Mismatch: A politics driven by fire and anger that does not reflect the various parts of NI society?

Before I set to on a profile of the UUP’s fate in this election I think this thought from Pete Shirlow is worth sharing on its own.

, , ,

  • woodkerne

    While your civic loyalty is laudable and touching in its optimism, am not so sure that the RoI is quite the nirvana your account suggests. As the steep decline of the protestant population since 1921 indicates, the suffocating cultural orthodoxy of catholicism hasn’t entirely dissipated. I too watch RTE and one can’t help but note that the 6-1 news is at one past the hour in order to accommodate the Angelus. Which rather presumes does it not a predominant official catholic ethos in the state?

  • Damien Mullan

    Your criticism is duly noted. Outdated vestiges of the unhealthy intertwined relationship between church and state still has some way to go in the Republic, divesting of church involvement in education and health would top the list of my priorities rather than the Angelus, but the Angelus is an unfortunate throwback that is due retirement. That said, I do feel the need to throw up comparisons that are glaring within the church/state architecture of the UK’s constitutional position. One, the Act of Settlement 1701 which bars Catholics ascending the throne as Head of State. Two, since the creation of the Irish state two Heads of State (Hyde, Childers) have been protestants. Three, 26 bishops of the Church of England sit in the House of Lords, no others faiths are afforded this legislative representation. Four, this rigidity is also evident in the executive branch too, while Ireland has unfortunately had no female Taoiseach, she has had one (Éamon de Valera) who was half Spanish, and is likely, if current punditry is correct, have a Taoiseach who is both half Indian and gay. All Prime Ministers and Head of State of the UK have been white protestants, while the country itself is rather more diverse. I think, given the absence of constitutional barriers, Ireland is better capable of reflecting the diversification of a changing society than the UK. There has been talk, but nothing more than that, of repealing the Act of Settlement’s anti-catholic provisions, but alas, the sclerotic and impervious British constitution continues on-wards untouched.

  • Damien Mullan

    I think the relationship and affinity that exists between the Republic and GB, economically, socially, culturally, and most importantly, linguistically, serve as the most authentic bonds of exchange and interdependence, and are little genuinely enhanced by adding any formal political architecture. Not that if as a symbolic gesture to assuage the fears of unionists I’d have little trouble with it, but the fundamentals that underpin the relations between the two islands, and among the various nationalists of these islands, is impermeable, these bonds predate the emergence of early states during the medieval era, and then nation-states from the early modern era during the 17th century on wards. Irish identity itself is not fixed, one looks at the extraordinary developments on social issues and religiously informed morality over the past quarter century. I know this myself, as a northern nationalist who happens also to be gay, I’ve seen the extraordinary transformation of attitudes on the part of my unionist LGBT friends. The transformed landscape in the Republic on these most contentious issues, that saw such enmity during the referendum campaigns of the 1980’s on abortion and divorce, has given license for people, northern liberal unionists, to reassess and reconsider, perhaps even imagine their inclusion within the various strands that make Irish society in the Republic what it is today. 1/2

  • Damien Mullan

    If Irish history is anything, complex it is, it can’t be passed as a struggle between Protestants and Catholics, not when you’re confronted by the most notable figures springing from within that story, the likes of Tone, Davis, Mitchell, Parnell, Casement, Countess Markievicz, even on the cultural front, Yeats, Beckett. These people were, all at once, and at various steps removed, from their British/English identity, even Pearse spoke of this English identity, his father being an English protestant, so Irish nationalism has various strands, various shades of green, various contradictions, these are not existential nature, as Irish nationalism’s longevity attests, but give it richness and depth, they allow for compromise and volte-faces, they provide invaluable survival mechanisms. Adapt Irish society has, is, and will, I have little doubt that accommodation, illumination, and celebration, of unionist and protestant identity within a reunified Ireland will be marked features of that all-Ireland state. The nuanced appraisal of Edward Carson’s biography and political life, is an example of official Ireland’s revision of Ireland’s contested past, it’s both welcome and imperative, Irish nationalists can appreciate Carson and his campaign, not as anti-Irish, but as a difference, profound as it was, of opinion about how Ireland’s interests were best served, by being part of a UK not undermined by devolution, a trojan horse for separation and disintegration, as he saw it. I believe there is room and scope to see a genuine and authentic conciliation, not of reconciliation, as that would apply we were once conciliated towards one another. Provided we adhere to secularist and pluralist modus operandi for inter-community relations and development, we ought to be reasonably hopeful of enduring peace and prosperity. 2/2

  • woodkerne

    I’m not defending the Yookay or offering it as a better example than the Republic of Ireland. Absolutely not. I agree with your criticisms of the British state and its crooked, decrepit establishment and would go much further. But that’s not the point and this isn’t an either/or. We’re talking about the future of our country and I don’t agree that the present political society in ‘the 26 counties’ is a model of a good enough paradigm. As I’ve said, the civil war parties are at least as much of an issue as the irresolution of the border and the oppressive catholic character of the state continues to seep into everyday life, seemingly everyday – Tuam, the 8th Amendment … The occasion for the eventual absorption of the northern state into a unitary state cannot be 26+6, not only because the prospect would scare the bejesus out of an anxious unionist community (including hysterical loyalists prone to destructive reaction), it’d also be unacceptable to our catholic professional class as well. Without guarantees on pensions, education, the rates, and an open civil society a plebiscite won’t muster a majority. It simply must be a new dispensation or the project will come unstuck before it can cohere – social democratic, secular, pluralist, and incorporating UDHR or equivalent, including protection for minorities. And all this, to be clear, is highly conditional, dependent on significant political progress in the north. We’re a long way off and I have to say the ostensible complacency of the things-as-they-are position you’re apparently proffering will surely not help in the short to medium run. I like the idea of four devolved regional assemblies. The model I’m imagining is along the lines of Eisenstein’s dialectical montage, i.e., 1+1 = 3.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Well said

  • Damien Mullan

    I’m not saying 26+6, which would imply one exclusive national Parliament, Executive and Judiciary, i.e a unitary state. I’m proposing for the sake of allying unionist concerns a devolved system, which would retain Stormont, including the mandatory coalition provisions, if not indefinitely, then retaining mandatory coalition for a reasonable period of time. That’s a massive concession by the Republic, I obviously stated that this would be replicated in the other three provinces, and solutions devised in relation to the three Ulster counties in the Republic. I make the proposal of additional devolved administrations in the other provinces for a very valid reason, because those living there will not put up with devolved powers being enjoyed in the north alone, while no such devolved powers are in existed in their locality, they don’t refer to it as the ‘Munster Republic’ for nothing, this new settlement will have to have buy in from all provinces, the northern six/nine counties can’t have a devolved administration, while the others don’t, that plan won’t fly, so I propose a Devolved/Federal system as a means to ensure it gets acceptance, thus insuring Stormont’s continuation. Many people will not be happy with what is a major compromise to the present unitary state, but if you want to extend the hand to the unionist tradition, then it ought to be contemplated as a means to do so. 1/2

  • Damien Mullan

    As for the, “oppressive catholic character of the state”, did you ever in your wildest dreams in 1993, when homosexuality was decriminalize, think that there would be throngs of gay Irish men and women, a whole cross section of Ireland’s LGBT community, assembled in the upper court yard of Dublin Castle, awaiting to hear the country’s electoral returning officer, announce the results of a national plebiscite on marriage equality. I’ll tell you this, because it’s a personal experience, I’ve always been proud to be Irish, call it unthinking patriotism or not, an ignorant sipping of the communal well type of patriotism, born of my northern working class nationalist/Republican origins, but tears streamed down my face when I heard the result, when I seen the crowds erupt, when I heard David Norris’s speech to them. I was tearful the days thereafter, hearing Irish peoples reaction on television/radio at home and abroad. There have been times I have sighed and been disappointed with this country, I’ll tell you hearing the husband and widower of Savita Halappanavar recount her treatment at Galway hospital was one of those occasions, which brought anger and shame, a yearning for better, for accountability and change. But change can come, I refuse to be cynical, for it wasn’t cynicism that brought David Norris to the European Court of Human Rights in 1988, it was the quest for justice, the pushing against and breaking down of barriers, to make a change, which might remake us in the process, to see Ireland reborn in your lifetime, as Norris has, to see the Irish tricolor intertwined with the rainbow flag, both in perfect harmony, on a prefect day.

    We have problems, we have many legacy problems still to wrestle with, but we have the energy and courage to change them, those 1.2 million Irish people, who smiled upon and affirmed my dignity, they all showed us that it can be done. It was the referendum and the moment for my generation, I stood taller and prouder the very next day, I seen Ireland at it’s best, but know that it could still be better. 2/2

  • Damien Mullan

    While problems persist and your observation, “oppressive catholic character of the state”, might well have been accurate in the past, is it somewhat redundant today.

    Looking back to 1993, never in my wildest dreams, just in the immediate aftermath of the decriminalization of homosexuality, did I think that there would be throngs of gay Irish men and women, a whole cross section of Ireland’s LGBT community, stand assembled in the upper court yard of Dublin Castle, awaiting to hear the country’s electoral returning officer, announce the results of a national plebiscite on marriage equality. I’ll tell you this, because it’s a personal experience, I’ve always been proud to be Irish, call it unthinking patriotism or not, an ignorant sipping of the communal well type of patriotism, born of my northern working class nationalist/Republican origins, but tears streamed down my face when I heard the result, when I seen the crowds erupt, when I heard David Norris’s speech to them. I was tearful the days thereafter, hearing Irish peoples reaction on television/radio at home and abroad.

    There have been times I have sighed and been disappointed with this country, I’ll tell you hearing the husband and widower of Savita Halappanavar recount her treatment at Galway hospital was one of those occasions, which brought anger and shame, a yearning for better, for accountability and change. But change can come, I refuse to be cynical, for it wasn’t cynicism that brought David Norris to the European Court of Human Rights in 1988, it was the quest for justice, the pushing against and breaking down of barriers, to make a change, which might remake us in the process, to see Ireland reborn in your lifetime, as Norris has, to see the Irish tricolor intertwined with the rainbow flag, both in perfect harmony, on a prefect day.

    We have problems, we have many legacy problems still to wrestle with, but we have the energy and courage to change them, those 1.2 million Irish people, who smiled upon and affirmed my dignity, they all showed us that it can be done. It was the referendum and the moment for my generation, I stood taller and prouder the very next day, I seen Ireland at it’s best, but know that it could still be better.

    2/2

  • woodkerne

    Some manner of federalism may well be a ‘flier’, I agree, not least because it includes the promise of relative autonomy and checks and balances that the northern population will need and deserve in recognition of dualist identity and legitimate difference, and in order to lay the ghost of the civil war century in a definitively post-nationalist all-Ireland. As a creative, meeting-half-way, solution federalism would also enjoy the bargaining power of already being within the compass of civic unionist imagining (à la Isaac Butt).

    The referendum on marriage equality was a triumph, to be sure, and inspiration to the contemporary world. However while the enshrining of priestly propaganda as a constitutional ban on abortion denies the female half of the nation the human right of autonomy over their own bodies remains, it is indicative of a residual suffocating fug of orthodox catholic influence in political and civil society in Ireland. Integral to the project, to be clear, is the secularization of the whole island.

  • Cagey Feck

    How can you square this viewpoint with being first in line to vote DUP in the next election? Seems to me you’d be better off voting for a party that better represents your views.

  • Damien Mullan

    I agree, there’s valid criticism at the procrastination in dealing with abortion in Ireland, the ‘Repeal’ movement and the Citizens Assembly does however offer, just as the previous Assembly did, the opportunity to make marked and definitive change, as definitive as one can be about a most contentious and contested area. I think the Citizen Assembly approach offers the best hope at lasting change. The openness and transparency is a welcome development when one views the regression evident in other jurisdictions, notably the United States, where a reserve gear on abortion services is being enacted in many Republican dominated states. In the case of ‘Repeal’ of the 8th I think it will be a very close run thing, that’s why I think the optics have to be carefully crafted if we are to be successful, and that success maintained, hence the Citizens Assembly and its consultative modus operandi, otherwise a contentious and fractious victory now might evolve into reversal and defeat further down the line, just as we see across the US. Though marriage equality seems assured today in the US, as a result of public opinion aligning with judicial activism, manifested in the 2015 Supreme Court ruling, this might however, like abortion, see reversals at the state level in the years ahead. Given how the Republic approached this issue, through the first Citizens Assembly, and its recommendation for a referendum to be held in relation to marriage equality, thus a consultative exercise, then quickly followed by a national vote, in which consultation met deliberation, and then finally decision. This will provide for the permanency of this change, over the judicial activism approach in the US, which as we have seen over the past four decades since Roe V Wade, can be slowly undermined and reserved. Ireland has the chance through the process already established, a chance to make as good a permanent resolution to this most contentious of issues, controversy there will be, and continue to be, but locking out and demeaning those who oppose ‘Repeal’ and abortion services, will not provide for a fulsome solution, they must have voice to oppose, but also must when debate subsides and the people make their judgment, must then abide by the result, while still retaining their conscientious objection.

  • John Collins

    And why do you think the SF turnout was so much higher at this election?