Is greater Sinn Fein militancy the right answer to wider voter disillusionment?

Chris Donnelly’s analysis of Sinn Fein’s position in the Irish News is welcome as an all- too rare piece of criticism from an independent-minded sympathiser. The DUP would do well to emulate it. But self- criticism has a long way to go. The hope must be that behind the scenes amid the bluster of an election campaign, it will continue and produce realistic positions in the end. Chris does not go far as to say that the party has reached a fork in the road: to continue with an Assembly strategy or abstain and wait for the sectarian arithmetic to change.  The latter choice would surely be disastrous in face of the massive challenges of Brexit and the pressures of fiscal consolidation.


… there is a pressing need for Sinn Féin to recognise that the party’s own failings to deliver through the institutions were a central contributing factor exacerbating nationalist disillusionment over many years, as witnessed in the declining nationalist turnout at successive elections.

Accepting that poses profound questions and challenges for the leadership of a party that has so far failed to deal effectively with the issue of a transition process which must involve replacing a trusted old guard, valued for attributes necessary during a conflict and peace process phase, with new faces equipped with the skills set and experience profile to compete in the legislative arena.

A sharper, hungrier and harder Sinn Féin is required to re-establish a political equilibrium in local politics between unionism and nationalism. The internal culture and practices within Sinn Féin continue to mean that the party experiences significant difficulties in attracting and retaining prospective representatives and advisers with the necessary skills and professional expertise to raise the performance of the party at executive and assembly level, compounding the sense of subordination and hindering nationalism’s capacity to use the devolved institutions to seize and set the agenda and establish parity with a DUP-led unionism still not at peace with peace.

The problem with this analysis is that specifics are absent.

How does a “ sharper hungrier Sinn Fein” translate into action?

The analysis identifies the DUP’s “incredible arrogance” as the immediate cause  of the crisis. How would a more politically aggressive Sinn Fein contribute to a solution?

Does  the trend in slight falls in Sinn Fein turnout  imply a greater demand for a “sharper hungrier Sinn Fein” or greater competence in delivering in government?

Does the “disillusionment” which is producing  a perceived demand  a more politically aggressive  Sinn Fein focus on  the committed or does it extend to the wider public?

Might the lack of talent Chris refers to not suggest that Sinn Fein’s strategic focus is blurred and that  the grinding  business of government requires a different approach from an increasing concentration on  identity politics?

What is the relevance of a more specific policy on Irish unity which Chris supports  to  the present context of Brexit, bilateral British-Irish relations, north-south,  and relations between the parties in the north?

In short, what do the nationalist people really want and what does the Sinn Fein core really want? Are they in synch? Whether they are or not, isn’t this one side of what should now  be debated?


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  • ted hagan

    Talk of the prospect of direct rule must be music to the ears of many DUP supporters prepared to forgive the sins of RHI. I predict that two months down the line they will attract massive support. So too will Sinn Fein but tactically, they should never have allowed this election to happen in the first place. Donnelly is right. New thinking and new blood is required in the SF ranks.

  • Redstar

    Brian can I just use my own position as an example.

    I voted/ worked for ( not a member) SF for decades. I remember the massive voter turnouts and the enthusiasm almost at fever pitch for SF, their candidates, leadership and the promise that we were heading to self determination. In our area West Belfast, virtually everyone you knew, friends neighbours family etc pitched in esp at election time as we felt our goal was not just attainable but imminent

    Then came the GFA. That divided many of us 3 ways.

    The vast maj initially stuck totally with SF. A small group immediately stood aside not wanting any truck with an internal settlement and another small group of us kind of took a time out.

    I think we basically felt let down, confused etc- glad the conflict was ending but not happy with the idea of Stormont, still being 100% under Britain etc.

    We have been in a kind of limbo but I can genuinely say for a few years now our numbers have grown. This is also reflected in SF still getting elected but turnout in particular dwindling significantly. We sort of watched the Stormont charade curiously waiting to see would it really advance a UI in any shape or form.

    I would suggest we are not naive and recognised ( but did not accept) SFs approach of working with the system, trying to advance equality etc all in the hope that that in itself would advance our cause

    To cut a long story short it’s now patently clear to many of us that the SF approach not only doesn’t advance the ultimate goal it basically does nothing. It sure hasn’t made a break through whereby Nats are even viewed as equal with SFs governing partners.

    So now we are at a point of having to second guess what SF are REALLY gonna do as we ponder if it’s worth giving them a second chance.

    Are they really gonna say this set up in its current form is not acceptable ( find that hard to believe as they have went along with it for so long without a word of complaint) or after a lot of blether and griping during the election are they simply gonna get back into bed with the establishment on the hill

  • the moviegoer

    “The problem with this analysis is that specifics are absent.”

    Reading between the lines, the whole piece could be summed up as “Adams Out”.

    “How does a “ sharper hungrier Sinn Fein” translate into action?”

    I take this to simply mean the faces would be different, people with no IRA connections.

    “Does the trend in slight falls in Sinn Fein turnout imply a greater demand for a “sharper hungrier Sinn Fein” or greater competence in delivering in government?”

    I think this amounts to the same thing. Sharper = more competent, not just shouting louder.

    “Might the lack of talent Chris refers to not suggest that Sinn Fein’s strategic focus is blurred and that the grinding business of government requires a different approach from the easy rhetoric of identity politics?”

    Kind of a chicken and egg argument. SF are not going to turn away from a UI strategy anytime soon. The idea Donnelly is putting forward as far as I can make out isn’t that SF change strategy but that the people advocating the strategy will be less objectionable to a wider amount of people. The sales pitch doesn’t change, the salespeople do.

  • the moviegoer

    “Then came the GFA.”

    This is historical revisionism. SF only overtook the SDLP after GFA. It was the GFA that grew the party electorally across NI. Viewing everything through a West Belfast prism isn’t going to give you the full picture.

  • Redstar

    I do not believe I said that. The turnout decline is across more than just West Belfast as are , I believe the sort of ” limbo Republican voters” to which I refer

  • the moviegoer

    Ditching the GFA is not the way to grow that support.

    As for the limbo republican voters, you can’t please all the people all the time.

  • Redstar

    Of course I understand that, am just throwing it into the mix as SF desperately need to do something different to change the plateau in their vote

  • Megatron

    I have voted SF throughout but I agree with redstar’s analysis.
    The “this is going nowhere” mentality led some / a lot of republicans to vote brexit in an effort to throw the balls back up in the air.

  • NMS

    A year or two of rule from the UK’s central Government would probably not suit the DUP very much. Getting the books balanced would involve the ending of lots of pet schemes, particularly if no way around sorting out the RHI scandal.

    Bringing UKNI expenditure into line with GB would be pretty explosive, perhaps literally as well as metaphorically!

  • 1729torus

    SF’s problem is that they’re caught doing the SDLP’s job because all the other nationalist parties are so useless.

    SF need to stay loyal to their voters, and let FG worry about the centre.

  • In the short-term, packing it all in will go down well in nationalist circles. I, for instance, felt a sense of relief when Sinn Féin pulled the plug. However, the longer scheme of things remains a cause for concern; “calling time”, to quote Máirtín, will bring short-term satisfaction, but what exactly happens after?

    Realistically, if after this election a not-an-inch unionism is equally met by an on-our-terms nationalism with neither side intending to budge, we’re basically in direct rule territory, are we not? 10 years of the Stormont straightjacket has been a tiresome experience, but I fear the wholly paralysing effect that would come with direct rule.

  • On the fence!

    So where or what direction would you like to go now?

    No doubt your ideal answer would be the mythical, “well I wouldn’t start here”, but given that we are where we are what would you like to see happen?

    Genuine question BTW, no set up, no wind up, I couldn’t be bothered with that carry on.

    Simply interested as a prod from mid-Antrim vs a republican (I assume) from West Belfast.

  • Brian Walker

    I just don’t know whether more people are getting fed up with the “ultimate goal ” and are prepared to leave it aside, or are fed up with the failure to reach it. I honestly don’t know why anybody ever believed it could happen for as long as the consent principle applied to Northern Ireland benefits the unionist cause. To be fair to Sinn Fein they didn’t really suggest otherwise although at the same time they vaguely hold out hope of something different People can surely work it out themselves.

    There has been an interesting switch in morale. For many years unionists believed SF were taking all the tricks. Now the reverse seems true – ever since the abandonment of the peace centre and the end of the OTRs system. And yet Fresh Start happened and then unravelled… A new balance is required.

    If I were Sinn Fein I would persist in northern government with a socialist edge for all its difficulties and work on an all-Ireland Brexit agenda that could clearly benefit all sides and lead pragmatic unionism in that direction as a bonus.That is a form of Irish unity worth having. Problem is that it’s a very difficult subject and lots of people will be pursuing it – eg Fianna Fail. So in the bigger picture beyond Stormont, SF are faced with finding political space in a crowded turf. The DUP should respond with detailed engagement on Irish culture and civility. In the main domestic agenda there should be a fair amount of agreement already on an extended budget strategy.

  • Madra Uisce

    Not to mention the possibility of the Brits introducing legislation on things like marriage equality and Irish language over the heads of theDUP

  • Redstar

    Well to be honest whilst I ultimately want a UI a properly shared equal society for now would have to be next best thing.

    I laugh when people say there’s no chance of a UI as I can easily point to the last 10 years and retort well there’s your proof that there’s no chance of a shared equal society

    I am aware that SF cannot have it both ways and was amazed at lunchtime to hear ODowd run through his list of requirements- but when asked by the interviewer if Arlene had stood down and allowed a full enquiry would they still be in govt with them, he said yes!!!- so much for all his requirements

  • Teddybear

    May I conjure the spectres of Water Charges and English Tory Swinging Welfare Cuts to scare those who pray for Direct Rule

  • J D

    Yes. More militancy please, more frequently!

    It is going to be great to move back home after almost 40 years and the prospect of being able to vote for re-unification within a handful of years is a joy that rivals the birth of ones children 🙂

    I really never thought I’d see a reunited Ireland within my lifetime and now we are on the cusp of it!

  • file

    Calm down! Calm down!

  • J D

    Unionism voted for Brexit (except North Down), neither Nationalism nor Republicanism did. The results demonstrate that without any doubt.

  • J D

    No. This croppie ain’t for lying down.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    All interesting points, Brian – and gets to the nub of the questions over where SF goes from here.

    I’d add to that – and I hate to be a broken record but it is the elephant in the room (two cliches in one clause there) – it needs to come to a credible position on long term Troubles legacy issues and there needs to be a political agreement on that (I was going to say ‘deal’ but no, it’s a genuine agreement with cross-party buy-in we need serious, heavy work on). In my view, some step change on this is needed to really address ill-feeling between unionists and Republicans.

    People like me get battered for “bringing up the Troubles”, but it’s so clear from the outside at least that NI society has not dealt with the legacy adequately and it poisons the present. If people think the current antagonism can purely be explained by reference to the political machinations of recent years, I am afraid they are kidding themselves. It’s the big one, and it may be that now is the time to lance that boil.

  • file

    OK Brian, say after the election that SF refuse to allow any of the institutions of the GFA to be set up, on the very good grounds that the DUP do not now and will never know how to share power? In those circumstances, is it incumbent on the Irish government to change The Constitution back to the original Articles 2 and 3 on the grounds that the institutions being set up was a condition for changing the original articles? Get a lawyer if you cannot answer yourself :):)

  • the moviegoer

    “I just don’t know whether more people are getting fed up with the “ultimate goal ” and are prepared to leave it aside, or are fed up with the failure to reach it.”

    This is a recurring theme in your analysis, Brian – nobody really wants a UI so SF should leave it aside. I suggest this is wishful thinking on your part. It’s an aspiration that isn’t going away. All the nationalist parties have it as a goal.

    “I honestly don’t know why anybody ever believed it could happen for as long as the consent principle applied to Northern Ireland benefits the unionist cause.”

    The breakdown in NI is now 50:50 so the argument is only going to become more compelling as time goes on, not less.

    The best strategy to preserve the union is to make Northern Ireland as “Irish” as possible. Instead of making concessions grudgingly when they have no choice, e.g. Liofa, unionists should actively embrace Gaelic/Irish culture and their own Irish identity. That means bilingual signage, no objection to tricolours, active engagement in North-South dialogue and institutions, support for Gaelic games and Irish music and dance, the whole nine yards.

    Northern nationalists have no great love of the south, they mostly want to feel Irish in their own land, their own towns. If that was possible without getting rid of the NHS, the public sector jobs and the Westminster subvention, enough could be bought over to kick a UI down the road. With a 50:50 populace, unionism needs to be “de-nationalized” (i.e. de-Britishized) in order for it to survive.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Direct Rule works better for SF though, perhaps, as they can portray NI as ‘failed’ and in a ‘quasi-colonial situation’ (conveniently ignoring their own part in bringing direct rule about). It will get nationalists’ backs up and therefore serve SF purposes. Nightmare scenario for them is people being happy with a settled, devolved NI at peace with itself. They need grievance and sense of dispossession for their brand of politics to resonate. That’s not to say there aren’t some legitimate grievances here – the Irish Language Act in particular. But I’m sure they will have little difficulty gaining party advantage from direct rule.

    But yes, longer term, will their voters start to put pressure on them to get back into government again, or will they be happy enough barking from the sidelines? Not something I can answer.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Very interesting insight, Redstar

  • lizmcneill

    Low tax, low spend post-Brexit Britain won’t have much £ or time for NI.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    That has sort of happened in large degree though, TM. Totally accept there’s more can be done on the Irish language, but the mood music around GAA, Irish culture and symbolism in general in NI has transformed in the last 20 years. As someone who moved away and is a visitor now, it is quite tangible – and a fantastic thing on the whole. What can’t happen though is NI being completely ‘greened’ as you suggest, for obvious reasons that the other half of the population needs their identity equally valued and recognised. Where NI is now is, I think, not far off a fair balance. If anything, I feel unionist and British culture probably has more need of reassurance and acceptance right now than nationalist culture. But I accept it may look different from a nationalist perspective.

    Seeking to “de-Britishise” Northern Ireland would be quite wrong. In particular, it would be wrong in light of Sinn Fein’s commitment, to which we should hold them, to accept the equal status of British identity with that of Irish identity in Northern Ireland. Those commitments both communities’ political leaders made to each other on 10th April 1998, not just to recognise but *accept* British and Irish identities, was such a big epochal step change, for unionism and nationalism. Really I don’t think it’s possible to row back from that now, even if you wanted to. Cultural equality is the way it has to be now.

  • lizmcneill

    It seems like nobody is pursuing an all-Ireland Brexit agenda right now. Ireland is concerned with the damage to themselves, Westminster is ignoring us and we know what’s happening with Stormont.

  • Fear Éireannach

    A settled, devolved NI at peace with itself.might well be a nightmare for SF, but the DUP seem to have no intention of creating such a thing, continually stirring the pot, which seems rather short sighted.

  • the moviegoer

    “Seeking to “de-Britishise” Northern Ireland would be quite wrong.”

    De-Britishizing Northern Ireland and de-Britishizing unionism are two different things. Northern Ireland will always have both British and Irish cultures but for unionism to survive it must appeal to people who don’t identify as British.

  • lizmcneill

    A hard border post-Brexit would do serious damage to that process, especially for anyone living near it.

  • Interesting point made by Brian in the blog there about waiting for the “sectarian arithmetic to change” in relation to the tactics behind this move and in the context of possible direct rule.

    In light of Brian Feeney’s “nationalist voting majority” in 7 years and Catholic numbers having now made a “unionist state impossible” according to Paul Nolan in the 2014 Peace Monitoring Report, possibly this may have gone into the thought process.

  • Katyusha

    The nightmare scenario for SF is a return to direct rule, NI suffering heavily as a result of Brexit and Toryism, SF start to be accused of being powerless and unable to protect their community from Westminster, and bleeding even a little support to dissident headbangerism which will claim that “nothing has really changed” and that Britain continues to rule as a colonial overlord. SF, in its current form, needs power to be effective, and surrendering to direct rule removes their power. SF’s enlarged popular base will not be content to shout from the sidelines. They need action.

    The best scenario for SF is that they are able to portray themselves as capable of responsible government (very important for their image south of the border), but that despite their best efforts, NI is simply unable to function as a normal society, and will forever be plagued by dysfunctional government, tribalism and economic stagnation. McGuinness, actually, has played this role to a T, although SF have been accused of being too accommodating to the DUP in recent years. You are right that SF need a sense of grievance in order to flourish; the DUP provide this in spades, as regularly as clockwork. In the past I would say SF weren’t above deliberately riling up and provoking a reaction from loyalism (certainly, there are loyalists who see their antics this way), but with the form of the DUP and UUP in recent years, they haven’t even needed to.

  • Katyusha

    What I think will happen, MU.
    SF will ignore the Troubles legacy.
    The British state will also ignore the Troubles legacy, and resisit any demands to release documentation about their clandestine activity in NI. As such SF can call for open disclosure by all participants, safe in the knowledge the Government will never reciprocate and SF’s bluff will never be called.

    By the time a UI becomes a realistic possibility (20-30 years), the number of people who remember the Troubles will be a minority, and the legacy of the conflict will be similar to that of the Civil War – not a personal concern for the majority of the electorate, but with the divisions it wrought on society still almost subconsciously shaping the political landscape.

  • AntrimGael

    I believe Brexit has been the catalyst for the deep unease and frustration that has been bubbling just under the surface of the Nationalist community for quite a while. The DUP were running rings around Sinn Fein in Stormont and sticking two sectarian fingers up to Nationalists at every turn. They were opposing and preventing ANYTHING that represented the Irish Nationalist community and culture and were openly insulting, mocking and offending people on a daily basis.
    What annoyed Nationalists as much was that Sinn Fein were just sitting there and taking it. It’s as if the DUP were playing a game amongst themselves to see who could be the most offensive and hurl the most rabid, sectarian bigotry. As I say Brexit also played a big part in the current scenario. The dreadful thought of being outside Europe and imprisoned in a perpetual DUP/Tory Axis knocked the stuffing and heart out of people. RHI and withdrawing the paltry sum of £50,000 away from children who wanted to learn Irish while pumping millions into Loyalist bands and Orange halls just intensified this anxiety and has put many Nationalists off entering ANY future Stormont with people who have such medieval, intolerant mindsets.
    The Nationalist community are now convinced that an internal political accommodation here is impossible while Unionism remains locked into a 1690 bubble. They still see life through a myopic, supremacist prism, view the Nationalist as beneath them and will never willingly embrace equality or power sharing. Stormont is dead and buried and Nationalists will now mainly pursue their political agenda with a 32 County All Ireland outlook. The dinosaur of Unionism can go back into their dark corner and fade away into extinction.

  • Obelisk

    To be fair to the parties, the designation system means they are encouraged to be as tribal as possible. But before you attack the system, remember it was put in place because it reflects wider society. And if you tried to dismantle it, enough on both side would scream that nothing would be done. The ugly scaffolding was never scaffolding, it was the foundation they had to work with.

  • eamoncorbett

    Those are some of the more accurate comments I’ve read in a while , there’s more than one school of thought with regards to SF supporters as indeed there are with Unionists , my guess SF will lodge a protest over Brexit and proceed to boycott Stormont if a hard border is imposed.

  • Granni Trixie

    I so agree. Ignoring legacy issues just isn’t working. Largely you have to put this sutuation down to a lack of will by those parties with the power to address the past – for there are those who recognise the problem and have long called for a comprehensive approach.

    I wish that politicians would not allow themselves to be constantly lead by their own emotional legacy (understandable though it might be) instead of acting pragmatically with the goal of moving things on. For example, action on victims needs and monies for legacy inquests shoukd be handed over to the LCJ – surely any family is entitled to an inquest,no strings attached.
    As a separate matter we also need to revisit the issue of soldiers who operated outside of the law and give them the same kind of deal as paramilitaries. Yes, I know these actions would not please everyone but it’s better than allowing them to fester.

  • Granni Trixie

    Sf have indeed pulled the plug but if we have to settle for DR I think many people will blame the failure of local politics on the DUP – for their intransigence, abuse of power and what looks like a lack of morality as revealed by many scandals, not least re RHI.

  • Megatron

    well as redstar says the large majority of SF supporters stayed with SF (and opposed brexit)…I am just saying the people who stopped supporting SF (actively and passively) were largely in the pro brexit camp anecdotally.

    I am in south armagh and would say the position is similar to redstars west belfast synopsis.

  • J D

    Interesting. I could see the old “England’s crisis is Ireland’s opportunity” philosophy in that. But from the numbers, it didn’t seem to be much more than a few percentage points, lost in the noise of turnout variance.

    Great to hear the local anecdotes, it was a real loss when Jay Dooling stopped doing the email list.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    “their voters” may not all be as ensnared as you might think. There’s less to lose, and greater fluidity, on the green end of the spectrum because the gains have not yet been made.

  • NotNowJohnny

    What do you suggest Sinn Fein should do post election and how will this course of action advance the goal of a United Ireland?

  • NotNowJohnny

    What does cultural equality look like?

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Greater displays of respect to gaeilgeoirs from the DUP. would be a start: greater displays of respect to the LGBT community would make a very good second: the DUP’s abuse of POCs would be next. It has been in their hands for some time, all with no risk (or threat) of overgreening.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    So is the direction to up the ante? SF has the opportunity to do so but must be careful not to lose the narrative victory that she who must be obeyed has given them.

  • Ciaran Caughey

    The person in the polling booth voted to get out!

  • aquifer

    How can Sinn Fein reconcile itself to capitalism? For Ireland is not turning away. As states shrink, nationalism as an economic idea also lacks credibility.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    They are two different things but they are both wrong, no?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Not sure I follow …

  • MainlandUlsterman

    And what do their voters want?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I hope they both get blamed. Neither is fit to govern. Politicians aren’t allowed to tell the voters they’re wrong but I will – stop voting SF and DUP, you numpties.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I agree with most of that but think we need arrests and convictions not amnesties. I think we need to send out the message that what happened wasn’t OK and that we have as a society common standards of decency. No one seems prepared to make that argument and challenge the false consensus that we let sleeping dogs lie over the past. Because they are not actually asleep. I say this in the confidence that healing truths can emerge from that process. The marriage needs some counselling. We’ve been pretending to be in a relationship when we need an actual one, based on a bit of honesty and a lot of self-reflection.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    That sounds about right. Cynical stuff isn’t it. They know very well the state can’t make information on informers public for obvious reasons. SF uses that as an excuse to continue omertà and protect their IRA buddies (in many cases, themselves). And some people won’t call them on it. Ahh, they are indulged to the point of vomitousness.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Sounds all a bit of a charade then on SF’s part

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Let’s hope so! They will be waiting a long, long time.

    Last time they miscalculated the population data, the IRA packed in, believing victory over the hated Brits was just around the corner through population growth (off the back of the 1991 Census). Then came 2001. And 2011. Not looking so great for them now …

  • lizmcneill

    Call it de-fleg unionism then. For the half of the population that have no emotional attachment to the red, white and blue, there have to be more rational arguments to be content with the union.

  • NotNowJohnny

    You said “cultural equality is the way it has to be now”. What is ‘cultural equality’ and what changes have to be made to the way things are now to deliver ‘cultural equality’?

  • JM

    Chris is naive to suggest that if the National vote (whaterever that is now) had a bigger turnout , these would be SF voters. More likely to be moderates and young voters who may vote for PBP , SDLP or Alliance I think.

  • Brian Walker

    Movie- you say a recurring them of mine is “nobody really wants a UI so SF should leave it aside. I suggest this is wishful thinking on your part. It’s an aspiration that isn’t going away. All the nationalist parties have it as a goal.”

    Your misleading opinion of my thoughts immediately contradicts the sentence I wrote that inspired it. I’d add that although we’re living at a time when the nation state has revived in popularity, unity can take various other forms that don’t cause disruption in society. For what it’s worth I think Greening and Oranging have been played up for all they’re worth by the political class who should now complete the deal they’ve gradually been making on them. But if they fail, the public can live with it. .

  • MainlandUlsterman

    The Union is about pluralism. In NI, it is the best basis for long term stability.. It also reflects the interconnectedness of the peoples of the British Isles.

  • Brian Walker

    I don’t understand “cultural equality,.” except as a clunky political notion that is inherently meaningless, dating from the Victorian age as an aspect of nationalism . Equality with what? I go for cultural respect or even better, cultural interest and participation

  • Brian Walker

    file, I don’t accept your dogmatic premise or see the relevance of your question.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I think it’s where people from both ethnicities feel genuinely accepted by the other for who they are and what they’re into, as long as it’s done peacefully and legally. Politics is fine for a fair argument, but questioning each other’s cultural worth should be out of bounds. So I won’t make anyone feel guilty for being a Celtic supporter who’s into Irish folk music and is learning Gaelic and nor should they look down on me for being a Rangers supporter who’s into David Bowie and Joseph Conrad.

  • file

    You don’t see the relevance of the Irish government reinstating the original articles 2 and 3 and their claim to the territory known as Northern Ireland? If there is to be no return to the status quo, that might mean no return to power-sharing so long as the DUP are incapable of doing it. In that scenario, there are no GFA institutions operating. The question is would that nullify the referendum that removed the original articles 2 and 3, as the act to effect than change to the Constitution states:
    “4° If a declaration under this section is made, this subsection and subsection 3°, other than the amendment of this Constitution effected thereby, and subsection 5°, of this section shall be omitted from every official text of this Constitution published thereafter, but notwithstanding such omission this section shall continue to have the force of law.”
    the state became obliged to give force to the changes when the institutions of the GFA were set up and running. If, in the future, the GFA institutions are not running, can the state then reverse the changes?