Scotland and Northern Ireland move centre stage, says Downing St. ” Save the Union” is the mission

Well what do you know? At the beginning of a very busy news week, the Times leads with a real revelation from right under their noses. After months of  patting the wee Celts on the head with bland assurances that Brexit will be fine all round, sources “ now say that  “concerns about Scotland and Northern Ireland were discussed at last week’s cabinet.. and the impact of Brexit on the UKs devolution settlement is the government’s greatest concern about the exit process.”

Today’s Times story may signal that the Westminster village is waking up to a far more serious development than the result of the 2020 Westminster election. Or as is the way of spin, it may only be designed to give a boost to the Conservatives in the Scottish council elections.  The spin backs up an exclusive article by Mrs May in the Holyrood magazine,  offering more assurances but nothing new, following a now familiar practice.

The ratcheting  up of devolution  issues comes after a week in which Theresa May has become  queen of all she surveys as a result of Labour’s humiliation in two English by elections. She is firmly on track to trigger Article 50 on time next month, whatever the House of Lords decide. Her victory is trumpeted as a vindication of a Brexit strategy which so far has been based almost entirely on Conservative party management.  Support for Remain   which was the orthodoxy of the Cameron majority has now been reduced to a faint echo of the past, sounded by yesterday’s men Ken Clarke and Michael Heseltine.

Most of the London media have reflected her triumph.  Until the Times today, the problem of Scotland was represented if at all, in Westminster terms as a problem for Labour. Without Scotland Labour could not form a majority government; and if the by election results were repeated in much of England, Labour would face  near wipeout there too. Nobody mentioned that it’s a problem for the Conservatives that  despite faint stirrings in Scotland, they have  become defined as the party of England, not Great Britain.  True, England is 80% of the UK population but the majoritarian argument works no better for the authority of government as a whole than it does for the Brexit verdict.

Whatever Downing St’s protestations, Mrs May’s opening strategy after triggering Article 50 is incompatible  with Scottish demands and fails  to address deep  concerns throughout Ireland.  How will the UK government tackle  either ?   While the Assembly election gives them some excuse  for silence, it can only boost  fears that they’re floundering.      So we’re aching to know – by March 3rd?

  

From The Times’ Red Box (£)

“We have two jobs to do,” a senior Whitehall source said a couple of weeks ago. “Deliver on the manifesto. And save the Union.”

The behind-the-scenes preoccupation with Scotland seemed at odds with the public impression that the prime minister had other things on her mind.

Theresa May made her first visit, less than 48 hours after becoming PM, to Edinburgh to look Nicola Sturgeon in the eye and make clear her determination to keep Scotland in the UK.

“I believe with all my heart in the United Kingdom – the precious bond between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.”

But that bond is being stretched to breaking point by Brexit. The SNP hoped that a vote to leave would lead to a surge in support for an independent Scotland, which would remain in the European Union.

Since last summer not a single poll has put nationalists ahead, the most recent giving “yes” 51 per cent and “no” 44.

However, events have been moving fast for Sturgeon, who has repeatedly set tests for a new referendum which have not been met: a Brexit result would be a material change in circumstances, demanding Scotland have a veto on the process, demanding the UK stay in the single market.

She urges Scots to use council elections in May to “send a clear message to the SNP that they do not want a second independence referendum” by voting Conservative.

The UK cabinet is on a war footing. At last week’s meeting almost the whole 90 minutes was taken up with a lengthy discussion about how to save the Union.

Each minister was told to find ways to make the case against Scottish independence in their own policy area. “Everyone around the table wants the Union to work and stay together,” No 10 said.

Ben Gummer, the Cabinet Office minister, well-liked in Downing Street, is co-ordinating the fight.

From the News lead.

Senior government sources say there is serious concern that Nicola Sturgeon will use the start of the Brexit process to demand another vote on the future of the UK and that Whitehall is planning for that event.

The prime minister could reject the demand, but such a move would risk causing a constitutional crisis. If she agreed, ministers have been warned, she would risk the break-up of the United Kingdom on a “coin toss”.

Mrs May has also been told that she faces a double-headed “devolution crisis” next month, with Stormont elections on Friday unlikely to resolve Northern Ireland’s political turmoil. Concerns about Scotland and Northern Ireland were discussed last Tuesday by the cabinet.

The impact of Brexit on the UK’s devolution settlement is the government’s greatest concern about the exit process, senior figures said.

The prime minister has taken aim at the SNP’s claim that Scotland’s rejection of Brexit requires it to be given a second chance to vote to leave the UK. “In June last year, when the UK as a whole was asked if we should leave or remain in the European Union, every voter had an equal say and the collective answer was final,” Mrs May has written in Holyrood, a Scottish current affairs magazine.

She said that there was “considerable common ground” between Westminster and Holyrood over the shape of the Brexit deal. Both wanted the “freest possible trade in goods and services between the UK and the EU”.

Betraying fears over Ms Sturgeon’s plans, she called on voters to use the local government elections in May “to send a clear message to the SNP that they do not want a second independence referendum”.

The real concern, however, is that Ms Sturgeon will use next month’s formal triggering of Article 50 as the pretext to table a formal demand for a second vote, well before the May elections.

Opinion polls suggest that most Scots still oppose independence, but one senior minister said that the SNP leader had “painted herself into a corner” with her public statements over the consequences of the Brexit vote for independence. “Article 50 is her last hook — if she doesn’t do it then, she won’t really have another chance until the end of the negotiations.”

There is also a belief among some Unionists in Scotland that Ms Sturgeon wants to switch the focus to constitutional affairs to deflect from her government’s performance on domestic matters, given that her personal approval ratings have started to dip. The SNP’s spring conference on March 17, a date likely to be close to the Article 50 letter, is seen as a point of maximum danger.

Constitutionally the UK government could refuse to permit another binding referendum. Allowing one could lead to the break-up of the UK. “Do you really want to take the risk on a 50/50 coin toss?” a senior government source said.

Before the vote in September 2014, in which Scots backed the Union by 55 per cent to 45 per cent, the UK and Scottish governments hammered out the so-called Edinburgh Agreement, which described the process by which the referendum would take place. They agreed the wording of the question and the timing.

Sources have told The Times that Mrs May could agree a fresh vote but make holding it after Brexit a red line, knowing that it would leave an independent Scotland outside the EU initially. SNP insiders have suggested that they would wish a vote to take place in the autumn of 2018.

With the prospect of Northern Ireland coming under direct rule, the SNP demands threaten to undermine Mrs May as she seeks to present a united front to the EU.

A senior government source said that the danger of a “devolution crisis” was preoccupying Whitehall. “It is possible that we will have to face Nicola Sturgeon calling a second referendum, have to bring in direct rule in Northern Ireland and trigger Article 50 all at the same time,” the source said.

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  • MainlandUlsterman

    Let’s compare your words with what SF and the others all signed up to in the GFA.

    In paragraph 5 of the Declaration of Support they all agree:
    “We pledge that we will, in good faith, work to ensure the success of each and every one of the arrangements to be established under this agreement.”
    It goes on to say how all the institutions set up, including the Assembly, are interlocking and the success of each depends on the others.
    It goes on in paragraph 6: “we strongly commend this agreement to the people.”

    Under Constitutional Issues, 1(ii), the participants including SF endorse the two governments recognising “the legitimacy of whatever choice is freely exercised by a majority of the people of Northern Ireland with regard to its status”. 1(iii) then recognises “the present wish of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland, freely exercised and legitimate, is to maintain the Union and, accordingly, that Northern Ireland’s status as part of the United Kingdom reflects and relies on that wish …”

    Now to your words:
    (1) “I don’t believe it can [succeed?] in its stated purpose of applying good government to Northern Ireland because I believe Northern [Ireland] is incapable of good government, but as a sticking plaster it’s fine.
    Is that working to make the institutions of the GFA work, in good faith?
    You go on:
    (2) “And recognising Northern Ireland as the root cause of the issue, one that should be removed in the search for a resolution, does not make me anti-GFA.”
    The GFA contradicts that, making it clear that supporting the GFA involved supporting the institutions it set up, ALL of them, including the Northern Ireland Assembly. Under the GFA, you’re entitled to campaign for a change in the future but not to undermine the agreed institutions in the meantime.
    (3) “Also we can completely regard the north as illegitimate. It was born illegitimately. You can still accept it, but that doesn’t change the illegitimacy.”
    That is just plain in complete contradiction of the GFA.

    What you have to realise is that the GFA is an actual document, there was actual wording solemnly agreed after much, much negotiation. To be honest, I’ve been on Nationalist Backslide Watch since the day it was signed. It was apparent then there was a worrying degree of inattention on the nationalist side to the actual deal agreed. Some nationalists soon seemed to invent their own fantasy of what the GFA was, and many unionists believed nationalists rather than actually reading the thing. The document itself is fair and is the agreement. I for one will hold all the signatories – and anyone claiming they support it – to their word.

  • Yussarian

    MU – looks like you’re suggesting that the only way you’d consider a UI is for the ROI to essentially become a part of the UK? Unless you’re suggesting some sort of novel joint-sovereignty approach? I’m just not following what you mean by having a UI state, that is still essentially part-British, or perhaps I am reading your post wrongly. It’s fair to say the former would never be agreed by anyone, and the latter most likely not by most unionists (as reaction to Eastwood’s recent proposal shows).

    The same applies to catering for those of a “British identity” in a UI state. I don’t think that British culture is alien at all; I just don’t follow what you mean in practical terms by incorporating it in an UI state, unless of course you mean either of the above. Would the UK still be sovereign in such a UI? Would Irish MPs (north and south) attend Westminster etc?

    I take some of your points on the economy, although, if you don’t mind, won’t get involved in aspects of the past as I think we all need to move on from that one day, as strong as those feelings are. I accept the ROI is no paradise, the question for me is whether NI would be better served without competing with it in the future, and all the evidence – objective at least – suggests that it would be. In particular, I think a big reason for the squabbling the size and arrangements of NI encourage it; I’d even go as far to say that being in a bigger state under either Direct Rule with the UK or a UI would inevitably dilute all that. Obviously, in practice, things are rarely so simple, and going back to my original point, identity is a hard anchor to put down. We’ve all got to make decisions on this I suppose, so this is just what I’d be basing my own approach on.

  • Obelisk

    I think I am less in contravention of the GFA then I am in contravention of your opinion of the GFA.

    Besides, my opinion was closer to your ideal several years ago, make the north work, smooth the way towards the reunification in the long term.
    I even grew a lot less active on Slugger for a few years there as things started settling down. I began drifting into that status of apathetic Nationalist, that unification would come one day when the circumstances were right. I began to no longer care, even if I made a point of dutifully voting Sinn Fein as a check on the DUP.

    And then the English decided to screw everything up by voting for Brexit, the DUP decided they could risk maximum damage to the Union in the name of sticking it to my community and now I am threatened with a hard border going through my locale…a hard border that would be within a kilometre of where I live.

    I think that was the point at which I lost faith in this place ever working.

    England will always act to Ireland’s detriment and Unionist politicians in Ireland will always acquiesce as long as they get a pat on the head and are allowed to wave the Union Jack.

    So I fully support our local politicians engaging in the sham of elections and ineffectual governance, knowing the alternative is worse. If people want a better future whilst trying to live here, then they have to accept it will not lie in this broken statelet.

  • Fear Éireannach

    Rates of welfare payment in the Republic are very respectable. Services are hit and miss and this should indeed be addressed.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    But we are in the waiting room, and as you say Stormont is now but a temporary mechinism for the times.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    You implied that the laedership of those great efforst to define Irish political identity were not Irish nobles, with “The Irish didnt have nobles after 1603.” As someone with a “noble” ancsetor hanged at Drogheda, and another mounted by King James on the Hill of Donore, I’d dispute the 1603 date myself.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Karl, are we getting raher exclusivist here? Does Lord Edward Fitzgerald not count perhaps as an Irish Noble, or Lod Lucan, or the Mountcashel who fought at Newtownbutler? I suppose you iamgine taht teh great effort by the Irish nobility to rsetore King Jmaes II somehwo does not count (an English friend signing my Bodleian appplication dsecribed my study as “The Irish jacobite Rebellions”).

    “There was no equivalent of Bonnie Prince Charlie”….

    You might find that the late (and much lamented) Breandán Ó Buachalla might just take 808 pages of issue with that sweeping statement in his “Aisling ghar: Na Stobhartaigh agus an taos linn, 1603-1788”! And if You might find that the late (and much lamented) Breandán Ó Buachalla’s sometimes cryptic Irish is a problem, Eamonn Ó Ciardha’s “Ireland and the Jacobite Cause, 1685-1766” covers many of the same themes in English.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Karl, I’d recommend a careful read through the many issues of the “Irish Sword”, the journal of the sixty-six year old Military History Society of Ireland, if you have any doubts about the strong and continious prevelence of our people in the British army. Catholic officers were again prsebet with teh relaxation of the penal laws in the late eigtheenth century, usually drawn from that Catholic gentry which had survived the penal period by sheer doggerdness.

  • Skibo

    The question has to be asked though, has Stormont outlived it’s usefulness? Nationalism and Republicanism had to show that they were willing to share power. I am not sure any more that Unionism will ever be convinced of sharing power with nationalism, never mind Republicanism.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    The subject of the report John Lynch, is an accurate and well respoected historian, and the report iteslf is sound. John and I have had the occasional tussle over a second hand book both of us wanted in shops before this.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I fully agree.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I entirely agree which is exactly why I’d described it above as a white elephant.

  • ted hagan

    You believe wrongly. It’s about 30 pc

  • Skibo

    Ted, the Examiner published in 2013 that approximately 50% of the population had medical cards. As the right to a card is controlled by finance, then as the economy picks up, the number of medical cards will reduce. As of December 2016 1,695680 people held cards, with a population of approximately 4.595 million, I make that nearly 37%.
    With Ireland, this percentage will always fluctuate.

  • Karl

    I will have a look. Thanks for the tip.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Fine but just don’t say you support the GFA. People who are actually against a fair settlement in NI are pretending to support it while in reality doing anything but. Fine to be against it but please be straight about being so.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I’m really not sure how much more I can explain it for you. Maybe read again?

    So I’m left scratching my head about what this United Ireland thing has to offer us Brits? You seem to be suggesting the existing Irish state would just continue as is, with no attempt to change to welcome in the new British part of the state’s people. Pretty unattractive and I’d suggest no way to make a success of the experiment.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Awful sectarianism really Skibo, not even accepting people’s identity and nationality. That’s the kind of nonsense that fuelled the Loyalist and Republican terror squads. Read the Good Friday Agreement, there is a better way.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Do you not think the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions might have played a role?

  • Obelisk

    You will not lecture me on what I do support and what I do not. Nationalism has always seen the GFA as nothing but a stepping stone rather than a final settlement. And if we end up with a United Ireland in the end, history will vindicate the stance.

    In the meantime I support the operation of the GFA as I recognise it is the best means of ensuring some semblance of stability in this dog’s dinner of a failed state.

    If that interpretation fails the test you set as self appointed role of watchdog on Nationalist backsliding…I can assure you I’ll live with that very easily and very comfortably.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I’m not telling you what you can think but I can’t help pointing out you are claiming to support the GFA while blatantly contradicting the agreement itself – and I quoted the wording of it. Pretending this is all a figment of my imagination isn’t really any kind of argument. So the point stands.

  • Obelisk

    No, you are trying to split hairs. You aren’t taking issue with my support for the agreement, which is genuine, rather my reasons for supporting it…in that a sticking plaster on an obviously festering wound is better than no sticking plaster at all.

    I am never going to think that Northern Ireland deserves to exist, it does not. It is a rank failure on every level. And it will continue to fail as long as it exists.

    While it exists, the GFA is the only way of managing the place, and so the GFA has my support.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Good raeding Karl! We’re a nation of “thran” contrarians, each and every “tradition” on the island and accordingly, we run off from what appear to be logical lines of thought like those right angled branches on thorn trees! The strange and complex relationship between the Irish and the British army is simply one expression of this characteristic.

    Consider perhaps the soldier who was a member of Sinn Féin serving in the 36th Division who claimed that he was there because the UVF had taken up arms against Britian, and showed more spirit than Redmond’s boys! Mental gymnastics for anyone today, but almost straightforward in the political climate of 1914!

  • Yussarian

    MU I really honestly can’t see what your suggestion amounts to in the sense of maintaining NI’s Britishness, whilst also being a new, UI. I’ve suggested possible interpretations based on what I think you mean, but that’s all I can do. You have to forgive me and just spell it out concretely as to what type of legal entity that state would be.

    I would hope a UI wouldn’t be an extension of the ROI. Some new arrangement would be needed to accomodate NI so that it becomes a new country for all of us. Perhaps a federal Ireland – close to the Carson/Redmond model that was flouted briefly in the fiery days before partition (i.e. with a representative Belfast parliament and institutions). Again, I am not sure how you incorporate “Britishness” into that as that entity would no longer be a part of what is known as the UK. At the same time, I would want all cultures of Ireland to be included and to have a home in that state, otherwise it would never work.

    If British identity is a redline, then I agree, it will never convince you, and that’s fair enough. I understand at least.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    i think you’re proving my point – totally unprepared for the different kind of Ireland this new state would have to be.

  • Yussarian

    Well, I think everyone would be unprepared for the state that you seem to want it to be, in fairness 🙂

    I accept your position. Nothing wrong with trying to understand it!

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Fine but it is surprising how difficult a concept it seems to be that the new Irish state would have to reflect and embrace its citizens who are British as much as those who are Irish. It would be a shock for many in nationalist Ireland.

  • Skibo

    MU I am accepting people’s identity and their nationality, you are not. If you are born on the island of Ireland, your nationality is Irish. If you are born in Northern Ireland you are still Irish but can have either an Irish or a British identity i.e your citizenship. That is how children can be born in USA of Irish parents and be American but have an Irish identity.
    People born in Scotland are Scottish by Nationality but unfortunately a Scottish citizenship is not open to them and they have to apply for a British citizenship.

  • Yussarian

    Again I assume that to “reflect and embrace its citizens who are British as much as those who are Irish” the UI you would consider would have to become a part of the UK – just reading between your lines as best I can. NI nationalism is essentially an independence movement – so you can see why that would be problematic. If that was somehow navigated, it would also mean the ROI ceding it’s 100 year old sovereignty, which has worked out pretty well for it. It’s fair to say that can be ruled out.

    I guess there has been a history of Unionism that has always been behind that (Carson, to name a prominent example). So it is not a shock (for me) that some unionists would ask for it. But we both know that there’s more chance of Arlene singing along to the Soldier Song at Croke, and MON walking the Shankill on the 12th, than that proposal ever happening*!

    *an attempt at humour here, to lighten the load.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    can you not grasp the concept of British people outside the UK?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    That isn’t supporting the GFA though. “We pledge that we will, in good faith, work to ensure the success of each and every one of the arrangements to be established under this agreement.” That’s what you’re supposed to be supporting. How do you square that with “[N Ireland] will continue to fail as long as it exists”?

    This is serious stuff, if your view is shared by other nationalists. We were promised good faith and we’re getting bad faith.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    The point is people are free to choose their own identity. You seem to be imposing the Irish one on people regardless.

    Also, British identity is not merely citizenship. It’s important to realise that in a putative united Ireland, there would be hundreds of thousands of British people, because identity does not stand and fall with citizenship. Outside the UK in that scenario, NI people with British identity would be no less British. They would just be British people who now found themselves a national minority in another country.

  • Obelisk

    Easy. The key phrase is ‘work to ensure’. I could work to ensure that the sky turned every green every afternoon and try my utmost to implement it. Would be an impossible task though.

    The value is in the trying, not the impossibility of success. So for the sake of the peace, we try to make something never designed to work, work. Still going to fail though.

  • Yussarian

    MU I am trying to, in fairness. I don’t honestly know what you mean by being “British outside the UK” with specific respect to a UI. I did try to sound what it is you mean and you have seem to have rejected everyone: dual nationality, membership of the commonwealth, joint authority. I would want every culture of Ireland to be welcomed in a UI otherwise I would not support it. If that means encouraging people to self-identify in a UI as British then fine, I have nothing wrong with that. I don’t actually think modern Irish culture is a million miles from modern British culture – maybe that’s what you mean?

  • ted hagan

    Northern Ireland is being edged closer and closer towards a united Irish republic. It may take many years yet, but it is plain that GB has become detached from it and may likely accommodate it’s change of status.

  • Skibo

    MU you miss-read what I wrote. Nationality normally comes from the national area you are born in. I take it you were born on the island of Ireland. You can be born in Ireland and be British, just as you have confirmed for yourself.
    I agree with you on the fact of NI people can have a British identity within a united Ireland.
    The GFA actually makes that legal. I as a republican find no issue with that and believe it should continue into future generations also.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    You got there eventually! Yes that’s all I was talking about, the fact that any future united Ireland would inherit a bunch of British people. The state would therefore presumably need to reflect that, perhaps by inserting some British symbolism into the new state flag, referencing Ireland’s pride in its British past and the centrality of British culture and people to the new Ireland.

    At least, that’s how I’m assuming it would be sold to us. If it’s just some old sh*te about embracing our Irishness, that’s not getting off to a fair, pluralist start. If I told a nationalist now to embrace their Britishness, I’d be summarily dismissed – quite rightly. Same goes the other way.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    “in good faith” though

  • Obelisk

    I’m in too good a mood to debate with you. Watching the two main unionist parties implode is the highlight of my year so far

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I’ve long thought political unionism isn’t the best long term way to advocate for the Union. I’m pretty relaxed about it. As long as SF is beating the SDLP, the Union is safe as houses. And it’s the Union people care about, not political parties.

  • Obelisk

    Read Gerry Lynch’s latest post. I don’t know how long you can delude yourself that nothing is changing but given that we are living through the biggest political earthquake of a generation, I’d say a lot.

    This is the first step towards Irish Unity. Not a practical one, but an important one. The demotion of Unionism from majority status, I can see what people mean by psychological shock, I’m sort of agog it’s happened.

    I can’t wait to see what our future holds now!

  • MainlandUlsterman

    The shift to rough community parity happened in the 90s and we’ve already had the former leader of the IRA as effective joint PM. You may be underestimating the way unionists have already processed a lot of psychological shock, and over-estimated the shock of this result. Nationalism under-performed for a couple of cycles and has had a boost from Brexit now to be more where you would expect it. What you forget is that not all people who vote for nationalist parties favour a united Ireland in reality. The last Ipsos MORI poll had support in the mid-20s, hard to see it hitting even 40 per cent any time soon. So don’t get too excited 😉

  • Obelisk

    I never forget that a vote for a Nationalist party isn’t necessarily a vote for a United Ireland but it means they are at least open to the idea.

    Besides, wasn’t the great hope of moderate Unionists the ‘Northern Irish’ demographic? Those settled with and tolerant of the Union, people who were very likely Catholic?

    Who the do you think they just voted for!?

    And how do think the two Unionist parties will react to this catastrophe? By reaching out in a spirit of a tolerance and inclusivity designed to expand support for the status quo?

    I actually laughed while typing that last bit, sorry, Unionist parties don’t do that sort of thing here. Mike tried and his own party ran right over him saying not to follow him after all.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I expect most of the people you refer to probably voted Alliance, Green, UUP or SDLP.

    I don’t see a catastrophe at all. I think SF did exactly what I said before the fuel thingamabob they needed to do to reanimate themselves. That is, find a pretext to collapse the current settlement so they can play the insurgent outsider party again, rather than one of government that takes responsibility. With Brexit and the DUP fuel scandal they can’t have hoped for better conditions. Let’s see what develops but really all that’s ended is that short unhealthy period of DUP dominance where they abused the power-sharing ideal. Good. We’re back to a more balanced Assembly where we govern together 50/50, which is as it should be.

    Though SF may prefer direct rule – let’s see. Arguably they can make more hay from direct rule than acting in good faith towards the GFA institutions, and it’s more comfortable for their supporters. They can play the dispossessed again then and make out they are living under some kind of colonial rule, a trope they love. Who knows they may surprise me but I think they’ll try for direct rule. They will engineer it of course so the DUP are seen to be the ones responsible for it. Tory minister and all – perfect.

  • Obelisk

    I think you are profoundly misreading the situation. This is only the beginning.

    In three years, under the new constituency model, Nationalists should increase their share of seats, maybe even getting a majority. Electoral shock.

    In five years, we do this again. If we can maintain this level of engagement…and this is the time when Sinn Fein and the SDLP have to prove that they can, we can see Nationalists eclipsing Unionists as the biggest single bloc in the Assembly.
    Electoral Shock#2.

    When I say whom did ‘Northern Irish vote for’ I did mean Sinn Fein and the SDLP. The SDLP is still a Nationalist party after all…they are VERY open to the idea of unity. I count people who vote for Alliance and the Greens as being open to persuasion on the matter. I actually think very few of them voted UUP as first preference…maybe as a transfer here or there but in nowhere near enough numbers to save that party which will likely now retreat into a sectarian cul de sac. Mike Nesbitt’s attempt to open the party up has completely failed.

    This is the watershed moment for Nationalism, the one we always dreamed of happening. It is…the beginning of the end. If not of the Union itself, then of a particular kind of Northern Ireland. The one the Unionist community wished to preserve by voting DUP.

    In the end, either we will have a United Ireland…or we will transform Northern Ireland so thoroughly that Unionist voters will wonder why they ever bothered with partition in the first place.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    … and yet the polls suggest very strongly otherwise. You’re on the predicted upsurge post-Brexit but there is a ceiling. Growth is not projected to carry on at that rate; and it was an election where nationalists were more motivated than unionists. They won’t all be.