Micheál Martin throws a few questions at the all island dialogue on #Brexit to consider…

The Royal Hospital in Kilmainham was the venue for a series of Reconciliation Networking Forums which take place annually [amended from my mistake earlier]. The venue is now being pressed back into the purposes of north-south engagement.

Unlike those previous events, this all island civic forum on Brexit (Live Feed available here) has been much more overtly political, making almost inevitable there would be no formal representation from any unionist party.

It began this morning with a series of pitches from each of the political leaders and closed with remarks from the taoiseach who pointed out that the time available for Ireland to work out its responses may be much shorter than the March deadline already mentioned by Mrs. May.

Martin’s speech was notable for the way in which posed questions for the participants, which are worth repeating here in some detail:

The massive uncertainty and decline in sterling is already hitting business, particularly in the Border region and critical exporting sectors. For them Brexit isn’t happening in March 2018 it’s happening now.

In your opinion, what should be done to address the immediate, pre-Brexit impact on businesses and communities?

On a longer term basis we need to protect growing cooperation on the island and to protect our ability to compete in the export markets which are central to prosperity.

How can we help to transform communities and sectors and how can we help them compete?

Freedom of movement on this island, including cross-border working, education, recognition of benefits and so on are a core part of life for large numbers of people. What are the ways in which this works in practice that we have to protect?

The European Union itself has an obligation to stand by the pro-EU majority on this island. It cannot insist on business as usual in how it develops programmes, allows state supports and implements broad EU policies. The principle of helping states meet unique challenges was embedded within the Union when the single market and monetary union treaties were agreed. It must continue.

One outcome of the negotiation process has to be the development of a specific package which recognises the unique economic and social impact of Brexit on Ireland.

I have very definite views of elements of what this should involve, but how do you want it to be shaped? In what areas is flexibility required to allow us to respond to specific challenges?

And of course we have to respect the will of the majority in Northern Ireland and equally the majority in this jurisdiction which voted overwhelmingly for a political settlement which sets a shared European context for overcoming the legacy of sectarianism and violence on this island.

Finally, there was this barely disguised sideways elbow blow to the ribs of his Sinn Fein counterpart, Gerry Adams who’s own speech was devoid of any questions for the forum to consider:

No one has a right to try to abuse this situation to push other agendas. The principle of consent on political union remains central to the constitutional settlement.

However, European citizenship and the entitlements which comes with this should be protected at a minimum for all who wish to maintain it.

From the point of view of the groups and communities which you represent How can the pro-EU position of the majority in Northern Ireland best be respected? [Emphasis added]

In some respects, I don’t blame unionists for not turning up. The whole idea was horribly mis-pitched in the first place, and came accompanied with some very odd demonstrations of immature and ill-temper hubris.

But it is long past time politicians looked to turn down the hyperbole of their internal dialogues and looked for help prepare an actual and functional response that connects with ordinary people in the world outside.

RTE have the live feed, I think this one may be well worth keeping an eye on. When they finally get back from drinking their coffees. 😉

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

  • Kevin Breslin

    If Blacklion people shop in Belcoo for Christmas, it may be the case that Belcoo people will be celebrating St Patrick’s Day in Blacklion.

    The gift of lower currency is taketh away by the price of higher inflation down the line.


  • Barneyt

    Much of what Martin says might stink a little of an all-Ireland
    agenda to some within Unionism?
    · Protect “growing” cooperation
    · Cross border working, education, recognition of benefits

    He goes on to say that the EU must stand by the pro-EU majority on this island….how does that not stink of an all-Ireland agenda and taking advantage? Unionism may look at this statement and remind him that it’s irrelevant to the ROI how the vote stacked up in NI as the UK (which all of a sudden has become one country) voted to leave.

    Martin is essentially pitching to unionism that it matters little how the UK voted as the ROI has its fingers in the NI pie and the EU will and is obliged to protect that.

    Any party with all-Ireland ambitions, irrespective of time-frame, should earn their crust here and use this position to push such an agenda.

    Martin seems to have a foot in each camp on this. If SF or the SDLP do see this Brexit helping their nationalist cause, it would surely be remiss of them not to take advantage

  • Nordie Northsider

    Micheál Martin is Minister for Foreign Affairs? This constructive opposition lark has gone further than I thought it would.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Mick was talking about the “Reconciliation Networking Forums” when Micheál Martin was Minister for Foreign Affairs.

  • Declan Doyle

    There is no surprise in Unionism not showing up indeed, but the suggestion that they are not doing so because of the ham fisted way it was presented is just disengenuous nonsense. Its well established by now that they will not get involved with anything of an ‘All Ireland Approach” be it brexit or snakes and ladders or a cup of tea with Michael D.

    Typical of Martin to ask questions in an an all Ireland context and then take a swipe at nationalists who are measuring all of this in the same context. He is so confused riding two horses on every matter since the FG/FF coalition was formed that he cant even spot when he is contradicting himself.

  • Barneyt

    It did scan that way for me too…foot in each camp. Its comes across as “I want the same as SF but I’m not one of the then….please remember…but I want what they want…..unless you say otherwise….but I’ll still ask the EU to support what I…WE want”

  • SDLP supporter

    While I agree that ‘Fishwife’ Foster’s “outrage” (with apologies to all hardworking, genuine fishwives) at the initial invitation is laughably overdone (get over it, Missus), I think Micheal Martin is making genuine points. Gerry Adams is making his own point-scoring on this issue: this morning he was demanding that the Irish government negotiate ‘special status’ for the North, whatever that means. In other words, he is setting the Irish government up for a fall.
    You have got to accept that a lot of nationalist people are very sceptical about Sinn Fein’s very recent conversion to support for the European ideal. Historically, they were on the ‘No’ side in all previous referendums in the Republic (sharing platforms with Nigel Farage on occasions) and, frankly, they did very little during the Brexit debate and campaign in the North. Further, McGuinness is under Foster’s thumb in terms of articulating a coherent position on behalf of the NI Executive, which means they will cancel each other out. Politically, he has been gelded, though I suspect he will be cunning enough to get others like Adams and Mary Lou to make his case.

  • Nordie Northsider

    The penny drops…

  • chrisjones2

    Enda is right on one thing.There are some pople in the EU – especially the commission – who will be vicious. After all Brexit puts their personal gravy train at risk.

    So be it. If they wish to do that we can and will trade elsewhwere. But hopefully cooller heads will deal with that

    And a final point – who would want to be a member of the same club as people who behave that way?

  • Kevin Breslin
  • Declan Doyle

    The Shinners have always been euro critical, very similar to many parties across Europe in fact. But whatever way they want Europe to evolve they most certainly do not one part inside and one part out, for all the same reasons as everybody else. Colm Eastwood was on RTE’s late debate saying exactly the same thing as Gerry Adams today; that the Irish Government have a responsibility particularly in the context of the GFA to protect the democratically expressed wishes of the Majority of citizens in the North.
    Dont be fooled by FF, they are masters at asking the questions whilst never producing solutions.


    I visited Kilmainham Nick some years ago and the guides cleary had a view that there was an English Parliament during the time of Jonathan Swift. Easy to spot bigotry and bias.

  • Declan Doyle

    Freefall, unbelievable stuff.

  • Barneyt

    Had republicansnationalists turned up at the Brexit referendum with a tactical Yes vote they could have strenthened the argument for NI’s special case but is it right to vote Yes for something you may be fundamentally against.

    The “No” vote to secure a Brexit always had the potential to shake things up over here. Poliitics is about manoeuvering to secure the deal or advance you want, ideally without compromising yourself. SF and others can argue quite easily that being a memeber of the EU, whilst not ideal, offers more protection for the Irish and their culture than that offered within an isolated UK. Thats food for thought and despite a previous position, you can argue a Remain vote is justified

    But as I say, its politics. SF were cute in taking the position they did. They have painted themselves as outward looking and moving in a different direction than the DUP, Tories and UKIP. In the Dail they will not attract the mud that would inevitably have been slung at them. In fact, SF may have provoked a more nationalistic reponse from the larger ROI parties and have done their calls for a border poll no harm. In this respect, FF and FG are hitching to the SF wagon.

    Cute politics is one way to look at it. FGFF would love to be facing a SF that can be held partly responsibly for the woes that will befall the north and no doubt the ROI is exit takes the effect most see coming. Cute tethlonic politics is why I see here.

  • NMS

    It is worrying when Martin comes outs with the same old rubbish such as, “The European Union itself has an obligation to stand by the pro-EU majority on this island.”

    The EU has no obligation to protect any UK citizens, or is he suggesting that London should be protected, too? Protected from whom, their fellow citizens?

    The issue of the Irish border will be decided by the EU as a whole and with the Visegrád Four & their allies in Romania & Bulgaria having a blocking majority, it is hard to see any sweetheart deals being negotiated.

  • mickfealty


  • NMS

    Chris, it is not the Commission I would be worried about – there is the Visegrád Four, Bulgaria & Romania who are unlikely to agree to much.

    The consistent attacks made on the citizens of these countries & their basic rights under EU Treaties leave them with plenty of reasons not to agree to any special arrrangements.

  • Kevin Breslin

    ROI inflation 0%
    UK inflation +4%

    Price of pints in Blacklion could remain constant while pints in Belcoo go up 4%.

    We’re talking pennies and cents.

  • mickfealty

    That’s just partisan propaganda Declan. It’s almost as though you cannot bring yourself actually read Martin’s questions never mind reflect on their validity or, indeed, otherwise.

    As for SF (not mentioned in the OP) their public representatives were caught like a rabbit in headlights having to suddenly argue in favour of an institution they have attacked on the occasion of every single referendum prior to this one.

    Low turnouts in SF heartlands tell you everything you need to know about what their voter base thought of the flip flop. If useless handwringing was a medal sport, they’d have got gold.

  • chrisjones2

    “The consistent attacks made on the citizens of these countries”

    What consistent attacks do you mean?

  • chrisjones2

    And the voters now know that when push comes to shove (and it will) SF will side with the Republic of Ireland. That means damaging the jobs of all the citizens of the north, especially the agrifood sector while working hard in support of the tax dodging brass plate companies who use Ireland to launder their tax evasion.

    Still, Gerry never was strong on economics

  • chrisjones2

    Its just desperation when the facts go against you and there is little else to say

  • Kevin Breslin

    Unless the UK or the EU leaves both the EEA and the ECHR, heck maybe abandons the UN convention on Human Rights and goes completely rogue there does need to be protections to EU citizens in the UK, and UK citizens in the EU.

    What may not be protected are the same privileges to work, stay, study as an EU citizen.

    I don’t see sweetheart deals but it seems to me that Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria have the exact same anti-liberal anti-migration elements as seen emerging in Western Europe and the UK.

    You cannot speak of these six nations as mono-political Soviet gypsy states, when actually their politics seems to parallel the Western left/right divide more and more often these days.

    It’s that type of prejudice, and that prejudice alone that is part of the problem not the solution. Xenophobia cuts both ways though, pretty much Anglophobia can be developed from old historic gripes in any specific nation in Europe, if the UK wants to play the card.

    22 NATO Allies, closest neighbour, strong bilateral relationships … all tested by egos and pride.

    At the risk of paraphrasing Avenue Q here … Everyone`s a Little Bit Racist (or in this case Xenophobic).

    The Hungarian government has been as tough on free movement issues as UKIP have been.

    The deal may mean less free movement within the EU and UK region, but still some means to keep the Single Market open to all.

    The UK will have to clarify what rights it wants as a quid pro quo arrangement, and face second class status within Schengen nations in some areas.

    If the UK tries to cherry pick on Visegrád 4 nationals then it’s at risk of opening Anglophobic sores right across Europe. Nationals from those 4 are more largely welcome in most EU nations including the Irish Republic.

    With regards to the border…

    Does Ireland interfere with Poland, Hungary and Slovakia’s Ukrainian border?

    Does Ireland veto Romania’s relationship with Moldova?

    Or Bulgaria’s with Turkey?

    We don’t and we don’t care … the EU has done deals with non-EU Turkey, over migration on behalf of Bulgaria, Greece etc.

    Did not these same nations sign up to support the Common Travel Area in the an Amsterdam Treaty?

    Bulgaria like the Irish are not in Schengen either, so there is a pragmatic alliance with Sofia that can be built to let Schengen be Schengen, and everyone else forge a bilateral relationship on mutual respect.

    The biggest threat to the Common Travel Area are the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland … the Common Travel Area is the Schengen Area’s first line of defense from threats coming from these islands.

  • billypilgrim1

    To a hammer, the whole world looks like a nail.

  • Declan Doyle

    When your forced to break your own in rule in an effort to defend the opportunistic and shallw tactics of Martin and FF, there is no much left to say.

  • Ciaran74

    If this doesn’t work out, at least you have your scapegoats lined up.

  • Ciaran74

    Sorry James, what do you mean? Swift was born 1667 and the English Parliament ceased in 1707.

  • Zig70

    Ah Charts, axis of evil


    He snuffed it 1745!

  • mickfealty

    It’s your poor argumentation that’s getting a kicking, not you. A reminder (once again) of what the play the ball rule actually is and why we have it.

    Now man up and fight back, or leave the field to those can/will?

  • mickfealty

    It may surprise you to learn that many (if not most) sane unionists are in no way afraid of such an agenda. In fact it’s in everyone’s interests to keep lines open and look for joint enterprise. It’s sooooo O’Neill/Lemass last century, but the smoke of war and reductionist political bigotry obscures these things.

    This endless drift is just killing nationalism. Political unionism long ago learned its lessons from the the mid 80s onwards (when Ms Foster was still at school), and has since internalised those lessons. By 1987 Millar, McCusker and Robinson were heart sick of their side’s too easy acceptance of endless defeat.

    It’s long past time that nationalism found it within itself to get to the same frame of mind and begin shaping the future to it’s own objectives rather than just taking what it’s given. (And then endlessly whining about anyone who suggests another way of doing things.)

  • mickfealty

    Fix the typo Chris. (Or sling yer hook?)

  • Declan Doyle

    martins questions are reasonable in the main and most of the commentary at today’s national discussion were a repeat of what has been said or suggested by many parties, groups an individuals since the vote occurred, still important all the same. But evreybody’s view is valid including that of Sinn Fein who have been consistant since the moment the vote was mooted. Martin’s dig is just another indication from a Fianna Fail leader that whatever the crises, no matter how serious; FF narrow self interests will always trump the common good. He is stuck on the same side with Sinn fein and he doesnt like it. Well he needs to get over it and knuckle down to trying to come up with answers to his questions; in unity with all those parties who are worried about how this country is going to push through this calamity.

    You attack SF for attacking the various treaties over the years despite the fact that those attacks on those treaties have not led to a SF policy for Irish withdrawal from the EU. And there is nothing weak in the argument which correctly points out the Shinners -whatever their long term intentions regarding Europe – do not want one part of this country outside the EU while the rest of it stays in. In fact its pretty ABC stuff.

    As for the Rabbit, I would suggest the so called centre were far more stunned by a painful flash of light when Brexit occurred, fully expecting the Brits to hold the line. I do not know the personal views of every single Shinner who is elected to office, maybe you do (i doubt it somehow) but the ones I do know are as they say, Euro critical but do not support an Irish Exit.

    As for turnout in the heartlands, that’s the price of power in politics and regardless; the party are holding their own and consolidated as one of the biggest parties in the country. This is upsetting to the trad estab and the Sindobot media elite but it is what it is. Brexit woke up an extra 100K nationalists according to Faha. If that correct its up to SF and the SDLP to keep them on the boil.

    Ultimately, on this occasion the Shinners spotted it correctly, called it correctly and rode it correctly. A national catastrophe where none of the blame can be placed at their feet. Their position won the argument in the six counties and the result switched the loudspeaker back on across the board regarding Irish Unity. BTW, an argument you do not like or do not agree with is not necessarily weak. Usually it means you just don’t understand.

  • chrisjones2

    It was intended as satire. Edna is a character from The Incredibles

    “Edna is a half-Japanese, half-German, short fashion designer and auteur. ….. (she claims that ) she used to design for gods.

    It is apparent that she feels infinitely superior to all other designers in the world and shows much disregard towards runway boutiques and modern fashion models”

    much like Enda’s sense of superiority in speaking for NI over the head of our elected Government

  • chrisjones2

    “it matters little how the UK voted as the ROI has its fingers in the NI pie and the EU will and is obliged to protect that”

    which of course is total bollox because:

    1 they dont
    2 NI is not on their radar
    3 other states will veto any attempt by the EU to start dealing seperately with Regions

  • Hugh Davison

    Sane unionists? Are you sure?

  • mickfealty

    If it’s just pure ad hominem, then it’s not an argument.

    From experience I’ve found it’s foolish to extrapolate from Referendums to political fortunes. NI turnout was 62.69%, the UK’s 72.2%, both well below the GFA Ref of 81.1%.

    For years liberal unionist friends would fantacise about getting 150k voters who came out in 98 to vote yes who very quickly drifted away from the ballot box to vote again.

    If Simon’s extrapolations are accurate (I’m not certain they are), then a significant chunk of Catholic voters voted ‘the wrong way’: ie against the line from the SDLP and SF.

    As for SF it’s very simple. This was the first time they’d chosen advocacy of the EU side in any public argument. It was too late in the day, and it showed on the day.

    Brexit is a set back for Irish nationalism, but one from which it needs to recover if it is not to be a disaster for the island. It needs more good questions, and far less rhetoric.

    The degree to which those questions posed by Martin have been studiously ignored suggests there’s some way to go on that road. Kit and Kaboodle: http://url.ie/zpt8.

  • mickfealty

    Certain. [Read the rules Hugh?]

  • mickfealty

    It’s cringeworthy, not funny.

  • AntrimGael

    Martin is a dyed in the wool partitionist as he showed in the Presidential campaign in the South with his remarks about “Northerners coming down here to this jurisdiction……etc etc”. Fianna Fail, the original gombeen brown envelope party who bankrupted Ireland, only serve their own interests and that of their rich friends. I treat everything Martin says with contempt and ridicule.

  • Declan Doyle

    He has completely destroyed whatever Republican credentials his party had left.

  • Hugh Davison

    “Play the ball and not the man.”
    Mick, are all ‘sane’ unionists the ‘man’ or is it you? I always thought the ‘man’ was the debater, not the unnamed non-debaters.
    Otherwise I mostly agree with your previous comment.

  • lizmcneill

    What percentage of London residents are Irish, therefore EU citizens? And what percentage of Northern Ireland?

  • Declan Doyle

    It doesnt have to be an argument to be relevent. Pointing out a party position as it appears is simply part of a conversation. Most Nationalists areas voted enmasse in favour of remain lucid talk actually had a good edge on tge outcome. Tactical brexit voting was also prevalent in nationalist areas. ( my own family voted leave on that basis).

    Brexit is onky a setback for Irish nationalism if Irish nationalism fails to adequetely capitalise on the consequences. Sinn Fein must have been fully aware that Brexit would help their cause, i certainly was. So it was an easy task to take a remain position knowing full well that as the earth shook the green cave could withstand the tremor.

    Good questions are only good if they can etch an answer that can form part of a broad solution. Sometimes knowing the right answer is the best way to construct crafty questions. Or at least it can trip up your misguided opponents. And on that front again, SF played a blinder.

  • mickfealty


    “Sinn Fein must have been fully aware that Brexit would help their cause.”

    Walk us through that one then? According to Faha 5000 -https://goo.gl/Kv9TX6 – less voted in west Belfast on a higher overall turnout. That, to me, is an indication of the loss of power and relevance.

    Anywho, how did this get to be about SF?

  • mickfealty

    No, back in the day I used to work hard to stop people attacking Gerry Adams for who he was, and focus on what he said. The terms of ad hominem covers that easily.

  • mickfealty

    Boys, please re-read the rules? Focus people, focus!!

  • Nevin

    MM: “The European Union itself has an obligation to stand by the pro-EU majority on this island. .. And of course we have to respect the will of the majority in Northern Ireland and equally the majority in this jurisdiction which voted overwhelmingly for a political settlement which sets a shared European context for overcoming the legacy of sectarianism and violence on this island.”

    Micheál ignores the reality that the EU is a state collective, not an imagined state one. In his obsession with Strand 2 he overlooks the 3-strand nature of the 1998 Agreement as well as the current will of the majority in Northern Ireland to remain part of the UK. FF will be having its own ‘gurning session’ in Dundalk on November 12.

  • Nevin

    “remarks from the taoiseach”

    Enda Kenny’s speech. It includes this comment:

    I will be in Northern Ireland tomorrow to meet with political leaders to discuss how best we can work together.

    It seems he’s doing his best to clamber out of the small hole he dug for himself.

    More FG contributions.

  • mickfealty

    ‘Interesting’ interpretation Nev.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    “The EU has no obligation to protect any UK citizens”.

    But it’s not as simple as that, is it? A sizable portion of our community, many of whom may have voted for “remain”, are not simply “UK citizens”. The Belfast Agreement states (Constitutional Issues section 1, part vi) that both governmemts:

    “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.”

    It is those whose Irish identity has been guarenteed by both governments and which has been affirmed by all who voted for the Agreement island wide who need to be protected from any change in the status which was a considered part and underpin of the Belfast Agreement. As Martin’s speech says:

    “And of course we have to respect the will of the majority in Northern Ireland and equally the majority in this jurisdiction which voted overwhelmingly for a political settlement which sets a shared European context for overcoming the legacy of sectarianism and violence on this island.”

    This is something I’ve been flaging on Slugger since the referendum decision, something which cannot simply be ignored and buried under that belicose British jingoism which marks the shallowness of much Unionist comment on this profoundly serious matter of identity and rights.

  • Nevin

    Mick, I feel your ‘immature and ill-temper hubris’ interpretation was unnecessarily harsh. Unionists and nationalists often lack empathy with or sensitivity to the opposing constitutional aspiration.

    Had the Taoiseach suggested a co-sponsored wider gathering than the NSMC to the Executive it might have got a sympathetic response from Arlene and put less strain on the Executive.

  • chrisjones2

    OK. I understand the rules and have reflected. I have concluded that its time to go. Original post has been changed to protect the dignity and image of the Taoiseach. Hook slung. Thanks for all the fish.

  • Nevin

    Seaan, your ‘voted for the Agreement island wide’ is a misrepresentation of the two differing referendums held on the 3-stranded 1998 Agreement.

    Your ongoing ‘belicose’ anti-unionist rhetoric shows a lack of respect for the opposing and legitimate unionist and nationalist constitutional aspirations; it’s also counter-productive.

    Arlene has certainly been fairly blunt in knocking back Dublin’s efforts to represent the island of Ireland but I’d imagine she would have a better relationship with Enda than with Micheál.

  • mickfealty

    Sorry, my bad. I wasn’t specifically referring to An Taoiseach as it happens, but nationalism (particularly of the northern variety) in general.

  • mickfealty

    And likewise Chris. Good luck on your travels.

  • Nevin

    I didn’t intend to give that impression, Mick, so I’ll put in a new paragraph break.

    Enda appears to have quite a good rapport with Theresa but he does seem concerned about possible incivility that might emanate from others around the negotiating table:

    “Europe’s got to decide for itself in these negotiations where it wants to be in the next 50 years, and if it becomes obsessed with what the United Kingdom might, or might not, get then Europe itself loses the plot,” he told the conference in Dublin. .. source

  • Declan Doyle

    I would have thought it was pretty obvious. Firstly a vote for Brexit puts the border on the agenda and has created momentum around the issue. This was an obvious possible consequence before the vote even took place. Secondly, it gave SF an opportunity to be on the correct side of a pretty serious battle along with the other major parties on the Island. responsibility, respectibility etc. It was a win win battle for them all along, not to mention the fact that some of the issues that SF have argued against in europe for years are seen to be a part cause of the Brits opting out; sovereignty, military, rampant capitalism etc.

    Loss of power in WB? Yes, voters with dissident republican views are swarming to PBP to give SF a kicking. Loss of relevence? Not so sure; they are still be far the largest block. But they do indeed need a facelift in them parts. Look at what happenned FF in their Bertie heartland of Dublin Central. Its now a left constit with SF on Top.

    I actually never mentioned SF in my first comment. It was SDLP supporter who brought them into it, i responded.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Nevin, are you actually telling me what I may or may not say on Slugger? I have often stated that political Unionism and the support for the Union are very different things. I can readily see how a strong modern political support for the union might be constructed, but I do not think this binds me to in any sense “humour” Unionism as it now exists. While I have every respect for the identities of my fellow citizens, much of what passes for organised political support for the union is implicated in a very wrong headed history which inevitably compromises its freedom of movement politically. Arlene’s rhetoric is simply the sort of thing which this inherited baggage obliges her to state in order to retain the loyalty of a party founded by the late Lord Bannside, and which is still implicated in many of those attitudes which made support for the Union appear as a sinister illiberal thing to much of the outside world. While you find my comments problematic I can assure you that what I am saying is mildness itself compared to attitudes I’ve heard from “the great and the good” in London, Dublin and the United States even now!

    You have frequently endevoured to offer honest criticism of my comments, which I attempt to answer to the best of my ability, but simply telling me that my “attitude” is counter-productive is pure opinion and in itself does not answer any of the points I raise. which should be the real task of comment here. Is it perhaps that my informed critiques of Unionism bite more deeply than those of other posters who have not so tellingly pin-pointed Unionism’s serious weaknesses, such as a claim of the constitutionalist high ground which Unionism’s historical actions in 1911 and 1920/22 irrevocably cut away from those espousing Unionism’s history and traditions?

    I think we will have to differ on “‘voted for the Agreement island wide’ is a misrepresentation of the two differing referendums”. I believe that these two referendums in both parts of Ireland which were held on the same day (22 May 1998) were self evidently inter-related and were an aspirational expression of all Ireland vote on this matter. I do not believe that I’m alone in this, as quite a few people I’ve spoken to in London and Dublin, as well as here, clearly saw this as an all Ireland referendum. And I’d question that what Arlene is doing is “knocking back Dublin’s efforts to represent the island of Ireland.” As I understand what is going on the call is for all parties on the Island to contribute to addressing a problem which that Westminster government which signed the Agreement has recognised (with the RoI) as the right of:

    “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.”

    And surely that very membership of the EU (and the “pooled sovereignty” which this implies at the centre of the EU project) which was an assumption intended to “lubricate” the inevitable astringencies which the Belfast Agreement set out to reconcile is not without some importance here?

  • Kevin Breslin
  • Declan Doyle

    What? Is Chris pushed? I have him blocked so dont know the craic. At least we have one positive event from Brexit then 😉

  • Nevin

    “aspirational expression of all Ireland vote on this matter.”

    Hardly, Seaan, the electorate in the two jurisdictions were voting for different things.

    It was hardly surprising that Dublin’s nationalist-minded unilateral action would be knocked back.

    “a sinister illiberal thing to much of the outside world”

    If anything, the actions of nationalists during the course of the past few generations have been more sinister and illiberal than those of unionists, not least during the course of the Troubles.

  • Barneyt

    I was in slight role play to anticipate how unionism (sane or not) might look at this. Clearly I need to do some additional rehearsing.

    Nationalism eh? Is that the British or Irish kind. Too often we let British Nationalism off the hook in my view, but unionism is in my view just that. So I look at it as British Nationalist (yes I know that stinks of BNP – not the intention) versus Irish Nationalist.

    But, where do you see nationalism abating…and I assume to mean the drift is towards what some regard as the inevitable…reunification? Or as near as damn it. Is “sane” unionism really ok with this….or I am I getting too excited?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Nevin, you are hardly unaware that I am no supporter of violence from any quarter, but perhaps we simply differ on how we each view this matter. I have never been prepared to ignore, for example, the inevitable association of political Unionism with a constant threat of violence since 1920/22 when men in Specials Uniform killed and burnt out Catholics without being identified and reprimanded by the authorities, and one of the well known directors of these actions was awarded an MBE. This, and the earlier 1911 creation of a private army to oppose electorally authorised constitutional change set the violent tone for what followed. “Monkey see monkey do”. I have as yet to find a Unionist who recognises and distances themselves from this particularly ugly inheritance, and have even frequently found an ungoing willingness to either ignore or even activly justify such things.

    In imagining that the link you have posted settles the matter of an all Ireland authorisation for teh Belfast Agreement you are entirely forgetting that both votes were necessitated by the need to authorise the Agreement, which necessitated a change in the Irish Constitution to interlock with the requirments of the Agreement. Are you seriously telling me that the motive behind both referendums was not in any sense an authorisation for the UK and the RoI to go ahead with the legislation necessary for the Belfast Agreement, and that each vote was entirely to do with disconnected things which all those voting across the island of Ireland saw as utterly unconnected? while I of course accept that may have been your entire understanding of the matter, this was not at all how others saw this on the day.

  • Jollyraj

    I don’t think he’s left the site – just stepped out of a conversation that had ceased to be productive. You know, a grown-ups version of “I have him blocked” – which seems to be the online, smallfolk version of calling everyone who disagrees with you ‘mentally ill’.

  • nilehenri

    it is rather simplistic of you to copy and paste a link onto our collective faces and tell us to suck it up, as if 1968-2000 was all some one group’s fault.