British government action not words needed to nudge the parties back to sanity

So the Executive is not quite dead. Or not dead but merely sleeping, The signs of life  evident  among ministers on both sides (minus an FM and dFM), over the rethink on the modest but totemic Líofa bursary programme, the refinancing of the RHI scheme  and mitigating the bedroom tax may be too little too late, or they may suggest a greater willingness to pick up the threads of government after an election than initially feared. We shall see.

The reports of differing civil service advice from different departments on whether legislation is necessary for implementing already agreed welfare mitigation exposes one of the key failures in the system that contributed to the RHI debacle: that despite all the protestations of good intentions from the St Andrew’s Agreement in 2006 right up to Fresh Start just over a year ago,  the conduct of government  in largely separate party and departmental silos  too often  prevails over collective responsibility.

The civil service, traditionally the custodians of proper procedure in government must share the blame with the politicians. The new head of the civil service must be allowed to operate as a more effective cabinet secretary, upholding new standards of collective responsibility, enforcing compliance  with the ministerial code and holding sway over special advisers. Mrs Foster’s early denial of responsibility is a classic for getting  it wrong and an object lesson for students  of politics for many years.  But this is to anticipate.

Some things change, some remain the same 

Four points seem clear. First, the RHI fiasco is but one example of a slow trend away from the past and other traditional rubbing points towards the present.  Brexit may even recast political visions of the future.

Secondly, apart from tweaks, there is no space for a radical reworking of the institutions. The threshold of 30 for the blocking mechanism of petitions of concern should be reduced  in an Assembly of 90 and used with greater restraint, as promised in Fresh Start. It was the DUP’s margin over Sinn Fein  here that may have created the disastrous  illusion of a free hand. But  the mutual veto will continue. It really is all or nothing.

Thirdly, even if the election turns out  to be less “brutal” than Mrs Foster forecasts, all parties will overbid and so will have to given space to compromise, preferably sooner than later. At the same time, some progress is needed on Sinn Fein’s wish list, as much on merit as a purely political response to their demands. This time, there is  some recognition even within unionism that Sinn Fein have a case against the DUP. Open engagement should at last replace simple stalling or a preference for deal making behind closed doors.

The key point for politicians including Arlene Foster to grasp is that transparency and collective responsibility  in the end  can provide them with greater protection more than it inhibits their discretion in advancing their party’s cause. In coalition government politicians simply can’t afford to play zero sum games. There has to be enough for everybody.

Fourthly, the sudden collapse of the Fresh Start agreement only eight months after a promising beginning is proof that the British government can no longer persist with a lofty mediating role alone, albeit one sweetened by cash.  Executive action is needed, and quickly.

Set up the  high level inquiry

First, the Secretary of State should set up an inquiry into the RHI affair under the 2005 Inquiries Act. This has the necessary powers to compel persons and papers. If need be he should give an explicit promise not to interfere with the timetable during the course of the inquiry, which however should be set to  conclude  as soon as possible after making an  an interim report.  As well as assessing the responsibility alike of individual ministers, officials, watchdogs and regulators, the inquiry  should in effect become an independent review of the workings of the system of government including the rules of ethical compliance and reach conclusions on how to strengthen them. Main sessions should be held in public. This would be much more beneficial than a narrow attempt to pillory Arlene Foster.

Westminster to assume main responsibility for  the Past

Secondly it’s salutary to recall how much of Fresh Start was taken up with legacy issues and how much of  the can was kicked down the road. The British government’s Pilate-like approach to dealing with the past has to end. Westminster was mainly, and from 1972 wholly, legally and operationally responsible throughout the entire course of the Troubles. It has been disingenuous of successive British governments to dump responsibility for prescribing for the legacy on local parties wholly incapable of discharging it. If the Executive parties can’t agree, using the £150 million it has already aside Westminster  should immediately release the funding for  inquests which the Lord Chief Justice has repeatedly asked for.

They must then go on without delay to set up the Historic Inquiries Unit  to comb the files in Seapark and Derbyshire for evidence of wrongdoing by all sides. The funding for five years should only be extended after thorough and expert debate. The political wrangling which has accompanied stalling is largely self- cancelling. Sinn Fein’s keenness to register widespread collusion is bound to be balanced by a tacit reluctance to expose the extent of informants. The British government’s protestations of full compliance subject to national security should be put to the test.  The rest of the legacy agenda should follow on.

The elaborate machinery discussed in Haass to deal with traditions and parades are devices to get round  the abdication of responsibility by the Assembly.  In fact the solutions have mostly been identified and where the solutions aren’t implemented they are well understood.  Since the lapse into tolerance of the City Hall Union flags regime and the lifting of Camp Twaddell, careful monitoring and enforcement are more effective than trying the reach fresh formulae which will fail to impress the unruly and can always be violated by mischief and suspicion on the ground, including theatrical enactments of internal and external communal differences.

The on the ground approach adopted by the three person panel for finally ending paramilitary structures and activity is a much better model. It was willingly accepted by Sinn Fein  – a fact that deserved warmer acknowledgment by the DUP – despite Sinn Fein’s resentment  that the DUP were sucking up to and slyly funding loyalist paramilitaries at the very time when Sinn Fein  were expected to  denounce IRA  godfather activity.

Irish is for everybody. Paul Givan says so 

It was interesting that the DUP’s failure sufficiently to respect Irish language and culture was placed so prominently in Sinn Fein’s list of complaints.   DUP Communities minister Paul Givan, if not exactly the “ignoramus” condemned by Gerry Adams, showed that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing by abruptly stopping the funding for a  few children to  go to the Gaeltacht and then reversing his decision under pressure in a glaring admission of “ I got it wrong.”

However lessons from Wales do not favour full blown bilingualism in the public sphere.   Taking Givan at his word as a custodian of Irish and a fan of its depoliticisation, what would do massive good for community relations and cultural enrichment would be state-funded solutions involving general dual language for signage and certificates for births marriages and deaths, combined with much wider cross community Irish language  and cultural educational  options from elementary level onwards.

Absent for Brexit and the programme for government 

Brexit  will have a transformative effect, even if no one yet knows what. Supporters of direct rule  – and there are many –like to say that government is better without local politicians in charge . With the DUP and Sinn Fein divided over Leave or Remain,  this may seem more plausible than ever. Imagine a progressive LGBT regime under a direct rule secretary of state like Peter Hain; but under a Tory minister?  Imagine too all- Ireland as a near-free trade zone if the UK manages to negotiate near- free trade with the EU but outside the single market.  This is the nearest we are ever likely to get to Colum Eastwood’s British-Irish joint authority. It’s a line he would do well to develop as an opposition strategy with the Ulster Unionists, quite different from the old notions of jointery which will be shunned by any foreseeable Dublin government and would serve only to antagonise unionism. The functioning  jointery is implemented  through the GFA. As it works why fix it?

Apart from the high politics for the two governments, the Brexit agenda involves serious threats to  EU peace funding  and to northern farmers in a largely all-Ireland  agriculture sector. A whole raft of new powers in the environmental area is to be  transferred direct from Brussels to Stormont.  Does anyone really believe  that either  government preoccupied with greater concerns would be alert enough to take the tricks on behalf of  our particularly local needs?

And aside from Brexit what happens to the 2017 budget and the future of corporation tax which only local politicians can decide?  What is the fate of the programme for government based on  principles of “well being which we were proudly told were being negotiated between the DUP and Sinn Fein even as they were fighting the last election?  One of the most deplorable aspects of this sudden crisis is that when the chips are down, the urgent issues of government  count for so little in political calculations. In the end although they’d deplore the language, they rely dependently on  “Mother England”  always stepping  in.

The separate Northern Ireland Bill of Rights on Gerry Adams’ list so far opposed by unionists  may become essential if the May government persists with its aspiration  to replace the Human Rights Act embedded in the GFA  with a “British Bill” less subject to the European Convention on Human Rights. Either way NI rights will remain inviolate.

Looking ahead to a nationalist majority  

These are among the powerful reasons for returning to the Executive table. But above them is a political dynamic that  so far has been  deliberately under-emphasised but may not be for much longer – namely the unknown impact of a nationalist majority within twenty years.  Increasingly  – and out of necessity rather than magnanimity –  the DUP and Sinn Fein have to balance satisfying their core vote with appeals to the other side.

Unionists would be very  foolish to take for granted nationalists’ acceptance of continuing UK membership even under the GFA.  Nationalist politicians would be equally ill-advised to sit it out and wait for an impending majority to create nirvana by majority  consent. It is an unpalatable thought, but even though unionism is much weaker than it was a century ago, why should a unionist minority be any easier to manage in the 21st century than a nationalist minority was in the 20th?  The undoubted attractions of Unity within the EU for a sizeable number of unionists are still unlikely to supplant the old allegiances.

History tells us that appeals to democratic rectitude alone do not work. What may work – and this is another lesson from the past – is democratic government that keeps communal interests broadly satisfied  and their  antagonisms in check, and the respect – and even friendliness – it must engender to survive. Abstentionism  and majoritarianism alike are the wrong courses to follow.

  • Jag

    The only voice that matters at this stage is SF’s. Their leader and hero MMG had to step down to force Arlene aside. The SFers have held “information” gatherings this week across the province; the grass roots want an election, “the people will have their say”.

    Every senior SFer in the last 48 hours has reiterated that position, most recently Alex Maskey an hour ago

    “”I note that Mike Nesbitt has echoed Sinn Féin’s position that the people must be allowed to have their say in an election…The people will have the opportunity to draw a line under the DUP’s arrogance and their contempt for the Irish language community and Irish identity, for our LGBT community, ethnic minorities and women.”

    Last Monday, SF crossed the Rubicon. Next stop Rome, hashtag #AE17.

  • 1729torus

    It is an unpalatable thought, but even though unionism is much weaker than it was a century ago, why should a unionist minority be any easier to manage in the 21st century than a nationalist minority was in the 20th?

    Horribly unpleasant answer: pushing the 1912 button would be dangerous.

    Unionists don’t have the same tradition of guerrilla warfare as nationalism, are not used to working from a weaker position that nationalism, lack logistical support or sympathy from the UK, and the population is older and dying out.

    Any instability could precipate a spike in emigration amongst the Protestant population for fear of IRA retribution (justified or not).

    There are classes of nonviolent tactics that nationalists employed in the past or could employ such as boycotts that Unionism has no real counter to. Or putting up tricolours all over the place.

  • Virginia

    Incredible, disturbing and brilliant all at the same time. Thank you for your written words.

  • Fear Éireannach

    The British government’s ability to help with sanity in NI would be enhanced if the present course of the British government was not in itself insane and dangerous to NI.

  • Brian Walker

    Would the governments let it get to that stage? Unionists have a militia tradition rather than a guerilla tradition. But enough domesday!

  • ted hagan

    Foster has handled events so badly since she took power that I seriously doubt she would have the ability, intelligence, humility or desire to handle the challenges put forward in this insightful article. Mind you, who would be an alternative DUP leader?

  • samay

    I think that Simon Hamilton could do it. Smart. Not too arrogant. Speaks well. Not too thuggish.

  • AntrimGael

    They do indeed; Special Constabularies; RUC;UDR; RIR; UVF; UDA; Third Force; Ulster Resistance….violent, sectarian militias one and all. In spite of these the Nationalist community has not only survived but strengthened and thrived. A future bout of anarchic Unionist usurping of democracy and sectarian violence cannot be ruled out but will be shortlived. The days of Unionist sabre rattling and threats are gone for good, they don’t frighten or intimidate anyone now.

  • Neil

    Not too arrogant.

    Not arrogant enough I would say.

  • Brian Walker

    Let’s not go too far down this cul de sac of lurid speculation.

  • North Down

    Don’t forget ira British agents, there is lots of them to, u will find lots in Antrim to

  • AntrimGael

    You do get a lovely view of that big red brick Smiley’s People building in Holywood from Antrim.

  • grumpy oul man

    The paper tiger died with the flag protests.
    Even the most loyalist loyalist realised that the DUP was happy to let them go to jail and they also realised that they o longer have the power to force governments.
    The actual terror groups are to busy making money to risk their drug and prostitution empires with actual fighting.
    No the glory days of loyalists death squads are over and the unionist poltucians know they can no longer count on the murder gangs .

  • North Down


  • Anthony O’Shea

    “why should a unionist minority be any easier to manage in the 21st century than a nationalist minority was in the 20th?”

    Mainly a reasonable and intelligent report; but the above veiled threat stands out like a sore thumb. We live under majoritarian conditions, to suggest we need to adjust those conditions of living as soon as Unionism is no longer the majority is quite frankly the type of arrogance that has led us to the current impasse. A Unionist minority should and would be offerred a role to pull substantial gaurantees and protections into any future UI arrangement, something that was never offerred to the nationalist minority in the last century and part of the reason why the nationalist minority was so hard to ‘manage’.

  • file

    ” … or they may suggest a greater willingness to pick up the threads of government after an election than initially feared. We shall see.”

    They may also represent a desperate attempt to get things down before the shop closes down indefinitely, like McGuinness’s abolition of the 11+ at the eleventh hour before a previous shut-down.

  • the moviegoer

    “why should a unionist minority be any easier to manage in the 21st century than a nationalist minority was in the 20th?”

    The obvious difference is that nationalists had something concrete to aspire to which drove their motivations – the removal of the border.

    Unionists post-reunification would not have any major constitutional goal to aspire to.

    Rejoining the UK at some later stage would simply not be on the cards, for the reasons (a) the UK would not want to go through all that again (unlike the Republic during the 20th century which had a territorial claim on NI) and it takes two to make a union, and (b) Northern Ireland was only ever an arbitrary homeland so unionists would not even be able to agree on which parts of it they would want back in the UK or where to draw a new borderline.

    The only thing unionists could fight for is an independent Northern Ireland or repartition to a smaller Northern Ireland as part of the UK, neither of which are viable aspirations. Given these realities, even the most bloodthirsty loyalist would have to concede the jig is up and transition to becoming ordinary criminal gangsters instead.

  • T.E.Lawrence “There are classes of nonviolent tactics that nationalists employed in the past or could employ such as boycotts that Unionism has no real counter to ” Gawd ! Them Pesky Unionists learn Fast ?

  • J D

    Comments about 50%+1 not being good enough for re-unification are appearing with increasing frequency.

    Which is only happening because that day is close at hand. Closer with the help of Brexit.

  • Karl

    Nationalists didnt protest in favour of unification. They protested against the unfairness inherent in the system. If the system is fair, what makes you think that unionists would protest? They would simply be protesting against a democratic vote. But in that regard, they do have form.

  • Zig70

    I get a ‘croppy lie down’ tone and a sense of trying to work out the minimum required appeasement rather than mutual respect.

  • Cináed mac Artri

    A 50% + 1 vote for a ‘united Ireland’ would not produce anything of the sort. It might be many things but ‘united’ it would not. Looking across at Britain the divisions that a close vote on a major issue (Brexit 52% out, 48% remain) force up are being seen, and that is in an environment devoid of a legacy of violence.

    It is without doubt that the vast majority of the ‘49%ers’ would never even contemplate a violent, or even civil disobedience, response. However if some of the ‘love’ being expressed on this thread towards fellow northerners is anything to go by the ’49ers’ would be living in a very uncomfortable place.

    A minority within the minority may be violent, and may be able to sustain a level of violence over a long period of time. The so-called ‘dissidents’ seem to manage it. Some I know dismiss or seek to ignore this violence. Others tend to the belief that even occasional murder, bombing, shootings and intimidation are totally unacceptable.

    Even low level violence presents threats to the State, aside from the obvious effects of the criminality itself. Any mistakes by the Guards, anything that could be represented as heavy-handedness might have a galvanising effect on a minority who perceives itself as unwelcome. The threat of escalating violence and disorder would exist. After all that pattern has been seen before.

    Should a realistic possibility of a unification of the people’s on this island come to be the militants of northern nationalism with all their bitterness and hatreds will be sidelined. The majority of the island’s population will show the way to the future.

    That future will not be one in which the northern minority continue to be targeted for opprobrium. The future will show that Ireland is not anything like the wet dream of the yahoos of 1916 that (many) unionists have long feared.

  • Brian Walker

    A lot of comment here assumes a united Ireland in place and how unionists would respond. But this is vision not practical politics. I grant that I set the hare running but would now prefer to let it sit.
    Politics usually happens in stages, many of them quite boring and not as exciting as vision. Realising visions is more difficult than counting heads.
    My main arguments deserve more attention which are about restoring the Assembly to deal with a complex future. This obviously includes more than one vision. Another vision is that the GFA allows most people to get most of what they want and constitutional unity along traditional lines is outmoded.

  • What would violence achieve? Would Westminster accept a small rump of Northern Ireland 10 years after reunification due to a violent terrorist campaign? Of course not. They’ll never want to know of the place. As you say the rest of Ireland has no dislike toward Protestants and any friction in the North is purely down to the lack of a UI.

    If there ever is a vote for a UI it’s a permanent game over.

  • Brian Walker

    Indeed the 21st century conditions are different. A unity scenario is easy to write but does anyone think it’s imminent? It would be a tragic illusion to think of it as a substitute for restoring the Assembly within the GFA. Only by building mutual trust can conditions change. I don’t recommend “Ulster resistance” of course not. But I think the example of a 30 year IRA campaign producing victory as many would see it is more than many would stomach and the conditions for full reconciliation in unity have not yet arrived and may never. I’m pretty sure many nationalists agree and don’t want to expose themselves to the real risk. I don’t see Brexit changing it anytime soon although it will stimulate unity demands and set a poser for the Republic’s main parties. One more complication they could do without.

    One day when politics is less fluid it will be put to the test. But it is wishful thinking to suppose the governments will let it happen in the present turmoil or indeed that it would produce the nirvana.

  • ted hagan

    And how many innocent people would lie dead by the time the ‘jig was up’.?

  • Cináed mac Artri

    “What would violence achieve?”. Nothing, other than pain and hurt of course. However your question presupposes that those making the decision to indulge in violence will be thinking rationally. They may more than likely come at it from an irrational emotional position without any strategic vision whatsoever. We’ve been here before.

    The danger is, as I mentioned above, that should violence be present it can take on a life of its own. It can act as a catalyst for greater upset. Even a tiny number of angry misguided and nasty people sitting in some back room can have an effect.

  • Cináed mac Artri

    Agreed. Yet kite flying is something of a local sport.

  • Doubt it, if a fringe start causing problems I don’t think the majority of the Irish population would want to start treating Protestants like Catholics were treated in the North. The fringe isn’t and would never be a treat to the state.

  • J D

    50%+1 is fast approaching. I know you desperately want to deny that is happening while at the same time even more desperately trying to get people to change the rules to prevent 50%+1 ending NI.

    Not. Going. To. Happen.

    Northern Ireland is finished and won’t make it to 2022. Your panicky denials not withstanding (although they are delicious)!

  • J D

    Nowhere near enough to make us reconsider. Besides, not going to be in the slightest bit worried about the effectiveness of Unionist terrorists. Without the RUC and the entire British state behind them they would last about 8 days.

    Let’s generously assume that the Unionist terrorists would be as effective as the PIRA. So 3500 deaths over 30 years. Cheap at ten times the price. And you can guarantee there will be no orange marches anywhere during such a conflict. So bonus!

    The only solution to the toxic mess that is NI is re-unification. It won’t be free but it is the cheapest, long term healthiest solution for us all.

  • J D

    Well don’t spark it with your lurid fantasies of competent militant Unionism then.

    Jesus wept.

  • Cináed mac Artri

    Rest assured that whatever the future holds for Ireland haters like you will play no part whatsoever in forming it.

  • J D

    Not being intimidated or afraid of threats by Unionist terrorists is no definition of “haters” I have ever heard of.

    There is literally no amount of carnage Unionist terrorists can threaten that will intimidate us.

    Northern Ireland is now, has always been and always will be a failure. United Ireland Now!

  • the moviegoer

    “But this is vision not practical politics.”

    The best way to ensure practical politics is to have a flexible vision. The problem for unionists is they only have one vision – maintaining the union. No other consideration is possible.

    Nationalists have traditionally had a plurality of visions across a spectrum – civil rights, power-sharing, joint authority, united Ireland. Nationalists are much more flexible about what they are willing a UI to look like than unionists are about any diminution of the union.

    “Another vision is that the GFA allows most people to get most of what they want and constitutional unity along traditional lines is outmoded.”

    This would mean the tricolour flying on public buildings, bilingual road signs, and many other things that unionist’s inflexible vision cannot countenance.

    It will take a crisis for unionists to wake up. The crisis will be the demographic shift changing electoral patterns. The irony is that in 10 years time unionists will be champing at the bit for joint authority as the least worst option.

  • the moviegoer

    “your question presupposes that those making the decision to indulge in violence will be thinking rationally”

    Terrorism is always rational. Terrorists always need to justify themselves. Even the dissident IRA factions, loathsome as they are, justify their actions as helping achieve an outcome that most Irish people want, a United Ireland, even if most people disapprove of their methods. That’s the conversation they have in their heads that allows them justify what they’re doing. Likewise the UVF saw their actions as supplementing the RUC, the Army and the unionist population generally. Terrorists piggy-back on general moods and desires. Though they contain many psychopaths, the organisations themselves are more than a collection of psychopaths – they are always seeking legitimization which they imagine comes from a wider body politic.

    The problem for loyalist terrorists post-UI is they won’t be able to justify an armed campaign. The vote will be democratic, with a long historic process leading up to it, with minority rights enshrined. While sporadic short-term violence is probable a sustained campaign is not. If there is no union to preserve, they have no raison d’etre. Returning NI to the union will be an impossibility, both because of the consent principle and because Britain would not accept it back. You can’t have a terrorist organisation without an aspiration. What would loyalist terrorist’s aspiration be post-UI? They don’t know, because even mainstream unionists don’t seem to know what they would want post-UI. You can’t have a terrorist without a set of demands.

    If a united Ireland had never been a possibility, even a distant possibility, the IRA would never have come into existence. Perhaps NI would have had Marxist terrorists instead, or Anarchist terrorists, or religious terrorists, but they wouldn’t have had nationalist terrorists.

    So if there is terrorism in the North post-UI it will not be unionist terrorism. It will take some other form we can only guess at. The Antrim Secessionist Army? The Protestant Caliphate of North Armagh and North Down? Who knows. But they will be unable to delude themselves they have any mass support from mainstream unionists and will wither away quickly, unless mainstream unionism decides to take a lurch to fascism and declare NI an independent state ruled by a minority. I don’t think anybody believes that’s a possibility anymore.

  • mac tire

    Good post.Quite apart from justifying any ‘campaign’, how would they possibly finance such a venture?

  • file

    Hi Brian: on this point of yours:
    “The signs of life evident among ministers on both sides”
    Would you care to comment on the hyper-activity of the Minister for One Community? £2m for ‘community; i.e. Orange Halls, £1.7m for revamp of Lisburn on top of his Loofa flip-flop and bedroom tax activities. Either he was doing nothing for the previous 7 months and has to get his homework in before the teacher shouts ‘pencil down!’ or he is disgracefully and deliberately trying to throw money at one community in order to try to ensure his own re-election.

  • AntrimGael

    Why do some posts appear when you type then then suddenly disappear never to be seen again?

  • AntrimGael

    That was the last puff of wind from a storm that has been slowly running out of energy. The Unionist Anglo Irish Agreement protests were massive but Thatcher and the Tories STILL implemented it and the Irish government STILL sat in Maryfield.
    Unionists/Loyalists have gone on to lose EVERYTHING since yet they NEVER learn and go on digging hole after hole. If Unionists want a glimpse of the future look at Belfast City Council and places like North Belfast. EVERY major building project, public or private is happening in Nationalist areas, many of which were formerly Unionist. Torrens, Dunmore, Skegoneill, Somerton Road, Clifton Park Avenue. Girdwood, North Queen Street, Cavehill Road etc. This is the stark reality for Unionusm, adapt or fade into extinction; it’s YOUR choice!

  • T.E.Lawrence They said this 100K Unionist Protest in Belfast City Centre in 1912 would never be matched but they bettered it in 1985 with 200K Plus ! Not so sure that the last puff of wind has been blown out off Unionism Yet ! Yip agree about BCC have seen its Planning Committee in action making arrangements to wipe out the last Inner City Working Class Unionist Communities. Yip agree about your point in North Belfast. Remember travelling across town in the early 70s to try and maintain and help the Prods out in Earl Street. Eventually ended up having to evacuate them out on coal lorries – Unsustainable !
    “Adapt or fade into extinction its your choice” I think they have adapted well – They are still Here !
    Maybe we all have to adapt – not just unionism ?

  • T.E.Lawrence

    “Northern Ireland is finished and won’t make it to 2022” What odds will you give me on that bet and can I put 1000 quid on it !
    I’ll buy you pint out of my winnings at the 100th Birthday Party in 2022 !

  • T.E.Lawrence

    Are you for real Mac ? “How would they possibly finance such a venture ?”

    It done the job for the Beirut Gear ?

  • Lex.Butler

    I don’t think returning to the UK (or GB in reality) would be on the cards. Some sort of rump independent state would be the more likely aim of terrorists. In practice, the British Government will offer residence to those who want to leave. Just like in the Republic after partition, the protestant strand in Ireland will fade away to an echo. Of course, this won’t happen. Ulster in some form and with its explosive but curiously happy population is learning to co-exist and will continue in its traditional role of not quite being part of anywhere.

  • J D

    The confidence of the Light Brigade. And the tactical awareness 🙂

  • AntrimGael

    I don’t think the planners are targeting inner city Unionist areas as a policy, just ask the residents of the Markets, lower Ormeau and even Short Strand who live in the shadow of the looming office blocks as well.
    For every Earl Street, which I knew well as my grandmother’s people were from the Docks, there were Catholics put out of Rathcoole, Ballysillan, Glenbryn, Bombay Street, Westland, Torrens etc. I am not asking Unionists to give up their British identity just DON’T prevent me expressing my Irish one.