All very exciting, Sandra and Sean. But in the cold light of day the election changed nothing except dreams and nightmares

Now that  the election is  over, all the  politicians have turned into commentators   tweeting all over the place, giving pious little lectures about what the other guy should do now. Not a word about what they themselves should do to reach agreement.  In the cold light of day the undoubted Sinn Fein victory makes neither them nor the DUP more amenable to compromise: rather the reverse. The mutual veto is rock solid. The centre ground was rescued from oblivion at the last minute but is irrelevant unless the Assembly resumes.

Sinn Fein will find it hard to resist making a call for a border poll. For the UK government  to refuse it sounds defensive for the first time .

 Later  Chris Donnelly below  can’t be refuted.

This is a watershed election, the first in which the demographic reality of a changing Northern Ireland has been borne out in electoral terms. For nationalists, the distance between the aspiration and fulfilment of a united Ireland has never appeared as close as it does today…Unionism is no longer a majority in the north of Ireland.

Never has the Union as we know it seemed as precarious.

And yet  the relentless narrowness of this focus, so reasonably expressed,  that is as arid and wearisome as old fashioned unionist “triumphalism” – just as my defensiveness now is wearisome. Alas, now isn’t the moment to set it aside.

The hardball political point is that nobody goes for a new constitutional settlement with under 60% support in advance. So do we just keep counting and call it  politics? The irony is that despite all the rhetoric of generations we haven’t begin to think as hard  about  what Irish unity  would mean as the Scots have about independence.

Nor after generations as the majority has local unionism settled down to a welcoming inclusive existence consistent with the contemporary British self-image of toleration buttressed by human rights.  Perhaps unionism will accommodate only under pressure.

The fact is that national identity  now is  a matter of personal preference. The justification of oppression has disappeared – forever.

Making the consumer choice, I prefer the pick’n mix that the Good Friday Agreement offers me. Do Sinn Fein intend to abandon it?

While campaigning for a border poll is  premature, it  would  use up time and energy and reduce the real issues of Brexit into a pawn in the same old game, whereas a pragmatic common approach is clearly called for.

Brexit presents a long term vision of Irish unity but an immediate threat to Republican ambitions for economic integration. Common interest provides more than enough grounds for making the best of it. Uniquely Sinn Fein is positioned to have influence on both the EU and British sides of the Brexit negotiating table. This is no time to hang back on the British side.

As far as the prospects for government are concerned, it is as if the election never happened.  Emerging weaker or stronger is no guide to their willingness to deal. Too pessimistic? Will the shock of the new work wonders? Let’s hope so.

After separate party huddles, the shape of negotiations is the next step. Will James Brokenshire as co-convenor prove acceptable to a euphoric Sinn Fein in the end or do we deadlock on that straight away? Who else is there except  the responsible  UK cabinet minister. But Gerry Adams sounded keen yesterday to cut the “English” out of it, even quoting the late Ian Paisley in support.

Everyone will presumably turn down the idea of yet another election. The centre parties who survived better than  feared almost  to the end, are large enough together to make an impact on  legislation on same sex marriage and some others on Sinn Fein’s wish list now that the DUP  blocking advantage in petitions of concern has been lifted.  But they are not numerous enough nor cohesive enough to influence the early formation of a new Executive. They will have to think hard about standing outside the Executive in advance and opting again for opposition. Alliance at least looks persuadable for government and may want to make a  pitch in talks. The SDLP  and the UUs eager to develop beyond survival might not want to be left out.  All party talks might be more complicated but  might also encourage flexibility over individual issues.

While  Sinn Fein’s refusal to a accept  Foster as first minister in advance of the Coghin report  is the big obstacle, does it need to prevent attempts to make progress on other fronts? And might  there  be even a grain of hope that she might even now stand down – temporarily – in the interests of Northern Ireland as a whole ( yes,yes I know ..)

Working out the D’Hondt eligibility for ministerial posts in a smaller Executive for a smaller Assembly is beyond me. I look forward to a sight of it.

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  • chrisjones2

    But they are not Unionist. If they were Gerrys analysis that the Assembly doesnt have a unionist majority would be nonsense. It would be 56% /44% split and Gerry he couldnt be talking nonsense could he

  • Paddy Reilly

    So you’re happy with my idea about a non-binding opinion poll, to be handed out at every election with the other ballot papers, asking “Would you vote for a United Ireland Yes/No”? Since the case for Unification is so absurdly unpopular?

  • Barneyt

    They made and retain a meaningful gesture …. it’s called Fine Gael.

  • Barneyt

    And there’s the earning potential that unification brings. The north has s lot of talented people with decent business acumen to make it work. Both sides like to earn a few quid. In such an event we’ll probably all have more in common as the bunch of nordies irrespective of colour. Partition creates levels of separation and rivalry. Although tongue in cheek in most cases, there is rivalry on the border between so called nationalists. Many a time you hear, feckin free state bastard….. then they all go to mass in Dundalk

  • Barneyt

    I concocted my avatar based on South African flag. Seemed appropriate at the time as there were some parallels… apart from truth and reconciliation … and a few other things. Both cultures can lift out a colour or two and even the Alliance have their yellow.

  • burnboilerburn

    As Martina Devlin points out in the Independent, the argument in favour of Unity now is overwhelming

  • Barneyt

    Commonwealth might be fly in the ointment I suspect but flag, anthem, fed states, and all island holiday on 12th are flyers I’d say

  • Barneyt

    Oh no. That’s a poor retort M. So my wife has problems too. Keep it personal why don’t you.

  • Barneyt

    Star Trek said 2024 so come on 🙂

  • Barneyt

    Trumps Irish ambassador

  • Barneyt

    I do hope in such an event the unionists will push for the NHS but given two major unionist parties are sistered to the torys , I don’t have the same faith you may have. Then again you can never tell as normal political leanings tend to get hidden in our tribal system.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    No

  • MainlandUlsterman

    The basis of the Union is the choice of people in NI. If England wants to break away from the UK then they can, and that would break the Union, but I don’t see it.
    What can’t happen is people in England keeping the Union while dictating who’s in and who’s out. Just doesn’t work that way. It’s *self*-determination.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    … to people for whom it always was

  • burnboilerburn

    Trolling

  • MainlandUlsterman

    So when can we expect them to renounce what the IRA did to us?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    And yet it appears IRA members are convinced – I can’t think why – that SF answers still to the IRA “Army Council”. Do the IRA not know what’s going on in the Republican Movement? Has SF traduced them?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    No, disagreeing

  • Skibo

    I expect shortly after Unionism actually condemns their use and abuse of power within NI and the sectarian decision to partition the island of Ireland. I expect we could be waiting a long time.

  • Skibo
  • burnboilerburn

    But on a site like this u need to expand rather than just disagreeably troll. Or you might be invited to leave. Again.

  • burnboilerburn

    That’s shocking. I am truly shocked. Outrageous if it is true. Please, for the sake of peace and for the love of our community go to the authorities with your information so such divils can be apprehended ASAP.

  • Tuskar Rock

    We don’t get a say in whether we want Irish unity – or not? You appear to live in a parallel universe my friend.

    I suggest the people of the Republic would react very badly indeed to being denied a choice in the matter, given that
    • the North is perceived negatively, or somewhat negatively, or very negatively indeed by (I believe) a significant number of people in the Republic;
    • that there would be very significant economic and political issues arising for the Republic.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    It was in the last government security assessment of N Ireland. Joke’s on you mate.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Sorry I just meant the initial choice is with the people of NI. But having made that choice for unity, you’re quite right the ROI is perfectly entitled to say no for its part. And I hope they would.

  • Tuskar Rock

    My personal attitude to reunification is as follows, and may be untypical – or not.

    I would be unwilling to support any attempted reunification that did not have very significant majority support in both communities in the North, as well as in the south as a whole.
    I’ve seen the figure “50% + 1” mentioned at some stage, and I think it’s a recipe for disaster. Indeed I think anything less than ⅔ majority (more?) support in both at the very least would be insufficient.

    There would be enormous political and security issues and perhaps overwhelming economic issues to be dealt with. I regret to say that II would not have much confidence in the ability of any of our less-than-stellar-quality politicians (north or south) to resolve them.

    I suppose the North is seen by many in the South as a costly economic social, political and cultural basket case – perhaps ruinously so. However inaccurate or unfair this perception might be, it is and will be influential in any southern decision about reunification, whatever form that might take.

    I would expect a determinedly anti-unification section of the unionist community in Northern Ireland to remain and to be be a permanent force for opposition,for instance.Some of it could perhaps be violent. As with the Troubles, their number could be all out of proportion to their potential for instability and damage. It was bad enough we had an 1920’s Irish civil war over an Oath of Allegiance; but at least an even worse, Balkans-style one between Nationalists and Unionists failed to materialise. Would reunification bring one about?

    Would, for example the unionist people in a reunified entity not be entitled to a “second-chance” referenda to reverse that outcome if they found the new entity too uncongenial? This is a destabilising matter, as I daresay it must be in Northern unionism since the Good Friday Agreement.

    However earnestly one might yearn for reunification, the potential problems are absolutely enormous; only a fool would ignore or minimise them. Southerners might live in a bubble of their own; but they’re not fools either (well, a majority aren’t, anyway).

    Finally, can I suggest something that may seem heretical to some. Although I regard my (anti-violence) opinions to be strongly republican (small “r”), and look with considerable asperity on former British rule in Ireland, I believe Northern Republicans (capitalised) should at least consider whether, in a nationalist-majority Northern Ireland unification as a single-entity polity is quite as ideologically imperative as it once was?

    Will nationalist/republican majority rule in the North be a kind of mirror situation of the former unionist rule; and will nationalists/republicans not have something major to prove in this regard?

    Out of interest, I’ve read a great deal on Irish History and Politics, and Northern Ireland, its Troubles and Politics, but yet can cheerfully admit I know but a little in reality; so you may take my remarks with a generous dollop of salt.

    I’ve not really done any serious posting on Slugger before. However, as with all of my opinions as set out, I am open to being persuaded otherwise by reasoned and persuasive argument. Abuse of any kind will have the opposite effect, though.

  • Tuskar Rock

    Quite all right – and for more on my opinions, for whatthey may be worth, see below!

  • Tuskar Rock

    My late mother was from Kerry; so alas are the Healy-Raes, a brace of “local politicians” of whom you may not have heard. At least one of them has peculiar opinions; like possibly, the Earth is flat, or nearly so, or was formed relatively recently, like in his great-grandfather’s time. Or, climate change is an illusion, it just rains a lot in Kerry. Or something. Or it may all be a giant Kerry leg-pull, which is not impossible either.

    The real point here is that “national” politics in the south is in reality intensely local. I think the unspoken assumption is that, when all local interests have been accommodated, the outcome nationally will be for the good of the country. The obvious downside of this is interminable local squabbling over matters of real national importance, which can get totally bogged down and significantly delayed, with attendant mission- and cost-creep and delay.

    So; a debate in the South on Irish unification or re-unification (as you will) would very likely be, shall we understatedly say, “drawn-out”.

  • Roger

    Couldn’t disagree with you on any of that. Suspect it would be a drawn-out debate in the East, West and North of Ireland too, as well as in UKNI where it tends to get discussed more.

  • Roger

    “initial choice”…I thought the two votes have to be concurrent? Is that not correct?

  • Roger

    Only point I’d make is where you write…”This is a destabilising matter, as I daresay it must be in Northern unionism since the Good Friday Agreement.” Not sure I’d agree that that aspect became any more destabalising as a consequence of the Belfast Agreement. Even the Ireland Act, 1949 contemplated that UKNI could vote to cede by a simple vote of its (then) Parliament. Given the UKNI assembly results the other day, that sounds a much more potentially destabalising requirement. Now, under the Belfast Agreement arrangements they have the comfort of having it enshrined that the change would require not just a simple vote in the elected chamber but international referendums… as well as agreement between the UK and Ireland.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Oh probably.

  • 05OCT68

    Tusker Unionists will have to accept 50% + 1 re: unification, they were cock-a-hoop re: Brexit a 50%+1 referendum. As for the South remember all three political parties to a greater or lesser extent are republican parties & unification remains their aspiration. They have to campaign for unification in a southern referendum. Unionists have to be assured that unification will change our island. Ireland will look very different politically & culturally post unification, it has to, with 3/4 of a million former unionists now citizens with a British centric outlook that has to & will be respected. Remember they will have TD’s in the Dail. There are things from both jurisdictions that each of us will want. Southerners envy an NHS style health system, Northerners envy higher minimum wages & more generous social welfare & pension provision for example. The NI block grant will continue to be paid to a new Irish government for an agreed period of time to bed in the new arrangments. As for a Balkan style civil war forget it. Loyalist murder gangs were aided by their mates in the RUC, UDR & Special branch, without that support they’ll have no stomach for a fight

  • Tuskar Rock

    In the event that reunification comes about (as I hope it will), I hope you’re right and that it would all work out as you suggest. Don’t forget, the views expresses are solely my own; I can’t say whether many others would agree.

    I believe though that, in the south, the desire for unity is neither as great, nor as widespread nor as enthusiastic as it used to be, and in the event would be likely to be a lot more conditional than the more ardent republicans among us might wish or assume.

    The likelihood that “Ireland will look very different politically & culturally post unification” as you put it so succinctly is something many southerners would find quite unsettling. Never mind that some of those with that “British-centric outlook” you rightly mention are imbued with a visceral and unshakeable loathing of everything Irish and Gaelic.and would never accept an all-island political entity.

  • Roger

    Agreed.
    Many Irish, or southerners as you describe them though that’s not a term I would use, quite like where Ireland sits politically & culturally. I certainly don’t detect much desire amongst Irish to grow more politically & culturally like UKNI. Unsettling indeed.

  • Tuskar Rock

    Just one further point, if I may, to clarify why I use a term such as “southerners”
    I believe I see significant differences in attitudes between Nationalism/Republicanism – and, indeed, Catholicism – north and south of the border, How could there not be, when these have long been the objects of dismissal, active discrimination and violent suppression?
    So I think I may speak of “southerners” as being different from their fellow-Irish in the north in significant ways.
    What I find depressing is the lack of reciprocity in unionism, and that so many unionist politicians in the north appear clearly closer in spirit, whether they realise it or not, to the Statutes of Kilkenny (1366; a bit earlier than 1690!) than the Good Friday Agreement.
    I’m thinking particularly of the memorably, spectacularly and irreconcilably envenomed Gregory Campbell, for example.
    I suppose there are many like him if not even more bitter, and I wonder how different Arlene Foster’s attitudes are from his, really; not hugely, it seems.
    There’s a wonderful Afrikaans word for them: “verkrampte”. I crossed swords online once with a guy whose hatred for everything “Irish” extended even to Scottish Gaelic, believe it or not.
    People such as these cannot reconcile themselves to even the more innocuous representations of Irishness and I suppose, never will. How could they possibly accept a united Ireland?

  • Tuskar Rock

    Many thing in Irish history turned out terrible, almost all of them fatally for the Irish. It has cost an awful lot in war, famine and destruction prior to Independence for us to have arrived where we are today, though it may be neither popular nor politically correct to say so now.

    The Tricolour, is far from being a wholly “republican” flag, only one element in it, ⅓, represents republicanism : the green. You know what the orange bit means, and you might care to observe the fact that it has equal weight with the green. The Ulster Banner, I observe, makes no concessions of any kind to Ireland or those who consider themselves Irish to any degree (such as, I suppose, yourself).

    We do indeed all deserve better, I agree. We would all be served better for instance by truth and honesty, even when that requires accepting things that have not hitherto been accepted. For example, it often seems that hatred and contempt for Irishness is woven into the fabric of loyal unionism;

    As a people, the Irish have come a very long way from being a hated, despised and utterly humiliated “Nation of Beggars”, of whom it was confidently asserted as a Unionist article of faith that they were drunken, violent savages whom God made “incapable of self-government.”

    Not everything in our history since independence has been glorious or creditable, but there’s much we can take pride in, not excepting the process of coming to terms with those less-than creditable parts. As a people, we are in this process, which will continue; not indeed without cost, which we will pay, because we must.

    It is greatly to the credit of others in these islands when they do likewise.

  • 05OCT68

    Yes unsettling Southerners is a worry, it’s a bit of a paradox but a NI that works & is less hostile may assuage their concern. It could well be a DUP strategy, by sneering at Nationalists & getting the expectant outrage NI is in constant crises, making unification unpalatable for undecided Southerners.

  • 05OCT68

    Roger don’t worry It’s not as if we are all moving down south, the north east will be the more British centric part of Ireland, but Ireland being united will have a new population with a British centric outlook.

  • 05OCT68

    It may not have escaped you that I’ve commented on making NI work & wanting unification. If I’m truthful unification is my preference, in absence of that I want NI to work. Here’s the rub for unionism, for NI to work it has to be more Irish centric, not I might add less British. I would argue that the north east of a unified Ireland would see very little change. Nationalists in the north may not feel the need to express their Irishness as they do now having achieved unification. I hope I’ve made myself understood I’m fully aware of my limited vocabulary.

  • Tuskar Rock

    I understand your meaning and intent perfectly and would say that your opinions are very similar to my own. In addition I sincerely apologise for my “long-windedness and tendency to use big words” as my nearest and dearest have complained to me (more than once actually).

  • Tuskar Rock

    I agree; that’s how it seem to me too. I would be more concerned at the fact that an awful lot of people in the Republic just “switch off” at the mere mention of Northern Ireland.
    That doesn’t augur well for the desire for unity in the future – which thank heaven is still quite strong, but also quite conditional as I said before.