Orange, green…time for a new idea on ‘the border’ in between?

An excellent piece by Belfast Barman recently asked why, since the dream/ threat of a United Ireland allegedly defines our politics in Northern Ireland, we rarely hear the details of how exactly it would work discussed by those in favour or the precise, alleged horrors of such a thing debated by those strongly against.

In an even more recent post Colum Eastwood, however, starts to think – in broad terms – about what might be needed to bring about a United Ireland through “Progressive Nationalism”.

Colum’s speech also includes a very interesting aside: namely, that there are “many” people in Northern Ireland who no longer subscribe to the mainstream political labels of Unionist and Nationalist. And that aside leads to an even more interesting question, namely that since a United Ireland continues to poll low, since non-voters make up a huge slice of our population and since, in my experience, some Unionists are increasingly Northern Irish in their thinking, are we not living in the most fertile time we have ever seen for a third option, a new idea, on the constitution of Northern Ireland itself?

Politics in Northern Ireland tends to assume that there are two options: a United Ireland and an unchanging Union. But this assumes that a party political vote means an unflinching position on either option and excludes those “many” people without those main labels. It assumes that people are already voting on the issue of ‘the border’ and assumes that a person’s culture equates to a firm view on the Union/ United Ireland.

Not only does it do this, but it fails to look too closely at, for one example, HOW Unionist a Unionist voter might be and therefore ignores the question of just how open to compromise people in Northern Ireland might be to a third idea on Northern Ireland’s constitution.

Much of Unionism and Nationalism seems to be about identity and recognition, not solely about the Union or a United Ireland. So if orange and green are starting to look distinctly tangerine and lime around the edges and if “many” people are outside the standard political boxes, what would happen if that third option – what that option could be is not important for this exercise – was put to people as readily as we assume their uncompromising position on the Union or a United Ireland?

Are we honestly saying that only two options on the border in Northern Ireland exist? That only two options will ever exist?

If the answer is negative to the latter is this not, then, a time when parties and people in general should also be thinking about shaping a third option, with all that they would wish to see within it, instead of adopting a ‘wait and see’ approach to the shifting sands of a changing Union and a changing Northern Ireland.


It is generally accepted that a United Ireland continues to poll low at the moment. Meanwhile, we had the emergence of the ‘Northern Irish’ in census results and within some Unionists I have noted – anecdotally, I’ll admit – Unionist voters and non-voters known to me who, on issues like National Anthem at Windsor Park and on questions of British identity, are a lot less Unionist than I might have assumed and a lot more Northern Irish that I could have ever thought.

How do we know how many of these assumed-Unionists would actually want their own Northern Ireland identity through a third option, which would safely contain their cultural unionism and leave space for the cultural identity of others? How we can we assume they’d reject this option given the chance to do so?

And with a United Ireland generally off the political table at present, we now have very changed society in Northern Ireland for Nationalists/ Republicans (meaning – you’d hope – a new confidence and a different climate for Unionists too).

Some blocks of voters begin to look very powerful in this context if a third option became the goal:

– Loyalism: Does a third idea on the Union exist which gives Loyalism, working with others to shape that option, more recognition from all?

– Republicanism: Most of the current thinking reminds me of a child banging on a sweet shop window instead of figuring out with his mates how to pool their money and actually go through the door. Would it not be better to drive a third option with others than hope for a single outcome?

– Nationalism/ Unionism: How many voters take a softer position on the Union/ United Ireland than is assumed and are therefore open to a third idea? We have an entire post-ceasefire generation in our midst; we could we be underestimating, thanks to our pre-ceasefire political boxes, an appetite for compromise and cementing their peace even further?

And that’s not to mention Alliance and the very large number of non-voters.

Are people generally uncompromising in their view of the Union and United Ireland? The main parties would like us to think so: after all, it defines their existence.

So they would say that.

But if someone was to propose a third option on the Union/ United Ireland or if a group of voters were to talk to – say – Loyalism or SDLP voters or even non-voters about combining their support to build the ideal ‘Northern Ireland’ they really wish for, what could be created within that third idea?

The last article I read which went into serious detail about how a United Ireland would work was written some time ago by the Conall McDevitt, so it is great to see the SDLP starting to open the subject up properly again.

What if all ‘sides’ went into the same detail and set out their stalls but for the benefit of each other, trying to buy each other in and create something new?  Ultimately, they could end up working together on a third idea instead of against each other on old ideas.


One of the best Radio Ulster Thought for the Day speakers I ever heard (would appreciate a link) read a list of how the great world powers had changed over the years. His simple, brilliant message: ‘Empires change’.

And Alex Kane spoke at the Slugger Review of the Year in December about the need for a new kind of politics. That’s very much agreed.  To take it a step further: how many people are waiting for a third option, a new kind of politics on the Union/ United Ireland itself?

What is the theoretical silent majority actually thinking? What would they say in a United Ireland referendum if an option instructing politicians to find a third way was included?

And how many people would be willing to take their hands off the political tug-of-war rope simply by being offered a different option and asked ahead of time what they want the new game – perhaps an inevitable new game – to look like?

What if many people feel a lot more strongly about identity and are capable of a lot more compromise on the Union and United Ireland than we think?


Take Donegal, for example, where the concept of nationality, views on the Union, culture, language, sport and religion are apparently more fluid and free-flowing than anything most of us are used to. Would people in Northern Ireland adopt the same thinking if released from the boxes of party-political position on a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ concept of a United Ireland?

Perhaps this third idea is the equivalent of the time travel paradox which tells us that if time travel was possible someone would have appeared from the future to tell us so: ie, if a workable option did exist it would have taken root by now. That is, of course, unless our political parties are defined and exist on their basis of those boxes “many” of us don’t subscribe to.

Could a third option be the ultimate game of Deal or No Deal? You get to bring the whole debate to an end for good; but you settle on the banker’s deal and shake hands with finality. Your old enemy may have won a ‘payout’ of much of their ultimate wishlist; but so did you. And you get to know that their perceived encroachment on your aspirations is settled forever.

I’d like to see it put to the test and to know what people, not parties, would think of a third option which could even give us our increasingly less different identities within a single identity.

With attitudes to a United Ireland and life in modern Northern Ireland very different from just a few years ago, the concept of the Union itself facing change sooner or later and the difficulty in assuming that a person’s cultural politics equate to an uncompromising view on the border, is it time for someone to take a harder look for the Northern Ireland politics of the future and begin to lead voters, and non-voters, forwards in a new way on the constitution itself?

Or maybe it is all just an idealistic pipe-dream.

Sure they said that about the SNP.

Conor Johnston – @CJohnstonNI – writes about subjects including culture (especially film/ cinemas), identity and media. He also blogs at

  • Kevin Breslin

    I thought we already had something in between. Ultimately isn’t that what politics is finding a third way with the people, resources and ideas you have.

    Constitutions are set in paper in the UK but often some parts are laminated and other parts are scrap paper.

    In the Republic it is set in stone, with the capacity to chip off large parts of the stone and cement new parts to it.

    Perhaps Northern Ireland’s constitution is somewhat scissors based, e.g. can’t agree to deal with welfare reform cut itself of responsibility.

  • Nevin
  • Thank you Nevin.

    It would be good to see space left to explore that kind of thinking.

    My issue is that we just assume people only think one of two ways on ‘the border’ – voters and non-voters alike are slotted into two boxes.

    If we were ever to have a referendum on a United Ireland etc I’d very much like something like your idea to be included as an option.

  • Biftergreenthumb

    Agree with the general spirit of this article. However, I think that the idea of developing a third constitutional option is not the best solution for now.

    The problem with Northern Ireland is the obsession with the constitutional question. This obsession may have made sense in the past when Catholics were a disadvantaged minority and when Protestants were worried that they would be a religious minority in a Catholic Church dominated UI. But today it makes no rational sense at all. Both the UK and ROI are democratic, secular, liberal democracies with very little differences between them in terms of political values or day to day life. Whether my kids grow up in a UI or the UK will have next to no impact on their life options or general happiness.

    What we need to do is to realise that the constitutional question is nowhere near as important as Unionism and Nationalism would have us believe. The development of a third option gives too much credence to unionism’s and nationalism’s obsession.

    The best solution is already happening. As the article points out, increasing numbers of people do not identify as unionist or nationalist. If we can convince people that the
    constitutional question is not as important as they assume then the number of open minded ‘others’ will increase.

    If on the other hand we promote a third option we’re just continuing our obsession with constitutionalism and creating a third identity to join in the fighting with unionists and nationalists.

    If we can weaken the hold that the constitutional question, and the associated identities, have on us and concentrate more on day to day political issues we can always return to the constitutional question in a more rational manner down the line when everyone’s views won’t just be an irrational expression of tribal loyalty.

  • I understand what you mean and have some sympathy for that point of view too, but it also feels like we aren’t a million miles away – as things stand for many people at present – from some kind of new idea to be added.

    I’d say what we have at the minute isn’t all that far off it.

  • Absolutely – except if the constitutional question is less and less important does that not move us closer to completely settling it somehow.

    Perhaps not just yet, you could argue in the above way, and I can see why. But the process would take years and years anyway.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Interesting piece but three problems arise which mean I don’t think it’s the way forward.

    First on a positive note, CJ’s apercu is correct that there seems to be (from polling data like the Life And Times survey) a drift away for some people from being happy with the prevailing binary ethnic block identification. The group saying ‘neither’ or just ‘stop hassling me, dude’, which was always there, has grown. It is though still small compared to the numbers who do identify solidly with one ethnic block or the other – it’s an ’emergent’ discourse, to borrow from semiotics terminology, but far from being ‘dominant’, not yet, and possible not ever. It reminds me of the world of tv research I sometimes immerse myself in – commentators have been obsessed with online, “new media”, time-shifted viewing etc for years. The reality is the vast bulk of tv is still watched on a conventional tv set at the time it was broadcast. Lesson: looking at what’s changing shouldn’t blind us to the what hasn’t changed. And big changes of that kind happen more like an oil tanker turning, not a motor dinghy. Anyway, that’s just an observation.

    The real problem with CJ’s idea – and even accepting the premise that we’re not going to specify what the third way is – is three-fold:
    1. sovereignty, for practical reasons, is absolute and not divisible. If the debate over sovereignty seems bipolar it’s because it has to be. One country or the other needs to be responsible for the security of the place, its laws need to be clear and so there needs to be one legal system with authority, the administration of the region needs to follow a single system, etc. There is a third option which would work legally and practically which is NI independence. But joint authority of any sort would be Byzantine, confusing and arguably would not actually solve any of NI’s issues, just create more complex, opaque structures for addressing them.
    2. More fundamentally, a third way such as independence or joint sovereignty would not represent what people actually want. What may seem like a fair compromise to some would actually be ignoring the will of the people, which is ultimately heavily in favour of some form of continuing UK sovereignty. You end up with a new arrangement which hacks off the majority of both traditions – the worst of both worlds, if you like.
    3. Isn’t CJ’s idea really just nationalism looking for a new direction, for the sake of nationalism having something to do, when really we have already reached the “end game”? Nationalism should perhaps see that the place we are at now – the GFA settlement – represents the settled will of the people, for the foreseeable. There is no call for constitutional change. It seems nationalism is so stuck in its habit of pushing for constitutional change that it cant help itself: and I ask, is CJ’s idea really an outplaying of that need to manufacture a purpose for nationalism, as it can’t bring itself to just settle down and get on with life as agreed?

    It took a lot to reach agreement in 1998 and it was époque-making. I sense though a nationalist impatience with the long wait for a united Ireland which the GFA involves. Does nationalist politics not have an obligation to respect the choice of the people of NI to remain in the UK and try to make it work, rather than seeking change for the sake of giving itself a purpose? It has a long history of course of not respecting that and I suppose it’s not that surprising the leopard has not changed its spots. But if pushing for new constitutional change in the face of the existing fair settlement, nationalist politics would be just trying to keep itself going for the sake of itself, and no longer really about improving life for people and making the province a better place.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    but in what way is it not already settled?

  • It was settled, but attitudes of various kinds have changed, so has Northern Ireland and so has the Union itself.

    I suppose some work to measure/ test and if necessary recognise those who would wish a third option is what I ask for. It would be a long-term project, something we include in how we talk about the constitution in the figure, but is preferable – in a changed environment – to talking about things like a referendum in the future as it two options/ boxes are adequate for the complexity of how people may think and feel.

  • I apologise for a short reply but I’m out and about today.

    Appreciate the points and would pick up on one thing quickly: why does it have to be about nationalism wanting or gaining (as an aside – I’m not a nationalist)…since many unionists have a proudly British: increasingly ‘NI’ national cultural identity why could it not be about cementing that sense in real ways while removing the defensiveness caused by the cultural tug-of-war we at times see here.

  • Nevin

    CJ, AFAIK my specific suggestion has never even made it onto a Northern Ireland Life and Times survey.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I couldn’t agree more. We need to realise that for the vast, vast majority of people, there simply isn’t a constitutional question – it is settled. Respecting that settlement and getting on with making it work is what is needed, not new structures. The less we focus on constitutional questions, which are divisive and remind us of our differences, the more people can relax and settle into making their own Northern Ireland(s) and being more relaxed about their own identities and more mindful of others’.

    The only people uncomfortable with that seem to be the more politically-minded nationalists. I’d argue that seeking change in the context of people overwhelmingly not wanting it – and being sick of instability – is deeply problematic and helps community relations not a jot. As long as it continues, unionists will mistrust nationalists and the whole cycle perpetuates. It’s not breaking the cycle, it’s feeding it.

  • It seems a fair and sensible question to ask instead of looking at the subject as a two-horse race in 2016.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    that’s absolutely fine. But many surveys over the years have indeed asked people about ‘an independent NI’ and ‘joint authority’ as options. They should continue to, and who knows their popularity may grow, but neither of those has been popular and neither has really bridged the traditional ethnic divide. Independence is most associated with a brand of Loyalism and has had little appeal for C/N/R people; joint authority is seen as a united Ireland by the back door and so has appealed to some nationalists but few unionists.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    because unionist Northern Irish cultural identity sits comfortably with where we are – Northern Ireland devolution within the UK.

    The cultural tug of war is in reality rather one-sided. Most unionists don’t fundamentally seek to curtail nationalist culture in any way, though public money for some of the projects does raise hackles. However, denigration of ‘unionist’ / Ulster British culture by nationalists is endemic, as a perusal of Slugger comments exemplifies. All unionists really need to feel comfortable about their culture is for people in leadership positions within nationalism to call off the attack dogs – Trojan horses, or any other animals for that matter.

  • They should continue, absolutely – and in an ideal world I’d be to see unionists thinking about (if there were no limits and anything was possible) imaginative ideas behind the status quo that they would gain from as opposed to feeling the opposite and that any change is a loss.

  • Understood – I really don’t agree with that outlook on things but your point is taken.

    I grew up and live in very unionist surroundings, it seems logical to me that in a modern, ‘peaceful’ NI there would be some normalising of culture and questions asked about things taken as a given during more turbulent times.

    I don’t see this as a threat to unionism or the union, in fact I see it as a way to increase more positive, accepting and accepted cultural norms for everyone.

    I’d say we are a million miles apart on this point however so it isn’t one I’m attempting to argue. Point is taken re your reply with thanks.

  • eireanne3

    A type of so-called “binary jurisdiction” has already been proposed and briefly explored here. Under this type of scheme nationalists/republicans get with they want but neither win nor or gain anything over the Unionists. Unionists remain proudly British. Dissidents and Loyalist paramilitaries wither on the vine!!

    The circle has been squared and copyright belongs to Ben Madigan

  • Nevin

    The non-specific nature of the Northern Irish brand tells you little about constitutional aspiration. Here are some NILT statistics for 1998, 2007 and 2014:

    1998 British 41%; Irish 27%; Northern Irish 23%

    Protestant [67, 3, 18]

    Catholic [8, 65, 24]

    Other [34, 16, 38]

    2007 British 38%; Irish 29%; Northern Irish 26%

    Protestant [61, 4, 27]

    Catholic [9, 62, 23]

    Other [36, 21, 33]

    2014 British 37%; Irish 29%; Northern Irish 24%

    Protestant [68, 3, 21]

    Catholic [6, 60, 26]

    Other [45, 12, 27]

  • MainlandUlsterman

    agreed there – I think unionist political leaders should be encouraging unionist people to feel the union is safe and that nationalist culture (e.g. Irish language, symbols) is no threat. Likewise nationalists with things like Orange parades, flags etc. Unionist sense of loss and threat is closely linked to what nationalism is doing. If nationalism can settle back and show patience on achieving its long term goals, it makes life calmer for everyone. They can’t have it both ways though: complain about unionists acting defensively while continuing to push for a weakening of the Union. Detente is what is needed – everyone taking a step back and easing off the ethnic grinding.

  • Really interesting, although it brings us back to the assumption that there are two ‘sides’ identity-wise and aspiration-wise when things in 2016 are much more complex.

  • eireanne3

    If you are referring to close encounters of the 3rd type i.e. people self-designating as “northern irish” (mainly a younger age-group, unless i am mistaken) I presume they could well move back and forth between the two options (maybe according to career progression, change of residence, and so forth) until age (perhaps a cut-off at 45-50) forced a decision one way or the other for pension benefits so they could maximise two half-pensions.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    very stable figures over the years

    Given nationalist political discourse eschews the term “Northern Ireland”, is it fair to assume that Catholics describing themselves as Northern Irish are likely to be less nationalist than Protestant Northern Irish are unionist? The term is a ‘partitionist’ one and implies some degree of comfort with the status quo. For Protestants of course being Northern Irish in no way contradicts a sense of belonging to the UK.

    What questionnaire-based surveys struggle to capture, as opposed to qualitative studies (I know a little on this as someone who has done qualitative research on national identity issues), is the multi-stranded nature of identity. What they should do really is ask something like the following:
    “Please allocate the percentage (out of 100) of each of the following strands of identity you feel:
    Northern Irish

    (BTW, I’d answer this:
    1 per cent
    60 per cent
    34 per cent
    5 per cent)

    You could take it further as many surveys do (though they only allow a tick-box single response) and additionally posit combinations e.g. Irish-British, British-Northern Irish, Irish only, British-European etc. Combine that with the percentage data and you’d get more of a picture.

    But there’s a problem even with this bit of progress: any question like this assumes the identities are competing for space. Yet for many people, these are layered, or interwoven as strands, so co-exist within the individual rather than competing for a ‘slice of the pie’. It’s a false trade off between my Britishness and my Northern Irishness – I really feel both 100 per cent British and 100 per cent Northern Irish. Aargh.

    It also misses that the experience of identity is often context-specific: the rugby might bring out your thin Irish strand, the football your thicker Northern Irish strand, elections might bring out your British or your Irish or your Belfastian, Strabanian (I’m making words up now) or whatever. A proper study would cover all the contexts also and try to measure those.

    So, you could argue identity can never be quantified alone, it must be explored and explained qualitatively also to give a fair picture of the reality as felt.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Interesting too that those designating as ‘other’ seem to be overwhelmingly from P/U/L backgrounds – 72 per cent of them designating as either British or Northern Irish in national terms, only 12 per cent Irish in the last poll.

    I wonder is this something to look out for when comparing Protestant and Catholic numbers overall – a lot of the non-designated may actually be culturally Protestant and softly pro-Union by leaning, just don’t want to be identified by their religion any more? It might explain why Protestant percentage of population is as low as it is without Catholic percentage actually rising by as much, but I don’t know the answer to that one. Need to look at the survey and census data a bit more when I have time.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    an addendum – I did look at a map a while back based on census data that showed where the ‘no religion’ people were located and it mapped very closely to the safe Protestant heartlands (South and East Antrim, North Down). Sorry no link today, short on time!

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    I think it’s only a matter of time before the third group becomes too big to ignore, the real problem as far as I see are the uber-britishers of NI who seek to equate northern irishness solely with britishness as if to suggest otherwise is an outrageous assault on their British identity.

    After some thought and reflection on the matter i’ve come to think that well, if being British and British only is so important to some people then so be it, fill yet boots.
    All I ask is that you don’t greedily paint over northern Irish aspects in British nationalist colours

    Let them fire away with union flags and whatever else and leave northern irishness to those who don’t want to dress it up as Little Britain.

    It maddens me when people like foster are so tunnel-visioned about things like a northern Irish flag or a northern Irish anthem.
    It’s an utter disgrace that we have neither.

    Having said that, perhaps it makes sense politically as the DUP and SF need division…

  • You won’t be surprised that I agree re the flag and anthem. In more settled and modern NI, with little real demand for a United Ireland in the near future, it is hard to see how allowing NI more of its own identity – including those who are proudly British – is a loss to anyone’s existing identity.

  • Robin Keogh

    This is an excellent piece and similar to arguments i have made here and elsewhere before. While i would love to see a united ireland – one that is genuinely agreed by both traditions – the reality is that whatever way you skin the cat ,Irish Unity will most definitely leave a large disgruntled block of people very unhappy.

    Unity is not an issue now but polls do show a considerable number of people in favour of it in the future. This cant simply be dismissed as people emotionally reacting to a long dead ideal; which is a habit of some. It may also explain why so much of the active electorate vote for nationalist parties. Likewise within Unionism, its clear that Unionists are far less orange than politicians might have us believe.

    Nevertheless the pro union vote is also very high. Both contituencies have middle ground options that they continually reject. Non voters also stay at home despite the option of voting for non alligned parties such as APNI or the Greens etc.

    Ultimately the political antagonism that exists over the constitutional question can only be resolved when the question is finally answered and removed from the debate.

    A third way could be a good way. If all parties could agree to talk about it, why not look for both struggles to succeed together. NI to stay in the UK and NI to become part of a United Ireland at the same time with practically all powers transferred to Stormont ( devo max max max ) while dublin and london share a bare minimum of responsibily? A virtual independent NI as constituent country in both jurisdictions.

    A binding international agreement between Dublin and London along with constitutional protection and international support could pull the dogged constitutional question off the table forever. Logistics in terms of currency, taxation, security etc can be hammerred out over a period of time, even a few years. its not impossible.

  • Jarl Ulfreksfjordr

    Why do you focus solely on the leader of the DUP when you talk of a six-county flag and anthem?

    Is there a groundswell of support within northern nationalism for such local symbols? I’d be interested to read any sources you may have that suggests there is.

  • Nevin

    Robin, your third way sounds quite like my 1993 proposal.

    I’ve used the term shared sovereignty rather than joint sovereignty as the latter sounds too much like joint direct rule by London and Dublin. We currently have a degree of shared administration but it’s not subject to democratic scrutiny and accountability.

    I prefer the terminology of devo-max to that of virtual independence in the sense though Northern Ireland is the common ground I’d like to see a close relationship with the rest of these two islands – as well as further afield; I’d merge strands 2 and 3 within the shared sovereignty umbrella. John Hume used the term ‘working the common ground’ but, unfortunately, he left out the unionist constitutional aspiration in his analysis.

    Agreed shared goals are necessary both at Stormont and local government level; their absence has created fertile territory for developers as well as for paramilitary godfathers.

  • sk

    So apparently “croppy lie down” has been replaced with “not so loud, croppy”.

    The only scenario in which you can see yourself getting on with the other side, is if the other side agree to give up their aspirations? That’s almost Orwellian.

    In a democracy the right pursue ones political objectives peacefully does not depend upon the percieved popularity of the cause. If we were to subscribe to your logic, then the Gay rights lobby should have kept its mouth shut in the 80’s for the sake of community relations. Ditto the suffragettes.

    Ulster Protestants often boast of their dissenter streak. So why begrudge it in others?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    aspirations are fine and I wasn’t challenging the right to wish for whatever people want. But there is also the obligation not to stand in the way of the people’s choice when you’ve lost a democratic vote on a subject.

  • Korhomme

    A (con)federation on the Swiss or German pattern?

  • sk

    Nobody is standing in the way of anything. You will remain a part of the UK for so long as the majority wishes it.

    But the raison d’etre of the Irish nationalist is a united Ireland. You seem to be arguing that there can only be reconciliation in NI if nationalists cease to be nationalist. Problem is, you don’t get to tell people to shut up for the sake of community cohesion in a democracy.

    You seem to want capitulation, not reconciliation. You want a situation where people stop disagreeing with you, because it upsets the apple cart. Not very liberal, and dare I say it, not very British.

    “Seeking change in the context of people overwhelmingly not wanting it…is deeply problematic ”

    Enoch Powell eat your heart out.

  • eamoncorbett

    The only “Third Way” that looks possible at the moment would be a form of joint authority , which should have the effect of making the Assembly work without the usual us and them nonsense that is constantly perpetrated . It would be one way to declare the constitutional issue a draw whilst maintaining the entity that is Northern Ireland .
    The article hits the nail on the head when it states that change is inevitable , this is something that Nationalists and Unionists need to take on board , the nature of that change is unclear , it could be Brexit , Scotland’s departure or something completely different .
    Sinn Fein it would seem have a dual aim , to join a coalition with FF in the South , get the Foreign Affairs portfolio , and renegotiate the GFA to include an equal say in Northern affairs for the Republic . Unionism it would seem is incapable of real change or initiative , no Mandelas on the horizon , not one single politician capable of rising above the parapet with an idea for discussion on the need for change and Arlene is more akin to 1960s unionism than a modern day leader . The history of NI teaches us that change has to be enforced rather than welcomed in the political arena and that shows no sign of morphing into anything new in the near future.

  • Belfast Barman(ager)

    Something akin to a more independent Puerto Rico?

  • Robin Keogh

    Is that a kind of trolling type comment or are u genuinely asking a question? If its a question would you mind giving more context please.

  • John

    This is absolutely the case people from a PUL background are much further down the line of agnosticism than nationalist/republican background. It is quite funny when I hear these bitter republicans stating with increasing cockiness that ‘we’ll outbreed the buggers = United Ireland.’

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Because she’s the leader of northern Ireland. If anyone should take a reddener at not having a flag or anthem then it should be the leader of that symbol-less entity.

    As for a groundswell what do you want as evidence or sources? It’s not really an academic topic so you’ll not find ‘references’ just the occasional site, article and such like.

  • tmitch57

    First, as MU points out below, sovereignty is an absolute and cannot be divided–it is analog or binary rather than digital. But structures can be changed and experimented with to accommodate the demographic, historical, and political realities of NI that are quite different from those in the binary choices for sovereignty, Great Britain and the Republic of Ireland.

    Second, unfortunately there is no a long history of thought on this topic in either the republican or the unionist traditions; most of the thinking on shared rule or power sharing has come from the SDLP and Alliance starting with Sunningdale and continuing through the GFA. The only republican thinking that I’m aware of on this topic is Provisional Sinn Fein’s Eire Nua document from 1972, which was shortly afterwards revoked. On the unionist side the thinking on this topic was done by a progressive splinter of the UVF long before the formation of the PUP. The SDLP and Alliance took its cues on power sharing from experiments in Western Europe, which reflect much different realities from those prevailing in Northern Ireland.

    Third, many politicians in both Sinn Fein and the main unionist parties have an interest in exploiting sectarian hatreds and fears based on past experience. For republicans it is dogma that Northern Ireland is both a failed political experiment that is unworkable and that its creation is a grave injustice. Until this dogma is changed, Sinn Fein politicians have little interest in making NI work. Likewise, it has been unionist dogma up until the 1990s that the nationalist population was disloyal and not to be trusted. This has begun to change–more in the UUP than in the DUP. Under these circumstances any proposals for joint rule would beg a repitition of the unionist reaction to the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985.

    Fourth, conscotiationalism–the theory behind the GFA–has a poor track record in resolving violent ethnic conflicts. Better would be to attempt to implement a variation of the vote pooling strategies advocated by Donald Horowitz and used in Malaysia and Nigeria. Alliance advocated this but the SDLP was advised by partisans of consociationalism and it had much more political influence in the late 1990s than did Alliance.

  • Jarl Ulfreksfjordr

    You misunderstand the GFA. The ‘leadership’ of NI is a joint one, currently shared between SF and the DUP.

    Any “evidence” you have. One or two of the “occasional site, article and such like” would do.

    Personally I don’t recall anyone from the nationalist community advocating for NI-specific symbols.

    In unionist dominated areas councils etc appear intent on festooning every vertical structure with the Union Flag and/or the ‘Ulster Banner’. In nationalist areas the Irish Tricolour flies, unofficially. Nationalist councils seem to prefer empty flagpoles. Something they determine represents ‘neutral’ or ‘shared’ space.

    Unionists it would seem are happy to regard the Union Flag as representing NI, as they also are with GSTQ as its anthem. Nationalists, where they can secure a lamp post, plump for the Tricolour. On council buildings which votes secure to their control they go for the symbol-free approach. They are reluctant to cross the rubicon and fly the Tricolour. They do not opt for any NI totems to fill the empty space atop the pole.

    Perhaps the reality of the problem is ‘cross-community’ challenge, rather than “uber-britisher” focus you adopt? Or perhaps you’ll produce that “evidence” that informs your view?

  • T.E.Lawrence

    What needs to happen is someone like Lucid needs to carry out a survey with a list of questions to see exactly what kind of support this 3rd Option has in 2016 ? As per Election Results and the only measurement stick against the Alliance Party Vote Returns it does not appear to be out there, but agree that maybe this is an unfair measuring stick against one political party.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    “I think it’s only a matter of time before the third group becomes too big to ignore” I don’t see where you are coming from with this statement AG ? At the 2014 Euros Alliance & Greens got 8.8% of the Vote ! It ain’t out there as seen in election results with the exceptions of South/East Belfast and North Down ! Unless you claim Non Voters as this 3rd Option ?

  • T.E.Lawrence

    You could use the Northern Ireland Football Team as a model for this approach. They have been very progressive over the last 20 years and with great success on the issue. They have really done well in making its sport fully inclusive to be shared, played and supported by all citizens of Northern Ireland who wish to do so !

  • Belfast Barman(ager)

    No, not trolling at all. We’re constantly hearing how NI couldn’t survive on its own out in the real world, so ceding to become it’s own Statelet buy with decisions on matters that NI can’t make ourselves decided by a joint resolution between RoI and UK

  • MainlandUlsterman

    it is what it boils down to, at the end of the day. I particularly enjoy the more arcane academic attempts to dress it up as something else. The 1916 centenary is producing some hilarious examples.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I’m not seeking capitulation at all, you’ve made a straw man there. You’re suggesting I’m requiring nationalists to give up their nationalism, but I’m not at all. I’m just saying those who are ‘long term’ nationalist only and want to get on with Northern Ireland as it is now are the ones who are being constructive, realistic and fair. Those wanting more for nationalism than the GFA broadly allows need to be careful, as they risk breaking the deal and not respecting the wishes of the people. Surveys show an awful lot of nationalists only want a united Ireland in 20 years time, or ‘eventually’, which is exactly what I’m saying is fine.

    What I ask is just that that minority of nationalists who want moves towards a united Ireland in the short to medium term, without a wider mandate from the Northern Ireland people for it, think about what that means in terms of respecting the electorate’s democratic wishes. Argue for change yes; but accept the decision of voters too on sovereignty and don’t try to get around them.

  • Anglo-Irish

    The PUL communities new found wish for democracy, fairness, respect and taking the other mans views into consideration is welcome.

    Wonder what brought that about?

  • Robin Keogh

    I think the six counties could functuon as an autonomous region if the ‘fear’ was taken away.

  • submariner

    Nonsense, The IFA has done absolutely nothing in relation to the main bug bears of the anthem and flag, for God sake some of the team members are standing with heads bowed wishing the ground would swallow them up. The IFA is to be congratulated for managing to stop the fans singing about being up to their knees in other people’s blood and booing their own players, well in Windsor at least. But to suggest that the NI team is supported by all sections of the community or to suggest that it should be held up as some sort of example of a third way is frankly laughable.

  • Paddy Reilly

    An interesting proposition with which there are two problems.

    The first problem is that there is a definite correlation between putting yourself down on the census as of no religion and voting for Alliance or another Centrist party. Take for example East Antrim, in 2011 20% Catholic and 7% No Religion, voting 13% Nationalist and 15% Alliance.

    The second problem is that Alliance preparedness to support the Unionist cause is very limited. In the 2014 Euros, only 21% of Anna Lo’s transferred vote went to Unionist candidates. The rest went to the SDLP or did not transfer at all.

    It was never a matter of outbreeding: of people born in Northern Ireland, Catholics have always outnumbered Protestants, it’s just that until the passage into law of the Fair Employment Act, Catholics were obliged to emigrate in disproportionately high numbers. Since that date the Catholic section of the population has steadily gone up, and will outnumber the Protestant one in about 8 months time.

    As for the future role of Protestants in Ireland, North and South, I suggest you look across the water for an example. Ireland has a population of 8 million, Greater London of 8 million. The Northern Protestant and London Irish are similar populations in size. The role of the London Irish in London is an honourable one, and I have never heard any complaints, but you could not start a London Irish political party. (Nevertheless, certain idiots have, without winning any votes.) There are not enough of them in any particular constituency to win a seat, and anyway, ethnic voting is rather silly.

    So I suggest that you look very closely at the trio Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Irish Labour and decide which one most closely represents your views. (I assume you will not be choosing Sinn Féin.)

  • Belfast Barman(ager)

    I’m interested in what you mean in “Done absolutely nothing in relation to the main bug bears of the anthem and flag…”
    Do you mean “get rid of/change them?” In which case this isn’t exactly solely an IFA problem… it’s something that every aspect of our society is dealing with in one way or another.

    Reading your comments as a unionist would read “Until the IFA change the anthem and the flag, I won’t be happy.” Which isn’t exactly integration or compromise, it’s nationalist fans getting their way at the expense of unionist fans.

  • Belfast Barman(ager)

    European elections are indicative of next to nothing but the euro elections themselves.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Disagree Barman it indicates that we live in an Orange/Green Voting System with an 8.8% Middle Ground ! The Middle Ground gets swallowed up once you pass Dunmurray and the Sandy Knowles Roundabout !

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Not all Nationalists think like Sub – I attend NI Football games with Nationalist Friends who like me also enjoy international football. We meet up in Lavery’s Bar for a few beers then dander up the Lisburn Road to Windsor Park.
    Would advise others to try it. They might also like it as we do !

  • Reader

    Am Ghobsmacht: Because she’s the leader of northern Ireland. If anyone should take a reddener at not having a flag or anthem then it should be the leader of that symbol-less entity.
    It should really be a joint decision, don’t you think? However, I think that the leaders of nationalism are mostly hostile to any stabilisation of a sort of shared Northern Ireland identity, and would prefer the current absence of shared symbols to anything more hopeful.
    Probably the best hope is for sporting bodies with mixed participation to get together and sort something out without any help from the politicians. Unfortunately, we’ll probably end up with a boring flag and “Danny Boy”

  • Reader

    Anglo-Irish: Wonder what brought that about?
    You’ve won us all over with your grace and charm and good example.

  • submariner

    Barman, whether the flag/anthem is changed or not is of no concern to me, im not a fan of the IFA team. As for it not being a solely an IFA problem i would suggest that it is. They could change it tomorrow if they wished and have something akin the the NI commonwealth games team. My comment was more a challenge to Lawrences suggestion that the NI team should be held up as an example of some other third way . It is patent nonsense when they insist in playing the British National anthem and waving a flag that is detested by Nationalists, that is no way is indicative of a third way. Hope this clarifies things.

  • Anglo-Irish

    You should see how handsome I am as well!

    Little point in being charming to people who appear incapable of it themselves is there?

    Or are you disputing that when the PUL community were in total control they never bothered themselves with any attempt at equality and fairness but now that the situation is turning around they have suddenly developed an interest in fair play?

  • Not sure I understand – if the suggestion is that I’m pro-UI and trying to find unification by another route then I can clarify that I’m neither a nationalist or a republican.

    On unionist attitude to Irish language rights, the post is more about an appetite – beyond the usual ‘boxes’ and within non-voters too – for a third option on the constitution. Your view that unionists (a broad church, surely) wouldn’t want to co-operate wouldn’t stop others aspiring to the idea.

    Might have picked you up wrongly through.

  • What I was trying to show was that we can’t assume every unionist voter and every nationalist voter would be against a third option – not necessarily just Alliance voters. Non-voters could be of interest too.

  • ted hagan

    Let’s face, we’re a mini Belgium and that’s the way we’ll remain until perhaps new enlightened generations emerge with fresh ideas and with them the emergence of new non-sectarian parties from left, right and centre. Something I won’t see in my lifetime but I’m confident will happen.Until then we’re stuck with this lot who, despite all our protestations, we elect and who reflect our mindsets. Sorry to be so negative but 20 years on…..

  • Ah, understood. Thank you.

  • ted hagan

    I think there is a substantial core of unionists who still think that ‘this is our country, this is our show, we fought for it and if you don’t like it you know where you can go”.

  • ted hagan

    No, the loyalist community has to accept that in the interests of harmony they have to dilute some of their ideals, and their identity even, in the way that nationalists have had to sacrifice theirs. Only when we get the emergence of new non sectarian parties can that happen, and that, if it happens, will take years.

  • ted hagan

    Yes, a very intelligent and prescient article. I am surprised though that in this Slugger discussion the question of integrated education hasn’t come up, which is surely extremely relevant, although perhaps people don’t want to go down that road, even though our education system surely plays a key role in the formation of our identities.

  • ted hagan

    The sad fact is that, and it’s been pointed out many times, the prospect of a united might have been much closer today had there not been a Provo campaign for 25 years.

  • ted hagan

    And more might like it, as you do, if there were some sort of gesture,instead of having to pander to the insecurities of neurotic loyalists who seem to lead their public representatives by the nose. It would be a win, win all round.

  • eamoncorbett

    If Unionism is indeed relaxed , why does Arlene constantly invoke the words “Northern Ireland ” several times in almost every sentence , what message is she trying to send . The biggest danger to NIs existence doesn’t come from Nationalists ,at least not Northern Nationalists , it comes from a possible Brexit which would unsettle Scots . In the event of a departure from the EU and Scottish cessation , NI would find itself in no mans land , it would be in effect a region of England , this would change the nature of the GFA and promote instability.

  • John Collins

    I am not in favour of a UI anytime soon, but I would not adopt your approach to ‘coaxing’ Unionosts into a UI. No I would remind them that in West Germany from 1948 until 1990 the Christian Democrats and Social Democrats both spent periods in office and out of it. However a smaller Party, the name of that party now escapes me, were in power as the junior partner in every administration in WG over that period. In a United Ireland I could envisage a Unionist Party fulfilling that most influential role in an Irish Parliament. I am not saying that a proposition of this nature would in any way entice them to join us, but at least it is a thought.

  • John Collins

    I think any option is better than Joint Authority. We al know, or definitely should that in any normal democracy it is difficult to make politicians take responsibility for anything. In a ‘dual authority’ situation this problem would go from bad to much worse.

  • Paddy Reilly

    They were called Free Democrats.

    However, Unionists are not one party, so it would be a lot more difficult for them.

    My experience of Unionists is that they would demand the sun, the moon and the stars, and that consequently any Irish coalition would do better to look elsewhere. The British Conservative Party was obliged to jettison them, the Liberals make better coalition partners.

  • tmitch57

    “Unionism it would seem is incapable of real change or initiative , no Mandelas on the horizon ,”

    Actually, the correct parallel would be to a De Klerk, not a Mandela. And the Republicans also lacked a Mandela–Gerry Adams behaved much more like Yasir Arafat than like Mandela with nearly a similar result in the 1990s. The GFA went ahead because of the political ideas of the SDLP rather than those of Adams who through out the negotiations continued to insist on a unilateral British withdrawal from NI and NI’s withdrawal from the UK.

  • tmitch57

    “We need to realise that for the vast, vast majority of people, there simply isn’t a constitutional question – it is settled.”

    No, not the vast majority but rather a narrow majority that the pro-union population represents over nationalists. Many nationalists are willing to park the issue for some years or even decades due to the influence of the economic collapse in the Republic in 2008-10. But as the economy in the South recovers, improves and is strengthened the question will be revisited and this might be in the same time period as it will take for the unionist demographic majority to disappear. Then the issue will be in the hands of the “other” sector who have no tribal allegiance to either nationalism or unionism but will vote in a referendum on more rational economic and political arguments rather than on the basis of tribal identity.

  • John Collins

    Well circumstances change and any way the Unionists had plenty reason to distrust the Brits. Remember how they treated Ulster during the Foot and Mouth crisis and Major saying it would ‘turn my stomach to talk to Sinn Fein’, which was of course a blatant lie. Remember also that Churchill threatened to hand NI, stock, lock and barrel, over to the ROI if Dev would would throw his lot with GB at the Height of WW2

  • MainlandUlsterman

    You’re ignoring the polls – they consistently show a different picture, which is less rosy for the chances of a united Ireland any time soon. Crucially, many people who would describe themselves as ‘nationalist’ don’t want a united Ireland for the foreseeable future. It’s not a “narrow majority”, it is overwhelming.
    Life and Times has 66 per cent vs 17 per cent. A united Ireland even as a very long term option does well to break into the 30s. The more immediate you make it, the lower the percentage. One survey has it as low as 4 per cent for wanting it right now. But I accept the better guide figure is probably around the 20-25 per cent mark. It’s still nowhere near close.

    I wonder if you imagine Catholic = voting for a united Ireland? If it were, it may be close. But it isn’t: way, way, way more Catholics resile from the united Ireland idea than Protestants do from the UK.

    It’s not some poll blip either. If you go back historically, you’ll find a fairly consistent one third of people who are otherwise ‘nationalist’ who actually don’t want Northern Ireland to leave the UK in the short or medium term. Look back at Rose in 68 for example. Or pretty much any respectable poll.

    So it’s just not an issue for the vast majority of people. It’s been hyped up into one by a relatively small but very driven and influential section of the population, backed by powerful voices on the outside, in the Republic, US and the British hard left. I do think most of the actual Northern Ireland population is treated pretty badly in all this.

    It’s fine to keep asking but sometimes you have to take no for an answer – and no means no. When political nationalism keeps asking anyway, it becomes a deluded, extremely persistent stalker. It doesn’t feel good to be the object of such affections. That famous insecurity, alertness to threats and defensiveness of the pro-UK population in Northern Ireland has a pretty direct cause. United Ireland nationalism really ought to take stock of its effect on others and take several steps back.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I don’t think I suggested unionism as whole was relaxed. But the use of the name Northern Ireland was agreed by everyone in 1998, when its full legitimacy was recognised by all strands of Irish nationalism. It shouldn’t be seen as any more unionist than nationalist, it’s just what the place is called.

    As to Brexit etc, yes, there could be a series of dominos falling that would affect us somewhat. But devolution means our form of UK existence is fairly self-standing. The loss of Scotland would hurt emotionally and would leave the UK looking less neat on the map and us geographically isolated. But for people like me who travel back and forward on the plane you’d barely notice it. I don’t think it would actually turn many pro-UK people in NI into something else. The fundamental conditions in NI are in NI – we have indigenous identities and indigenous issues with each other. What happens in the rest of the UK and the rest of the island can affect us of course, but it would take something very dramatic to make a big difference. The one thing that could is actually Welsh independence, assuming Scotland also went. That would be a game changer. If I were an Irish nationalist, I’d be putting my efforts not into Northern Ireland but into getting the Plaid vote up in the Valleys.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    ““You misunderstand the GFA. The ‘leadership’ of NI is a
    joint one, currently shared between SF and the DUP.”

    My understanding of the GFA matters not one jot when confronted with the reality that the DFM would rather that Northern Ireland didn’t exist and would not be enthralled at
    the idea of non-polarising symbols or anthems for NI.

    ” One or two of the “occasional site, article and such like” would do”

    I don’t recall anyone from the nationalist community advocating for NI-specific

    By definition a nationalist shouldn’t really care about the NI flag, seeing instead a flag of hopefully limited lifespan but there are those at the lighter end of the nationalist spectrum who may be OK with being in the UK under certain circumstances.

    And if nationalists did start asking for a new NI flag they’d be met with outrage and indignation and “no surrender!”.

    “Unionists it would seem are happy to regard the Union Flag as representing NI, as they also are with GSTQ as its anthem”

    Perhaps the majority of unionists are. Is that all that matters then? No sense of national (well, regional) pride? Just cultural subservience? No place for logic or common sense either?

    “Perhaps the reality of the problem is ‘cross-community’ challenge, rather than “uber-britisher” focus you adopt?”

    No, it’s definitely an uber-britischer one, they want additional British representation at the expense of regional identity in a sphere SPECIFICALLY designed to accommodate the regional identity.

    “Or perhaps you’ll produce that “evidence” that informs your view”

    My view is formed from simple facts:

    1/ We don’t have a regional flag or anthem of our own

    2/ The flag and anthem that stands in for this vacuum are repellant to (or at least thought dimly of) by a large section of NI’s population

    3/ We have an unprecedented period in history where to be born of a Catholic or nationalist background no longer automatically means being pro-UI. There are NO gestures to facilitate this group and encourage them to join the pro-NI side.

    If you think my points are inaccurate then please feel free to explain where I’ve gone wrong.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Aye, ‘should be’ but we’re not Brazil we’re Norn Iron which means that the only input the DFM would have in any new flag would be in making sure that it’s awful as he at least has the brains to realise what a new flag for NI would mean for nationalism (hence SF’s opposition to a new flag when Haass was in town).

    It doesn’t have to be a boring flag if the IFA took the initiative; a green and white saltire with NI’s colours would look nice and have enough Scottish and Irish elements to satisfy those who could be satisfied.

    As for Danny boy, I thought ‘The Gael’ by Dougie MacLean (aka ‘Last of the Mohicans’) would make a fine anthem.Stick some pipes in there and the job’s a good un.

    And the thought of the GWA descending on European towns with dyed green Mohawks is priceless.

  • Am Ghobsmacht


    I used not support the Irish rugby team until they brought about Ireland’s Call. I’m still not chuffed at the tricolour being the only flag though they do try (hence the Ulster flag at a game last year).

    The IFA doesn’t make similar gestures even though NI doesn’t have it’s own flag or anthem. Addressing those two issues doesn’t have to be seen as pandering to anyone rather just an addressing of common sense issues.

    Do you think then perhaps even MORE people from a nationalist background would be tempted to come along?

  • T.E.Lawrence

    One of my Nationalist friends brings this flag to the Northern Ireland Football games. He quite likes it because it has the symbols of the Celtic Cross, Shamrocks, Red Hand of Ulster and 6 pointed star to represent everyone in NI. Maybe this would be a good flag for NI with modifications to the Irish Football Association Logo ! New Flag and National Anthem for Northern Ireland ? Yes by all means and hopefully this will attract more fellow citizens supporting and enjoying International Football in the Province.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    I like it.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Btw, if he supports NI is he still really a ‘nationalist’? Or is he just there for the crack?

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Oh yes he is a very strong Nationalist and a very good debater for a United Ireland but he is happy working NI and supporting football which he is madly passionate about !

  • tmitch57

    Well, we don’t actually have historical data on this as the one referendum on the border question–in 1972 or 1973–was boycotted by the SDLP. So we have to guess about the intentions of people who regularly vote for parties that have as their official goal a united Ireland–the SDLP and Sinn Fein. The percentage of regular Alliance voters from a nationalist cultural background is about one third, and since Alliance normally polls between six and nine percent in elections we are talking about two-three percent of the overall electorate that is composed of Alliance-voting Catholics. Catholic voting for unionist parties is as rare as Protestant voting for the SDLP and Sinn Fein. Once the economy in the Republic has had a good decade or so things will be much clearer about the intentions of nationalist voters who are today opposed to a united Ireland.

  • Paddy Reilly

    A widespread illusion. Dev investigated the offer, before discovering that it meant Ireland would be offering its unprotected cities up to the Germans to bomb and sacrificing its youth in return for a statement in favour of reunification at the end of the war, not the actual reunification itself. All that would have happened is that the Unionists would have said No, No, No and that would be the end of it.

    The Free Democrats and the Liberals are fine as coalition partners: they don’t believe in anything in excess: Unionists however are toxically demanding, which is why they cannot be part even of a British coalition. In Ireland there is a particular problem, in that

    1) A United Ireland will not happen until the Nationalist faction in the 6 counties is larger than the Unionist;

    2) Thus if a coalition in formation in a United Ireland were to solicit Unionist participation, it would offend more Nationalist deputies than it would receive Unionist ones.

    The party which assembled this toxic coalition would not only end up with less votes than before it solicited the Unionists, but also its blatant defiance of the rule of the majority might render the six counties ungovernable.

    Besides, in conditions of a United Ireland, Unionist parties and sectarian politics will just wither away as there is no future for them.

    Try to think of it as moving home: when a man from Northern Ireland moves to Ayrshire, he has to decide whether he is a Labour, Lib Dem, Conservative, UKIP or SNP voter. The NI choices just aren’t available. Equally, by moving to Sligo he exposes himself to FF, FG, Lab, SF, Green and Independent. Unionist candidates can be ruled out altogether.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Awesome! Anything that messes up with the old binary ways is welcomed. More of this sort of thing!

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    I like your input Mitch. It must be awfully frustrating listening to us lot?

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Only problem is he comes from Distilley Street (Grovenor Road) and is a passionate Distillery Fan ! (I suppose we all can’t be perfect) He tells great stories about how keeping this football club in the Irish League during the early 70s and the darkest days of the troubles when they had to leave their ground in West Belfast. He has a soft spot for Brantwood Football Club up on Skegoneil Avenue who let the Whites use their ground during this period.

  • T.E.Lawrence

    “The Gael” Love it ! Now can we get some words to it that would make the hair stand on the back of your necks at Windsor Park once we all sing it together !

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Zigactly! Some bagpipes, some tinkering, some lyrics and lots of green mohawks – what a spectacle!

  • submariner

    I would say Not. You can’t really be an Irish Nationalist and support a six county team. It’s a bit like being a black KKK member or a socialist Tory,it makes no sense.

  • Am Ghobsmacht

    Sub, NI is blessed with a rich vein of hypocrisy and nonsense. I believe that this hypocrisy is what delayed the troubles for so long.

    My family’s lodge used to swap instruments with its AOH opposite number untill the seventies.

    if modern nationalist principles were the norm then this would never have been allowed.

    So, i understand Lawrence’s mate, it’s a uniquely northern thing and a beautiful one at that.

  • Reader

    Paddy Reilly: Thus if a coalition in formation in a United Ireland were to solicit Unionist participation, it would offend more Nationalist deputies than it would receive Unionist ones.
    But maybe this sort of “sectarian politics” will fade away more quickly than unionism does. In fact, maybe nationalist “sectarian politics” isn’t so prevalent in reality as it is in your fantasy.

  • Paddy Reilly

    Unionism is an ideology which a) seeks to preserve the Union and b) caters for the sectional interests of Unionist people.

    If, in a United Ireland, you had a party that was a) powerless to restore the Union and b) did not campaign for the sectional interests of (ex-) Unionists, it would hardly be worthy of the name Unionist, would it?