent desire for a UI is based mostly on bigotry towards what may broadly be termed as unionists. I have met a very great number of people from each of the other three countries of the UK and I am glad to say that very, very, very few share your prejudices, against either Irish folk or people from NI. Bye, bye.

  • LiamÓhÉ

    This is a good old debate between you two. A late post to note that Dublin continued many of the good aspects of city planning post-independence, including large-scale housing projects in Cabra and the Docklands. They also cleared the slums, built new garden city estates, and realised many new inner city developments. Among these of note in the last few decades are Temple Bar, and the Dublin Docklands, both of which are large in scale and integrated in form. Dublin Corporation was pragmatic in continuing to use the services of Abercrombie and Geddes among others, while also keeping up with trends from elsewhere. Where Belfast was to build the disproportionate Stormont for the 6 counties remaining within the UK, Dublin instead adapted existing structures and experimented with other styles instead of solely neoclassical opulence and ostentation.

  • Anglo-Irish

    Where are you getting this highly amusing rubbish from?

    Other than point out a few facts on the matter please show me where I’ve demanded’ incessantly’ or otherwise that anyone should do anything?

    My point is no one has to do anything, things change they have changed enormously in NI over the past 30 years and will continue to do so.

    Bigotry? As the son of a Catholic mother and Protestant father married to an Anglican I certainly can’t be accused of religious bigotry.

    No, my problem with unionists has nothing to do with either their religion nor their ethnicity, it’s their behavour that I hold against them.

    Their totally undemocratic and reprehensible actions are why I hold the views that I do about unionists.

    This type of thing for instance

    And the fact that when given their own little gerrymandered fiefdom they proceeded to gerrymander some more and treat their neighbours in such a disgraceful manner that it gave rise to a civil rights movement, and when that looked as though it might elicit a measure of fairness being introduced they then introduced violence once again.

    No, I and none of the British people have a vote, which is fortunate for the PUL community because there’s only one way that vote would go.

  • Gaygael

    I think you are simplifying the ‘Northern Irish’ identity. For some the emphasis is on Northern, for others irish, for others as part of a uk identity.
    It can hardly disappear and will be asked in 2021. What’s interesting is the numbers of people choosing it in the Belfast wards of Ardoyne, New Lodge and Water Works. Wards that are 90%+ Catholic yet around 25% of people choose a Northern Irish identity.
    I’m very agnostic on the union. Or reunification. Wherever provides the best chance for progressive left politics will be my call.
    Prentending you don’t need to persuade ‘others’ and soft unionists will be your undoing. Sell you idea. Don’t pretend its a historical inevitability.
    I’m exactly the sort of person you should be persuading. Catholic community background, from working class north Belfast with a family that scatters all the common markers of nationalist community background. I should be an easy win. That type of attitude will only turn people off.

  • murdockp

    the partitioning they undertook in 1922 was that of a british terrority, that is very different to the partitioning of an Irish State. I am simply pointing out that the word reunification is inaccurate for Irish Republicans and Nationalists and is a ‘romantics’ view of the event to which they politically wish happens it suggests Ireland was a nation state before the british stole the country which it was not.
    I still think unification is a more appropriate word to use.

  • Gaygael

    I think you are over egging your pudding sir. At the most recent Westminster vote, Nationalist parties scrapped over 38% of the vote.
    The SOS currently holds the power for a border poll, trigger by as yet unidentified lever.

    Smart nationalism would be requesting that the lever is a simple majority vote in favour of a border poll. And nationalist should get to working with parties that may support it.
    NI identity does not equate to support for the Union. It means a preferred NI identity. One may extrapolate that British identity means support for the union and Irish identity means support for reunification. This may be broadly true.
    NI identity is a lot trickery than that. I fully expect it will be one again. BTW have a look at New Lodge, Water Works, Bellevue and Ardoyne wards and NI identity.

  • congal claen

    Hi Anglo,

    My comment about Dublin being a British looking city wasn’t a comment on style. It was about who constructed it.

    Anglo refers to England and the English, not the British. British is a wider term as I’ve argued with you before of which the Irish are one part. Not sure if muppets are included. But sure, I’ll take me chances ;0)

    As for your green equivalents, you’ve just referenced a list of Irish Americans, which of course includes “orange” Irish. Your quest was to name “green” Irish who fought in the US war of independence as I had argued there were very few as catholic emigration mainly happened in the 19th century after the war.

    BTW, the only reason I mentioned US independence was because you used it as your first example of a people who fought of the British. I’m merely pointing out the irony in your choice as the Orange Irish were those who fought for the Continentals whilst the Green Irish were on the side of the British who you were slating. Oh and also BTW, I’m not suggesting that the Ulster Scots Continentals were on the side of the righteous. I’m not sure there was a righteous side. However, I do believe that we were on the side of the righteous in WW2, which you appear to have forgotten.

  • congal claen

    Hi Liam,
    Indeed. I keep telling myself to just leave it. But, I can’t help meself!

  • Anglo-Irish

    A few points.

    Who constructed Dublin? Are you saying that the craftsmen and building construction workers who built Dublin came over from Britain?

    The Irish built Dublin and indeed a fair amount of London.

    Having said which building some nice properties for the affluent does not then make everything alright.

    The Irish are not and never have been a part of Britain, part of the British Empire at one time yes, included in the Union by the act of 1801, yes, at any time included within the description Britain, no.

    No Sovereign ever held the title King/Queen of Britain without the appellation Ireland.

    Take a look at the front cover of your passport.

    With regard to Irishmen who fought for the Americans in the War of Independence as I’ve already mentioned they included the Father of the American Navy and also these guys.


    And these.


    With regard to the involvement of the ‘Orange’, aren’t the ‘Orange’ supposedly ‘loyal’ to the British crown?

    So what happened there then? Sounds like a bunch of traitorous turncoats to me, although I’m sure you’ll have a satisfactory explanation, at least to your mind anyway.

    Interesting that you should bring up WW2, are you aware that even allowing for the percentage in numbers more men from what was then the Free State joined in the fight against Germany than did those from NI.

    When you further take into consideration that not every man from NI that joined up was from the PUL community ( the only NI VC wasn’t ) that’s even more impressive don’t you think?

    Apologies about the muppet remark by the way, not meant with any malice.

  • Brendan Heading

    It’s hard to know where to start with this.

    The Provos said in the 1970s that all it would take would be “one last push”. That didn’t happen. Sinn Féin claimed in 2003 that there would be a united Ireland by 2016. That hasn’t happened either.

    Since 1998, the combined SDLP+SF vote has crawled from 39.6% to 41.1% (2014 local government election). That’s an average increase of 0.09 percentage points per year. At that rate it will take around 83 years for the nationalist vote to reach 50%.

    It is none of my business if you wish to delude yourself, but nationalists have spent long enough lying to each other about this – isn’t it really about time they stopped ?

  • Brendan Heading

    A lot of confident predictions there with absolutely no evidence backing any of them.

  • Brendan Heading

    No one was told in the census that claiming an NI identity would be taken as support for the Union

    Who is taking an NI identity as support for the union ?

    What has the census response got to do with anything ?

  • Brendan Heading

    Can you remind me what it is we’re disputing again ?

  • Anglo-Irish

    Absolutely no bloody idea, my excuse is old age and failing mental faculties, what’s yours?

  • congal claen

    Hi Anglo,

    I’m quite sure Irishmen built Dublin. The money and vision was from the ruling british administration.

    I have never claimed Ireland was part of Britain and neither is it today. However it is part of the British Isles and has been for millennia. I explained this to you recently. However, you chose to ignore the writings of Ptolomey, Pliny, etc.

    Did you actually read the links you supplied? If you did, you’ll actually find it reinforces what I said – it was the orange Irish, the green Irish were still in Ireland.

    As for the turncoat issue, you raise an interesting point. At that time even in Ireland it was the ulster prods, especially presbyterians, who were Republican. For example, the Belfast Newsletter first published the proclamation outside the states. It’s were the united Irishmen were formed. It may sound strange now, but ulster prods were most against the act of union. In contrast Catholics largely welcomed it. Then again, we would largely be considered supporters of Cromwell – the most famous republican ever to set foot in Ireland. Yet Catholic Ireland supported the king. It’s a funny old world

    RoI citizens taking part in ww2 is indeed remarkable. As for the VC i take it you mean James Magennis? An amazing man. And let down badly by both communities on his return. Irishmen have won loads of VCs. You can find the list on Wikipedia.

  • Anglo-Irish

    You have never claimed that Ireland was part of Britain?

    Obviously I mistook the comment in your previous post that “British is a wider term as I’ve argued with you before of which the Irish are one part ”

    Claiming that the Irish are one part of British sounded very much as though you were in fact claiming exactly that.

    As I have pointed out on several occasions, being born in NI gives you a birthright to British nationality and citizenship but it doesn’t make you British if it did then it would also make someone born there who is 100% Irish with an Irish passport British also, and that would be ludicrous, wouldn’t it?

    The whole Protestant v Catholic thing in terms of identifying someone as Irish or not only really works if you’re talking about Presbyterian protestants doesn’t it?

    Wolf Tone identified as Irish as did people such as Edmund Burke and W B Yeats, some of them may have gone with Anglo-Irish ( I’ve nothing against them lads! ) but only the Presbyterian version of protestants appear to have quite the visceral dislike of being regarded as Irish.

    Incidentally, you referred to the ‘orange’ taking part in the American war of Independence, somewhat pedantic as I get what you mean, but that war took place between 1775 and 1783 and the Orange Order wasn’t formed until 1795.

    So any of those men who were killed or remained on in America never heard of the OO, or perhaps they did and formed the KKK in imitation, they don’t like Catholics either.
    : )

  • Brendan Heading

    Okay, it’s getting pretty clear at this point that you are just a troll, so I will reply one last time.

    Firstly I didn’t “elevate polls above election results”. I claimed, with supporting evidence, that the likely support for a united Ireland lagged behind the nationalist vote in the election results. Despite a lot of bluster, misrepresentation and personal abuse, you have furnished no evidence whatsoever to counter my argument.

    Secondly, I’ve been a member of a political party for nearly 22 years and have paid close attention to NI politics almost continuously for that time. My experience, such that it is, leads me to point out the following facts :

    – there is no evidence that those who identify as Northern Irish are generally regarded as Unionists.

    – given that Sinn Féin and, to a lesser extent, the SDLP avoid or outright refuse to even use the term “Northern Ireland” – to the extent of ordering their civil servants to avoid using the term in publications produced by the departments they run – there is no reason whatsoever to believe that a significant proportion of those who identify as Northern Irish are nationalists who are likely to redefine themselves as Irish due to the supposed opinion of some unionists.

    – not only that, but the census provided options for people to designate themselves as “Irish and Northern Irish”, “British and Northern Irish” or simply “Northern Irish”. The idea that a nationalists who defines himself in any way Irish would tick the Northern Irish box rather than the “Irish and Northern Irish” one is hard to sustain.

    – there is no evidence supporting your contention that this designation is likely to be removed from the next census – not when one-fifth of the population define themselves as such.

    Your contributions on this site are characterised by ignorance, exaggeration, half-truths, ad-hominem remarks and personal abuse paint a fairly complete picture of what kind of a person you are. I look forward to reading your next article in “Nature”.

  • Brendan Heading

    you seem to be labouring under a misapprehension. I have no problem with a united Ireland. I lived in Dublin for a year, some time ago, and regularly visit friends there. I could cope with reunification quite well.

    My problem is not with Irish reunification, it is with politicians wasting time talking about it when it is never going to happen, rather than getting on with the more important tasks of trying to heal the damage in our society here and solve social and economic problems that are facing everyone. I don’t care what fantasies people wish to indulge about the future in their own time, but when they are conducted publicly at the expense of the social good it’s a huge problem.

  • Paddy Reilly

    Yes but if Unionists can arrest the decline in their vote by increasing their turnout, what makes you think Nationalists cannot do the same?

  • John Collins

    In the last 80 years of GB rule our population overall halved and fell by about 5/8 in what is now the 26 counties. We are far better out of GB.