Soapbox – Is the same-old same-old is going to put us in more bother than usual?

Scott Moore is a campaigner for a secular society (writing in personal capacity) based in Strabane. Outside of that, he is interested in a variety of issues within Northern Ireland politics, including political reform and tackling sectarianism.

Many months ago, Peter Robinson stepped down, his place taken by Arlene Foster. Thus, the Big House of unionism put their PR machine into overdrive to figure out how to make people vote for them, and came up with the idea of making Arlene look all progressive and friendly and able to take Northern Ireland forward … but without a single new policy to back any of the rhetoric up.

That, of course, wasn’t enough.

They also had to stop the ‘evil’ Martin McGuinness. Without action, and fast, he would surely become First Minister, a position equal to his current deputy First Minister position with no additional power. That would have been very bad. Only Arlene could stop Martin and save the day, ensuring the two of them could continue to govern together. Makes perfect sense, right?

And now she’s won the election and everyone’s forgotten the campaigning, it’s back to normal business. Opposing basic equality and rights for fellow humans, exposing the liberal conspiracy to destroy Our Wee Country, renaming boats with names they don’t like, and telling off all the silly Remoaners who won’t take their beatings after they lost a referendum 56-44 in their favour.

And to make matters worse, the same-old same-old is going to put us in more bother than usual.

Because the rest of the world is following the example we’ve set and is using nationalist populism and bigotry as a tool of politics and governance. A good old fashioned Tory is in charge again, not like that modern fella Dave who hated the poor but it was okay because he liked LGBT rights, and the YouTube comments section has won the backing of Vladimir Putin and the edgiest pseudo-fascist teens in town to run for President of the United States.

The Tories, who are really good with money – see how well they eliminated the deficit – are going to maintain all of Northern Ireland’s EU funding with all the extra tax revenues which come with holding a referendum the country didn’t ask for. And who knows, maybe Trump will protect Northern Ireland’s interests by accidentally signing nukes over to the Ra or something! The possibilities are endless.

That all bodes pretty well for us if it’s business as usual, right?

Arlene Foster has been through a gradual process, starting with “er…when I say Moving Forward, I don’t mean any pithy liberal stuff” on Nolan when she was challenged on marriage equality, continuing with her willingness to inherit the worst intemperances of Ian Paisley on the Assembly floor, and ending today with her intention to block marriage equality for the whole Assembly term and her strop over the all-Ireland Brexit forum.

I say ‘ending’ because I don’t think we’ve quite seen the worst of her yet. And unfortunately for us, Northern Ireland’s big brothers on the international field are looking less and less able to give us an effective helping hand out of each screw-up as time goes on.

When will we have a substantial number of elected representatives willing to provide true governance?

This is a guest slot to give a platform for new writers either as a one off, or a prelude to becoming part of the regular Slugger team.

  • Croiteir

    Excellent – as much substance as Arlene has policies

  • NotNowJohnny

    The DUP has three galleries to play to. The Protestant fundamentalist Christian, the Orange and the great mass of the flegger types who most of the first two groups probably can’t abide but depend on for their votes. The ‘Stop Martin’ campaign was a pretty pointless exercise in terms of any difference it would make but it was food and drink to the fleggers and got them out to vote. The fleggers are easily fed. For the price of a graduated response they’ll keep putting their cross in your box.

    Of course Paisley was a master at balancing the three groups. Wearing the collar and preaching hellfire while castigating the pope kept the Protestant fundamentalist Christian lot signed up. And his politics of opposing almost every change to the Orange state kept the Orange lot on board (at least until he did a u-turn of Lazarus proportions and jumped into the Good Friday bed). And with his third force and his ‘Smash Sinn Fein’ and ‘keep yer hands off the UDR’ he kept the masses fed and watered (at least until David Ervine came along and exposed him for what he was).

    Unfortunately for Arlene, she isn’t half the man (or woman) that Paisley was. She doesn’t wear the collar or carry around the bible so she needs other ways to feed her Protestant fundamentalist Christian flock. And a three line whip on a petition of concern against the gay marriage bill or taking a jab at the ‘gay cake’ supporting Equality Commission does exactly that. Like Paisley before her, she probably doesn’t really believe in half the stuff she claims to support.

  • Roger

    When do we grow up and accept Brexit was a national referendum? Harking on as if the Remoaners won would be like County Roscommon people complaining because Roscommon voted one way and the rest of Ireland voted another way.

    ….I think I’ve said this before.

  • Nevin

    Could this be the same Scott Moore in the company of the same old, same old revolutionary, Eamonn McCann? If so, as an APNI member will he be campaigning for the flying of the Union flag on council buildings on designated days in Derry and Strabane District Council district?

  • ted hagan

    I was never going to vote DUP but had hopes that Arlene’s might be sightly more enlightened. Sadly not. She’s shown little generosity of spirit, is narrow minded, and is moving Northern Ireland backwards rather than forwards. She is also ignorant in that she thinks it’s somehow clever to sneer at southern politicians.
    Arlene is well-matched with the likes of ageing boot boy Gregory Campbell and arch idiot Sammy Wilson.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Oh Roger, I seem to remember that Ireland by far voted overwhelmingly for Home Rule in 1910, and hey, was it not a balance against this in four counties in the north who decided that how the rest of the country voted did not affect them, at all at all? I don’t remember them honestly accepting the constitutionalist “You lost, get over it……..” uncomplainingly.

  • Roger

    I thought of you when I looked at the “Northern Ireland High Court rejects Brexit Challenges” article here the other day. The Court doesn’t seem to go along with any backstories having something to do with the Belfast Agreement.
    But on this topic, yes we can complain about perceived historic wrongs. But I seem to remember votes held in IRL and UKNI in 1998 that put all that to bed. We’ve all accepted the legitimacy of UKNI as part of the UK. I’d emphasise the “as part of the UK” bit which circles back to certain people needing to grow up as per my post.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Part of the UK! The actual status under the Belfast Agreement might more accurately be described as being the expression of:

    “whatever choice is freely exercised by a majority of the people of Northern Ireland with regard to its status, whether they prefer to continue to support the Union with Great Britain or a sovereign united Ireland”.

    This is very far from Westphalian Sovereignty still!

    At the moment this is liminally “UK”, but it is a very strange kind of sovereignty which recognises:

    ” that it is for the people of the island of Ireland alone, by
    agreement between the two parts respectively and without external
    impediment, to exercise their right of self-determination on the basis of consent, freely and concurrently given, North and South, to bring about a united Ireland, if that is their wish, accepting that this right must be achieved and exercised with and subject to the agreement and consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland”.

    I doubt that any serious and analytic thinker would see the exit of Britian from any role in this issue (which it has clearly recognised as an Island of Ireland matter) as being in any way the action of a power claiming any undisputed sovereignty of this place.

    Oh, the judgement itself does leave the issue of future challenge to actual legislation open to review when it occurs. The Judge ruled that until actual legislation existed, the issue of challenge raised in regard to the Royal Perogative and other matters simply did not apply. This is a very technical judgement and the judge has left four of the five issues he ruled on open to future appeal. So wait for the fat lady and act five of the opera before letting the smirk completely settle on your face.

    The real issue would be how seriously the institutions where both governments articulate joint decisions for the whole island (my shared sovereignty issue) actually kick in to underpin the joint guarentee of the Belfast Agreement. The Irish government has already pointed out that it is very much an “Island of Ireland” issue, and I dare say while the swans swim on sedately, the feet are going like mad below the surface.

    A “part of the UK” where half the population probably define themselves as Irish, may be for the short term “a part of the UK”, but not as most people might define “part of the UK” over the water. No matter how any judge may rule at this moment in time, there is a clear problem remaining regarding the status of NI in regard to the guarentee of this right of “identity” for about half the population here. No, you have not heard the last of this issue, and this is simply a judgement from Mr Justice Maguire’s informed perception of the matter regarding some technical issues.

  • Scott Moore

    Hey Nevin,

    Just to remind you: I’m writing in personal capacity. My comments do not reflect the views of anyone but myself.

    1. I am generally willing to work with anyone with whom I share common interests. Me and Eamonn are both secularists.

    2. There are more important issues than flags and flags should not be abused as a means for our governing parties to create tensions for electoral gain. That said, I support designated days across all local councils in Northern Ireland, so long as we remain in the United Kingdom. It is the only option with full cross-community support.

  • Nevin

    Seaan, you may have overlooked the significance of this section of the 1998 Agreement which deals with circumstances where London and Dublin differ:

    4. All decisions will be by agreement between both Governments. The Governments will make determined efforts to resolve disagreements between them. There will be no derogation from the sovereignty of either Government.

    In other words, Dublin may huff and puff but London will decide what it considers to be appropriate for the UK. Back in 1996, at the time of the Athboy conspiracy, Dublin’s nose was knocked out of joint when London changed its mind on the parading controversy. It’s also quite possible that both Arlene and Martin could each end up with nasal issues.

  • Roger

    We’ve gone over the position of sovereignty over UKNI a few times now. But no harm in running through the legislation:

    1920 Act (different to the others listed here as it relates to two UK jurisdictions but it’s included here for completeness):

    “With a view to the eventual establishment of a Parliament for the whole of Ireland, and to bringing about harmonious action between the parliaments and governments of Southern Ireland and Northern Ireland, and to the promotion of mutual intercourse and uniformity in relation to matters affecting the whole of Ireland, and to providing for the administration of services which the two parliaments mutually agree should be administered uniformly throughout the whole of Ireland, or which by virtue of this Act are to be so administered, there shall be constituted, as soon as may be after the appointed day, a Council to be called the Council of Ireland.”

    1949 Act:

    “It is hereby declared that Northern Ireland remains part of Her Majesty’s dominions and of the United Kingdom, and it is hereby affirmed that in no event will Northern Ireland or any part of it cease to be part of Her Majesty’s dominions and of the United Kingdom without the consent of the Parliament of Northern Ireland.”

    1973 Act:

    “It is hereby declared that Northern Ireland remains part of Her Majesty’s dominions and of the United Kingdom, and it is hereby affirmed that in no event will Northern Ireland or any part of it cease to be part of Her Majesty’s dominions and of the United Kingdom without the consent of the majority of the people of Northern Ireland voting in a poll held for the purposes of this section in accordance with Schedule 1 to this Act.”

    1998 Act (the one you trumpet as having somehow changed sovereignty over UKNI):

    “It is hereby declared that Northern Ireland in its entirety remains part of the United Kingdom and shall not cease to be so without the consent of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland voting in a poll held for the purposes of this section in accordance with Schedule 1.

    But if the wish expressed by a majority in such a poll is that Northern Ireland should cease to be part of the United Kingdom and form part of a united Ireland, the Secretary of State shall lay before Parliament such proposals to give effect to that wish as may be agreed between Her Majesty’s Government in the United Kingdom and the Government of Ireland.”

    Golly gosh gee, the statute expressly mentions a “united Ireland”. Time to get excited? Nope. It does no more than allow UKNI’s people to go for a united Ireland if they want; just like each of the other prior statutes. Amazing triumph for nationalism? Big change? Not at all. UK’s sovereignty over UKNI is not diminished a jot.

    As for the High Court judgment and this notion of yours that UKNI’s people are sovereign, not the UK – Extract from report on judgment:

    “ISSUE 5: Mr McCord contends that Article 50 TEU cannot be triggered without the consent of the people of NI and it is asserted that the Good Friday Agreement has created a substantive legitimate expectation that there would be no change in the constitutional status of NI without the consent of the people of NI.”

    “Mr Justice Maguire said he was not aware of any specific provision in the Good Friday Agreement or in the 1998 Act which confirms the existence of the limitation which the applicant contends and which establishes a norm that any change to the constitutional arrangements for the government of NI and, in particular, withdrawal by the UK from the EU, can only be effected with the consent of the people of NI. Further, the Court could not identify material which would cause it to imply such a limitation. The judge said this was not surprising as if such a limitation exists it would be reasonable to have expected it to have been highlighted in the run up to the Referendum. Further, it would have the most unusual result of requiring a second Referendum to be held in NI within a short time of the people of NI having gone to the polls in respect of the same issue in a national referendum where the national outcome was in favour of withdrawal.

    Mr Justice Maguire said that section 1 of the 1998 Act is of no benefit to the applicant as it is clear that this section (and the relevant portion of the Good Friday Agreement) is considering the issue only in the particular context of whether NI should remain as part of the UK or unite with Ireland. He said it was also difficult to see how the Court can overlook the importance of the terms in which the 1998 Act are cast or to deviate from what to date has been plain, namely that the UK Parliament has retained to itself the ability to legislate for NI without the need to resort to any special procedure: “Any suggestion that a legitimate expectation can overwhelm the structure of the legislative scheme is not viable”.

    The judge rejected the applicant’s submissions in this area.”
    That’s not very “technical”. It’s a simple and clear put down of your notion that sovereignty over UKNI has changed.

  • NotNowJohnny

    Are you sure you haven’t just contradicted yourself here?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Bless you Roger, of course the status of the northern counties has changed, just as the sovereignty status of all western democracies has changed post 1945!

    With this listing of Acts you still appear to be seeing this issue in terms of the type of sovereignty (“Westphalian” sovereignty) which was the certainly dominant form a century ago. The acts you reference still employ this language, for any modern “nation state” is reluctant to admit just how eroded their powers have become with the steady erosion of national sovereignty by various factors since 1945. The core idea of the EU exist debate was the restoration of national sovereignty to Britain from the Union’s model of shared sovereignty and ever closer union. If the kind of firm sovereignty which you suggest even existed then a requirement to exit would never have arisen. It was on (as the judge notes) this very model of shared sovereignty that the Judicial review was called and any serious reading of what the judgement says clearly shows international matters being a reserved matter the judge stated he was not competent to rule in this matter. It will still be something which the two governments need to address directly themselves.

    No modern western democracy has exclusive de facto or de jure control of their own particular economic zone, as the post war drive for world economic integration through free trade deals has ensured a surrender of sovereignty on such issues to ensure possible economic advantage. The requirements of political globalisation have also developed dominant bodies which are superior to any national sovereignty, institutions of global governance such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Trade Organization (WTO). And of course the UN itself! The Wikipedia article on Sovereignty starts, “Sovereignty is understood in jurisprudence as the full right and power of a governing body to govern itself without any interference from outside sources or bodies.” This is clearly not the case any more for any nation in the wworld except those such as North Korea who do not participate.

    But regarding the Belfast Agreement itself. You are looking at the text as a static document, myself as a dynamic document. You see a present situation confirmed, I, that looking over the play out of time the Agreement prepares the way for a UK exit from Ireland, where their only future involvement will be the kind of guarantee for UK passport holders which the RoI currently ensures for Irish passport holders in the north.

    I can, of course, see perfectly well where you are coming from, and the security blanket such parts of the Agreement as you quote were drafted to provide for Unionism are clearly there for anyone who reads it. Had the dynamic content which my own quotes point to actually been clearly spelt out simply, no Unionist would have felt able to carry such a recommendation back to their electorate. As I’ve said before, if you wish to ignore the elephant in the corner, you are most welcome! It’s coming anyway and simply ignoring it, armoured against realty by these earlier acts, does nothing to in any way hinder this.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Oh Nevin as I’ve pointed out to Roger, above, sovereignty today is far from what it was in the days of Lloyd George, Redmond, Sinclair, Carson and Jimmy Craig! “Fings simply ain’t what they used to be!

    You appear to have forgotten the British “washing of hands”:

    ” that it is for the people of the island of Ireland alone, by agreement between the two parts respectively and without external impediment, to exercise their right of self-determination…..”

    I love that image of Arlene and Martin as pugalists! A lot more “manly” a solution than all that weaponry. What a pity the “Alternative Covenant” of 1913 had not been the one with the half million signatures, and saved us all this silly bother.

  • chrisjones2

    What common identity? We dont have one on Europe

  • Nevin

    Seaan, 1998 was just two years after 1996 and Enda might well get the same riposte from Theresa that he got from Arlene.

    You may have misunderstood my ‘nasal issues’ reference. I was thinking of Theresa as the tweaker!

    As for pugilism, Martin does sound a little punch-drunk; Arlene and Naomi are now in the ring.

    Your old mucker O’Leary from the independent republic of Cork appears to have seen some strange apparitions over by Cushendall; he’s suffering from the Dalriada syndrome; he has a problem with the ‘Britain’ shorthand for the UK but not with the ‘Ireland’ label for the 26-county state.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Thank you for this ingenious and most relevent document Nevin!

    Regarding, “he has a problem with the ‘Britain’ shorthand for the UK but not with the ‘Ireland’ label for the 26-county state” quite a few of us do, who recognise just how very recent this homogenious UK concept actually is! The (quite proper) name for this union of four peoples is “The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland” and to my recollection we were certainly not actually “on” the British landmass itself this Summer when I last flew over the narrow seas! Britain used as you suggest above is, after all, just as much of a “slangy” usage as the very loose “Ulster” is for two thirds of our ancient province. Brendan is simply ensuring a careful accuracy of terminology in what he writes which is all too often ignored by those who imagine we are still living in 6100 BCE and are land linked to another island. I wonder how many of the more well read amongst our MLAs listening to Arlene’s oratory this weekend are still trying to square the date of this last moment of verifiable Britishness with Usher!

  • Nevin

    Seaan, the IPP held the position of king-maker following the two Westminster elections in 1910 and subsequently did a side deal with the Liberal party. Such horse-trading wasn’t on offer from the Liberals in 1906.

  • Nevin

    Seaan, Brendan is indulging in semantic blarney; perhaps he’s a ‘remoaner’.

    I use the official state and region labels in political discussions and the geographic ones in genealogy.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Official state designation for here is certainly not “Britain” Nevin, at least in the IHS list, or in those guideline documents for journalists issued to ensure correct and accurate usage, it’s always “The United Kingdom of Great Britian AND Northern Ireland” or “The United Kingdom” if the proper name demands too much effort. Using “Britain” in this context is either a thoughtless inaccuracy or a politically motivated inaccuarcy, but is neither georgaphically or politically correct. Ther use of Briitian to designate both component Islands is ususlly coming from et thoughtless assumption that the landmass the dominant Egglish polity is sited on is actually “everything”. The Regional usage is “Northen IRELAND” in all serious situations although the Guardian guidelines permits the slangy use of Ulster for pithy Tabloid headlines, but with a recognition that this is essensially a casual, slang usage.

    As ever, Brendan’s excellent paper looks like the goods to me! Nothing less than I’d have expected from one of the most significant advisors to those assembling the Belfast Agreement.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Of course my point was to remind Roger that the urge to dissenting fragmentation against solid national consensus by a tiny and intractable minority is nothing new in the north of Ireland! Now back to 1910! With a minority government it would have taken a far more reckless man than Campbell Bannerman to attempt a Home Rule Bill in 1906 even with the internecine warfare going on between factions of the Conservative Party! Even with the new fangled Labour Party at call, the numbers simply failed to add up. Since Gladstone’s conversion to Home Rule, Home Rule as a moral crusade had been something of an article of faith to many sincere Liberals (even in the bastion of bumptious Unionism as the Alternative Covenant clearly showed) and the idea that this was somehow a reluctant Asquith being blackmailed by the unscrupulious “Baron Hardup” in the person of Jonnie Redmond and his IPP henchmen is only tenable for someone who takes the hyperbolic utterances of the sinister northern pantomime seriously!

  • Nevin

    “With a minority government it would have taken a far more reckless man than Campbell Bannerman to attempt a Home Rule Bill in 1906”

    Seaan, I wouldn’t describe 397 seats out of 670 a minority government. ‘Blackmailed’ is indeed resonant of a ‘hyperbolic utterance’; ‘horse-trading’ is much more apt.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Of course I’m thinking of the balance of seats in December 1905, when CB was asked to form a minority government, just before the February election. That will teach me to write of the top of my haed and not check figures from my endless, carefully filed notes! Although a firm believer in Home Rule (he invented the telling term “Ulsteria” for the exagerated hyperbolic effusions of the Unionists) it was only with the Parliament Act that any hope of overcoming what was effectively a Conservative veto in the House of Lords became possible and the certainty of a Home Rule Bill becoming law was assured. It was this, of course, that inspired the (“not playing the game”) Unionist recourse to the threat of violence, and all that has followed from this for us all unto this day. I don’t think you should be so hard on poor CB!

  • Nevin

    Seaan, I’ve had some success in persuading state agencies to use the UK rather than Britain as the name of the state. Brendan moans about labelling yet confusingly uses Ireland as the name of both the island and the state in his “Dalriada Document”:

    “those expressed in both parts of Ireland in 1998”

    “Prudence alone requires that negotiating teams currently being established in Westminster and Whitehall should recall that Ireland will remain a member-state of the EU”

    Charles Flanagan, on the the other hand, makes a clear distinction:

    The Taoiseach spoke to you yesterday about the priorities and objectives which will inform Ireland’s approach to these negotiations. Of course, Northern Ireland and the relationships on the island of Ireland feature prominently within those priorities.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Bless you Nevin, as something of a nit picker myself (as you may rememeber) I still cannot see what is at all wrong with Brendan’s usage! Fram his usage, certainly in both items what you’ve quoted, and in the “Dalriada Document” his sense is always clear as to which aspect of Ireland he is referring to. The official name of the state is Ireland and the geographical name of the island is Ireland, and both are perfectly acceptable usage. A word may have more than one meaning, and it will be for its particular instance in a senetnce to allow us distinguish which.

    “Both parts of Ireland” clearly describes two parts of the island, and its meaning is transparently clear.

  • Nevin

    Seaan, I’ve already drawn attention to Brendan’s semantic blarney – ‘the language used (as in advertising or political propaganda) to achieve a desired effect on an audience especially through the use of words with novel or dual meanings’. Old warhorses like ourselves can readily figure out his dual use but the less astute can easily presume that the Irish government speaks for all on the island; making sense of Bertie Ahern’s ramblings required greater effort.

    “The (quite proper) name for this union of four peoples is “The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland””

    You and Brendan do seem to be in tune:

    17. The four peoples who comprise the United Kingdom provided four different mandates, two for remaining and two for leaving the European Union. And in each of the two Unions one partner voted to leave and one voted to remain. England (& Wales), one partner in the Union of Great Britain, voted to leave, whereas Scotland voted to remain. In the other union, Great Britain (as a whole) voted to leave, whereas Northern Ireland voted to remain.

    Is this exercise in verbosity designed to erode the reality that the UK is one state, that the referendum was a state one and that the negotiations will be between the EU and the UK government?

  • Nevin

    Scott, the quote highlights your personal prejudice in favour of Naomi and the Alliance party. There seems to be little love lost between the DUP and APNI. You might find this guide useful when Arlene and Naomi go toe-to-toe.

    I remember the day at QUB in the 60s when the news broke that ‘McCann’s gone’, a reference to his premature departure from that august emporium.

  • Roger

    This line of thought in your paras 1 to 3 is far removed from the topic, which relates specifically to UK sovereignty over UKNI particularly in context of unity with IRL. Everything said there applies as equally to Yorkshire as it does to UKNI.

    Your para 4 turns back to the topic. Rather than see almost complete continuity with prior statutes, you somehow see a big change pointing to a United Ireland. The prior statutes provided a mechanic for a UK pull out. The 1998 one does too. Nothing of substance has changed. You have a healthy imagination. No harm in that and if that brings you comfort, good for you.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Roger, what I’m describing is the general context in which comtemporary “national sovereignty” operates world wide, with endless instances of “pooled” or surrendered sovereignty. There are significant differences between how the particular pooled sovereignty issues in the Agreement effects NI and the broad situation which also applies to Yorkshire. Yorkshire, last time I looked, did not have pooled sovereignty institutions with the RoI such as the Belfast Agreement speak of. I do not imagine that the type of authority entending to all Ireland applies any part of the British landmass so far.

    This material added to section 29, part 7 of the Irish constitution in accordance with the Agreement is the significant difference:

    “Any institution established by or under the Agreement may exercise the powers and functions thereby conferred on it in respect of all or any part of the island of Ireland”.

    “The island of Ireland” includes the north, please note. “Pooled sovereignty” de facto.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Nevin, we are eroding nothing! The UK would not need to employ the term “United” unless four disparate elements were of current necessity united under “the Crown”! The fact that NI was given “Gladstonian Home Rule” under the Government of Ireland 1920 is one clear signifer of a non-homogenious condition, and of course you know that in many issues little NI, Scotland and Wales all differ from England in laws, etc.

    The Crown of Ireland Act 1542 united the Crowns and the Acts of Union 1800 united the parliaments, but this did make the UK one state as such as Brendan cleaverly points out in his proposals! Look on the bright side, Nevin, we may not have to be part of the onerious Norwegian solution to exit from the EU (the most likely compromise), with all the duties and none of the perks of proper membeship. Alongside our fellow Irish (and Scots) Brendan tells us we may still be able to enjoy full EU membership!

  • Nevin

    Seaan, there’s presently only one union, not Brendan’s nonsensical two. Should Scotland decide to leave the UK it would be leaving the UK of GB & NI, not the 1707 Union.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    If it were not four parts brought together under a central administration, Nevin, then there would be no need for teh tehrm “Union”:

    “Union – the act of uniting two or more things.”

    Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England, seperate entities, united under one central administration (although this is becioming a bit fragmented since devolution) with quite a few differences in their systems of law and in a few other issues.

    Yorkshire, “Glorious” Devon, Bedfordshire, three counties of one country, with one legal system, etc.

    It’s quite straightforward really!

    Brendan’s “two” is certainly pregnant with rich possibility!

  • Nevin

    Seaan, I think I can safely predict that Brendan’s mitherings are a non-runner. Back in 1995 he made the following prediction: “The unionist party most threatened by long-term peace is therefore the DUP.”.

    I suppose you could say that the UK represents unity but not uniformity.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I think we can agree that it will be a “non-runner”, more’s the pity. Brendan’s excellent suggestions require that insightful flexibility and imagination which no current politician would risk showing. More’s the pity for Unionism as these measures might just have kept the union together a few decades longer, just as that insightfulness which conceived the very mild Home Rule in 1911 would have (ironically) actually preserved the union through its moderate devolution creating a friendly working constitutionalist relationship between Britain and Ireland which Unionism’s hysterical reaction entirely ruined. Those important unifying elements of the Belfast Agreement which were reliant on “pooled sovereignty” within the EU are certainly going to come under corrosive threat just as Brendan states, and this means an inevitable rapid disintegration of the union.

    And when you quoted his comments on the DUP, I had one of those “The Man in the High Castle” (book not series) moment of epiphany! Certainly, even though it has had to retain its agressive populist rhetoric on most public issues, in some respects the old “TUV style” DUP of 1995 has had to transform into something which is willing to be “compelled” to make some of those changes which sane outsiders demand in order for it to retain power, but with a modicom of hard conformity to Westminster’s idea of what power sharing should actually be. So, one might quite readily say that although the name is retained, little else of any real substance has been, and certainly the party which would never, ever compromise with SF has long ceased to exist in the scramble for office. “The unionist party most threatened by long-term peace is therefore the DUP.” Well, yes!

  • Roger

    Keep in mind that amendments to the constitution of Ireland were, understandably, framed with a view to assuaging nationalist sensibilities: As best they could in the context of new explicit provisions recognising the legitimacy of partition. Or perhaps I should say they were framed to fool people.
    I suggest you read Austen Morgan’s analysis around this.

    Austen Morgan: “The Irish government…chose to put its amendments through article 29 (“International Relations”), partly to avoid constitutional challenge to the Belfast Agreement after Crotty v An Taoiseach, PARTLY TO PORTRAY the north/south bodies as having a jurisdictional effect, PARTLY TO DIMINISH THE IMPACT of the changes to articles 2 and 3, and partly to make the changes – uniquely – conditional on the British Irish Agreement coming into force.”

    Austen Morgan re article 29.7: “There are two problems with [the article]. Why was it considered necessary? [Broad summary and no doubt only partially accurate summary: Simply because of the Crotty case, though he considers it doubtful that it was needed even in view of Crotty. He notes various other bodies comparable to the NSMC that didn’t entail any similar constitutional amendments but some of these were before Crotty. NSMC which is what 29.7 concerns was not unprecedented. Similar bodies have been established.] And why was the same subject dealt with in the new article 3.2 in [article 29.7]? [Broad summary answer: Politics/presentation; not need or substance. To fool readers (like you?)].

    With respect to some of the specific words you quote from article 29.7 “in respect of all or any part of the island of Ireland”. You correctly noted that the island of Ireland includes Northern Ireland. Austen notes this too and says the quoted words concerning the “island of Ireland” are extraordinary: “It is not for the Irish constitution to determine how institutions may function throughout [the island of] Ireland.” I’m sure you would agree that Austen has a valid point there.

    The draftsman in the Constitution may have fooled you. Not me. I try to deal with the reality of what was agreed in 1998; not pretend it did things it didn’t. The words you highlight about the “island of Ireland” being a perfect example.

  • Nevin

    Seaan, as an irredentist Irish nationalist of the non-militant variety, Brendan is blind to the section of the 1998 Agreement that I quoted earlier:

    4. All decisions will be by agreement between both Governments. The Governments will make determined efforts to resolve disagreements between them. There will be no derogation from the sovereignty of either Government.

    The BIIG Secretariat that he refers to seems to be little more now than a base/’embassy’ in south Belfast for a few Irish civil servants drawn from the departments of foreign affairs and justice. When I sought some assistance a few years ago for a project with a cross-border aspect that was about to be consigned to the dust-bin they were busy dealing with people ‘who were throwing things’.

    The DUP has certainly changed its anti-SF rhetoric but it’s taking advantage of the double-veto engineered by David Trimble as well as the petition of concern. If anything, it’s SF and the Irish government that have seen a decline in their influence and in the case of SF, its electoral support.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Roger, we appear to be on the invariable NI political see-saw again here. You are simply saying over and over “I’m right” against my own perfectly correct assesssment of the facts.

    “Keep in mind that amendments to the constitution of Ireland were, understandably, framed with a view to assuaging nationalist sensibilities”.

    I might equally say “Keep in mind that rhetoric of the Belfast Agreement was, understandably, framed with a view to assuaging both Unionist and Nationalist sensibilities.” This is of course “one I made earlier” in my comments above. With both of us referring back to something which I’ve already charactersied as a highly ambigious document, you still seem to insist on believing that those selected items relating to what I’m pointing out is already a most diluted “English sovereignty” are “all true” and those items relating to pooled sovereignty are simply the flannel.

    On this we will just have to disagree, you believe that I am being “fooled”, I know that you in fact are swallowing what is a rather misleading statement of the current situation and then inferring it solidly into a future which has, you may notice, not yet occured. The dynamic of the Agreement is clearly set for anyone who cares to look on a trajectory to Irish re-unification, with Britain stating that this is entirely an “Island of Ireland” (the Agreement’s term) matter where they will have no dog in the fight. The rest of the Agreement is simply a “waiting room” for this mutually desired end between the two governments. I personally have as yet to meet anyone amongst the “Great and the Good” at Westminster who has a good word to say about this place. When in London and at dinner parties or early evening drinks I am frequently asked by puzzled politicians, aides and advisors how I can live “in that ghastly place with such terrible people” as they themselves come into contact with at Westminster. Virtually the only person anyone over there has a good word for is Danny Kinahan, one of our very few actual politicians.

    “It is not for the Irish constitution to determine how institutions may function throughout [the island of] Ireland.” No, not all on its own, certainly, but this clause is entered into the Irish Constitution in conformity with the Belfast Agreement which a majority on the Island voted to accept, and which, north and south, authorised this constitutional change. We have all of us who voted in the referendum participated in this publically tested authorisation of the nineteenth amendment to the Irish constitution! Welcome to the possible recognition of what may (if you voted) be your own unique first contribution to a politically enacted Irish identity!

  • Roger

    Re “island of Ireland” wording being extraordinary. You seem to agree but add a “but”. Ireland and its constitution have (now and before 1999) no jurisdiction to govern how institutions in territory outside Ireland function. That people in Ireland voted for that wording doesn’t change anything. They previously voted for a constitutional claim to the territory of Notthern Ireland. That had no effect either. Like the previous territorial claim, the addition has no effect under international law. It is rhetoric. That’s all. You quoted the wording to make a point about the Belfast Agreement and sovereignty as it plays out in Northern Ireland. I’ve highlighted that your point was deeply flawed. Your confusion seems to come from an unquestioning reading of the provisions: a willingness to believe what is just rhetoric; not substance. An inability to distinguish between the two.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    As before you appear to not be getting this at all, Roger. “Island of Ireland” is regularly in use from page 3 of the PDF of the agreement available form the British Government website to designate the unit which the Agreement aspires to. This wording which you dismiss as simply “Irish Constitution” IS in the Belfast Agreement itself, as an agreed new wording to be inserted into the Irish Constitution (see p.5):

    I was beginning to suspect that you could actually only see that wording in the Agreement which confirmed your opinions and now your comment appears to confirm this. It was not only the population of the RoI which voted for this wording, It was also the people of NI. Both voted in the Belfast Agreement referendum, did they not? This wording and the change to the Irish Constitution were authorised by the Agreement vote and incidentally, if you voted, you participated in authorising this. Hence my end comment above.

    You do not seem to realise also that in claiming that those clauses which articulate the idea of pooled sovereignty are just “rhetoric” in the Agreement, you are beginning to sound like one of people who instead of evaluating things, simply say everything that supports their own prejudices is somehow unquestionably “true” and all else can be dismissed. Ignoring something you do not want to think about even when it is in front of you in black and white is generally called putting ones head in the sand. And one has only to speak informally with a few of the people close to government in England to rapidly discover how very little will there is even in a right leaning Conservative government to retain Northern Ireland one second beyond the time that there is any chance of being well shot of the place.

    But, as I’ve said a few times before, none of this hurts me in any way, but for anyone who wishes for a continuity of the Union it really is a very worrying trajectory……….