Ireland is not abandoned. Britain does give a damn but in its own way

“The Brexiteers – (meaning the ascendant strain in the Conservative party -) don’t give a damn about Ireland” is a common reaction from Martin McGuinness to Fintan O’Toole.

It’s quite an irony to hear Irish nationalists complain about nationalists of the English persuasion. But the cry is as much plaintive as enraged. After all that reconciliation stuff  Why Have You Done This To Us? But it wasn’t that, friends.  it’s just that England (sic) takes priority in a zero sum decision; what do you expect? The Irish government were allowed – even encouraged – to pitch for Remain in what some saw as stretching the rules of fair campaigning.

Yet it is always true that UK wide concerns take priority. The most spectacular case was in 1974, just three months  after the Sunningdale Agreement. Heath’s calling of a general election to try to break the miner’s strike wrecked whatever faint chances of success existed for the first power sharing executive. Would the south react any differently when their own priorities are engaged?

Still, Irish dismay with Britain  is understandable. They are still working through their own political and financial crisis since the great crash of 2008. Economic recovery is slow but apparently steady.

Joint membership of the EU was cement for the building blocks of the GFA.  The open border allows Ireland to imagine unity already. Unity itself  is finally  a decision for the Irish north and south, not the British.  A hard border would mean the Brits are back, so to speak.

On the other hand, it was significant that Major and Blair came to Derry, only three miles from the border, to plead the cause of Remain and the stability of the UK’s constitutional arrangements. They made the direct link between membership of the  EU and the survival of the Union.  They couldn’t make the case in Scotland because the SNP were leading for Remain there, nor in England because Blair was toxic over Iraq with Labour. Where better then to revisit the scene of their greatest triumph, the peace process? In Derry it wasn’t the Union they were defending specifically but the consent principle enshrined in the GFA . But of course they are yesterday’s men ( and how!). Does the same commitment hold good today?

I would say basically yes. The British do give a damn – in their own way.  They  may not have felt consistently warm towards Ireland north and south but it was specifically legislated for Irish emigrants to be classed as as “  not foreign  “ when the Republic was declared in 1949. A change for the Irish in Britain is inconceivable. It is not dependent on the EU link.  During the Troubles the Troops Out movement never took hold despite the loss of 503 regular British soldiers compared to 179 in Iraq.

Clearly  future handling will need greater sensitivity and application than that shown by that driest to Brexiteers Theresa Villiers.  Thankfully in her first pitch to become Conservative leader,  Theresa May abandoned her bid to end appeals to the European Court of Human Rights at Strasbourg. It’s a good sign that the DUP support preserving an open border. They haven’t said so yet in terms but logically this surely means transferring immigration checks to GB ports of entry from the land border.

Meanwhile a dragon needs to be slain.  Scotland and Northern Ireland cannot retain full EU membership. The EU says No, not just the UK. The Irish government is gently steering Sinn Fein and the SDLP in the direction of full participation in the Brexit negotiations with the new UK government.

The role of Parliament could turn out to be significant. Leavers are trying to insist that Parliament’s permission is needed to trigger Article 50  to begin the two year timetable  for completing the Brexit negotiations. This matters because  Remain zealots imagine that a Conservative minority would join Labour, the SNP and Lib Dems  in blocking the trigger and holding out for a change in circumstances to Remain.   Once again the spectre rises of the DUP holding the balance.

Post- GFA,  the big question for Northern Ireland on the horizon is whether the Brexit vote marks a  growing divergence of interest from Britain and a gradual convergence with Ireland. The trend is far form clear as the future form of the EU is hardly any clearer than the future of the constitutional order in ” these islands.”  This is not one for today. But it would surely involve no surrender of principle for the DUP at least  to take part in an all Ireland consultative forum.


79 thoughts on “Ireland is not abandoned. Britain does give a damn but in its own way”

  1. There is no doubt the Major and Blair did good work in NI, whatever their other failings. The question is whether the present generation will undo that work. A lot of talk of open borders and the like is largely nonsense. EU citizens will still be able to visit the UK as tourists etc, but just not allowed work. The UK will not require visas as that would mean visas for their citizens.

    The real danger is customs issues, the disruption of supply chains and the consequent outcome that smuggling becomes the only feasible economic activity in border (i.e. nationalist) areas. The British overlords and their local collaborators have behaved disgracefully in not ruling out these issues from the beginning. The only thing you can say is that it has exposed the true nature of Britain’s relationship with this country, which hasn’t really changed over the centuries, it is just that Cromwellian style genocide is no longer acceptable internationally.

  2. Charlie made to look like a bit of a Charlie, it appears:

    Several Fine Gael TDs, speaking to the Irish Examiner, vented their fury at the failure of Mr Kenny and his office to refer the matter to Mr Flanagan.

    Waterford TD John Deasy said Mr Flanagan and his department have been “blindsided” by Mr Kenny’s office.

    “You would have to worry about the damage that has been done to the credibility of the Department of Foreign Affairs. They are the lead department on these matters; they were blindsided badly,” said Mr Deasy.

    “It is embarrassing, a massive mistake in a peace process which is delicate at the best of times. Kenny’s office have embarrassed Charlie in the eyes of the DUP,” said another TD.

    “But it would surely involve no surrender of principle for the DUP at least to take part in an all Ireland consultative forum.”

    The NSMC already has that role, Brian – and discussions are ongoing. I wonder if the BIC will play a part in the conversations.

  3. The cause of Brexit is entirely a damage limitation exercise on a slow poke pace.

    Nothing has been gained by Northern Ireland at all. Shouting there will be opportunities isn’t going to put manna in the desert here.

    Can someone please explain why anyone in Northern Ireland wants more damage, wants the need for damage limitation rather than repair?

    People need to wake up and smell the coffee that there is now irreparable damage to Northern Ireland… people are emigrating to escape this madhouse who think you can simply talk up an economy when it is down.

    It is a political union now hanging on reliant on subsidies which are going to reduce and irresponsible fantasists who make the White Star Liner manager’s Titanic is unsinkable claims seem grounded.

    Brexit was a selfish act by England, and Northern Ireland can have an equal determination to be selfish but unlike England it can be wise and self-serving at the same time.

    Personally, I don’t give a damn about England right now… if they want rid of us to focus on themselves … good!

    They are basically copying Northern Ireland’s worse vices right now… and suffering what we already know comes from them.

  4. Imagine the outrage there would be if the thread wrote “Britain is not abandoned, Ireland gives a damn but in its own way.”

  5. Our own politicians have been in office in and off for the best part of 10 years and what have they done? Noting but spend money on welfare and handouts to their respective paramilitaries. What NI needs is less cash and better Government

  6. Agree with virtually all of that.

    Just one question, which particular raving loony party were you referring to?

  7. Unfortunately there appears to be a surfeit of that particular commodity right now.

    At least NI politicians manage to mainly contain their lunacy to matters effecting the ‘wee six’.

    Wait til Trump starts ‘negotiating’ with Putin!

  8. To be fair, Ireland is a separate country – and we British do have a few problems of our own right now!

  9. Who is it they wish to convince to leave? The million-odd British people who live here?

  10. Yes, this paragraph seems highly optimistic:

    ” Thankfully in her first pitch to become Conservative leader, Theresa May abandoned her bid to end appeals to the European Court of Human Rights at Strasbourg. It’s a good sign that the DUP support preserving an open border. They haven’t said so yet in terms but logically this surely means transferring immigration checks to GB ports of entry from the land border.”

    If May, once in power, does decide to leave the ECHR to deport a couple of radical Islamist terrorists or whoever, the GFA is gone. Where’s she planning to deport a new generation of hundreds of terrorists born in the Shankill and Crossmaglen?

  11. Nice to hear from a lady Liz: break up this monstrous regiment of men!!!

  12. Sorry about re-posting this but I think it is apposite to Engelshass

    Father, Mother, and Me
    Sister and Auntie say
    All the people like us are We,
    And every one else is They.
    And They live over the sea,
    While We live over the way,
    But – would you believe it – They look upon We
    As only a sort of They

    We eat pork and beef
    With cow-horn-handled knives.
    They who gobble Their rice off a leaf,
    Are horrified out of Their lives;
    And They who live up a tree,
    And feast on grubs and clay,
    Isn’t it scandalous. look upon We
    As a simply disgusting They!

    We shoot birds with a gun.
    They stick lions with spears.
    Their full-dress is un-.
    We dress up to Our ears.
    They like Their friends for tea.
    We like Our friends to stay;
    And, after all that, They look upon We
    As an utterly ignorant They

    We eat kitcheny food.
    We have doors that latch.
    They drink milk or blood,
    Under an open thatch.
    We have Doctors to fee.
    They have Wizards to pay.
    And impudent heathen. They look upon We
    As a quite impossible They

    All good people agree,
    And all good people say,
    All nice people, like Us, are We
    And every one else is They:

    But if you cross over the sea,
    Instead of over the way,
    You may end by think of it looking on We
    As only a sort of They

  13. “Leavers are trying to insist that Parliament’s permission is needed to trigger Article 50 to begin the two year timetable for completing the Brexit negotiations.”

    Garbage. We aren’t. In any event, the exercise of Article 50 is a prerogative power of the Executive, as any first year LLB student would know, and as the government’s lawyers have just reiterated.

  14. And pray tell where do you get that information from?
    Article 50 has to be triggered by Parliament. They could completely ignore the referendum and vote against it and never enact it.

  15. I seem to remember that I was told (by one whom saw him) that W.B. Yeats used to wear a mid blue shirt with his oatmeal Donegal Tweed suits in the late 1930s. When challenged about he pointed to the example of his mentor William Morris who wore working mans blue shirt in his time. But this was only after the great man had developed some personal differences with O’Duffy over a couple of dogs.

  16. Begging you pardon but arn’t you jumping the gun there? Teresa may might have a different idea.
    Would the ability to use The Royal Prerogative not have to be discussed in council before that could be confirmed?
    I can see the lawyers having a party at that one.

  17. Seaan I am in state of extreme Umbiago and I shall reposte when sanity rears its head.

  18. “Would the ability to use The Royal Prerogative not have to be discussed in council before that could be confirmed?”


  19. I see no evidence in this piece to support the title that England thought at all about the effects on the union. My conversations with Brexiteers was one of f-them, on the risk, why would a handful of people hold an unbalanced sway on a population of 54 million.

  20. The NI parties will get short shrift in any Brexit negotiations along with Scotland simply because they have hitched their wagon to the unit that is the UK . The EU cannot be seen to be selective in their treatment of any given region with regard to funding .
    Parts of Wales and the North of England are as deserving as NI of funds .
    The peace process has bedded in now and any funding will most likely go south of the border which will still be in the EU , it’s unlikely the Tories will match these benefits with any special payments for NI border regions . Sen. Gary Hart announced the loss of certain investment from the US today because of Brexit . I can’t for the life of me see what input the NI parties will have in gaining any special privileges post Brexit , because when you’re out you’re out.

  21. Pity she will not be the new Thatcher, looks like May will win the day. Odd to have a remainer leading the country after the brexit vote. I think a brexit rerun might be on the cards.

  22. The GFA intertwines the two states relating to the North. A sort of informal joint authority. Belfast and Dublin should talk about what’s best for both jurisdictions especially border regions. Let those over in the UK get on with their problems.

  23. How to express a long yawn at this boring, drawn-out charade of yours where you pretend not to know NI is part of the UK in just a few short words?

  24. Declan is correct. The GFA, whether Unionists like it or not, is internationally recognised and binding. It gives the Irish government a right to be consulted on affairs pertaining to the North. Arlene and friends can’t put their fingers in their ears and just wish this away. Although Nationalists should be far more concerned about the embarrassing weakness of Sinn Fein and the SDLP rather than the DUP. Martin McGuinness and Arlene are like the Spitting Image versions of David Steele and David Owen. The more David Steele fawned over David Owen the more Owen swatted him away and held him in contempt. That’s the way it is with McGuinness who more and more appears to be like a lapdog trailing after Arlene.

  25. Villiers’ put down of border poll was more delicate than the put down of it by Enda.

    We might not be far into Brexit but we are 60 years into the EU. It comprises 28 states. Regions can’t be members. Regions of non-EU members can’t be within the EU either. When UK goes out, UKNI goes out. Nothing uncertain about that.

  26. You, me and the Schnozzola! If any one of we three is waiting for “sanity rears its head” to reposte, however, I fear we may not be in communication again this side of the great veil.

    So I’m back to the round table, rejoining hands with my neighbours and Madame Arcati and asking Jimmy what I should do.

  27. Brian, you are right to observe “the open border allows Ireland to imagine unity already”. This has been one of the most amusing things to me since the vote (we all need some light relief from the grimness of Brexit), that it’s become clear a lot of nationalist politicians had allowed themselves to believe the border was effectively gone. There’s been this building of a parallel state in the head. Reality bites, as they say.

    I’m a Remainer but actually think this aspect of Brexit is no bad thing. Our post-GFA long term future after all depends largely upon nationalism coming to truly, deeply accept the legitimacy of Northern Ireland and its reality as the only show in town for the foreseeable future. By dispelling some nationalist illusions about the GFA settlement, many from that tradition may be less positive towards it in the short term perhaps. But at least, if this helps reality sink in, we’ll be able to build on the solid ground of the historic deal we agreed in 1998, not on the quicksand of a self-comforting illusory version of it which is actually destabilising.

  28. Excellent points. The only problem will be the reaction when they discover that outside of an EEA arrangement, highly unlikely it seems, Newry will have similar status to hundreds of towns in Belarus & Ukraine, formerly part of Poland. It will be outside the EU and the wrong side of a hard border.

    The continued assumption that the Irish position is somehow “special” and deserves to be treated in such a manner, ignores that similar strong links exist the whole length of the EU’s eastern border from Finland to Romania.

    No special treatment has been given there, Northern Ireland deserves to be treated similarly.

  29. This is complete nonsense. The principle of the GFA was that while colonial rule would remain, until agreement could be found on a way to end it, that nationalists would not also be subject to cultural and economic repression. Nobody can expect any group of people to fully accept the legitimacy of a colonial government, the only legitimacy comes from a mutual agreement to make the best of bad job. As QEII said, there has to be recognition that there were things that should not have been done at all and that recognition is due from the British government and the EU alike.

    As for your bizarre reference to Poland and Belarus, the border between Poland and Belarus has had fences since 1945, any restrictions imposed by the EU are nothing to what was imposed by the USSR. The real question is why, when borders have been reduced all over Europe, the British are determined to partition this island.

  30. No. Inclusion is entirely different to exclusion. EU is an organization of States. Parts of States that are not members can’t fit in. Motivation. Well the treaties are there already. 60 years. No one was motivated to facilitate what you have in mind. The structure exists now. It’s not at design stage. Talk of parts of a former EU being in the EU is far removed from the real world.

  31. If you object to the term, then perhaps you could explain in what year colonial rule ended?

  32. Alas, this is true. What NI needs are trade and other arrangements as close to the EU as possible, without formally being a member and this should be different from GB, if required. As almost everyone is an Irish citizen they have freedom of movement anyhow.

  33. Fine, I stand corrected it was around 80% a selfish act by around 5 in 9 English voters.

    A fairer picture?

  34. Not really – as the long yawn indicates, it doesn’t exercise me in the slightest. I just find it tedious. Interesting, though, to see how delighted you are by the Shinner core strategy of winding up the ‘Prads’. Should deliver the UI in no time.

  35. I’d urge you to read Stephen Howe’s book on colonialism and Ireland, “Ireland and Empire” – it is brilliant and superbly researched and observed. There isn’t a single date you can point to as the end of “colonial rule” because that is in itself an imprecise term, whose application to Ireland is recent centuries is not straightforward. If you are insisting on that term, then you could take it perhaps as ending in the early 19th Century when Ireland got an equal parliamentary voice in Westminster to other parts of the UK. Or, at the very outside you could point to 1921 and the Dublin and Stormont parliaments established then.

    The truth of the ‘colonial’ relationship between the two islands is perhaps something different from what we usually think of ‘colonial’ as meaning:
    “Throughout the history of English/British domination over Ireland, rival perceptions of Ireland jostled and overlapped: sister-kingdom and colony, integral part of the polity and alien, inferior, incomprehensible ‘place apart’, victim of and partner in the expansion and consolidation of British global imperium …”
    He is very critical of attempts to portray Ireland as a colony on the Afro-Asian model:
    “We have shown at length,” he concludes, “how poorly the colonial and postcolonial models fit modern Irish experience itself.”
    “A colonial past, then, yes; though one that took unique hybrid forms, involving extensive integration and consensual partnership as well as exploitation and coercion. And only as part, and not on all levels the dominant part, of an extremely complex and unusual set of historical legacies shaping the Irish present. It certainly does not mark out Ireland as having a peculiarly ‘postcolonial’ destiny distinguishing it from the rest of Europe … most of Europe is ‘postcolonial’ … it was always misleading to think of Irish national questions primarily or only in the context of European colonialist expansion over non-European peoples.”

    So in summary, careful with the term colonial – and as regards the present, it simply doesn’t apply. All we can say is that there are aspects of colonial legacy, long unravelled, which still leave a mark in our society. But the field was ploughed centuries ago and much has grown over it.

  36. I didn’t say that Ireland was Africa, it doesn’t have to be. This part of Ireland is run by the British government with the help of the British army on behalf of British people, whether those in Britain or those planted here. As recent events show, the interests of the natives get short shrift. The existence of certain relatively normal legal forms obscure the issue, but NI is colony. A thoroughly modern colony to be sure, as the ruler sends money rather than extracting tribute, but the relationship is a clear colonial one nonetheless.

  37. A fairer picture would be to leave England out of it. A really high number of UKNI people voted leave. Was it about 45%? UKNI is marginally more pro Europe than England. But not that much. Close enough on half its people voted out.

  38. People weren’t doing this for Northern Ireland’s benefit. Their concern for Northern Ireland is often down do a small region in an atlas and maybe some glory hunting about Rory McIllroy.

    Taking a whole generation of Northern Irish people back to the 1940s with customs posts may be a laughing matter for some of our MPs and dismissed as a non-issue by English people who don’t care. back

    Frankly as far as I’m concerned the English, and DUP supporters who LOVE customs posts will do more damage to the Northern Ireland economy than 40 years of immigration within Northern Ireland has ever done.

  39. About trade, I don’t disagree in principle. In reality, the trade arrangements for UKNI will be the same as for the UK.
    About passports etc., you’re not wrong but there’s a fair difference between passport rights and the rights to drive through South Down into North Louth as if you’re travelling from England into Wales. Gibraltar people enjoy freedom of movement right now, but it’s not quite as pleasant as between UKNI and IRL.

  40. Equal representation?? In 1801 Ireland had one quarter of the GB population but less than one sixth of MPs at Westminster. Now that statistic changed over the life of the Union, but it was unbalanced at the start.

  41. They got out because they cared about their identity and culture.. Unfortunately many of the same people are morons that ridiculously claim SLAVS are “ethnic” Macedonians.

  42. Rather silly to fight over names considering the original Irish and British disappeared thousands of years ago. Whats even worse is how some act like the Protestant/Catholic split is some great difference… when even their religious beliefs are also pure nonsense.

    Ireland. Northern Ireland. Whats the difference. Just a lines on maps and names. There is no such thing as an Irish or British people. Just deluded mystic nationalists who fight senselessly over fake history and fabricated identities.

  43. I agree with much of that. Why argue over names indeed. Just accept the names we’ve chosen, use them and move on. Nationalities and religions are indeed inventions. Ireland. Northern Ireland. What’s the difference? Well, despite our agreement, they are two separate jurisdictions; different laws; different currencies etc. etc. So there are differences. One doesn’t need to believe in nationalities or religions to appreciate that. These are practical, worldly matters.

  44. I did not know that Yeats knew WM: very fond of WM not least because his view that when artisanship has no use it becomes quite plainly pretentious and daft.

  45. As a youth Willie was an acolyte of WM. He even visited Oscar Wilde (with holes in his socks, the skin below tinted with boot polish to disguise this, and shoes of raw undyed leather).

    On the subject of WM, I note that Tony Blair once claimed that his most favourite book was “News From Nowhere”. I’m very familiar with much of WMs writings, even having read his endless “Sigurd the Volsung”, and knowing “News from Nowhere” as well as I do I simply cannot put both it and Tony Blair in the same mental space. I can only assume that a particularly malicious aide told poor Tony to make the claim publicly as some kind of cruel joke.

  46. I worry about converts: some are really very, very genuine and understand: but some I think simply like the idea of Catholicism. I am convinced that Hans Kung is eaten up by the fact that Martin Luther got there first. Charity, Conscience and Chaucer defines mine: but that is probably Pride. Milton and Bunyan is a cure for that.

  47. I know of a Dublin Presbyterian (born into, not a convert) who was educated by Jesuits and swears by the training it gave him in analytic thinking (“question everything”). The problem with adult converts is that they do not get the best bit, the demand for psychological insight through self analysis. Not that this is always the case, far from it, but where the technique meets a good mind the result is always valuable. I think this is what you are referring to with “conscience” and believe that any genuine insight drives “charity” in the sense of mutual support rather than automatic “me against the world” competition. Pride is always a very tricky one, full of false paths. While Rochefoucauld puts everything down to self love and pride, (“If we did not flatter ourselves, the flattery of others would not hurt us”) Pascal hinted that liking your self a little is sometimes quite helpful.

    Thatcher claimed Tony was her greatest achievement, and I always think he took this as something of a compliment.

  48. MU, perhaps a closer reading of the Belfast agreement might just reveal that what is actually stated is the legitimacy, not of the NI state as such, but of the political aspirations of both portions of the community. What it actually states is the legitimacy of both political aspirations guaranteed under a form of joint responsibility by both governments:

    “We are committed to partnership, equality and mutual respect as the basis of relationships within Northern Ireland, between North and South, and between these islands.”

    The actual status both of this state and of the community living here is far more liminal than simply a confirmation of British Sovereignty:

    “[We] recognise the birthright of all the people of Northern Ireland to identify themselves and be accepted as Irish or British, or both, as they may so choose, and accordingly confirm that their right to hold both British and Irish citizenship is accepted by both Governments and would not be affected by any future change in the status of Northern Ireland.”

    A proper reading of part 2 on the constitutional issues does not suggest that the continuing existence of a statelet called Northern Ireland is envisaged as having any life beyond the point where a majority of those living here continue to support this particular construct. The “legitimacy” of Northern Ireland is not something that exists objectively outside of the will as expressed by votes of the people of Northern Ireland. However, the right of those aspiring to British or Irish identity to maintain such an identity is supported in my second quote above, but certainly not the expression of this identity through an inviolable state such as you are suggesting with the comment “the legitimacy of Northern Ireland and its reality as the only show in town for the foreseeable future”. This seriously distorts the meaning of the actual terms of the agreement, which imply a state off something much closer to joint sovereignty in practice. It is important to read what the agreement is actually saying, not what you might wish it to say:

  49. The weakness of that solution was seen by how easily Enda was swatted away by Arlene Foster and dismissed by the proconsul, the GFA was a recognition of NI by nationalists and a verification of the legitimacy of the present constitutional arrangement. A fraud in other words.

  50. Interestingly, the Belfast nurtured Medievalist Helen Waddell, hardly a mainstream SF member, used the term back in1920.

  51. “that nationalists would not also be subject to cultural and economic repression” that was worth the paper it was written on.

  52. Ah Seaan, now who’s indulging in selective reading … you perhaps should have known better than to assume a former lawyer wouldn’t have read the agreement. I kept my copy and it is very well-thumbed.

    I wasn’t suggesting the agreement said anything is forever; and of course the legitimacy of Northern Ireland as part of the UK rests on the wishes of its people. But that goes for the sovereignty of every piece of land on the planet.

    Northern Ireland as a unit is the only show in town for the foreseeable future because there is nowhere near a majority for a change of sovereignty, or anything approaching one.

    To take you up on a couple of specific points:
    – you say “what is actually stated is the legitimacy, not of the NI state as such, but of the political aspirations of both portions of the community …” Hmm. Here’s what the GFA actually says in Section 1 of ‘Constitutional Issues’: “The participants … (i) recognise the legitimacy of whatever choice is freely exercised by a majority of the people of Northern Ireland with regard to its status … (iii) acknowledge that … the present wish of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland , freely exercised and legitimate, is to maintain the Union and, accordingly, that Northern Ireland’s status as part of the United Kingdom reflects and relies upon that wish …”
    It seems one hell of a stretch to read this is saying people’s wishes are legitimate, but the state somehow isn’t. That’s what legitimacy means for a state, that it is there through the wishes of its people, or a majority of them. It is the “status” of Northern Ireland inside the UK that the GFA says has legitimacy, not just the wishes of the people.

    You refer in your post to my apparently having suggested Northern Ireland / UK was “an inviolable state” – can you point to where I said anything about it being “inviolable”? I’m not even sure what that word means in this context.

    You then say: “This seriously distorts the meaning of the actual terms of the agreement, which imply a state off [sic] something much closer to joint sovereignty in practice.”
    Really? I must be missing a page or two from my copy because I don’t see joint sovereignty, or even implicit joint sovereignty anywhere in it. Indeed the paragraphs I quoted above make it very clear people wish to maintain the Union and “it would be wrong to make any change in the status of Northern Ireland save with the consent of a majority of its people.” I don’t see how joint sovereignty, which whatever its merits is not the wish of the majority of people in Northern Ireland, could be envisaged in those words. And needless to say, had anything like joint sovereignty been part of the deal, it never would have got past the unionist electorate.

    Sorry Seaan, but things were much closer to joint sovereignty before the GFA than after. Before it, the AIA regime required London to consult with Dublin about decisions on internal NI affairs. The GFA did away with that and devolved decision-making on internal NI matters to the new assembly, with Dublin no longer having any right to be consulted on those devolved NI matters. The Irish may only use the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference (Strand Three, “British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference”, section 5) to put forward views and proposals on *non-devolved* NI matters.

    Then there’s the North-South Ministerial Council in Strand 2, which provides for co-operation between NI and the ROI on matters of mutual interest. The NI administration has a veto on all decisions, as does the ROI one, so things are done by mutual agreement. That is not close to “joint authority” at all, which implies the ROI government sharing some of the NI administration’s authority over decisions on the internal affairs of NI – that just isn’t the case. The NSMC is basically a ‘good neighbours’ agreement; it is not – and I’m sure the Dublin government would back me up on this – any attempt by the Dublin government to impose its will upon the people of Northern Ireland, or to undermine UK sovereignty in Northern Ireland. I think if that were perceived to be happening, that threat to the GFA would be taken very seriously by London, Dublin and Belfast and would at the very least cause a crisis and very probably a collapse of the GFA settlement.

    So in short I think you’re seeing what you want to see in there – but it ain’t there.

  53. A pretty unusual definition of “colony”, by anyone’s standards – and you haven’t really explained, in what sense is the relationship a colonial one today? There is no point using the word ‘colonial’ if it doesn’t mean anything.

    And when you say “the natives”, do you mean Catholics? I could point out that Protestants are as native as anyone else. Or are we playing the Eddie Monsoon Austrian gameshow (from “The Comic Strip Presents … Eddie Monsoon – A Life?”), “How Pure Was Your Grandpapa?” I wonder what rights you’re willing to grant more recent immigrants from Poland, the Philippines or sub-Saharan Africa … I shudder to think.

    Last time I checked N Ireland was run by people elected by N Ireland voters and who try to run the place, occasionally, for their benefit. It is part of the UK because N Ireland people wish it to be. It is important to understand the colonial elements to our history but also important to understand how those eroded and changed into something else. In 2016, you just can’t in all honesty describe N Ireland as a colony, it is an absurd misrepresentation.

  54. lots of people have used the term, very often not very intelligently. Do read “Ireland and Empire” by Stephen Howe on all this. It is very comprehensive. He’s no fan of unionists by the way. But he is, as a left wing English historian, deeply unimpressed by 20th C attempts to overegg the “Ireland as colony” stuff.

  55. Mu, do you really need me to list the critiques of Stephen Howe’s work? I tend to agree with quite a bit of what he has written actually, certainly regarding his reading of any attempt to describe colonialism here in similar terms to the nineteenth century Empire (his speciality), but I am still most critical of much of what he is saying generally. But then I believe that disciplines such as history are in essence critical disciplines that grow only by our analytic critiques of the interpretations of others.

    The point is that Stephen Howe’s is far from the only analytic interpretation of Ireland in the context of colonialism. He cannot be used as a unique bludgeon to dismiss the idea, certainly not without a great deal more unpacking of the broader arguments than you are doing here.

    You do know who Helen Waddell is I imagine?

    An early twentieth century Belfast feminist with a brilliant career as a medievalist and scholar of Chinese. Hardly someone simply using the term “colonialism” unintelligently. Interestingly, as the daughter of a Presbyterian missionary in Japan, she was not unacquainted with the concept of Empire at first hand. What I’m trying to point out is that the interpretation of Irelands relationship with England as “colonial” is not simply a modern phenomena, the product of post-colonial studies. It was bread and butter thinking to those intelligent and (all importantly) non-aligned thinkers here not glamoured by the Unionist myth making by the men of 1912. In the same letter of 1920 (to an English missionary she corresponded with) she speaks of Carson’s bringing the gun back into what had become constitutional politics in 1912. I was so struck with the similarity to comments of my own recently on Slugger that I noted her correspondence for future articles I may write. The important thing is that this perception has existed for a considerable period, and has been a fully critiqued representation of their experience by intelligent men and women, which has stood up to scrutiny. We have been the “first colony”, and over the centuries this has developed characteristics of its own, but when Lord Salisbury spoke of being as unwilling to grant Ireland Home Rule as he would be with any other “Hottentots” it is a significant truth regarding mutual perceptions about the relationship of Britain and Ireland that simply cannot be argued away.

  56. I said “overegg” though …
    You may not have seen my more detailed post about Howe’s book in response to Cu Chulainn. In summary, he’s not debunking colonial analysis entirely, indeed he concludes it’s an important part of Irish history. I think you’ve misunderstood what he was saying. He just argues for more careful and nuanced use of the term, a term which can obscure as much as it reveals about Ireland.

  57. Ah MU, we are then both seeing what we want to see perhaps. The point is that the Belfast Agreement encourages contradictory interpretations as it needs to internally contradict itself and avoid those hard edges that might discourage general agreement. It is over and over again trying to look in two directions at once.

    I keep telling you to read the sections on Joint Sovereignty in Richard Kearney’s “Postnationalist Ireland.” They explain a lot of what is very vague in the Agreement, and it is this vagueness which seems to be confusing you in its failure to spell out the implications of such co-operative bodies. In your penultimate paragraph you appear to read strand 2 quite differently to me. While I fully agree that the co-operation issue is not about “the Dublin government [imposing] its will upon the people of Northern Ireland” it is most definitely about Dublin having a say in what happens here, alongside London. With the enshrined right of us all to hold either passport, and with the requirement of issuing governments to in many respects protect these citizens who affirm full allegiance (an issue, protection of citizens, you have been most fervent about on other threads) it would be surprising for Dublin not to have an internal role here, just as Westminster has. While the Agreement is couched in vagueness on this it is clearly far more than a simple external good neighbours deal in regard to this issue of passports/ allegiances alone.

    The idea of mutual veto as a safeguard harks back to the Home Rule safeguards discussed in 1914 with Northern Unionism, which as I understood the Unionist rejection of them then, were felt to be a clear erosion of full sovereignty. Just as they are today.

    The whole point I am making is that we are in a liminality, and if you take its terms to their logical end, under the Agreement no one authority has full, unconditional sovereignty, or the final say as to what happens here, while everyone has some share in making the final decisions. As such the sovereignty is jointly held, even if for political reasons, no great song and dance is made of this, so as not to scare either the Unionist or Nationalist horses who have to sell this every few years to voters who would prefer simple black and white solutions.

  58. sovereignty doesn’t quite work like that though – and it is more black and white than our fudging political culture may always admit. Territories have to be in one jurisdiction, or another, or have some kind of formal joint sovereignty arrangement. There isn’t one. What you’re describing are, broadly, window dressing in the GFA to sell the thing to nationalists. But Trimble, a law academic as you know, was no fool and did not have joint sovereignty slipped past him when he wasn’t looking.

    The right to hold an Irish passport is an anomaly, really – and it certainly doesn’t give the Rep of Ireland any jurisdiction in NI, any more than it has for Irish passport holders anywhere else.

    Dublin has a say through the structures of the GFA as I described. But that said, it has no formal say over devolved matters and can only influence internal NI affairs if we let it. It’s an important point, because without that you’d be right, the UK would not be exercising full sovereignty. But it is. There is no joint about it. We collaborate and co-operate aplenty and long may that continue, but the agreement is clear we do as one separate sovereign nation in their case and part of a different sovereign nation in our case. There is no ambiguity or fudge over that, it is just the case.

  59. Oh, I agree that to work efficiently Sovereignty requires clear definition MU, but that definition has been carefully fudged across the entire Belfast Agreement, to sell the Agreement’s long term goal of ensuring protective rights for those holding either of the two diametrically opposed narratives regarding this community. If it were are clean cut as you are suggesting, then this goal would become impossible. The actual window dressing here is the carefully nurtured false perception that the state of affairs regarding discrete sovereignty which existed before the Belfast Agreement still somehow applies in spite of a plethora of new consultancy bodies where everyone has a presence.

    If you had perhaps read Richard Kearney you would have encountered examples of such issues of Joint Sovereignty “lite” in his unpacking of the EUs erosion of discrete sovereignties through simply moving around the need for the kind of ” formal joint sovereignty arrangement” you appear to feel is needed. This is a “good thing” he thinks, and I remember him at a seminar in the 90s talking about the need to “exorcise the demon of sovereignty in the modern world”. Really, go and read Kearney, whose thinking on such issues influenced almost every aspect of the Agreement itself. What you are holding to here in your responses is really very much an outmoded perception of things, quite different to how the modern world actually works in practice, and of course is very much a close relative of that big myth of discrete sovereignty that has driven the Brexit campaign.

    Regarding Trimble, come on, you must know he had little choice as to what what he was accepting, just as Paisley, when he actually found himself in the hot seat found in turn. These were not the negotiations of equals, no matter what the public has been told. Do you really see Trimble out staring the British and Irish Governments on these issues? Really?

    You are still entirely ignoring the significance of the passport issue, oh I know, if you actually even nod at it, the issue of sovereign authority simply cannot be fudged as you are attempting to fudge it. By identifying the carefully constricted situation here of parity on passport issues with the situation in the UK where an Irish passport holder is a foreign national you are missing the whole point of that stripulation. The right of any citizen in Northern Ireland to affirm allegiance to either Britain or Ireland or both is enshrined in the agreement and no matter how much you seek to ignore this, this one thing has profound sovereignty implications.

    “[We] recognise the birthright of all the people of Northern Ireland to identify themselves and be accepted as Irish or British, or both, as they may so choose, and accordingly confirm that their right to hold both British and Irish citizenship is accepted by both Governments and would not be affected by any future change in the status of Northern Ireland.”

    This is not a simple British (or Irish) sovereign identity, and is something very different to what you are suggesting when one takes into account the full implications of such an affirmation of political identity, and the concept of such an identity being fully safeguarded which is enshrined in the agreement. What you are suggesting above, with its implication of an overarching discrete British sovereignty as on the British landmass, would imply that anyone holding an Irish passport is a foreign national here, as they are in Britain. This is something which is clearly not accepting “the birthright of all the people of Northern Ireland to identify themselves and be accepted as Irish” as it clearly implies that they are somehow foreigners in their place of birth. Your reading would in turn suggest too the very situation which the Agreement is seeking to ensure will be most certainly avoided, of UK passport holders in turn becoming foreign nationals here in the event of a United Ireland coming about. If both UK and Irish passport holders have the right to have their citizenship of Northern Ireland fully “accepted by both Governments” then I simply cannot see how this is in any way compatible with the kind of discrete sovereignty you seem to believe exists. The British government is to my understanding accepting the jurisdiction of the Irish Government here in this and vice versa.

  60. Oh, of course I saw your response to CuChulainn. I simply avoided answering at that point because I’d have had to go into analytic detail in any argument there. My response would have been of the sort that required a lot of work, which is why I’d simply chided you for not unpacking Howe properly. The trouble is that my own “nuances” seem to need at least a thousand words, or even more. No, I’m familiar with Howe through my own reading (do you really need me to list the critiques of the reviewers of the book, or those of myself?) and should simply note here that he has failed to answer the kind of more detailed analysis of the colonial interpretation by, for one example, Brendan Bradshaw (whom he disparages rather than answers in his work). This is why I’d questioned your use of Howe as a defining authority here.

    And you know me, I’m nothing if not careful in my own use of any tool of historical analysis, and never uncritical. But there are moments such as the Volunteer period in the 1780s when it is probably impossible to actually overegg a colonial analysis of Ireland’s relationship with England………….

  61. He, he “Willy” WM, Pugin and Ruskin did tend to be a bit like that: Pugin’s St Augustines Church @ Ramsgate is a sight to behold in comparison to Catholicism in tooth, claw and plumbing of the church at Kilpeck.

  62. Indeed, tph, and I’m hoping to visit it at some point when I have my car in the south of England next! Have you perhaps encountered my own Anglo-Catholic “local” while I had my film studio in Soho, All Saints Margaret Street:

    The numerous Masses were thick with Soho literati and creatives all week long, the same people you’d encounter being cool in Pat Val’s in the afternoon (the old pre-make over Patisserie Valerie in Old Compton Street which was the film business works cafe). One colleague, a Dún Laoghaire boy who used St Pats in Soho Square suggested the same comparison as you’ve suggested, with All Saints in the St Augustine’s role. All Saints used to be Elliott’s church of choice also, I’m told.

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